Put People First

The other day Greenpeace sent me an email urging me to join Put People First.

Here are PPF's aims, together with my reasons for not joining:
1. Compel tax havens to abide by strict international rules.
2. Insist on fundamental governance reform of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
This could mean anything. I'm all for UN institutions being controlled by a democratically elected world government.
3. Make all financial institutions, financial products and multinationals transparent and publicly accountable.
Again, I'm not sure what they're saying.
4. Ensure a massive investment in a green new deal to build a green economy based on decent work and fair pay.
No, no, no. Please no more public spending. The government needs to start getting out of debt, not getting deeper into debt.
5. Invest in and strengthen public provision of essential services.
As above.
6. Work to ensure sufficient emergency funding to all countries that need it, without damaging conditionalities attached.
'Conditionalities'? Don't they mean conditions? Anyway, we in the UK should be dismantling our protectionist policies, and promoting free trade.
7. Deliver 0.7% of national income as aid by 2013, deliver aid more effectively and push for the cancellation of all illegitimate and unpayable developing country debts.
Aid shouldn't be normal, it's only useful in emergencies. It's our job in the UK to make sure we're not in the way of countries getting themselves out of poverty. That means getting rid of our subsidies (common agricultural policy etc.) and getting rid of import tariffs that limit imports from other countries.

We can also make sure that intellectual wealth is available, for example by abandoning software patents.
8. Ensure that poorer states are allowed to take responsibility for managing their economies, including controlling cross-border capital flows.
9. Stop pushing developing countries to liberalise and deregulate their economies, and do not attempt to rush through a completion of the Doha trade round, a deal that developing countries have rejected several times.
Well other countries can do what they like, but we in the UK and Europe should be adopting free trade policies.
10. In addition to the green new deal (recommendation 4), introduce the robust regulatory requirements and financial incentives needed to deliver a green economy.
This is the wrong way round. Government shouldn't pick winners, this should be done by the market. What government can do is increase the price of emitting greenhouse gases.
11. Push for a deal at Copenhagen to agree substantial, verifiable cuts in greenhouse gases, which will limit temperature increases to well below 2°C.
12. Commit to substantial new resource transfer from North to South, additional to Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), to support adaptation and sustainable development in poor countries.
Again, I think aid is so difficult to get right, I'd rather rely on trade.

White people with blue eyes

I'm the target of a racist comment by Lula da Silva on the banking crisis:
"It is a crisis caused and encouraged by the irrational behaviour of white people with blue eyes,"
Willem Buiter has an interesting comment as ever, but my reaction is, 'The only thing I've got in common with white people with blue eyes, is that I'm white and I've got blue eyes!'


Another photo of me!

Red Nose Day at work.


That's Pascal behind me, and Bill took the photo, at March's Cafe Scientifique. We learnt how the current lithium ion batteries in phones, laptops etc. were invented in Oxford in the 80s and commercialized by Sony in the early 90s.

The speaker is working at Bath Uni on the next generation of batteries, to be used for powering cars. He's a chemist that uses computer models to investigate the properties of materials.

I was astonished to learn that ions can pass through a solid. Faraday wrote about it, how come I didn't know until now? Actually I was away the day they did ions in chemistry and I've never been entirely comfortable with them.


State of Fear

It's so sad that Michael Crichton has died. It's selfish, but I'd have loved to have heard his thoughts on global warming as time went on, and I've always enjoyed his books. State Of Fear seems to challenge the idea of global warming, and attacks the atmosphere in which it's hard (for reasons not to do with science) to voice an alternative view.

It made me think about what I believe about global warming. I've always taken the view that I'm not a climate scientist (or even a scientist come to that!) and so I can't make my own mind up. So I have to trust that the scientific method is proceeding as it should, and getting closer to the truth. So really I'm putting my trust in the scientific method. But who do you go to to find out what scientists think? Well that's really difficult in theory. In practice it's not a problem as time goes on, but on new questions it does seem to be a problem. For climate change I generally go by the IPCC.

One other thing: an idea put forward in the book is that scientific funding should be 'blind'. That is, the people carrying out the research shouldn't know who is funding it. That way you eliminate bias, both conscious and unconscious. I like this idea, can someone implement this now please?


Hooverdam Ogg Vorbis

I wage an intermittent campaign to get people to use Ogg Vorbis rather than MP3 because MP3 is encumbered by patents. Here's my latest message:
Hi, I went to http://www.hooverdamdownload.com/ to download the album, but it was only available in the MP3 format. Could you consider offering it in the Ogg Vorbis format please?
I wanted to listen to the track, Please don't put me on a slow boat to Trowbridge.


Right Round

I remember You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) from 1985 (I became pop-aware on 9th March 1981), and now I'm listening to the version by Flo Rida Featuring Kesha.

For me, covers fall into two categories; those that simply parrot the original, and those that take the original and make something genuinely new. I am of the opinion that Flo Rida's version is in the latter category.


Synaptic Glitch

One of the great things about Ubuntu is its automatic updater thing. Every now and then it checks to see if there are any updated versions of anything you've got installed. If there is, it gives you the option of installing them. This means that everything is always up-to-date. I often give this as an example of a practical reason for why Ubuntu is better than Windows.

But the other day, the updater suddenly stopped working! Each update is digitally signed so that you know it's really from Ubuntu, and for some reason my system wasn't recognizing that the updates were properly signed.

The way round it is to open up Synaptic in the System > Administration menu and change the repository from UK to Main. It must be that there was something wrong with the local UK repository. I hope this helps anyone else who comes across this problem.