Saturday, July 31

Public Trust

A question: has the general population's trust in public institutions decreased as the amount of information available to a private individual increased?

The reason I'm asking is that I perceive public faith in public institutions to have eroded dramatically within my lifetime, but I don't need to think very hard to see some things that may be giving me this impression falsely. Particularly, another thing that's happened in my lifetime: I've grown up. It may well be nothing more than that my ability to notice that in fact monolithic public institution x is not accorded a great deal of respect by the average person has improved.
posted @ 7:10 AM -

Friday, July 30


For all of this week I've had immense trouble waking up. Not so much getting out of bed (I've not been doing so well at that either, but this is not unusual), but actually getting any energy, becoming alert, and so on. It reminds me of a quote (I think from Frank Sinatra) about how the sad thing about people who don't drink is that when they wake up in the morning, that's the best they'll feel all day. I'm not normally like that, but lately I've been spending most of the day feeling how I do in the first few minutes after waking up.

I can fix this with coffee. Which is a useful thing to know. The trouble is, I generally avoid drinking coffee because it interacts badly with colitis; in fact after years of getting a spectrum of contradictory dietary advice from every well-meaning person under the sun, and trying many of the suggestions, limiting my intake of coffee and chilli and are the only things that I am convinced really help. So I'm trying to strike a balance, drinking the minimal amount of coffee needed to get me out of this inexplicable torpor.

Lately the colitis hasn't been troubling me too much. It's not that the symptoms have gone away—I'm taking as much medication as it's considered safe to take on a long-term basis, and I still crap more often than a healthy person—but it's predictable and almost under control. But I dare not drink normal amounts of coffee, for fear of breaking the liveable détente I have with my gut. I feel like if I don't keep my side of the bargain, I will be punished for it, and the though of how bad a state I was in a year ago scares me enough that I am very cautious with this. The upshot of which is that right now the worst impact of colitis on me is the indirect effect that it stops me from drinking coffee.
posted @ 8:33 AM -

Thursday, July 29

Francis Crick passed away today
posted @ 11:28 AM -

good news?

I think this may be the most positive news to have come out of Iraq so far: Saudi Arabia offers to co-ordinate a joint Muslim security force.
posted @ 7:03 AM -

raise the double standard

good terrorists? If there's one thing that America's experience with Saddam should have taught the world, it's that the enemy of one's enemy is not necessarily one's friend.
posted @ 6:20 AM -

Wednesday, July 28

HM Department of Vague Paranoia
posted @ 11:03 AM -
A date has been set for the first attempt at the X Prize. I hope they succeed; if space travel can be de-monopolised it will be the most exciting thing to have happened in space for quite some time.
posted @ 9:05 AM -

Making parody redundant

Ann Coulter's attempt at panning the DNC is so bad that it's gone beyond provocative to merely comical. The funniest part is that there is apparently outrage on the Right about her getting fired as a USA Today columnist. I daresay when they hired her USA Today were probably trying to get a conservative reaction that had a prayer of being taken seriously, something to which describing the Democratic Party as Spawn of Satan is not exactly conducive.

Link from Stanek.

Update: while some people are up in arms about this 'censorship' by the supposed liberal media (in fairness I should point out that I've only seen such outrage from fairly fringe sources; it seems most people aren't this stupid), USA Today has done the right thing, by hiring someone else with similar views—Jonah Goldberg—to take her place. I still dislike and disagree with his column, but it does have some profound advantages over Coulter's: it's well written, it starts with an entirely fair criticism rather than name-calling, it makes some comments about the content of the conference rather than sticking exclusively to form, the comments about form go at least slightly deeper than stereotypes, and most crucially it actually sounds like he was there. I can certainly see why the paper switched columnists.
posted @ 6:54 AM -

Tuesday, July 27


nudist T-shirts. Link from Zeke.
posted @ 9:25 PM -

in-flight hysteria

Just a couple more links with respect to the racism and paranoia story:This will be the last I write (or read) about the matter, partly because it's getting tiresome, but mainly because some of the rabid comments its generating on heavier-trafficed blogs than this are making me seethe. In such circumstances I find it's best for me to just change channel.
posted @ 10:42 AM -

more talk about the weather

Cleveland has been hit by a bout of strangely British weather for the past few days. Normally when people complain about the hot, humid summers and cold winters here my retort is that at least we don't go for days without seeing the sun, but lately that's exactly what's happened. There's grey cloud just hanging and keeping it dark, sporadic half-hearted rain, and I'm remembering quite how badly this weather saps my energy. Give me a thunderstorm, please, before I turn into Lear.
posted @ 9:10 AM -

Monday, July 26

elite is not an insult

I am thoroughly sick of the sneering use of elite as if it's somehow an insult. If I were elite anything I would be proud of that fact; as it is I am manifestly not. The word (defined here, in case you really needed that) means in some way better (or at least better off, which should not be an object of shame) than everyone else.

Before I came to America I thought that this anti-elitism was something curiously British, something that reflected on our underdog-love, and the more negative attitude Britain has than America to success. Now I've been here for a while, immersed in US media, and I see that actually it's used in just the same way. It's an attempt to undermine people for the crime of being successful and/or lucky. He's better off than you, therefore his opinions don't count. Hence liberal elites, Hollywood elites, and so on.

It's about time we re-learned a simple fact: elitism is good. It means favouring those who are better than others. It is how universities should select students, how employers should select staff, and most certainly how the population should select its leaders.
posted @ 3:46 PM -

candidates' websites

Spurred by a very snarky article in Wired, I went and actually looked at the Bush & Kerry websites today. The first thing that strikes me is that although I have been seeing the Democratic Party as the negative campaigners who are only too happy to promote their man as the non-Bush, it's actually the Bush-Cheney site that's full of bile. Kerry's hardly mentions his opponent, while Bush's seems to have more to say about what's wrong with Kerry than any actual positive reasons to vote for Bush. I suppose I shouldn't be entirely surprised: Kerry does seem to be trying to get away from that negativity, having perhaps realised that all the Bush-haters will vote for him anyway, so he needs to move forward by appealing to the relatively small group of genuine floating voters, while Bush knows that those who really agree with his ideas have also already made up their minds, so the way for him to target undecideds is to scare them off the devil they don't know.

The other thing that strikes me is the way the Bush-Cheney campaign is trying to package itself for America's two largest minorities: African Americans and Latinos. There are articles about ...why President Bush's agenda reflects the values of the Latino community and similar such things. These strike me as very patronising. I want a politician to put forward his/her agenda as a thing in itself, and try to sell it to me, not as a representative of the Jewish community, or the Turkish community, or whatever else, but as a person. Clearly they can't talk to every person as an individual, but I'd rather the aggregation were done as why my agenda is right for America than insultingly trying to fit it to an overall stereotyped picture of the group I belong to.
posted @ 8:59 AM -

Sunday, July 25

party convention season

Just a few quick links:
  • Scott has come up with potentially lethal drinking games for the Democratic and Republican National Conventions
  • The Monitor has an article about how partisanship is turning off voters. This certainly rings true to me. US politics is insanely partisan at the moment—more so than I have seen anywhere before, including Britain at the end of the Thatcher era—and I think it's very self-defeating. I don't know enough about the parties and the system here to know exactly what's up, but something is institutionally wrong with both major parties. Far from being the two flavours of the same thing politics that I used to hear Americans complain about not that many years ago, the parties seem to each be getting pulled further away from the centre by their most fanatical activists, at the risk of losing the majority of voters who aren't themselves card-carrying pary members. Not so much on issue politics (I'm not sure the modern Democratic Party can exactly be called 'hard left' in the imagination of anyone saner than Bill O'Reilly), but on the personal level, where the Republicans seem largely defined by hatred of Democrats, and the Democrats by hatred of Bush.
  • And finally, another Monitor article: about the meaning of the conventions. The DNC this week is Kerry's big chance to define himself as something other than the non-Bush. His failure to do so thus far is not because he doesn't have policies, but he has had very little success getting the media in general to notice. That's going to be the major purpose of this week; not making policy like a UK Party Conference, but publicising existing policy.
posted @ 9:00 PM -

does my insurance cover this?

This evening, Melinda and I went to see the Peking Acrobats at Cain Park. It was a great show, consisting of feats I can't even imagine being able to copy, interspersed with some slapstick buffoonery to keep the kiddies awake. I was sitting at the end of a row, and got hauled on stage by one of the more clownish characters, to have knives thrown at me. I was hooded, and afterwards was told that it was all a trick (the knives weren't really thrown, so much as whacked into the board behind me by one of the other performers), but I was entirely fooled at the time. I'm glad I fought the urge the wuss out and make them choose someone else, but I can tell you that it was a pretty frightening experience.
posted @ 8:48 PM -

Friday, July 23


Typophile is trying to generate an open source font
posted @ 12:02 PM -

racism and paranoia

There is an article doing the rounds at the moment about one passenger's terror when a group of Arab passengers started acting strangely on a flight. I don't want to link to the article directly, because it's overexposed already, but here is an important rebuttal.

While I disagree with the author's unshakeable faith in airport security—in fact I think it's often pretty shoddy—I do think that if these people were questioned by the Feds and then let go it probably does indicate that they were clean. I think the real message of the story is how dangerous racial profiling is in the atmosphere of paranoia that still exists in this country. I think Scott's response is apposite:
I have to admit that as I read the piece, I simply forced myself to imagine “frat boys” or “black men” or “gay men” as she described their behavior.
Or put it another way: if a group of white American men were acting in the same way, would anyone have batted an eyelid? It's not that their behaviour wasn't strange—I'd say it was quite suspicious really—but if they were white no-one would even have been watching them consistently enough to pick up on it. Of course, you might argue that inconviencing people who have the misfortune to be Arabs in America is a price worth paying in order to ensure the safety of everyone else. The trouble is, it doesn't buy us anything in security terms. For security to work well, everybody must get screened, because otherwise the terrorists will just second-guess whatever stupid profiling system is used, and find footsoldiers who get past it. Sure, this might keep Bin Laden out of the country, but he doesn't need to go somewhere in person to spread evil. I'll quote from Vinay's response for the last word:
If more arab men are being searched, then that's a clear sign that 19 men appearing to be arab are going to have difficulty either smuggling weapons on board a plane or boarding planes that lack a federal air marshal.

What, you ask, do they do? They dress appropriately. I bet there are plenty of fair-skinned muslims with valid US identification. They can completely blend in. They won't look like they're from a foreign country. They can pay someone to carry things on-board the plane ("here's $1 million to make sure this bag is on this plane"). They can hire people to do their hijacking for them ("we'll give your dirt-poor family $5 million to hijack this plane and fly it into the pentagon. Think about it -this country treats you and yours like shit anyway").

Oh. You missed the 5 white boys carrying box cutters because you were too busy searching the 15 guys in turbans? Well, sucks for you.
posted @ 6:11 AM -

Wednesday, July 21

I want to live here

Someone once described San Francisco to me as what Brighton wants to be when it grows up. I think they hit the nail on the head. It has a lot in common with Brighton—mostly things I like, but also the excess of tourists (excuse my hypocrisy) and fog—but it also has so much more to it, by virtue of being far bigger and more international. And unlike all the other cities where I'd really like to live, I would actually stand a realistic chance of getting an interesting job if I looked round here.

It's time for bed now, but I've finished with the first day's worth of photos. If you saw the ones I put up before now and want to skip them, go here.
posted @ 12:26 AM -

Tuesday, July 20

social arrangements

If you'll be in Cleveland this weekend, and are not on the Cleveland Oasis Club mailing list, you may want to know that there's a pub crawl in Tremont. Email me for details. The last one was a lot of fun, so I will certainly be going.
posted @ 10:56 PM -

The Modern World

When I booked my accommodation for the non-conference parts of this trip, I felt strange about the idea of staying in hostels with a laptop. This is the main reason why I went for H.I. hostels even though I tend not to like them: security is always good at these places because they have lockers and a 24 hour reception. It turns out I needn't have worried about looking odd: right now there are 5 other people on laptops in this room, and I've seen several others over the past few days.

Anyway, as I sit here using the hostel's free wireless network (very San Francisco, really), the person opposite me has a webcam out. He's having a video chat with someone. I am most impressed.
posted @ 9:01 PM -

Monday, July 19

more photos

I've started putting San Francisco photos up. This isn't even all of yesterdays' pictures though, and today I rented a bike and headed out into Marin county, so I have even more.

This place is climbing up my cities I'd like to live in list fast.
posted @ 11:10 PM -

Sunday, July 18

LA photos

are here. There aren't many, partly because I didn't get that much time to be a tourist in LA, partly because I didn't bring my camera on the evening when I went to Venice Beach (one of the more photogenic places I saw), and partly because I just didn't like LA very much. I don't hate the place like I more or less expected to, but I also don't understand what's so good about it. It's basically one enormous suburb, which is difficult to get around even with a car, and a complete and utter nightmare without one. It does admittedly have a wonderful location (between mountain and sea, and with an almost perfect climate), but it spoils its natural assets by its own existence. Too much concrete, palpable pollution on a scale that I have only seen exceeded by Bangkok and Beijing, and generally a collection of everything I dislike about urban areas, without seeming to have the spark of humanity that makes other massive cities —the Hong Kongs and New Yorks of the world—so great.

From what I have seen so far, San Francisco is far more my kind of place. But I've only been here 12 hours, so I'll write about that another day.
posted @ 11:02 PM -

conference round-up in brief

I think the best way to sum up the impact of this conference on me is that I've decided I should go to the other one this year, which I wasn't planning on doing because I'll have to pay for it myself, and I don't have anything to present there.

It's left me very enthused, and given me a bunch of new ideas for what to do next. It is also something of a draining experience, and this evening I'm sitting in the hostel, neither feeling like going out nor being remotely sociable, because I've used so much energy in the past week. Unquestionably worthwhile though.

In the next few days I'll write a detailed report on it for the lab. I don't think I'll post that here, because it will be of interest to too few people, but there won't be anything confidential in it, so if anyone's interested, drop me an email and I can send you what I write.
posted @ 10:41 PM -


This morning, while sitting on a stationary aircraft watching the stupid safety video, a thought occured to me. It hinges on the following question: has a commercial jet ever landed at sea in the way that the safety video assumes? In other words, has any of the stuff in that video ever saved a single life?

I'm fairly sure the answer is no.

This means that the safety video, and the carrying of lifejackets and liferafts is entirely wasted, and only done to make people feel better. Which is irritating. But it's not only annoying to pedants like me, it's also enormously wasteful, in ways that do matter.

First, the thing I can't calculate: aircraft are an extremely fuel-hungry means of transport. Every gram carried on an aircraft requires a continuous expense of energy to keep it airborne, throughout the flight. This means that every pointless safety device on every single flight causes a measurable amount of fossil fuel to be burned for no benefit. The aggregate effect of all the world's commercial aviation must be huge; quite possibly more than the difference that would be made if the populations of the worlds' biggest cities gave up their cars. If anyone feels like trying to put some actual numbers to this, feel free, but I don't know where to start.

Then the other kind of waste, for which I can at least roughly account. The video can not be started until every passenger is on board. The crew can't do anything else while it's playing, and if it hasn't finished by the time the aircraft has finished taxiing the plane has to wait until it finishes before taking off. Let's say that this wastes 10 seconds per flight on average, just as a plausible ball park figure. Those 10 seconds of my time don't count for a great deal, but this morning's flight had roughly 180 passengers, on an aircraft of fairly average size (a Boeing 757). That means 1800 person-seconds being wasted: half a person-hour.

Still no big deal, you might argue, but then consider the enormous volume of commercial air traffic in the world. Heathrow airport alone has a take-off and a landing every 30 seconds through ¾ of the day: more than 2000 flights per day. That's a thousand person-hours wasted, just in one airport. More than forty days. Think about what you could do with an extra forty days of life.

My numbers are guessed enough that they are bound to be wrong, but if you look at the multipliers involved, the amount of wasted time would have to be several orders of magnitude off for this not to matter at all.

And there's a broader point here. In discussions of public safety and security, people tend to ignore the costs of any proposed measure. It's just assumed that any price is worth paying, for any reduction in risk. Yet even an individually tiny price adds up to an unacceptable cost; at least a cost that is unacceptable if there is no real benefit to balance it out.
posted @ 9:26 PM -

Wednesday, July 14

conference update #1

I get the impression my talk went well. Obviously it's hard to tell directly, but the good signs are that people had questions, and the questions themselves were things I considered highly relevant. This seems to me to imply that people were interested and that I got the most important points across reasonably clearly.

Also, the downtime of the conference is both fun and productive. Being a PhD student can be quite isolating in many ways. I'm lucky in that I escaped the social isolation to a considerable extent by managing to fall into a nice circle of friends, but it can be professionally isolating too. I work alone, and there's only a small number of people at the university doing anything that's even loosely related. Conferences are a good chance to talk to a larger group of people who actually know where I'm coming from, and the evenings are a good chance to talk to these people about things other than work, and actually get to know them as people. My experience so far is that this field is mostly populated by very interesting people, and today has only reinforced that.
posted @ 12:21 AM -

Monday, July 12

Santa Monica

Is not the most exciting place in the world, but it is very pleasant, and quite a fun place for taking pictures. I'm a bit too tired to feel like writing about it, but here is the first instalment of Santa Monica photos.
posted @ 12:01 AM -

Sunday, July 11

If you're in or near London, and need a computer built, or for that matter a home cinema or hi-fi installation, give this man a call.
posted @ 9:56 PM -

Saturday, July 10


The thought that I might want to show things to people I meet next week spurred me to a long overdue update of the academic publications section of this website. It really needs a full redesign, like at least half of the site, but at least the links work and it includes the recent paper, which is also the only properly peer-reviewed publication I have.

I've also put the slides I'll be using next week up there, but they won't be very informative, because one thing Randy's convinced me of over the past month or so is that a good visual aid has very little text on. Rather than make the slides repeat what I will say, I've made them very visual, to the point that they don't really stand alone. They're on the website mainly as a backup, and just in case anyone who was at the talk asks for a copy, though I'd be surprised if that happened. The paper has much more value on its own than the slides, and it's not very long, so I can't imagine people wanting a more condensed version.
posted @ 6:34 PM -

Going to California

Early tomorrow morning, I'll be on my way to Santa Monica, CA. I'm arriving a day earlier than I had intended to, thanks to a mistake that I can't pretend to regret particularly. The conference actually starts on Tuesday, and I am presenting that morning, which is nice because it means I can relax for the rest of the conference, and I expect I'll probably get more out of everyone else's talks as a result.

While I'm there, I also intend to spend some time loafing around Venice Beach, visit the BodyWorlds exhibition, and most importantly catch up with Brian, who I worked with in Bristol, but now haven't seen since September 2002 in Bratislava. And I might do some general wandering around LA, but I've not given myself a great deal of free time there, because my impression isn't that I'm exactly going to love the place. I'm open to being wrong though.

Instead, I'm going to San Francisco for a few days of pure tourism after the conference. I'm looking forward to that both on the assumption that I'm going to like that city a lot, and because it will be my first 100% free time trip this year (I took work to Toronto, I took work with me skiing, and I was working hard in Miami to finish the paper that got me into this conference).

I'm also excited about the conference. It will be my first experience of presenting at a conference, and the first conference that I've played a full part at (there was one while I was at HP which I didn't go to many talks at because I was too busy, and likewise for Notacon). I'm expecting the sort of buzz of ideas that comes from meeting a group of interesting, engaged people who all have some sort of common interests but distinctly different approaches and assumptions, and hoping that I'll end up in touch with some people worth bouncing ideas off. If I'm lucky I'll also bump into some familiar faces from Sussex; I know one other presenter, but hopefully a couple of my favourite former teachers will be around.

Oh, and it will be my first experience of travelling with an expense account. A limited expense account, because there's only so much money to go round, but it's the principle of the thing. Randy emailed Chad & me yesterday morning to remind us to keep receipts, and to be honest it was a sensible reminder, because I'm just not used to doing this.
posted @ 6:02 PM -

Friday, July 9

Geek travel

I'm preparing for my trip to California (more on this later), and I now have a list of things I mustn't forget to bring with me. I think the contents of the list are quite telling:
  • passport (not as stupid as it sounds: I could forget it because I'm only travelling domestically, but my passport is the only reliable photo ID I have, so a sensible airport security control shouldn't let me board a plane without it)
  • swimwear
  • sunscreen
  • hat
  • chargers x3
    • laptop
    • cellphone
    • AA batteries for the camera
  • at least 2 button up shirts (one to present in, one for the conference banquet)
  • laptop display adapters x2
    • digital one for connecting directly to a projector
    • analogue one because I've never used the digital one so I don't want to count on it working
  • USB cable for camera
  • ethernet cable
  • modem cable
  • backup CD
  • maps of LA and San Francisco
  • printout of presentation
  • mouse
  • USB memory card reader for additional paranoid data backup
posted @ 3:22 PM -
Tim has some very sharp observations about the obstinacy of printers.
posted @ 3:06 PM -
I just made this because I didn't want to let my old brown bananas go to waste. It's very tasty.
posted @ 11:11 AM -

I stand corrected

I was talking rubbish in my post about myopia. I was so far off the mark that it seemed worth using a new post to draw attention to the correction.
posted @ 7:30 AM -

Thursday, July 8

water, water everywhere

Niagara Falls pictures are up. This lot are a tad repetitive, but then the Falls are mighty impressive, so I just felt like they justified as many pictures of essentially the same piece of geography as you'll see there. [and no, not all 46 are of the Falls; we did see some other things while we were in the area]
posted @ 11:01 PM -

France facing up to its faults?

Merci Monsieur Chirac. It's about bloody time:
Aujourd'hui encore, des actes de haine, odieux et méprisables, salissent notre pays. Les discriminations, l'antisémitisme, les racismes, tous les racismes, se déploient de nouveau insidieusement. Ils frappent nos compatriotes juifs présents dans notre pays depuis des temps immémoriaux. Ils frappent nos compatriotes de culture musulmane qui ont fait le choix de travailler et de vivre dans notre pays. Ils frappent, en réalité, tous nos compatriotes.
Rough translation:
Even now acts of hatred, odious and regrettable as they are, continue to sully our nation. Discrimination, anti-semitism, racism, every kind of racism is re-appearing insidiously. It hits our Jewish compatriots, who have lived in our country since time immemorial. It hits our compatriots from Muslim cultures who have chosen to live and work in our country. In fact, it hits all of our compatriots.
I'm not entirely happy with what he said. For one thing the language is rather odd—that confusion between referring to Jews & Muslims both as an us, in the sense of being compatriots, and a them, in the sense of still being referred to as an other who live in our country is not just bad translation on my part—but leaving nitpicking aside he goes on to defend the headscarf ban, as if somehow stopping people from expressing their faith gives them more liberté and égalité.

I had an interesting discussion with a couple of people at Beth's & Jose's party about this. They were convinced that France's policy of forced assimilation was a good thing, because in the long run they expect it to lead to a better-integrated society with less ethnic/religious tension because people fit into a constructed 'Frenchness'. I disagree strongly—Jewish history is full of examples of people being forced to worship in secret and not forgetting who they were, so much as just resenting the oppression—but that isn't really the point. If the policy of forced secularism is an attempt at creating an artificially homogeneous society, then France's political leaders need to come out and say it. They won't, because too many people find that idea unpalatable, so they try to justify in terms that fall only just short of freedom is slavery.

All the same, I was pleased to read about this speech. France has terrible problems with attacks on Jews, Muslims and the institutions of both groups. The government also has a very hard time responding to some of this, because a lot of the attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions are actually carried out by North African Muslims, so they have a situation where they have to tread very carefully in responding to one issue so as not to be seen as racist themselves. None of that amounts to an excuse for the amount of head-in-sand-burying that seems to have gone on over the past few years, and at least here I see Chirac taking an important step by acknowledging that there is a problem, and at least bothering to remind people that this is not acceptable.
posted @ 10:37 PM -


A new study has found that myopia is not genetic, but rather is influenced by lifestyle factors. On the one hand I feel like this means there is hope for yet—I had always assumed that I will need glasses sooner or later, because both of my parents do—but on the other... I work with computers, so perhaps I shouldn't be too pleased about this.

What it does tell me is that my parents probably did me an even bigger service than I had realised by taking me to mountains and the sea on a regular basis as a kid, that the effort I put into making my work environment healthy (the biggest consideration of which is putting enough space between eye and display) is worthwhile, and that I really ought to get around to seeing an optician for a check-up every now and then.

Correction on Friday morning: Spurred by the comments here, I've re-read the article, and it doesn't say what I claimed it says at all. In fact the last paragraph makes it quite clear that there is is a strong genetic component to short-sightedness, it's just not one that systematically varies with race. Sorry, and thanks Barry for paying more attention than I evidently did.

Oh, and the Wikipedia article about spectacle prescriptions that Barry pointed out is very interesting.
posted @ 1:50 PM -

Tuesday, July 6

more photos

this lot from the weekend before the trip to Michigan, when I went to New York. I'm not so pleased with these, partly because New York is just a very difficult place to take good pictures (because everything's both big and close), and partly because I failed to take a single picture of anyone in my family, but it's still New York, and even bad pictures of New York are worth looking at.
posted @ 11:51 PM -

where I'd rather be

I wish I could do what these two are doing.
posted @ 4:05 PM -


  1. Make a to-do list
  2. Cross off item 1
  3. Marvel at how fast I'm progressing through the list
posted @ 8:31 AM -

The silliest dispute

I think I now know where the silliest territorial dispute in the world is going on. Not silly in terms of it being a pointless piece of territory to argue over—I think the prize for that goes to Perejil—but in terms of a very serious argument being played out in utterly daft terms. Welcome to the Spratly Islands, which several countries hope to conquer by tourism, and where the erection of a birdwatching hide is an act of aggression.
posted @ 8:04 AM -

Not only in America

Britain also shafts legitimate visitors with visa problems. Of course I never see this side first-hand, because I don't need a visa to be in Britain, and I get to use the EU Passports side of passport control that jumps both queues and scrutiny, but I have heard similar complaints about British passport control and immigration to my own ones about the USA.
posted @ 7:42 AM -

Monday, July 5


For the 4th of July, Duncan & Kris, who live on the 12th floor of the tallest building in their area, threw a party. There was food and booze, and a fanatastic view of the entire city's fireworks from their balcony. I have photos. They may not be of much interest to people who weren't actually there, but they're there if you want a look, and the light was ideal for some nice portraits and views across the city.
posted @ 9:49 PM -

not quite a jaguar

The weekend before last I went up to Michigan for a couple of things. There was a housewarming party at Beth's & Jose's place in Ann Arbor, and a classic car show in Flint. We stayed with Melinda's parents, who seemed convinced that I was bored stiff at the car show in spite of the way I was conspicuously pointing my camera at absolutely everything. Actually it was great, and the pictures are online now: Flint Classic Car Show.

Thanks are due to Jose for writing and releasing picpages which, along with iPhoto's batch file shrinking, has allowed me to wean myself off Ofoto. I do still want to make more customised pages for my pictures, with comments and all, but that takes me forever, and this gives me an easy way to actually keep up with my taking of pictures.
posted @ 8:25 PM -

Sunday, July 4

The bizarre goings-on at Saddam Hussein's trial explained.
posted @ 8:28 AM -

Friday, July 2


I missed the Bodyworlds exhibition when it was London, to my considerable irritation. So I was very pleased to read that it's just opened in LA, in time for my trip there. A trip which I accidentally made a day too long, conveniently giving myself a day with no conference business when I can go and look at the insides of preserved human bodies. Mmmm... lecker!
posted @ 11:03 AM -

reports of Silent Bob's death have been much exaggerated

I generally avoid online message boards and newsgroups and suchlike, because of their tendency to descend into complete nonsense and/or offensiveness. But this thread, while demonstrating the point perfectly, is absolutely hilarious: Kevin Smith is dead. And, erm, some other stuff. (and just to clarify, I don't mean the talented director Kevin Smith. I mean the other Kevin Smith. This reminds me of the Michael Bolton character in Office Space: why should I have to change my name? I'm not the one who sucks)
posted @ 10:58 AM -

Thursday, July 1

Does anybody have a large orange sheet or tablecloth or curtain that I could borrow for a couple of hours on Sunday morning? I can't really explain why now, but all will be clear after the event.
posted @ 8:34 PM -

the referee's a ....

I was going to write something about the study into alleged pro-Israel bias in the British media, but the Head Heeb has done a much better job than I would have done.
posted @ 5:44 AM -
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