Archive for May, 2006

Quick hug post

Ooh! iBooks come in black now.

Macbook in Black

~slaps wrist~ Not iBooks, Macbooks. And not Powerbooks, Macbook Pros. Bad fridge. That name still doesn’t sound any better than it did to start with, though. I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually.

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Euro Banana Festival

Irony Of The Week (well, so far, anyway): The Sun, as part of its continuing effort to distract people from anything resembling real life or real politics, launches a campaign against the Human Rights Act (based on the usual lies and distortions). The HRA basically just gives people in the UK the ability to bring cases under Human Rights Convention in this country, rather than them having to go all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. So really, the Sun is campaigning for Barmy Straight-Banana Eurocrats to make decisions instead of our courts! No way! Up Yours, Delors!

chris moyles
pushguns ahoy

Anyway, enough of that. Let’s talk about something more useful than the Sun – a virtual festival. This is slightly hampered by the fact that I didn’t go to the version of the Radio One Big Weekend in Second Life over the weekend. I don’t know, I was rather tired and not really in the mood, but I would have been interested to see it (some pictures of the festival on Flickr from other people).

Also, I heard a rumour that Chris Moyles was there in avatar form. Lock and load.

I was told by somebody who was there that the BBC had four sims of their own (note to non-SLers: a “sim”, short for simulator, is a 256×256 plot of land in SL, and each one has a name) which were imaginatively named “BBC Radio One”, “BBC”, “Radio” and “One”. That sounds to me like somebody didn’t understand a form they were filling out. Still, they’re only $1,000 each, plus $195 a month. That might sound sarcastic but it’s pocket change for them really, as would be paying residents to build and script the required scenery. Given the Newsnight virtual Paxman segment I imagine that they still have connections.

One might ask what the point of it was, given that it was already being streamed over the internet. I can’t speak for the BBC, but I’d probably give answers along the lines of:

  • international publicity in the geek / new media world, which improves their reputation as innovators, potentially attracting interested and talented people to this and further projects, as well as customers and collaborators;
  • exploring the potential for holding gatherings in a virtual environment is good blue-sky research, and in fact not that blue-sky, given that it’s actually happened, even if in reasonably crude form. (Looks to me like avs dancing in a field with some streaming video.) You never know what can be achieved with new technologies until you try. They’re already talking about getting musicians in there as avatars for interviews, for instance;
  • the sims will be kept for a year, and be reused for other projects, which makes them more economical as a virtual space for playing with other projects;
  • in a world where Chris Moyles gets paid a 630,000 salary, quibbling over a few grand for something that’s actually fun rather than an irritating gobshite seems pretty daft.

There wasn’t really much publicity at all, a piece on the BBC site from Friday, and a few mentions on blogs and word going around within Second Life, but I think it was something of an experiment and they didn’t want too much attention. I’m looking out for anything about how it all went and any further events. I’m fairly positive: it’s always seemed to me that the cool kids in the BBC Internet Stuff Department (a) want to do things with technology to make people’s lives better and improve access to information, they’re not just pissing about or after the cash, and (b) are actually pretty sharp and good at it.

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Feeling proud

On Friday, as you might have noticed from the last post, I was in the office until 9.30pm or so fixing things up and making sure the run would take place over the weekend. Even so, I thought that there was a chance that it wouldn’t work properly – there were a few things that I’d not checked completely after all – so I mentioned that I would probably go back over the weekend to check.

I set out this afternoon at five-ish to do this, and realised by the time I’d gone a hundred metres from the front door that this was an utterly ridiculous thing to do. I get paid money by these jokers. It is not “coming in on the weekend” money. Coming in on the weekend is not in my contract. I have agreed to do 37.5 hours a week. Why the hell am I even thinking about doing this voluntarily? What is wrong with me? Nobody’s going to die if I have to rerun the program tomorrow and they get it one day late. Christ’s sake, what am I thinking?

And why the hell do I even have to defend this behaviour to myself? I shouldn’t even be thinking “oh well it’s not that serious if it doesn’t get done” – who cares whether it’s serious or not? Even if the entire monthly update happened a day or two later than advertised – which wouldn’t happen unless I was two weeks later or so – what difference would it make to me? What sort of a shit should I give about the company’s reputation?

Even if I don’t have anything to do today, which I don’t, apart from arse about on the internet, why should I even consider spending that time earning money for somebody else?

My earlier self from a few years ago may have been something of a wanker, but at least he still had the right idea about priorities.

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Weather dream addiction

Well, it was very much Friday Lunchtime Pub Weather today but foolishly I neglected to take advantage of it; warm but not oppressive or blinding sun, gentle breeze, really the best sort of day one can expect in London where the weather generally switches between miserable and grey for most of the year to unpleasantly oven-like for a couple of weeks, the rays bouncing around and turning the pollution into a chemical weapon.

As I mentioned, though, I didn’t take advantage of this because I knew that if I went out I wouldn’t come back. I’d find some reason. Either that or I’d get drunk and really not enjoy the next few hours of foot-tapping clock-watching sobering-up. And I have work to do. On the work front, it is very very lucky that I didn’t do either, because a problem has arisen in that way that they do at 4pm on a Friday, which I am now still here fixing, though hopefully not for much longer.

I don’t trust the thing though. You can’t trust computers for a moment. I’ll probably pop in on Sunday to check that it’s run properly. It’s not like I have anything else to do. Well, not entirely true, but I think it would be healthy for me not to play Second Life for at least a few hours of the weekend.

That’s really all I’ve been doing outside of work for the last few weeks or perhaps months; building, scripting, even playing in character to a degree – unusual there – to the extent where I actually dreamed that I was my avatar the night before last. Anyone who plays computer games before bed will be quite well aware of the phenomenon of dreaming about being inside the game, the classic example being “Tetris Dreams“, but actually dreaming about being your character outside the game, inside real life, is… concerning. Perhaps.

» Continue reading “Weather dream addiction”

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The Live Messenger paradox


from The Reg

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More things to hate about the press

Note: You won’t learn anything fantastically new from this entry, unless you weren’t already aware that (a) the Mail is xenophobic trash and (b) journalists neither know nor care about statistics.

Quotes from the online version of today’s Daily Mail cover story:

He described how the 29-year-old was admitted to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge on March 29 having been transferred from Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, south east London, after she became critically ill with symptoms of severe heart failure.

These occurred after giving birth to twin boys about two months earlier while staying in the Basildon area in Essex.

Mr Hyam said Ms A had entered the country last year on a visitor’s visa and was lawfully in the country. Her visa has since expired.

He said: “The claimant did not come to this country seeking organ transplantation. She became severely ill two months after giving birth while a lawful visitor.”

Under directions issued by the Secretary of State for Health in 2005 intended to deter “health tourism”, Ms A had no realistic prospect of obtaining a heart transplant because of the priority given to UK or EU citizens, or citizens from a country with reciprocal arrangements with Britain.

mail10may06.JPG (37K)(thanks to Daily Mail Watch)
So what we have here is somebody who is not a “health tourist”, having not come to the country to have a heart transplant, being told that she can’t get one under regulation designed to discourage “health tourism”. And what is the Mail’s headline? ‘Health tourist’ in bid for heart transplant.

Putting phrases in quotes does not actually make them invisible, and it’s not even a quote – nobody has actually called her a health tourist, apart from the despicable commenters on the article, frothing over with indignation about how we’re being swamped with freeloading foreigners. Oh, our poor tiny besieged country! Clearly the reason our NHS, Stretched To Breaking Point, isn’t providing the healthcare we think it should is because of all these scroungers! Nothing to do with policy or anything.

The article itself, at least the online version, isn’t all that bad, although it does make pointed reference to her visa status (she was a “good immigrant” the first time in that she had a valid visa, though it’s apparently now expired – not that surprising, serious heart failure can cause the odd delay in one’s travel plans). But the paper version… well, I don’t have a copy of it myself but you can see a few differences from the above picture. The first word is “Nigerian”. “Health Tourist” is still there, but it says “My Right To A New Heart” – she comes over here and thinks she has a right to our British hearts…. And you can just about read the first sentence, which is “A NIGERIAN woman whose UK visa has expired is seeking an NHS heart transplant.”

Oh, another one from yesterday that got me with a combination of unwarranted conclusions and statistics abuse. I’m not sure whether it was in the Mail but I bet it was, seeing as how their job is to convince us that we’re being overrun with swan-eating hoodie-wearing heart-stealing thugs both foreign and domestic.

An opinion poll was done that showed that, out of a thousand or so people surveyed in each of France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, 76% of people thought that Britain had a “big or moderate problem” with anti-social behaviour. (Well, at least that’s what it appears they thought. The UPI version and a few others say that, but the Bloomberg version says “76 percent thought Britain had more of a problem with anti-social behavior than any other country in the region”. I’ve discounted that because it doesn’t make any sense; the figures would add up to 100% if that was the question, and they don’t.) The full results are, it seems, as follows…

1. Great Britain:   76 percent
2. France:          75 percent
3. Germany:         61 percent
4. Italy:           52 percent
5. Spain:           51 percent
6. The Netherlands: 44 percent

The Bloomberg version says “no margin of error was given” but you can bet it’s not less than 1% so really, what this says is that Britain and France are equal top, then Germany, then Italy and Spain joint fourth, then the Netherlands.

This is of course just people’s impressions with no guarantee that they’d ever even been to the country concerned, so one might think it was more of a story for tourism boards – not much relevance to policy. But no! While a fair number of stories do mention the fact that it was a survey, headlines such as “Great Britain has the biggest problem with anti-social behaviour in Europe” aren’t uncommon either. The fact that, really, it’s Great Britain and France who are seen as having the biggest problems with anti-Social behaviour out of those six countries I’ve not seen mentioned. Because of course, the figure for Britain beats the one for France by 1%, so Britain is the worst! ~slaps forehead~

Also, apparently, in Britain, “68 per cent of people questioned feeling alcohol was a key contributor to the problem” and “breakdown of discipline in homes and schools is also seen by 79 per cent to be a major influencing factor in anti-social behaviour” (Security Park). So most people say that “breakdown of discipline” is a significant problem. Whatever that means. But no! It proves that it’s the booze! At least according to the Jill Dando Institute ~pffft~:

Professor Gloria Laycock of the Jill Dando Institute said: “This research is a wake-up call.

“We know anti-social behaviour is a major issue in Great Britain – and the rest of Europe clearly agrees.

“The study shows people believe it is fuelled by the excessive consumption of alcohol.

“Increasing our access to alcohol cannot be the answer and it is time that the Government addressed perceptions of this problem.”

No mention of any of the other things that people believe. Oh, hold on, I was forgetting that the streets of Britain, previously calm and full of tea and cucumber sandwiches, have become post-apocalyptic battlegrounds strewn with bottles of WKD, the gutters flowing with blood and vomit, now that pubs can apply for 24-hour licences, which is what this is clearly aimed at. I must have accidentally thought that there had been no effect whatsoever apart from allowing people to finish their drinks in peace.

P.S. I need to get out of the habit of automatically ending my sentences with a semicolon, unless I’m actually planning to blog in code.

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Blog hiatus no more

Ah, sod it. I’ve got this thing online, people know where it is – I’ll keep the Livejournal for personal stuff.

I’ve changed the Feedburner feed back and moved a couple of the political type posts over, in case nobody caught them, which is likely. More rants ahoy I’m sure.

Incidentally, WordPress 2.0.2 is really slick. Yeah, only just got around to updating it. I’m so behind the times.

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New Labour FACISTS

Not an awful lot to say about yesterday’s local elections – pretty much results as expected, really, given recent events and more long-term failures. Charles Clarke has gone; I’ve already expressed my irritation at the story that got him thrown out, and this is just encouraging future ministers to pander to the same sort of xenophobic tabloid rubbish, but (grappling for a silver lining) every time we change Home Secretaries it slows the ongoing process of removing civil liberties just a little I suppose.

So what happens now? Tories make gains, New Labour look at Tory policies and try to move slightly in that direction, in the same way that the Tories have taken up New Labour policies or at least style and rhetoric. They’re not actually going to address the reasons that people voted against them, clearly, because that would mean abandoning their basic pro-business ethos, and they know that neither the Tories nor the Lib Dems are going to do that either. They don’t have to provide an alternative.

This is the process of parliamentary democracy at the moment it seems: different establishment factions trundle along with a few odd ideas of their own, one faction gets voted out after it stands up as a figurehead for long enough and another one pops in. One would have thought that they would have at least tried to pretend there are meaningful differences between the factions but it seems that that’s not necessary any more, now that History has Ended.

Enough of this pessimistic anarchist nonsense, though. I did want to ask one question about the strategies used rather ineffectually previous to yesterday, which is why are New Labour supporting the BNP? Their two arguments seemed to me to have been:

  1. “Please don’t read the news, just think back to all the good things we’ve done” – not said too loudly in case people actually do think back;
  2. “Vote for us or the BNP might get in” – not said explicitly, but when a party says “there’s an increasing danger from X” right before an election you know what they mean.

It used to be “vote for us or the Tories will get in” but I suppose they’re not going to say nowadays that in case the response is “good, that Cameron chap seems nice, look, he rides a bike”. So we get “the threat of the BNP”. Not to say that the BNP are not a bad thing, but the threat that they pose is really connected to their ability to get their propaganda out, which is clearly immensely helped by ministers raising their profile.

The thing is that the BNP are not a meaningful threat to New Labour, just ordinary people. They hold, what, 44 local council seats now out of 22,000 and they haven’t a hope of getting a single MP. It is, in fact, useful to New Labour to have them there, to further the existence of the “immigration debate”. The BNP shout about immigrants coming over here and taking our houses and our jobs and our women and so on, and people shout back at them, and various BNP-Lite groups and papers say “obviously we’re not racist but they do have a point” and it all goes round and round without the central question ever having to be addressed: why does anyone believe the BNP and others’ bullshit in the first place? Urban myths about how asylum seekers come over here and take all the houses and get loads of free cash are obviously going to propagate a lot more easily in an environment where people don’t have houses and cash, and look, all these people are saying it’s a worthwhile thing to discuss, must be something in it.

The anti-immigration lobby in general is an ever-so-slight annoyance to NL, as if it gets too much support they can lose votes due to not appearing to crack down on immigration enough, but its utility is much greater. As long as the “immigration debate” is given credence people will argue about it, meaning that NL and others never have to account for their role in the perpetual social and economic problems in this country. It keeps what’s left of the left wing of NL quiet for a bit because they’re likely to be outraged at crypto-racism etc, and there’s the added benefit that the more that immigrants are demonised, the less likely they are to be able to demand benefits, unionise etc. Lots of nice cheap workers!

And what are the “parties of the workers” doing? Slagging off RESPECT and abandoning any internationalism they might have had. Shower of bastards.

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