Saturday, 11 December 2010

Self-Discovery #001

I went to my local garden centre today to buy a winter house plant, and a conversation with the lady behind the counter when she asked me about something else that I had bought earlier this year1 made me think about my relationship with plants.  I think my knowledge of plants can be compared with my knowledge of Linux.  No, no, let me explain: in both cases I know just enough to be dangerous.  I don’t have the deep knowledge that lets me delve into the guts of the O/S when things go wrong or swap kernel modules or window managers, and similarly, although I seem to be quite good at keeping (indoor, at least) plants alive, I don’t know what to do when they start looking poorly.  Nor do I know how to take cuttings or trim them back.  The dark arts of What To Plant With What are a mystery to me.

In both cases, I suspect diving in is the only way to learn, in the first case by installing Linux on a computer that I regularly use, and in the second I think this has been a long and rambling way of saying that I think I’m going to have to start listening to Gardeners’ Question Time.

1 itself a good reason to support your local businesses

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Compassion and punishment

One of the many things that has come out of the mass of WikiLeaks documents released recently is that the UK Government was apparently worried about Libyan reaction if Abdelbaset al-Megrahi died in jail.  This led to a rekindling of interest in the case and the ‘revelation’ that al-Megrahi is still alive, leading to questions asked of the First Minister on the Today programme revisiting the decision.  Surely I can’t be the only who finds this vulture-like constant waiting for al-Megrahi to die somewhat macabre?

Even if his conviction was completely sound (and there are many grounds for believing otherwise, although that’s neither here nor there for this post) I would still have supported his release from prison on compassionate grounds as the Scottish government did.  I find it almost amusing that the fact he is still alive, despite his illness, is something that would have been lauded, maybe as a miracle, in any circumstance other than this one.  Indeed, if one were feeling mischievous one could maybe argue that that his continuing health is a sign from God…

However, that’s not the point that I want to make.  My point is this: that when Kenny MacAskill released al-Megrahi, he did so for the right reasons, on compassionate grounds for someone who all medical evidence suggested had only a few months left to live.  The immediate flurry of protest is something that I despised because that key fact was forgotten or ignored – that he’s almost certainly going to die soon enough anyway, probably in a fairly painful and slow way.  This decision was one that was made for all the right reasons and under a lot of pressure to the contrary, from both the media in this country and America, and the US Government.  It’s one of the few times that I’ve felt any pride in my elected representatives, and it made me proud to have adopted Scotland, a nation that still understands and values compassion, as my home.

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