Thursday, March 15, 2007

End of an Era! :-(

Last night marked the first showing on British television of the last Stargate: SG-1 episode ever. I'm sad - I've really enjoyed this show and it doesn't feel at all like it has been with us for ten years. On the bright side, the producers seem to have done their best to make the episode "meaningful", in contrast to the last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise which was - how can I put this delicately? - crap. I wish the cast and crew of SG-1 success in whatever they choose to do next. It's been a great ride, guys.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Stop lying about your age, young man!

Yes, that's right - I've updated the description at the side to show my real age (as of 23 January , this year).

Thanks to Brian Ronald of my local LUG for pointing that out.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Slow News Day, Indeed

Slashdot reports (via Wired, and others) that the US State of New Mexico is rebelling, in an attempt to secede^H^H^H^H^H^H - sorry, wrong century - in an attempt to pass a law to have Pluto declared a planet once again, on the basis that it "passes overhead through New Mexico's excellent night skies".

Umm, ok.

Role Reversal?

So, the BBC has reported that the Tories want the Government to use open source software.

Anyone want to bet how long it will take them to go back on that commitment once they get into power?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Wikipedia Re-re-re-visited?

It appears that I (along with some others) have become involved in a Wikipedia edit war as a result of the attempts of one persistent Wikipedia editor, (conveniently hiding his or her identity behind an anonymous IP address), who despite multiple and repeated protests against the use of a term, and a request for mediation, is simply taking no heed of (what would appear to be) the wishes of the majority of those involved in the issue.

I suppose that illustrates (better than anything on Conservapedia ever could) one of the weaknesses of Wikipedia. Nevertheless, I don't think it's insurmountable - other open source projects don't seem to suffer horribly from this disease, and if you can have an argument over the size of the Death Star in Star Wars, then I'm sure you can have one over what indentation style to use in Linux code.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

When is a Tragedy not a Tragedy?

Slashdot reports that Scott Adams, the creator of the 'Dilbert' cartoons, has given up his campaign to get Bill Gates elected President of the United States.

Oh dear.

Update: Perhaps in an attempt to salvage some glimmer of humour from his despair, one Slashdotter wrote:

"You're giving up on Mr. Gates's presidential aspirations.

Cancel or Allow?"

"I now declare the candidate for the Conservative Party duly elected, my Lords"

So, it finally happened. The House of Commons has voted in favour of a one-hundred-percent elected upper house. And it only took 96 years. Somewhat disappointingly, however, the Commons was not voting on a Bill to introduce an Act of Parliament, but merely to winnow out the umpteen different proposals (including 80% and 50% elected). A lot can change even during the normal process of drafting and passing a bill, so let's just hope it stays that way.

Oh, and I DO hope they change the name - what's the point of calling it "the House of Lords" if you are not in it by virtue of being one? The obvious choice would be "Senate", but there are lots of other options: Japan's upper House for example is called the "House of Councillors", whilst the Netherlands has a First Chamber and a Second Chamber. (Somewhat counterintuitively however, it's the First Chamber that counts as the Senate.)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Down with Harry Potter!

As you will see from the latest link I posted (currently at the top in "Favourite Links"), there are concerns that JK Rowling, in failing to mention Christianity in her Harry Potter books, is promoting paganism.

As I have no intention Christianity of following this disturbing trend, I shall in future endeavour to mention Christianity (or Jesus - but heaven forfend, not C-th-l-cism!) at least once in all future articles Christianity.

I thankyou for your indulgence Christianity in this matter.

Jesus!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Fascistojingopedia

A new site has just been launched to challenge the "liberal" bias of Wikipedia: Conservapedia. This family-friendly, moral site aims to provide a forum for right-wing American conservatives to set the facts straight. Among its many delights are:
  • A section on rules for editing called The Conservapedia Commandments. Whilst Wikipedia has something similar, its approach is somewhat different. For example, number 1 on the list of these "Commandments" is "Everything you post must be true and verifiable". No problem with that, you might say; but then we get to rule 4 (and I quote): "When referencing dates based on the approximate birth of Jesus, give appropriate credit for the basis of the date (B.C. or A.D.). "BCE" and "CE" are unacceptable substitutes because they deny the historical basis." I should add that I have no problem with Christians or Christianity as such, but I think not allowing for the possibility that Jesus was not "historical" - especially given the lack of hard evidence outside the New Testament, such as records from those compulsive record-keepers, the Romans - is hardly an indication of no bias.
  • Conservapedia encourages the use of American spellings "wherever possible". Whilst Wikipedia has similar rules regarding consistency and appropriateness of spelling - for example, as far as possible each article within itself must stick to either British or American spelling, and British spellings are preferred for articles on Britain - isn't it a bit fascist to insist on American spellings? On second thoughts, that wasn't a question. And given that only right-wing Americans are going to be publishing to this dustbin - er, site - anyway, why insist on them?
  • On the front page today is a statement that "A Conservapedia contributor helps defeat mandatory vaccination." I'm sure all parents (I'm not one) will be gladdened to hear that Conservapedia is putting its weight to making sure the infant mortality rate creeps up again.
Then of course there's this little problem with the definition of the word "liberal". Dictionary.reference.com lists the first four definitions of the word as:
  1. favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.
  2. (often initial capital letter) noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform.
  3. of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism.
  4. favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, esp. as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.
The 7th definition of the word on dictionary.reference.com is: "free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant: a liberal attitude toward foreigners."

Note also this entry from Merriam Webster (yes, that's right, an evil "liberal" "anti-American" is quoting an American site as evidence of his own point of view!):

"2 a: marked by generosity: openhanded liberal giver
b: given or provided in a generous and openhanded way: liberal meal
c: ample, full

"3 obsolete lacking moral restraint"

(Note the "obsolete".)

Dictionary.reference.com has an entry for a definition of "color" and lists the spelling "colour" as "chiefly British", so one can be reasonably certain it's an American site. Despite this, and regardless of using Dictionary.reference.com as a source, Conservapedia has this to say about the word "liberal":

"Liberal" today means the disfavoring of individual responsibility in favor of collectivism or egalitarianism. Liberals tend to prefer equality in result rather than increased opportunities....Liberals typically align themselves with the Democratic Party in the United States, and the Labour Party in Great Britain....* An alternative definition of liberal is anything that is not conservative."

*This part is especially juicy, given the existence of the, y'know, Liberal Democratic Party in Britain and Tony Blair (of Labour)'s support for Bush.

Disclaimer: I have (and will continue to) contribute to Wikipedia.

But not to Conservapedia.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Unfashionable is the New Fashionable

El País of Spain reports that sales of train-sets in the United States have risen 40% in the last two years, according to one of America's largest train-set manufacturers, Lionel.

Is this surprising? Not really. Conservatives have been predicting the end of the printed book since the advent of the Internet, and it hasn't happened yet; most famously and laughably, the vaunted "paperless office," which first saw mainstream exposure in the 1970's, seems as far away from us as ever - perhaps more so; the wide availability of programs like Word and OpenOffice, and the amount of information on the Internet, mean that we may well be printing more "casual" material than ever before. (Although arguably, we might be much further along the road to the paperless office now if Xerox had been able to capitalize on its inventions at PARC instead of becoming known for "inventing good ideas for everyone else".)

Perhaps most notably, the Internet has enabled hobbies which at one time would have seemed on the level of "trainspotting" to most people, to gain notoriety and new fans. It's interesting, also, that these interests tend to converge: I recently subscribed to a conlang mailinglist - devoted to discussion of languages invented for international communication, like Esperanto; testing the expression of logic or language universals, like Lojban; or for pure pleasure, like Tolkien's Quenya and Sindarin. Imagine my surprise, then, when one of the (female!) members of the list mentioned that she found a notebook unsuitable for writing down conlang ideas, and would much prefer a practical, Linux-based PDA solution for those odd moments when she's away from her desk and has a brainwave.