Wednesday, February 25, 2004

COUNTER-TERRORISM POWERS: reconciling security and liberty in an open society; a discussion paper
and appropriate BBC article.

Largish update to my thoughts on why we have no free will, following a drunken discussion at the weekend.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

UK could suffer 'housing bubble': "Ominously, the report suggests the housing market bust could be 'very messy'."

...depends if they figured in a global economy crash too, maybe?

Investors are the most fickle people I can think of.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Loathe him or cherish him, Ken Livingstone gets "things" done. So when he announces a plan to get people in London to walk, it's perhaps worth noting.

Oh, and FIPR and the UK Computing Research Committee are doing stuff for ID cards tomorrow, Home Affairs Committe, 2.30pm. Too tired to find links for them ;)

Hmm, Slashdemocracy looks interesting, if a little under-used. Looks like the main feature is John Gotze's blog, but there are some forums too.

Linked from that last link, CIVITAS looks like quite an interesting thinktank...

Possibly the best thing I've seen in the news for ages - BBC article on using mourning as attention seeking, something which I noticed about the time of Diana's death, and in all the circumstances mentioned in the article since. If I could quote the whole thing, I would, but for here...

""Next time you profess that you "care" about something, consider your motives and the consequences of your words and actions. Sometimes, the only person you really care about is you," said the report."

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Damn, we suck.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Good article following up the paradox of American entertainment: The Super Bowl of hypocrisy. Via Neil Gaiman. Yes, that Neil Gaiman.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Are you a cynic

"You're really only a second-rate cynic. Actually, you aren't cynical as much as world weary, and sometimes you have a point. One thing though - laughing at children isn't nice."

Sounds like me, and no it's not, but it is fun ;)

Brown calls for anti-poverty war - yes! Destroy the poor people! I knew they had it coming to them... Oh, wait.

Also amusing if you imagine that that's not Gordon Brown's hand in the top picture. Aha ha ha.

Public Sector could actually be made efficient, says report - shock! What amuses me is the remark at the bottom:

"Any job losses on this scale are completely unacceptable," said Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union.

Yes! Bureaucracy and ineffiency keep people in jobs, which is better for the economy and the country in general! Make things less efficient, I say! "More Paperwork! More Paperwork!" shall be the cry!

We must work ourselves into the ground else we shall fail.

BBC asks How did we get so cynical?. The comments seem to make sense, for a change... :)

Friday, February 13, 2004

Hmm, so the problems with finance are much deeper than top-up fees go... maybe the whole thing is just fubar.

Universities submit 8bn quid funding request:

"Universities UK supports the government's proposals for a graduate contribution scheme but we have never claimed it will meet our funding gap - no single source of income will do that"

Thursday, February 12, 2004

A tale of a day in the life of Guy Gyuggoodman - my first attempt at a spam story.

Ah, I'm getting old. Did I blog this before? Ah well, just in case... What You Can't Say: "This essay is about heresy: how to think forbidden thoughts, and what to do with them."

>> Death

Viscount Mountgarret: "The 17th Viscount Mountgarret, who has died of a heart attack aged 67, claimed descent from King Henry VII and regularly behaved as though living in the 16th century. His most famous exploit was to take a shotgun to a hot-air balloon manned by tourists, which floated too low for his liking over his Yorkshire grouse moor in 1982. He was fined £1,800 by Skipton magistrates, amid much testy harrumphing."

Oi! Windows users! Patch your kit, or I'll come round and have a go at you myself.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

We have nothing to lose but our stupidity.

From /., World of Ends: What the Internet Is and How to Stop Mistaking It for Something Else.

Thank god that someone's reaffirmed my love of a communicated culture. It gets so hard to remember to do it these days...

Spoiler - my favourite quote from the article is this paragraph:
"The government types who have confused the value of the Internet with the value of its contents could realize that in tinkering with the Internet's core, they're actually driving down its value. In fact, they maybe could see that having a system that transports all bits equally, without government or industry censorship, is the single most powerful force for democracy and open markets in history."

Social Networking and Privacy in big clash rumble fight.

Still looking for that decentralised social networking app... Kind of "tribe.net and BitTorrent get together and have a kid in the form of a Thunderbird plug-in" thing. Yeah, that'd be sweet..

This is exciting - I hate discovering stuff like this at work, I just want to go home and install it now :) Phil might like this... It's called segusoLand, but I'd suggest looking through the info and screenshots for a straightforward look at how it works.

I really like the way its "categories" and database-backed, so if you used it all the time, you wouldn't need file-structure-level folders, really (apart from when using other apps?). I also suspect the "do things in the future" ease-of-use could throw up some interesting things to do. It also runs on Linux :) (Can't work out the window theme - looks like the KDE Plastik theme, but the apps are all gnome-based. Must be a similar thing on Gnome.)

It'd be great if it tied in with apps, so that you could choose files from within an app using this, with the appropriate files selected according to what the app is, but I don't expect that for a few years after widespread adoption ;)

I'm also hoping it has quick keyboard access - being able to type the filename in - or better, part of a filename - would be fantastic.

Thanks to nooface.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Rsing hell, I challenge anyone sane to read through this page and not go woozy at the word "Portal" for evermore...

"A Portal Server Portal instance is a com.arsdigita.portalserver.PortalSite"

What is it about OO coding that encourage people to use the same word repeatedly? Shouldn't there be something in coding conventions to make different objects clear when reading through docs and/or code and to not make the developer go loopy? %)

I have decided that, at some point, coding is going to become so abstract that a). it has to be generated automatically, as it's surpasses the in-built capacities for comprehension the human brain adheres to, and b). it occupies its own area of the space-time continuum, where what the code is doing is ridiculously unrelated to what's happening either at the CPU-instruction level (which remain predominantly procedural), or at the user-interface level. This space, or "paradigmia" (hard or soft "g"), exists purely for its own benefit, as the CPU cares not what it is given, and the user just wants the thing to work. As human developers have been taken out of the loop, nobody needs to understand the way in which the system has been designed. (Apart from perhaps the auto-autocode coder, but that's just another generic.)

Of course, once we have that, we should also have automagic optimisers, which will decide that all this OO stuff is unecessary if it's just going to be converted into asm in the end, and all we'll have is an asm VM. Theoretically, of course - we won't have to see any of it...

Aw, Norman Thelwell dies.

>> Poolitix Today

Ah, some sense.
"The shadow home secretary has said the government has not proved it can be trusted with people's personal information. In an exclusive interview with ePolitix.com David Davis says there is a case for ID cards but that ministers have not "solved the practical questions" as to how they would work. He argues that previous instances of dirt-digging by the government raise critical civil liberties questions over how ID card data would be used. "I really do think we’ve got to be very careful about how we allow data of that sort to be handled by ordinary civil servants and the political classes," he said. "

Meanwhile...

- The Commons trade and industry select committee publishes a report on the UK broadband market.

- Commons Chamber: Presentation of bill: Sleep Apnoea Bill

- Westminster Hall, 11am: ("On the...", I assume) Reclassification of cannabis
- Westminster Hall, 4pm: Government policy on media intellectual property rights

- Trade and Industry Committee, 9.15am: The knowledge driven economy

- Home Affairs Committee, 2.30pm: Identity Cards

- Standing Committee F: Further to consider the Civil Contingencies Bill

Politics is like TV - something for everyone. Or maybe that's pick'n'mix.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Predictably, US anti-spam law fails to bite. More proof that the politicians shouldn't make decisions when they don't understand the reality? As with all things, really. Wisest is she who knows what she does not know.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Internet doom - Have we brought it upon ourselves? Should the pioneers, the techies and the geeks, realise our role in the unabated shamelessness with which we promoted new technology? Was there far too much hype (even if it had the potential to live up to it) surrounding IT for our own good, and should we have worked out that the mainstream public weren't ready to use it responsibly?

Or.. "should we give guns to monkeys", as I like to think of it.

As it is, everyone on the Internet wields some form of "technical power", whether it be accessing a poll, sending an e-mail, or clicking on an e-mail-borne virus. As with all forms of influence, it is up to the individual to decide what to do with the power, and how much responsibility to accept along with it.

Are we in a position where people have the power to disrupt, but don't acknowledge their responsibilities? Guns. Monkeys. We're doomed.

As UK interest rates start heading back up, the South Koreans demonstrate what happens if you get it wrong.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Reading through the responses at the BBC Have Your Say's "Are new anti-terrorism laws necessary?" page. Posts such as

"The threat of terrorism is the world we live in now. New laws are needed to help protect ourselves against these evil people. It's just a fact these days."

and

"After watching a rather intriguing programme called "Crisis Control", I feel that these laws should be implemented. After the tragic events in America in September 2001, I would advise the government to take every precaution necessary to counteract a major threat."

really demonstrate the simplistic, paniced thinking that gets these laws into place so readily. The "Civil Liberties" groups, that many of the people for terrorist laws admonish, realise that a). terrorism isn't just "something that happens", that people aren't just guilty of wishing to blow things up just because their religion demands it, and that the world is one much bigger mess than we're intended to see on the news.

Let the cowards hide behind walls of police in a concrete bunker, drinking wine until the nice happy cows come home.

Cool. Inside the CIA Museum.

Mice produce sperm from monkeys - where are all the philosophical ethicists now, eh? Who'll defend the monkeys' rights?? I also read that second sub-headline as "Tetris transplant"...

I'm generally sceptical of things on Indymedia, as it tends to be just one form of polemicsm in counterbalance to another, and therefore equally prone to assumptions and bias. However, it's good that someone is asking "Who Is Lord Hutton?"

I suspect the information's all true, if selective. I'd like a). references and b). a more complete history of Lord Hutton's adventures. There are some follow-ups in the comments, and one or two criticisings.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

'Bomb joke' student walks free - with a plea bargain "which means she must give £650 to the families of the victims of the September 11 attacks." Uh... is this whole thing "anti-terrorism" thing being driven on by some kind of pseudo-emotional neo-humanitarian do-goody banner now?

Another post that turned out to be more of essay-length, so have posted it on exmosis.net, under "An asexual culture of sexuality."

After reading this BBC article on Americans' attitude to bare flesh on TV, and talking to an American at work and discovering she was quite shocked at the fact that we're so open about it here (Eurotrash was mentioned), I'm quite intrigued by the contrast in values that I thought was exaggerated over on Brit soil. ...

Agree or disagree, whatever. This is the funniest rant I've read in ages. Why your Movable Type blog must die

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Key points of Tony Blair & the House of Commons iaison committee

"The policy had come from hospitals, not Downing Street, after they said they wanted to be freed up from bureaucracy"

There seems to be a complete gap in thinking that public sector = bureaucracy. Many companies suffer from it, so giving them corporate autonomy doesn't necessarily mean that they will work better. What's needed is an overhaul of the the public sector's attitude. Somehow. Why do people entangle this?

"The civil liberties argument continues up until something happens - then people ask why something was not done before."

The "civil liberties argument" tends to offer reasonable international policies as an alternative to just making sure we're safe to do whatever we want. If I have a tank, I can run amok and blow up buildings in town, but there are better ways to go shopping. Handing out weapons to foreign countries for the purpose of battering their own population to death isn't a great policy.

Trying out Bloglines as a rolling news aggregator - the result can be seen over on the right, under ".beta".

Indian economy 'better than ever'

Monday, February 02, 2004

Politics tomorrow...

Home Affairs Committee (2.30pm, room 8).
Subject: Identity cards.
Witnesses: The Law Society, Liberty and Privacy International; Richard Thomas, information commissioner (at 3.30pm).

Lords Chamber starred questions:
What assessment the government have made of the security and human rights situation in North Korea