John Simpson

March 18th, 2006

A couple of weekends ago, I was shopping in Stanfords and bought a ticket for a talk at the Royal Geographical Society by John Simpson that was being advertised to raise funds for Prisoners of Conscience.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, after all, you’d hope a reporter as experienced as he is would be an entertaining public speaker, but there’s always the danger that someone with so many stories to tell becomes, well, just a little bit boorish. Fortunately it was nothing of the sort. He spoke of “heros” for the first half of the talk, and for the other half answered questions from the audience. The heros in question were a school teacher in the Peruvian part of the Amazonas that had stood up to local drug lords (together of course, with some anecdotes about reporting the story — including a surruptitious attempt to leave a video camera recording during an interview when the Commandante had requested it be turned off; unfortunately the camera then decided to noisily chew the tape halfway during the interview), an American diplomat stationed in Argentina during the time of the military junta’s oppression, and a very brief anecdote about Nelson Mandela. In answering questions he also covered the current situation in the former Yugoslavia, following Milosevic’s death in the Hague and the impending deadline for the handover of Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic (one of whom he described with something along the lines of of being a poisonous, evil dwarf built like a brick s**t-house), some of the stories that aren’t being reported at the moment (the political and humanitarian situation in Uzbekistan), and the fallout of the Hutton report on the BBC (some of his choicest words were reserved for Hutton).

By his own admission, he is too old to care about offending people any more, and I imagine the fact that he’s still alive and kicking after reporting unfavourably on many less than savoury characters goes some way to fortify that position.

Three years since the Iraq war began

March 18th, 2006

Today’s news is reporting the protests that have been happening to mark three years since the war in Iraq began. This means it is also three years since I was in San Francisco and faced one of the more surreal moments of my life when I turned a corner to be confronted with a wall of people on a similar protest walking straight towards me. It also means than in about a month’s time, it will be three years since I left for my year of travelling. Seems like a very long time ago.

Misplaced humour.

February 14th, 2006

Oops. Looks like I messed up. One of our partner organisations, with whom I’ve always thought I got on quite well, runs a network called XXX (name changed to protect the party involved). They are currently migrating to XXX2, and last October I noticed that the “” domain was free. For a bit of a laugh, I registered it and pointed it to a web page about technology used in parts of the network. This was always intended just to be a joke. When the organisation realised, I expected them to send an email to the effect of “ha, ha, now can we have our domain please?” At that point, I’d hand it over to them. The domain was registered in my name, with my home address and personal email and phone numbers — i.e. nothing to do with my employer.

Yesterday I get a phone call from my boss. Apparently the boss from this partner organisation has been on the phone to my boss’s boss about the issue, mentioning lawyers and legal fees.

Now, perhaps in today’s paranoid business climate the humour was misplaced, but surely a friendly email would have been a better first resort? It would have solved the issue just as quickly and with much less bad feeling.

Mea culpa, of course, and I’m not claiming it isn’t all my own fault, but the lesson is not to play pranks with domain names. Even for things that don’t exist yet, people take them very seriously.

Let’s start again.

October 13th, 2005

Just what the world needs, right? Another “blog.”