31 July 2007

The future

This one's a shout-out to Scottophone.

I moved out of my old flat yesterday to my temporary digs at Cecilia's flat. She's generously offered to let me stay there until I find a new place with Yosh. I started things off well by miscommunicating about where to meet to exchange the key. Cecilia ended up being stuck outside the flat for three hours with her mobile locked inside.

Of course, without her mobile she was totally unable to get in touch with any of us. Nobody actually remembers their friends' numbers any more. She called information but literally none of us have a landline and mobiles aren't listed. Cecilia was very good natured about the whole affair, but led to her asking the office this morning:

If you don't have a mobile, how are you supposed to contact anyone?

27 July 2007


TrioI really like this photo from Martine and Dave's wedding.

25 July 2007

BoobTube Debates

I watched nearly all of last night's "YouTube" debate among the Democratic candidates, and was left feeling pretty depressed. This is the best we can muster in the party that I actually think has some chance of restoring some dignity to my home country? The most encouraging part of the debate was actually seeing the humour, intelligence and creativity of the citizens writing the questions, which at least yielded  some level of interest. I break down the candidates from worst-to-first, after the break.

8. Senator Dodd — Senator Dodd typified my idea of a pandering, spineless politician. He threw around a lot of vague promises but had pathetically little substance (and not much elegance, either). Hopefully he'll drop out ASAP.

7. Senator Edwards — Just seemed completely out of his depth. He seemed to feel that putting on an "I feel your pain" smile and cranking up his syrupy Southern accent to eleven would fool people into not noticing his vapidity. I would've ranked him dead last except for one stirring defence of mandated universal health coverage, which was the only time he sounded convincing.

6. Governor Richardson — A less egregious version of Senator Dodd. He seemed to have a little bit more going for him, and a slightly more concrete vision of his Presidency, but just seemed overwhelmed by this competitors.

5. Senator Clinton — While an excellent debater, Senator Clinton started annoying me immediately by continually referring to the President colloquially as "Bush" (e.g. "The problem is the Bush got us into this mess..."). The office of the President (even when disgraced by its current occupant) deserves respect, especially from those who are hoping to fill it. She had the smoothest presentation, but to me that just says, "same old politics", so it didn't do her any favours in my mind.

4. Senator Obama — I previously had high hopes for Senator Obama as a breath of fresh air to the Democrats, but he seems to have given up a bit of that "outsider" status in exchange for camapaign money (see Senator Gravel, below). Maybe there's still hope, but I see him slipping further and further into the grasp of the existing political machine.

3. Senator Biden — He seems like a bit of a crazy old grouch, but he at least felt like he was actually supporting his platform with some facts, and was willing to stand up to the other candidates where necessary, instead of basking in their love-fest.

2. Representative Kucinich — I always seem to connect most with non-mainstream candidates with no chance of winning. Perhaps this is because they eschew the banalities required for the nomination in favour of actually pursuing their platform. One review of the debate I read made a great point of how, when a lesbian couple asked if the candidates would let them get married, Kucinich hit a home run by saying, "The answer to your question is 'Yes'" while the other candidates tried to find a way to politely say 'No'. Mr. Kucinich also spoke about his disappointment at the Democratic Congress failed to fulfil their electoral mandate and end the war (as opposed to the other candidates who dance around how committed they are to actually ending the war).

1. Senator Gravel — Well, if Rep. Kucinich is out on the fringe, former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel is well and truly on the other side, and awesome as a result. Senator Gravel is (much to my chagrin) polling only 0.5% amongst Democratic primary voters. He is the only candidate, however, who got me excited enough to look up more of his platform, which is a weird mix of things, nearly all of which I love (legalising and regulating drugs, real LGBT rights, universal health care and an aggressive global warming policy). Even more than his own platform, however, his under-underdog status allows him to absolutely tear into his competitors. In all the debates so far he provides a breath of fresh air compared to the packaged tripe of the front-runners. He attacks their reliance on special interest money, the repeated claims by politicians to change the status quo but failure of both parties to actually do so. I hope he stays in as long as he can to keep laying the issues bare to the rest of these chumps.

21 July 2007


I spent about fifteen minutes in the Seattle Apple Store today, puttering around with an iPhone. It is an amazingly cool device, and a lot of fun to play with. I tried switching the Wifi off and verified that, yes, EDGE pretty much sucks. Unfortunately the one I had seemed a little buggy (songs on the iPod kept cutting off and Safari seemed to reboot itself randomly). I'm assuming that this was because the display model has been abused quite a bit in the store, but if the actual product does shit like that I'd be pretty annoyed.

Harry Potter

I picked up a copy of Deathly Hallows today at a Border's in Seattle. I was there a little after 9AM, so there wasn't much of a crowd (the die-hards having shown up at midnight the night befoer). It was still weird, however, to see everybody in the queue hold the same 800 page book. Even more interesting was seeing how different people reacted to having it in their hands. Many people were reading the first chapter whilst waiting to pay, and more than a few were reading the ending. In fact, I had to go to a different checkout than I had originally planned, because a woman and her daughter were discussing the ending while in the queue (pretty obnoxious — literally everyone else here is buying the same damn book that you're ruining, lady).

I then joined the clusters of other people sitting out on the patio reading a couple of chapters and enjoying a Starbuck's coffee.

13 July 2007

Chill, Winston! *

I'm just chilling at home before flying out tomorrow, and for once in my life preparing to leave the day before my flight instead of frantically doing so when I wake up. Go me.

I'm just back from a whirlwind of travelling, mostly in the USA, which is photo-documented in a short new Tabblo. After all that I went to Cambridge for an absolutely amazing scientific conference, and then to Bristol to do a little teaching (and earn some much needed cash).

And as I mentioned in the first sentence, I'm getting ready to fly out again. No rest for the wicked!

(* One point to first person to identify the quotation)

09 July 2007

<i>The Daily Show</i>

Scotticus made an observation recently on his webpage, and since he doesn't allow comments I'm commenting here:

A recent Pew Research Center study shows that people who watch The Colbert Report and The Daily Show correctly answered 54% of questions about current affairs, whereas viewers of regular TV news correctly answered only 35%. I'm not sure what to make of that finding.

This is a classical example of statistical confounding. While I value the real-news perspective of these programs, watching them probably has no effect on current events knowledge. The Daily Show is a comedy program aimed at well-educated, mainly liberal young people with an interest in current affairs. TV news programs are aimed at the typical local viewer. It's very likely the existing differences in the audiences accounts for the difference in news-awareness.