Search engine robots

In the seven days this domain has been in existence, it has been visited by the robots/spiders of search engines 745 times – mainly Google and Inktomi (which I think may be Yahoo). I find that extraordinary. But then Google is pretty damn miraculous anyway. Paul Simon was right – these are the days of miracle and wonder.

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Radio Cymru

Languagehat led me to discover Morfablog. I have no idea what any of it is about, but several of the pictures on the front page feature waterproof clothing, which chimes with my experience of Wales.

It reminded me of being at university in Bristol and listening to Radio Cymru. Since Welsh takes quite a lot of words directly from English, it was a bit like the Gary Larson cartoon:

The first panel is titled 'What we say to dogs.' A man is scolding his
dog. The man's word-balloon says this: 'Okay, Ginger! I've had it! You
stay out of the garbage! Understand, Ginger? Stay out of the garbage,
or else!?'

The second panel is titled 'What they hear.' The drawing is exactly
like the first panel, but this time the man's word-balloon says 'Blah
blah GINGER blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah GINGER blah blah
blah blah blah.'

except it would be things like “blah blah blah blah blah Phil Collins blah blah blah blah supermodel blah blah cannabis blah blah blah blah blah blah television…”

And because of the limited Welsh-language music available, one moment they’d be playing Welsh folk tunes, and the next a Welsh-language cover of Wet Wet Wet. I haven’t been to Wales for ages, actually. I’ve always wanted to go to the Pembrokeshire coast and see choughs.

Slavery monument

There was a documentary on TV last night (which I forgot to watch) in which Dr Robert Beckford argued the case for the government to pay reparations for slavery. What I’ve gathered from the web is: he consulted “an economic historian, a compensation lawyer and an expert on loss of earnings” and came up with a figure of £7.5 trillion. The total GDP of the UK is only about £1 trillion, as a comparison, so it seems like a very big figure to me, even allowing for the scale of the slave trade. Anyway, whether or not that figure is sound, Beckford apparently didn’t seriously suggest it was a possibility. And, btw, he visualised reparations being in the form of debt relief to African and Caribbean countries and educational support (scholarships?) for the Afro-Caribbean community in the UK, rather to individuals. He also suggested building a memorial.

I’m all for debt relief, and indeed educational opportunity, but I’m unsure about linking it explicitly to the slave trade.There has to be some kind of statute of limitations on these things, and whatever it should be, I think 172 years is long enough. That is, after all, about seven generations since the UK outlawed slavery.

But I do think we should have a slavery memorial somewhere. Bristol or Liverpool perhaps. Not just a plaque – a bloody great thing like a war memorial, or the Holocaust memorial in Berlin. Something institutional, which would make it absolutely clear that those who put it up (i.e. the UK government) recognised the scale of the tragedy represented by slavery and unreservedly recognised the British involvement in it. William Wilberforce has a statue in Westminster Abbey, as he should do, but something specifically remembering slaves seems appropriate.

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Talking out of one’s arse – an apologia

Mr Duemer (Joseph?) has, as I mentioned in the comment box down the page somewhere, just torn a strip off me for talking out of my arse. Probably fairly, in that case.

I’ve always been one to offer strong opinions from a position of ignorance. But, at the risk of turning a character flaw into a philosophy of life, I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing. That’s because I see of it as symptomatic of thinking for myself. Sometimes it means spending hours thinking about something and then reaching an opinion which everyone else thinks is bloody obvious anyway. Sometimes it means saying something which you look back on later and feel like an eejit. But at least it’s an attempt to reach your own opinion rather than just accept what you’re told.

There are some caveats, though. You need to be aware of the ignorance, so you are aware of the possibility (likelihood?) that you’re talking crap. You need to be willing to change your opinion in the face of a new fact, or a better argument. And you have to try and take it in good spirit when someone points out the crap that you’ve been talking.

I’ve always been annoyed by people who are proud to be ignorant – even if it’s just being proud never to have watched Desperate Housewives. But I also think it’s a pity when people don’t feel able to offer opinions on things because they feel that somehow it’s not their place to do so.

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Duck with cassis

Joint some duck legs into drum-sticks and thighs. Brown them (you can do this is a dry frying pan; you’re really not going to need any extra fat). Transfer the duck to a casserole, just saving enough to brown some sliced onion. Put the onion in with the duck. De-glaze the pan with sherry, and add some chicken stock and a generous slug of cassis to the casserole before cooking it at 170C for about an hour and a half.

It’s very rich – sweet and fruity – but nice, and not overpoweringly blackcurranty.

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