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Tuesday, October 30

first instalment of China photos are online now: http://www.eldan.f2s.com/photos/travel/2001-10-china_bike_ride. There is no commentary as yet, but the directory structure & file names should be slightly informative. Day 0 covers preparations, and won't be very interesting for anyone who wasn't themselves on the trip, but Days 1-5 (only Day 1 is online so far) are from the actual cycling.
posted @ 8:05 AM -

Monday, October 29

China baby! Back now, will write later.
posted @ 11:58 AM -

Friday, October 19

sod cycling. I'm off to do this instead.

All will be quiet on this site for a little while, for I shall be in China. Enjoy being rained on, I'm sure I'll enjoy pedalling on and on and on, and I'll be back here in 10 days or so.
posted @ 2:43 PM -
IBM have announced a new intiative: Autonomic Computing. The aim is basically to get computer networks fixing themselves, using ideas drawn from biological immune systems. This is very cool, partly for its own sake, but also partly because it assures another boost in funding for my field....
posted @ 11:26 AM -

Thursday, October 18

woohoo! Two pieces of minor (compared to yesterday's), but nevertheless good news:

My fellow-students from last year have had their results; 15 out of 18 have distinctions. I would consider this fishy, but across the other MScs in the same department the ratio is far lower, and I'm pretty sure they all get moderated together. This is also a very good sign for me, as I think I'm roughly in the middle of that group, for what it's worth.

Bell labs have come up with a tiny transistor; far smaller than any electronic components to date
posted @ 10:17 AM -

Wednesday, October 17

I'm scared and I'm depressed as a result of today's news. I won't even bother saying much about it, becuase if you don't know then you need to come out of your cave, and I'm too confused to have anything intelligent to say. Anthrax is not my main worry - its so easy for things like that to get blown out of proportion. The assassination in Israel will, rightly or wrongly and totally regardless of what any political leader does, cause an explosion of violence in the region, at a time when such explosions are liable to be amplified further, and probably internationally. That's what has me scared. As for depressed, it's mainly the fact that on the weekend there was what looked like the first positive progress in relations between the two sides in Israel, and now that has clearly been thrown away because of one event.

There has been one piece of positive news - the Albion have a new manager, and one who I thought was above our station - but it just pales into insignificance.

Another positive; it's nice to know that things like this do exist: Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel (thanks Adnan).

I was going to just finish work and go to bed tonight, but I felt I had to have a look at some news sites first. It didn't make me feel any better.
posted @ 3:13 PM -

Tuesday, October 16

right. Everything is groovy. Well sort of. I've done everything I need to do for the coming trip, and the insane workload I have over the next few days (9am - 10pm for the next 2 days, and then a more humane but still busy day on Friday) is something I'm just going to have to accept and deal with; after all I got myself into this mess. Usually with these things I feel intense trepidation before the event, and then things go OK on the day, so here's hoping. I know that in 3 days' time, however the coming days' work goes, I'll have it behind me and I'll be looking forward to going abroad.

On a particularly positive note, I have managed to raise over �5,000 which is wonderful news. I must be honest and point out that some of the money I've raised is going towards the expense of organising the trip, but I'm so far above my target that most of this money will actually make it to Mencap. Obviously more money is still a good thing, so go on and open up those pockets. Seriously, if you want to donate to this good cause, contact me and I'll tell you how.
posted @ 2:36 PM -
Just found an article from an Iranian (in the news site of the same name) about what the US needs to do differently in future to improve matters in the Middle East, and particularly perceptions of the US in the region. I like it for a few reasons, mainly that it actually makes a positive suggestion (yes I have noticed my own tendency to criticise everything) and that it provides an explanation of the current state of affairs that is less dehumanising, simplistic, adversarial, disrespectful and fatalistic than the "clash of civilisations" thesis. Here is a quote:

"If we are to live in peace, the U.S. can no longer turn a blind eye to dictators based solely on their political allegiance or economic pay-offs."

and here is the full article
posted @ 9:37 AM -
Well.... I'm feeling slightly more on top of things now, but a lot has been postponed to make time, which I may regret when I come back from China. At least means I can afford a bit of a break and to calm myself down slightly....
posted @ 9:22 AM -

Monday, October 15

sooooo tired..... so many things to do.....

I'm off to China on Saturday, to ride a bike 250 miles to raise money for Mencap. This is great - I'm looking forward to it, I've already raised lots of money and there's probably more to come - but I'm not ready. I'm ready for the ride itself - I've done similar things in less exotic places (Brighton - Plymouth) before anyway - but I have so many things I ought to do before going, many of which will just have to be shelved for a few weeks because I will be leaving in about 106 hours, and I'll be working for 34 of the intervening hours. Assuming I'll sleep for about 8 hours a night, that gives me 106 - 34 - (5 * 8 = 40) = 22 hours of preparation time, assuming I do absolutely no relaxing or writing here. Worse than it sounds, because I have a long list of things to do, which don't need to be done tomorrow, but really ought not to wait a few weeks. If this site is quiet for a couple of weeks at least now you'll know why.

The realisation that the world won't end if I put some of my plans aside for a while has calmed me down a little bit from the pinnacle of stress I was on earlier, but I'm still not the most cheerful or relaxed person in the world. Still, at least I did get my passport back from the Chinese Embassy complete with visa; I had left the application rather late and it was becoming a serious worry.

Goodnight, and if you don't hear from me for a couple of weeks don't be surprised.
posted @ 4:23 PM -
what a nice idea. Teach For America offers to pay half of a student's tuition fees (remembering that in America that's an awful lot of money) on condition that they teach for two years after graduation. Definitely one idea from the States that would be worth the UK copying....
posted @ 4:00 PM -
Several cool science stories getting the odd (low profile) mention in the news today:

  • A.L.I.C.E. is a computer program which managed to convince judges that it was more human than one of the human confederates in a competition.

  • Baboons have shown that they can discriminate between orderly and disorderly sequences of images, and see patterns in abstract data. This is an ability that was previously thought to be either unique to humans or only shared by a few "higher" primate species.

  • Eight new planets have been discovered outside the Solar System. There's also a very pretty artist's impression available online, but be warned that it's a very large file (1.4 Mb = 7-10 minutes on most modems) and may take you some time to download.
posted @ 3:38 PM -
I have a feeling this may only apply to medical research, which is a shame, but at least it will be a step in the right direction. Plans are being put in place for a "hit squad" to deal with research fraud.

Research fraud is a major issues in all fields of science, particularly because it is so hard to get ideas out of the public domain when they turn out to have been based on fraudulent research. Once an idea has been published, the failure of other researchers to replicate it rarely gets published, let alone into the wider media. If there are high-profile investigations it would not only increase the chance of catching fraud, but also of both fraud and flawed research being publicly exposed, which would reduce the damage it does.
posted @ 3:24 PM -
Stop Policeware - fight the SSSCA (Security Systems Standards and Certification Act)

It's a US law, but so much computer marketing is aimed at the US market that anything compulsory there becomes de facto accepted elsewhere.
posted @ 3:08 AM -
"The Afghan people are victims of two injustices today: the first being the power wielded by marginal leaders and the second being the aggression with the use of weapons and missiles against Afghanistan" - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami
posted @ 2:40 AM -

Sunday, October 14

If you are interested in reading the actual book The Clash of Civilizations (see previous posts from today for why I'm on about this) you can find surprisingly extensive extracts on the Amazon web site (mostly from Chapter 1) and the Mount Holyoke College website (chapter 12 - I think in it's entirety). It is quite telling quite how many words are devoted to justifying the simplistic world-view used as the central argument of the book.

The journal article is far shorter, essentially because it cuts out the self-justification and just presents the idea. It seems the journal itself (Foreign Affairs) is not available online (if I'm wrong please tell me, but I haven't been able to find it). I have been able to find a poorly formatted (and probably in breach of copyright?) copy at the Colorado College, which also republishes the responses that appeared in the following issue of Foreign Affairs.

I have to say, while I find the over-simplification of the world into a few civilisations and the claim that specific fault lines are inevitable rather ridiculous, the article actually ends on a note I agree with totally:

"For the relevant future, there will be no universal civilization, but instead a world of different civilizations, each of which will have to learn to coexist with the others."

Shame this has been ignored, and the competitive implication of the article picked up on instead.
posted @ 12:19 PM -
Strange how I haven't seen any reports in the UK media about this. According to Dawn, an English-language daily from Pakistan, America has embarked on a "new policy of unrestricted arms sales and military assistance to countries willing to join its coalition against suspected terrorists". Consider for a few moments the regimes America has previously supported militarily because they were convenient allies at the time. Here is a partial list:
General Augusto Pinochet in Chile

has since been the subject of ongoing charges of mass murder

Saddam Hussein in Iraq

since then invaded Kuwait, and has become one of the staunchest enemies of America

The Taliban

doesn't really need qualification, does it?

Osama Bin Laden

doh!

will they never learn?
posted @ 8:00 AM -
The "Clash of Ignorance" article I referenced in the previous post cites The Economist as glibly supporting Huntington's ideas. While some articles may well have done so, the Economist home page currently draws attention to a survey they initially published in 1994 about the Islamic world, its relationship with the West, and the ways in which it might change. The whole survey is interesting, partly because parts of it seem quite prescient in retrospect, partly because it raises concerns which suddenly now western governments have professed an interest in (1994, in a mainstream magazine that politicians read, and they suddenly care now?!?), and partly because the first and last articles in it aim to refute the idea that "Islam" and "The West" are doomed to conflict:
posted @ 7:09 AM -
A few years ago Samuel Huntington wrote first an article, then a book about "the Clash of Civilizations", based on a ludicrous over-simplification of the differences between civilisations, exaggeration of how homogeneous the civilisations are, and the utterly blinkered assumption that the "Western" way of life is intrinsically and necessarily the best for everybody, whether they believe it or not. I guess my very judgemental choice of adjectives makes clear what I think of this idea, and finally I have found a well written and more completely worked out expression of what's wrong with it: The Clash of Ignorance.
posted @ 6:19 AM -
Pure comedy this one. Lloyds TSB has managed to send customers' credit card details out to strangers. What makes this so funny is that it "happened during a promotion to sell customers insurance against fraud"....
posted @ 5:37 AM -
One of many reasons why I like the FT - while being very clear supporters of one particular way, they are willing to put open forums about contentious issues on their website, and let anybody (including some complete loons) speak their mind. One of the current discussions is about globalisation, and among the froth of 80-odd people each arguing about their own interpretation of the term, and therefore failing to answer each other, there was one post I thought worth quoting:


Global McDonaldisation
by A Cutelli 12 Oct 2001 10:25 AM
In theory, 'globalisation' should be a 'good thing'. however, just as the Taliban and their ilk have presented a warped version of Islam, the corporations of the industrialised world and their government backers have exploited globalisation to their own ends.

If 'globalisation' means an exchange of cultures and ideas it is a 'good thing'.

If globalisation fosters fair trade between the developed world and less developed countries to the mutual benefit of both it a 'good thing'.

If globalisation can break down the barriers between different races, creeds and overcome superstition and mutual fear and distrust, it is a 'good thing'.

In reality, corporate-led globalisation only benefits the companies and their investors.

In reality corporate-led globalisation has:

Forced subsistence farmers in less developed countries of the world to grow non-native cash crops for the markets of the industrialised countries instead of native varieties for their own consumption, in order to pay of the interest on debts to Western banks.

Led to the proliferation of the international arms trade which has fuelled vicious wars throughout the world.

Foisted alien cultures on other societies, leading to the bland 'MacDonaldisation' of the world. You only need look at the UK to see how little of real English culture actually remains. The UK isnt nicknamed the '51st state of the USA' for nothing.

Led to the destruction of many industries in developed countries through the transfer of manufacture to lower cost economies.

Led to the destruction of the natural environment across much of the planet. Look how the forests of Cambodia and Brazil have been decimated just to make furniture.

Forced governments to abandon policies 'detrimental' to their 'interests. Hallo to GWB and his mates in the Global Coalition.Goodbye to the planet.

While all the news is focused on Afghanistan and OBL, everything else has been put on the back burner. Global warming anyone?


If you want to read everyone else's opinions they are here: Do the anti-globalisation activists have a point? - FT.com Forums
posted @ 5:30 AM -
OK. Please explain this. Railtrack has been a government-subsidised business from birth to death, and it has hæmorrhaged money constantly, without either saving the government money or providing the country with a better service. The government decided to stop subsidising this private industry, in line with the principles of a free market capitalist economy, and instantly the company went bankrupt. The government then took Railtrack over rather than let the entire UK rail network stop running. Clearly this was part of the government's plan - they knew it would happen - but surely the following is not a reasonable response to the stopping of a subsidy:

''The government "mugged" Railtrack when it "ambushed" the troubled railway firm into administration, according to its outgoing chief executive, Steve Marshall. ''

BBC News | BUSINESS | Railtrack boss condemns "mugging"

[this line added at 1436] The Economist seems to agree with my viewpoint here, which is nice.
posted @ 5:14 AM -

Saturday, October 13

I'm reserving judgement so far, but this looks promising. The Israeli government is talking about easing movement restrictions for Palestinians in response to the drop in violence over the last couple of weeks. In themselves, these measures are far less than required to allow Palestinians a good standard of living, and it's early days yet, but this could just be the required switch from the vicious circle of escalating retaliatory violence to one of rewards for co-operation.

I will also be interested to see how much of this gets reported in the non-Israeli media. There is an unfortunate tendency (certainly in the UK press) to only report on the bad things that either side do, without mentioning anything positive or any non-confrontational subgroups. Among both the Israelis and the Palestinians there are some pacifist and reconciliatory groups, and this article also mentions a specific incident of considerable significance:

"On Friday, Israeli police recommended that two Israelis from the Tapuah settlement, Levy Zusman and Moshe Hershkovitz, be charged with trespassing, violation of injunction orders and disturbing the peace. The two allegedly entered the Jaljilya village, and attacked and abducted two Palestinians. The Jerusalem District Court will decide today whether remands for the pair are to be extended; police argue that the settlers' release could endanger the welfare of Palestinians."

I wouldn't be surprised if the UK media totally fail to mention this, but it has the very welcome implication that Israel has at least started to rein in its militants, rather than just expecting the Palestinian Authority to fo the same unilaterally.
posted @ 7:22 PM -
idyllic sandy beach scene from Tuvalu.  It will only take a very small rise in sea levels to swamp all the land in this picture


I missed the last 2 days of my week of ranting about Tuvalu, so I'll make up for it by posting a load of links now. I won't bother linking to more information about the country, because frankly there doesn't seem to be that much on the web, so instead I'll link to some related issues. Quick recap of why I care: Tuvalu has just come to an agreement with New Zealand about resettling its population, because rising sea levels are likely to make the country uninhabitable (current highest point 5 metres). If you want to read more, you can go to my original post about Tuvalu.

Here are some global climate change and sea level rise related links:
posted @ 5:04 PM -
Americans: Your country needs you! Show your patriotism by spending money on our products!
posted @ 4:49 PM -
a power supply with some old-fashioned knobs and gauges on the face


This is one of the things that comes up from a Google images search for my name. Oh dear. My secret is out.
posted @ 4:34 PM -
I have a half-baked theory about why the nordic countries (and possibly Canada) are all so wonderful. It is based on societal evolution (I know I've walked into controversy with those 6 words, but I strongly believe that societal evolution happens, and explains much about extant societies in all species). Basically my idea is that harsh climates (such as ones where the ground freezes solid and the sun barely rises for a few months of the year) are far harder to survive in than comfortable ones (such as Mediterranean climates - I know too little about any tropical country to be able to comment on them), which means that only those tribes with high levels of co-operation and commitment could survive, whereas in more moderate climates tribes with less efficient structures could survive. This leads (possibly) to the fact that modern nordic societies seem to involve far more co-operative behaviour, and far stronger ideas of civic responsibility than those in the rest of Europe.

Now I read (courtesy of Stuart Buck) a theory that also claims to explain the success of societies from colder climates (though in economic rather than social terms), in a diametrically opposed way - apparently frost is good for the economy.
posted @ 4:28 PM -
Censorship takes many and varied forms, not just planned censorship by governments. In this case it is a private lawsuit trying to subvert anti-racism legislation in order to silence a dissenter:

"A University of B.C. women's studies professor who criticized U.S. foreign policy has been accused of a hate crime -- publicly inciting hatred against Americans."

Thanks to Adnan for drawing my attention to this.
posted @ 4:29 AM -

Friday, October 12

having typed that stuff about how Blogger provides a select group of web users with yet another level of interconnectedness, I'm determined to fix the menu that had appeared on this page for a few days. I removed it because I'm having problems with cross-browser compatibility, and it was ruining the page in Netscape, but I definitely want a menu on my page which links to other blogs and to the sort of news sources I read.
Until then, I'll link to the blog that I'm reading most:
posted @ 12:15 AM -
everyone else is doing it, so why can't we?

GUILDFORD is applying for city status! Makes Brighton look like a bustling, sprawling metropolis by comparison....
posted @ 12:06 AM -

Thursday, October 11

War! Huh! What is it good for?

The financial markets, apparently.
posted @ 7:08 PM -
HAMLET: Act IV, Scene iii, lines 16ff (see previous post for why I've just decided to post this):
[Hamlet killed Polonius in Act III]
KING

Now, Hamlet, where's Polonius?

HAMLET

At supper

KING

At supper? Where?

HAMLET

Not where he eats, where 'a is eaten. A certain convocation of politic worms are e'en at him. Your worm is your emperor for diet. We fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots. Your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service--two dishes, but to one table. That's the end.

KING

Alas, alas!

HAMLET

A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of the worm.

KING

What dost thou mean by this?

HAMLET

Nothing but to show you how a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar.

....
posted @ 7:05 PM -
SCALE

I am adding what follows after the initial posting of this link
This link appeared as the end of a very interesting night. Went from work (nice group I'm teaching, only trouble is we are way ahead of schedule, so I have to work out what is a good topic to add to the course to give them value for money) to meeting some of the new people on my MSc course (the one I'm a student on) in the pub. Consumed only my second pint of the month (too much work to do. Alcohol is a thief of time), and then closing was declared. Tried to lure people back to my den with the promise of whisky (Laphroiag. Mmmmmm), and had a nice talk as a result with one of them, who eventually did decide to go home. Then a passer-by approached me and said something along the lines of "I'm sorry to intrude on your conversation, but I noticed you were talking about theoretical physics....". My reaction to this was considerably less hostile than it might have otherwise been for a number of reasons:
  1. that's such an unusual conversation opener that it had to be followed through
  2. he proceeded to talk sense
  3. though he was a stranger, he was someone familiar to me, in the way that all of the more distinctive looking people in Brighton now are, just because it's not that big a place

Dave, he who had been a stranger, ended up being the only person I managed to entice back to my house, and we spent a few hours talking about stuff. It will have to remain described just as stuff, because the range of topics was so broad. The only unifying whole to this linked back to a conversation from earlier in the night (the one Dave had been overhearing) about how all of science is interesting only in as much as it can help us to understand ourselves. A lot of it revolved around the idea (which had occurred to me before, but had been brought back to the front of my mind by my recent readings about Sufism) of all of humanity being part of one whole, because we are connected on so many levels. Here are some examples:
  • the incestuousness of friendships in Brighton - every Brighton person I've met recently either knows me already, or recognises me, or knows some of my friends

  • the atomic level - some atoms in my body may once have been part of yours, or your grandfather's, and so on, even though we each view ourselves are independent wholes (will post great Hamlet quote about this shortly)

  • intellectually, with new networks emerging, such as that provided by Blogger (which is growing), which give us a whole new level on which people who have no direct point of contact, but certain things in common (it is clear that Blogger users do not represent a representative sample of all humanity).

As for where that link at the top of this post came from, I was demonstrating Blogger to Dave, trying to show how the ease of drawing attention to things has changed the way I write about them, and although so far only a tiny minority of web users are involved, it is changing the way that this small community perceive ourselves, each other and the web as a whole.

It's time to stop raving and hit the sack, but not before more Rumi
posted @ 6:24 PM -
A classic piece of American hypocrisy here. Al-Jazeera has been broadcasting various statements by Bin Laden, in which he tries to convince Muslims that the West is at war with Islam. America and its allies have been arguing against this, but the British and American governments have reacted in tellingly different ways. Tony Blair did the sensible thing, asking the station to broacast an interview with him, in which he presented his side of the story. Al-Jazeera demonstrated some journalistic balance by doing exactly that, and leaving viewers to decide who to listen to. The Bush administration reacted rather childishly:

"The United States has found itself on the back foot, complaining to the Emir of Qatar that the television station was becoming a platform for Bin Laden but being told that media freedom was an essential part of democratic life."

full story
posted @ 8:45 AM -
Brighton & Hove Albion FC have finally submitted the planning application for a new stadium at Falmer. Seeing as at the moment the team plays its matches in a sub-standard and under-sized temporary venue I hope they manage to go through with this. It looks like they will, because the main stumbling block relates to negotiations with the University of Brighton, and they have suggested 2 possible sites, one of which does not need the University's agreement (because it is further from their campus).
posted @ 8:34 AM -

Wednesday, October 10

beautiful isn't it?  It's also damned, because rising sea levels will swamp this whole country within this century

Tuvalu is a Pacific island paradise in danger of extinction due to rising sea levels. I'll link back to my original post on the subject rather than repeating myself, but I also decided last weekend to say something about the place each day of this week. Today's recommended reading is about the Funafuti Area Conservation Project, which is a UN-supported project to stop overfishing from destroying the area's biodiversity.
posted @ 6:34 PM -
AAAaaaaaarrrrrrggghhhhh!!!!!! I despise Netscape. It's not just that I find their sub-standard browser software frustrating (out of about 20 hours devoted to web development this week about 15 would have been unnecessary if Netscape Navigator 4.x only implemented CSS properly), but it's about the way they realeased this software. At a time when I was criticising Microsoft for releasing unfinished, inadequately tested software for the sake of generating momentum, Netscape decided to completely out-Herod Herod. They released Navigator 4 with incomplete CSS1 support (worse than no support at all - many pages now degrade more gracefully in older versions of the software) and full of bugs (I stopped using it as my main browser years ago because it crashes so regularly). Then to make things worse they released minor update after minor update fixing some of the bugs, but never improving the standards support, thereby forcing web designers to design for their shoddy, half-baked, unfinished excuse for a web browser. This holds back progress on the web like nothing else, because correctly designed, standards-compliant pages, which work fine on older browsers and on the latest versions, have to be re-designed for Netscape 4.x. Unfortunately a proportion of people are stuck with this software, so the "just tell them to upgrade" route is pointless. It looks like I'll be cursing Navigator 4.x for some years yet....
posted @ 5:08 PM -
A few weeks ago I said I hope that people archive all the web material about the WTC attacks for the history lessons of the future. It's now being done in a project called the Attack Archive. You can also contribute by visiting the project's web page.
posted @ 4:56 PM -
Someone just pointed me to a rather nice essay about addiction. Worth a read if you have some time on your hands....
posted @ 8:10 AM -
More about Tuvalu. The country is part of the South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project. The Project avoids allocating blame for climate change, but does clearly state that sea levels are expected to rise, and that this will have grave consequences for the inhabitants of some of its member countries. One of its aims is "to assist governments to develop policies for a more informed and planned approach to issues arising from climate change and sea level rise", and here is a quote from the website about why this is important:

The science of climate and sea level changes is very complex and is not well understood: this can give rise to some confusion and sensational publicity. For example, the maximum height of land above the sea for some Pacific Island Countries is only two metres. Other countries may lose major parts of their productive coastal areas and ecosystems should sea level rise be significant; there are fundamental issues at stake.
posted @ 7:49 AM -
I must spend less time writing stuff here, as I have a life to live, and particularly I've been telling myself I don't have time to phone or write long emails to good friends while spending time blogging. Sorry folks - if you are a good friend you'll probably be hearing more from me because of this, but if you have found my blog through hyperspace then I'm afraid you will be seeing less new material than there had been over the past week.

I'm not giving up on it though, but for the next couple of days there may be very little activity, as I've discovered my site (not just this page) looks terrible on some browsers, so I have some fixing to do. Until I get this sorted out more of my 'blogger time' will be spent tinkering with code than writing content.

News in brief - I've met the new students on my MSc course now, and they seem like an interesting bunch. Twice as many as last year - the field really is getting respectable - and a nice range of backgrounds & interests. I haven't had a chance to speak to many of them for much time yet, but those who I have spoken to I like. So far so good.

I'm going to China on the 20th (which is sooner than I keep thinking) to do a 250 mile bike ride raising money for Mencap. This has crept up on me, and I keep thinking it's several weeks away, which is one of the reasons I have to spend more time doing other stuff now. I've managed to raise a lot of money (if you've contributed - thanks!), but more is always good. It goes to helping people with learning difficulties - in some cases helping them take care of themselves and live more independent lives, and for more seriously handicapped people just taking some of the burden of care off their families' shoulders. It's all in a very good cause; if you're feeling generous get in touch and I'll tell you how to sponsor me.
posted @ 6:39 AM -

Monday, October 8

I'm determined to keep banging on about Tuvalu all week, even though I'm having trouble finding much information about the place. Today's link is from the .tv Corporation, who handle the country's main export - domain names.

Key quote from this site: In 1998, a panel of observers cited Tuvalu as the world�s only nation above reproach for human rights violations.

Meanwhile it is being swallowed up by rising sea levels and their government have a plan to evacuate the entire population over the next 30 years. I tried to sum up the background and my reaction to this in an earlier post about the plight of Tuvalu.
posted @ 4:24 PM -
Steven Baum has posted a vast quantity of information about Afghanistan, international terrorism, Pakistan and so on at Ethel the Blog. Very thorough, very cynical, and generally drawn from well-respected and reliable sources. If you're looking for the story behind US & European propaganda, I can strongly recommend this page.
posted @ 4:12 PM -
Had a Students' Union Exec meeting this evening, and it was quite productive. I have a long term worry about the diversity of strong social & political opinions on the Executive Committee, but so far we are proving a model of consensus politics. As long as none of us are stupid enough to let our divisions get in the way of the things we agree on we should be able to achieve a lot this year.

I know that what follows will look very self-congratulatory, but I think it's probably a good idea for me to do some highly biased reporting of what we get up to, in order to justify the amount of time & effort I put in to the Union (actually not that much, unless you consider that I have a part-time post as well as a job and a degree to get).

Good decisions we made today:
  • The National Blood Service can use our facilities again. They were banned on account of an interpretation of the Union's Equal Opportunities Policy. Because they do have some stupid rules about who can give blood, which amount to discrimination against gay people, the decision was made by a previous Exec to not let them use our hall for blood donation sessions. We decided that actually that is reacting to a bad thing by making it worse - at least if we welcome them back some people can give blood.

  • Co-operation with the University on disabled access. The University administration want to install more lifts and improve wheelchair access to buildings but they are having trouble getting the funds from central government; we will try to help them raise awareness and campaign for this.

  • Formation of a Student Assembly Against Racism, to be semi-independent of the Union, so that it can have less unwieldy bureaucracy to deal with than the Union itself.
posted @ 1:55 PM -
Picking a fight with the most insane nation on Earth with the hope that your message and influence will spread throughout the world, well, that's just downright stupid.

One American's response to terrorists attacking targets within the US.

found via serialdeviant.org
posted @ 7:42 AM -
From the Guardian:

At its worst, western fundamentalism echoes the characteristics it finds so repulsive in its enemy, Bin Laden: first, a sense of unquestioned superiority; second, an assertion of the universal applicability of its values; and third, a lack of will to understand what is profoundly different from itself

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Intolerant liberalism

The article makes a an important point, but I think it also makes big mistake in labelling this sort of fundamentalism as "intolerant liberalism". This sort of attitude is just as far removed from a truly liberal agenda as Wahabbism is from the Islam practiced by my friends. That said, we in the wealthy world do have a smug, ridiculous and narrow-minded tendency to assume that our way is best for everyone else.
posted @ 5:26 AM -

Sunday, October 7

a Tuvaluan in an outrigger canoe.  He's likely to live to see his homeland disappear.  Makes everything I worry and complain about seem churlish.
posted @ 7:54 PM -
I'm trying out a new design. Apologies to Opera & Netscape users - I know that it looks horrible on your browsers just now - I promise I'll sort this out, just as soon as I can work out how. For anyone else, whaddyathink?
posted @ 7:39 PM -
Adnan   follow him, he speaks in sentences
posted @ 2:05 PM -
I decided this morning to declare a "Tuvalu awareness week" on this page. I won't let more immediate world events distract me from that, because actually the plight of this cluster of tiny islands is symbolic of a grave issue in the future of humanity.

Tuvalu have just agreed a gradual evacuation plan with New Zealand, because their islands are being swallowed by rising sea levels, making the country the first casualty of humanity's collective nest-fouling. It is also a beautiful place, which I hope I get the chance to visit while it remains habitable.

Smell the roses while you still can: Tuvalu Photo Album.
posted @ 1:54 PM -
What a bitter irony. Human intelligence has allowed us to create an immense industrialised society, and now pollution, the by-product, has been found to damage intelligence.
posted @ 1:36 PM -
This feels irrelevant against a backdrop of the country being at war, but it is actually pretty important to the future of Britain. The government has re-imposed control over the rail infrastructure. Finally they decided to stop subsidising Railtrack and effectively re-nationalise it.
posted @ 1:27 PM -
meanwhile, Burhannudin Rabbani, perhaps the person who has most to gain from attacks on the Taliban, has been arguing that a war is not necessary in order to get Bin Laden.
posted @ 1:02 PM -
Oh how convenient. We don't understand him, so let's just label Mullah Omar as mentally unstable. I'm not saying he isn't - how would I know? - but it does seem awfully convenient, and an awfully well timed announcement.
posted @ 12:57 PM -

no I will not have a good evening thank you


Somehow the usual ending to Channel 4 News sounds a bit hollow when the whole point of the programme was to announce that we are at war.
posted @ 12:04 PM -
I've been to a few sites now which show the imood.com mood of the internet indicator. Every time I see it the mood is "tired" by a large margin, which I think is quite telling. It doesn't say much about the world at large (well actually it might, but that would be coincidental), but I think it says a lot about the demographic of the sort of people who are involved enough in the internet to use services like this. We are certainly a breed apart, and I wonder if it's a general character trait that we tend to try to do too many things at once?

Meanwhile I'm debating whether to put a personal mood indicator on this page. I will definitely join imood to supply anonymous data for what could turn into quite an interesting corpus (for answering obvious questions like "how did the internet's mood change through September?"), and I will probably put an internet mood indicator on because it's quite interesting. What I'm less sure about is whether I really want to advertise my mood. It would either amount to saying more that is personal than I choose to say in the text, or to not contributing any extra information. What do you think?

Also, off on a slight tangent, I think this imood thing is part of an interesting re-organisation that is happening in the way people browse the web. Much has been made in certain academic circles of changes specifically catalysed by September the 11th (like this article about Google), but I think that there are more interesting changes happening indepently of specific world events.

I'll try to write more lucidly about this later, but I think what's happening is that as web access becomes widespread in many countries (though I am not as blind as many internet commentators to this huge geographical disparity in this) its exclusivity is not being lost. Where there used to be a divide between web users and non-web-users, there is now a divide between people who use the web as a limited tool, and people who have some sort of online identity and use the web as their main communications & information source.

Though I didn't realise it at the time, when I revamped eldan.co.uk and started this blog a few months ago I was starting the process of moving from one community to the other. The difference seems to be in the way that people browse - I am increasingly finding that I can't explain to people how I reached a particular page, because the route was too indirect, and conversely I am about to do another redesign in which this page links to like-minded blogs, which will make my blog part of an amorphously linked mass. When I get the time I'll try to formulate and express these ideas more lucidly, till then any input is much appreciated.
posted @ 7:18 AM -

Saturday, October 6

some good news: at least the region being thrust rudely into the gaze of the world has led to an outpouring of foreign aid for Afghanistan.
posted @ 4:58 PM -
Back to taking myself seriously. The state of Tuvalu, a small set of islands in the Pacific, has come to an agreement with New Zealand to relocate a proportion of its population each year, because the islands are being swallowed by rising seas and they fear the complete disappearance of their homeland.

This reminds me of science fiction scenarios of launching an ark into space because planet Earth is about to be destroyed; the only difference being the scale. I am trying to imagine the emotions that would be associated with the knowledge that the land I call home is likely to disappear in my lifetime, and I just can't, because it's so far outside my experience.

Meanwhile even though I know that I am more environmentally conscious (and conscientious) than most people around me, I can't help but feel guilty about the fact that I have contributed to their demise every time I decided to drive somewhere rather than cycling (I don't own a car any more, partly because it was too easy to be lazy). Come to think of it, I am contributing right now by having a PC and a couple of lights on, and you are contributing by reading this rather than switching your monitor off. Maybe the disappearance of one state will help raise the rich world's consciousness that envornmental issues are not some abstract hippy issue about fluffy bunnies, but actually do affect people directly.

Maybe, just maybe™ the sacrifice of only a small country with a small population will be enough to turn things around. Somehow I can't believe my own attempt at optimism....
posted @ 3:58 PM -
I'm just watching highlights of today's England game, which had the strange combination of being totally uninspiring but managing to assure World Cup qualification anyway, and I think I've just heard a candidate for quote of the month:

there's David Beckham in space

I know he's very talented, but I didn't think he'd diversified his skills that far. As for football commentary, today has just proved how much of a noble art it is.
posted @ 3:29 PM -
By the same author as the article I just referenced before: how do people get cool jobs like torturer, executioner and amputator?

Mummy, when I grow up I want to cut off peoples' hands.
posted @ 3:25 PM -
Let me get one thing straight. There are strict limits to how much I am willing to sacrifice myself for any cause. Unlike the Peruvian man who cut off his penis to draw attention to his unemployment. Much to my surprise he actually now has a job. Would you recruit someone who did that?
posted @ 3:20 PM -
From a scientist who disturbs me to one who I agree with often. Philip Zimbardo (social psychologist, of Stanford Prison Experiment fame) has published an article about how we must never debase ourselves in desire for revenge, not only for abstract reasons but because the bloodthirstiness of governments ends up being reflected in bloodlust between citizens.

How We Become Like the Enemy
posted @ 6:41 AM -
more onDawkins' pathological hatred of religion. Inflammatory approaches like Dawkins' don't exactly help people either to have a rational debate or to actually spread the word about what we believe in.
posted @ 6:34 AM -
Now here's a surprise. I look at the BNP website every now and again, because I think it's important to understand the people who would expel me, and found an article by their chairman about what he would like to do in the aftermath of September the 11th. Among all the expected bile, hatred and nonsense, there was one surprisingly liberaltouch - the bottom of the page supports ending sanctions against Iraq. This doesn't mark the sudden transformation of the BNP into a liberal, pluralist party, but it still made nicer reading than most of their site (including a lot of that article)....
posted @ 6:25 AM -

Friday, October 5

There is a Jam Echelon Day scheduled in a couple of weeks. Echelon is a highly suspect project of several governments (basically all the countries that use English as a first language) to indiscriminately monitor all electronic communications that can be picked up. This includes [allegedly] scanning every email that travels transatlantically (and the web works in a perverse enough way that this could include emails you send to someone who reads them in the same building as you) for a list of key words. It is impossible to know exactly what Echelon does and how it works, because it is so shrouded in secrecy, but a recent burst of official information, particularly the EU report do make me believe it exists, is far-reaching in its technical abilities, and is totally unregulated. This is bad.

why should I care about Echelon?
In essence I, like most people who don't wish to overthrow their government or commit mass murder, don't really have a great deal to hide. This certainly is a common argument from anyone who opposes the civil liberties lobby (have to be careful here - not many people actually oppose civil liberties per se - they tend to support things which conflict with civil liberties. A semantic difference perhaps, but an important one as regards peoples' self perceptions), and it is not entirely untrue. However, everyone also has a right to privacy; a right to being able to choose who they communicate with. This ranges from the trivial - an email from me to person X about what a great night I had with person Y is unlikely to interest Mr[s]. Shady Intelligence Person, but I still don't want anyone else reading it - to the serious - I am 90% sure that MI5 have a file on me, and I wish to keep that file as small as I can without censoring myself. My claim that MI5 have a file on me may seem paranoid, but it is based on reliable information that MI5 have a policy of gathering information on all Students' Union officers. If I'm right then they're wasting their time - not only am I no threat to anyone, but most Students' Unions are less subversive than the population at large - but if anything that makes the point even clearer - you may be under surveillance in spite of being no threat to anyone and having nothing serious to hide.

isn't this a sacrifice of my privacy for the greater good?
Frankly I am irritated that the money I pay in tax is being squandered on worthless schemes like Echelon when it could be spent on ____ (insert any of countless worthier causes here) or simply not creamed out of my wages in the first place. Any serious threat to national security would be perpetrated by people who have the lo-tech savvy to get around hi-tech surveillance schemes. Think about it. If I want to organise a revolution I won't email all my friends saying "let's meet up tomorrow to discuss our plans for a violent coup d'état". I would make up a pretext to get people to my house (easy enough - most sociable people have perfectly innocent gatherings at their houses every now and again) and then only discuss subversive things face to face. If I were suspected of being a menace to society (and if anything a properly kept MI5 file on me would demonstrate my innocuity) then my house could be bugged, and my demonic plot foiled, but that neither requires nor is facilitated by a blanket surveillance system. Even if you don't take my concerns about Echelon seriously it should be clear that there is no benefit to the system's existence at all.

what can we do about it?

boycott all electronic communications

a bit extreme, to say the least. Only recommended for people who really do have a lot to hide. For the likes fo me the cost of this measure far outweighs the benefits

try to distract the system with irrelevant "keywords"

unlikely to achieve anything. At most you will waste a few computer operators' time

protest

if nothing else might at least help to spread the word and get the issue in the news. There is a protest next weekend at Menwith Hill, which is one of the bases apparently used in Echelon, and I'm sure there will be many more.

write to your MP

unless you write far more persuasively than I do one letter will not change anything. However, MPs do care about getting re-elected, so I think weight of mailbags on a particular subject do influence their decision-making

install PGP

freely available software makes it all but impossible for unauthorised people to read your mail. This is also useful for things like commercial security and protecting personal details from hackers.

spread the word

the 3 suggestions above are pointless unless a critical mass of people do the same. Tell everyone who might care, and then we might stand a chance of a result.

posted @ 3:42 PM -
shock horror! Eldan has something positive to say about recent action by HM Governnment! They have published the evidence that is said to justify action in Afghanistan. I'm not going to go as far as saying that this therefore justifies whatever they do, but it is certainly good news that they have published it. At least when people accuse the US of attacking Islam they have material they can use to respond with the argument that actually they are picking specific targets with some justification, which at least is better than lashing out without any information.
posted @ 11:28 AM -
Unbelievable. I know that in any crisis everyone tries their level best to link the events to their pet cause, but this is a case of opportunism taken to a ridiculous extreme. A report subtitled "That Fake Nike Swoosh May Be Helping to Fund Bin Laden's Network" tries to claim that we should crack down on copyright piracy because it is sometimes a source of terrorist funding.

Quite apart from the pathetic transparency of this attempt to relate two seperate issues, I think the argument is totally incoherent. On the one hand, terrorists will use any possible source to make money so it will never be possible to starve them off, and on the other do they not understand that it is precisely the unequal distribution of wealth (which is most sharply symbolised by overpriced brand name goods produced by underpaid labourers in sweatshops) that leads to the social problems that lead to envy and resentment of America? If terrorism will ever be defeated surely it's by removing peoples' motivation, not by stopping one of their many sources of funding.
posted @ 10:34 AM -
I'm glad I live in Britain. For all my sneering about having to pre-book protests with the police, and the excessive number of combat-equipped police who turn up when this is done, at least people here are allowed to protest, and I am allowed to write pages like this.

In Algeria the Berbers are not even being allowed to protest.
posted @ 10:10 AM -
Brilliant. Someone has devised an award for peopl more obsessive about more irrelevant things than me. This year's Ig Nobel Prize winners include the founder of the 'apostrophe protection society', in recognition of his unending battle to stop people from confusing word's with words'.
posted @ 9:29 AM -
what is normal? is normal good? or should we try to draw some benefit from shocking events and actually try to improve our normality?

It seems that whenever there is a crisis, the voices that urge people in a country to pull together would paper over all dissent, and a huge opportunity is lost. We run the risk of deafening all voices that would improve matters because people start to use things as an excuse to shout down the voices they find uncomfortable to hear.

On a slight tangent I was particularly struck by a small incident on Wednesday. At the picket one of the organisers was speaking, and being highly critical of British foreign policy over centuries. The speaker happened to be Asian. A passer-by snidely suggested that the speaker doesn't have to stay here. After my initial rage subsided, a subtle irony occurred to me. I could well have been saying the same things as the speaker at that point, and for the simple reason that my skin is white the chances are that passer-by wouldn't have reacted the same way. The irony is that I am an immigrant, whereas the dark-skinned speaker was British born. Don't people ever learn?
posted @ 6:29 AM -
THE FBI has claimed that British Prime Minister Tony Blair has breached US national security by lodging his head too far up George Bush's butt.
posted @ 3:53 AM -
Video training to boost fish survival
posted @ 2:50 AM -

Thursday, October 4

Brain scan can defeat terrorism
posted @ 5:47 PM -
Most amusing. Out of curiosity I tried this belief system selector, and it proclaimed me a Unitarian Universalist. The thing is the word that crops up all over their description of this group is "diverse", and in fact they seem so diverse that no-one could fail to fit it. The other ones that came up seemed to be systems which match my ethical ideas but not my epistemology at all (such as the Quakers)
posted @ 5:22 PM -
Crisis and grief-counseling centers across the nation are offering therapy groups for those who need to discuss their newfound inability to care about mass-market crapola
posted @ 3:26 PM -
Apparently the government are actually considering maintenance grants for students. I'm not holding my breath, but this might turn out nice in the end....
posted @ 5:53 AM -
One of the wonderful things about the web is it lets me read news from lots of different sources, and particularly from different sides of any conflict. Here is a nice cartoon of what happens to people who only get their news from one place.
posted @ 2:44 AM -

Wednesday, October 3

full moon in Brighton.  2 second exposure.  Click for enlargement
posted @ 5:10 PM -
no "us" or "them" - a more straightforward way of saying what the article I linked to about 10 minutes ago says
posted @ 4:53 PM -
not the end of the world but the beginning
posted @ 4:45 PM -
The words of Rollo May, in a book called the Courage to Create, in 1975, but still relevant:

We are living at a time when one age is dying and the new age is not yet born. We cannot doubt this as we look about us to see the radical changes in sexual mores, in marriage styles, in family structures, in education, in religion, technology, and almost every other aspect of modern life. And behind it all is the threat of the atom bomb, which recedes into the distance but never disappears. To live with sensitivity in the age of limbo indeed requires courage.

A choice confronts us. Shall we, as we feel our foundations shaking, withdraw in anxiety and panic? Frightened by the loss of our familiar mooring places, shall we become paralyzed and cover our inaction with apathy? If we do those things, we will have surrendered our chance to participate in the forming of the future. We will have forfeited the distinctive characteristic of human beings--namely, to influence our evolution through our own awareness. We will have capitulated to the blind juggernaut of history and lost the chance to mold the future into a society more equitable and humane.

Or shall we seize the courage necessary to preserve our sensitivity, awareness, and responsibility in the face of radical change? Shall we consciously participate, on however small the scale, in the forming of the new society? . . .

We are called upon to do something new, to confront a no man's land, to push into a forest where there are no well-worn paths and from which no one has returned to guide us. This is what the existentialists call the anxiety of nothingness. To live into the future means to leap into the unknown, and this requires a degree of courage for which there is no immediate precedent and which few people realize.
posted @ 4:14 PM -
The picket of the party conference today wasn't exactly a roaring success. I think we had a total of 20 people turn up, and we spoke to a journalist and several passers-by (some conference delegates and some interested locals), so it wasn't entirely a waste of time, but to have an impact we need more bodies and more voices. I'm not too worried about this though - term hasn't started yet, so a lot of students just aren't around. Shame the conference wasn't a couple of weeks later....
posted @ 8:41 AM -
Interesting how the need to clamp down on terrorists leads the government to consider absurdly draconian measures that will not achieve anything, but is no obstacle to a new Mox fabrication plant that will cause plutonium to be shipped worldwide, vastly increasing the potential for its interception by shady characters.
posted @ 8:11 AM -
picture of a demonstrator holding up a placard saying 'BOMB' with the Stars and Stripes in the backgroundThis picture was part of an Economist article, with the caption fanatics all round. I think it speaks volumes about the idea that a particular culture is the one that spawns fanatics. There really are fanatics all round....
posted @ 7:56 AM -

Tuesday, October 2

All this talk of Sufism (see previous post) reminds me that it's time for some Rumi. Today's reading is topical, because there is a picket for free education on Wednesday (technically today, but I will sleep for some time between now and then). I won't repeat my earlier rant about why this is important, but what I will say is that tuition fees for undergraduate degrees are the tip of the iceberg. The campaign is, quite rightly, about free access to good quality education at every level, from starting school to finishing a first degree or GNVQ or BTEC (the postgraduate funding situation is an entirely seperate issue, more to do with research funding than education as such). This is a very important part of freeing people from poverty, which is just as important as keeping people free from unjust laws.

Before then I have a breakfast meeting with some potential clients at bitt to try to launch the new courses that have been wrangled over for the past few months. I'd best get to bed....
posted @ 4:12 PM -
Not long ago I subscribed to a Sufism mailing list, because I still know far too little about this movement, and what I do know strikes me as interesting by virtue of its pluralism and its approach to the transcendental by wondering at the world, rather than simply personifying a god created in the believer's image. I had been following the group with detached interest, finding some of the messages struck a chord and some simply didn't, until someone posted a long 'Miracles of Islam' document. I don't have the actual one to had, but was along the lines of this "miraculous" pictures page, with some numerical "miracles" added on at the bottom. My first [unfairly prejudiced, for reasons I will explain below] response was along the lines of oh no, not another bunch of credulous fools.

I was being unfairly prejudiced in that response, because the fact of someone posting a document like that doesn't mean that they necessarily agree with its content, or consider it to be an answer to everything. I of all people should be aware of that - I often use this page to draw attention to sites I either disagree with or am ambivalent about. In this case, it seems the document was being thrown into the fray for discussion (an aside - if you find these sorts of "miracles" convincing proof of any particular belief system, take a look at this page about why "miracles" don't prove anything except about Gestalt Psychology)

Anyway, in discussion on the mailing list (back to the point at last!) the following came up:

Beyond the "obvious" patterns which might be easily "seen" as meaningful, everything in Nature is a manifestation of, and points toward the One -- if we could only see it....and remember. Hazrat Inayat Khan, in the Bowl of Saki reading coming up on October 5th, said "There is no greater scripture than Nature, for Nature is Life itself." Somewhere else he said "There is only one sacred text, the sacred text of Nature."

I remain an Infidel, but this sort of thinking appeals to me. If by the "One" the Sufis are referring to the natural world as a whole, rather than some ineffable omnipotent Other, then sign me up.
posted @ 3:51 PM -

Monday, October 1

BBC News | UK POLITICS | Compulsory ID cards 'ruled out'
posted @ 1:57 PM -
Most interesting. The latest news story I've seen suggests that the American action in Central Asia will take the form of targeted strikes against Taliban military targets, followed by bombing with leaflets and food.

I am always skeptical of reports like this, not least because it is in the military's interest to spread disinformation in order to keep the targets in the dark (alluded to in the article), but if this is true it's vastly better than just bombing the country to the Jurassic (what with it already being Stone Age).
posted @ 6:40 AM -
the suffering in Afghanistan

hmmm.... 5,000 dead in the WTC.... 7.5 MILLION (yes that's right - almost the population of London) Afghans dependent on foreign aid for survival. Of course it doesn't justify the attack, but it warrants serious thought....
posted @ 6:14 AM -
Of course, I should have known better than to expect the US administration to show the slightest trace of liberalism. Just because they won't introduce compulsory national ID cards doesn't mean that they will shrink from using the current crisis as an excuse to introduce new legislation so draconian that it dwarfs the UK Prevention of Terrorism Act 2000 in the extent of its paranoid legitimisation of Stalin-esque state surveillance. Details here:

CW360��- New law will treat hackers as terrorists
posted @ 6:11 AM -
The US administration has announced that it will not even consider compulsory ID cards. Time for our lot to follow suit?
posted @ 6:00 AM -
the Economist on the extreme difficulty of investigating terrorists
posted @ 5:58 AM -
I had written about this earlier, but it became somewhat overshadowed by world events:

There is a picket of the Labour Party Conference this Wednesday to support free education. In the week of September the 11th this did seem a tad irrelevant, but let's not fall for that. Just because more horrible things are happening than tuition fees does not imply that tuition fees are an unimportant issue.

At present in Britain, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, there is a significant group of people who will not be able to go to University regardless of ability, because they simply can not afford it. This is because over the past 15 years or so there has been a steady erosion of financial support for students, which in recent years has culminated in total abolition of grants to students, meaning that the total cost of studying (consisting of fees and living costs) is so high that it constitutes a barrier to access for those students whose parents can't or won't support them financially. Added to this, many students have to spend so many hours during the term earning money that their education is seriously handicapped.

This creates a social barrier because people born into poor backgrounds are denied their best possible chance to break out of the cycle of poverty. This is not just something I care about because I care about other people - it also has direct selfish consequences for the lucky people (like myself) who can sit in nice middle class houses and type things like this up in the time off from our nice middle class jobs, because the endless cycle of economic deprivation, social division and despair drives crime, and everybody's world would be improved if this cycle were easier to break out of, not just the people at the bottom of the pile.

While I was ambivalent about yesterday's demonstration, and went along mainly as a photographer, I will be a vocal participant in this one as it is a clear issue which I strongly believe in.

Click here for more information about Wednesday's picket

Click here for more information about the Sussex Free Education campaign in general
posted @ 3:55 AM -
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