Saturday, January 31, 2009

Whats In A Whiskey? Or Should I Say Whisky

"It's, uh, it's green!"
-Scotty from Star Trek TOS

A lot of people from my generation would know Scotty from Star Trek TOS. You remember that guy - he was always the guy who had to fix the ship at the last minute or the universe was doomed. But did you know that Scotty aka James Doohan was actually a Canadian? In fact, there are a lot of Canadians who claim Scottish descent. 4.7 million actually. That's almost as many as there are Scots in Scotland. How about that! The immigrant Scots were mostly tenant crofters (farmers), who were evicted from their crofts to make room for sheep during the 19th century. This period was fondly remembered as the clearances and was highlighted by forced evictions, homelessness and general misery, but I digress. A large number of these evicted Scottish crofters eventually settled in Nova Scotia, Canada (New Scotland ). They maintained much of their highland culture along with their dialect and set about naming the towns and villages of their new home with what they felt was appropriate. To this day you can find names like Inverness and Culloden throughout Canada, especially in Nova Scotia.

There was one thing they did not bring with them however. Scotch. Nope the Scotch was inadvertently left behind, which brings me to the point of my little story. Now I'm well aware that the if you distill a Scotch outside of Scotland its not a Scotch. The Scotch Whisky Association has rights to the name and their lawyers will relentlessly sue anyone who tries to use the name. Fair enough. Call it a Single Malt Whisky then. But as one Canadian distiller discovered, even a vague association with scotch can bring the weight of the SWA down upon you. There is in Nova Scotia, on Cape Breton Island, a distillery located in a GLEN, named GLENora, which is in the town of GLENville, in the area known as GLENora Falls. In this Glenny place they distill a single malt whisky named ...Glen Breton, Glen for the glen, and Breton for the Island. Apparently the word GLEN has run foul of the SWA who claims that the word GLEN evokes the belief that consumers are buying a product that is made in Scotland.

OK hold the phone. Now I'm of Scottish heritage and the word Glen really doesn't evoke anything to me apart from the the fact that it is out of common usage. If Glenora had labelled their whisky "deep fried mars bar single malt" or "binge drinker single malt" or"men in skirts single malt" or even "Montrose is a hellhole single malt" that would evoke Scotland to me. Glen is well... a glen - the word is Irish in origin and has been used in the English language since 1490 - means a small valley The are 42 place names in Cape Breton Island with the name GLEN in them. Further I would have to be an illiterate ponce not to notice the big red maple leaf and the "Canadian Single Malt Whisky" lettering on the bottle. How could that confuse people to think that Glen Breton comes from Scotland?

Notwithstanding the obvious heritage of the distiller in the year 2000 the SWA objected to the use of the word Glen and contested Glenora's brand to the Canadian Trademark Authority, only to have the CTA reject their claim in 2007. Undeterred they appealed their claim in 2008 and won a decision in the federal court. Glenora appealed this decision and in 2009 the Federal appeal court reversed the 2008 decision and allowed Glenora distillery to retain its trademark name. Its unknown whether or not the SWA will appeal the Appeal Courts decision to the Canadian Supreme Court. They have two months to appeal the case.

So what do you think? Is the Canadian distiller being deceptively misdescriptive (legal parlance) or is the name Glen Breton a reasonable conjunction of place names given the location of the distillery?

This Glen Breton Single Malt Whiskey is not cheap by the way. Runs for about 90 CDN per bottle. The distillery can produce 25,000 bottle in a year which is really just a small sip compared to the 11 million bottles of scotch whiskey sold in Canada every year. I may have to pick up a bottle on my next trip to Canada - for research purposes of course!

References for this post can be found here, here, here, and here

Friday, January 30, 2009


Its still possible for this to happen in a modern city in a modern time. I am totally shocked. Surprised this has not been reported by the local press here in Indonesia. Don't they get news feeds? Why are people not in the streets?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

RDX and Ice Cream

Its a scientific fact that ice cream, if it gets on your hands will instantly transfer itself to all parts of your body, your clothes and any items and articles that you may be carrying with you. What I recently learned is that this strange property is also shared by RDX.

RDX is a type of explosive. I used to work a lot with the RDX during my years in the middle east. Hah! I know what you are thinking but I had a license to handle the stuff. See? sez so right there (in arabic).

When you work with RDX there is always some powdery residue that gets on your hands and clothes. From there it may get on to your laptop computer and your luggage. Once it gets into your luggage its never coming out. Its quite happy to remain their for months or even years. And if you are travelling out of Israel and they decide to swab your luggage you are in a world of shit. These boys/girls swab EVERYTHING. Imagine their surprise! It took me 2 hours to explain that I work with the stuff so its perfectly normal for traces of explosive to turn up in my rig bag. It helped that the rig was in the news over there so the police at least knew what I was talking about. Still you are always a little bit uncomfortable around airport police no matter where you are.

I'm so glad to be home.

Getting There

As everyone knows getting there is half the fun so here is a typical getting there story.

With just 2 days to go in my hitch I got the the call...

Just so you know, my work in the oilfield usually begins with a frenzied call from the rig. There are usually two possibilities. The rig has either reached a point at which further drilling is impractical or the rig is stuck in the hole. Either case requires action on my part so lets assume the former. First step is to round up the the usual suspects (crew) and get everyone down to the heliport.

But wait...that's not a helicopter...apparently the helicopter is only for oil company personnel. Service company hands can ride on the boat with the food containers. My 30 minute buzz to the rig just became 5 hours. Damn cheap ass oil company!

The weather can change rapidly on water. It was raining when we left and blue sky when we arrived. So somewhere in between I got this.

The rig. No matter where you go they all look alike. Some are nicer than others. You are probably wondering how I am going to get up there from here. Can you see the basket on the left?
From here the personnel basket looks alarmingly like those cages that medieval types used to put criminals in.

A closer look. Simply load up your stuff in the middle, get a death grip on the webbing and ...

Wait for the whoosh while hanging on for dear life. Not quite as much fun as an arcade ride, but the excitement can be directly proportional to your fear of heights and the skill (or lack) of the crane operator. Note that there are no seat belts. We were lucky today and the cranes were good. I was once stuck on these baskets for an hour hanging off in space - not where you want to spend your time.

It takes about 30 seconds to get from the boat to the helideck.

Once we are on board its time to organise equipment. In most cases we have about 24 hours from the time we arrive to when we are actually needed. That's usually enough time to check our equipment and get a quick nap in before starting our job.
Luckily enough my relief arrived the next day, so instead of going to work, I was going home woohoo! I even got my own personal helicopter this time.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Good Old Larry Flynt

In some ways you have to admire Larry Flynt. I mean if everybody else is getting a bailout.... Evil Keith manges to work in just about every double entendre in the book.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

An Interesting Read

I have shamelessly stolen this essay from Umberto Eco, author of "The Name Of The Rose" and Baudolino. I came accros it as an introduction to a book titled "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America". I'm not going to post the book here but its certainly a good read if you are stuck at the airport on a rainy day.

Anyways here is the essay. I've added some very short(and trite) comments in red.

Eternal Fascism:Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt
By Umberto Eco

In spite of some fuzziness regarding the difference between various historical forms of fascism, I think it is possible to outline a list of features that are typical of what I would like to call Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism. These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.
* * *
1. The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition.
Traditionalism is of course much older than fascism. Not only was it typical of counterrevolutionary Catholic thought after the French revolution, but is was born in the late Hellenistic era, as a reaction to classical Greek rationalism. In the Mediterranean basin, people of different religions (most of the faiths indulgently accepted by the Roman pantheon) started dreaming of a revelation received at the dawn of human history. This revelation, according to the traditionalist mystique, had remained for a long time concealed under the veil of forgotten languages -- in Egyptian hieroglyphs, in the Celtic runes, in the scrolls of the little-known religions of Asia.
This new culture had to be syncretistic. Syncretism is not only, as the dictionary says, "the combination of different forms of belief or practice;" such a combination must tolerate contradictions. Each of the original messages contains a sliver of wisdom, and although they seem to say different or incompatible things, they all are nevertheless alluding, allegorically, to the same primeval truth.
As a consequence, there can be no advancement of learning. Truth already has been spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message.
If you browse in the shelves that, in American bookstores, are labeled New Age, you can find there even Saint Augustine, who, as far as I know, was not a fascist. But combining Saint Augustine and Stonehenge -- that is a symptom of Ur-Fascism.

2. Traditionalism implies the rejection of modernism.

Both Fascists and Nazis worshipped technology, while traditionalist thinkers usually reject it as a negation of traditional spiritual values. However, even though Nazism was proud of its industrial achievements, its praise of modernism was only the surface of an ideology based upon blood and earth (Blut und Boden). The rejection of the modern world was disguised as a rebuttal of the capitalistic way of life. The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.

3. Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action's sake.

Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Ur-Fascism, from Hermann Goering's fondness for a phrase from a Hanns Johst play ("When I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my gun") to the frequent use of such expressions as "degenerate intellectuals," "eggheads," "effete snobs," and "universities are nests of reds." The official Fascist intellectuals were mainly engaged in attacking modern culture and the liberal intelligentsia for having betrayed traditional values.

4. The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism.

In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.

AdHominin attacks you can often see on the blogosphere. There are days...

5. Besides, disagreement is a sign of diversity.

Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.

6. Ur-Fascism derives from individual or social frustration.

That is why one of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups. In our time, when the old "proletarians" are becoming petty bourgeois (and the lumpen are largely excluded from the political scene), the fascism of tomorrow will find its audience in this new majority.

7. To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country.

This is the origin of nationalism. Besides, the only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies. Thus at the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia. But the plot must also come from the inside: Jews are usually the best target because they have the advantage of being at the same time inside and outside. In the United States, a prominent instance of the plot obsession is to be found in Pat Robertson's The New World Order, but, as we have recently seen, there are many others.

8. The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies.

When I was a boy I was taught to think of Englishmen as the five-meal people. They ate more frequently than the poor but sober Italians. Jews are rich and help each other through a secret web of mutual assistance. However, the followers of Ur-Fascism must also be convinced that they can overwhelm the enemies. Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak. Fascist governments are condemned to lose wars because they are constitutionally incapable of objectively evaluating the force of the enemy.

9. For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.

Thus pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare. This, however, brings about an Armageddon complex. Since enemies have to be defeated, there must be a final battle, after which the movement will have control of the world. But such "final solutions" implies a further era of peace, a Golden Age, which contradicts the principle of permanent war. No fascist leader has ever succeeded in solving this predicament.
Chavez Anyone...or maybe dear leader?

10. Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology, insofar as it is fundamentally aristocratic, and aristocratic and militaristic elitism cruelly implies contempt for the weak.

Ur-Fascism can only advocate a popular elitism. Every citizen belongs to the best people in the world, the members or the party are the best among the citizens, every citizen can (or ought to) become a member of the party. But there cannot be patricians without plebeians. In fact, the Leader, knowing that his power was not delegated to him democratically but was conquered by force, also knows that his force is based upon the weakness of the masses; they are so weak as to need and deserve a ruler.

11. In such a perspective everybody is educated to become a hero.

In every mythology the hero is an exceptional being, but in Ur-Fascist ideology heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death. It is not by chance that a motto of the Spanish Falangists was Viva la Muerte ("Long Live Death!"). In nonfascist societies, the lay public is told that death is unpleasant but must be faced with dignity; believers are told that it is the painful way to reach a supernatural happiness. By contrast, the Ur-Fascist hero craves heroic death, advertised as the best reward for a heroic life. The Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death.
Ismail Haniyeh?

12. Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters.

This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality). Since even sex is a difficult game to play, the Ur-Fascist hero tends to play with weapons -- doing so becomes an ersatz phallic exercise.

13. Ur-Fascism is based upon a selective populism, a qualitative populism, one might say.

In a democracy, the citizens have individual rights, but the citizens in their entirety have a political impact only from a quantitative point of view -- one follows the decisions of the majority. For Ur-Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction. There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.
Because of its qualitative populism, Ur-Fascism must be against "rotten" parliamentary governments. Wherever a politician casts doubt on the legitimacy of a parliament because it no longer represents the Voice of the People, we can smell Ur-Fascism.

Pancasila Democracy under Suharto? Asian Values?

14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. -

Why do i think of fox news and the dumbing down of complex political social and economic issues.

Newspeak was invented by Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, as the official language of what he called Ingsoc, English Socialism. But elements of Ur-Fascism are common to different forms of dictatorship. All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent form of a popular talk show.
* * *
Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier for us if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, "I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Blackshirts to parade again in the Italian squares." Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances — every day, in every part of the world. Franklin Roosevelt's words of November 4, 1938, are worth recalling: "If American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land." Freedom and liberation are an unending task. Umberto Eco (c) 1999

For me there is something quite melodius about this essay. Try reading it aloud and you will see what I mean. Concise, yet entertaining Eco makes his points in a straghtforward manner, sprinkled with clever diction to hone, rather than obfuscate, his meaning.

Wish I could do the same.

Friday, January 9, 2009

That'll show 'em

“Jews of Arab Countries: the Congress is convinced that Jews living in Arab countries do not appreciate the kindness and protection that Muslims have granted them over the centuries. The Congress proclaims that the Jews who live in the Arab states and who have contact with Zionist circles or the state of Israel do not deserve the protection and kindness that Islam grants to non-Muslim citizens living freely in Islamic countries. Islamic governments must treat them as enemy combatants. In the same way, Islamic peoples must individually and collectively boycott them and treat them as mortal enemies."
- The World Islamic Congress meeting in Amman, Jordan, 22 September 1967

I'm surprised no one in Indonesia hadn't got round to this earlier.

Today, extremists in Indonesia finally got their revenge on the Jewish Entity. How? you may wonder? Israel a long ways away and there is no border or any direct flights. Heck Israel does not even exist in the Indonesian Psyche. But wait...If you can't find the enemy without then seek the enemy within. All twenty of them. Yep there are Jews in Surabaya! Holy Hanukkah lets have a demonstration! For sure those Jews are causing all that trouble in Palestine. I know...lets seal the synagogue. That'll show 'em. Israel is sure to open the borders now. Hey... Why not just kick em out? Guess where they will go then....hmmm? Now lets get back to our demonstration to show solidarity with Hamas and support for human shields.

I don't really see the point of this type of action . How does closing a synagogue help the Palestinian cause? Never mind the endless litany of "don't attack the religion, its not the religions that are bad". Never mind reinforcing the negative perception of muslims being intolerant. Never mind it was actions like this that saw a huge exodus of Jews from Arab countries to Israel after 1967. Never mind the Jewish community has been in Indonesia since before its inception. Never mind that they have kept a low profile, never bothered anybody, and never proselytised. Never mind they are Indonesian. Nope lets attack 'em anyway. This whole Israeli/Palestinian death orgy is their fault and their fault only.

People of Surabaya you can rest easy tonite. Abdusshomad Buchori has assured your safety. You don't need the Army, Navy, Air Force or Police to protect you. Put your trust in Abdusshomad Buchori and his band of merry men. Tomorrow Abdusshomad Buchori will root out those pesky sympathisers, supporters and Israeli agents that have caused everything from 911 to the Aceh Tsunami. "Go for it!" I say. They shouldn't be too hard to find....

Just look for horns under the hat!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

PJ in Jerusalem?


I had the opportunity a few weeks ago (before the present rukus got going) to spend the day in Jerusalem. Work was kind of slow so four of us chartered a guide and did the tourist thing. Starting in the morning it was about a 2 hour drive from Haifa to Jerusalem.

The first place we stopped was the Mount of Olives. There is an excellent view of the old city from here.
The Golden Mosque is of course the Dome Of The Rock. Could say that the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions got their start here. This is the place where Abraham was supposed to sacrifice his son but God allowed him to sacrifice a sheep instead (at the last minute). We were not allowed to get too close to this Mosque or the Al- Aksa Mosque so this photo will have to do. The shiny roof was donated by the King of Jordan in 1994

Next stop was the garden of gesthemane (hope I got the spelling). For Christians this was where Jesus was arrested. Some of the olive trees here are well over 1000 years old!

Going down the hill and across the street we finally got to the old city itself

The old city is pretty much in a constant state of reconstruction/excavation.

The western wall - ladies on the right, men on the left. This is apparently all that remains of the 2nd temple of Solomon after the Romans got through with it.

The Via Dolorosa. This is the route that Christ took to his execution. The Christians have helpfully broken it up into several (14) stations with souvenir shops and a small chapel at each one. My hand is in an impression of the rock created where Jesus apparently steadied himself by placing his hand on the wall. Jesus must have had really really big hands.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Doesn't look like much from the outside but the inside is something else again....Much like a tartus unit. I was curious about the ladder(upper right) and later on I found out that it had been sitting on that ledge for over 150 years! How cool/retarded is that? The keys to the door to the chuch have been in the same family since the time of Saladin.

The same church from the inside. My camera can't really do justice here. The whole interior is domes and arches.

Whats this you are wondering? Its the crux of the biscuit imho.

This is apparently a scale model of the planned 3rd Temple. And the small print on the left says: "Buy now before the temple is rebuilt and the prices go up". And guess where this temple is planned to be built....Won't that stir up the Anthill? Can't see this happening anytime soon but there is an element of the population of Israel that wants to see it happen.

Jerusalem as seen from the Old City. Its really quite amazing to see how all of this was built in such rugged country. And its more than a little ironic that a place with such religious significance of three major world religions is such a source of contention between them.

Hope you enjoyed the show.