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Underground blasts

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(Looking for 21st July blasts? Click here)

London Underground closed after multiple blasts. More at The Guardian. Reason #567 why I… oh never mind.
Update 10:15am :
Most controversial comment so far: “It’s probably the French.”
Update 11:00am:
Flickr has some pictures coming in, and Google News will keep you updated. Also, The Guardian’s blog is keeping track of the updates.
Update 12:05pm:
Fellow blogger Perfect.co.uk has updates at the ready.
Update 12:12pm:
Jihad group in Europe admits responsibility in 200 word statement on website.
Those wikipedia guys are quick: Wikipedia: 2005 London Underground explosions. Also, Londonist has an eye on events as they happen.
Clique update: Friends will be pleased to know that Mel N, Jac, Elli C, Jon B and David B are all ok. Mel was in Aldgate station an hour before the explosions…
Update 1:18pm – Statement from terrorist group, from Europhobia:

Jamaat al-Tandheem Al-Sierri (secret organization group)
Organization of Qaeda’t al-Jihad in Europe

In the name of God the most merciful…

Rejoice the nation of Islam, rejoice nation of Arabs, the time of revenge has come for the crusaders’ Zionist British government.

As retaliation for the massacres which the British commit in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mujahideen have successfully done it this time in London.

And this is Britain now burning from fear and panic from the north to the south, from the east to the west.

We have warned the brutish governments and British nation many times.

And here we are, we have done what we have promised. We have done a military operation after heavy work and planning, which the mujahideen have done, and it has taken a long time to ensure the success of this operation.

And we still warn the government of Denmark and Italy, all the crusader governments, that they will have the same punishment if they do not pull their forces out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

So beware.

Thursday 7/7/2005
Jamaat al-Tandheem Al-Sierri (secret organization group)
Organization of al Qaeda’t al-Jihad in Europe.

Update 5:58pm :
Reader Nadem Khan raises an interesting question – can anyone vouch for the veracity of this article?
Update 6.18pm : Guardian tells readers that “Bloggers react quickly to London blasts.” Damn right…!
Update 7.10pm : The BBC now has a dedicated subsite.

Boris, Blogs and a Chinese…

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Behind me, as I stood gawping at the diminutive man behind a ticket kiosk in Guildford Station, was a brightening summer’s day. True, it was only March, but the temparature had ramped up, the air was breezy and so far everything had gone to plan. I’d breezed into the station at 9am and worked my way to the front of a small queue for tickets. I asked for a Travelcard. The man asked for ?22.50.
I spluttered. I gubbled. I feebly protested. But it seems, at 9.15am, a Travelcard costs ?22.50 from Guildford. Still, I thought, hang the cost, I’m not missing today’s action.

hocpass.jpg

I was due to be in the Houses of Parliament for a meeting in Boris Johnson’s office, a quick tour around the House of Commons and House of Lords, followed by lunch in Portcullis House and, later on, a much sought after invitation to a weblogging conference in South Kensington. This, I surmised, was not to be missed.
As it turned out, I arrived in Westminster an hour early. On the way, I discovered why visiting political bigwigs cannot understand the fuss about the London Underground – because from Waterloo station to Westminster, the tube system is immaculate. Free from dirt and litter, with everything working perfectly and impressive designed to boot.
I emerged just in front of the Houses of Parliament and sauntered round the corner. Before me stood several political hacks, including the ever-present Andrew Marr, whom I nearly knocked flying. He’s much smaller than he appears on television.
After a walk along the Thames, I decided I may as well try and find Melissa, Boris’s right-hand woman. Once again, like my visit a couple of months ago, a quick frisk and I was in the Central Lobby of the building. It’s deceptively easy to get in, something that unnerves me every time. I asked a loitering policeman to call ahead for Melissa, and within minutes she breezed through one of the countless doors leading from the lobby. “Simon!” she exclaimed, as several looked round in surprise, “great to see you. Come this way.”
And so it was that at 11am I was sitting in Boris’s office, taking in thegreen furniture and Boris’s enormous desk. I even took a few photos while I sat, waiting for my cue to visit the House of Commons
chamber.
The House of Commons is much smaller that it looks on television. So is Robin Cook, unbelievably. And after getting a little bored in the House of Lords – most of the Lords were either asleep or too old to speak coherently – the Boris posse (myself, Melissa and Boris’s reseacher Olly) sat down for a taxpayer-subsidised lunch in Portcullis House, a huge and impressive building accessed from theHouses of Parliament through bunker-style tunnels.
And then, after helping Melissa with some website-related revelations, we were on our way to the second event of the day – the “Blogs in Action” Conference at the Polish Club. I was originally expecting a club full of shiny surfaces, but it turns out it was a club exclusively for VIPs from Poland, and it was a huge building. There was eventually around 70 attendees, and after a chinwag in the bar we headed upstairs for two hours of discussion on weblogs. Nokia were there; Vnunet were there; academics, famous bloggers and blogging companies were all there to hear the gems from the panel of five. It turned out to be thoroughly interesting, with Nokia evangelising about blogging through their new Lifeblog application and Tom Coates (of Plasticbag fame and winner of many website awards) telling us his views on where the whole thing is going.
Even for me, it was amazing how mainstream blogging is becoming. Newspapers like The Guardian (whose blogging supremo Neil McIntosh was also speaking) have their own Online and Observer blogs, and Vnunet have developed not only their own blogs but their own weblogging system for visitors to use.
By far the most interesting speakers was John Dale, who heads the IT Development at Warwick University. He and his team have created warwickblogs, a facility for university students and staff to get their own blogs simply and easily. It has been a huge success, and his combination of clever advertising, great webpage design and homegrown coding is possibly the best implementation of blogging I’ve seen so far. The general theme of the evening was that blogs are transcending geekery, and becoming useful tools for people and companies alike.
By 9pm, the presentations were complete, the wine and nibbles were run dry and Melissa, Dennis and I pitched up at an “All You Can Eat For ?4.95” chinese near South Kensignton tube station. “that sounds like a challenge” I remarked, and within twenty minutes I could barely move, such was the amount of food on offer. An excellent end to the day, we all agreed in the taxi to Kings Cross station…
UPDATE: A full commentary of the conference here, and a full transcript here. Also, pictures of the speakers here.

I should have used a Chamois

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There are things we take for granted. Yes, yes, there’s life, money, friends, family and all that stuff – but something equally relied on buy the lazier folk amongst us (or the “time-poor” as The Guardian might call us) is the carwash.
I was driving back from Michelle’s this morning down the A3, when I decided the car could really do with a clean. The wet weather and heavily-gritted roads had taken their toll on the 407’s cracking form, and a brief stop at the nearest car-washing garage would allow me to get the Sunday newspapers and a drink.
There was a small queue of cars at the carwash – three in total – when I arrived. But, in the way that only car queues can, the queue length had multiplied to 6 cars in the short time it had taken to get a carwash ticket. No matter, I thought, I have time on my side. For the first day in a while, I had no plans, so I joined the back of the queue. And waited. My thoughts wandered in and out of radio commercials, now I feel quite strongly that 2017 Avalon lease rates are trully remarkable and that I should tune in next week for the car auction about to take place.
After five minutes of stationary inaction, I began to think something was amiss. Leaning over and peering out of the passenger window, I could make out a small collection of people by the entrance. There seemed to be some confusion over how to operate the carwash. With no visual means of escape – a couple of eager punters had joined the queue behind me – I wondered whether I could be of any help. As I approached, I could tell that most of the group was of “uncertain” origin (although the Bangladeshi-English dictionary on the back seat of their car may have given a clue), and it seemed that they had never seen a carwash in their lives. A stern-looking man was patiently explaining what to do with the aid of some comical arm movements (his visual representation of the sprays of water, accompanied by a loud series of “whooOOOSH!”s, would have won several plaudits at the World Charade Championships*). I ambled back to my car, happy that the situation would soon be resolved.
After another five minutes, the car and it’s Bangladeshi cargo were inside the carwash, enduring something that must have felt very much liek they were sinking. Some further coaxing later and they were out. “Let’s get the show on the road!” I muttered cheerily, thankful that the blockage was cleared.
“Hold up,” I exclaimed mere moments later, as again there seemed to be no progress at the front of the queue. To my utter horror, there was ANOTHER car full of Bangladeshi adventure-seekers, all eager to have a go in this fun contraption but with not a clue between them as to how to use it. “Christ Alive” passed my lips several times as the stern man, by now an expert at this, again became the carwash tutor. A further agonising 10 minutes later and they were in, to sarcastic cheers from the rest the queue – which had now grown to a healthy 12 cars.
During the whole hour-long episode, those drivers who had the good sense to use the handhead jetwash just next door were gliding past, waving and grinning like Cheshire cats as one by one they cleaned their cars for free and in a tenth of the time we had been waiting. But a full hour and 10 minutes after I had joined the queue, my car was pleasingly clean too.
There’s something to be said for a little elbow-grease.
*There is, of course, no such thing.

01010100 01100101 01100011

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You may have noticed I’m a slave for technology. The way technology is helping our lives really floats my particular boat. Take my phone, for instance. It’s an XDAII – a phone with a processor inside it more powerful than my mother’s computer, allowing it to become a handheld computer, digital camera, calendar, email client, all sorts of things. It means wherever I am I can check emails, websites, keeping in touch with all the same things I can in the office. I’ve no idea how I coped without it before.
So imagine my delight when I found The Guardian Digital Edition. I’m not a regular Guardian reader, but it’s a nice antidote to the rantings the Daily Mail usually feeds me. The Digital Edition is essentially a newspaper, but online. No trees felled, no newspaper to lose on the underground – just point at an article on a page and click. Why go to the grubby newsagent when you can sit in the comfort of your armchair pointing and clicking? It’s another reason never to live your living room. We’ll all become social recluses – it’s the future, I tell you.

Clifford’s dirty mitts all over the Beckhams

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It seems we’re being taken for a ride! Clifford’s hand at work in Beckham saga, reports the Guardian. Max Clifford was secretly paid ?60000 for the News of the World story last Sunday, while pretending to not know a thing. He will pretend to take on Ms Loos as a client this week, followed by an “ad hoc” interview with her in Sunday’s newspapers.
The Beckhams, meanwhile, counter with their PR plan.
I say again, the Wag The Dog storyline comes ever closer to reality…

OnSpeed – any good?

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Can someone tell me about OnSpeed please? Their strapline “Speed up your internet without hassle” come two a penny nowadays, but it appears that this actually works. You can have a dial-up connection at your standard 56kps, slap on OnSpeed software, and it speeds it up by 5 times as much. You can even triple broadband speeds. All for ?2 a month. Their website shows rave reviews from computer magazines, so they must be on to something (although The Guardian’s review was a little more balanced about it, mentioning the poorer graphics and same-speed file downloading). Has anyone used it?

Hutton Inquiry – the verdict

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Lord Hutton has given his verdict: I shall give mine.
Wibbler, 2003
The politics of the last 24 hours has left me distinctly queasy. The Government vote on tuition fees, where they won solely on the appearance of Scottish MPs who aren’t even affected by the bill, was just a taster of things to come. Today’s revelation in the Hutton Report was the icing on Tony Blair’s cake. This time yesterday, we were wondering who would be the next Prime Minister; today, Tony Blair has escaped the flails of justice intact, seemingly stronger than ever.
Certainly, it was a grave accusation that BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan thrust at the Government’s door early that morning – namely that they had lied to go to war. Yes, the BBC reporting is at times woefully unbalanced. Yes, the BBC made errors after the Gilligan report was out. But Lord Hutton seems to have focused his entire critique on that one report; 3 minutes of unscripted dialogue and just one fourteen second long sentence that he suggests serves to represent the ethics of the reporter and, as Tony Blair himself may have put it, as the totality of the evidence against the corporation.
The idea that Blair did not have a hand in the naming of Kelly is also highly suspect. This is a government whose modus operandi has been shown, indisputibly, to be ‘top-down’, centralised and autocratic. Blair’s hand is shown to be central to all decisions – except when something goes wrong, when he is conveniently uninvolved.
And now Alastair Campbell is out, all guns blazing. Now, I’ve a great deal of respect for Campbell’s intellect. But this is a man, a former writer of fake erotic letters for Penthouse, the ex-chief spin-doctor for the government who chaired intelligence meetings. Hypocrisy? Oh no.
I suppose it is possible that the government did not put a foot wrong in this whole affair. And I can’t pretend to be at the hub of the political spectrum – my leafy village certainly isn’t on a par with Westminster. However, watching the news tonight is genuinely cathartic, and a subtext in their comments is telling. Stream upon stream of reporters are dissecting the report, going through the motions of objective analysis but seemingly unable to believe the findings or the sheer one-sidedness of the conclusion. None of them, not even seasoned insiders, predicted the outcome – seasoned insiders that have lived and breathed political debate and cynicism for years inside Westminster; seasoned insiders like Nick Robinson, ITV News’ Chief Political Reporter, who today looked deeply unhappy and talked openly on live television of a “whitewash”. Reporters like Channel 4’s Jon Snow, who seemed horrified at the implications for open investigative reporting in the future and had verbal fisticuffs with the beautiful Margaret Beckett, who almost admitted that government scientists are now unable to voice their concerns about anything much without being sacked.
But I suppose Rod Little, who gave his always entertaining opinion on the Radio 4 Today programme this afternoon, is right – never in history has a Law Lord conducted an inquiry with an anti-government outcome. Too late are the recent revelations of doubts in the evidence Lord Hutton took as fact. Three senior medical experts have cast doubt on the “suicide” of Dr Kelly, according to ThisIsLondon – a subject I harped on about a couple of months ago.
But it’s all too late now, isn’t it?
I leave you with Steve Bell’s excellent cartoon in The Guardian. A thousand words…

Mail On Sunday article

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Wondering what the Royally-banned Mail on Sunday article was last week? This is the nitty-gritty of it.
The Internet is a wonderful thing.
UPDATE: The above link, I forgot to tell you, was found by simply watching Channel 4 News last night. The rumours, they said, were all over the place – even at this internet site… They then slowly told us the website address, in detail never usually handed to us. I think they’re a tad annoyed at the injunction served against the Guardian and the Mail on Sunday…