Archive for October, 2006

Living with an insular media

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

So, back in the Land Of The Free, and I’m catching up on email and news. I wanted to write a few words about living with the insular US media from my experiences so far. As many sane people will know, one of the major failings in the States today is that the mass produced TV media here have a general aversion to international news coverage. Sure, they’ll cover Iraq (because of its implications back home) and they’ll cover the North Korean nuclear test (after it happens) but many other news items just aren’t there. This is one reason I don’t own a TV (yet) and I’m undecided about getting one.

Fortunately, the BBC stream their major news broadcasts via their website. I’ve signed up to the premium service but will probably cancel since it doesn’t include a high resolution news broadcast, just certain content (I’ve emailed the BBC to ask why they don’t fix this obvious shortcoming). At any rate, I watch at least one of those newscasts each day, if I can. The BBC also make various forms of news available via podcasts on their website and on Apple iTunes. I pull down a version of their breakfast TV show each day.

CNN (the “Clinton News Network” – i.e. not Faux) provide a commercial online service called ipipeline. I’ve signed up to this too, since I can stream everything from the excellent CNN International I used to watch (not available in the US on regular TV) to live feeds of UN debates, and a whole range of other stuff that you just can’t get here any other way either. It’s a small amount of money to pay each month and in return I’ll be getting a lot of good news options that just aren’t avilable through regular TV programming.

Apple iTunes provides various free (as in beer) podcasts. I run iTunes more than I used to because I can, for example, easily pull down the following:

  • ABC World News
  • BBC Breakfast
  • CBC This Week
  • CNN Late Edition
  • New York Times Front Page
  • Newsnight
  • NPR News Summary
  • BBC Ten O’Clock News
  • This American Life
  • …and a lot more

In concert with NPR (my morning alarm) and the New York Times (and other quality print media – actually I’m thinking about subscribing to the NYT, mostly because they have a backbone) I am actually doing a lot better than I thought I would be. It’s a shame that the regular TV options here are so unbelievably crap when it comes to news, but there are modern day alternatives out there even Murdoch’s empire can’t keep down.


Fireworks – 2006/10/28

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Photo: Fireworks with my family.

So I was in the UK speaking at LinuxWorld Expo 2006 and got to hook up with some family and friends. A leaving party took place on the weekend prior to last week and then, after a much needed day of rest Friday, I was getting ready to fly back to the States when I turned up at Heathrow to find an empty row of checkin desks. I had missed the flight due to a mixup over the timing and had to go out the next day. As it turned out, this wasn’t such a bad thing as we had time to do some family stuff on the weekend.

We had some fireworks to mark the unique British celebration of Halloween/Bonfire Night (unique in the sense that the latter gathers more attention around this time than does Halloween itself). It is traditional to mark the failed 1605 gunpowder plot to blow up parliament with fireworks to commemorate foiling this treasonous act. Personally, I do not celebrate the preservation of the British Monarchy (nor would I, since I believe it is fundamentally wrong) but I don’t believe in a violent removal either (certainly not for the pseudoreligious reasons of Fawkes himself). I just enjoy having an opportunity to purchase fireworks and enjoy them while it’s still legal to do so (without having an anal-fingerprint in a government wankerbase) :-)

I did eventually fly back. This was return flight number 13 to North America (26 single flights across the Atlantic and counting) and I’m not superstituous, but when you miss one flight and then the taxi runs out of fuel on the way to the second attempt to get it – well, you start to wonder. As it actually turned out, the flight got here but we had heavy turbulance and my meal request got screwed up (probably due to the change in flight). Unlike American airlines (who had no excuse for screwing up my meal requests, leading me to stop flying with them), United apologized and prepared me a first class pasta meal in place of the regular pigeon class offering that I had “missed”. That was the best airplane food ever.


UK annoyances of the week

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

Catching up on news (actually, I stream BBC News anyway), and I’m enjoying reading about the following little beauties from the past week:

  • Fingerprinting people going into bars and clubs. The UK government are trialling this service because, if we put everything everybody does into a giant wankerbase then we can track them in every part of their lives.
  • Monitoring your every movement. The UK government wants to add GPS-trackers into every car to calculate tax based on driving pattern. In theory, not a bad idea, but unfortunately another source for the government mega-wankerbase to track your life, citizen. No privacy guarantees being mentioned (and of course they won’t bother with that).
  • Banning fireworks. Several MPs are looking into banning private firework sales in the UK, because a small number of people are fucking idiots. The feeling is that the little people should go to officially organized events (where I guess they can watch you more easily, too) instead of having a few fireworks at home. What a fucking stupid idea.
  • Blair wants to fingerprint/DNA everyone at birth. Yup, this one came up again this week – the government wants a giant wankerbase storing records on every newborn citizen so that they can more easily track people from cradle to grave. And remember, if you start doing it from birth, you can brainwash people into thinking this is the status quo.

Anyway. Don’t worry, fellow Brittons. You can spend your time criticising the US and other countries – or you could wake up and smell the coffee (smell that liberty being burned all around you) and realise where the UK government is heading too all in the name of making us safe from ourselves.


US Midterms – Fox on Stem Cell Research

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

So I was just watching a Michael J Fox political advertisement on behalf of Missouri Senator candidate Claire McCaskill (YouTube rocks). In the years since Back To The Future, Mr. Fox has been diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s and is now at quite an advanced stage. He’s one of a growing number of Hollywood celebrities who do more than just making headlines but actually do something useful – in his case speaking out against certain right-wing nutjobs who try to side with Bush in damaging the advancement of science in the United States (while trying to dumb-down the populous overall).

Like many sane people, I believe in the great potential of Stem Cell Research as a means to developing new cures to debilitating disease affecting millions of people. Yes, we need controls and processes in place to ensure a high standard of research – and we need to find more sociopolitically acceptable ways to obtain research stem cells – but we shouldn’t allow ourselves to get caught up in religious debate when it comes to advancing the state of scientific knowledge. Psuedo-religious crap has no place in politics anyway.

It’d be a nice side-effect of Bush losing his grasp over Congress if there were a little more sanity in areas such as these.


Apartment photos

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

Photo: Apartment building courtyard, complete with squirrels.

I moved into the apartment a week ago. The weekend before the one just gone, I made an emergency trip to Ikea (as I blogged about previously) to get a bed (3 hours of intensive not-designed-for-one-person-alone assembly required) and then went back a couple of days later with some (cool) friends to grab bits and pieces. I’m now at the point where (after a few trips to Ikea, CVS, Walgreens, and Target) I have a working kitchen and bathroom, partially complete bedroom and at least a coffee table and chair in the lounge…and 6Mbit business cable. Hopefully, my UK junk turns up in a couple weeks.

I’m in London right now (well, actually Reading, but I’m getting a train into London at some anti-social time this morning in order to get to the hotel I was booked into for breakfast – too busy fixing stuff at the moment to go down) at the UK franchise of LinuxWorld. If you’re around this week, ping me on my UK cellphone|mobile number (+44-777-613-1337) or email me and we’ll grab some coffee if there’s time to hook up.


Got an apartment

Sunday, October 15th, 2006

So I’m sitting here in Starbucks in Harvard Square drinking tea (and coffee) and hooking up various services for my new apartment. It’s on Harvard Street, just off Central Square. I ended up going for a 2 bed place because I wanted the space and because I got a pretty good deal – and because there’s a super cool courtyard view out of the window that helped me fall in love with the place. So, in summary, I like it, just a little bit.

The apartment is completely empty (well, except for minimal essentials I picked up in a 24 hour CVS down the street) and I don’t yet even have a bed to sleep on. Fortunately, davej was kind enough to let me crash with him for a few days while I figure that out. Yesterday, I took the commuter rail service out to Stoughton to visit Ikea and order a bed (should be delivered tomorrow). $1000 bucks later and I have something I like, but I wasn’t happy with the way they handled the delivery – they won’t deliver regular “warehouse” purchases, just furniture.

Ikea furniture goes out from a depot in the store right behind where I was standing with bedding, pillows, a quilt, and other crap that I then had to take on the train/T back to the apartment. Thanks Ikea, thanks a lot. Thanks for charging me $100 bucks for delivery and not delivering my other crap at the same time. Oh, and thanks for telling me twice on the phone that you could deliver this stuff before I turned up at the store – thanks. And yes, I did have words with store management, but it won’t make any difference.

Plan for the next week is to get hooked up with more than gas/electric. On Monday, I need to get some High Speed net access. I’m probably going to go with Comcast in the end because their business package is around the same cost as going with the high-end Speakeasy DSL option and I already have the cable in the place. But I might accept a higher charge and go with Speakeasy if I again have to explain to the Comcast technical support folks how to setup up reverse DNS entries… I’m not looking forward to trying to get them to combine business and residential packages for me either, but I’ll try.

I’ve got some photos of the apartment that I’ll upload in due course and I’ve also got a bunch of other things that I probably could comment upon on this blog, but first, I must get myself sorted out. I’m back in the UK for a week from next weekend and then I’ll get back to buying crap for my apartment ahead of my shipped junk turning up in a few weeks (well, here’s hoping). If you get board, you can call my new US cellphone: