Archive for April, 2009

This Week’s Tweets

Apr 29th, 2009
  • @bengoldacre How do we square Davies criticism of press and libel laws with the accusations against yourself. Both problems, opposite sides. #
  • @erykah_ While since I took it, but was both more liberal and more left than Ghandi. Scared to take it again, may have become more rightwing #
  • Political Compass: Economic Left/Right: -7.88
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -8.62
    Well I clearly haven’t drifted right with age! #
  • I think all products should have their manuals online, it is a great way to check what you are buying #
  • Just had a two day course on the blindingly obvious and the completely useless. #fb #
  • Geocities closing; its the end of an era. A garish <blink> tag and animated gif filled era admittedly, but MySpace just isn’t the same thing #
  • Why is my computer mouse being so damn annoying, left clicks turn into right clicks, drags drop too early and clicks are multiplied #
  • Am considering upgrading phone. Can’t afford anything too fancy, but three offer unlimited data/texts 75min contract for £15/mo #
  • @yuribou What’s happening on Monday? #
  • The woman across the road from me has the strangest laugh. I thought it was two dogs fighting at first. #
  • @yuribou Oh, good luck! #
  • In a call queue #
  • Gaah! Bloody 3 customer services. Just been told something entirely different to earlier #
  • Gah! I hate being on hold! #
  • okay, this is stupid. still on hold #
  • 53 minutes on hold. I hung up. #
  • Oh great, I see, they all went home. Well don’t keep me on hold then! #
  • Does Cameron realise that pblc sctr jobs still need to be competive? Its all very well quoting high pay, but its meaningless out of context #
  • Hmm, Panorama seems to be doing a DM inspired special on ‘Health and Safety’ #
  • @erykah_ Have you been watching Animals of Farthing Wood all day? And where did you find them all. Was a great series! in reply to erykah_ #
  • @erykah_ How have they not released official DVDs yet? They’d be snapped up in an instand by anyone under 35 in reply to erykah_ #
  • Sorting through the huge pile of paper and ECL films on my desk. Currently in a big pile on me seat. #fb #
  • Seems like my Dad is about to join twitter! Anyone else have parents following them? #
  • Amazed that someone found my blog googling ‘swine flu’. Surely I must be on page 600,000! #
  • @bengoldacre I’m frankly a little disturbed by the conspiracy theorist link you posted earlier. Felt like watching someone have a breakdown. #
  • I’m trying to figure out if my satire meter is broken, or if people are far more insane than I ever imagined. #
  • @yuribou Yay, congratulations, and good luck. #
  • Hmm, if I don’t get a paper out of my PhD, I could always publish my findings on Twitter. Not sure my boss would agree. #
  • @lorrielamb Yes, but the books are a bit dull. Its best done in front of a bookshelf of your very own. in reply to lorrielamb #
  • Been playing around with a graphics tablet lent to me (long term) by a friend. So now my computer drawings suck slightly less! #
  • @bengoldacre I think some people have trouble separating genuine media scaremongering from the actual risk.They dismiss one part; then all. #

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A Collection of Thoughts

Apr 26th, 2009

A few thoughts this week, mainly as none of them were substantial enough for a full blog post.

Swine Flu

Jumping in first on the topic which is most likely to generate general interest, I’d once more like to point people at the post I wrote covering the H5N1 virus. Anton Vowl, over at ‘The Enemies of Reason’ also has a bit to say about the way the media are treating the incident, namely: Aaaargh! We’re all gonna die! Noooooooooooo!

Still, I suppose it makes a break from everyone being unemployed and moneyless.


This week I joined many other internet geeks, reminiscing about Geocities. This week Yahoo! announced that it would be closing the long running web host. In the mid to late 90s, Geocities provided the free, simple to use web space which played host to many a first website, including my own.
The sites were, on the large part, terrible. They had garish textured backgrounds, which made it difficult to read the text, and which often had noticeable seams, or induced stereoscopic effects. Animated gifs were used unnecessarily, with no concern for anti-aliasing and annoying, repetitive midi files played automatically in the background. Some text would blink on and off,whereas other text would scroll incessantly.
Most of these crimes against web design are long since extinct, confined only to MySpace and a few unread blogs. Sure, garish talking flash ads still do their own part to ensure that the web is that bit more annoying to surf, but they are an external influence, not something added directly by the site owner. In the Geocities era it was still terribly annoying design, but it was OUR terribly annoying design, and part of me will be sad to see the back of it.

New Phone

This weekend also saw me upgrading my phone, as well as spending several hours trying to convince three that I really didn’t need two accounts with them. I realise that I should probably have followed their usual upgrade protocol, but the handset I wanted wasn’t in stock, and at the time they implied that meant I’d have to choose another handset. Turns out I could have still chosen the handset I wanted; it would just have taken a bit longer to arrive. When I tried to close the old account they decided to explain all this to me, and encourage me to take the new handset back, to allow me to obtain a new, identical, handset in its place, with all the heading off to strange delivery depots that this entailed. Sure I could keep my number, but considering that I had already sent out masses of text messages giving people my new number, this no longer seemed like such a benefit. I was also unconvinced by the fantastic benefit of the loyalty points I had accumulated, when I realised that the 32p per month saving on my tariff seemed to mysteriously match up with the 2.5% reduction in VAT, which three don’t remove until the final stage of the billing process. It took me a while to convince the ‘customer retention program’ of this, and involved being on hold for an hour to an empty office. Thanks three.

The main reason I was upgrading was to take advantage of an included data-plan, without any increase in my monthly payments. The ability to access the internet on the move would be incredibly useful for things like Google maps, price checking, and of course, twitter. As an added benefit, three also offer unmetered Skype traffic, , which is bound to prove useful.

When I entered the store I was interested in looking at the INQ1, which the three brochure had advertised as the only phone on the plan. The handset looked functional enough, and felt solid in the hand, but I was a little bothered by style, which felt as though it was aimed at a market a good few years younger than me. There was also the concern that many of the features were very embedded in the phone, and although accessing facebook while on the move is a nice feature, I’m not sure that I need it tied in to the very centre of my handset.

Instead I went for the more adult looking Nokia E63. I’ve had good past experience with Nokias, and hoped that the Symbian operating system would prove a bit more flexible than the INQ1’s proprietary system. The WiFi support in the E63 will also be a nice feature to take the load off my, admittedly huge, data allowance.

I had mistakenly believed that the E63 had an inbuilt GPS reciever, after misunderstanding an entry in the menu. However, on subsequently playing with it, I have discovered that its Mobile mast triangulation system is stunningly accurate, and Google maps was able to place me at the correct corner of a crossroads.

Political Compass

Apr 22nd, 2009

I first played around with the political compass a few years ago, and was vaguely worried that I may have betrayed my old self, and have darted to the far right without quite realising it. As it happens I haven’t, and indeed I think the score is somewhat more extreme in the other direction than it had been previously.

Your political compass
Economic Left/Right: -7.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -8.62
Political Compass

Now in practice of course I realise that asking everyone to march to my drum would be ineffective, impractical, and immoral. While I’m not prepared to indulge every contradictory philosophy, finding some abhorrent, and still others mutually exclusive, I realise that expecting everyone to become raging liberal-lefty is not going to work in political terms, or even practical terms. As a result were I ever to become a mainstream politician, I’d probably have to take a bit more moderate a position. This is probably why I’d never be a mainstream politician.

There are also many points raised on which my opinions are far more nuanced than a four point scale will allow. I don’t think this changes my idealism in my approach to them, but believing something is a good idea is still fundamentally separated from knowing how to implement it. I also realise that any ideas I may have will almost invariably need to work in our current social climate, and complete political upheaval required to achieve some ideals will cause more problems than it solves. While I may be less than enamoured by the pandering to popularism democracy results in, I’m far less keen on many of the alternatives which have been seen. I may very well love everyone to live governed by rules of sunshine and happiness, but unfortunately I fear that the rules of Kalashnikovs and power would find a way to take hold.

One question intrigue me, and I’m not sure I see it as a left-right argument.

There is now a worrying fusion of information and entertainment.

The question itself could be interpreted to apply to many facets of the modern entertainment and information industries. I’m currently a big fan of Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe, but should that push me more to agree or disagree? The program is entertainment undoubtedly, but also informative, but paradoxically one of its prime thesis is to attack the way in which the news has allowed the need to deliver facts to be hijacked by the need to entertain. Is there hypocrisy in this situation? Secondly, infotainment has been one of the primary driving forces of the web and internet, with sites like Wikipedia being both methods of entertainment and sources of information. While I think letting entertainment get in the way of your facts is a Bad Thing™ I don’t think I could say the same for the reverse, although perhaps the end result is inevitable.

This Week’s Tweets

Apr 22nd, 2009
  • @RagnarTornquist Excellent, thank you. #
  • Disappointed that two anti-bodies have ceased binding, everything else looked so nice as well. #fb #
  • @blainetmartin It stands for facebook, and allows selective updating of facebook status from twitter. (Using Selective Twitter status app) #
  • Gah. Twitter tools keeps generating multiple digests, two last week, three this week. #
  • @Optimaximal Is it a ‘name lookup timeout’ I had that trouble earlier and solved it by switching browsers. (Opera worked, FF didn’t) in reply to Optimaximal #
  • @bengoldacre That’s nothing! Have you checked the temperature? I don’t think that will be water falling from the sky. in reply to bengoldacre #
  • rt @bengoldacre: “We’re gonna need a bigger boat”: 900mph winds at Glastonbury, with 77 million mm of rain. #
  • Sky news seems surprised that ‘anti-terrorism’ laws are being abused for other purposes. Wasn’t that always one of the primary complaints? #
  • Could really do with getting some sleep. #
  • @GOGcom I want a Good Old Game for free #GOGgiveaway #
  • Obsidian making a Fallout game? How intriguing. #
  • @smallmatryoshka You specifically? I remember the acusation, but can’t recall if it was directed at G20 protestors in general, or a specific in reply to smallmatryoshka #
  • @ALondoner Hey, Welcome to Twitter. Enjoy your stay! #
  • Ahhh! Just discovered why the number of visitors to my blog has tailed off dramatically. Slipped in Google ranking for key search. #
  • Hmm, @stephenfry voicing a sequel to an unnamed computer game. My money is on Little Big Planet 2. (Little bigger planet?) #
  • Need to find a good paper I’ve read recently, and a bad one. What if they are all just ‘okay’ #
  • @ashens I bet it’s a letterbox for letterboxing. #
  • Just realised that my 2 day course thing starts today, rather than tomorrow. Why have a two day course start on Wednesday? #

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Save, Load, Return, Quit (Fiction)

Apr 16th, 2009

A story

Save, Load, Return, Quit

Damn it! It was the fourth time he had done that test and yet his mark was lower than ever before, not to mention he somehow managed to alienate half his friends while waiting for the result. That was the biggest annoyance, the waiting. It took him ten attempts to pass his driving test, but at least he didn’t have to wait a week between each go. Now though he had to suffer through the same miserable week of crap weather and no prospects. He needed a break.

The four familiar words swam in his mind’s eye as the world remained frozen around him, that last ever present option both seductive and terrifying in its promises. Attempt number two wasn’t so bad; he had failed, but he did make the reserve list, and things were going remarkably well with Sarah. He couldn’t bring himself to accept it though, he needed a job, and in the current climate that could take a while, even for someone with his skills. Besides, he could always come back, now he just needed to be as far away as possible. He reached far back, not even looking at the dates as they flashed past.

February 12th 1990, Little Wadeway

He turned inside out as the world past through him and then righted itself; a pause; then noise. The excited babble and shouts of children crashed over him as he was pushed and jostled by their movements as he found himself in a much smaller body than he had been occupying moments earlier. He was stood in the playground of Little Wadeway C. of E. Primary School and a glance downwards revealed that he was dressed in a bright red wax raincoat and a scruffy pair of Velcro trainers. How far back had he gone?

Continue reading the story