Monday, May 29, 2006

Quotes for the day

"One spectator was given treatment after being hit by a runaway cheese."

"I'm going to take my cheese to the pub and have a party."

From the annual cheese chase.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Podcasting lectures

I'd be interested in hearing Ben's thoughts on this one, as he's close to the action...

Podcast lectures for uni students (there's video of it in action too)

Note that the podcast is instead of normal lectures, it seems. Which I find a bit odd. Being able to "repeat" a lecture, to go over the bits you missed, is a good thing. But interaction here seems to be confined to sending text messages to ask questions, which then get answered in the next podcast.

So why do I think this won't last?

1. As the student in the BBC video notes, obviously there's no real-time feedback. Transmission of understanding (i.e. learning) isn't a straightforward thing - comprehension of an issue is different for each person, such that half of an audience may get explanation A, while the other half may get explanation B. Description of a theory vs use of examples to get a point across, for instance.

2. The article mentions that students will be able to watch the lecture via a video, but there didn't seem to be any inclination of that in the BBC video. If you don't watch a lecture, there are many visuals that would help to explain and clarify things immensely - a picture is worth at least a thousand words, which is a lot of bytes and a lot of minutes in podcast terms.

3. If the lecturer simply records the lecture into a microphone, then there's no engagement on the side of the lecturer, let alone the students. Engaging with an audience separates a good lecturer from a mediocre one. And engagement = enthusiasm, motivation, and comprehension.

4. I don't listen to podcasts any more. Why? Because I can't skip through them easily (fast forward, rewind, etc) to find content I'm interested in, and because I just stop listening if I'm concentrating on something else, such as writing a post or looking at pictures. Sensorial attention in general seems to be something that most people take for granted. The first of the problems above is "only" applicable in that a lecturer can skip back to something previous, or skip over stuff that's not relevant, or to stuff that is. The second is important as if lectures are provided in audio form, there's surely a tendency to do other stuff at the same time, resulting in the student taking in less information.

So I'm not convinced at all. Doing a traditional lecture, recording it and making it available would make sense perhaps. But bending ("hacking", in the greasy sense) technology to cater for distance learners and people that can't be arsed to get out of bed just stinks of sloppiness and bad ideas to me.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Monday, May 22, 2006

Fuel wars

More evidence that nuclear is all about the sales, with "talks" going on between Russia and the US...

"In particular, Russian officials complain about the continuation of restrictions on deliveries of their nuclear products to the US.

They are a lucrative export, reportedly valued at half a billion dollars a year."

(emphasis mine...)

Sounds to me like everyone wants to be the new Middle East, but for nuclear instead of oil. I suggest that this is why nuclear is really back on the agenda in the UK, and why renewables have so little enthusiasm behind them - it's much easier to sell tangibles than just "electricity" (especially if you haven't got the export network in place - a la France). Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Soros jumps from Microsoft to Stock Exchanges

George Soros is apparently moving from holding large amounts of stocks in Microsoft to Stock Exchanges.

I guess this is moving "up the ladder", so to speak - as the economy starts to look like it might go down the pan, switch to the people that will make money from it doing so. If people want to trade large amounts of shares, they still need somewhere to do it.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Iran: Not just oil, but uranium too?

Apologies for the coverage of Iran, but thought this one was worth mentioning - a lengthy article, but an interesting read (despite it's obvious bias) as it a) has a short "history" of Iran, Iraq, the US and Europe, and b) ties the Oil Bourse in with the market for that other big source of power, nuclear.

This makes sense in the same way that the Dollar-shifting Bourse makes sense, but is intriguing as you suddenly start to open up a range of factors that affect the balance of economic power. Countries don't often act just for one reason, but a whole host of reasons that, put together, act as a stimulus? Sounds plausible to me, but I might be wrong...

I don't have too much of an idea how true the difference is between civil-grade Uranium and weapons-grade, and what you can produce in civil reactors. Is that (i.e. a general ignorance of the technicals) part of the problem?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Saturday, May 06, 2006

$$$ pt II - IOB on again?

Heavens, has it been a few months since last I blogged this already?

Looks like Iran's Euro-driven Oil Bourse is all ready for the off this week, according to various places such as Marketwatch:

"Also on Friday, Iran took a step toward establishing an oil-trading market denominated in euros, rather than in U.S. dollars, by registering an oil bourse on the Persian Gulf island of Kish. On that market, oil would be sold in euros, according to the Associated Press, citing state-run television in Iran."



More on the shifting dollar...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Happy happy joy joy

Britain's happiness in decline, reports the BBC. Good long article.

Wealth does not = happiness for the simple reason that wealth is a "scarce", finite (at any one time) and rival resource, which must be competed for under the system we have. Sure, c'est la vie to a certain extent - resources are scarce and finite, but the scarcity we now face is entirely an artificial one. By imposing this artificial scarcity, we are forced to struggle. By struggling, we produce. And to produce, we must consume. Struggle is a funny friend and enemy, simultaneously, of happiness.

Happiness, on the whole, though is an infinite, non-rival resource. If I am happy, then you are not necessarily less happy as a consequence. But happiness doesn't lead to progress. In fact, the opposite might well be the case.

For the individual now, the challenge is to recover the grounds for happiness that exist but that are "obscured" by the lives we're "supposed" to live.

For society, the challenge is to translate this into a sustainable system. Key to the solution, I think, is in the happiness-struggle "dichotomy" (that isn't). Responsibility should be the buzzword of the 21st century - responsibility of the individual by the individual. Production should be both sustainable ecologically and personally - that is to say, sanity and happiness need to be maintained as a result. At the moment, things are heading the other way and, in reaction, opposing forces are very much at the other extreme, often.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Pictures of assholes

Worth a watch.

(Via Neil Gaiman.)

Techsplanation wanted

Would anyone care to explain why, when I enter http// in Firefox (i.e. without the colon before the slashes), I get redirected to Does this work for anyone else? Apparently it doesn't matter what I enter after the slashes either, so any broken link that misses the colon out will automagically bounce to MS.

Firefox conspiracy? Or Internet conspiracy? Or some "natural" explanation?

Monday, May 01, 2006

JK Galbraith RIP

Liberal economist JK Galbraith dies :(

One of the people I've only read a very small section of, but whose work that I have read has made me think very hard and impressed me deeply. The nature of production and consumerism, and a refreshingly alternative view on economics and economists... Plenty of catching up to do.