Farmers market

We went out to the Edinburgh Farmers Market again today. We bought some sourdough bread from the Valvona & Crolla stand, some wild boar sausages, some diced venison haunch (earmarked for stewing tomorrow), a pack of whole beef beefburgers, and a fresh trout from Drummond Trout Farms. Farmers markets are great!

After that, we wandered along Princes St., picking up bits & pieces. We bought a stack of CDs (Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Courtney Pine) and DVDs (When Harry Met Sally, Ultraviolet) in the HMV sale. Abi also bought a lovely new autumn coat, some long-sleeved shirts, and a couple of fuzzy turtlenecks.

I was tempted to buy another game for my PS2 at Electronics Boutique. But after having made the mistake of renting the abominably dull Timesplitters from Blockbuster earlier this week, I decided to come home & check out some reviews on the web before getting my feet wet again. (Even though the ones I had my eye on were seond hand PlayStation (not PS2) games, and hence quite cheap.)

The three I was looking at were Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VII, and Jimmy White Cueball. The reviews on MGS are pretty postive overall, but everyone says that the game is far too short. Probably not, then. Jimmy White Cueball looks like a fun game for picking up and playing for a bit, without having to sit down for an hours-long session–sounds good for £7.99.

As for Final Fantasy, I vaguely remembered that one of the more recent episodes in the series was utter pants. So I was even more wary of this one than the others. However, after having checked out the word on the web, it sounds like this is possibly the best of the whole series. Lots of deep plotting and character development set in a traditional(ish) video game RPG. Probably take a month or so to play it all the way through. Definitely a winner!

Now all I need to do is finish off these new blogging tools for Sunpig, so I can put up static articles (like, for instance, wishlists), so I can remind myself what it is I’ve decided to buy 🙂

Ocean Terminal

Yesterday evening we visited the newly opened Ocean Terminal in Leith. It’s huge and grand, with lots of open space. Most of the shops are still in the “coming soon” phase, but there’s a decent-sized Debenhams, a smallish BHS, a variety of restaurants and bars, and a cinema. Very nice.

After that, we took a bus to the opposite side of town and had dinner at the Old Bordeaux. We’re regulars there now. The staff know us, and are always amazed to see how much B has grown since we were last in.

Last night was particularly special, though, because B had his first experience in a high chair! Just in the last week, he has been getting more interested in–and capable of–sitting up. Rather than have him on our laps for most of the meal, he took the high chair instead, and he loved it! He made a lot of noise by banging his rattle against his little table, and generally had a good time pretending to be all grown up. I think we’re going to have to get ourselves one of these wonderful contraptions very soon…

And once we got home, I uploaded the latest set of pictures. You can see them over on B’s page.

Music, books, and stuff

I’ve been listening a lot to two albums lately: Everyday by the Dave Matthews Band, and Dreamworld by Steve Booker.

I first heard of Steve Booker when I saw him supporting Clannad in Glasgow in 1990 (91?). Richard Gibbs drove a gang of us over there, and I seem to remember that I wasn’t the only one who thought that the support was better than the main act. Not that Clannad was bad, but Steve Booker just shone.

Unfortunately, I only have a tape of Dreamworld. Listening to it again now, a lot of the songs still sound fresh and beautiful. I would dearly like to get hold of the CD now, because the tape isn’t going to last forever, and I don’t think it would record well onto MP3. But the album doesn’t seem to be available at any of the usual on-line sources! Looks like I’m going to have to scour the second-hand record shops…

I’m also coming to the end of the last Elvis Cole book I haven’t read yet: Voodoo River (by Robert Crais). I haven’t been reading them in order, so I’ve seen the romance between Cole and Lucy Chenier in full flow, and I’ve seen the trouble they’ve gone through in LA Requiem. I am thoroughly enjoying this book, which is where they first meet and fall in love.

Like Spenser and Susan in Robert B. Parker’s books, the romance between the Cole and Lucy is profound, at times difficult, and (I hope) an enduring constant. Spenser and Susan worked out their difficulties when Susan left him in the mid 80s. I hope that Robert Crais will, over the course of the next few Elvis Cole books, show that true love can endure such hardship.

No comments on war and impending doom today. I was going to write some more on Tuesday evening, but the Nimda worm took down the EZPublishing servers (or their network), which is where sunpig is hosted.

Big install at the Bank today. We’ve been working hard to meet today’s deadline for project ERos, and it all went remarkably well. The system is in place, we fixed a few bugs on-site, and the customers seem to be very happy with it! Very satisfying. So I went out this evening and bought some wee prezzies (sweaters, for the coming cold weather) for B and Abi.

Well over a month ago now, we thought that B was starting to teethe. He had small white spots on his upper gums, in about the right positions for his baby canines. Well, nothing came of that until now. He is seeming quite unhappy a lot of the time, and whenever we feed him, he is actively biting down on the spoon. Maybe something will pop through soon?

He is also now pulling himself forward with his arms, even over non-shiny surfaces. He can drag himself along the rug now: yet another step towards crawling. And he is getting much more interested in sitting up, too. Still a bit unsteady, but he seems to realize that there is something different and fascinating about this new state of being 🙂


Commentary from other people:

Matthew Parris hits the spot.

Martin Woollacott is perhaps a bit too optimistic.

The Dalai Lama states his hopes plainly.

Robert Fisk puts the arguments forcefully.

(I’m going to try and mirror copies of these articles to Sunpig, because I don’t want to lose them when the newspapers in question reorganise their sites.)

BBC2 hosted an evening of Star Trek yesterday, in honour of the series’ 35th anniversary. I found it curiously uplifting. At least in one corner of the popular media lives a TV show which at its heart, presents a positive vision for humanity.

They showed Trek IV at the end of the evening. Abi pointed out the similarity between Kirk & Spock in Trek IV and Jay and Silent Bob in Kevin Smith’s films (Chasing Amy, Dogma, et al.)


Days away

We’re back from a few days away. On Thursday we drove up to Aberdeen to spend some time with Grandma McLean. On Friday we trundled around Deeside, ending up at the Gairnshiel Lodge. The Lodge is located about six miles out of Ballater, just before a humpback bridge. When we drove over that bridge last year, we were met by a horse charging straight at us. Nothing quite so interesting this time, though.

Saturday, we went to Mum & Dad in Murthly, and spent the day there, before driving back late in the evening. We would have stayed the night, if B hadn’t been sleeping so poorly. In Aberdeen and at Gairnshiel he woke up in the middle of the night (2/3 am), wanting to be fed. Strange places, restless bunny. He settled fairly easily in his own cot last night, and didn’t wake up until 06:30 this morning.

He’s been a bit grumpy this afternoon, though. I wonder if he’s missing all the constant social stimulation he’s been having over the last few days?

He’s in the front pouch, screaming his head off as I’m writing this. He’s getting too big and active (not to mention too heavy) to be carrying him around in the pouch all the time, though. So on Thursday, before we headed off for Aberdeen, we stopped by at Mothercare and bought a baby backpack. Big success! B loves it! It puts him up much higher than he is accustomed to being, and as a bonus it allows him to play with our hair.

He’s asleep in the pouch now.

The trip was a nice break, but it was emotionally exhausting. Abi and I were both struggling to deal with the events in the US; not just the attacks themselves, but how people, and especially our so-called leaders are dealing with them.

In the car, with B asleep in the back seat, we talked about a lot of things: our families, our countrymen, war, global capitalism, poverty, human nature and the “selfish gene”. Probably some of the best intellectual discussions we’ve had in a long while. And although we’re still both feeling very depressed, I think we’ve hit bottom and are on our way back up. For now. (Abi’s in the kitchen with the light box. Last year’s winter was a struggle for me too, so I think I might also start taking some light soon.)

Song for today: Zero 7 — Destiny. The chilled out beat fits the slow gloominess of the afternoon. “When I’m weak, I draw strength from you.”

B has gone through several stages on his way to crawling. First, he was just pushing off randomly with his legs. Then he started coordinating the legs, and bringing them up under his hips. His arm strength came later, but he couldn’t work the arms and legs together, and so he ended up moving backwards! All the while, though, most of his progress has been by bursts of frantic leg action. This afternoon, in his lovely and soft new trousers, was was on our shiny wooden floor. His hands could gain purchase, and the rest of his body could slide freely. And for the first time, he pulled himself forward. Cool!

And finally, some thoughts on the current polical situation (turn away now if you’re easily offended):

  • When president Bush talks about a “War on Terrorism,” the terminology and rhetoric sounds sensible because we are used to hearing the phrases “War on crime” and “War on drugs.” But when politicians talk about the war on drugs, they don’t generally mean sending warships, planes and troops to Colombia, and carpet-bombing the coca plantations on another nations soil.

    The “War on social problem X” rhetorical construct is now being used a smokescreen to cover up manoeuvres in preparation for military action. For the US, waging war on terrorism is much more acceptable in the international arena than, for example, declaring war on Afghanistan.

    We need to beware of a “bait and switch” being pulled on us: we (I’m talking Europe, here) cannot allow ourselves to be dragged into a real war, against targets as yet unnamed, under the guise of tracking down and prosecuting specific criminals, who so far remain unidentified.

    Fortunately, European leaders seem to be taking a stance against president Bush labelling this criminal investigation as a “War”.
  • The media are severely distorting reality.

    What we’re seeing on TV is not what is really happening. The news channels have a vested interest in showing forceful and shocking images, and telling dramatic stories. They have to, because otherwise we wouldn’t watch them. They need to make us watch them to ensure their survival, and they make us watch them by appealling to our rubbernecking fascination with tragedies that happen to other people.

    They can claim all they want that they are showing their footage and commentary because of public interest. To a certain extent, this is true. But we must also remember that the news editors report to managers, who report to boards of directors, who report to shareholders. If CNN had not devoted 100% of its coverage to last week’s disaster, people would have lost money, and lost their jobs.

    The media are driven by innate human selfishness.

    The counterweight of human altruism is provided by the rescue workers, and everyone at ground level who has given aid, blood and money. Eventually, the media will cover this as well. It doesn’t make them as much money, though.
  • Abi has pointed out to me that on certain on-line forums, anyone who does not speak out in strong favour of immediate action, or who favours a moderate course in addressing the socio-economic and political causes of terrorism rather than their aftermaths, is being flamed out of the water, labelled as a troll, and called anti-American. Well, guess what? That kind of arrogant, superior and nationalistic attitude is precisely one of the reasons the US is perceived so badly in international politics. Think of Microsoft, and its blatant disregard for honesty, fair competition and legal strictures. Now multiply that up to a global political scale. The US is big and powerful enough that it can generally do as it pleases.

    Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    With great power comes great responsibility.

    How do these two statement tie up? With great difficulty, and much pain. Striking back is quick and easy, and satisfying in the short term. In the long term, it will be disastrous unless the US also shows that it is willing to learn a lessons from this disaster. This will be made all the harder because any steps to take on board any of the terrorists’ grievances will be seen as giving in to them.

Knee-jerk reactions

The knee-jerk reactions from yesterday seem to be starting to wear off. The media seem to be willing to contemplate the victims themselves now, their friends and relatives, and the ongoing rescue efforts. There are even a few rational voices calling for restraint, and for the crime to be investigated before taking blind revenge.

I feel sad and depressed, like a great weight is pulling me down. And I feel guilty for feeling like that, because I haven’t lost anyone. What right do I have to claim sadness? How do I, sound of limb, with my family intact, dare try to own a tiny piece of this disaster, when tens of thousands of people have just had their whole lives shattered?

It is this feeling, and these questions, that depress me even more. Because I realize that politicians, the media, and other people “in power” are trying to claim this tragedy as their own. They are determining that it is their responsibility to take action against the perpetrators.

A parent who loves his children, or a friend who loves those who are close to him, wants to retaliate against anyone who hurts them. I know this feeling. But it stems from close, personal friendship and love.

Politicians want to step into this same role. They want to be the “protectors” of their constitients. They want to act as parents to a city, or a nation. But with a very few exceptions, I do not believe that they do this out of love or concern for the people they purport to serve. They do it to enhance and maintain their own positions of power.

The politicians don’t care. The media don’t care. The capitalist bosses don’t care. Yet they all pretend to care, because that is how they cement their own positions. They need to fool us into giving them our collective trust.

The only thing that really matters is the people you love, and interactions you have on a personal level. A president, prime minister, or king can’t care about millions of people. It’s not humanly possible.

My own participation in Western capitalist society depresses and angers me. Humans are selfish. I am selfish. I am too attached to my own comforts, and this attachment binds me to those forces I have just reviled.

One’s own morality only stands up to so much scrutiny before breaking down. The only way to continue to think of yourself as a moral person is to turn a blind eye to things you know would be wrong if you examined them closely enough.

As I write this, I find myself spiralling down into even more unhappiness and depression. I can’t try to comprehend all the evils of the world at once. The simple thought of losing anyone close to me is enough to make me cry for everyone who has lost a loved one in this disaster.

It seems inconceivable that life should go on after yesterday. But somehow, it must. It always does.

(Abi has a more hopeful view of humanity than I do.)