2009-12-30

The World Of Zero Privacy

Maude: What if Schmidt was right? Why don't we abandon privacy?

Agnes: But what if you'd bought a birthday present for me? I wouldn't want to know about that until I open it.

Maude: Well just because you could know, it doesn't mean that you'd have to know. The information about what I'd bought you for your birthday would be there to see, but you wouldn't have to go and look at it.

Agnes: What about bank passwords Maude? I'm not telling that to the world.

Maude: In the world of zero privacy, passwords aren't needed.

Agnes: Pray explain...

Maude: With no privacy, it's harder to lie about who you are. Your bank would have lots of information available to judge if the person accessing your account is you.

Agnes: Go on...

Maude: Using cookies, webcams, OpenId, typing analysis, analysis of search terms, emails, chat etc. your bank can differentiate between you and an imposter very easily.

Agnes: Maude you've convinced me. Publish and be damned!

2009-12-20

Rock 'n' roll


Here's Dave, and his notorious t-shirt. I'm in favour of the t-shirt. What's your view?

Chestnuts

Andy had the great idea of roasting chestnuts. It worked out brilliantly. I'm going to try it. Does anyone want some roasted chestnuts?

I helped by sawing the sticks.

Fondue photos

Here are a couple of photos from when we had fondue...

This was the first, and most successful fondue. I stood up and read the instructions from the fondue book. A culinary dictator.

I haven't included photos of anyone else because I'm not sure people like their photos on the internet. It's all about me!

Router

There's nothing more boring than hearing about somebody else's broadband problems. So, a perfect topic for this blog then.

I got a new router from TalkTalk, but browsing the web was still really slow. I did a broadband speed test, and the speed was fine. I thought it might be that DNS lookups were slow, so I followed the advice on the unofficial TalkTalk blog and set the DNS servers manually. Now everything works fine!

You can see from the picture that the router doubles as a photo frame. Also, I've got a feeling that it uses a lot less electricity than the old router, simply because the transformer and router don't get as hot.

2009-12-12

Digital Economy Bill


The Digital Economy Bill says that the government can cut off your internet access. Cutting off internet access to a household can never be justified, even if a person in the household has committed a crime that involved using the internet.

If someone commits a crime involving water, the government quite rightly can't cut off the water supply to their household. Likewise the telephone. The internet falls into this category, the government should never be allowed to cut off a household's internet access.

2009-12-10

Slaughterhouse-Five

When Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse-Five writes that for the Tralfamadorians:
All moments, past, present and future always have existed, always will exist.
He's anticipating the ideas of Julian Barbour, who argues that time doesn't exist. That view seems to be part of Max Tegmark's Mathematical Universe. The idea of the mathematical universe appeals to me, as it embraces the ideas of Barbour and also the idea of a multiverse, explained brilliantly in The Fabric Of Reality.


Anyway, back to the book. People who know about these things would say that it's post-modern. It refers to itself, the author appears, all sorts of things. Tristram Shandy I thought.

I must say that I can't stand stories that play these clever tricks. Vonnegut gets away with it this time because it's so brilliantly done, and because the subject suits it. Usually though, you can't beat a proper story. Just like Iain Banks writes.

Having said that, I find it liberating that one can write successfully in a variety of ways. Nietzsche wrote a book entirely of aphorisms. I hope that the important thing is having something to say, and the form can look after itself.

2009-12-06

Noaty Thing

My brother and I used to play Monopoly continually as children. Anticipating the banking crisis by several decades, we would borrow huge sums from the bank to spend on sub-prime mortgages. The sums were so large that we used the spare title deed card as a promissory note for a gigantic amount of money. (Incidentally, this is how we learnt from my dad what a million was.)

Our mum didn't like us engaging in this large scale lending because it made the game too harrowing. So we hid money and the promissory note under the board. That's why you can see in the top right hand corner it says, 'noaty thing'. It could mean 'naughty thing'. I think it means 'noughty thing', meaning 'thing with a lot of noughts'.

Martin Amis's Money


My cousin is training to be a hairdresser and I went along to the salon where he's working and he gave me a new hair style for practice. John Self, the protagonist of Martin Amis's Money called it 'having a rug-rethink'. Self is the ultimate consumer. At the time it was written, nobody used the word 'sustainable' like they do now. Self's life is unsustainable. Not just environmentally though, his life simply cannot carry on in the same manner for long. All the time you're reading it you just know it's all going to come crashing down.

Money is one of those books that's always appearing in the top 100 of this and that. Jim, a temp at work, said it's one of his favourite books. I noticed it on the shelf at my aunt's boyfriend's house. It just kept appearing.

The book is incredibly well written. It's just bang on with its rugs and socks. Brilliantly clever; the writing is just in a different league to most books. Very funny as well as clever. At one point Self is explaining how someone has a quick temper. He says, 'for him, every straw's the last straw. The first straw is the last straw.'

Amis makes highly effective use of italics. In homage I've used lots of italics in this post.

Smile came good after all!

Actually the haywire Smile episode wasn't as bad as I made out. They'd previously sent me a new card in the post and I just hadn't opened the envelope yet. I activated the new card and it worked fine. Thanks Smile!

2009-12-05

Haywire Smile


I was at Bath Farmers' Market and needed some cash to buy a tarte au citron. The Sainsbury's cash machine said, 'the card issuer has not authorized payment'. I rang my bank, Smile, and they said, 'the system has gone haywire! In the last hour and a half it started sending out new cards to people and canceling their current ones!' A bit like Skynet.

2009-12-03

Bath Film Festival 2009


Cold Souls did indeed remind me of Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Paul Giamatti makes anything watchable. He reminds me of Woody Allen. Brainy, introverted and whiny. Cold Souls is a gentle, enjoyable comedy.

Un Prophete is a gripping story of a man who enters prison as the lowest in the pecking order, and climbs his way to the top. Rather than thinking, 'I must remember this if I ever end up in prison', it made me even more determined to avoid prison. I quite liked the subtitles, as it made it easier to work out what was going on. Convincing prison atmosphere is often at odds with clear diction. The final scene stayed with me. You know, the bit where the cars come round the corner one after the other. Cleverly done.

A Serious Man was the most mainstream of the films I saw at the festival. It does a fine job of evoking a particular world. I'm not a sophisticated film-goer, so the thing that interested me most was the serious man's brother. Particularly his 'mentaculus', a book to do with probabilities. It helped him win at cards, but it turned out that what he was doing was illegal. I wanted the mentaculus and the brother to save the day and everything would end happily. Okay, that would have destroyed the artistic integrity of the piece, but...


For me the best film by far that I saw at the festival was The Sky Crawlers. The first thing is that the music was outstanding. It seemed to capture the mood of the film perfectly. The emotional tone of the story, animation and music were all in concert. Crawlers showed the best of what a film can be. I was transported to a different world. The animation was in its rightful place as part of the film, rather than the film being a vehicle for the animation. Really, the film was driven by the story, which is the right way round. I find that few films deserve a second viewing. This one would. The best film I've seen this year.

A Right Twister

Doing maths is exciting, maths textbooks are boring, reading about the exploits of mathematicians is interesting. So what I enjoyed most about In Code was the human story of Sarah Flannery rather than the maths itself.

Flannery now works at TirNua.