Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Kik me

I have currently (kind of) migrated from skype to whatsapp to viber to tango to line to wechat to KIK.

Its much more convenient to use kik because I just have to give my username to the other person and we can just start texting. Its less tedious than using a phone number because if I change phone number, I will have to inform everyone and also change it on my whatsapp, viber etc. Skype also requires me to sign in which takes awhile. So, kik is much faster and its really like sms with no cost. Wifi needed of course.

Add me to kik: gaikcheng

Kik says 'the super fast smartphone messenger'


There are a bunch of talented people in instagram. Today I stumble upon one photographer - instagram: alikayphotograpy - who takes really good photographs of babies and kids.
I print screen some nice and cute photos from her instagram to share:

Monday, 29 April 2013

Kids before puberty lol

I have never thought of playing with my mum's pads and pantyliners as a kid. I don't know what this kid was thinking! Lol

Im thinking: wasted money! Those things are not cheap :p

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Cheap rubberbands

Heres to buying cheap rubberbands. It was like playing a lucky draw. It came with plenty of colourful rubberbands. Everytime
i took one out to tie my hair, it snapped. Seriously, It didnt even reach my hair yet and it snapped.

Today I had two more left in the packet. I tried my best to be as gentle as possible with it. The first one snapped. So, I had one more left. Guess what.... It broke too....

Conclusion: NONE survived under my touch. Feels like some kind of super strong woman :p

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Spring in Glasgow...

.. Is still bright at 9pm.

Pret A Manger, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow

Pret A Manger is a franchise shop all around UK. There are a few Pret A Manger in Glasgow but I have never bothered to try their food. When I was in London, I saw Pret A Manger shops at almost every street! Sometimes there were two Pret A Manger shops on the same street, just at a different block.

I finally tried Pret A Manger yesterday because I was given a food assignment :) I get to order any hot drink and choose any sandwich for my lunch. A job that pays me to eat is awesome :):)

I chose the free range egg mayo sandwich and a cup of hot chocolate. I know I should have chose a better sandwich since it was free. But, trying something that was commonly found at other places like Tesco, Sainsbury's etc makes the comparison more apparent. I would say that the egg sandwich at Pret A Manger was fab. The filling was a lot which was good.

As for the hot chocolate, it came with a star and I must say it was a star. I do not drink coffee, so hot chocolate or tea would usually be my choice of hot drink whenever I patronise cafes. Recently, I tried Gregg's hot chocolate and the hot chocolate at that posh looking Betty's Tea room in York. No, I did not fancy the hot chocolate from those two places. But, I was pretty happy with the hot chocolate at Pret A Manger :)

I guess it says a lot just by looking atthe number of Pret A Manger shops around the UK. The one I went to in Sauchiehall was packed. But, the place was clean and dining there was easy as the staff cleared the trays and wiped the tables pretty efficiently.

One downside would be the price tag. For a new comer like me, I would not have realised that there were two different prices for the food when we eat-in and take- out, until I paid for it. But other than that, my friend and I had a good experience there. They play nice music too.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Old Holborn, Liverpool and Freedom of Speech

There's been hell of a lot of nastiness on Twitter of late.  This post seeks to reflect on that, rather than perpetuate it further.

Old Holborn vs Liverpool

Old Holborn is a well-known libertarian blogger and tweeter.  Let's just get it out there that he's not my cup of tea: in fact he wished me to contract Aids whilst I was having a lovely evening in Munich a couple of summers ago, after which I blocked him.  I think it's fair to say he's upset a lot of people both with his general views and individual "trolling".  Equally, many seem to like his "politically incorrect" views.  He is generally intelligent, he is provocative, and he apparently delights in offending.

He carried out his online activities from an anonymous position that he was very proud of.  He'd even managed to stand for the Cambridge seat in the 2010 General Election under his pseudonym, without revealing his real name or identity.

Liverpool. I love it.

Around the recent anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster, in which 96 were killed and 766 injured, he tweeted and re-tweeted a set of comments aimed at the people of Liverpool.  Much of it was fairly low-grade trolling and insult throwing, about Scousers being stupid, and out of work thieves etc.  They also however included comments about the murder of two year old James Bulger, which were not aimed at his mother, but which she apparently later saw and upset her greatly.

Someone in Liverpool discovered Old Holborn's real name, apparently from a Flickr photo stream he had incautiously left online.  His name, address, phone number, work details and his wife's details were published on Twitter, in breach of Twitter rules.  Once his identity was clear, the Police apparently became involved because of complaints about his posts.  If his claims are to believed, several hundred abusive messages, including death-threats, were left by Liverpudlians on his phone, and the Police also took an interest in these.  He claims that an arrest has followed.

Something Voltaire Really Didn't Say

I have read several blogs from libertarians in connection with all this.  The primary theme is the mantra that free speech is (or should be) absolute and Old Holborn is doing everyone a public service by exercising his right to speak his mind.  The hackneyed quote (wrongly attributed to Voltaire*) about disagreeing with your statement, but "defending until death your right to say it" is unthinkingly reeled out.

It is equally hackneyed, but worth reiterating that just because you might have the right to do something, that does not mean it has to be exercised.  Old Holborn frequently tweets about abuses of power in politicians and the Police.  When free speech is exercised in such a context, it's very easy to argue that this right is an absolute cornerstone of a democratic society.  Without it no one is held to account and power corrupts rapidly (or to be accurate: even more rapidly). 

Voltaire: would he be defending hate speech? Methinks "non"

Let's be clear that with Holborn's tweets about Liverpool, however, this "sacred" right was not not be exercised for the greater good or to hold anyone to account.  He was simply being gratuitously and deliberately offensive simply because he could be.  He aimed to hurt and upset people.  Most of us apply a filter, being mindful of others.  To him, his right to say whatever he feels, apparently is the justification for his doing so.  He is not a free-speech martyr for (indirectly) causing distress to the mother of a murdered two year old or for (directly) causing distress to plenty of other individuals.  He is quite simply, an arse.

Why anyone would want to go out of their way to do what he did (he implies it is for his amusement) is beyond me.  My partner is from Liverpool.  For what it's worth I think it is an amazing city where people have a warmth, pride and sense of belonging that I've never encountered elsewhere in this country.  I love the place.  However, even if I did not, why would I go online to spew bile about the place, knowing that it would upset people?  Why do that - just because I can?  I have the right to go up to the elderly woman who lives opposite me and tell her, for no particular reason, that I think she's an ugly fat old bag, but I don't.  It would upset her for no reason and I wouldn't want someone to do this to me.  I at least try to live my the standard "do unto others" and think it makes the world a more pleasant place.  Thankfully so do most members of society.

Legal Restrictions on Free Speech

Free speech is of course not an absolute in this country, nor is it almost everywhere.  It is expressly protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights - but society has also agreed there should be limits, which are reflected in that text.  Racist speech, incitement to hatred, language that threatens public safety etc are all obvious valid restrictions that the law has chosen to spell out.  It's worth remembering that all laws are, is an an attempt to codify what the majority of members of society feel and agree is the correct thing in a society.  Laws can be, and are, frequently refined and changed.

Apart from these "red lines", the crossing of which society has decided should carry consequences (and which I am broadly glad exist),  I would always come down on the side of the law giving the most freedom as possible, and trusting that most people will exercise their rights responsibly.  The law cannot and should not seek to determine every time someone opens their mouth whether it is to be deemed "right" or "wrong".  We have to do that ourselves.  Most people do the right thing, most of the time.

Did Holborn cross the line with his comments?  Well he has recently deleted a particularly charming post of his entitled "Co*ns and Muslims" (you can still see the heading) but if you do a search there are plenty of tweets with content such "Sleeping with black men gives you AIDS" etc.  He, and other Libertarians, can set out his argument for an absolute right to say anything, but if they do cross the red lines set out they will find out there are consequences.  Unless they persuade society that the rules should be changed, that's the deal - most people have a clear enough idea of the law on hate language is and if they want to become "Free Speech Martyrs" by paying fines as a result, so be it.

As for the comments on Liverpool, I don't know (and strongly suspect not) - at least in terms of the law.  I guess the Police/CPS will determine that.  In moral terms I come back to: why do this?  They were expressly designed to hurt, upset and distress other people and he didn't have to do this.  He chose to do so.  The photos on Holborn's Flickr account show a man surrounded by friends and family at his wedding.  I bet there are plenty of people who can vouch to his being a nice guy and will testify to his kindness and decency.  Humans are complicated, and as much as we want to label them in polarised ways as "good" or "bad" they aren't.  We all do good things and bad things to greater/lesser extents at various stages in our lives.  All I will say is that Holborn's years of tweets have created the image of someone who isn't terribly kind or happy, and that is sad.

A Bankrupt Philosophy

It's been of interest to me to see how Holborn's case has shown up several key "mantras" to his libertarian beliefs to be flawed.  These are:

1) Do no harm.  Holborn repeatedly says language doesn't harm: physical acts do.  This simply isn't true.  Words can upset, distress and cause long-lasting harm.  I think that he and "Mrs Holborn" experienced this first hand with the threats pouring in.  It's entirely possible a slap in the face you receive as a kid, which then heals up, will be less formative and stick less in your mind than years of taunting or bullying.  I'm sure if Holborn is honest he knows the harm his comments may have caused to James Bulger's mother and I doubt he's proud of them.

2) You choose to take offence.  Another line trotted out is that words aren't offensive; people choose to take offence.  He, and others, fall back on the "block" argument.  If you don't like it, don't listen and block.  That's what I did 2 years ago with him and paid him little attention until all this came up.  The argument is true, but only to a certain extent.  People who these tweets were not directed to chose to get involved and to get upset.  However, when he tweeted me in Munich I didn't have the option of ignoring it.  It was before I had blocked him and doing so didn't take away the upset he caused me deliberately and voluntarily at the time.  I'm guessing James's mother didn't know who he was before his comments were drawn to her attention.  The situation is a lot more complicated than this simple attempt to defend the right to be vile to others.

Holborn says he doesn't mind the abuse he receives all day, but he draws the line at threats to burn his house down.  Why?  Those threats are "only words" after all.  His house hasn't actually been burned down.  This is therefore either an acceptance that words can do harm and he is "choosing" to be offended/threatened (if so, why does he condemn others for feeling the same?); or that words do actually on their natural meaning carry offence (and his assertion is nonsense.  He is simply placing the bar higher.)

3) Take Responsibility.  Libertarians love taking people to take responsibility.  The Greeks should take responsibility because they're tax-dodging cheats, and shouldn't be bailed out.  People on the dole should take responsibility and shouldn't have children, etc.  There is no compassion, no understanding and precious little humanity in these beliefs.

People sometimes do things they hope they can get away with. They exaggerate about their income on mortgage forms.  They engage in dubious tax-avoidance schemes.  They break the speed limit in the middle of the night.  They send out abuse from anonymous Twitter accounts.  They expect not to get caught.  When they do, presumably they should just live with the consequences.  Threats to burn your house down?  Shouldn't have sent the tweets, should you. Remember it wasn't you or I who had 700 angry Scousers phoning us up: Holborn chose to do what he did, and expected to get away with it.  He didn't.

4) The Police.  The police are, as far as I can see, a major object of dislike to Holborn.  He sees them as organs of the State, and an expression of their power.  Yet when he is threatened, he talks to them, voluntarily provides them with information, and assists them because it suits him to.  I don't blame him for doing so: but then I don't fill my timeline with assertions that they are a corrupt, damaging force in society.  I have rather a lot of faith in most of them.

Threats and Ugliness

All of this said, I was possibly in a minority when I saw what was happening to Holborn the day of the threats.  I was genuinely horrified and upset at the though of what he and his family were going through.  I cannot imagine how terrifying it must have been to have had a mob apparently doing what it was doing.

There was no obvious general public interest in publishing Holborn's real name/address and I'm deliberately not repeating it or them.  If people chose to blog and tweet anonymously, and they are not breaking any laws or holding themselves out to be something they are not, so what.  There is of course an unresolved question, which is not for any of us to determine, about whether he did break any laws.  The fact he has deleted his blog about "co*ns" indicates to me he thinks he might have done.  It would be nice to think other online characters who post similar items might think about about how safe they are hiding behind anonymity. 

The reason people published his name (and worse, his address, phone number etc) wasn't to hold him to account with the Police, however.  It was because of anger and outrage at his Liverpool insults. What it led to was a nasty, threatening mob after him some of whom apparently threatened to kill him and burn his house down.  It's possible to have been upset and extremely offended by his comments, but not leave death threats on his phone.  I'm sure thousands in Liverpool and elsewhere fall into that category, myself included.  It makes me sick to imagine what poor James Bulger's family and those connected to Hillsborough felt, but I'm also sickened by what was done to him.  Sure, he absolutely should not have written what he did, and he is the one who caused this.  But if we want to put it in the most simplistic terms "two wrongs don't make a right". Or, ugliness begets ugliness. 

It really tests the limits of your compassion when you end up feeling sorry for someone who has continually expressed views that are abhorrent to you.  I genuinely feel that about Holborn here.  I've highlighted what I feel is the lack of humanity in the simplistic "take responsibility" line he churns out.  I don't share that philosophy and I'm sorry anyone had to go through this, no matter how much of an idiot they were.  I'm also sorry for everyone who was upset, particularly in Liverpool, and who witnessed all of this.

"Do no harm" is of course a wonderful philosophy.  If anything good comes of this, it's a vain hope that people aren't such utter kunts to each other online.  We really, really, don't have to be.

* It was actually Evelyn Beatrice Hall who penned this line almost 130 years after Voltaire's death

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Oven egg

I found a new way to cook egg - using the oven. This method was so easy and fast.

The idea came about when I felt like having an egg sandwich, but when I looked at the filthy stove (ilivewithsomeonefilthy), its just ruins the mood to cook. I was carrying my wok to and fro to the stove thinking if I wanted to use it. Then, the thought of cracking an egg on top of my bread and cooking it in the oven came up.

I just estimated the temperature to 220 degrees celcius and i cooked the egg for 5 minutes.

first attempt at cracking the egg on the bread failed. The yolk slid away from the bread. Then when I tried to put it back on top using a spoon, the yolk broke n u know what happens...

Second attempt was a success. The egg stayed on the bread, maybe coz the tray was balanced that end.

One thing I should have done was to butter the surface before putting the bread. I did not do that resultung in some parts of the bread being stucked to the foil. Egg sticks thats why.

Anyway, this is a healthier approach to eating eggs. No more oily fried eggs for me or microwaved eggs :)

Also, I can now cook 10 eggs (or more) in five minutes :)

Monday, 22 April 2013

Thanking the Universe

It was my birthday on Saturday, the 20th of April.  Every night of 19 April I go to bed a little excited (we're all still big kids I guess.. at least I am) and I thought back to something that happened when I was 9.  I do every year.

"Presents This Way"

We were living in our house in Herderstrasse in Bielefeld, Germany.  I had put up a big sign on my bedroom door last thing at night, the day before my birthday, that said "PRESENTS THIS WAY" and had gone to bed.  I was nine.  Kids do that type of shit.

My Dad came in and had pulled the sign down.  He started to give me a lecture.  I said "I know, I should just be grateful I have a Mum, Dad".  I was remembering what he'd said at Christmas about "getting an orange and a hoop and being happy with it" and how my elder brothers had taken the piss out of him for it.  No, he told me, Christmas was a time to be grateful for your family and being together.  A birthday was a time to count your blessings about yourself.  About being well, about not being in a wheelchair, about all the good things in your life.  This didn't include how many presents you did or didn't get.

That's pretty hard on a nine year old.  It wasn't said nastily, but I felt utterly bloody miserable.  I think I really resented it: it was MY birthday and everyone likes/ expects presents on their birthday.  The rest you just take for granted.

I've Grown Up

This year I had the *most* wonderful day.  It was brilliantly sunny, my boyfriend came down from Manchester despite having exams and hating trains, and I was genuinely enjoying a moment of complete bliss.

I find this fascinating.  I'm thinking about the day: it was the things I mention there I remember.  It was also lying out on a field with Ste, looking at the sky, and taking a birthday "selfie" pic of the two of us and Oscar (my collie) that stick in my head.  My next tweet after that was the following.  I really mean it.

I'm not trying to be some up-itself, affected, non-materialist, worthy wank-piece here.  I like nice things.  We all do.  My little home is beautiful.  I'm so excited about getting a new car in July.  What will I remember in years to come, though?  The material things in my life, as lovely as they are, or moments like lying in a field with my boyfriend, being on holiday, feeling loved and giving love, or real achievements to be proud of, like working hard in my degree and graduating from university?

Dad was, of course, wrong to make some implicit suggestion that you can't be happy, or grateful for all manner of other blessings in your life, if you are in a wheelchair.  But his enormous heart was entirely in the right place.  My dad died in 2000, and would have been 74 this 14 April.  It is fascinating I don't remember a single one of the presents I received on my ninth birthday, but I do remember what he said to me.  That gift has lasted. 

Sunday, 21 April 2013


I have finally found my kind of breakfast:
A cup of tea.
A bowl of homemade blueberry yoghurt, a piece of rich tea biscuit, one piece of oat biscuit and plain cornflakes thrown in.
An apple.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Why do you have two boobs....

New Yahoo! Weather app

I recently downloaded the new Yahoo! Weather app.

Yahoo! has updated its Weather app for iPhone, iPod and iPod Touch - adding images from Flickr and an innovative tilt control to stand out from the glut of weather apps on iPhone.

"Flickr helps the Yahoo! Weather app show you what to expect from the day rather than just tell you.
Tapping into photos representing your local conditions, users will get the same forecast they’re used to, along with something altogether richer.
With a library of photos from all corners of the world, Yahoo! Weather will give you a sneak preview of the holiday you’ve booked, the weather back home or that destination you’ve always wanted to visit."

I especially like that they have information about the wind speed.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Summer Wine by Lana Del Rey

Watch Lana Del Rey's new music video with her husband called Summer Wine. I love her voice and the song.


Thursday, 18 April 2013

Whom you marry matters

After reading this, I can say the jerk I was with was an absolute ass. He was only 5%.
"listen up: who you marry matters. You might think that the way he treats you isn’t so bad. It’s not going to get better after the wedding. You might think that he’ll change. It’s possible, but most don’t. "

Read below (agree with almost all... Minus the bible/christ stuff):

There were three kids sitting across from us at a meal: two guys and a girl. The one guy was a computer geek with glasses. The other one was a college student with slightly cooler hair and no glasses. The girl was obviously with him. But while the computer geek was busy serving everyone at the meal, clearing plates and garbage, the college student got angry with the girl for a small accident and poured red juice over her leather jacket and white shirt. She picked the wrong guy, and the juice didn’t seem to change her mind. She is in for some grief if that relationship continues and especially if it leads to marriage.

So to all the young, unmarried Christian girls out there, listen up: who you marry matters. You might think that the way he treats you isn’t so bad. It’s not going to get better after the wedding. You might think that he’ll change. It’s possible, but most don’t. You might think that you’ll be able to minister to him and help him. Possibly, but if you can’t now, you won’t then, and you will be at risk yourself. A husband should lead and cherish you, not need your counsel for basic personality or behavior issues.

Unless someone married is very frank with you, you can’t understand how much a husband will impact your entire life. Next to salvation there is no other long term event that will change so many areas of your life so deeply. Here are just some of the ways that marriage will impact every aspect of living.

1. It will impact you spiritually. If the guy is not a believer, you can stop right there. You have no business yoking a redeemed soul with an unregenerate one, even if he seems open to change. Christ has bought you with a price and it is not an option to give away that blood bought heart to someone who doesn’t know and love your Lord. It will cripple your spiritual development, open up a host of temptations, stifle your prayer life, make regular church going difficult, and cause massive parenting conflict if you have children.

If the guy is a believer, is he a strong one? Will he lead you in prayer, Bible reading, family devotions, and public worship? Or will you be on your own? Is he going to make spiritual growth a priority or do other things come first? Is he going to ask you how it’s going with your soul so he can help you grow in holiness and love for Christ, or will he leave that to your pastor? Is he going to lead the children in this, or will you have to spearhead that? In church, is he going to help the kids sit well, pray, find the hymn, or will you be the one pointing out what is happening next and helping the family keep up? Many women have married spiritually immature men, thinking that it wasn’t a big issue, or that the man would change, and they were wrong. They bear the scars.

The health of your eternity is at stake. Think carefully.

2. It will impact you emotionally. Is the guy you’re thinking of going to encourage you, love you, be kind to you, and seek to understand you, or will he want to go out with the guys when you’re having a hard night? Will he listen when you are struggling with something or will he be preoccupied with a video game? Is he going to be annoyed when you cry or will he get you Kleenex and give you a hug? Is he going to going to understand that you are probably more tender than he is, more sensitive to issues and comments, or is he regularly going to run rough shod over your feelings? One woman was struggling to breastfeed her new baby, believing that that was the best thing for her, but it was very difficult. Instead of giving support and encouragement, the husband would make mooing sounds whenever he saw his wife working at it. We have to get rid of princess complexes, but we do have emotional needs. Any guy who is uncaring about your feelings and self esteem is selfish and should be left alone.

Be careful – a husband can cripple or foster emotional health.

3. It will impact you physically. Is the guy you’re with going to provide for your basic needs? Will he be able to shelter, clothe and feed you? At one point in our marriage, I was worried that there was no employment opportunity. My husband assured me that he would work at McDonalds, dig ditches, clean up roadkill – whatever it took to provide for the family, regardless of his gifts and training. That’s the kind of attitude you want. A man who doesn’t provide for his household is worse than an infidel (I Tim. 5:8). You might have to help ease the financial burden, but unless your husband is disabled or there is another unusual circumstance, you shouldn’t have to carry it yourself.

Will the man you are with care for your body or abuse it? If he gives you little smacks, kicks, etc. when you’re dating, get away. It’s almost guaranteed that he will abuse you after marriage, and stats show that’s especially true when you are pregnant. Is he going to care for and protect your body or will he hurt it? There are women in churches across America who thought it was no big deal to have little (sort of friendly) punches or slaps from their boyfriends, but who are covering up the bruises from their husbands.

Will the man you are with care for you sexually? Is he going to honour the marriage bed in physical and mental faithfulness to you or will he flirt, feed his porn addiction, or even leave you for another woman? You can’t always predict these issues, but if the seeds or practices are already there, watch out. I recently saw a newly married couple and the husband was flirting openly with another woman. Unless something drastic happens, that marriage is headed for disaster.

Is he going to be tender and gentle to you in bed? An unbelieving co-worker once told my sister that after her first sexual encounter, she had trouble walking for a few days because her boyfriend was so rough. In other words, he wasn’t selfless enough to care for the body of the woman he said he loved.

Watch out. Your body needs care and protection.

4. It will impact you mentally. Is the man that you’re thinking of going to be a source of worry or will he help you deal with your worries? Is he going to encourage your intellectual development, or will he neglect it? Is he going to value your opinions and listen to what you are thinking, or will he disregard your thoughts? Is he going to help you manage stress so that your mind is not burdened that way, or is he going to let you struggle through issues alone? Is he going to care for you and be thoughtful of you if you are experiencing mental strain, or will he ignore it? I know of a woman who could handle pregnancy and child birth very well physically but postpartum depression took a huge toll on her mind. The husband overlooked it, continuing to have more children, until his wife ended up in a mental institution.

You might think that the intellectual or mental side of a marriage is small. It’s bigger than you think. Consider it seriously.

5. It will impact you relationally. How’s your relationship with your mother? Your dad? Do you love them? Does your boyfriend? Fast forward ten years: you tell your husband that your mother is coming for the weekend. Is he excited? Disappointed? Angry? Making snide jokes with his friends? Of course, a husband should come first in your priority of relationships, as you both leave father and mother and cleave to one another. But parents are still a big part of the picture. Whatever negative feelings he has about your parents now will probably be amplified after marriage. Your marriage will either strengthen or damage – even destroy – your relationship with your parents. The people who know you best and love you most right now could be cut out of the picture by a husband who hates them.

It’s the same with sisters and friends. Will they be welcomed, at reasonable times, in your home? Will the guy who you’re with encourage healthy relationships with other women, or will he be jealous of normal, biblical friendships? Will he help you mentor younger women and be thankful when older women mentor you, or will he belittle that?

Don’t sacrifice many good relationships for the sake of one guy who can’t value the people who love you.

So how will your boyfriend do after the vows? Because this is just a sampling of the ways that a husband can bless or curse his wife. The effects are far reaching, long lasting, and either wonderful or difficult. True, there are no perfect men out there. But there are great ones. And it’s better to be single for life than to marry someone who will make your life a burden. Singleness can be great. Marriage to the wrong person is a nightmare. I’ve been in a church parking lot where the pastor had to call the police to protect a wife from a husband who was trying to stop her from worshiping and being with her family. It’s ugly. Don’t be so desperate to get married that your marriage is a grief. If you are in an unhappy marriage, there are ways to get help. But if you’re not married, don’t put yourself in that situation. Don’t marry someone whose leadership you can’t follow. Don’t marry someone who is not seeking to love you as Christ loved the church. Marry someone who knows and demonstrates the love of Christ.

Texas plant explosion

First it was Boston, and now Texas. The injuries I read just gets more gruesome. Death toll on the rise too.

Whats worrying? Both incidents were not caused by natural disasters..

I watched the video of the explosion and it was massive : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2310825/West-Texas-fertilizer-plant-explosion-leaves-dead-100-injured.html

Korma chicken

A simple meal I made for dinner.
I just used a bottle of Patak brand korma paste, pour it over raw chicken thighs placed in an oven tray. Then I set the oven to 250 degrees celcius and put the tray of chicken inside. Cook chicken for 30 minutes.

While waiting for the chicken to cook, I boiled some rice in the microwave. In 7minutes, my rice was ready.

30 minutes later, dinner is ready.

I made a new tag for this: 30 minute meals

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Afternoon tea @ Ocho on the canal, Glasgow

I went to Ocho on the Canal again today. This time instead of fish and chips, we had afternoon tea. The difference between afternoon tea and tea break is that afternoon tea means 12pm, the other is at 2.30pm. Basically, we had lunch at Ocho :)

Fish and Chips was fantastic the last time Ann and I tried it. This time round it was tea with five Thai girls and two Malaysians. Lovely time spent with new friends and one hour with a table of six ladies chatting is never enough.

The food served was ok. We had the voucher from Living Social so it was cheap. Otherwise, I would say its always not worth paying for tea as its just scones, cakes and sandwiches. Everything could be made at home. I'd recommend the scones at Ocho but the sandwiches were tooo tiny and the filling for each sandwich was pathetic.

Other than that, the company was great and the service was good as last time.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Bombing of Germany

Pforzheim in the Black Forest

Pforzheim was an extremely pretty little town in the Black Forest.  It dated back to Roman times and was known as the "Gold Town" because of its precision jewellery and watch making industries.  Cuckoo clocks, after all, hail from this part of Germany (not Switzerland as many think).  It was awarded market rights some time before 1080.  Its centre was made up of typically German "ginger bread" half-timbered houses.

 The town had about 50,000 inhabitants: that makes it the size of Havant in Hampshire (ever heard of it?) or less than half the size of Bath.  In 1938 the Pforzheimers had watched on as the Nazis burned down the handsome Moorish style synagogue that had been built in 1890. In 1940 a large proportion of the town's Jewish population was deported to a concentration camp in France.  55 of the 195 Jews deported survived the holocaust.

By the end of February 1945 Nazi Germany was on its knees.  The Soviets were advancing rapidly towards Berlin.  Millions of German civilians, my Mother and her family amongst them, were fleeing the troops.  Auschwitz had been liberated a month before.  The Germans' Ardennes offensive in the West had entirely failed.  France and Belgium had long since been freed.  US forces would shortly be crossing the Rhine.  Many German cities were entirely unprotected by this stage from aerial attack.  German historian Jörg Friedrich, who made his reputation by reporting on the Majdanek trial, described the situation in  Germany simply as follows: "By March 1945 there was no longer any morale, oil or transportation".  The bombing raids which the Allies were conducting with ever greater ferocity were "almost totally devoid of military purpose and free from all tactical risk."

Pforzheim was small.  It was regarded as irrelevant by the Allies as regards armament production.  It was also highly flammable because of its historic buildings and narrow, winding streets. On the evening of 23 February 1945 the Royal Air Force flew over.  They dropped 330 high explosive and thousands of phosphorus incendiary bombs.  1551 tonnes of them.  The incendiaries were designed to rain through the old tiled roofs of people's homes, destroying everything you owned.  Your bed, your clothes, your furniture would catch ablaze.  Flying wood, splinters, debris and glass would be hurled through the air.  The noise would be deafening.

Hundreds of small fires would merge into a major blaze.  The superheated air would shoot upward like a giant chimney.  The heat would climb to 800C and suck in wind like a typhoon at speeds of up to 170mph.  It would suck everything into its centre, uprooting people and trees and drawing away the oxygen.  There would be precious little chance of escape for you, your children, or your dog or cat.  If you sought refuge from the inferno in a fountain you would be boiled to death.  If you were in a cellar seeking protection with your family you would either be suffocated, or it would quite literally serve as a crematorium.  Metal with a melting point of 1700C would become molten as the fire storm progressed. 

Survivor Hermine Lautenschlager:
"On the floor of the cellar, there were piles of ashes here and there.  Part of a human torso that looked like a charred tree stump was in the middle.  Near a pile of ashes in the corner lay a key chain.  They were the keys of my sister.  That's where she always sat during the air-raids, that's what my brother-in-law told me.  Later they even found a small piece of fabric from her dress."
The smoke rose over Pforzheim to a height of 3 kilometres.  The glare of the fire could be seen 160 kilometres away.   The carpet bombing of the town lasted from 7.50pm to 8.12pm: precisely 22 minutes.  There were 20,277 deaths in the hellish inferno.  More than one in three people in the town died.  In Nagasaki, one in seven died.  Over 85% of the city was destroyed.  Not even the pattern of the streets was visible the following morning.  Lead bomber Major Edwin Swales, whose plane crashed in Belgium on the way home, was posthumously awarded a VC for this work that night.

Pforzheim after the Firestorm
Not The Only One
You quite possibly hadn't heard of Pforzheim.  That's one of the points of this blog post.  Dresden is remembered every 14 February, the night that the RAF delivered its Valentine's Day gift to the city.  Between 25,000 and 35,000 died.  We are nearing the 70th anniversary of "Operation Gomorrah" in July 1943 when 1 million people were made homeless in Hamburg and 42,600 were killed.  I'm sure that will be the subject of a couple of articles and then it will be soon forgotten. 

Every time I visit Germany I'm aware of the effect on the Allied aerial bombing on the country.  Literally a handful of towns survived untouched: centuries of culture, architecture, beauty and history was wiped out with the repeated destruction of 160 towns, most of them with medieval hearts.  That's not even to mention the human cost: a staggering five hundred and fifty thousand Germans were killed by the British and Americans.  550,000.  76,000 were children or babies.

Whenever Dresden is mentioned, Coventry is thrown in, as if the scale of destruction and loss of life were equivalent.  Goebbels fully exploited the horror of the bombing of Dresden and totally overstated the losses.  Here are some simple comparisons of actual statistics:
  • Deaths in Coventry: 568
  • Deaths in Dresden: 25,000-35,000
  • Total deaths in German raids on the UK: 60,000
  • Total deaths in Allied raids on Germany: 550,000
  • German bombs dropped on the UK: 75,000 tonnes
  • Allied bombs dropped on Germany: 2,800,000 tonnes
Charred bodies in the ruins of Dresden, one of Europe's finest cities
Whatever you think about the rights and wrongs of Allied area (carpet) bombing (which I shall come on to), please do not take the simplistic position that there was equal killing and destruction on both sides.  The British and Americans dropped almost 40 times the amount of bombs on Germany than the Luftwaffe did here, and killed almost 10 times more civilians.

From a human perspective, to me, every death is a tragedy.  In that respect this is far from a "competition".  It doesn't matter to the individual who was killed (or to their family) how many others died at the same time, but it does matter when assessing the historical record and behaviour of a country.  Germany was responsible for the deaths of many, many more people in the war than Britain, but I am concerned in this piece with Britain's behaviour, not Germany's.  I'm at pains to stress that below.

For the avoidance of doubt the above figures say little about intention.  I've seen nothing to suggest that Germany would not have wreaked the same level of destruction on British cities had they had the ability to do so.  The fact is that they did not, thank god.  Intent is one important aspect of moral (and legal) culpability; execution is the second.  The Allies had both.

"We shall.... kill 900,000"

A widespread bombing of civilian targets in carpet bombing raids (as opposed to tactical bombing of strategic targets) was feared when war broke out.  The Germans had demonstrated their lack of concern for civilian human life in Guernica (400 dead), Warsaw, and Rotterdam (900 dead, rather than 30,000 as claimed in the Western press).  The first bomb of the London Blitz fell on the City on 24 August 1940 - and is now believed to have been a mistake.  The RAF retaliated with an attack on Berlin and the tit for tat began.

For the first part of the war, the aim was still predominantly to destroy German means of production, despite the revenge attacks.  The accuracy of these raids was sketchy at best.  The RAF even managed to hit the wrong country when it bombed Geneva, Basel and Zurich in neutral Switzerland in 1940.  Later in the war, the USAF killed 40 in Schaffhausen in Switzerland.  Their target was Ludwigshafen, 235km north in Germany.  The US ambassador held a reception in Zurich to apologise and was forced to take cover when yet another USAF bomb raid hit the city, killing five.  The target this time was Aschaffenburg, 280km north.

By October 1942 the policy of aiming mainly for strategic targets changed.  Air Marshall Sir Charles Portal framed Bomber Command's new policy: "I suppose it is clear that the new aiming points are to be the built-up areas, not for instance, the dockyards or aircraft factories."  Air Vice Marshall Harris explained his superior's policy:
"We shall destroy Germany's will to fight.  Now that we have the planes and crews, in 1943 and 1944 we shall drop one and a quarter million tons of bombs, render 25 million Germans homeless, kill 900,000 and seriously injure one million."
Think about these words.  This was a deliberately framed, express British policy to render tens of million homeless, to kill almost a million civilians, and to maim a million more.  The strong belief of Bomber Command was that the war could be shortened in this way and British lives saved.  Targets of cultural value were deliberately included, as their destruction would allegedly damage German morale and break the will to fight, as were "flammable" cities, which would burn better.  Centuries of human heritage, art and achievement (what today would be called "World Heritage" assets) were irrelevant in this fight against the then German government.

Britain issued a warning to German citizens.  They dropped leaflets to say that all German cities were now considered valid military targets.  Quite how 30 million people were supposed to leave their work and homes as a result of this, during wartime, is a good question.  The USA was at first quite reticent to join in the British plans to carpet bomb German cities.  By 1944 attitudes had hardened and the US too joined in the revenge attacks - which were labelled "terror raids" by the Germans. 

Two Points to Remember: a Just War and Morale

A couple of things need to be remembered here.  This was a just, brave war.  The Nazi machine was one of the murderous the world has ever known.  We hardly need reminding of the grisly images of the most barbaric treatment of human beings that is possible in the form of the German death camps.  Seen in retrospect, there is an argument that anything that would harm Nazi Germany was a good thing.  Britain held out alone with dogged determination through the years of 1940 and 1941.  Our country has an enormous amount to be proud of in this respect, and more generally for seeing the fight against the Nazis through until the bitter end.

However, caution also needs to be exercised.  It is too easy to simplify matters and to see things with the benefit (or hindrance!) of hindsight.  Britain did not go to war in 1939 to save the Jews.  The world was not aware of what would happen to the Jews in 1939, or even in 1942 when Bomber Command decided to fire-bomb German cities.  The "Final Solution" to murder Europe's Jewry was decided upon in January 1942.  90% of the holocaust's eventual victims were still alive at this point and the policy of mass-murdering them was to be kept a closely guarded secret.  The reality of the death camps only became fully clear in 1945 with their eventual liberation.  Britain went to war because of alarming, threatening German territorial expansion.  When the enemy was finally crushed, Britain and the USA handed Poland on a plate to Stalin's Soviet Union.  A war started for the protection of a country ended with over 40 years of communist rule being inflicted on it. 

Morale: a key part of WW2. But at what cost?

The second is that the area bombing of German cities was considered important to British morale.  After the defeat and flight from Dunkirk, followed by the significant victory of the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940, there was for years very little opportunity to actually fight the war.  Other than the fight in North Africa, and a failed attempt to invade France in 1943, Britain had little chance to engage properly until June 1944 and D-Day.  By highlighting the fact German cities were being destroyed, morale could be kept up.  Revenge is a powerful motivator in war time.  Whether that justified deliberately killing hundreds of thousands of people and wiping out centuries of culture for every future generation is another matter.

The Cost to British Lives

An aspect in this ghastly story that absolutely must not be forgotten is the cost to British life that the policy of bombing Germany involved.  Bomber Command crews suffered horrendously high casualty rates.  55,573 mainly young men were killed out of a total of 125,000 aircrew.  That is a death rate of 44.4% and is a testament to the extraordinary courage of these men.  Only one in six was expected to survive their first tour of duty (30 sorties) and they knew this.  The death rate was far higher than infantry officer rates in the trenches of WW1.  Bomber Command losses represent a staggering one in five of all British losses in the six years of world war.  Considerably more Britons died flying raids over Germany than the Luftwaffe managed to kill here during the long months of the Blitz (40,000).

Bravery doesn't even do it justice: the stats are terrifying

Those who survived (I knew one) were sometimes scarred for life with their experiences and conflicted about what they had done and the effect it had had.  I too am deeply conflicted when I see the memorials to Bomber Crews which dot my part of the country, Suffolk.  It is, I believe, possible to honour and respect the bravery and sacrifice of individuals, whilst disagreeing with the policy that was initiated by those far higher up the chain of command.

Opposition in Britain

Not all Britons of the time welcomed the reports of German cities turned in giant infernos and "1000 bomber raids".  George Bell, the Bishop of Chichester, was perhaps the most outspoken.  He was an active supporter of the German resistance, and a great humanitarian.

He wrote to the Times in 1941 and described the bombing of unarmed women and children as "barbarian".  He said it would destroy the just cause of the war, thereby openly criticising Churchill's support of a bombing strategy.  Two years (to the day) ahead of the destruction of Dresden he urged the House of Lords to resist the War Cabinet's decision to engage in area bombing.  He said it called into question all the humane and democratic values for which Britain had gone to war.  In 1944 he called the bombing of cities such as Hamburg and Berlin an illegal "policy of annihilation" and a "crime against humanity".  Other senior Church figures did not support him.

A (very) few spoke out
Major Sir Richard Stokes, MP for Ipswich (Labour) also openly and repeatedly criticised the policy of area bombing in Parliament and helped force a partial change of policy following Dresden.  He was joined by Alfred Salter, MP for Bermondsey West (Labour) whose own constituency had been heavily bombed, but who held heavily pacifist, Quaker inspired beliefs.  Theirs views were not supported (at least in public) by other Labour MPs.

The existence of these three men, all strong opponents of the Nazis, who in war time could rise above the general clamour for undirected revenge gives me tremendous comfort.  I believe it is to their eternal credit that they did so.

The Rights and Wrongs of the Bombing

It is beyond my abilities to weigh up in a shortish article like this all aspects of the bombing and their rights and wrongs.  I do have a few points though, before passing over to someone (Professor Grayling) who has assessed this far better than I could.

The first is the lack of natural justice that is involved in area bombing.  Germany was the perpetrator nation in WW2.  It doesn't however follow that all Germans should be punished, by death, for the actions of their government.  If an individual commits a crime, s/he should be held responsible.  "Justice from the skies" does not fulfill this.  50 of the surviving 150 surviving Jews of Dresden were killed in the firestorm.  Socialists, opponents of the Nazis, resistance members, babies and children (remember, 76,000 were killed by the British and US) were as likely to be killed in the infernos as committed Nazis or perpetrators of war crimes.  The very top of the pile were entirely safe in their bunkers: the evil judge Freisler is the only prominent Nazi I can think of who was killed in this way.

The next is the question of destroying morale.  Time and again it has been shown that by bombing, people are united in terror and hatred of the people doing the bombing.  That is exactly what happened when the Luftwaffe bombed London during the Blitz.  The Allied destruction of German cities in no way led to a shortening of the war because the people turned against the government.  This simply did not happen as a matter of fact.

We also have the issue of reciprocity.  The basic idea here is that they did it, so it was okay for us to do it back.  Leaving aside the fact that the Allied bombing of Germany was SO much more extreme than the German bombing of Britain, let's just think about this for a moment.  There is zero question that the Nazi regime was evil.  It was so evil, it still almost makes me physically vomit when I discover new aspects of it.  We are not concerned with Nazi actions, however.  What we are concerned with is a democratic nation that takes a premeditated decision "to kill 900,000", which is then accepted in the Mother of Parliaments with the smallest of opposition.

It is perfectly possible to have fought a just war, but in this (actually quite important) aspect to have fallen far short of how we should have behaved.  Area bombing was not, in my view, justified on a tit-for-tat basis: it lowered us to a level where we aimed to murder civilians.  It is a tragic stain on the brave conduct of a nation at war.

The question of whether area bombing was a war crime is one which will never be tested in the courts.  Perhaps surprisingly, a raft of academics from across the political spectrum seem to be  agreed on this point.  They usually focus on Dresden, but the logic presumably applies to other cities.  Dr Stanton, the president of Genocide Watch said: "The Nazi Holocaust was among the most evil genocides in history.  But the Allies’ firebombing of Dresden and nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were also war crimes... We are all capable of evil and must be restrained by law from committing it."  Historian Professor Bloxham, editor of the Journal of Holocaust Education is unequivocal that Dresden was "a war crime".  Frederick Taylor in his outstanding work Dresden is however less clear: he finds the city was in many ways a typical wartime target and bounces back any moral judgement to the reader.

Finally we have the issue of whether area bombing shortened the war by damaging German war production.  Historians take different stances on this, but the consensus seems to be "somewhat".   The major problem was that German production was spread out across the country, not centered in a single place.  Despite the 2.8 million tonnes of bombs dropped, production continued to rise right through until 1945.  Questions include: whether simply targeting specific factory targets or purely industrial towns would have been yet more effective; and whether the massive cost of 550,000 civilian lives justified the benefit received. 

Professor Grayling's Conclusion

Professor AC Grayling wrote a 350 page book in 2006 that considered in great depth the moral, international law and strategic (did it help end the war sooner, were these valid military targets etc) aspects of Allied area bombing.  Here is his conclusion:
On the basis of the foregoing chapters the answer I give to the following questions are these:  Was area bombing necessary? No.  Was it proportionate? No.  Was it against the humanitarian principles that people have been striving to enunciate as a way of controlling and limiting war? Yes. Was it against the general moral standards of the kind recognised and agreed in Western civilisation in the last five centuries, or even 2,000 years? Yes.  Was it against what mature national laws provide in the way of outlawing murder, bodily harm, and destruction of property?  Yes.
In short and in sum: was area bombing wrong?  Yes.  Very wrong?  Yes.

What can I add to that?  It is as clear as it could possibly be, and having read the whole of his work very carefully I cannot fault his logic or analysis.  I really recommend the book if you are interested in finding out more on the subject.

Some Final Thoughts

This subject evokes very strong emotions.  In some ways this is good.  Killing 550,000 civilians and wiping out the historic fabric of 160 towns and cities should be discussed.  These were acts implemented and carried out by the British government.  Consider the shock and contemplation in peacetime when there is an accident or an act of terrorism and 20 or 50 people die.  How little is actually spoken about this subject in this country?

Each and every loss of life was horrendous and tragic.  The aim of this piece is not belittle British deaths or claim German ones are more important: far, far from it.  It is to remember from a simple human perspective the astonishing suffering that happened on all sides.  How wrong it would be to claim that the life of a German child who died in Pforzheim, a British child killed in the Blitz, and a Jewish child murdered in Auschwitz are somehow of different values.  To see them as members of groups to be accorded different rights to life is to go down the path of the philosophy of evil.  My aim is also not to somehow claim that by remembering and critically assessing the sufferings of Germans under area bombing, the culpability of Nazism is diminished.  That is what neo-Nazis try to do and it is illegitimate, offensive and wrong.

My father was bombed out of his childhood home in Portsmouth by the Luftwaffe.  He remembered the raids and hiding in the shelter in the garden.  We, as one of the nations on the winning side, are able to remember this type of suffering.  Most Germans do not feel able to highlight what happened to their suffering for obvious reasons.  A member of a perpetrator nation cannot ever be a victim, so the narrative goes.  I disagree, but understand why a different perspective should ideally come from our side of the fence, rather than theirs.

My favourite writer, WG Sebald wrote an incredibly elegant essay on this - On The Natural History of Destruction - in which he considered why there is an almost absolute absence of post-War German literature on this massive series of events.  Almost every German city is scarred by ugly 50s and 60s centres, yet no one speaks or writes about it.

Almost 70 years after the end of the war, I would hope this topic can be spoken about with some objective distance and without people taking simplistic, entrenched views as if we are supporting soccer teams.  It is not, I believe, an insult to the people who lived through or fought during the war in Britain, for me to come to the conclusion that in the course of a just and courageous struggle, our government made mistakes.  Area bombing was a huge and deadly one.