43/365 Waterstones

43/365 Waterstones

Ruby had some money left-over from Christmas on a couple of Waterstones gift cards, so we had a trip into town to see if there was anything that she took a fancy to.

Her first port of call was the sticker books. She loves stories, but for some reason she loves putting stickers in books a little bit more. We have plenty of these at home, so we persuaded her to look at some other things.

She ended up buying one story book, a small slinky and some other little bits and pieces. We are glad that she enjoys a trip to a bookstore – I still get a thrill visiting them myself.

Afterwards we went to the Nottingham Contemporary to see the galleries there. We had a great time looking at some very challenging art; some of it relating to the struggles that ethnic minorities had in the 80s. These things are hard to relate to a seven year-old, especially as these sorts of incidents aren’t so prominent these days.

We don’t mind her seeing some of the more adult arty content, but we were glad that she wouldn’t have recognised a couple of obvious painted vaginas on one piece. She had have a giggle at one painting that had a massive erection with a hair-drier at the end. She thought that was very funny.

41/365 Not Read Yet

41/365 Not Read Yet

I like to learn new things and I have a number of books sat on my desk aimed at increasing my work knowledge. This pile is increasing in size, not least due to my inability to actually pick one up and read it.

It is not a consequence that one of these books is about overcoming procrastination.

Nest of books

Nest of books, originally uploaded by rutty.

Via Flickr:
85/365

Ruby has many interests – food and sleep being the prime two – and, happily, one of her favourite activities is reading. Well, looking at books.

We approve of this.

Links for February 9th

Digital Economy Bill bill could ‘breach rights’

An influential group of MPs and peers has said the government's approach to illegal file-sharing could breach the rights of internet users.

The Joint Select Committee on Human Rights said the government's Digital Economy Bill needed clarification.

It said that technical measures – which include cutting off persistent pirates – were not "sufficiently specified".

In addition, it said that it was concerned that the Bill could create "over-broad powers".

iPad Snivelers: Put Up or Shut Up

It's taken me a couple of days for me to understand the wet sickness I felt in response to all the post-iPad whining, until it finally came up in a sputtering lump: disgust.

The iPad isn't a threat to anything except the success of inferior products. And if anything's dystopian about the future it portends, it's an American copyright system that's been out of whack since 1996.

Apple – an open and shut case?

In a fascinating and well-argued piece in this morning's Financial Times, the Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain expresses a worry that is now taking hold amongst many – that Apple has moved firmly from the "open" to the "closed" camp in the software community.

He points out the tight control that is now exercised by the inhabitants of 1, Infinite Loop, Cupertino over the software that can be installed on the iPhone – and in future on the iPad – and worries about the power that gives governments and content owners to demand that certain applications be switched off.

Open Societies need open systems

Openness, like democracy, must be constantly defended, says Bill Thompson.

Are expensive digital HDMI cables better?

"You wouldn't spend £20,000 on a car then put cheap tyres on it, would you?"

That might seem like powerful argument for road safety, but it's the kind of line being trotted out in high street electrical stores to sell HDMI cables.

These short, unexciting-looking wires are used to connect devices such as Blu-ray players and games consoles to modern, flat screen televisions.

HDMI cables rarely come included with new gadgets and while they can be bought for as little as 95p, some retailers stock models costing up to £110.

Gates: $10B vaccine program could save 8.7M lives

Bill and Melinda Gates announced plans Friday to invest $10 billion in the fight against a number of illnesses including AIDS and said the record donation could save nearly nine million lives.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, they said the 10-year program will focus on vaccines for AIDS, tuberculosis, rota virus and pneumonia.

"We must make this the decade of vaccines," said Bill Gates.

"Vaccines are a miracle," added Melinda Gates. "With just a few doses, they can prevent deadly diseases for a lifetime. We've made vaccines our priority at the Gates Foundation because we've seen firsthand their incredible impact on children's lives."

None dead in mass homeopathic overdose

The mass homeopathic overdose, organised by the 10:23 campaign, went ahead on Saturday morning, and it appears everyone involved lived to tell the tale. Hundreds of sceptics gathered at various locations around the country, many of them outside branches of Boots, and at 10:23am downed entire packets of homeopathic pills. With the exception of an amusing remark reported in the Observer from Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris, who quipped that one "swallower" hurt their thumb while opening the pill bottle, there were no reports of casualties.

Ericsson cutting an extra 1,500 jobs

Swedish telecoms equipment group Ericsson has said it is cutting an extra 1,500 jobs, as it reported a 92% fall in quarterly profits.

Hit by the cost of its restructuring work, and a continuing drop in orders, its net profit for October to December was 314m kronors ($43m; £27m).

This compares with 3.89bn kronors for the same quarter in 2008.

The latest 1,500 job cuts come on top of the 5,000 positions that the company shed last year.

British Newspapers Make Things Up

[A]ll British newspapers are tabloids because they don’t distinguish between what is true and what they make up. I knew this from my own experiences of dealing with British journalists, but, as it turns out, even the British government admits, in an official government publication, that British newspapers make things up and report them as facts.

It’s idiotic to blame God, the devil, or anything other than geology for the Haitian earthquake

[…]we can clearly identify the "fault" that runs under the Atlantic Ocean and still puts Portugal and other countries at risk, and it took only a few more generations before there was a workable theory of continental drift. We live on a cooling planet with a volcanic interior that is insecurely coated with a thin crust of grinding tectonic plates. Earthquakes and tsunamis are to be expected and can even to some degree be anticipated. It's idiotic to ask whose fault it is. The Earth's thin shell was quaking and cracking millions of years before human sinners evolved, and it will still be wrenched and convulsed long after we are gone. These geological dislocations have no human-behavioral cause. The believers should relax; no educated person is going to ask their numerous gods "why" such disasters occur. A fault is not the same as a sin.

Web Security: Are You Part Of The Problem? – Smashing Magazine

Website security is an interesting topic and should be high on the radar of anyone who has a Web presence under their control. Ineffective Web security leads to all of the things that make us hate the Web: spam, viruses, identity theft, to name a few.

The problem with Web security is that, as important as it is, it is also very complex. I am quite sure that some of you reading this are already part of an network of attack computers and that your servers are sending out spam messages without you even knowing it. Your emails and passwords have been harvested and resold to people who think you need either a new watch, a male enhancement product or a cheap mortgage. Fact is, you are part of the problem and don’t know what you did to cause it.

Links for September 8th

Cory Doctorow: Special Pleading

Six years ago, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom couldn’t be counted as a real success for open publishing because I was too obscure to feel the cost of the lost sales. Now, I’m too successful, someone whose name is so widely known that I am uniquely situated to benefit from open publishing, since the micro net-fame I enjoy provides the vital push necessary to wrest sales from freebies. Hilariously, some of the people who say this go back in time and revise history, claiming that I was only able to sell as many copies of Down and Out as I have over the years (nine printings and still selling great!) because I was such a big shot famous writer in 2003, on the strength of a dozen short story sales.

There’s a name for this rhetorical tactic: “special pleading.” Special pleading is when you claim that some example doesn’t merit consideration because it lacks, or contains, some special characteristic that makes it unique, not part of the general discussion.

How UK Government spun 136 people into 7m illegal file sharers

The British Government’s official figures on the level of illegal file sharing in the UK come from questionable research commissioned by the music industry, the BBC has revealed.

The Radio 4 show More or Less – which is devoted to the “often abused but ever ubiquitous world of numbers” – decided to examine the Government’s claim that 7m people in Britain are engaged in illegal file sharing.

The 7m figure comes from the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property, a Government advisory body.

Thinking about downloads

A few weeks ago, Peter Mandelson announced his intention to push forward on stringent measures to deal with “illegal” filesharing and downloading. The measures went much further than what had been envisaged in the Digital Britain report, with responsibility for the decisions and implementation passing from Ofcom to Mandelson.

[…]

It now appears that “internet suspension of illegal downloaders could become law”. Before that happens, I thought it would be worth while to share some of my thoughts about this.

I was in Hitler’s suicide bunker

At his living room table, 92-year-old Rochus Misch shows me some of his old photo albums. Private pictures he had taken more than 60 years ago. There are colour images of Mr Misch in an SS uniform at Adolf Hitler’s home in the Alps, snapshots of Hitler staring at rabbits, and photos of Hitler’s mistress and future wife Eva Braun.

For five years, SS Oberscharfuehrer Rochus Misch had been part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle, as a bodyguard, a courier and telephone operator to the Fuehrer.

Plinth debut for Marillion songs

Marillion are allowing a fan to play tracks from their new album on the fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square on Tuesday evening.

Richard Loveridge, 38, will spend his hour on the plinth talking about his 26-year love of the prog-rock veterans.

“My longest adult relationship has been with these five men, so I wanted to frame the story of my life with the story of Marillion,” he said.

Snow Leopard reveals new spots

Apple’s latest operating system – Snow Leopard – is a strange beast.

It’s curious because there are few new features to shout about.

Snow Leopard’s major changes are under the hood; Apple has been spending time changing the stuff that you do not usually see – or care about.

Why? Because spending time there should mean a faster, more stable operating system tuned to today’s hardware. Also, the changes should mean that in the future third-party application developers will have more to work with, allowing a richer, faster system.

Links for April 27th

Giving It Away

The thing about an e-book is that it's a social object. It wants to be copied from friend to friend, beamed from a Palm (nasdaq: PALM – news – people ) device, pasted into a mailing list. It begs to be converted to witty signatures at the bottom of e-mails. It is so fluid and intangible that it can spread itself over your whole life. Nothing sells books like a personal recommendation–when I worked in a bookstore, the sweetest words we could hear were "My friend suggested I pick up…." The friend had made the sale for us, we just had to consummate it. In an age of online friendship, e-books trump dead trees for word of mouth.

Plan to monitor all internet use

Communications firms are being asked to record all internet contacts between people as part of a modernisation in UK police surveillance tactics.

The home secretary scrapped plans for a database but wants details to be held and organised for security services.

The new system would track all e-mails, phone calls and internet use, including visits to social network sites.

Speculative Microeconomics for Tomorrow’s Economy

An interesting article about the Information Economy. Related to my latest OU assignment

50 Incredible Photography Techniques and Tutorials

In this post we present useful photographic techniques, tutorials and resources for various kinds of photography. You’ll learn how to set up the perfect environment and what techniques, principles and rules of thumbs you should consider when shooting your next perfect photo.

Book Review: Questions of Truth: God, Science and Belief

John Polkinghorne's former student Nicholas Beale runs a website on behalf of his mentor, on which questions about religion, and the relation of religion to science, can be posted. This apparently self-published book is a compilation of 51 of these website questions with Beale's and sometimes Polkinghorne's answers. The questions range over creation, the existence of evil, evolution, intelligent design and most of the other familiar old debating points, plus "How does the death of Jesus save the world?", "Why believe Jesus rose from the dead?" and "How much do you need to believe to be a Christian?"

Since these latter questions premise membership of the asylum already, I shall focus just on the various questions that touch on the relation of science and religion

Owning a camera doesn’t make you a criminal

When George Bush pronounced the war on terrorism as the "war on tourism", we thought it was because he was an idiot.

Maybe not, because it seems that tourism and terrorism are the same thing – or at least, they are to some police officers. How else can we explain the harassment of tourists who took photographs of a bus station?

Study finds pirates 10 times more likely to buy music

Piracy may be the bane of the music industry but according to a new study, it may also be its engine. A report from the BI Norwegian School of Management has found that those who download music illegally are also 10 times more likely to pay for songs than those who don't.

40 Amazing Online Photography Magazines

Whatever country we live in, we’re probably all familiar with the well-known photography magazines available in our newsagents and bookstores. The UK has Practical Photography, France has Photo, the Italians have Zoom and the Americans have American Photo. What you may not know is that there are many more photography magazines that are only available online. And some of them are good, very good.

Free data sharing is here to stay

Since the 1970s, pundits have predicted a transition to an "information economy". The vision of an economy based on information seized the imaginations of the world's governments. For decades now, they have been creating policies to "protect" information — stronger copyright laws, international treaties on patents and trademarks, treaties to protect anti-copying technology.

The thinking is simple: an information economy must be based on buying and selling information. Therefore, we need policies to make it harder to get access to information unless you've paid for it.

That means that we have to make it harder for you to share information, even after you've paid for it.

Links for April 10th

To Newspaper Moguls: You Blew It

The Newspaper Association of America is meeting in San Diego this week and they’re preaching up at their own choir loft with angry, self-righteous fire and brimstone about their plight. They need to hear a new message, a blunt message from the outside. Here’s the speech I think they should hear:

You blew it.

Free-access World Digital Library set to launch

Libraries and archives from around the world have come together in a project to share their collections of rare books, maps, films, manuscripts and recordings online for free.

Almost four years in the making, the World Digital Library will launch on 21 April, functioning in seven languages – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish – and including content in additional languages. A prototype of what will be on offer includes a voice recording of the 101-year-old grandson of an American slave, a 17th-century map of the world and 19th-century Brazilian photographs.

The brainchild of James Billington, from the US’s Library of Congress, the project has been developed by Unesco and the Library of Congress, along with 32 other partners from around the world, including national libraries from Iraq, Egypt, Russia, Brazil, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Uganda.

How can DRM be good?

Here’s a thought. I just had lunch with someone who works for a broadcaster and is wrestling with the idea of distributing content online and we both agreed that what’s missing from the whole DRM debate is a strong case for “just enough DRM”.

Phorm eyes launch after hard year

Online advertising firm Phorm is pressing ahead with plans to launch more than a year after it first drew criticism from some privacy advocates.

Phorm executives will meet with members of the public on Tuesday, following a similar meeting in 2008.

The service has proved controversial for some campaigners who believe it breaks UK data interception laws.

”Lap-dancing nun’ performs for Church

Anna Nobili is no ordinary nun.

The 38-year-old used to be a lap-dancer, and spent many years working in Italian nightclubs.

She is now using her talents in a rather different way – for what she calls “The Holy Dance” in a performance on Tuesday evening at the Holy Cross in Jerusalem Basilica in Rome, in front of senior Catholic clerics including Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Vatican’s Cultural Department.

Miss Nobili told the BBC World Service that the transformation from podium lap dancer to nun happened gradually.

No use crying over spilt ink

It’s the end of the party, the booze is all finished, almost everyone has gone home, and the rest are too drunk to make conversation. You decide to call it a night and, bidding your host farewell, you step over a pool of vomit and make your way out of the flat, heading for the stairs. It’s then that you hear her. The fat girl half way down the stairs, sobbing her fat little eyes out. You know the one – she’s always there, at the end of every party you’ve ever been to.

Science IS imagination

People don’t understand science.

And I don’t mean that your average person doesn’t understand how relativity works, or quantum mechanics, or biochemistry. Like any advanced study, it’s hard to understand them, and it takes a lifetime of work to become familiar with them.

No, what I mean is that people don’t understand the process of science. How a scientist goes from a list of observations and perhaps a handful of equations to understanding. To knowing.

And that’s a shame, because it’s a beautiful thing.

Links for March 26th

”Hello America, I’m a British Muslim’

When British businessman Imran Ahmad was made redundant in January, instead of hitting the Job Centre he decided to arrange a one-man speaking tour of the United States to spread his message of peace and Muslim moderateness.

God ‘will not give happy ending’

God will not intervene to prevent humanity from wreaking disastrous damage to the environment, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned.

In a lecture, Dr Rowan Williams urged a “radical change of heart” to prevent runaway climate change.

At York Minster he said humanity should turn away from the selfishness and greed that leads it to ignore its interdependence with the natural world.

And God would not guarantee a “happy ending”, he warned.

Mythical beings can’t really intervene – considering their mythicalness (is that even a word?)

Call to scrap ‘illegal databases’

A quarter of all government databases are illegal and should be scrapped or redesigned, according to a report.

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust says storing information leads to vulnerable people, such as young black men, single parents and children, being victimised.

It says the UK’s “database state” wastes billions from the public purse and often breaches human rights laws.

Big websites urged to avoid Phorm

Seven of the UK’s biggest web firms have been urged to opt out of a controversial ad-serving system.

Phorm – aka Webwise – profiles users’ browsing habits and serves up adverts based on which sites they visit.

In an open letter, the Open Rights Group (ORG) has asked the firms to block Phorm’s attempts to profile their sites, to thwart the profiling system.

Last.fm to charge for streaming

Internet radio and social music site Last.fm is to start charging listeners outside the UK, US, and Germany.

Users outside those three countries will pay 3 euros per month to listen to Last.fm Radio, the site’s streaming music service.

The other content on the site, such as biographies, videos, charts, and “scrobbling” – the site’s musical profiling – will remain free for all.

Police to probe UK torture claims

Police are to investigate whether an MI5 officer was complicit in the torture of ex-Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed.

The Attorney General, Baroness Scotland QC, said the probe would be “the appropriate course of action”.

Mr Mohamed, 30, a UK resident, said MI5 had prolonged his detention and torture while he was being held in Morocco.

EU ready to screw up European Internet with Telcoms Package

Glyn sez, “The EU’s Telecoms Package is back for its second reading. The French are attempting to push through their ‘three strikes and you’re out’ approach again, the UK are attempting to get rid of net neutrality and get rid of peoples right to privacy. The ITRE/IMCO committee are meeting on the 31 March 2009 to dicuss these and other alarming amendments. The Open Rights Group have more details

A Conversation with John Scalzi

John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War took me by surprise. I picked up the book because I’d heard a lot of good things about him and decided I’d give it a one-page tryout. Either he’d grip me right away or I’d drop it. Twenty pages later I realized I hadn’t moved from the spot. OK, John. Grip achieved.

I loved Old Man’s War and I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of the books set in that universe. John Scalzi is a clever, funny author and I recommend reading his books

Therapists offer gay ‘treatment’

Therapists are still offering treatments for homosexuality despite there being no evidence that such methods work, research suggests.

A significant minority of mental health professionals had agreed to help at least one patient “reduce” their gay or lesbian feelings when asked to do so.

The Shack: more of a Shambles

A Christian friend of mine lent me a copy of The Shack a few months ago and I figured that I’d read it. I might be a bit of a heathen but I have quite an interest in theological things.

This book has an enormous following around the world with well over a million copies of this 248 page book in circulation and glowing tributes printed all over the cover, front and back.

I have no idea why this is so. I thought it was a rather badly written book with dubious ideas.

Don’t get me wrong – I quite liked the idea behind it. A guy’s daughter is abducted and presumably murdered, he has a crisis of faith before God comes along and explains a few Truths about the purpose of life and the love that God has for His creation.

My main problems with the book arise from the fact that the author really isn’t a very good writer. His prose is adequate enough I suppose, but he’s more talented amateur than professional novelist. It’s all a bit preachy too, especially if you don’t think that we all descended from Adam.

I hear from another Christian friend that there’s some rather dodgy religion in here too. I can understand why. The book portrays the Holy Trinity is a rather unusual way. Nothing wrong with that but the author’s made some very strange choices with the characters that he’s picked. He’s also unable to portray his character’s voices in a convincing way – just about all the speech in the book in indistinguishable between characters (author’s voice rather than the character’s) and it really spoiled the whole read for me.

Clearly this book wasn’t aimed at me. It has no hope of changing my opinion about the creation of mankind especially as it uses a very literal Christian view of Creation. It isn’t written well enough to engage me as a novel as I really didn’t care about any of the characters.

So, why do so many people rave about it?

Not my cup of tea