Monthly Archive for August, 2005

mochachocolatté returns to blogging

mochachocolatté has resumed his blog after an absence of 21 months. Exploring his ‘new’ blog I was intrigued by his Gaydar test result. And more so by this conversation on MSN Messenger, in response to my own test result:

Mustafa Arif (23:17:06): I scored 70% in gaydar recognition
mochachocolatté (23:17:13): good effort
mochachocolatté (23:17:23): i was part of the 30% you originally missed then
mochachocolatté (23:17:28): put it on your blog

:-)

mochachocolatté’s 21 month silence incidentally means that the entireity of his sabbatical year at KCLSU has gone undocumented. Like mochachocolatté, I think it’s a shame that I didn’t more fully journal my two years as ICU President. It would have been a wonderful record to look back on. Lots of people told me to keep a diary or scrap book. I didn’t and I regret it. I’ll try not to make the same mistake again!

In the news again

My last few days as President of Imperial College Union saw a flurry of media activity in the aftermath of the London bombings.

First, the Guardian’s Education supplement got all excited about universities allegedly being infested with Al-Qaeda brainwashers.

Then Peter Taylor’s documentary, “the new Al-Qaeda: jihad.com” was aired on prime time on the BBC. Apparently I featured on this for one minute explaining that actually universities aren’t that infested with Al-Qaeda brianwashers. I say “apparently” because I didn’t actually see the programme. I’d forgotten about it (my interview was filmed in March/April time) and it didn’t click that this was the same documentary until people started sending me text messages to remind me that I needed a hair cut back then! I’ve heard mixed reports as to how I came across and how my words were used though it seems the programme did not portray Babar Ahmad in a very positive light. I shal reserve judgement until after I have seen a copy.

The day after Taylor’s documentary was broadcast, the Washington Post’s Eurpean bureau in Berlin got in touch me. They later ran another less than friendly piece on Babar.

And then, on a lighter note, Josh got into a hissy-fit about Imperial College invoking the right to award degrees under its own title (as opposed to degrees awarded, at present, in the name of the University of London). None of the other KCLSU sabbaticals seemed to care but Josh decided to send emails left, right and centre across the University and media circles. Unsurprisingly, only the Guardian were really interested who some how managed to turn one overly dramatic article into two!

Anyway, it’s unlikely you’ll be hearing much more about me in the near-future. I’m no longer in a political position and, in many ways, that feels rather nice! Though I expect I’ll be back, at some point.

Establishing the truth

It doesn’t take much more than common sense to realise that whenever one needs to take a decision it is important first to ensure that one has got the facts right. After all, if you are working with incorrect information, or assumptions, then the decisions you make, whilst technically correct for the problem you are dealing with, do not necessarily provide an adequate, let alone optimal, solution to the real problem.

That principle is not just true in engineering but in all walks of life. And it is no more important than when politicians look at revising legislation or executive powers that encroach upon civil liberties in order to deal with a perceived threat to national security.

This post might, so far, seem like stating the “bleeding obvious” but the trouble is that sometimes the apparently obvious might not actually be true.

Defense analyst, Andrew Gilligan’s column “Gilligan on Monday” in the Evening Standard sadly takes several weeks (or even months) to appear online. This is unfortunate as last Monday’s edition, which I am unable to link to contained erudite analysis showing that much that had been popularized in the media about the recent London bombings was at best unsubstantiated and, at worst untrue. There were two parts to his analysis that stuck most in my mind.

The first conclusion that Gilligan implies is that the 7 July and 21 July bombings were seperate attacks that were not significantly linked (other than the obvious ‘copycat’ nature). This was interesting considering that much fuss had been made recently about “Londonistan” being rampant with organised “Al-Qaeda” operatives. Intriguingly this has now been picked up by the Independent today. In a front page article they report that an enquiry involving MI5, MI6, GCHQ and the police has found “no evidence” of “an Al-Qaeda mastermind operating in the UK” or of any link between the two bombings.

The other Gilligan claim that I found interesting was that the evidence pointed to both the 7 July and 21 July bombings not being (attempted) suicide attacks. Gilligan pointed to New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s astonishingly frank security briefing on the London attacks. Kelly revealed that police believe the 7 July bombs were set off by automatically timed mobile detonators linked to mobile phones, implying that they were not suicide attacks as these are normally manually detonated.

Today’s Independent seems to be building on the theme and has put up a small listing of what it believes are common myths associated with the London bombings.

I’m not sure I know what version of events to believe. I’m acutely aware that the police investigation is on-going and that we need to wait to see what actually comes out of it.

My concern is politicians jumping on a bandwangon and making legislation that unnecessarily impedes on civil liberties. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not a libertarian junkie. I fully accept that, to some degree, individual freedoms need to be curtailed for the greater good and that at times of high risk to national security. But in doing so, the acid test has got to be, “is this really going to help?” Politicians can argue but the question can’t really be answered until the facts are known and indisputabe.

Drupal to be ditched

I have decided that hacking around with a content management system I don’t really like is not productive and am therefore going to bite the bullet and ditch Drupal.

Drupal has powered this site for over a year. I started using it primarily on the advice of Sam Sharpe who, amongst others, had been responsible for installing it to drive the Imperial College Union web site.

The trouble is that Drupal is too much of a messy mixture of things that work okay but not really well.

I am going to switch this site to WordPress just as soon as I can. I have selected WordPress partly on personal advice from Suhaib Fahmy and Mike Moate and partly based on my own research. I think Tom Markiewicz’s commentary sums it up rather nicely.

As far as Imperial College Union is concerned I think there are no firm plans as yet but it is accepted that Drupal is not really viable for a multi-user, ‘corporate’ system. Plone looked interesting but it would be a fair amount of work to implement and the Union has yet to find a ‘volunteer’ to do the work.