From the Newshour with Jim Lehrer:

JIM LEHRER: Before 9/11, you talked much about reforming the military, changing the way things work, changing the culture. Does this budget reflect any of that?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Oh, indeed, it does. The 2003 budget, which was part of the President’s budget announced today, has a great deal of transformation in it. There’s some who define transformation one way, would say that there’s some $20 billion worth of transformational activities; another way of defining it would say $50 billion. I think it’s almost inappropriate to look at dollars. I think that – that transformation is not an event; it is a process. It is something that involves a mind set, an attitude, a culture. It is something that, for example, might not even involve a new weapons system. It might just be the connectivity among existing weapons systems. It might be a different way of organizing or fighting, as we found in Afghanistan. So I think the transformation – the word – needs to think about it and understand that it’s more of a process than an event.

Got that? This part of the interview is gibberish –but it gets a little more sinister when Mr. Rumsfeld immediately goes on to analogise the US military to the Nazi Blitzkrieg units.


Job 41: 1-34 (KJV):

1 Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?
2 Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn?
3 Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee?
4 Will he make a covenant with thee? wilt thou take him for a servant for ever?
5 Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?
6 Shall the companions make a banquet of him? shall they part him among the merchants?
7 Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears?
8 Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more.
9 Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him?
10 None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me? 11 Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.
12 I will not conceal his parts, nor his power, nor his comely proportion.
13 Who can discover the face of his garment? or who can come to him with his double bridle?
14 Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about.
15 His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal.
16 One is so near to another, that no air can come between them.
17 They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered.
18 By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.
19 Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out.
20 Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron.
21 His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.
22 In his neck remaineth strength, and sorrow is turned into joy before him.
23 The flakes of his flesh are joined together: they are firm in themselves; they cannot be moved.
24 His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone.
25 When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid: by reason of breakings they purify themselves.
26 The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon.
27 He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood.
28 The arrow cannot make him flee: slingstones are turned with him into stubble.
29 Darts are counted as stubble: he laugheth at the shaking of a spear.
30 Sharp stones are under him: he spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire.
31 He maketh the deep to boil like a pot: he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment.
32 He maketh a path to shine after him; one would think the deep to be hoary.
33 Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear.
34 He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride.

“Neesings” is a very good word indeed, and not one I think I have encountered before. The OED rises to the occasion, defining it as “Sneezing; a sneeze” and giving us these useful attestations:

1382 WYCLIF Job xli. 9 His nesing [is] shynyng of fyr, and his eyen as eyelidis of morutid. 1432-50 tr. Higden (Rolls) V. 389 A mervellous pestilence folowede.., pereschynge moche peple in yoskenge or nesynge. 1530 PALSGR. 247/2 Nesyng with the nose, esternuement. 1543 TRAHERON Vigo’s Chirurg. IV. 148 Nysynge also, provoked by arte, is convenient in thys case. 1578 LYTE Dodoens 194 The same roote… put into the nose causeth Sternutation or niesing. 1609 B. JONSON Sil. Wom. IV. i, The spitting, the coughing, the laughter, the neesing. 1663 J. SPENCER Prodigies (1665) 61 That..usage of praying for a Person upon neezing. 1676 Gentleman’s Jockey 286 There be two other excellent helps for sick Horses, as Frictions and Neesings.

This is very helpful.

Chris adds [6.2.2002]: I was discussing “neesings” earlier today with a colleague, who told me that the shift from “neesing” to “sneezing” is probably a phonesthemic change — I think that’s the right word — in which a word which makes a great deal of sense on its own (through its connection to “nez”, “nose”, etc.) gets an “s” stuck on the front of it, which brings it into the family of “sn-” words with general family resemblances, including “sniffle”, “snuffle”, “sniff”, “snort”, and so on.

Finis Terrae

I’ve just read the very sad news that, as of twelve and a quarter hours ago, the Met Office got rid of Finisterre. There’s a useful page of links over at the Guardian‘s website about this change — apparently now we are supposed to call it FitzRoy.

Non-UK readers of the weblog will not have the slightest idea what this is about, but BBC Radio Four (the worthy, news-heavy, not-terribly-exciting British equivalent of NPR which the educated middle classes listen to fairly religiously) carries the Shipping Forecast a few times a day. The Shipping Forecast gives detailed weather reports for the various chunks of sea off the coast of Britain and Ireland, which, although of no direct relevance to those of us in landlocked university towns, provides a fixed reference point for, a set of shared understandings in, a calming influence on our busy, fragmented, postmodern lives. “Finisterre” was one of the bits of the sea, off the North-Western corner of Spain, and apparently as part of some international coordination exercise, we’ve agreed to get rid of the name, one of the most evocative names in the litany of the Forecast.

Here’s the press release from the Met Office, issued on 31 January:

At noon on Monday 4 February 2002, listeners to the Shipping Forecast broadcast by the BBC will have a new name to conjure with. The area Finisterre is to be re-named FitzRoy after Admiral Robert FitzRoy, who was the first ever professional weatherman and founded the Met Office in 1853.The change has become necessary following an international agreement that Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco will use a co-ordinated set of sea areas in forecasts for shipping. In the discussions, Spain requested that the area that they have called Finisterre be retained in the co-ordinated set of areas.

The area Finisterre used by the Met Office is a considerably larger area than that defined by the Spanish Meteorological Service (Instituto Nacional de Meteorologia), and, as the area is not strictly in the United Kingdom’s area of responsibility for the issue of forecasts and warnings, a new name was required.

Some 53 years have passed since the name Finisterre was first heard on the shipping forecasts; the familiar rhythmic pattern will no longer be Portland, Plymouth, Biscay, Finisterre, Sole, Lundy, Fasnet� as FitzRoy replaces Finisterre.

“The Met Office operates on an international scale; by working with the meteorological services in other countries we are making it easier for listeners to interpret shipping forecasts,” explained Martin Stubbs, specialist consultant in marine matters at the Met Office.

“The last major changes in sea area names was in 1984 when the countries bordering the North Sea agreed a co-ordinated set of areas. These changes demonstrate the effectiveness of the World Meteorological Organization in bringing countries together and ensuring the best possible services for the mariner,” added Mr Stubbs

The Shipping Forecast is a British institution broadcast by the BBC four times a day and also disseminated via HM Coastguard Stations and other marine communication services attracting many thousands of listeners.

FitzRoy is set to become a household name both in and outside the sailing fraternity.

This is no good. How will future generations make sense of the splendid poetry of Carol Ann Duffy?


Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade I piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child’s name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer —
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.

No-one will be writing poems about bloody FitzRoy in years to come, I can tell you. Please send your protests and reminiscences to the weblog.

Katherine wrote [7.2.2002]: In my A-level Italian oral, I was asked what my favourite radio programme was (this now seems to me to be a suspiciously Radio 4 type question, indeed) and I got into all sorts of difficulties trying to explain the shipping forecast. I now explain to my own language students that it is important to lie in such situations.

Jess wrote [8.2.2002]: As a lover of the shipping forecast for nineteen years, I join you in mourning the passing of Finisterre. The forecast won’t be quite the same without it — though Admiral Fitzroy deserves a sea area named after him if anyone does. (I still regard North Utsire and South Utsire as upstart interlopers…)

I asked Jess to elaborate on this last, slightly worrying thought, and got this reply [8.2.2002]: North Utsire and South Utsire were born on 1 August 1984, at the instigation of the Scandinavian countries. Previously the adjacent sea areas (eg Viking) extended right up to the coast. The list of the coastal stations has changed beyond recognition since I began listening in ’82 – remember Sumburgh, Bell Rock, Goeree Light Tower Automatic Weather Station…?


Tony Blair, according to today’s BBC, is about to take a stand:

Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to say that the government will not back down in its drive to modernise public services. He is likely to join other ministers in representing this as a battle between “reformers and wreckers”, in his speech at Labour’s spring conference in Cardiff on Sunday.

These seniments aren’t too distant from Stalin’s own attittudes to public sector reform, captured in this slogan of 1930:

“The Five Year Plan Will Not Be Derailed! Break the Paw of the Wrecker and the Interventionist!”

Forward with Uncle Tony!

Nick wrote [5.2.2002]: From today’s Grauniad letters page: “With the apparent schism in the party, are we likely to see mods and wreckers meeting at a seaside resort every October for a punch-up?” (Nick Hearn, Brighton).

Happy birthday, James Joyce!

You’re one hundred and twenty today, on the second day of the second month of the second year of the new millennium, which makes this day also the eightieth anniversary of the publication of your Ulysses. A fine, fine anniversary.

Katy writes [3.2.2002]: I think he’d have enjoyed the almost palindromic date. Did you know he insisted on publishing Ulysses on his 40th birthday, hence the cackhanded and corrupt 1922 edition? And then, he was too flushed with success and booze to ever get round to correcting a second edition? Fine man.

Walking across Afghanistan

The media’s romance with Rory’s trek across Central Asia knows no bounds. Here’s Palash, quoted in The Scotsman:

An Eton friend, Palash Davé, said if anyone is equipped to deal with the dangers, is it Mr Stewart. He said: ” When it comes to the diplomacy of dealing with tough locals, I can’t imagine a better person. “He’s always had romantic ideas but he’s been very level-headed about dealing with them.”

They have another fine photo, too.

Palash reports another media sighting, this time in Sunday’s Observer.