This Mess We’re In

Teaching Children is Easy

Hong Kong has apparently been working hard at its efforts to integrate its multi-racial society a bit closer. This satirical jab from Hong Wrong on the statelet’s (sorry Self Governing Territory) efforts at educating the younger members of it’s society shows they clearly have some way to go.

The Trouble with Politicians

Speaking of Hong Kong, there was news this week that a politician born there was considering leaving Northern Ireland after more than 40 years…

…for good because of enduring sectarianism and now rising racism.
Lo, who represents South Belfast in the regional parliament, also cited first minister Peter Robinson’s support for a born-again Christian preacher’s depiction of Islam as “the spawn of the devil” as a reason for wanting out of Ulster politics.

Far be it for me to suggest that The North’s thin veneer of success following the end of the Troubles might be wearing thin, but I do* look forward to this month’s and next’s Parade Season to kick off. (* in the way that I look forward to a screaming baby at 3am).

A More Secure Commute

Meanwhile in Beijing qz is claiming they are now subject to Airport Security style searches before entering the subway, leading to massive lines. As one commenter mentions:

Surely “throwing a bomb into this crowd would be more lethal” than setting one off on the subway, noted one skeptic

Exactly, everything’s fine!

This Teenage Government

Our venerable Prime Minister today released an announcement ostensibly about the 70th anniversary of D-Day and upcoming visit to Canada and the USA. It contained such D-Day references as:

The Government’s Economic Action Strategy to lower tax, cut red tape and encourage trade will improve the competitiveness of businesses so that we can build a stronger Australia.
We welcome investment and we are making investment more attractive by scrapping the carbon tax and the mining tax, cutting 50,000 pages of red tape and ending the “analysis paralysis” on major projects.
Our international partners can see that our Budget is again under control, we are tackling debt and deficits and we are serious about building a strong and prosperous economy.

I’m sure the diggers and others who thought they fought to save Europe from tyranny would be surprised to know it was actually to protect Tony’s mates from Carbon Taxes. That they later withdrew the statement should only add to the concern the teenagers have left another mess for the adults to clean up.

This Mess We’re In

After that selection of mind-numbing news, I have to leave it the magnificent Polly Jean Harvey to remind us how much it seems to change, but never really does:

And I have seen the sunrise over the river
The freeway reminding of this mess we’re in

Advertisements

Lullabies: Five Pints 14 3

Science

I know I can sleep happily now they’ve finally solved the Mpemba Effect. Mind you, I thought you put boiled water into the ice cube trays because you could be certain the water was safe. You can tell I’ve been to Mexico and am not a Scientist.


People

Back in February Reza Berati, an Asylum Seeker from Iran, was killed at one of Australia’s Concentration camps for Asylum Seekers and Refugees which are scattered around the pacific islands. It took more than 8 days for an autopsy to determine the cause of death to be held. This past week a report into the events around his death was released.

The Australian Minister for Concentration Camps is clear about where the blame for Mr. Berati’s death really lies;

“There would have been no incident that night had there been no protests, I think that’s clear to say…”

What Scott fails to tell us is that there would have no protests if him and his political ilk treated people with a little more respect and showed a little more compassion.


Music

One evening recently I found myself lullabying my young boy with The Smiths magnificent Asleep.

You’ll be delighted to know he did wake up and wasn’t on his own the next morning.


Language

The internet has been a terrible cure for my infrequent bouts of homesickness. What with Skype and now FaceTime providing an easy avenue to see and talk with friends and family from afar and Facebook, Twitter et al connecting you with what those same people and others are thinking (and Liking) on a daily basis, it’s a lot easier than it must have been back in the day.

To top it off, there’s the People’s Republic of Cork website to remind me of the lilting tones of my own home place. In this story from earlier this year they can help you dear reader say Oiche Maith to me without sounding like a Scot.

If Commander Hadfield could do it on the ISS, why can’t you?


Entertainment

Speaking of Cork, I’ll leave you this time with a lovely little piece about the best part of that fine county, East Cork. And how Padraig Reidy (and I) totes agree that celebrity couple Kimye have chosen the best place in the world to spend their honeymoon this week.

Why Anywhere Else indeed!?

Warriors: Five Pints 14 2

Technology

The New Scientist tells us about research into Social Networks which knows when censors delete online posts:

The system was able to spot, with 85 per cent accuracy, when censorship was taking place on a wide scale. Upon detecting the resulting change in network shape, the system could be programmed to send an alert to activists or protesters, say, to warn them that the authorities were tampering with their posts.

More of this sort of thing.


People

Christine Buckley, one of the first willing to speak out about institutional abuse in Ireland recently died.

As a teenager, she tried to smuggle a letter to newspapers exposing cruelty at the orphanage but she was found out.

Her punishment was a beating by a "sadistic" nun that left her needing 100 stitches in her leg.

Vale Christine Buckley, a great woman of Ireland.


The Media

In light of more recent stories, easily broken using data alone about Australia’s shameful concentration camp on Manus Island in PNG, Andrew Elder’s piece from January on the lack of journalistic initiative on Nauru is particularly damning:

Australia detained thousands of asylum-seekers on Nauru from 2001 to 2008, and again since 2012. It had been an Australian dependency for decades: politically that ended in 1968 but economically it has never not been the case. The country has a matrilineal social system. The most popular sport on the island is Australian Rules football. Why there wasn’t at least one, just one Australian reporter, stationed there during that time, is an indictment of the initiative of Australia’s media.


Football

I loved this intriguing dissection of Steven Gerrard by Ken Earlys :

Some of those Manchester United players were better than Gerrard in some aspects…None could match Gerrard’s all-around ability, his combination of skill, athleticism, and big-game impact. Scoring goals is the most difficult thing in football. Gerrard has scored 183 for club and country, more than Giggs (181), Scholes (169) or Beckham (146).

He’s the only player to score in the final of the FA Cup, League Cup, Uefa Cup, and Champions League. He’s collected more individual Player of the Year awards than all of the Class of ’92 put together.

I’m unapologetically a Liverpool and Steven Gerrard fan, but I’d trade all those successes of his in just to see a League winners medal around his neck.

It’s time.


Entertainment

Recently the Ad hoc podcast geeked out on Blade Runner.

Yes, my first time was pan and scan on VHS too.

Highly recommended for some excellent insights, not just on the movie, but on Ridley Scott’s creative process and the technology of the time.

Five Pints 14 1

Music

"To call it Punk Rock is rather like describing Dostoevsky as a short-story writer"

A review of Television’s Marquee Moon by Nick Kent from the NME from 1977.

“…an album for everyone whatever their musical creeds and/or quirks…This music is passionate, full-blooded, dazzlingly well crafted, brilliantly conceived and totally accessible to anyone who has been yearning for a band with the vision to break on through into new dimensions of sonic overdrive and the sheer ability to back it up…"

One of my enduringly favourite pieces of music. Seeing them live last year was a joy and far exceeded the expectations one might have of a 70’s rock and roll band who might be on a superannuation tour.

Scients

In the Smithsonian Mag they give you Five Reasons Why You Should Probably Stop Using Antibacterial Soap. Apparently the US Food and Drug Administration claims antibacterial products are no more effective than soap and water, and could be dangerous.

evidence that children with prolonged exposure to triclosan have a higher chance of developing allergies, including peanut allergies and hay fever. Scientists speculate that this could be a result of reduced exposure to bacteria, which could be necessary for proper immune system functioning and development.

We use this stuff in our home, for the convenience as much as anything. Mind you if we decide to stop I wouldn’t miss the piles of it all over the sink from the litres used each time small children wash their hands.

Freedom of Information

Irish website The Story recently described how modernising legislation would Kill Freedom of Information in Ireland.

if passed, amendments to the FOI Bill 2013 proposed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (mean) Freedom of Information is dead.

TheStory.ie will, in all likelihood, cease all FOI requests. And we will not seek funding from the public to support an immoral, cynical, unjustified and probably illegal FOI fee regime. We will not pay for information that the public already pays for. We will not support a system that perpetuates an outrageous infringement of citizen rights. The legislation was gutted in 2003 and it is being gutted again. More generally the number of requests from journalists from all news organisations in Ireland will fall as a result of these amendments, and the resulting efforts to shine a light on the administration of the State will certainly deteriorate. And secrecy will prevail.

The more politicians and the establishment lock information down, the more it makes some people curious to find out why. And yet, the politicians never learn in their quest for the perfect bureaucracy.

Technology

In light of the news that Neil Young’s Pono Kickstarter is more than fully funded, here’s a recent piece questioning its point.

Most instruments do not output such frequencies, and almost no microphones, speakers or headphones work significantly above the normal human audio range either.

I love Neil Young, but despite the Kickstarter success, I think he’s wasting his time with his Happy Cow device.

Football

Sure I’m dyed the red of Kenny Dalglish’s shirt since the time I saw him score the winner in the European Cup Final to bring old big ears home for the second year running, but this great piece about the challenges in a relationship across the Liverpool Everton divide from the website associated with one of my favourite podcasts is The Anfield Wrap, is great stuff for any football fan.

Warning, Don’t read if you happen to be married to a Liverpool fan

…and support Everton.


PostScript: I share a lot of links on twitter, but as with much to do with that platform, most of them get lost in the stream. I’ve experimented, with some IFTTT related disasters, using tumblr as a clearing house for more easy access. Shamelessly inspired by the recent launch of 5at5daily by Stilgherrian, I’ve decided to resurrect Franksting’s Five Pints to try and pick the best of these links and publish them here for posterity.

Iain Banks: The Interpreter of Culture

These days I’m spending far too much time rereading favourite books or watching favourite movies because their author, director, star has carked it. And while on the one hand, it’s depressing, on the other it helps to remind me of the glories of their lives and why they were both popular and excellent at the same time.

As I reread The Player of Games, Iain Banks most excellent second culture novel from 1988, I’m sad that, after this months new release, no more from his mind will arrive to be read while also remaining in awe of both his storytelling capabilities and his perception.

Consider this extract on the freedom of information and Privacy in the context of our current society’s struggle with the free availability of information and how that compromises Privacy.

You could find out most things, if you knew the right questions to ask. Even if you didn’t, you could still find out a lot. The Culture had theoretical total freedom of information; the catch was that consciousness was private, and information held in a Mind – as opposed to an unconscious system, like the Hub’s memory-banks – was regarded as part of the Mind’s being, and so as sacrosanct as the contents of a human brain; a Mind could hold any set of facts and opinions it wanted without having to tell anybody what it knew or thought, or why.

And so, while Hub protected his privacy, Gurgeh found out, without having to ask Chamlis, that what Mawhrin-Skel had said might be true; there were indeed levels of event-recording which could not be easily faked, and which drones of above-average specification were potentially capable of using. Such recordings, especially if they had been witnessed by a Mind in a real-time link, would be accepted as genuine. His mood of renewed optimism started to sink away from him again.

Also, there was an SC Mind, that of the Limited Offensive Unit Gunboat Diplomat, which had supported Mawhrin-Skel’s appeal against the decision which had removed the drone from Special Circumstances.

The feeling of dazed sickness started to fill him again.

He wasn’t able to find out when Mawhrin-Skel and the LOU had last been in touch; that, again, counted as private information. Privacy; that brought a bitter laugh to his mouth, thinking of the privacy he’d had over the last few days and nights.

Now remember it was written in 1988 and try and cast your mind back to how information was available then and how privacy might have worked. In my view Banks has perceived our present (his future) based upon a very limited technology compared to what we have today. Sure they had interconnected computers back then, but I think he was quite ambitious to think that just 25 years later we’d have something approaching Culture levels of information scraping, sharing and the impacts that has on privacy.

I’m sure as I plough my way through The Player of Games for the umpteenth time, I’ll rediscover much much more that associates somehow with recent situations. And then, I’ll think hard about what in 1988 might have given Banks that perception of these things a quarter of a century later, at the time of his death.

And I’ll raise a dram to his memory while I do it. Slainte Beatha, a chairde.

UPDATE: Looks like I’ll have to start watching The Sopranos from scratch now as well.

DVD Decryption in HandBrake

Aside

If you have a lot of DVD’s you’ll know you want to watch them via your home media system. But what if, like me, you no longer have a DVD player connected to your TV?

Handbrake has always been a great help to allow me to create mkv files to either play directly from my computer using Boxee or similar or, more recently, m4v files from iTunes via my Apple TV.

For those DVD’s that have inconvenient encryption – predicated on the logic that you’ll always prefer last centuries entertainment technology, the latest version of HandBrake needs this add on to allow you to clearly watch the entertainment you’ve purchased or borrowed by your preferred viewing method.

And for those of you who cry; illegal! can I show you my Apple Account so you can be clear how much I spend on an ongoing basis renting or buying entertainment via today’s method?

Cars 3: The Fast and the Furious

Aside

With the upcoming release of The Fast and Furious 6, I was thinking that any "movie franchise" that gets beyond a fourth sequel really needs to be ended – with prejudice. As an alternative, perhaps Pixar could pick up the Fast and the Furious and then diversify the ailing Cars franchise into something a little more adult.

Cars 3: The Fast and the Furious ticks all the boxes surely?