2010-09-27

Never Let Me Go

I found Never Let Me Go to be almost unbearably sad. Ishiguro's talent is to evoke the strongest emotions with the lightest of language.

In most books, the world is opened up via the characters, they know more than the reader and gradually reveal it. The power of Remains Of The Day and NLMG lies in the fact that you know more than the characters, and the world you know is gradually revealed to them.

In the case of ROTD, the distance the characters have to travel is historical, and with NLMG the barrier that the characters face is institutional.

I know it couldn't be like that, but I wanted the protagonists to recognize and overcome their abuse. The fact that they didn't is scarily realistic. The question that this book shouts to me is, 'are we being abused in some way without properly recognizing it?'

2010-09-26

The Night Sessions

I've read The Star Fraction, and The Night Sessions is even better. Macleod's powers seem to be waxing. I'm always pleased when someone gets better with age, it gives me a little hope. There's humour and humanity in this book. Compared to The Star Fraction, I feel that this is a more confident work. As John Major would say, an author at ease with himself.

I like the way that the humans and robots co-exist as equals in their work as detectives. Though the problem is that by that stage in real life, the robots would have overtaken us and we would either have to augment ourselves or become irrelevant.

Talking of increased intelligence can someone tell me in detail what humankind's history would have been if our intelligence had been located in our fat, rather than in our brains? That is, if you got fatter, you got more intelligent. What would happen then?

ACTA and the Digital Economy Act

I can't stir myself to get all worked up over ACTA and the Digital Economy Act 2010.

As I see it, the world can be divided into physical, and informational things. Or rivalrous and non-rivalrous if you prefer. Examples of physical things are cars or a cakes. If I have it, you can't. Information on the other hand can be copied, so if I give you a copy of the information, I don't lose anything.

Different rules apply depending on whether something's physical or information. For physical things money works well. Also, you can have ownership, and therefore theft. For information things, money doesn't work, and nor does ownership.

There's been a recent flap because some products (music, films, software, books, newspapers) have moved over from the realm of physical to that of informational. In the old days of music, you had to buy a record or tape (or a wax cylinder!) and so the music industry worked by selling those physical things. Now, with advancing technology, music has moved over into the information domain.

Many of the old school record companies aren't willing to recognize this shift. They want to carry on as they did in the old days when music was physical. How can they carry on pretending music is still physical, when now it's information? Well, not easily. That's why they have used their considerable lobbying power to bring in draconian laws to force people to behave as if music is still rivalrous. And the result is ACTA and the Digital Economy Act.

Why am I not too worried about this? Well, it's so clearly a dead-end for record companies. A new economy, and way of doing business will spring up that isn't fighting against technology, but using it. For example, I expect bands will license their music to allow people to freely play, copy and modify it. But they will charge money for the physical bit, gigs, merchandising, public appearances etc.

I've concentrated on music, but the same goes for all those things moving from analogue to digital. I'm against ACTA and the Digital Economy Act, but I think it's a waste of energy to fight them since they are doomed to fail anyway. Let's use our energy to make a success of the new ways of doing things.

2010-09-16

Cleveland Pools, Bath

Thanks to Bill for organizing a visit to Cleveland Pools lido in Bath on Saturday. It's run-down and disused, but there's a group trying to restore it. There's a problem of attracting people to it in the off-season. I suggested using it as a skating rink in winter, and a skate-park in spring and autumn.


Rise Up Women!

I keep seeing this poster on my way to work. Must warn my fellow patriarchs.

2010-09-15

Copyright Assignment In Open Source Projects

The issue of copyright assignment for Open Source projects has come up again, this time regarding Canonical. I've been influenced by Michael Meeks' writing on the subject. (If you follow the link to his article, beware there's a theological rickroll!) I'm of the view that the contributor should retain copyright, and not assign it to anyone else. This effectively reduces the asymmetric power that a sole copyright holder has with GPL'd code. A comment on Shuttleworth's article is also against copyright assignment, which brings us nicely back to Canonical.

Fruit And Vegetable Box

Julia at work asked me to take a photo of the fruit and vegetable box I get delivered every week by Abel & Cole. The contents vary each week.

2010-09-13

Free the data of the UK electricity market

I lurk on the fringes of the Claverton Energy Group, and there's a perennial complaint that we in the UK don't have access to enough data on electricity generation. I therefore support the REF in their call for Transparency in the UK Electricity Market. The market can't work properly without information, and the REF is asking for:
1. The requirement that embedded generators on the distribution network record
sub-hourly metered generation data and make this freely available to the regulator, Ofgem, who should in turn put this into the public domain. At present this information is not collected.

2. Free public release of sub-hourly metered generation output data for each and every individual electricity generator in the United Kingdom, whether subsidized or unsubsidized. Currently, only part of this information is collected, and what exists is only available on subscription and for restricted and confidential use.

3. Full, free, and public disclosure of data relating to the Balancing Mechanism, including all participants in the market, and their utilization by National Grid. This
material is not at present available to the public, and since costs in this area are set to rise significantly, in large part due to the Government’s renewables policy, there is a pressing need to improve public scrutiny.

2010-09-07

Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O'Malley Armstrong


Dido remarks:
To be called one thing and christened another is actually very confusing and annoying. It's one of the most irritating things that my parents did to me....
My real name is Anthony (or Tony for short), but my family call me Andy, and always have done. I'm not sure what I think about that.