The Night Watch

I’ve just started reading the first of Sergei Lukyanenko’s trilogy The Night Watch and it is a rip-roaring ride. Brilliant imagination has been melded into the gritty Moscow night-time like it was written at Kurskiy Vokzal at 3 a.m. Readers fond of foreign movies might remember the film ‘Nochnoy Dozor’ (literal translation) based on this book bursting out of Russian cinema in 2004. This is a great bit of mythology worked around a core of realism that is very gripping.

I will definitely buy this in the original Russian (still looking for where to buy it from), as there’s clearly been some loss in translation. And seeing shoddy English such as “…the train was already breaking as it pulled into a station” when I’m only 14 pages in doesn’t build confidence in the rest of the work. I’ve heard said, and agree with the fact that the language a translator is translating into should be their strongest. And with a name like Andrew Bromfield you’d expect the translator to know better. But maybe I should give him a brake (pun intended).

As an aside, I will point out that I rented this book from the library a while ago, and was in no way influenced by the recent spate of teen-vampire mush spewing out of all of Hollywood’s orifices.

Note: in today’s news, Dubai World’s failure to repay its debt has resulted in further loss of confidence in the whole Dubai rollercoaster. To quote: “Dubai could not undermine itself any further as a place not to do business in at the moment,” said Manus Cranny at MF Global. From BBC News, link

Kabul property prices

Fact really is stranger than fiction. The BBC reports today that house prices in Afghanistan’s capital are soaring. Most obviously, one ex-pat has this to say:-

According to Richard Scarth, day-to-day life in Kabul remains relatively unaffected despite the global downturn.

“That is because the economy is UN-driven,” he says. “Money just keeps coming in regardless of what is happening in the wider world.”

“How much is too much?” aka “I’ll escalate if you’ll escalate.”

I was spraying my pits with Gilette “Cool-surf-tiger-action-savannah-man” something or other this morning when I noticed that it claimed to provide “over 24 hour protection”.

Now, it hasn’t escaped my notice that just 24-hour protection came before that, and I could cast my mind back to times when 12 hour protection was deemed sufficient for the modern male homo sapien.

We are all aware of the famous 1 blade, no-you-need 2 blades, no-you-need 3 blades, no-you-need 4 blades, no-you-need 5 blades, etc. indecision of the famous blade manufacturers.

In both cases we’ve seen a natural, predictable one-upmanship for a cerain time before a stagnation point is reached and there is simply no more room for blades without moving into cheese-grater territory.

The case with pit-sprays is this. Although I don’t mind the adverts calling me a dynamic 24-hour man, juggling work, wife, mistress, blood donations and my volunteering role as a mentor for under-priviledged kids who only smile when they see me coming down the road on my super-cool urban scooter, being called a 48-hour man would only imply I hadn’t had a shower in two days. And although not showering in two days doesn’t really bother old “Oh-do-I-have-to-dress-for-success?” Naz (you should see smell my record!), I still don’t like it to be pointed out to me.

Reckon they’ve already realised this? Welcome to Stagnation Point.

My my, there’s been a lot of hyphens today.

Finally! the recognition I deserve.

I was browsing through Fopp’s last weekend, and I saw Tim Harford’s ‘Dear Undercover Economist’ book, which is a compilation of the very best and interesting letters sent to him and his replies to them in line of his duty as a Financial Times columnist. Tim Harford has also written ‘The Undercover Economist’ and ‘The Logic of Life’, which I really enjoyed.

Since it was only £2 (RRP £12 I think) I snapped it up. Reading it at home I came across MY letter to him revolving around the “Prisoner’s Dilemma”.

My letter was published!!

Go to page 64 and you’ll see it.

I’m reading Richard Dawkins’ ‘The Blind Watchmaker’ at the moment, also purchased from Fopp but at a much dearer £9. It is really gripping, and I marvel at how to DNA we are just “methods of propagation”.

Pearls before swine

David Nutt is a professor at Imperial College London and until last week was also chairman of the UK government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. He was dismissed last week by Home secretary Alan Johnson, presumably for disagreeing with the government policy on upgrading certain Class C drugs to a Class B.

Professor Nutt has written a critical article appearing in The New Scientist today about how governments can get it wrong by not heeding their advisors when cementing policy.

Some telling excerpts are:

“Policies that ignore the realities of the world we live in are doomed to fail. This is true for just about all the biggest issues that we confront, from energy and climate to criminal justice, health and immigration. I’m not arguing that science dictate policy; considerations such as cost, practicality and morality also have a role. But scientific evidence should never be brushed aside from the political debate.”

“On ecstasy, for example, it made policy first, sought advice second – and cynically rejected the advice it was given. The result is shambolic policy-making which gives great cause for concern if that is how governments operate more generally.”

“The results of a government inventing its own reality and acting on it can be seen in the appalling consequences the George W. Bush presidency had for world peace, the environment and human rights.”

You can find the article here.

Here Chief Scientific Advisor Professor John Beddington backs him up saying research showing the drug to be less dangerous than alcohol and cigarettes was “absolutely clear cut”,