Archive forJuly, 2005 | back to home
As Salon pointed out to me, the wonderful folks at the Internet Archive have 150 tracks of Caruso singing – part 1 and part 2 – turned from 78s into MP3s. Download what you like before some idiot lengthens the term of copyright even more and it goes out of the public domain again…
And along similar lines, I was encouraged to learn that the BBC’s recent experiment with free Beethoven downloads garnered millions of downloads – many more than any commercial single sales.
Two similar humorous exercises in jargon juxtaposition made me smile recently – excerpts follow. First, The War on Terror as viewed from the Bourne shell:
$ cd /middle_east/Iraq/Democracy
Install Error: Install failed. See install_log for details.
$ more install_log
Prerequisite packages missing
Conflicting package Wahhabism found in /midde_east/Saudi_Arabia
Packages Church and State must be installed separately
File System /PeakOil nearing capacity
Please read the install guide to properly plan your installation.
And If World War II was a realtime strategy game this is what would be going on in the chat during the game (warning – lots of profanity – as you might expect):
benny-tow: hey ur losing ur guys in africa im gonna need help in italy soon sum1
T0J0: o **** i cant help u i got my hands full
Hitler[AoE]: im 2 busy 2 help
Roosevelt: yah thats right ***** im comin for ya
Stalin: church help me
Churchill: like u helped me before? sure ill just sit here
Stalin: dont be an arss
Churchill: dont be a commie. oops too late
I’ve just finished watching the whole series of Boys from the Blackstuff (a pivotal drama set in recession-hit Liverpool in the early 1980s) which I couldn’t help but find moving even though it was in many places transparently manipulative and though I don’t subscribe entirely to the politics on offer in it.
Characteristically, it made me wonder about the statistics behind these stories of men on the dole only able to support their families through working in the black economy. Of course the main way in which the unemployed have benefited since 1982 is that there are a lot more (low paid) jobs available for them and more help and training available to get then those jobs – that is where the emphasis of government policy has gone – but nonetheless I wondered to what extent the lot of the remaining unemployed has improved since that time.
I have found a table from the government with the weekly rates of the main social security benefits but they only go back to 1993 and there must have been a hundred different kinds of benefit listed which made it difficult to figure out what a typical unemployed household might have received. The very useful UK Poverty site also only goes back to 1996 – it at least shows both pensioners and couples with young children on benefits appear to be nearly 40% better off now – after inflation – than they would have been in 1998. But for a couple without children who are on benefits their income would not have changed at all adjusted for inflation over that period, leaving them 20% poorer relative to average earnings. But where should I look if I want to get a longer historical perspective on UK poverty? All I found about the 1980s was this depressing fact from the ‘key facts‘ at the poverty site: “The numbers of people on relative low incomes [60% of median income] remained broadly unchanged during the 1990s after having doubled in the 1980s”.
A few days ago I mentioned in passing that the US was doing itself a disservice and indirectly helping the jihadists by not mentioning Iraq’s civilian casualties. It turns out that the liberal stalwarts at Mother Jones have done a good piece recently on just this issue – Iraqi Casualties: Unnamed and Unnoticed.
I would love it if someone could find a way that I could change the subject line of an email I received so it displayed and was searchable as I changed it but would stay the same as the original if I reply or forward that email. For example I could take an email with subject “My doodad is fubared” and change it to “doodad problem 7″ thus making it easy for me to find it again and know what is in it when scanning my mailboxes. Eudora offered this feature I seem to recall…
I just heard about the Blogathon. On August 6th, bloggers will participate in a 24 hour marathon of posting for charity – one post every half hour. I think this is a nifty idea and there are some good charities on their suggested list (though in fact you can blog for any charity you like). I encourage anyone reading to participate themselves, though it turns out I can’t do it myself.
If you are thinking of doing this yourself and trying to find a charity to support, I did some investigation and chose wateraid as my potential beneficiary (when I thought I might participate in the blogathon) because potable drinking water is a basic necessity without which it’s hard to do any further development and the organization appears to be doing good environmentally sensitive and sustainable work in this area.
Wouldn’t you know it I ended up in Bloomsbury where two of the blasts occurred and suddenly it seemed like everywhere I looked were police cordons and other things that reminded me of the bombs. I have put up a few pictures on Flickr that I took using my mobile phone’s lousy camera and added them to the London Bomb Blasts pool there.
A friend I hadn’t heard from for a while popped up on my blog and posted about her concern at “the way these ‘murders’ are somehow seen as worse than the many other ‘murders’ we know of, from rapes and muggings through hit-and-run driving deaths to deaths from starvation.” Well, I certainly wouldn’t go as far as she does on that point – after all there is, I believe, a moral difference between deliberately killing people and neglecting to save their lives when this is possible. But it’s certainly worth thinking about.
Above is a UN map of the proportion of the world’s population that is malnourished (more details statistics are available from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization). While the global media’s attention focuses on an attack which likely killed 50 people, it swivels away from the G8’s inadequate response to the ongoing disastrous situation much of the world where 24,000 people die of starvation every day – a situation that global climate change may only make worse.
As for the attack itself, it seems to indicate to me that the so-called ‘war on terror’ continues to be fought in the wrong ways. No amount of surveillance (and London may be the surveillance capital of the world) can keep determined terrorists from striking. The only way to deal with terrorism is at its source – in other words a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign.
Obviously, the West can’t (and shouldn’t) attempt to meet the terrorists’ ‘demands’ (insofar as they are articulated). But we should, where possible, attempt to deal with some of the Arab world’s legitimate grievances over our behaviour. We should, for example, be leaning on Sharon that if he is going to impose a peace settlement it should at least be a just one which leaves Palestine in a form capable of taking care of itself. We should also be talking a little more about how to reduce civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s outrageous that the coalition doesn’t even publish figures on this issue leaving the counting to volunteers like Iraq Body Count – giving the erroneous impression that the coalition authorities there aren’t concerned with the problem and handing terrorists potent propaganda.
At the back of my mind there has always been the knowledge that London is a prime terrorist target – I had hoped that we would be spared given the time that has passed since 9/11 and Madrid – evidently not.
Thankfully, we are safe and so far nobody we know has been directly affected though of course some people we know have been inconvenienced and a close friend’s wife who could have been near one of the blasts was not heard from for five and a half nerve wracking hours before turning up unharmed at home.
It’s striking that for at least five hours after the blasts there was no UK helpline for people worried about those who are missing (though the State department set one up earlier “For information about American citizens who may have been affected by the July 7 bombings in London, please call 1-888-407-4747″) and it has taken several hours even to get a consistent count of the number of explosions (three on the tube, one on a bus). Some news outlets were still quoting seven for hours afterwards – presumably because where trains were blown up between stations survivors were evacuated in both directions, seemingly doubling the number of tube explosions. The casualty hotline here in London is 0870 1566 344.
Ironically when my parents lived here with me in the 1970s they also had to put up with bombs and scares – at that time from the IRA (and I was here when the IRA bombed Canary Wharf and the City of London).
I’m hopeful that Al Quaeda has now ‘done their worst’ for the moment and since they missed us our lives can return to normal. We’ve been here before and (sad to say) we’ll probably face this again…