May 27, 2007
a while ago i posted about hecklers at the labour conference being arrested under the prevention of terrorism act. actually a friend of mine at university had his room entered by the police under a similar act, claiming they’d heard a gunshot. they were really after drugs, and actually arrested him for stealing a gulley grating that they found under his bed, but that’s another story.
well, uncle tony went to print today ridiculing the judges (what do they know?) for “siding with the accused”, rather than allow the police to stop, search, question and generally go over the top in the quest for terrorists. it seems the government is set to widen police powers, ostensibly to allow them to stop, search and question WITHOUT REASON. nice. penalty for refusing or resisting is to be 5000 pounds.
this was done in the seventies, mainly in northern ireland, and was called the suss laws. if a copper suspects you (just a hunch will do, no evidence required), then you’re fair game. right now the police can already do this in london and other major cities that are judged high risk areas for terrorists. witness the police presence at tube and rail stations randomly searching (mainly brown) commuters. there are so many things wrong with this tactic that it appears to me to be simply propaganda. no one searches people in morden tube station, just the big ticket ones. guess what, terrorists won’t get on the tube in the centre of town.
the met police are amongst the best in the UK, certainly amongst the best disciplined (they have had to be after all the fuck-ups in the 80s and 90s and resultant investigations, commissions etc). one wonders what happens when the glamorgan police get these powers. i guess you just can’t afford to piss off a copper. gone are the days when kids would walk behind one singing “who’s the twat in the big blue hat?”.
May 25, 2007
how many ferrero roche chocolates are served up each year by british ambassadors around the world?
fancy a man in uniform? how many eligible bachelors are there amongst the hampshire police force?
there’s a fuss, right now, about whether these questions are eligible for a proper response under the british freedom of information act. what is reasonable?
it seems to me that the only consideration should be whether the data can be reasonably acquired, rather than question the reason behind the request itself. so i wonder.
how would the foreign and commonwealth office gather such information. i guess every embassy has someone responsible for procurement. i guess there are occasions when the FCO HQ communicates to these people as a group. email@example.com or something. one junior official sends one email requesting response in 2 days. gets said responses back, taps numbers into spreadsheet. there are 200 countries. it’s not hard. the cost over the admin fee that must be paid on these requests is probably pretty small. and i bet there aren’t many.
the second example is one HR department. do they record the marital status of each officer? yes. how hard is that query? potential profit, even, for the fuzz.
over time the expectations of what information can be provided will rise, if only because technology is going to provide more and more data, and more and more ways to get at it. it’s all going open. openness should be the default. you should need a strong reason not to respond. these reasons nestle in the legislation - public safety, commercial confidentiality (over-used), data protection act (cripplingly over-used) etc. they are all testable in the courts.
not why, but why not?
May 22, 2007
web 2.0, metadata, folksonomies, &c. the world changes. amazon tells me what someone else bought who also bought this book, lastfm tells me what other music people who listen to my kind of thing also listen to. neither of these things has changed my life, i have to say, but they’re good just the same. it’s all in the right direction.
i do like google reader. half the blog posts in the world are merely pointing people to other posts. 10% of all email i get points me to a post. with google reader you can just click share. let them subscribe if they want to. i’m not saying don’t ever send me links, just that for the everyday there is a mechanism that is better. and with GR i don’t see, by default, something i’ve already seen.
like this. i’ve no desire to say anything about that, except for “look!”. subscibe to my shared posts (rare beasts though they are), or not.
we should all just get what we want.
i read something today about how internet advertising was just a small proportion of the overall market. how it would grow, become more targeted through web 2.0 . it wasn’t such a hot article and i’ve lost it, sorry. but we are on our way to a perfect market. it will get easier, over time, for a buyer to find a seller, and vice-versa. we will inevitably move from advertising to a commission based system. and that commission will shrink and shrink until there is just the price.
May 18, 2007
i haven’t worn, or even owned, a watch for a long time. Maybe 20 years. i could never figure out why i’d need to. the time is everywhere.
i did once put my name down for a watch that approximated the time in words, but it seems it never got made. so that was that.
but wait, shock / horror. i ordered a watch. couldn’t help myself. i saw it, i wanted it. i’d bought it within 2 minutes of laying eyes on the webpage.
i’m not sure i’m even going to be able to tell the time on the thing.
found via boingboing.
if you really want a japanese watch that barely tells the time, then check out some other beauties. this is zac’s favourite:
There’s a nice flickr stream of various tokyoflash watches, too.
May 12, 2007
May 11, 2007
i promise this is the last mention of the hitch book. i’m almost done now and it gets better page by page.
jonathon miller had a series on the BBC called “the natural history of disbelief”. (i read somewhere that it’s on the web in full somewhere). it was a fine series and involved the history of atheism and a whole bunch of interviews conducted by miller. what sticks in my mind was an interview he did with dan dennett. toward the end miller says that if anyone could write ‘the’ book to debunk religion it would be dennett, and why hasn’t he written it? dennett replied that he’d thought about it, but that he felt that some people needed religion as a kind of moral viagra.
we now know that dennett did write ‘a’ book (the natural history of religion), and that it wasn’t ‘the’ book. hitch wrote that.
i just spent an hour reading about the nefarious gandhi and the evils of buddhism and why religion is child abuse. ahhhh.
i mentioned christopher hitchens new book. well, i bought it and am currently half way through. it is every bit as much of a treat as i suspected. he takes a very different tack to dennett and dawkins (evolution of religion, evidence for it etc.). the hitch let’s go of both barrels wherever possible. he is sarcastic, offensive, and laugh out loud funny. can’t recommend it highly enough. when it comes to debunking religion, this is the way to go.
We now know things about our nature that the founders of religion could not even begin to guess at, and that would have stilled their overconfident tongues if they had known them. Yet once again, once one has disposed of superflous assumptions, speculations about who designed us to be designers becomes as fruitless and irrelevant as the question of who designed the designer. Aristotle, whose reasoning about the unmoved mover and the uncaused cause is the beginning of the argument, concluded that the logic would necessitate forty-seven or fifty-five gods. Surely even a monotheist would be grateful for Ockham’s razor at this point? From a plurality of prime movers, the monotheists have bargained it down to a single one. They are ever nearer to the true, round figure.
May 7, 2007
lastfm is a really nice service. listen to music in any media player and, via a plugin, get it “scrobbled” into lastfm. thence be able to slice and dice the data that emerges. most played artist, song, etc etc. also you get to listen to your very own radio station, derived from the music you play. you also get to see your own musical neighbours, people that listen to to the kind of music you do. also when you play a track you can see how many other times other lastfm users have played that track. results i’ve seen range from up in the 35 millions down to the very few thousands.
but there are problems.
for example i played maybe 30 tracks today that do not show up in my list. maybe it takes time? if so why?
but the worst is, well, worse. i have the last fm plugin installed on my machine here, upstairs and private, and on the mac in the kitchen. which is where the kids are. yep.
check out my musical neighbours. i get a load of hannah montana and james blunt fans.
May 4, 2007
it seems to me (and i may be wrong) that the HD-DVD fiasco may be the most important web event to have occurred in recent times. i think that it’s because the secret (that which must not be communicated) wasn’t any kind of trade secret known to an individual then divulged, but was ‘discovered’ then made public. it was made public because many people felt that it was in itself wrong, despite the illegality of publishing. i don’t really see any difference between this and the engadget expose of the bicycle lock that could be breached by a bic biro.
if my business model depended on a poorly encrypted password that could be breached in 10 seconds by anyone with any understanding of these things, then no one would bat an eyelid at its being revealed. why is this any more serious? surely just because they made a half-effort at encryption doesn’t mean it’s any more serious.
digg reacted swiftly to take down notices, got swamped by annoyed users declaring the “secret” code. rather like citizens coming out onto the streets in Prague during the velvet revolution, they may not be the majority of the population, but they were enough to change things.
what makes this bizarre is that if no notice was taken of the initial exposure, then there would have been almost no consequence for the vendors. less than 1%, surely, of any potential users would have made use of the key. now the whole thing has ballooned into a farce, has been unnecessarily publicized. in short the cat is out of the bag. once out it stays there.
apologies to anyone who is not already aware of the story. i can’t be arsed to dig out further links.
May 2, 2007
fad foods and supplements. i see pomegranate juice bottles everywhere, green tea etc etc. now it’s sunshine.
i mention it for two reasons. firstly that i always wondered how skin types that have developed for certain lattitudes fared in less appropriate climes. and, secondly, this end quote:
Referring to Linus Pauling, the famous U.S. advocate of vitamin C use as a cure for many illnesses, he said: “Basically, Linus Pauling was right, but he was off by one letter.”
thanks tomasz for the link