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why oh why must . . .

everybody have a blog?

raison d'être

A post by ChickyBabe questioning her raison d'être has prompted me to get back to what I must have been thinking about when I started this blog. I think maybe there are a couple of big posts knocking around in the back of my head that should arrive eventually.

There are a lot of blogs about. Technorati is indexing 10 million, 90percent from the last two years. MSN Spaces has 10 million by itself and that's just this year. That's an awful lot of information. Its probably enough writing to say, reach the moon if you print it all out and pile all the A4 paper up. Maybe not, but you get the idea. Nobody can keep up with that much info, its borg-collective type stuff.

And this is where one of the other posts that's in the back of my head would fit in, but I'll save it for another time because it would be going too far off topic.

You can only keep up with a few sources. Some of them might have a huge circulation like BoingBoing and give you twenty entries to read in a day, while others might be sporadically updated personal journals detailing where to get good pasta in Louisiana.

So this is my question, not "why do I write" but "why do I read"?

I started off with a few well known names, and a few "Best of" lists and then a few blogrolls later and I'm checking what feels like hundreds of pages each day. But those are resonably rewarding, simply because its self-selecting - "I read you because of some shared interest. You read them because of some other shared interest." and soon you've got a cluster of links all in one theme.

Its a third class of links within my reading list that I'm most worried about. They've crept up on me and I'm worried that its these that are most likely to become overwhelming. Its not because they're throwing a massive amount of information at me, its because this third class is the only one in which I feel I owe the authors.

Yep, I'm looking at you, the readers. Don't get uncomfortable, its ok! I wanted readers but I've gone about it in the wrong way. It should be just a question of content but its become a question of content and comment.

I can't be only one that does it, craving feedback. And then cultivating that feedback by visiting my own visitors' sites. And then I'm hooked. Feeling obligated to keep checking back and repaying the favour of a comment with more feedback. Its all very friendly on the surface but could it just be the blogging equivalent of meeting that vague aquaintence on the street and exchanging a hollow "Hey, how are you. Good? Yeah me too, fine. Alright, nice to see you, call soon."

I think the knock-on effect is a change in motivation for writing. Writing for the audience instead of whatever the reason used to be. That's something that I don't want to happen.


Friday again

Its twenty-odd degrees here today and my hayfever has gone wild, its driving me crazy. I even sneezed twice while at the bloody counter buying medicine. Bah Humbug!

Its thirty degrees in London apparently. 30! It must be horrible on the tube. In the summer conditions get so bad they break EU rules on the transport of livestock...


Liverpool Victory Parade

There are half a million people on the streets of Liverpool this evening as the Liverpool team does its victory tour. It looks mad:







BBC coverage here. Reports now that the bus won't make it to the centre of town until 10.30pm. That looks optimistic to be honest. Its probably impossible to get a beer in town!


The End.

That's it. I'm giving up on the British public. There's no hope for them. Read this and weep with me.


Lazy post for today

I've spent the day away from the computer. Pretty shocking these days. And I'm not really in the mood for a big comment on stuff, so instead today's post will be another small clear out of my del.icio.us links. :)

First up is a song analysis from Love is a C***. Not what I was expecting - I should really try to pay more attention to pop music. In fact, it reminds me of "High Fidelity" by Nick Hornby, who asks, "which came first? The pop music or the sadness?" Anyways that post marks the beginning of their "LIAC-Radio"!

Next up is a Guardian story about the future of Channel 4.

Stephen Brook
Tuesday May 24, 2005

Channel 4 has to break away from television to become an "entertainment brand" active in everything from mobile phones to computer games, its chairman said.

I can't quite see why really. I like Channel 4 as it is.


And to finish, a link to repository of history's "Top 100 Speeches". Which is nice because you get to here Kennedy's inaugural Address and Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" amongst a whole load of others.


Heart Stopping

I went shopping yesterday, as you do on a Saturday afternoon. I was looking for a pair of cufflinks. Boy did I pick the wrong shop.

"We have these available."
Hmmm, too fancy, I want something simpler, nothing fussy. "Well, we have these. They're in white-gold." Mmmmm... they're great. And um, how much would they be? "Let me just check. I'm just looking for the engraving... Ah! yes, they're nine hundred and ninety pounds."

I didn't even blink. But I'm quite sure that my iris must have done something, along with my heart stopping. GBP990 ! Right, ok, so, um, ok, I'd like to keep looking actually, you're the first shop I've been in. erm... thanks very much... bye.


Answers?

As promised I have been thinking about why I have a blog. It turns out they're pretty simple:

  • I know I should be doing something useful

  • I don't want to do anything useful

  • Blogging takes up a big chunk of time without accomplishing anything


Which brings me round towards this:



Honda's genius advertising campaign "Hate something, change something", which was devised by a very tall man with very long grey hair - just in case you wanted to know...

Apart from having an infectious tune that you can't get out of your head, its a cool message.

I know there's something wrong. Why don't I change it?


Crazy

I was just checking my visitor logs. Somebody clicked through from the Technorati tag page for WalMart. They went directly to my Tesco post from the other day.

Their IP address was listed as "wal-mart.com". Scary stuff, that's the lawyers trawling the internet for bad words said about The Firm.


Monbiot -v- Ebell

Myron Ebell and George Monbiot intervied on BBC Radio4's "Today" programme. You can listen to it here. That link will probably break after today - I'll try and update it when I find a permanent link. [UPDATE: the permalink to the RealPlayer file should be here.]

Ebell works for a "think-tank" which has been funded millions of dollars by Exxon and I don't think Monbiot likes him very much.


Monbiot: "I challenge Myron now, here in front of four million people, to a bet. I bet five-thousand pounds of my own money. That the Global Average Temperature over the next decade will be higher than the Global Average Temperature over the last ten years. The bet to fall due on May 19th 2015. So come on, put your money where your mouth is."

Ebell: "I have four children to put through college, I can't afford to take risks"



Now that's environmental debate!

The two of them are speaking in a debate at the Oxford Union Society this evening (link). They're going to battle over the motion "This House believes that alarmism has replaced science in the global warming debate".

I'm gutted that I'm not in Oxford this year and I can't make it. I'm really going to have to sort out my term card...


Why?

I just went to see "Kingdom of Heaven". It was terrible. Orlando Bloom just can't carry the big motivational speech.

Not even close. :(

Also, Herge has reminded me that I still haven't answered the question in my blog title. I guess I should really do that at some point. Or at least try.

Maybe "why must everybody have a blog" is probably a bit big to tackle now. So, for the moment I'll just deal with "why must I have a blog?"

Hmmmm.... I'll get back to you...

Phantom Caller

I just missed a call on my mobile. That's always annoying, especially as I was this close, but the really annoying thing is that the number seems to be an international one.

A call from Kazagstan in fact! I've got no idea who that could be and I'm really gutted I didn't get there in time. I'm not calling central asia to find out it was a wrong number!

Very bizzare though.


Tesco

Another nice article from George Monbiot.

Today's comment is on the increasing power the supermarkets, Tesco in particular, hold over the publishing industry and journalists.


In the US, Wal-Mart (which owns Asda in the UK) has told Cosmopolitan to remove cover billings about abortion.(10) It has delisted the lad mags Maxim, FHM and Stuff, and banned an album by Sheryl Crow, which criticised Wal-Mart for selling guns.(11) Its policies, the evangelical group Focus on the Family exults, have hit publishers “like a brick in the head.”(12) Now AOL Time Warner, according to the New York Post, is “consulting very closely with Wal-Mart to help figure out the type of magazine the giant retailer would like to see on its racks.”(13)

In the UK, Tesco is alleged to be doing something similar. “According to senior publishing industry sources,” the Observer reports, “Tesco has asked to see copies of covers prior to publication and asked for late changes on at least one occasion.”(14) And this is before the OFT changes the rules.



This is just crazy. A journalist expects editorial control, accepts that the "big boss" might put an oar in with an eye to keeping the advertisers happy. The main thing has always been to increase circulation by writing articles that appeal to the readers.

The threat that Tesco poses to sales figures is changing that completely. Increase circulation by writing what Tesco wants to see? That's crazy and definitely not in the public's best interest.

Clearly Tesco and WalMart don't need to make any more money and we certainly don't need to buy our newspapers and magazines from them.


Visit Spam?

Its happened twice now I think. My hit-counter jumps up a load and when I go to check it with SiteMeter, there's a big spike, and loads of closely timed visits all claiming to be from different blogs that don't link to mine.

Is this some kind of viral marketing ploy? Visit spam? Maybe its a SiteMeter feature? Designed to give you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside because people seem to be reading your site?

server

Does anybody else use SiteMeter? Is it something I should have known about?


Lazy

I had it all in my head. I was going to write a tremendously insightful, thought provoking piece referencing Rubin "Hurricane" Carter and 1940s German behaviour towards their Jewish neighbours.

All prompted by the convergence of tv scheduling and Lisa's visit to UBC to meet some Holocaust survivors.

But now I'm not. I decided it wasn't going to be very original and probably a little too adversarial. So count yourselves lucky! :)

I'm sure I'll come up with something interesting to write about soon. If not, there was something I wanted to say about yesterday's breakfast. Ohhhh yes.

So in place of a long post from me, I urge you all to head over to Finding Yonder, and read Maddy's beautiful, sad and astounding story, start here maybe.

Friday Things

I went to the gym this afternoon. 2,000m rowing time, a sedate 8m21s.

Knock-on effect? I'm eating a donut. A big donut.

A couple of random links today, for my few readers to enjoy. Thank you for stopping by :) whether at home or sneaking a look at work. Naughty.

Cool new t-shirt retailer Defunker:



I want one.

And on a completely different note, students at Cornell have developed little robot blocks, molecubes, that can stack themselves and then reproduce the structure. Self propagating little robot dudes.

This post brought to you by PJ Harvey - Good Fortune.

Bellamy's Purpose

By the power of Technorati, I'm informed that somebody else has referenced my earlier post on Monbiot and Bellamy.

The blog's title and premise, "The Purpose of a System is What it Does" is interesting in general and in particular here.


Given that a given belief is a basis for collective support for a given position, denial appears to have the effect (and therefore the implicit purpose) of undermining this position. Thus AIDS denial undermines the credibility of some critical health campaigns, while climate change denial provides certain industrialists and politicians with an excuse to avoid taking action against global warming.



If the denial of glacial expansion served simply to undermine the position taken by Monbiot, myself and huge numbers of others, that Climate Change is real and dangerous; what then was Bellamy's motive?

While we know that the two have clashed before over wind turbines and other similar environmental issues, publishing a letter in New Scientist is a pretty round-about way of retaliation against Monbiot.

The scientist in Bellamy seems to be genuinely sceptical about the origin of observed climate changes and doesn't want to attack modern industrial practices without proof. That's commendable but furthering that aim by attacking the evidence which suggests that Global Warming exists and is having an effect on the Earth as a whole, is just lazy and dangerous. Especially for a man in his position.

In this case the real outcome of the denial is difficult to determine. Certainly it did not turn out the way Bellamy intended and it is that which I think is important.

When dealing with human systems, the intention of the person acting should always be taken into account because the "Does" can often lead far away from the intended "Purpose".

Telewest != Romantic

Tech Digest brings news that British cable tv giant is to launch its TV-On Demand service across the country; bringing goodness into the hearts all those personal loan takers who prefer not to have a satellite dish on the side of their house. Or so it would seem:

Out of those customers who already have access to the TVOD service, over half have already watched a movie. Saturday evening is the most popular time to choose a movie and the top selling films to date are The Stepford Wives, 50 First Dates and King Arthur. The highest selling evening to date was Valentine's night, when our romantics in Bristol chose The Ladykillers as their number one movie choice!

from the Telewest press release.



Now, it strikes me that there was nothing good or romantic about that choice. Who'd be stuck in on Valentines? That's right, it was all the lonely men, hiding from oversized pink hearts, crying into a six pack of beer and hoping that all the Ladies did indeed get killed; for remember Love is a C....

Monbiot -v- Bellamy

George Monbiot published a great article in The Guardian yesterday. It was a pretty devastating salvo aimed at anybody who is still trying to ignore Climate Change, anybody who refuses to trust the environmental scientists who overwhelmingly point to anthropogenic sources of Global Warming and, more personally, aimed squarely at David Bellamy.

A few weeks ago Bellamy had published a letter in New Scientist which claimed that an often quoted symptom of global warming, glacier recession, was in fact a fallacy. In fact, the truth according to Bellamy was that glaciers “are not shrinking but in fact are growing. ... 555 of all the 625 glaciers under observation by the World Glacier Monitoring Service in Zurich, Switzerland, have been growing since 1980.”

Such a well-known figure as Bellamy stating quite the opposite position worried Monbiot enough for him to want to get to the bottom of things and work out where Bellamy's numbers came from.

So last week I telephoned the World Glacier Monitoring Service and read out Bellamy’s letter. I don’t think the response would have been published in Nature, but it had the scientific virtue of clarity. “This is complete bullshit.”


Having tracked the source of the "555 increasing" data to a single person citing a report published in a 1989 edition of Science, that didn't actually exist, Monbiot was ready to publish and ready to come on live tv and battle it out with Bellamy on last night's Channel4 News.

It was a fun encounter, not least because that quote from the Glacier Monitoring Service gave them an excuse to say "bullshit" four or five times in various tones and with varying emphasis. "Bwuuuuuuul-shit" from Bellamy for instance.

Jon Snow barely had to say anything at all, Bellamy just kept digging, refusing to admit that he was negligent in failing to check his facts with more than a quick Google search.

But the thing is, Monbiot didn't really win the battle. The thing that sticks in the back of your head is that Monbiot couldn't answer the question "where is the evidence that shows its us that's responsible?"

It annoys me that I can't answer it either. As a scientist there's no way, that I know of, to say "this 0.5 degree rise in North Atlantic sea temperature is directly caused by the massive increase in carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere following Industrialisation". I can't because it could just be a natural oscillation. I can look at the "radiative transfer equation" and at the carbon-oxygen bond energies and say that "yes, carbon dioxide does let solar radiation through but traps the heat that would otherwise be lost - the 'Greenhouse Effect'" but you could still say that its volcanoes. Or farts or whatever.

Maybe we need to stop wasting energy trying to persuade people that it is us and start shouting at everybody who doesn't want to listen, "its now or never. Either we make dramatic changes to our environmental policy, our energy usage, our attitude to recycling, or the Earth is just going to give up on us."

Thank God for the Volume Control

Saira Khan, runner-up in the BBC's version of "The Apprentice":

"the real star of the show - as she's not shy of pointing out - was Saira. Saira couples the energy of a neutron bomb with an incredible ability to sell. She could, she frequently boasts, sell snow to an Eskimo. And she's as tough as anything. Saira's like bindweed - you can pull it up, thinking you've killed it, but it immediately pops up somewhere else, stronger than ever. Some found her inspirational; others an absolute bloody nuisance. "I think Sir Alan thought I was a threat. He was scared to hire me," she says, and I expect she's right".


While the American Trump version did it bigger, Sir Alan Sugar's job search was far more involving. The best man did win, but it looks like we're not rid of Saira yet. She even managed to get Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, to make some calls on her behalf!

I wouldn't be able to buy anything from her, I'd be too busy jamming my fingers in my ears and running away.

Thank the Lord for a volume control.

Links

just a couple of links that I don't know what to do with. That's the problem with del.icio.us, I end up recording a whole load of links without ever coming back to them. I currently have 47 entries tagged as "mustread". 47. Like there's ever going to be a Sunday morning lie in that long!

So here's two from my (I'm not kidding) "blogthis" tag:

a cute little 30 second read from Gizmodo.

and from BoingBoing (where else?) a really quite scary demonstration of sand based engineering.

There we go, two down, only fifty to go.

Re: Results

in my results day post I made a slight error. Showing quite clearly that I hadn't stayed up all night to watch the results come in, I'd given up at about 2am I think.

Anyways, last I saw Bob Marshall-Andrews was stating that it was the Labour party's poor performance over Iraq that had led to him losing his seat. He was later heard to cry "I'm Lazarus!" having been voted back in!

My bad :( but I'm glad his extemely loud mouth is back in the Commons.

Now I'm left comparing the Observer's county by county breakdown with those blue/purple/red maps of the U.S. post election last year...

Oh, yeah!

thanks go to Rob @ Londonist for, completely unintentionally, reminding me that "Garden State" was the name of the "guy from Scrubs" film that I failed to see last year. I managed to miss it even though I'm a big Scrubs fan and it has Natalie Portman in.



Plus it was a nice breakdown of the reviews for "Kingdom of Heaven":

Jeremy Irons' performance also comes in for a bit of stick for a turn which apparently "sends the thesp-o-meter into bleeping overdrive".


foolish, foolish idea

I spent a while browsing the results of The Bloggies this afternoon. Bad idea. Now I'm in a 'what's the use, everybody else writes better', 'my blog sucks' type mood. Its a good job there's some haagen-dazs in the freezer.

But while fun, ice cream is no solution so instead I'll have to print out and read this post, from Tony Pierce, every night.

how to blog by tony pierce, 110

1. write every day.

2. if you think youre a good writer, write twice a day.

3. dont be afraid to do anything. infact if youre afraid of something, do it. then do it again. and again.

4. cuss like a sailor.

5. dont tell your mom, your work, your friends, the people you want to date, or the people you want to work for about your blog. if they find out and you'd rather they didnt read it, ask them nicely to grant you your privacy.


and so on for a full 30 tips.

And, on a side note, hands up if you think that "Jamster!" and whoever came up with that bloody "crazy frog" thing should be put in stocks and have rotten fruit thrown at them?

In fact, add the guy who invented ring tones for mobiles in the first place.

Results

So its May 6th and The Prime Minister's birthday. I guess to keep with the theme of the day he's allowed a cake to celebrate, complete with 52 candles, but rather than yummy chocolate he'll have to have fruit cake.

I don't know, that cake metaphor didn't really turn out all that well...

anyways, Labour looses a great deal of seats, majority cut to sixty odd. That's going to make for some pretty lengthy debates in the commons - although they might not be as fun without Bob Marshall-Andrews who, despite being "backbencher of the year" at some point and a large thorn in Blair's side, has lost his seat. Boo.

The thing is, the BBC has been throwing thousands of pounds worth of computer generated "swing-o-meters" onto the screen, with Peter Snow jumping about like a crazy person but its all not very useful. Who cares that Tory voters voted Tory, the interesting thing in 1997 and 2001 was that usual Conservative voters switched to Labour; that they've switched back this year is no surprise.

What I want to see is a breakdown of which seats went to the Conservative candidate because Labour voters "protest voted" with the Liberal Democrats. In my constituency the Lib Dem candidate pulled ahead of the Tory :)

I'm looking toward some industrious person like Chris Lightfoot for that kind of information.

Secret Ballot

Again from the 'New York Times', David Lodge, author, and resident in Birmingham - England's second largest city, writes an article discussing "Politics by Another Means". An attempt to give American readers some insight into what's going on in the UK, 24hrs before poll day.

One thing he singles out is how little political discussion there is during normal months, citing "national temperament and cultural conditioning":

In polite society, religion and politics were traditionally taboo topics of conversation in England, considered too personal and potentially divisive for open discussion. This code of etiquette lingers throughout the social scale. For instance, a woman named Barbara has cleaned for my family one morning a week for the last 25 years. In the interests of research for this article, I asked her the other day how she was going to vote and she said, with only half-simulated indignation, "I'm not going to tell you!" - as if I had enquired about the most intimate details of her married life. She then confided that she and her husband never told each other how they voted. Now that's what I call a secret ballot.



He's right in that its not just the lack of, American style, all-year-round campaigning that leads to people being less comfortable with speaking about politics but he hasn't quite got the answer right.

While it is true that "one doesn't talk politics at the dinner table" there's a an element of conditioning that goes far deeper, especially in the working classes and that is the nerve that he probably hit in 'Barbara'. People hold tightly to the ideal of a secret ballot because the feeling passed down from their parents, passed down from their parents, the 'generational memory' is of a time when the factory owner would lean on workers to vote for who served the business interest. You would lose your job if you didn't comply. People know that we should hang on to the great things we've gained since "the rotten boroughs".

The time at your ballot paper is one of the few times when you have complete control over your own actions. That is something to keep safe.

Sorted!

Just in case you hadn't made up your mind yet tonight's "Party Election Broadcast" for Labour party has sorted it.

Pushing the


"If you value it.

Vote for it."




message was Captain Picard! If you can't trust the Captain of the Enterprise, who can you trust?

The Commute

In today's New York Times Verlyn Klinkenborg's editorial "The Psychology of Los Angeles Freeways and the Effect of Recent Shootings" caught my attention. There's no reason why I would know that the past few weeks have seen "at least seven attacks in the last 10 weeks, four of them fatal, the worst outbreak of apparently random freeway shootings in the Los Angeles area since 1987..." but it still a bit of a shock. Having never visited the U.S. that sort of information just serves to confirm its place in my head as a 'whole other world'!


I've been struck by the attentiveness and skill of the drivers around me, by the fact that nearly everyone signals a change of lane and tries to keep a reasonable distance between vehicles. In three months of freeway driving here, I can count on one hand the number of times I've heard a horn sounded in anger. And now I know why.

If nothing else, these good driving manners express the centrality of the freeway system in the consciousness of Southern California. I've begun to think of those lanes as a giant public square spreading all across the city, a square where most people try to contribute their mite of civility in hopes of keeping the overall experience as tolerable as possible. But there's another way to look at it. The civility on display may reflect nothing more than the profound hostility lying just below the surface.

As a friend from Fullerton puts it, you drive politely, without challenging other drivers even implicitly, because "they're packing." No one honks because no one wants a fight. People use their turn signals to say, as innocently as possible: "Changing lanes now! Not cutting in! No disrespect intended!"



When I've been doing motorway commuting here in the UK there have probably been times when I've wanted to shoot some other drivers - there's only so much 90mph tailgating that one can take. But can this be the only solution?

Do people in the UK need the real threat of execution on the roadside to improve their road manners?

I hope not.

Election Tells

I just watched "Election Unspun: What They're Really Thinking" over on Channel 4. It was a great piece of television, full of nice things to take away e.g. pointing out that Michael Howard unconciously sticks his tongue out whenever he's under pressure and reminding us that that is what babies do when they've had enough milk from mum!

But the useful thing was the signs that tell you who has won a particular constituency before the result is announced. His example was Portillo's defeat.

The losers all line up covering their "privates", crossing their hands in front of them, while the victor, feeling no need to protect himself, holds arms behind his back.

Also watch out for John Prescott's "crack a joke and run away" tactic.

Garden Window

window450

Its May 1st 2005. These days dates just don't seem to mean anything to me. Time is passing me by. Everytime I care to think, I find I'm no further forward than I was a week, a month, six months ago.

I should just do something. Start "Getting Things Done" maybe. Maybe not.