Sunday, 28 December 2008

The Best Internet Spam I've Ever Seen

Easily the funniest thing I've read in months. Pure comic gold.

Aloha, gentleman

My happiness! I ask you, answer me!
I’m absolutely adequate and cheerful person. But the thing is that I’m
working much, sometimes even too much and because of it I’m lack of men
attention. I’m catastrophically out of time for my private life and to
build my own happiness. That is why I have to use power and might of the
modern life – Internet. My only desire is to find a Man, the real and
desired one. But otherwise this is not an end in itself. In man I appreciate
the good sense of humor and even can forbid some shortcomings if he will
be able to make me laugh. Do you want me to cook for you? You are right!
My dishes will effect you! Do you want to have pretty woman nearby? You
will be dazzeled by my beauty. Believe me, I am your treasure!
Smile at me

Uliana S.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Matt Dancing

I love this video, and so do you, really, even if you don't want to admit it.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Al Gore Endorses Barack Obama in Detroit, MI

Al Gore at his very best - I really do hope that Barack Obama can pull it off, I think he is America's last best hope - and by extension, all of our last best hope.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Photosynth Prototype

Wow, is that impressive technology, really unbelievable

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Monday, 12 May 2008

Eco Tip #2: Don't use plastic bottles, and avoid canned food.

A second useful tip, this time via the fantastic Grist environmental news magazine.
Dear Umbra,

I've been hearing a lot in the news lately about the dangers of certain kinds of plastic bottles. What's the lowdown?

Littleton, Colo.

Dearest Ginger,

Always happy to be your source for the lowest lowdown around town. Today's lowdown: Don't use plastic bottles, and avoid canned food.

All the latest plastics hullabaloo is over bisphenol A, a component of many plastic products. Serious Gristoholic Readers have known for years now that BPA, in its role as an endocrine disruptor, probably poses threats to public health. These readers have been easy to spot at recent cocktail parties: they lounge about looking self-satisfied and say, "Oh, I knew that already," when the topic of toxic plastic bottles comes up. Hence our motto: "Read Grist today,woo untold strangers with your wisdom tomorrow."

The properties of BPA lend a hardness and durability to plastic products, and it is (or was) in many now infamous consumer items, including baby bottles and clear Nalgene bottles. (Nalgene has now forsworn BPA, as have Camelbak, Toys R Us, Playtex, and others.) It also lines food cans, such as might hold soup or beans. It leaches from all of these places into our food and then into our bodies; tests have found it lurking in our bodily fluids. In laboratory animals, low-dose exposure to BPA has been linked to cancer, diabetes, fertility problems, and behavior disorders.

Over the past decade, scientists have brought increasing pressure on the U.S. government to revisit its BPA-exposure standards, because said scientists keep finding probable harm at lower doses than the EPA safety level. The topic has been a continuing drama, especially over the past year. Some highlights: the U.S. government hired a firm to assess BPA toxicity, the firm ignored all the anti-BPA scientists and was later found to have links to the plastic industry, the FDA was forced to show its hand and found wanting in scientific rigor (shock!), and the National Toxicology Program came out with a tentatively anti-BPA draft. Then Health Canada opened a comment period on banning BPA, and major retailers and producers starting abandoning the BPA ship -- all within the last few months.

The Environmental Working Group has a detailed timeline of BPA studies and political developments, which you may enjoy reading. You can also find info by searching Grist for "bisphenol A" -- even just searching Ask Umbra for "bisphenol A" will get you scads of resources. I've put a few of the most relevant Grist links in this handy box for you:

Let me summarize a few of those resources and tips here, once again, so that we can all sleep easier at night. (Unless you have young babies -- even switching to glass bottles may not convince your child to sleep through the night.)

Avoid using plastic bottles, plastic food containers, and canned food. Find your own way to mitigate the loss of convenience this causes you. Glass, stainless steel, frozen foods, and fresh foods are all useful resources for a plastics- and BPA-free diet. BPA is not in every plastic, but each plastic has its own problems (cheery Grist article on chemicals may help you here) -- at least avoid vinyl, and any "Lexan" or No. 7 plastic that does not explicitly lack BPA. You would find such explicit lack of BPA via news from the manufacturer or, increasingly, on the packaging.

If you must use plastic, choose No. 1 PETE, No. 2 HDPE, No. 4 LDPE, or No. 5 PP, and eschew the rest. Tips on avoiding the nastiest plastics are found in handy guides such as those put out by Environment California, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and the Environmental Working Group.

Scientists are still debating the toxicity of BPA. I advocate making a change in your plastics use now, if you haven't already -- not because the science is definitive, but because it looks like it will become so, because it's not often that a potential toxin turns out to be safe, and because there are additional reasons to reduce plastic consumption and eat fresh foods over canned foods. I'm out of room, so if anyone needs to know the additional reasons, please write in.


Friday, 2 May 2008

Solar Power From Africa: The Best Investment the EU Can Make

"Big Solar" may take on a whole new meaning if Desertec, the most ambitious solar thermal plan ever conceived, gets funded.

Its architects claim they can build a supergrid of concentrating solar thermal plants (CSP) that can meet most of Europe's current electricity needs by using just 0.3 percent of the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) – and at a cost less than oil.

The long-term prospects look even sunnier.

For an investment of $400 billion over 30 years, Desertec could eventually power Europe plus two-thirds of the MENA countries by 2050, while dramatically cutting C02 emissions and phasing out nuclear power at the same time.

That’s a sizeable chunk of the whole world’s energy needs. And for only $13 billion per year.

What a bargain, if you consider that building a single nuclear power plant in Europe carries a price tag of around $2.5 to $3.5 billion these days.

Desertec was developed by the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Corporation, the brain child of the Club of Rome, with support from the German Aerospace Bureau, among other influentials.

And it was created with this idea in mind: the solar energy available for harvest in the world’s deserts is 700 times the amount of energy needed to sustain the Earth’s population.

If the EU is charmed into supporting it, the desert lands of the MENA countries will bloom with hundreds, and eventually thousands, of arrays of solar mirrors that will generate an enormous 100 GW of exportable solar – with the potential for substantially more.

Too good to be true? Not anymore.

Skyrocketing fuel prices and the mounting reality of a peak oil future have made Desertec economically attractive for the first time since it was conceived back in 2003.

And it doesn’t hurt that the project carries a built-in bonus: drinking water. The plan aims to use the waste heat from the solar power plants for thermal desalination to create clean water for host countries.

The biggest snag is how to transmit the power to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea without losing mass amounts of energy during underwater transit. But Desertrec has already come up with the fix: clean electrical power via High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission lines that will cause reasonable losses of 10 to 15 percent from Africa to Europe.

Still, the EU hasn't bought into it -- not yet. And Desertec needs Europe to invest big and early.

The European Parliament has asked Desertec for more specifics, especially how it will protect investors from financial losses when political instability strikes the MENA region.

Valid question.

In the meantime, the EU would be wise to back a Desertec demonstration project that would create a favorable economic framework for public and private investment in the long term.

If not, Europe may miss a lucrative opportunity to shape the future of desert solar, and its own energy economy.

Prince Hassan bin Talal from Jordan, former President of The Club of Rome and one of Desertec's most prominent supporters, offers this reminder to Europe:

"Such a win-win cooperation between the European Union and its southern and eastern Mediterranean neighbours is reminiscent of the Union for Coal and Steel in Europe founded some 60 years ago, which led Europe into a prosperous and peaceful future."

And if not the EU, then somebody else.

In the next 12 years alone companies will spend between $80 billion and $200 billion on CSP installations, according to a new report by Prometheus Institute and Greentech Media.

That includes more than $30 billion worth of new plants that companies have announced just in the last six months.

(Source: Geotimes)

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Bit of a legend

This guy cracks me up - not that I am endorsing drink driving - but he does it with style :)

Friday, 25 April 2008

Tim Wise - The Creation of Whiteness

Hi guys,

Here's a really interesting clip from a lecturer called Tim Wise, talking about the historical context and drive behind the creation of the concept of 'whiteness' - specifically in a class context, in which race/colour was used to divide the black/white working class and indentured labourer coalitions that formed in opposition to the settler elites. Its fascinating stuff, and fully supported by a lot of the reading I've done in this area during my degree. Interestingly, it also ties in strongly with the writing of Zygmunt Bauman on the nature of racism and genocide. As ever, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Hey people of earth, wake the fuck up

Nicholas Stern says climate change worse than he thought

Nicholas Stern, the British economist known for a major report in which he declared that combating climate change would cost less than ignoring it, has announced that he was wrong -- about how bad the problem is. "We badly underestimated the degree of damages and the risks of climate change" in the Oct. 2006 report, he speechified last week. "All of the links in the chain are on average worse than we thought a couple of years ago." Thawing permafrost is releasing methane, oceans are acidifying faster than expected, and carbon sinks are becoming less effective, said Stern. He urged nations to come up with a stringent global climate treaty taking food production into account, and reiterated that the world should aim to produce zero-carbon electricity by 2050 (he backs carbon sequestration, nuclear power, and renewable energy). "This is about buying down risk," Stern said. "Starting now, that means it requires at least 1 percent of world GDP. That is small relative to a planetary catastrophe

Monday, 14 April 2008

Andy McKee

Wow, just check that man out! Great sound, great to watch

Stu's awesome electronic music club #1

Hello everyone. Just a quick one. I'm always listening to dance music, chained as I am to my desk in the data design dungeon, and I thought I might share this great progressive house mix by a DJ I've just recently started listening to called Shiloh - well, enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Shiloh - Vonyc Sessions

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Sad Wet Cat

Does exactly what it says on the tin.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Asking Anti-Abortion Demonstrators an Important Question

I love this video, it's fantastic how clearly, simply and honestly this interviewer draws out the narrowmindedness and failure of these people to even consider another's perspective or position. People campaigning to make abortion illegal, 'because it's murder', but they don't want to follow through the full ramifications of their position and views. Fantastically done.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Obama - 'A More Perfect Union' Speech

Damn he's good - next president to my mind, no doubt

Stand with Tibet - Support the Dalai Lama

Hello everyone,

I'm sure you've all seen or heard about what is happening in Tibet right now, and its frankly shocking on so many levels. Many many people have already been killed, and its probably only going to get worse at this stage. Whilst I can't condone the violence, what the Chinese government is doing with its continued occupation, vast settlement programme and active repression of the Tibetan language and culture is genocidal under the terms of the UN Declaration on Genocide. And lets not even mention the UN Declaration on Human Rights.

I just signed an urgent petition calling on the Chinese government to respect human rights in Tibet and engage in meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama. This is really important, and I thought you might want to take action


After nearly 50 years of Chinese rule, the Tibetans are demanding change. But violence is spreading across Tibet and neighbouring regions, and the Chinese regime is right now considering a choice between increasing brutality or dialogue, that could determine the future of Tibet and China.

We can affect this historic choice. China does care about its international reputation. Its economy is totally dependent on "Made in China" exports that we all buy, and it is keen to make the Olympics in Beijing this summer a celebration of a new China that is a respected world power.

President Hu needs to hear that 'Brand China' and the Olympics can succeed only if he makes the right choice. But it will take an avalanche of global people power to get his attention. Click below to join me and sign a petition to President Hu calling for restraint in Tibet and dialogue with the Dalai Lama -- and tell absolutely everyone you can right away. The petition is organized by Avaaz, and they are urgently aiming to reach 1 million signatures to deliver directly to Chinese officials:

So go one, take two seconds to add your voice

Friday, 14 March 2008

Eco Tip #1 - Unplug your phone charger when not in use

Hello and welcome to the first of many posts where I'll be trying to help people change their views and habits in an easy and painless way that helps everyone - you save money, and you save the environment! Hurah indeed Henry.

In the UK, 95% of the energy used by mobile phone chargers is wasted. Only 5% is actually used to charge the phone and the rest is wasted by leaving the charger plugged in. Remember to unplug your charger when it's not in use. It takes a forest with an area equivalent to 500 football pitches to absorb all the CO2 produced by chargers that are left plugged in.

So, make sure you always either unplug your charger when your not using it - seriously, how hard is that?

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Hungover but hey, who cares?

Hello everyone! Despite being horrifically hung over this morning (afternoon?), I'm in a pretty good mood all round - my house is slowly coming together, bit by bit, its almost friday, and I even got my laptop repaired by Dell - now I just need to rescue the data! But that's not too bad. I had a great evening last night, and its great to feel like my life is getting something of an order again after so long - I'll get paid tomorrow, and next week, operation new job! woohoo! So yes, its all very good stuff really.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Pop Star

So this made me laugh a lot whilst I'm chained to my desk

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

House Mates ARE GO

Well ladies and gents, the stressful situation that is moving (or in my case, not moving) house has come to an end, it seems. Whilst it is not yet set in stone, and things could still go wrong, I do indeed now seem to have found two good people to live with. Along with a death in the family and divorce, moving house is apparently just about the most challanging time in life - so I am glad its coming to an end! Now I just need to find me a new job - one that I actually like! Any suggestions, postcard please. Especially if they allow me to become a fabulously successful and worldly travelled photographer. That would be ace, thanks.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Reflections on Returning

To be honest, when I left Sydney, I was fairly certain I had seen the last of eBay, or, at the very least, the last of the endless data design work that I had spent over a year doing. At least then, I was basically on holiday, and in any case always had a goal, my road trip up the east coast. Coming back to the UK exhausted and essentially broke, thanks to the help of one very persausive Hong Kong tailor, I found myself talked into returning, once again, to the Data Design Hell Hole.

Of course, it was never meant to be like this. I wasn't even meant to be doing this kind of work, and let me assure you, at no stage did I ever say I was an analyst. I design things, I look at crappy classification and make it better - thats it. I'm an information mercenary, and the only thing that keeps me going is the money. And yet, even that is starting to fall far short of what I want to keep doing this - the endless stream of emails demanding status updates, metrics, financials, analysis and all other manner of endlessly circular logic and no little or no action. The ever shifting goal posts of work loads, and the consistent failure to ever define or explain the project or my role.

These are the shackles of the Data Design Hell Hole, dear readers.