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October 29, 2004

New adventures in policing - the drunk tank

Would you believe that in Scotland, with its drink culture and culture of drink-related violence, there isn't a single drunk tank?? Not even in Glasgow???

He [Councillor Eric Millian, ex-Lord Provost of Edinburgh] said he could envisage "several" people being taken to the centre every weekend.

If Eric Milligan ever went out on a weekend in Edinburgh he'd envisage several people being taken in every bloody hour...

Posted in: Edinburgh, Urban

October 28, 2004

Moving, part II

Well, not moved yet, but am about to change the DNS records so things should start to happen in the next couple of hours. Expect things to be rather wonky for the next day or two... not quite sure my new host has PHP configured properly. Ah well, we shall soon find out...!


Normalized data is for sissies

Normalized data is for sissies (kottke.org)

Something that's always confused me is the near-religion of data normalization among programmers and database admins

There are 10 [i.e. two] types of people in this world: those who work with large amounts of data, and those that don't. The real issue is data integrity, and how you manage it/create it. You'd be surprised how much data is rubbish - converting stuff into information is a damn sight easier said than done.

Managing data, particularly ensuring that it is captured appropriately and then KEPT consistent, is often ignored until things are horribly broken. Nothing causes confusion like someone using out-of date data/classifications/structures etc. because they weren't concerned with data integrity/use or just weren't paying attention.

Not that I'm dealing with that at the moment. Not at all.


Explaining the 'Anglosphere'

Guardian Unlimited | US elections 2004 | Explaining the 'Anglosphere'

As Andrew Sullivan wrote in the Times last year: "I've lived in the United States for almost 20 years and have rarely heard anything but condescension towards successive French governments. But now that condescension has turned to contempt."

That seems about right to me. (There's even a new book, called Our Oldest Enemy, that takes a rather unflattering view of France's role.)

The great US/France schism is fascinating, particularly when subjected to some rather juvenile right-wing analysis. I love Glen Reynolds: he has lots to say, appears to be well read, yet still manages to produce the most amazing volume of incoherent pseudo-theory.

The US and France are very much alike, two peas in a pod almost - they are both the first-born progeny of the 18th century's most important social advances: the Scottish and French enlightenments. And like most siblings, they spend too much time squabbling over irrelevances.

The differing ways in which they've dealt with this birthright is, of course, the crux of their differences today. Both are liberal democracies - a fact celebrated in France, the source of much angst in the US, where the singular cultural divide is between those who believe in the [generally liberal] aims of the US Constitution [even if they'd rather die than call themselves 'liberal'], and those who want to make the US the type of [large C] conservative [large R] religious state that the Constitution was specifically designed against.

Even ignoring the myriad cultural differences between the two [and the fact that the French, like the Canadians, recognise that "culture" needs to be protected from the "market"] there is one principle fault line: religion. Or, more to the point, the lack of it in France. Now we all know about the cathedral of Notre Dame, Cardinal Richlieu and all that: it's not the existence of religion in France, and to a wider degree Europe that's the issue - it's the role of religion and how it shapes national identity.

France is, arguably, one of the most secular countries in Europe. Secular, and to a considerable degree, highly technocratic. Could there be a first-world country more unlike the US? And one that reflects wider European attitudes towards the US and its Empire in ways which are not recognised/associated with the rest of Europe. Americans expect France to be anti-US and the rest of Europe to be pro-US, and tend to ignore evidence to the contrary.

Canada has been a bit dodgy in recent decades, ever since the Pierre Trudeau era and the Quebecois ascendancy

Few things in life are as entertaining as watching an American talk with almost total ignorance about Canada. Canada, like France, is a country that marches to the beat of its own drum, and that drives Americans absolutely spare. As a country Canada thinks wars aren't cool, realises that almost all of the military/economic/political/cultural threats it faces come from its neighbour to the south, and as a rule it cares passionately about peace-keeping and nation-building, both seemingly profoundly un- [or at best non-] American concepts.

What this is really about though, is criticism. Certain segments of the US seem to believe they have inherited/developed a divine right of sorts - they are the modern oracles, and god help those who criticise them.


October 26, 2004

MP attacks banks 'profiteering from poorest'

MP attacks banks 'profiteering from poorest'

Consumers who have no internet access are getting a raw deal from the high street banks who only offer the best rates of interest to online customers, an MP warned today.

It is nice to know that a MP has recognised that things are cheaper for the [relatively] rich, a fact that has been true in the UK for a very, very long time. But then this MP has probably spent too long reading the BBC's online news, where the digital divide is only something that happens in the third world.

Posted in: Internet, Retail

October 25, 2004


Just a quick heads up that I am about to move hosts, so things may be a bit disrupted over the next week. Apologies in advance.

All email is being redirected elsewhere, so I'm hoping that nothing will get lost in transition.

I will be running SpamAssassin on my new host, and some old email addresses will be dropped as they are now contaminated with computer-related spam which Eudora can't filter as junk.

The handy dandy contact form should, however, still work just fine. Hopefully. To those of you who have been caught in the spam trap because ghoulnet.com's servers are hopelessly misconfigured, my apologies.

Posted in: Site news

October 23, 2004

Push to win over net 'refuseniks'

BBC NEWS | Technology | Push to win over net 'refuseniks'

The Alliance for Digital Inclusion has been charged with finding ways of persuading the 48% of refuseniks to use the net and other new technologies

Speaking of BBC Online and its juvenile attitude to digital inclusion in the UK, this particular article must take the cake. Calling those who aren't online "refuseniks" is about as patronising as you can possibly be. Could it be that many of those who aren't online can't go online because they can't read...?

For more on the wonderfully backwards British attitude to learning and literacy, you need only go here.

Posted in: Internet

October 14, 2004

The English


Bizarre thought of the day


Even more strange when you remember that this is the country that feels there is a commercial need to breed a "mild" jalapeno...


October 13, 2004

Photographer of the year vote

BBC Photographer of the Year: The final

I went for Euan Cartwright, though Phil Charnock's is also v. good.


October 08, 2004

Postgrads and the real world

Postgrads choose industry over academia

More than half of PhD students turn their backs on the academic life and head for jobs in industry

And where exactly is the story here? Isn't this what you would intuitively expect? Does the Guardian really think that people who do PhD's love academia? Haven't they heard of bills, mortgages, children?

Perhaps more to the point, don't they recognise that the UK's funding councils are explicit in their desire for PhDs not to stay in academia but to venture out into the real world?

It's not a wonder that so many leave academia, it's a wonder that so many stay in the first place...

Posted in: Education

October 07, 2004

Speaking of recycling...

Digital radio sales 13m 'by 2008'

When it is switched off in the UK, around 100 million analogue radios will become obsolete.

And how exactly are we supposed to be recycling these things...?


October 03, 2004

Recycling, or not.

Time to trim our waste lines

Recycling is being given a massive push with the launch of a £10m advertising campaign

There is no more typical British approach to a problem than this: thinking that we can be encouraged to recycle more by designing a new recycling logo.

The fact is that many of us, particularly in Scotland, have no home/kerb-side recycling facilities, which in the 21st century is quite the [under] achievement.

Posted in: Edinburgh, Urban

Overfishing and the North Sea

Picture of North Sea fish decline

A scientific model of the North Sea's ecosystem suggests the total stock of fish has dropped from 26 million tonnes to 10 million in just over a century"

You know, I'd be amazed if there were even 10 million tonnes of fish left in the North Sea. Overfishing has denuded the North Atlantic, and sustainable fishing seems to be an oxymoron.


October 02, 2004

Agency predicts 20% drop in house prices

Agency predicts 20% drop in house prices

A new report today predicts a 20% drop in property prices and 400,000 households trapped in negative equity."

It's called a speculative bubble folks... and it's popped.

Posted in: Urban

Dumbest thing of the week

CNN.com - Rare burger? Just don't sue us - Sep 29, 2004

An exclusive London restaurant stopped asking customers to sign a legal disclaimer if they order rare or medium-rare burgers

When I was in in North Carolina a few years ago for an IEEE conference I discovered that if you ordered meat cooked rare or medium-rare you were warned (thanks to a state guideline) that this was not a recommended choice.

I'll admit this didn't exactly fill me with confidence in North Carolina's food chain.