Yearly archives: 2010

links for 2010-12-19

Will Amazon ban Switzerland?

Amazon is suffering from user fury again, but on a smaller scale than over their behaviour towards Wikileaks. They have recently been deleting books from their Kindle store without giving a reason beyond a generic statement that “these books were removed from sale for violating our content guidelines.” The content guidelines are very vague about what subject matter would be in violation, but the books removed have been primarily about adult incest fantasies. Not a subject that many people are comfortable with but not one which is explicitly barred from their site. What’s more, the banning of books has the appearance of being arbitrary, as other books with similar, or even more bizarre, subjects have not been banned.

Most likely, after a furore about a self-described paedophiles’ handbook a few weeks ago, Amazon have become more nervous about complaints and are knee-jerk jumping to ban almost anything which is complained about. They’re a commercial entity, they have every right to run their business this way. But it could harm them in the long run if they are seen to be doing the censors’ work for them and harming free speech. If the banning net is cast any wider every one of the independent authors publishing through Amazon would have reasons to be nervous. Sounds of Soldiers could be viewed as anti-American (to paraphrase one of the Dilbert collections, I’m not anti-American, I’m anti-idiot), and goodness knows there’s a lot of very loud, very dim Americans who’d gladly complain about that if they were told to. I reckon I’d be safe, but you never know. The best solution would be for Amazon to either include a list of subjects they will not sell (eg. incest, paedophilia, bestiality, biographies of talent show contestants etc.) and stick to it (not the preferred method, even if it would clear Jedward and SuBo from their shelves) or be more open, and more open to counter persuasion, with the people whose books they do ban.

On the subject of incest, the upper house of the Swiss parliament has drafted a law which would decriminalise consenting sex between adult family members.

Daniel Vischer, a Green party MP, said he saw nothing wrong with two consenting adults having sex, even if they were related.

“Incest is a difficult moral question, but not one that is answered by penal law,” he said.

There are some obvious jokes about a certain bunch of castaways, but does this also put a whole country in danger of being delisted by the world’s biggest bookseller?

A little bit of civil disobedience makes everything better

A little bit of civil dsobedience makes everything better, originally uploaded by spinneyhead.

Because I’m crap I’ve left my Christmas shopping until today. You’ll be glad to know I wasn’t planning to shop in any of the places targetted by tax protesters anyway.

Maybe I shall take photos of the Police taking photos of the protesters.

Long Exposures in the snow 1

Manchester snow

I’ve had a slightly frustrating day, with a morning spent learning the limitations of my chosen video editing hardware and software and an afternoon spent learning the limitations of the footage I shot on Wednesday.

But never mind, it’s snowed! I looked out of the window at about ten o’clock and found everything had gone white. I just had to grab the camera and a tripod and head out. The photo above was a fifteen second exposure in Cavendish Road Park. The other long exposures were four seconds each. The flash photos were taken using the camera’s “slow synchro” flash setting, which uses a longer exposure to bring up the background. Adjusting the white balance with Photoshop has brought out a lot of detail.

Manchester snow Manchester snow Manchester snow Manchester snow Manchester snow Manchester snow

links for 2010-12-17

  • Did you know that the totally made-up-by-medieval-drunks gods of Norse mythology were all white? Literally none of them were African. We didn't know that, but thanks to the prodigious efforts of the Council of Conservative Citizens and their friends at, the truth has been revealed: Heimdall, Sentry of Asgard, was white and Idris Elba, the English actor hired to portray Heimdall in Marvel Studios' Thor, is black! BLACK
  • On December 9, 2010, I was contacted by CreateSpace (Amazon’s Print on Demand service) who publishes my print books. They informed me that my title, Back to the Garden, had been removed for violating their “content guidelines.” When I consulted their guidelines I found them so vague as to be useless—were they saying my content was illegal? Public domain? Stolen? Offensive? (All of these were on the list). When I inquired as to the specifics of the violation, they were not forthcoming, and sent a form letter response stating that Amazon “may, in its sole discretion, at any time, refuse to list or distribute any content that it deems inappropriate.”

Today I shall be mostly playing with hifi equipment

Today I shall be mostly playing with hifi equipment, originally uploaded by spinneyhead.

TIBO AMP100 amplifier through Wharfedale Diamond 10.0 Speakers with a Denon ipod dock, £250ish. Onkyo iPod dock, Arcam rdac digital to analogue converter, Rotel amp and Bowers and Wilkins speakers, £1000ish. Linn Magic DSI and matched speakers (also connected to the Onkyo dock), just over £4000. This is the system which almost made me cry on Monday when I heard all the levels of bass in a FLAC version of White Lines, which mp3s and lesser speakers can’t begin to handle.

You can hear the difference the money buys, though with mp3s it’s most noticeable at the first jump, the Linn shows up the flaws in lower bitrate mp3s, but is excellent with FLAC and high bitrates.

Having said all that, the Tibo is excellent value. For an extra £50 you can get a cd player with it. I’m saving up to get one for my birthday, it’s the best value I’ll get on my budget. Only available from my employers, Superfi, as well.

I’m not even being a whore. I don’t stand to make any money from these recommendations, unless I can somehow link them to Amazon later. Some linkage found.

In the interest of good music listening

In the interest of good music listening, originally uploaded by spinneyhead.

For a man whose "real" job is selling hifi, I don’t get to listen to the systems all that often. This afternoon we shall be putting together, and listening to, systems at various different price points to get the best from iPods and iPhones.

I may finally get to listen to the Aktimate Maxis I’ve been coveting for so long.

links for 2010-12-12

  • What many of the books described in this post have in common—aside from their shared interest in what a climatically different earth will mean for the future of human civilization—is their use of short, fictionalized narratives set in specific future years or geographic regions as a way of illustrating larger points.

links for 2010-12-11

  • If you were launching a spacecraft on a historic voyage, what would you choose as your secret payload? For SpaceX of Hawthorne California, it was this wheel of Le Brouere cheese. The firm launched its Dragon Capsule into low earth orbit on Wednesday and landed it safely – a first for a commercial company – bringing the cheese back to Earth in one piece.

    The cheese was stashed in a payload secretly bolted to the spacecraft's floor. You may well ask why, and it turns out to be a tribute to a Monty Python sketch – presumably the one in which John Cleese attempts to buy cheese from a cheese shop that, it transpires, has no cheese.

    (tags: cheese space)

links for 2010-12-10

  • Corporations do not share our priorities. They are hive organisms constructed out of teeming workers who join or leave the collective: those who participate within it subordinate their goals to that of the collective, which pursues the three corporate objectives of growth, profitability, and pain avoidance. (The sources of pain a corporate organism seeks to avoid are lawsuits, prosecution, and a drop in shareholder value.)
    (tags: politics scifi)
  • Manchester students' rag. Originally part of News in a Nutshell.

    Manchester University students' Shrove Tuesday procession in aid of local hospitals. Various shots of students in fancy dress parading down crowd lined streets on foot and on carnival floats. Amongst the costumes are undertakers, convicts and headless ghosts!

    (tags: Manchester Rag)
  • Full titles read: "Shrove Tuesday Rag – Merry students gather fine "harvest" for the Hospitals."


    M/S of the Mayor making a speech on the steps of a building; M/S of a crowd of university students in fancy dress cheering. M/S of a large man (dressed in a kind of Buster Brown costume of a white shirt, black shorts and ankle socks) walking arm in arm with a man in drag under an arch of frying pans, held aloft by students dressed as chefs and carrying collection boxes. Several more costumed students follow.

    M/S panning across a line of students, tossing pancakes with their frying pans plus any other implements at hand – a rake, an umbrella; a large crowd watches. C/U of 'Buster Brown' with a lovely young girl in a cloche hat; while she talks he edges nearer then kisses her – a big smacker on the cheek! Great shot for illustrating the 'crazy' late '20s. She wags her finger at him.

    (tags: Manchester Rag)
  • Title: "The Rag of Rags. Manchester students gather record sum for hospitals in Annual Shrove Tuesday 'Rag'."

    Various high angled shots of a parade of students in fancy dress coming up a crowd lined street; some ride horses, others are on trucks, people look out of the windows of a tram that is stuck in the middle of the crowds. The students are dressed as clowns, harlequins and pirates, some throw flour bombs into the crowds. M/S of a group of students in fancy dress on the back of a truck, a large sign hangs above them reading – 'Have you got your colour blind test?' M/S of a group of students dressed as pirates; they wave their wooden cutlasses at the camera. M/S of a group of students dressed as monks; they toss fake pancakes in frying pans.

    (tags: Manchester Rag)
  • Item title reads – 1,500 students take part in annual merry Shrovetide "rag" in aid of hospitals. Manchester.

    M/S as male students in short skirts and jumpers perform a dance routine with other men. C/U of a cameraman filming them. L/S of crowds watching the students who are in various forms of fancy dress. M/S's of them cooking and tossing pancakes. M/S of a man dressed as a little girl, he presents a large bouquet of flowers to another man. M/S as floats parade through the town, one has a banner saying 'Vulgar Boatmen all alms on deck' another 'disarmament boat', people throw money at them. M/S as more floats pass by.

    (tags: Manchester Rag)
  • Full title reads: "Manchester. 1,5000 Students – take part in merry annual Shrovetide 'rag' in aid of Hospitals."

    Students, many in fancy dress costumes, ride along the streets of Manchester in parade of decorated lorries. They are raising money for charity.

    (tags: Manchester Rag)

Return of the OK Cafe

A new Okasional Cafe has opened in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, after an absence of 8 years. I visited a few of the original Okasional Cafes back in the ’90s and early ’00s because I was involved in Critical Mass and the airport campaigners. It’s nice to know they’re back but, as it’s only going to be open for another week, I may not get to visit it.

links for 2010-12-09

  • Passengers could be riding Venetian-style water taxis down the River Irwell next summer.

    Manchester Water Taxi Ltd plans to launch the yellow ‘waxis’, claiming they will help reduce pollution and congestion.

    It is hoped the 40ft boats will travel between Manchester Victoria and the Trafford Centre, with stops at Spinningfields, Exchange Quay and MediaCityUK. Bosses at the firm are urging people to register their support in the region’s draft Local Transport Plan, which sets future transport priorities.

  • The batch of 250,000 US classified documents released by WikiLeaks to several news outlets, some of whose content was made public Sunday, sheds new light on the sordid nature of American imperialist intrigue and conspiracy around the globe.

    The Author will analyze the documents more thoroughly in a subsequent article, but "highlights" published by the Guardian and the New York Times are revealing.

    The leaked material consists of classified cables from US embassies, some dispatched as recently as early 2010. The cables, most of which date from 2007-2010, contain US officials' comments on foreign governments and leaders and speculation about the activities and maneuvers of the latter, as well as details about American foreign policy operations.

    In a revelation that should surprise no one, the US State Department and American diplomacy in general turn out to be a vast nest of spies.

  • It would seem that these days, there’s nothing Russell Brand won’t consider remaking. He’s already set to hit our screens in Arthur, and now he’s taking aim at another, not-quite-so-high-profile comedy classic: Rentaghost.

    Yes, really. The 80s children's TV show that many of you will recall, some even fondly, about the agency for oddball spooks, ghouls, witches and other supernatural types, really is becoming a film for Warner Bros.

    (tags: film)

Proposal: The ….For Smartys series of books

During a conversation a few weeks ago I suggested there would be merit in going through The Da Vinci Code and editing out all the bits where Dan Brown treats his readers like idiots. Stuff like the horrendous flashback used to explain phi and the redundant repetition of information because he assumes his readers have tiny attention spans. I reckoned I could cull nearly a third of the verbiage and make it a less painful book to read. It still wouldn’t be great, because it’s a dumb premise, but it could be easier to get through. We’d call it Dan Brown for Smartys.

Over the weekend I got thinking about other possible ….for Smatys books. The idea could lend itself to so many better uses than improving Dan Brown’s prose. The series title, obviously, is a play on the ….for Dummies books, and they would serve a similar purpose. Despite their name, the ….for Dummies books don’t assume you’re some sort of idiot. I’ve got Blender For Dummies and it’s a great resource. It presumes the reader is an intelligent person who simply hasn’t used the software before and can grasp the concepts providing they’re explained well. The …..for Smartys books would expect intelligent readers and cover areas where the main, or at least loudest, people talking about them assume their audience are morons and can be lied to with impunity.

Yes, …..for Smartys would mostly cover tabloid fodder and stuff which attracts loud and dissembling deniers. The books would look at claims made around a controversial subject and fact check them, much like blogs such as Five Chinese Crackers do. They would also present the data in cool infographics, just because I’m a fan of cool infographics. Weight would be given to data based upon how many times it had been corroborated, rather than by how much it appealed to the readers presumed prejudices.

Immigration for Smartys would trace the population of the country back through many censuses as well as using Freedom of Information requests to get councils to reveal who gets to live in council houses (just a hunch, but I doubt “newly arrived immigrants” will top the list, no matter what the Daily Mail may say).

Climate Change for Smartys would look at the scientific evidence for and against man-made climate change. It would examine the more outlandish claims made for global warming as well as the those that it’s not happening at all. It would also run a side by side projection for a do-nothing family and a make-a-change family to see who is better off, even if all the evidence is wrong and there is no climate change. The no-changers would keep their car, not bother insulating their house etc. The make-a-changes would trade in for a smaller, more efficient vehicle, which they used less, upgrade insulation, upgrade their heating, install solar panels etc. There would be a comparison of expenditure, which would be easy enough, and a less scientific look at quality of life.

I don’t know if an Evolution for Smartys would be necessary. I’d mostly point people at The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. Dawkins can be strident, but he knows his subject and explains it well.

Religion for Smartys would be a tricky one, because some people can’t help but get violent over their choice of deity. I imagine it as a timeline from the earliest known religions through to the present day with pullouts for similarity of themes and recurring motifs. There’d also be a “Who do you hate and who do you love?” section which would list the various things and peoples considered evil or divine across several holy books.

All I need now is a publisher willing to put up the money needed to fund me whilst I do the research and design the graphics.

links for 2010-12-07

  • Amazon is gearing up to launch a web-based Kindle service accessible from any computer, Computerworld is reporting. Going on record, Amazon said that the new Kindle for the Web will “enable users to read full books in the browser and enable any Website to become a bookstore offering Kindle books.” While the service should be announced at some point today, it’s said that it won’t be commercially available until possible January, right around the Consumer Electronics Show. With Amazon being a leader in the eBook store world, there’s no reason why they wouldn’t want a piece of every addressable market, and that includes desktop-type computers. Yesterday, Google announced and launched its eBook service called Google Books, which currently has over 3,000,000 available books.
    (tags: kindle)

links for 2010-12-06

Transformers- robots in the snow!

Transformers- robots in the snow!

Last Tuesday would have been Andy’s birthday. I didn’t get to release any Bots or GIs for it, but I did get out on my bike the following day with a couple of robots and a Hummer full of GIs, all of which ended up in the snow in Platt Fields. Annoyingly, it’s taken me until today to upload the pictures.

Transformers- robots in the snow! Arctic GIs Arctic GIs

After giving the robots and soldiers their chilly freedom I headed on into town to shop, write and get this shot of the town hall complete with Santa and Christmas trees.

Albert Square gets all Christmassy