IT Week (ZDNet UK) is reporting that Sony's been showing off its new PalmOS based handheld PC at PCExpo2000. Sony's clutch of PCExpo news releases can be found here, and a picture of the Sony PalmOS device is available here. Also cool is the MZR70PC, a Sony portable minidisc recorder with a USB kit to connect it to a PC.
Need a new display? Can't be bothered buying one? Just print it out - New Scientist covers printable LEP displays (light-emitting polymers), blogged many times before as a wonderful technology that I can't wait to get my hands on.
"Last week's demo showed a mobile-phone-sized 6.3-centimetre LEP screen, displaying a colour video of TV quality on a 270 000-pixel screen. CDT claims it will be able to manufacture its display cheaply enough to make colour video affordable on future wireless Internet devices, such as palm tops, webpads and mobile phones."
A hideously long phone catch-up conversation with one of my old schoolfriends Dom last night resulted in him telling me all about his new job: working in a factory with raisins to make malt loaf. Apparently, economy malt loaf has six kilogrammes less raisins than other well known malt loafs. I bet you didn't know that... I bet you didn't want to know that they cleaned out the raisin machine for the first time in a month yesterday as well... and that it was clogged up with decaying, mouldy raisins. Bleugh.
Anyway, to satisfy all those curious, here's a malt loaf recipe, a bizarre malt loaf price watch-cum-fan-page, and of course, what some regard as the industry-standard malt loaf (if brand name recognition is anything to go by).
I can't believe I've just done an entire entry on bloody malt loaf. That's just malt loaf. Not bloody malt loaf. That'd be black pudding, a completely different... oh, sod it... wait a sec...
The previously blogged Independent Photograph Gallery sells photographic reprints from £12-£17.50 excluding posting and packaging. I'm going to have to buy this print of the broken face of St Rufino at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi for my digs next year (can't believe I just used the word digs...)
Bloody hell - Bindi points me to Crush on eCRUSH - the eBay of online crushes. Is there anything this worldwide web phenomenom won't bulldoze in its path?
Let me just think about this for a sec... yep, got it.
So, the idea is you tell them if you have a crush on someone. If that someone has a crush on you, then wahey--it matches you up. No more meddlesome gossip-hungry friends to get in the way of two perfectly well-adjusted adults (or probably teens) who just happen to be shy or just sheer-scared-to-death.
But: let's run with this. All they need to do is integrate this into WAP phones or PDAs with IR or Bluetooth and then it can automatically interrogate everyone in the same room as you. No more awkward social situations! Trouble-free dating!
Course, people have to have a crush on you in the first place...
[ n o r t h 7 - weblog ] - a britblog I really should have pointed to you all a while ago, that has loads of cool pictures, a funky background, nice content, and... um, pictures that seem to be from other weblogs... Well, I recognise that highindustrial wheel second from top right...
Has anyone noticed in the new raft of BT you can work at home adverts (the one where one dad stays in the office over the weekend, whilst the other goes home and uses his fax and computer), that the dad who goes home manages about thirty seconds of time with his kid, and that was to find his trainers for him... so BT are saying that hey, we can spend all weekend working at home Yay! I've always wanted to do that. And now, apparently, you can, too...
Sorry. Far too much italicised text in that paragraph...
Having read about thirty pages of The Meme Machine so far, it's painfully obvious that copying people doing stuff is incredibly important to Susan Blackmore's argument. Which is why a story on mirror neurons, apparently devoted to imitation, is interesting...
Apparently, companies need to teach their employees how to use IT effectively (and to use it at all...) The Time reports on in-houseIT training. Extract:
"Last year, a report commissioned by Novell UK found that e-mail is often used aggressively. This is known as flame-mail. Most flame-mail is sent intra-department. Almost one-fifth of people who have been abused in this way said their relationship with the sender was irrevocably damaged. The most likely source of flame-mail is the boss."
Students at Corpus Christi, Cambridge return a vote of no-confidence in their senior tutor, Christopher Kelly, because the college returned to a system whereby the best second year undergraduate rooms were allocated to those with the best first year exam results.
Not really big news, I'm surprised that The Times picked up on it at all, and anyway, this story is at least five weeks old. Nevertheless, I don't really see what Corpus is complaining about, Caius has always shunted those who get firsts in exam results to the top of the housing ballot, and I have no problem with that whatsoever: work hard and get a reward.
Now that Church leaders are fighting a European directive forcing Christian charities and schools to employ non-believers and practising homosexuals [not too sure how hot the Times's reporting is here], I'd like to just say one word: tolerance. But then again, I'm of the opinion that positive discrimination is not the way to go...
They think it's all over... well, it probably is now: blow to England 2006 bid. Not only do our grounds not seem to be up to scratch but, (obviously), "McGivan admitted, however, that the bad behaviour of England's fans at Euro 2000 had also damaged the bid's prospects." [BBC News]
More on mobile phone sociology: a Guardian article on text messaging in the UK (probably blogged this before). Tellingly, "Orange has found that 64% of its customers think that text messages are "a good way to flirt with people they'd like to know better".". Right. Hands up. Who's flirted using mobile phone text messages? Have you? Why? And I'll admit that I have...
Yes! The answer to the question everyone's been asking (and if you haven't heard them asking it, then they've been asking it quietly...) a research paper from (um, can't find out... QMCED.ac.uk? Addressed to department of Geography at Glasgow University?) Anyway, here it is: Why people say where they are during mobile phone calls.
"It is argued that a concern with theoretical innovations and vocabularies effectively distance them from everyday affairs where ordinary actors practically understand what it going on in their worlds. This practical understanding is inherent in the intricacies of a conversational 'ordering' which is at one and the same time also an ordering of the times and spaces of these worlds. Choosing an indifferent approach to the 'grand theories' of culture, some detailed understandings of social practices are offered via the alternatives of ethnomethodological and conversational investigations."
Currently listening to the wonderfully lilting, melancholic sound of Coldplay, and their single Yellow. Excellent fan site that apparently is going to be merging with the coldplay.com offical site in a few weeks, a nice interview from BBC's Jools Holland Later... series, and the obligatory google search.
One application down, about a million to go. And I'm about three quarters of the way through an increasingly verbose covering letter to the civil service (anyone for a summer job in the Lord Chancellor's Department or the Cabinet Office Central Information Technology Unit?)
Ebble, ostensibly in the webdesign business, have a godawful site. Not only is there absolutely nothing of any interest or content on the site apart from a sparse contact form and an unbelievably bad page on what appears to be a business site.
Now, this wouldn't be too bad if Ebble just stuck to their own little corner of the web and carried on cranking out their own crap on www.ebble.co.uk. But that's not enough, is it. Not at all.
Ebble is behind the Brook Advisory Clinic website. Brook provides free, confidential sex advice and contraception to all young people. Welcoming everybody, and and acting totally confidentially. So they're a great, useful service for young people. They do not need that travesty in HTML that they've been lumbered with. I think I'm going to have to email them and do a freebie. This kind of thing just pisses me off. I just hope they weren't charged for the site they got...
"There are MILLIONS of people in this world who are genuinely starving, at mortal risk and/or live under a repressive regieme that end up with them risking their lives to escape the institutionalised torture, rape and murder. THEY have problems. YOU are a whinging, white middle-class dickhead with absolutely no concept of how good your life is in the scheme of the planet. If only you could open up your tiny mind outside of your own self-obsession you might realise that."
Wow. TV of the future here today. I've just been playing with Sky News Active, but the only real conclusion I can come to is that TVs need to be a) at least wall-sized and b) incredibly high resolution.
"It had a newly-appointed "superhead", Torsten Friedag, and almost entirely new staff. Some £3m has been spent improving the buildings and facilities.
"But in the spring term there were reports of playground fights between different ethnic groups. Then in March Mr Friedag resigned suddenly.
The idea behind these fresh start schools is to install a new head and throw lots of money at the problem... when the problem more often than not isn't just the school--it's the entire area and the surrounding social demographics. (Okay, controversial...)
William Hague wants to ban 'identikit' new homes [BBC News], which sounds like a rallying call against the same-old designs popping up in greenfield developments. But it's not. It's just a rallying cry against greenfield sites altogether. A bit like the gaudy American McMansion [def. and google search] problem, then.
Last week's Need To Know! seemed to think that Greg Egan's Permutation City was "provably the most mathematically rigorous s/f novel ever". Me, I disagree. Greg Egan's Diaspora is far more rigorous, and anyone who disagrees can go right out a buy a copy...
Great, isn't it.The world’s most powerful computer will always take up a hideous amount of space. Bet you can't tell the difference between the picture in that article and one taken of a mainframe twenty years ago... [MSNBC]
Kudos to the people doing the Chicane Online for using PHP. Current repeatedly-played track is No Ordinary Morning. Still can't get over the fact that the guy's name is Nick Bracegirdle, though. Must have had engineering parents...
I like the noframes tag, though: Sorry, it's about time you got a browser that can handle frames. IT'S THE YEAR 2000!!!
Personal lives are fun. Well, fun in the sense that they always end up throwing new and interesting things to you, to the extent that you can never really take a step back and relax. Unless, that is, you decide to become a hermit and lock yourself in a cave somewhere, though in some cases I suspect that kind of action would be tantamount to inviting an avalanche or earthquake to visit with resounding force.
My personal life's been great. It really has. Absolutely amazing. Terrific. More superlatives and cliches than you could throw a swinging cat in a room at. Tonnes of stuff happening all over the place, and completely not threatening to spill over at all.
I've had a greatball (more pictures). That pretty much sums up everything I said for the twenty four hours after the ball. With a great date, oodles of free champagne, loads of stuff to do and the best heckling I've ever done in my life, I had a great time...
Heckling? Oh, that. There was a "comedian" at one of the marquees whom the programme proclaimed to be a "gag man", "combining intellignce with greeat comedy timing to produce the optimum number of gags per minute."
Needless to say, gag humour isn't something that I can appreciate. And, apparently, neither could the audience in the marquee. So much so that people starting coming into the marquee to watch this comedian die a horrible death on stage. He just kept going:
Gag. Silence. Gag. Silence. "Oh, come on. Laugh goddamnit." Silence.
It got to the point that Mary desperately wanted to throw the free chocolates on the table at him, and not wanting to do it herself (good choice), co-opted me. We threw. She missed. I hit.
Which proved to be the best comedy of his entire set because once hit, he immediatly locked eyes with me and asked me to step outside. Yay. Mary and I left shortly afterwards, not able to take more of his non-comedy, and were followed by a sizeable crowd in the marquee (as in, "look, the chocolate-throwing people are leaving. Let's leave too!).
Dave, one of my friends who stayed until the end, told us later that he ended his set by saying that he was going to find "that Chinese bloke...", which managed to get a laugh.
Mary and I saw the comedian sometime later, from a distance. He didn't look too happy...
Anyway... Plans for this summer?
I start work on Monday at Liverpool University working on Elias. Big secret project. Should be lots of fun, but it's definitely going to be hard work, and a minimum four week-project. The pay-off is large, though, with a completion bonus if we do the job within six weeks.
After that, I may have a job down in London during August for a few weeks (about four), and then a holiday is in order... I could do with some time not being in the country.
Mary came down on Monday for the ball after having to endure a horrendous train journey that can only be described as a railtrack franchise operator's sadistic fantasy involving thirty degree heat, screaming children and a complete inability to work signals or, for that matter, anything to do with trains at all.
Anyway. We had a great time, went out to dinner with friends, tried to get to sleep, got up at the ungodly hour of quarter to seven on Tuesday morning (when I was subjected to sharp observation about castles and battlements). A nice time round town, got caught in the rain, caught a film (Driver and Duchovny in Return to Me), and then...
We went to The Ball. It was good. There was unlimited drink. There was unlimited food. There was candy floss. Lulu was there. Boy George was there (insert nice DJ words here). There was a vodka ice luge sculpture. We made a hideous amount of money at the casino. Our flatmate got hypnotised. Many, many, many things. Even more photos.
Okay guys, thanks for the mention on blogger - but I'm apologising now for an appalling lack of content: I've got a ball and loads of garden parties to go to, so I'm busy doing "other things". See you all soon... The cam'll probably be up for a while as well.
The cam is now working on motion detection mode -- anyone coming within five metres of our house now gets snapped, pasted up on the web and a two second video clip recorded. How's that for big brother?
Apparently, the Italians have suddenly realised that they need to brush up on their manners. I can't say with any honesty whether I noticed or not. What sparked all of this? Why, it's a new book, of course:
"One best-selling manual on modern manners by a prominent aristocrat tells men not to put their elbows on the table, not to wear short socks showing inches of hairy leg, never to wear matching tie and handkerchief and always to give up their seat for a woman on public transport.
"Women are instructed not to wear plunging necklines and see-through tops in the office, and both sexes are reminded how to address a prince, a cardinal or the Pope."
Well, it's up, and it's up properly. The webcam is available in both medium and small sizes, from the #now sidebar on your right and on the nice little webcam page. Those of you who are morbidly interested in this kind of thing will either find yourselves staring out of my window (much as I do, but since it's summer now, I'm going to be on the other side of said window), or staring into my room (in much the same manner as those idiots who walk past our house and gormlessly stare. And wave).
Either way, I'd like to take this opportunity to say "Hello" and in the manner of a rather British phone advert: welcome to my world (God that's cheesy).
Sheesh. All you have to do is be featured in a magazine, scan the article in and then your stats go mental. Cam seems to be working for me now, which is bizarre. I have no idea why. The Creative Webcam Go, by the way is an absolutely crap digital stills camera. Great as a webcam, but not too good as the untethered stuff goes (hard to focus picture, saturation, brightness off the scale, complete inability to deal with sunlight). That said though, once I get back to uni, it's going to be Annoying People Who Stare Through My Window Cam...
We had a drunken but not debauched pictionary game tonight, rapidly followed by the Psychiatrist Game -- though we changed the rules a little after the first game, playing with "yes/no" questions, and then having bizarre psychiatric ailments such as pretending to be five years old, being the cast of Star Trek, answering "yes" if a name was mentioned in the question...
Music. Wonderful. Creative's Digital Audio Player Jukebox. Even more wonderful. 6gb of storage in a discman form-factor. 100 hours of MP3 audio. USB interface. DSP built in, and 4-channel surround sound support. Damn thing takes 4 AA batteries though, and battery life is only about four or five hours. Still, damn fun...
Ever since the cancellation of the superconducting super collider project, high energy experimental physics has had to make do with CERN. Recent efforts include the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at New York's Long Island which has been recently covered by BBC News. Those particularly interested in particle physics could do worse than check out the Particle Adventure...
Another long day. Even after the hell that is known round here as "exams", and that by all rights should be abolished, I still don't seem to be able to get a day where I can have a nice lie in. Today and yesterday were a case in point: I had to get up to be in the faculty for 9am yesterday and today for dissertation seminar meetings. The upside? My application form's filled in, and I'm ready to go.
I've applied to do a dissertation in the area of medical ethics and law. This suits me fine, since I've always been interested in the biological natural sciences, in fact, I've always been interested in science: we've had subscriptions to New Scientist at home since God knows when, I've been busy reading popular science books by Greene, Hawking, Dawkins, Jones and Pinker for at least the last four years. I'm interested. I like what they talk about, and I like understanding. The way I see it, science is contributing so much to society these days that you can't afford not to make some kind of effort to learn what's going on.
Anyway. Medical Ethics.
Loads of stuff going down in that area. My three suggested dissertation topics (in order of preference) were:
1) The ethical debate concerning the use of germ line gene treatment and therapy and the resulting sociological effects of the widespread use of such treatment.
Germ line treatment is a tricky subject. Conventionally, gene therapy delivery mechanisms can be utilised to treat individuals, or, in the case of germ line therapy, the therapy is able to alter the gametes of the individual as well (i.e. spermatazoa and egg cells). Obviously, this has profound implications - we're in designer baby territory here. Where do we start? Where the hippocratic oath covers the "First do no harm" position, do we start by treating potential diseases? Do we treat when there is a a definite likelihood (i.e. 100%) of a congenital defect being expressed? Or where that likelihood is less? There's so much mileage in this that I'm going to have to pin down the exact area at some point. But right now, it gives me a load of room to maneuveure in.
I googled (is that a new adverb? adjective?) an ethics paper on the same from the Dalhousie Medical Journal. There's a mountain of material out there. I'm just going to have to sift through it all...
Essentially, the arguments for germ line therapy concern the permanent correction of serious illnesses and diseases. Ethical arguments suggest that it is more practical in terms of suffering, discomfort and technical requirements, to corret such a disorder at the beginning of life via germ line therapy than by attempting to correct it later.
Of course, this wouldn't be a valid essay if there weren't an opposing view. And there are: obviously, the potential misuse for genetic enhancement and eugenics is practically irrefutable. Further, we still don't understand how genetic mechanisms work in the human body, not to any great degree --premature use of germ line therapy before we fully understand the mechanisms of human genetics may result in the disruption of gene therapy. More arguments against the deployment of such technology also include issues regarding patient autonomy.
2) An examination of the ethics concerning research utilising stem cells, embryos and aborted fetuses.
3) An examination into the debate concerning the patenting of genetic data (human or otherwise), exploring the US/UK positions on such patenting with reference to the Human Genome Project and the Scandinavian public/private partnership model.
It's been a long time. Okay, maybe it hasn't been a long time at all, but it sure as hell felt a long time, and let's be honest, that's all that counts, right?
So, yeah... content. In reverse chronological order, which must really fuck up you weblog people in the head...
Those UK Bloggers I've got to admit that I was shit scared on Sunday. I felt crap most of Saturday night, had a bad cold, couldn't sleep, runny nose, all that kind of stuff. Sore throat. Late night. Not good. Watched films (more of that later). By the time that I did get to sleep it was late, and I still had washing to do...
It just felt weird. I hadn't done anything like this before. I was meeting people who I kind of knew, since I'd either emailed or ICQed them, I'd read their blogs, got an insight into their personality. I hadn't done a Lloyd Wood on them, but hey, I felt like I knew these people quite well.
Didn't feel that way on the train. Nope. Not at all. I'd invited Natalie, one of my flatmates, to see if she wanted to come with me and it turned out that she was actually going to London to visit friends anyway. We'd take the same train down, maybe meet up later to come back home. I freaked out on the train.
I don't know these people! Everyone knows how people are different online than from what they are out in the real world. Everyone's different. People are different in letters, in emails, on the phone... And for some godforsaken reason, I'd decided to meet arrange a meeting with complete strangers. Strangers who, you know, might be nice and all online, they might be great, eloquent, have universally acclaimed domain names, but they still might be axe murderers. Have you never seen that Mike Myer's film?
Natalie told me not to freak out. Hey, these were normal people. They were cool people. I wanted to meet them. No problem. No problem at all.
So we got to King's Cross and headed for the WHSmiths where we were supposed to be meeting. Jen was there. Good. I went away to buy some tissues to appease my dangerously misbehaving cold, and by the time I came back, Dave and Giles had managed to turn up. Katy and Tom were lingering, and by the time Luke, Meg and Johanna had turned up, we headed off to the pub. The Lincoln, I think. Steve turned up about ten minutes later, having been given directions.
What a cool day.
You see, now I've built up the whole thing. I've spent the last few paragraphs telling you how uptight I was, how I thought everything'd be an unmitigated disaster.
It wasn't. I had a great time. I got to meet people and put the cliched name to a face. There's a collection of faces available, if you're that way inclined. Oh, and please don't try and work out the url that Giles chose for the photos. It's a long, complicated story...
Bizarrely, people seem to be talking about haircuts. Luke briefly mentioned his hair in a post to the list. Steve mentioned his hair, too. Well, as with the rest of the blokes, I apologise for mine. Anyway, it's being cut in a rather vicious manner tomorrow morning.
Scary Dissertations and Suchlike Sometimes I wonder if I'm doing the subject that I should be doing. By that I mean whether I'm doing the right thing studying law in the hope that I grow up to be a big solicitor in the city with a nice wife, house, car and kids.
One of the reasons is that although I can do law, and I can write the essays, quite a lot of it has seemed, well, dull so far. Never mind. This is only the academic bit.
Anyway, all a moot point: I get to choose a dissertation for next year. I need to think about it, but obviously not too much, because the deadline for submissions is 4pm tomorrow afternoon. I've got a number of thoughts going...
First off is a human rights-based dissertation looking at the right to privacy and freedom of expression in an electronic surveillance / cryptography framework: i.e., I really want to have a go at this Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill. There's a lot of mileage in this subject, lots of new case law, and the opportunity to compare with other domestice legal systems, most notably the US.
Second up are law and the ethics of medicine and family in society; both of which look like they're going to be providing interesting topics on stem cell research work and genetic engineering.
Twentyfiveframespersecond The Iron Giant. I've wanted to see that film for ages. Absolutely ages. And now I have. I want to see it again. It's an amazing film, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Go see it. Buy a DVD player to see it. Persuade a cinema to run it again. Just go see it.
I feel crap, since I seem to have acquired an overnight cold, and am sneezing all over the place. There isn't enough Beechams Lemsip to make me feel slightly better. I have that annoying bunged up feeling.
And now it's raining. I've got to go out in the rain and bloody cycle to my last exam and it's pissing it down. How crap is that? Yesterday the weather was great. Now it's cold, wet and miserable. Here's the proof.
This week's Feedback section in New Scientist is good for a few laughs.
The DTI's Home Accident Surveillance System report is out, based upon 1998 data. Unfortunately, the report is not available online, but it looks like you can request a free copy to a UK address.
A few snippets from the New Scientist article: there have been an estimate of 996 sponge-related accidents nationwide, but trouser accidents have risen nationwide from 4440 to 5137. I'm not quite sure what a trouser accident is (whether it's something that happened in the movie American Pie, or just an embarrassing wet patch), but 9843 people managed to be injured by socks and tights. Yes, I don't know how either.
There's a new a-list playlist in the #now music section, seeing as I accidently deleted it and replaced it with my entire playlist. Whoops. Had to rebuild it, and naturally, it wasn't the same as before.
I think "eclectic" is the nice way of describing my taste in music. "Bizarre" is probably nearer the mark, though.
It's twenty to one in the morning, as good as any time to be prone to introspection. I'm reading through my diaries. I haven't done so for a very long time, and I haven't written anything for a while, either. There was a bit of a scare when they got infected with a macro virus, but I've managed to clean them all (like you care).
Many of the nicest times I've ever felt were when I was with my last girlfriend. This one stands out in particular:
this feels good... I feel... ... safe... from what? ... the world...
Yes, horribly slushy, but it was so... nice.
I'm still proud of the preface to my current diary, though. It reads:
How does he do it? Where does Luke get such inspired spam from? I know I shouldn't be complaining, but his spam seems to be so interesting. And so plentiful. Never said anything about being led to the land of milk and spam in the bible, though, did it...
Well, they're not covering h2g2 because it's brand new. They're not covering it because Douglas Adams has done anything earth-shatteringly interesting recently. Perhaps they just covered him because they thought he was cool? I've got no problems with that. Regardless, BBC News has a story on Douglas Adams, talking about h2g2 and the forthcoming film. I like how one of the paragraph headings is "Drunk".
I'd just like to point out that it was a sarcastic eight ball. When I saw the answer, I assumed that it meant Tom and Katy would whup Mark's ass. Or have I just completely lost the plot whatsoever?
I'd have to side with Katy on the northern girls thing, though. It's true. There was a whole girls' school of them down the road from my school... And does anybody remember primary school playgrounds? They'd go for your shins. With those pointed shoes. Ouch.
If I wanted to shoot ducks, I'd probably be put in jail or something. Shooting ducks is probably a mean, illegal thing to do, because it'd involve guns, and in this country, we don't like guns that much.
It's okay for the government to shoot ducks, though. Or at least kill them. The thing is, though, it costs them £1,000 to shoot a ruddy randy duck. That's a lot of money per duck. The government's started hiring hunters, but the ducks are too good. They're ducking and diving (sorry), escaping into water and swimming into reeds.
The ducks' crime? It's been condemned to die because of its sexual prowess.
There's a Times review and an NME review (take your pick) of the new Belle & Sebastian album Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant. Both award the album eight out of ten. The Times say that they've got "musically, better and better", though the NME's review is more telling:
"Quintessentially Belle & Sebastian. Frustrating. Contrary. Insubstantial. Yet, in that insular, cloyingly sanctimonious world they inhabit, still peerless, still irresistible."
The Times has a critique on the PlayStation2, suggesting that it isn't the games console it was hyped up to be. Well, duh. Of course it wasn't. The hype had built up to such an unbelievable degree that people would've believed it would make your coffee as well as play your DVDs (it does the latter, a fact conveniently not mentioned in the Times article)... And did those reviewers not even see Metal Gear Solid 2?
It's that time again. With exams nearly, nearly over (only seven days to go!), it's time to go over to Dillons and Heffers, the two main bookshops in Cambridge and raid them for paperbacks. Post-exam time normally involves a hideous amount of drinking, and just a little of sitting under trees on the banks of the Cam reading a book (just to appease the tourists, who've come to see stuff like that).
So: which books to buy? Each Saturday the Times prints its new paperbacks selection, along with a review of a book by an up-and-coming author. And if that doesn't help, I'm sure about an hour browsing in a bookshop with coffee will probably do...
The BBC covers a story about mpeg-4 video compression (also known as DivX, confusingly the same as a failed DVD-based format), which manages to scrunch an hour's worth of video into 350mb. The best part of the article, though, is the caption to a still from the film Saving Private Ryan:
"Soon you could be saving Private Ryan to your hard drive"
I bet whoever thought that one up was lying on the floor in stitches...
I'm seriously thinking about getting myself a domain and hosting--I've had to ask for more quota on the student webserver that I'm using at the moment, and it probably won't be long until I'd have to ask for more. As it is, since I'm a poor student, I'm looking at Pair's basic service (30mb, 100mb traffic/day, $5 per month, access by ftp only, one pop account), and registration of a .com domain through one of ICANN's accredited registrars.
Is Pair good? Are there better deals? Should I go through NSI (heard bad things about them), or are these new people alright? Ideally, I'd like a UK registrar, but for hosting I'd rather go to the US (it's so much cheaper)...
This easyspace place was listed on ICANN, but their site looks a bit tacky. Their .com prices are cheap, though...
Way back at the beginning of the year, Mary and I were emailing each other top five lists since we'd both got Nick Hornby's High Fidelity for Christmas and were suitably in awe of his writing. One of the top five lists was things that we wanted to have done before we died, so...
Five things I want to have done before I've died.
1=. Have kids. (Be able to walk into a bookshop and say to my friends "Look! I did that!" and be talking about the tiny person holding my hand.)
1=. Write a book and have it published. (Be able to walk into a bookshop and say to my friends "Look! I did that!" and be talking about my book, not a stack of books I'd just been paid to pile up in the corner)
3. Join the mile high club, though I suspect that once Richard Branson has put all those double beds on his planes the membership will skyrocket and that's probably cheating. (Inspired by Mary's list)
4. Visit places. Australia. China. And maybe indulge in some (light) capitalism in America.
5. Learn another instrument. Maybe the violin. And get really good at it.
Matt from interconnected writes about the xml blogger directory and a favourites / last updated resource. He thinks that the network traffic would require XML syndication - thoughts directed to Matt. I'm still trying to get my head round XML at the moment.
It'd be nice if someone could hack the xml Blogger Directory so that we could have a last-updated thing like on weblogs.com. Weblogs.com only works every hour. I want to know right now when my last favourite blogs were updated. To the minute... Pretty please?
So, I wake up yesterday morning at the ungodly hour of half five in the morning for a nine o'clock exam. I go take a shower. I start looking over my notes. I take a break, make some tea, have breakfast... and then wonder why, for reason, why I don't have any email.
No email at all. No one's sent me email between one and seven in the morning. Not even slashdot.org, or other various American mailing lists that prefer sending their batches out in the morning hours. It's at this point that I notice Windows 2000 has been completely failing to dial out, and I check the error logs. I'm paraphrasing, here.
"Well, the last time I was connected was at two in the morning. And then we got chucked off at about fourish seeing as ntlworld are like that, and don't like letting people stay online for more than two hours at a go. So I tried again, like you told me to in that checkbox, you know, the one that says redial if line dropped. I called the 0800 number like you told me to, but then no one answered! So I tried again, and again and again. I got bored then, so I've given up now. Maybe you should ask them what's going on?"
An aside: error messages would be much more fun, more tolerable and more informative if they were presented this way.
Stuff that, I thought, and did some more international law. I went to an international law exam instead. I went to college, picked up mail, read a few newspapers, did the odd crossword, went to Sainsburys, read New Scientist, and came home.
Daniella and Julie were a bit miffed that they weren't able to check their email on my computer, and to that extent, Julie had gone all the way into college, found a computer and emailed me to tell me that email on my computer wasn't working.
I fired off an email to ntl through freeserve, which was very polite and asked them exactly when they were planning on answering their phones again.
I waited about thirty seconds, and got bored, read Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow for about twenty minutes, and then called ntlworld's one pound a minute support line.
They spent at least thirty seconds on a recording telling me that I was being billed at one pound a minute. When someone picked up (remarkably quickly, I might add), he spent another forty five seconds trying to work out what my postcode was. I gave it him. He typed it in wrong. I gave it him again. He typed it in wrong. I gave it to him again, spelt out all the words, and asked if branding it onto his hands would make it easier for him to remember it. I didn't actually say that, but I was feeling that way.
Armed with postcode information, he asked me "So, what problem have you been having with ntlworld?" "I can't connect. Automatic dialing stopped working at four in the morning." "Yes, we know. The entire network's down. We're working on it." "When wil it be fixed?" "I don't know." "OK. Thanks.
I was slightly incensed. I hung up. And then went outside.
The Times is reporting that the government will be fighting any attempt to introduce a citizen's bill of rights induced by the European Union.
A few things I learnt about the Human Rights Act last year (and managed to shoehorn into an exam essay about the incorporation and transformation of international law into municipal English law yesterday):
It's what we call weak incorporation. In that way, direct effect of international law isn't necessarily given effect to in the UK (or in this case, England and Wales), which means that the European Convention on Human Rights "sort-of" applies.
What you've got to bear in mind is that constitutionally, Parliament is supposed to be the supreme legislative body. Things got a bit messy in 1972 when we joined the EC/EU, because Parliament ceded some of its legislative supremacy to the EU, seeing as a lot of people didn't think that was possible. One of the fundamental cornerstones of UK constitutional law is that Parliaments cannot bind successive Parliaments. Makes sense if you think about it.
With that in mind, the Human Rights Act (HRA), works like this... (slightly simplified)
When a court interprets an Act of Parliament, it has to interpret it in such a way as it does not countervene the Human Rights Act, so pesky little things like the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill would have to be interpreted to give effect to Convention rights.
Not too bad, right?
Er, no. You see, even when a court tries to interpret that Act so that it's compatible with your Convention Rights (which, by the way, you don't necessarily have--well, not in an English court, anyway), and they find out that they can't interpret the legislation in a way that's compatible, you're more or less shafted.
Legislation that's incompatible with Convention Rights is still regarded as being valid, and may continue operating and also continues to be enforced.
You're in the same position with subordinate legislation. If the primary legislation is incompatible, and prevents removal of that incompatibility, then tough luck. The subordinate legislation still applies, even if it's incompatible.
So what happens next? The court tells Parliament that the legislation is incompatible by making a declaration of incompatibility. Once the court's made that declaration, the legislation is still valid, continues to operate and continues to be enforced. The buck passes over to Parliament, but the declaration isn't binding on the parties to which the case was brought to court.
So, get up and cheer for the Human Rights Act. You've never had it so good.
If you're slightly annoyed by the end of this, you might still want to check out Stand, who are more than a little incensed about the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill...
More - even more, goddamnit - on the whole Laura Spence "I didn't get into Oxbridge so now I'm going to Harvard" story. Still the source of heated debate in college, out of college, on the street, and frequently resulting in about five students huddled together shouting indignantly that a) they've lost all faith in politics again, b) government will never stop fucking with the education system, c) Gordon Brown is a tosser.
Today, and probably for the next few days if not weeks, the debate (if there even is a debate...) rages on. The Times reports that the Magdalen college admissions tutor "begs Northern students to apply to Oxbridge", and points out that yes, Oxbridge is elitist. In the intellectual sense. But the Government isn't just targetting Oxbridge anymore. Durham and Newcastle are being urged by John Prescott to "fight for the best".
David Blunkett, on the other hand, seems to have just about grasped the point (though looks unwilling to admit it)... applications to Oxbridge tend to be self-selecting, and Oxbridge has been doing something about it: "David Blunkett, the Education Secretary, yesterday urged state school head teachers to do more to prepare candidates for entry to leading universities, giving them the high aspirations and confidence found in the independent sector."
On that basis, letters to The Times yesterday included more public commentary on the subject. Best letters?
Sir, You did not publish the letter I sent you last week about Laura Spence. In fact you have never published any letters I have sent you over the years on a variety of subjects.
I now realise you must have discriminated against me because I was born in the North East of England and did not attend Oxford or Cambridge.
Yours faithfully, BERNARD GARSTON (Unsuccessful applicant to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, 1954)
Sir, I was a pupil at a state school and so might have been expected to have some sympathy for Mr Brown's strictures on Oxbridge entry.
However, I have also been Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, which seems to knock the bottom out of his argument.
BBC News reports that Canada is attempting to lure the Microsoft headquarters about 100 miles northwards, just past the Canadian border. In a rather stunningly badly researched paragraph, the BBC said:
"It would be unlike a company as far-sighted as Microsoft not to have considered all its options and, clearly, its ultimate option if the operating environment becomes too hostile in the United States, is to move overseas. In fact, that could turn out to be the company's trump card."
This being the company that was so far-sighted that it didn't have to completely reorganise once Bill Gates had figured out what the Internet was, when he was too busy mucking around with the first incarnation of the Microsoft Network.
Three down. Two to go. Next exam (Family Law) next Thursday, followed by Legal History on Friday. Am incredibly, incredibly tired.
My friends know how tired I am... people who want to know out of sheer curiosity could ask me, I suppose...
I'm going to bed. And I'm not going to set an alarm clock. I'm going to wake up when I damn well wake up (hopefully not half five in the morning), and then I think I'll start on Family and Legal History...
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