29 November, 2007


I read an interesting children's book to JAG a week or two ago. It's quite a simple tale, but one that was just right for us to read. It's a funny thing, though, that we only heard about it because someone tried, officially, legally, to censor it. The law of unintended consequences came into play again.

The book's title,
Olympic Mind Games, was the point at issue with the censors. The book is set just slightly in the future, at the time (and partially at the location) of the 2012 Olympic Games in London; the Games themselves don't really feature in the story, other than as setting for the action: The key is that the Olympic Village is apparently the most secure place in Britain at the time, and security is one of the protagonist's needs. While he is in the Village, through the aid of the alien he is working with, he discovers he is in telepathic communication with his twin sister, who is also in the Village, as a competitor. Thus the title. Quite clever, actually.

The problem arises because the organisers of the 2012 Games have trademarked the word Olympic. As if one can claim that the use of a word which, in assorted languages, has been used since at least 1896 and, in its original language, since about 800 years before Christ. And yet, at utterly stupid as it seems, the law has not firmly slapped the organisers and told them (in suitably restrained language) to get a stronger grip on reality, and behave themselves in the public arena; still no one ever said that the result of law is fair.

Instead, the author was given some kind of legal restraint on using the word in his title, presumably in case any of his potential readers should be mistaken and think that his book was authorised by or in any way tied to the 2012 Olympic Games. Of course, no one could possibly make that mistake, not least because the book's cover conspicuously features an alien face, and nowhere is it tainted with the monstrosity that is the official logo of their games. In the end, thanks to someone whose common sense must have recoiled at the sheer effrontery of what they were trying to do, Ronsson, the author, was permitted to use the title of his book.

So why do i write this now? Because i heard a news story on BBC Radio 4 one day, about the conflict between Ronsson and his would-be censors and, immediately, with no real knowledge of the book, not even exactly what age-group it was aim at, i ordered it. There is no way that an intrusive, out of control, bureaucratic organisation ought to be allowed to prevent anything from being written or published, particularly not for such an appallingly asinine reason. The amusing point and unintended consequence here is that i had never heard of the book, and was unlikely to, except for the actions of the censors; they stimulated action directly opposite to what they intended.

I enjoyed the book, as it happens. Both of us did, in fact. If you'd like to read the review, you can.

20 November, 2007

House Resolution

An end to the saga of our house in America. Briefly to recap: We abandoned it, after no help from the mortgage-holder, when we were unable to sell it; they tried to auction it, asking some thirty thousand dollars more than the remainder of the mortgage, but it did not sell at auction. Now, though, a resolution has been reached; like the rest of the story, though, it is not altogether straightforward.

The house has been sold, finally. Not at auction, not surprisingly, but as the result of foreclosure proceedings. One of the ironies is that it sold for between twentyfive and thirtyfive thousand, when we had a cash offer for fifty thousand that our bank wouldn't let us accept, and about sixty thousand was still owed on the property. Sadly, in the end, the bank probably didn't lose any money over it, despite their appalling behaviour, as i expect their mortgages are insured in some way to prevent loss. (Of course, just because they didn't lose money, it doesn't mean they aren't losers.)

There are a couple of rather curious features in the process; we have been able to find and access an inspector's report on the property, which has given rise to several questions. The report claims that there were no appliances in the house; we left a stove, refrigerator, washing machine, tumble drier, dishwasher, and garbage disposal unit. The same report also indicated holes in the walls; when we left the house, twenty months before the date of the report, there weren't holes. Not only that, but the report also says that there are no fixtures in the downstairs bathroom; again, when we left, the bathroom was complete.

It rather makes me wonder if, after we left, because it was empty for such a long time, somebody didn't break into the house and do some structural damage as well as removing the appliances. The only other alternative i see is that our good bankers themselves had the items removed, but i find that a little hard to imagine, as they could hardly have recovered much that way; everything was clearly used ~ well used, most of it!

Another curious finding is to be found in another report we located, this on referring to the lead paint inspection. Apparently the inspector “determined that there is deteriorated lead-based paint in the property and lead hazard reduction activities will be required”; that is, obviously, a concern, because we raised three young children there ~ indeed, our son lived there from the time he was born until he was almost nine. You'd think that the report before we purchased the house would have revealed that toxic paint. You'd have hoped so, anyway.

Anyway, the final resolution has been reached. The only interaction i can now foresee as possible is if, as some distant point in the future, one or other of our children returns and visits the house, as i have done to some of the ones i grew up in. I admit, i'm curious about what will happen to it; i had a number of happy years there, but it's gone now.