Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

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28 July 2009
Filed under:Interesting facts,Personal at1:43 pm

I was thirsty on a long-distance train recently. I wasn’t planning to have a coke when I got to the buffet car but to my surprise it was the cheapest drink – 2/3 the cost of the smoothie ‘healthy option’ – cheaper even than tea. I looked at the health notes – 29% of a whole day’s sugar per serving! Then I looked at the fine print – this single 500ml bottle contained two “servings” thus it was nearly 2/3 of a day’s sugar ration all by itself!!

21 July 2009
Filed under:Gadgets,Personal at9:21 am

I’ve been doubly digitally deprived of late – I have lost internet access for three days – that was bad enough. But this coincided with the loss of my new iPod Touch. I hadn’t really realised how much I have come to rely on it as a filler of spare moments with (mostly) speech podcasts, snippets of web pages and the odd game. Also as a note taker and organizer that was – crucially – at hand wherever I was.

I would like to say that now that I have been forced to live without continuous distractions I have discovered the pleasures of living in the moment and being fully aware of my surroundings. But in fact I just find the situation frustrating. Perhaps I need a longer period in a media isolation tank – but as a media studies academic it may be that my media addiction just comes with the territory.

29 June 2009
Filed under:Best of blog.org,Personal,Weblogs at9:24 pm

For those of you not following me on Facebook or on twitter (drbrake) I submitted my doctoral thesis back in April and today it was formally examined. I was asked to provide some minor revisions and once I have done so (within the next three months) I will officially become Dr Brake (or Dr D.R. Brake if you like as my forenames are David and Russell). For more on my thesis (which I will also make available online once I have done the revisions) visit my academic publications page.

21 April 2009
Filed under:Arts Reviews,Old media,Personal at11:09 am

I still remember finding E.E. “Doc” Smith‘s space opera, The Skylark of Space when on holiday with my parents when I was probably no more than 10 – I immediately read it cover to cover and sought out the others in the series. I had forgotten about it for years then noticed it had gone into the public domain so I downloaded it from Project Gutenberg into my iPod Touch and began to read. I was immediately struck by a certain amount of casual racism (not uncommon in 1928) and of course its attitudes toward women were also pretty retrograde. Moreover, with their powerful weapons the heroes seem quite happy to kill off hordes of alien ‘bad guys’ even when they can’t shoot back. The racist and eugenicist undertones became stronger and stronger near the end however. The ‘bad aliens’ are darker skinned than the ‘good’ ones, and I just got to the point where the hero describes the religious system of the good aliens, seemingly without dismay:

they are magnificently developed for their surroundings. They have attained this condition by centuries of weeding out the unfit. They have no hospitals for the feeble-minded or feeble-bodied–abnormal persons are not allowed to live. The same reasoning accounts for their perfect cleanliness, moral and physical. Vice is practically unknown. They believe that clean living and clean thinking are rewarded by the production of a better physical and mental type

Ugh… I didn’t remember that part!

16 March 2009

Thanks to BBC iPlayer and the increasing number of podcasts available my ability to download interesting stuff is finally outpacing the time available to consume it. My iPod now contains about 48 hours of audio and video material – a mix of (free classic) audiobooks, current affairs and history programs and a number of academic-related feeds, notably Thinking Allowed, Radio Berkman and of course the LSE’s own podcast of its lectures. Unfortunately, in attempting to update the podcasts blogroll on the right I seem to have broken it instead. You can see all of the individual podcasts I subscribe to as they broadcast in reverse chronological order here.

2 February 2009
Filed under:Current Affairs (UK),London,Personal at8:53 am

I know SE England is not great at handling snow but this is a new level of uselessness. All London buses cancelled? No taxis available? And it’s not as if it arrived without warning – forecasters have been warning about it for days…

From London discoveries
20 January 2009

I must tune in to Obama’s speech so I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren about it. I’ll catch the stream on the BBC.

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed…

Hey the text of the speech isn’t being provided live as well – only highlights. But it must be around somewhere… google google… Nope. Hey I should microblog about that… tap tap tap… Hm. I don’t feel like the speech is really moving me as I’d hoped. I’ll blog about that too.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.

Ah that’s a good bit – I’ll blog about that. As soon as the BBC feed catches up. Tap tap tap…

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Oh – over already? Well that was historic… but I don’t know that I’ll be able to give much of an account of what it was like to be watching! I guess the habits of reporting over experiencing I developed in my stint at BBC News Online haven’t left me…

30 December 2008

Non-UK readers can stop here… Tech-savvy UK readers I could use some advice.

Sky’s heavy-handed efforts to get us to switch to Sky Talk have caused us to re-examine our TV/broadband/phone mix completely. The long & short of it is:

We’re contemplating dumping Sky for Freesat plus a broadband supplier and a telecoms supplier. Though we’re in London we are only in an analogue area for Virgin so that’s a non-starter. Overall we don’t call much but we call a lot to France and Canada. I don’t know how much broadband we use but I think it is substantially more than 2-3Gb a month. The current shortlist is:

Price-wise TalkTalk is a no-brainer – half the price of the other options (£200 a year for 20Gb a month broadband plus almost unlimited calls except for national daytime) – but its customer service has a lousy reputation. Does anyone here use them? Are they any better than they were? How can they afford to be so much cheaper than anyone else? Do they make it up on volume?

Are there any other ISPs you could recommend that offer good service and un-capped or high-cap broadband for a low price (with or without an inexpensive telephony option)?

If we go freesat should we go ahead and get the Humax PVR or are there other good freesat PVRs on the near horizon?

Filed under:Interesting facts,Personal at3:03 pm

A content analysis of 40 recent romantic comedies suggests that Hollywood may give teens unrealistic expectations of how romance works out according to a Miller-McCune summary. I always blamed the 19th C fiction I read as a teen for that myself…

29 November 2008
Filed under:Gadgets,Personal at3:37 pm

We looked high and low for an MP3 player suitable for a two year old and were only finding ones costing around £30 and over-complicated. Then we found the Sansa Shaker:

Not only is it cutely designed (you can shake it to switch tracks, “shuffle”-like) and simple to use – it has a built in speaker as well as two headphone jacks, runs on an ordinary AAA battery and comes with 512Mb of upgradeable memory (though with only the ability to go back and forth one song at a time that storage is enough for anyone). Best of all, we found it for £10 including postage at 7dayshop – an online store we had not hitherto run across – while other shops were charging £25 and up . It just arrived and appears to be as advertised. Unfortunately for other would-be buyers, 7dayshop no longer lists it for sale. Perhaps their stock’s been bought up by other merchants?

Compare and contrast with the MP3 player I bought five years ago – it had 1/4 the capacity and cost 12x the price!

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