Aha…it looks like EZPublishing does support mod_rewrite after all. Well, that’ll allow me to kill all the remote linking of Alex’s pictures. It won’t stop people grabbing copies of them and hosting them on their own site. But the password protection will stop them from getting at those photos in the first place.

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^*$ [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^*$ [NC]
RewriteRule .*\.(jpg|JPG|gif|GIF)$ - [F]

Advances in biscuitry

Ah, the humble yet immeasurably satisfying McVitie’s Chocolate Digestive biscuit. How could they possibly be improved? Well, how about sticking a layer of caramel between the biscuit and the chocolate? Mmmmm…caramel digestives!

And the McVitie’s classic Ginger Nuts? Surely no-one could fiddle with its timeless recipe and make it even better? Well, how about leaving the ginger nut as it is…but topping it with chocolate? Oooohh…chocolate ginger nuts!

Big yay to the food scientists at UB for advancing the cause of biscuitry, and satisfying cookie lovers all over Britain.

Password protecting Alex’s pages

I’m back to thinking about password-protecting Alex’s web pages here on Sunpig, and all of the images that go with them. Last week, there were two more sites that had linked to photos of him. One of them was fairly innocuous–the “Evil Alex” photo had cropped up on a bulletin board in response to a call for pictures of evil babies. The other site was another bulletin board, but it was in Arabic, so I have no idea what it was about. (Nearby pages on that board didn’t feature anything sinister, though.)

Having Alex’s pictures being linked to on these sites isn’t nearly as worrying as what happened back in January, but I’m still not exactly happy about it. I’m delighted to have people come across my own blog on Google. I post stuff here that people other than my family and friends may be interested in. But Alex’s pages are really only on the web so that people close to us can find out how he is getting on.

I’ve tried using a robots.txt file to stop search engines from indexing those pages (I assume that’s how most people would come across them), but that doesn’t seem to be working. So I think the time has come to lock them down. If you don’t know us, then you’re about as welcome on Alex’s pages as any stranger who sticks his face up against our living room window. If that sounds unfriendly, then sorry, but deal with it. I’m closing the curtains.

Revert to saved

The comments I received about the change I made to my home page all served to confirm what I thought myself: that it wasn’t quite right. The quick reviews don’t feel right interleaved with the rest of my blog entries. The tone of their content makes too much of a contrast with the normal blog entries, and they end up feeling like those adverts you get stuck in the middle of articles in the New York Times on-line edition.

So I’ve gone back to the old version. Alan suggested that I could just put the title of the latest review at the top of the page, but I fiddled around with that a bit, and I couldn’t get it to look right, either. Basically, you’re just going to have to put up with checking the quick reviews in the sidebar, or checking their home page to see if we’ve written any new ones.

On War

It’s hard to write about what I’m feeling about the war. This is partly because so many other writers elsewhere are putting it more clearly than I feel I can. It is also partly because I get very upset when I even think about the war.

It is a shameful thing that we are doing. It is a cliché to say that one feels ill because of the political direction we have taken, but for me it really is true. Reading and watching the news is making me feel sick. It makes me feel embarrassed and it makes me feel ashamed.

The easy thing to do, of course, is to tune out. I can watch non-stop music videos on TV, or see hippopotamuses frolic on Discovery Animal Planet. I can go out to a pub, or a restaurant, and have something nice to eat. I can go see a film that makes me laugh. In fact, if I want to, I can completely ignore the fact that Britain is at war. At war.

The weather in Scotland is beautiful right now. Spring has come. Daffodils are in bloom. The sun is out, and people are wandering through Princes St. Gardens wearing T-shirts. Life goes on as if nothing is the matter. War? What war? It’s safely contained within the pages of the newspapers, or in the flashing box in the corner of our living rooms. We are completely removed from it.

In Iraq, people are living in fear of their lives. There are children who will never see their parents again, and parents who will never again have their children rush into their open arms. And I’m not talking about just Iraqi people: I’m talking about British and American soldiers, too. We have sent our armed forced to Iraq to do a job. This job is killing people, and dying. That’s what armies do. Whatever their ultimate goal is, they are trained to achieve that goal by killing people, and by dying.

I’m not a pacifist in principle. I don’t believe that no war is just. I do believe strongly that this war is not just. No single argument for the war stands up to prolonged scrutiny. Our elected leaders have had to use many different arguments to try and knock down people’s objections to it. Somewhere in the shopping list of rhetoric there may be a reason we can live with. Just something that makes us think that the war is justified, or reasonable, or a good thing. Something that allows us to put down the newspaper, change the channel, and sleep at night with a less troubled conscience.

The humanitarian argument is a particularly insidious one. In the long term, it’s possible that we may be saving more lives by going to war against Iraq than would have been lost if we didn’t. Saddam Hussein is a cruel dictator. He has made it easy for this argument to work. It’s tempting to take hold of it, and to ignore the means by which the end of a “liberated” Iraq is achieved.

I really want to have a clear conscience. It would be nice to think that the Iraqi people are crying out to be liberated, and that we are the forces of good, with absolute right on our side. But the world doesn’t work like that. Painting the world in black and white is great for building clean consciences. All you have to do is find a way that leaves you on the side of good, and you’re sorted. But if it’s all grey, then you have to accept that some of the blood shed is on your own hands. You can ignore it for a while, but it doesn’t go away.

By ignoring Saddam Hussein’s human rights abuses and the murder of his own people for so long, there is blood on our hands. The same goes for every dictator on the planet. We should demand more active intervention on the part of our politicians and our institutions to do something about it. But we don’t, because that would mean having to think about the blood on our hands.

War is not the way to clean up a mess. It is how you create even greater messes. It lays the foundations for future tragedies, oppression, and misery. By going to war with Iraq now, for the reasons our leaders have stated, we are lowering the bar for entering into all future wars. I hope that the opposition to this war, and the political fall-out from it will serve as to discourage future leaders from citing it as a precedent. But I’m not confident that this will be the case. So long as we can all go about our daily business, and so long as the images of parents crying over the bodies of their children are confined to the TV, and can be turned off at the push of a button, people will turn off. If we ignore what’s happening now, it will happen again, and again, and again.

We must stop the Saddam Husseins of this world. But we must also stop this war.

Minor tweak to home page

If you’re reading this blog in your browser, as opposed to in an RSS newsreader, you will notice a slight change to the layout. Since the end of last year I’ve been writing quick, one-paragraph reviews of books I’ve read, films I’ve seen, and restaurants I’ve been to. They live in their own little blog, but I include the latest five reviews in the sidebar on my main blog pages.

They tend to get overlooked in the sidebar, so I’ve now changed my home page template to raise their profile. The home page now shows the quick reviews in the main body of the page, just as if they were ordinary blog entries. They’re tagged with a “quick review” logo, so you can easily tell the difference. (It’s all done with Brad Choate’s MTSQL plugin, in case you’re wondering.)

I’m still not 100% happy with the way it all looks, so I’d be grateful if you could drop me an email, or write a comment to let me know what you think.