2010-11-30

The Golden City

It was at the end of The Golden City, the last of the Fourth Realm trilogy, that J12H made a privacy argument that I thought had something going for it. In Gabriel's climactic broadcast, he says:
And some of you may ask: 'Is there any value to privacy?'
All new ideas are dependent on some kind of mental privacy - the potential for peace and reflection. The Vast Machine provides information about us and gives the authorities a wide variety of ways to manipulate our thoughts with a subtle power. Everything we hear and see can be shaped to create certain prejudices. Free will - that is, our ability to make real choices about significant issues - becomes an illusion. Gradually, we are surrounded by targeted messages that destroy the opportunity to make our own decisions.
Powerful stuff. A strong argument against my view that privacy can be abandoned. My response is that 'peace and reflection' requires preventing write access, not read access to one's brain. It's true that the more people know about us, the easier it is to manipulate us. But it's at manipulation itself that we should draw the line, not the ability to manipulate.

2010-11-29

Grandet, A Warning To Misers

In Country House, Blur sing:
He's reading Balzac, knocking back Prozac
It's a helping hand that makes you feel wonderfully bland
Oh it's the centuries remedy
For the faint at heart, a new start
Eugenie Grandet is my first Balzac and I very much enjoyed it. He has fairly long descriptions, but they aren't tedious! EG is set in the Loire Valley, where Balzac was born / brought up I believe. I spent a holiday in the Loire Valley last year, and it made a great impression on me. I'd like to go back. It sounds incredible, but it hasn't changed all that much since Balzac described it at the beginning (?) of the 19th century.

EG has a more modern feel to it than the contemporaneous Jane Eyre. Why more modern? I don't know. I don't get paid to write this stuff you know. Apart from the ads, but they're very small beer.

Anyway, the story itself. It's a bit of a cautionary tale in a way. Casaubon in Middlemarch is a warning to me. I try to avoid things becoming a Key To Mythologies. In the same way, the figure of Grandet might help me to curb my miserly tendencies. The thing is, I kind of admire his cunning, and he did create wealth through the diligent management of his land and assets. He put the accumulation of wealth and love of money above everything. Not good.

I'm away to watch the new series of V now. Are you watching it? It's really very good you know.

2010-11-25

Ubuntu Laptops For Sale

I wondered why there weren't any cheap Ubuntu laptops for sale, so my business partner Nicky and I have posted the following advert on Gumtree:
Brand new laptop for sale, running the latest Ubuntu operating system.

Model: Novatech W12
Screen: 12.1 inch LED
Processor: AMD Neo MV40
RAM: 2GB
Disk: 500GB SATA Hard Drive
Graphics: ATI Radeon 1250
OS: Ubuntu http://www.ubuntu.com/

Comes with Firefox web browser and OpenOffice software for spreadsheets, word processing and presentations (compatible with MS-Office Word, Excel and Powerpoint files).

Also available: Netbook with 10 inch screen £265, laptop with 15.6 inch screen £355. Get in touch for more details!
What do you think? Know anyone who's looking for an Ubuntu laptop?

2010-11-24

Imprimatur-019

Patrice pointed out that the HTTP HEAD method in Imprimatur doesn't work, so I've fixed it in Imprimatur-019. Let me know if you have any problems with it.

2010-11-20

Fish Fight

I got a bulk email from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall advertising his Fish Fight campaign.

The campaign is asking people to sign the following letter:
To Commissioner Damanaki, Members of the European Parliament and all member state governments,

I have seen images of dead and dying fish discarded in European waters.

I understand that the current Common Fisheries Policy leads to discarding on a vast scale; for example, half of all fish caught in the North Sea are being discarded because of the current quota system imposed by the CFP.

I want this senseless waste of food to end. I want you to use your influence to stop this unacceptable and shameful practice.

I am supporting the Fish Fight campaign to help bring about this vital change in our seas.
I have signed the letter, but it doesn't provide any solutions. I think a first step would be stop the EU fishing subsidies. From 2000 to 2006 the EU fishing subsidy was 6bn EUR.

2010-11-18

Into Eternity

Sitting alone in the Rondo theatre on a cold and misty Monday evening in November, a few weeks before my 39th birthday, preparing to watch a documentary on nuclear waste disposal in Finland, I wondered what my life had come to.

The waste in the film has to be stored for 100,000 years before it decays to a non-radioactive substance. The experts say it can stay for around 100 years on the surface, but beyond that it becomes impossible to predict what might happen. The solution is to bury it deep in the rock so that it could only be exposed by people with the technology to understand the dangers of radiation.

My prediction is that we'll be able to transmute radioactive waste into harmless elements in a few decades. That shouldn't be relied upon though, and any company wanting to build a nuclear power station should be required to build a long term storage facility beforehand.


2010-11-14

Imprimatur: application/xml-dtd

Thanks to Patrice for pointing out that the URL of the Imprimatur DTD http://imprimatur.sourceforge.net/imprimatur-008.dtd is returning the wrong content type. IIRC it used to be text/plain, but then it must have somehow changed to text/html, I've now changed it to application/xml-dtd which I believe is correct.

Me Looking A Bit Weird

Sparkler Signature

Julia writing her name on Bonfire Night.

Charles Hendry - Tilting The Rules In Favour Of Nuclear

The UK energy minister Charles Hendry has called for (among other undesirable things) a capacity payment for low carbon electricity. Capacity payments are a market distortion that increases the cost of electricity. The way it works is that you're paid for being available to generate electricity, even if it's not used. It's being put forward by pro-nuclear lobbyists who know that they can't compete with other energy sources on a level playing field, and so are trying rig legislation in their favour.