July 2007

For those of you coming to Worldcon, here’s the list of panels that I’m scheduled to be on.

Sat 1000 The Inevtiable Google Panel
Participants: Dr Andrew A ADAMS, Eileen GUNN, Tom GALLOWAY, Adam RAKUNAS
Love it or hate it, more than half of all net users search via Google. Is it really the end all and be all of all human knowledge? Computer knowledge? Our panelists have fun and try to predict where it will be in 2 year? 10 20? 100?

Fri 1400 The Transparent Society
Participants: Charles STROSS, Chris COOPER, David BRIN, Dr Andrew A ADAMS
David Brin wrote “The Transparent society”. In it he claims that current information technology kills privacy and that we must all adjust. Related concepts are scattered through his fiction. Is it possible to put social and legal limits on the processing of private information, now and in the future?

Sat 1600 Sex and Technology
Participants: David D LEVINE, Dr Andrew A ADAMS, Patricia MACEWEN
The automobile…..the movie……the Internet……then? How has modern technology affected sex? What lies ahead – virtual reality harems? Computer-enhanced marital aids? The orgasmatron? What can we look forward to? (and is this all a Good Thing?)

BBC Radio has been having “severe technical difficulties” with their radio streaming over the internet for a couple of weeks now. This has been very disappointing because I’m used to listening to quite a few shows in the course of the week. I often listen to Today in Parliament (now off-air for the summer recess anyway) and the midnight news in the morning – the time difference means they’re fairly fresh when I get up. I also always listened to the News Quiz or the Now Show on Saturday, often following that with Any Questions.

But for the last two weeks, I’ve had to hunt around for stuff. The Now Show I’ve missed for two weeks; Thinking Allowed I missed one of, and many days I couldn’t get the Midnight News and had to go for the World Tonight or even PM.

It’s slowly getting a bit better, but there’s no way to catch up on what I’ve missed such as the Now Show. Sigh.

Potentially spoilers below.


Mid-June to mid-July is (usually) the hot rainy season known as tsuyu. This year it’s lingering on and on. It would normally be over by now, but it looks like the tail end typhoon that came through two weeks ago disrupted the weather. It’s right at the end of July now (where’s the year gone?) and we started the day with a thunderstorm and now we’re ending it with another one.

Outside my window today I saw a young woman with a small child getting on a scooter – the motorised kind that is. It’s difficult to judge kids’ ages, particularly when the Japanese are smaller in stature than Westerners, but I’d estimate the kid was no older than 8 at the most, and probably slightly younger. Now, OK, she had a seat that had obviously been adapted for a child pillion that had an across the lap belt, and the kid was wearing a crash helmet, but I am still not sure about the safety of this (the kid was wearing long shorts and a t-shirt for example).

Any of the bikers (e.g. Sparks and Liam) got any comments on this? Would this be legal in the UK? Would you do it even if it was legal?

While looking at hotels in Nagoya today I spotted one that reminds me of home (back on Merseyside where I’m originally from, not Reading). There is a hotel in Nagoya that on a map of hotels there is called the “Nagoya Liverty Tower Hotel”. I wonder if it has Liver Birds on the top?

A lovely way to bring home to smokers the destructive nature of their habit: flickr picture link.

The Now Show included a wonderful piece this week about Net Authority, a group which attempts to claim the right to specify the acceptable use policy for the entire internet. With the age-old cry of censors “Think of the children!” they decry the inclusion of, amongst other things, “materials concerning bestiality, including interracial relationships.”
Among the websites they claim violate their acceptable use policy is that of the UK’s Labour Party .
I wonder if there’s another net censorship site which attempts to get racist material removed from the net. Maybe I can get these groups so interested in each other that they’ll stop bothering the rest of us.

Autopope wrote a post that attracted over a hundred replies, trying to explain to believers what it’s like to be an unbeliever. I was one of the repliers, with something I’ve been meaning to post something about for a while.
My favourite book is “Lord of Light” by Roger Zelazny. This is for a number of reasons. One is his absolutely wonderful writing. Anyone who can write a line as simple as ” Yama poured more tea. Ratri ate another sweetmeat.” and have it perfectly convey an immensely complicated mood, was an utter genius.
Another of the reasons I love this book is that Zelazny encapsulated my feelings on religion so well:
“I fail to see what difference it makes whether it be supernatural or not…”
“Ah, but it makes a great deal of difference, you see. It is the difference between the unknown and the unknowable, between science and fantasy – it is a matter of essence. The four points of the compass be logic, knowledge, wisdom and the unknown. Some do bow in that final direction. Others advance upon it. To bow before the one is to lose sight of the three. I may submit to the unknown, but never to the unknowable. The man who bows in that final direction is either a saint or a fool, and I have no use for either.”

A BBC news website education report included the following quote from Anne Kiem of the IFS School of Finance:

She said: “We’re not talking about high finance – it’s things like how do you open a bank account, how do you pay a cheque”.

This may be a journalist’s mistake or it may be her mistake, but you don’t “pay a cheque”. You can “pay by cheque”, you can “pay in a cheque” or “pay a cheque in”, but you can’t “pay a cheque”. This, in a report about the lack of basic skills needed for employment, such as being able to speak/write in clear, accurate and understandable English, is pretty ironic.
Then again, the BBC news website is often littered with spelling mistakes (including ones which should be picked up by a basic spell-checker) and poor grammar, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

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