Monthly Archives: November 2011

We’ve still got a little way to go haven’t we.

Check this out. And who says we don’t need to look our journalistic standards? ๐Ÿ™‚

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The EU vs Facebook

When I decided to quit Facebook one of the reasons I gave was that a mate who works in IT alluded to how much data Facebook was collecting on users. Well it appears it is an awful lot, regardless of how tight you have your security buttoned down. All that does is stop random strangers looking at your most intimate details, it doesn’t stop Facebook. Have a look at this article from The Daily Telegraph in the UK. If you read right down the bottom you will see that ‘the sheer volume of personal data accumulated by the company was hinted at earlier this year when a 24-year-old Austrian student, Max Schrems, asked it what information it held on him. The request led to the site sending him a CD containing 1,222 pages of data. He complained to data watchdogs because the disclosures were incomplete and made clear the social networking site retained further information about him which it had not handed over. ”

F*&k me, 1222 pages and that’s still not all!

But the giste of article is that the European Union is cracking down on Facebook doing this without telling you. They are trying to bring privacy laws up-to-date with technology. Which I think is right. I don’t have any problem with Facebook collecting as much information about you as they like, as long as they tell you what they are collecting and how it is going to be used. And they tell you clearlyย  and make it easy for you to opt out.

Just to give you the heads-up, according the article “the information analysed and stored by the company is not limited to users’ personal details, and “likes” and “dislikes” that they input on their “walls”. The firm also gathers details about their friends, family and educational background and detects subtle changes to their lifestyle, enabling it, for example, to target a bride-to-be with advertising for wedding photographers. Other commercially valuable information, such as what music people are listening to via the site, is also available to advertisers. Everything people share with their friends on Facebook is being tracked by the firm, retained, and can be used for commercial purposes. It can even harvest information by performing keyword searches on behalf of advertisers. In this way, it can find out, for instance, details about people’s political beliefs or their sexual preferences. Facebook stores messages and “chats” sent via the site and keeps them on its database even after they are deleted by those involved in the private online conversations.”

I know Iย  have said it before but I am still amused that we are happy to let a corporation, whose sole reason for collecting this information is to make money from it, get away with this but we go ape-shit when the Government wants to know how many people live in an area so they can do sinister things like plan for schools, medical care etc.:-) When did we all decide that big corporations have our best interests at heart and government is our enemy? Didn’t WorldCom, Enron and the Global Financial Crisis teach us anything? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think corporations are all evil but I also don’t lose sight of the fact that they aren’t here to look after mine, or the community in general’s, best interests either. They exist for one thing, and that is to make money.

Hey, relax, I’m back. ;-)

Sorry about denying you my erudite musings for a week but I have been soothing my fevered brow with a week off on Rottnest Island.:-) For those of you who don’t know it, it is basically a Greek island off the coast of Perth. There are no cars allowed on it, the beaches are great and there is not much else to do but eat, drink and be merry. It’s hell on earth!:-) And it is populated by cute little marsupials called quokkas and, funnily enough, peacocks. The most incredible thing about this picture is that photos taken on my camera’s phone are normally of this quality.

And, seeing as I am still in holiday mode, this post is going to be a pile of junk. Or, more correctly, just a pile of photosย  that I found in a folder when I downloaded the peacock one from my phone. Like this natty display of toy cars. ๐Ÿ™‚ Or these two photos of real Tudor buildings, you know the kind you would see in the show ‘The Tudors’, funnily enough. ๐Ÿ™‚ This one shows how we can successfully blend heritage with commercialism ๐Ÿ™‚ while this one, believe it or not, can be found down a grotty little laneway in Gloucester.

And to finish off this lame-arse, lazy post, how much does this suck! But before you all cry ‘how ironic’, it’s not!:-)

A dangerous place.

I had this picture send to me by a mate the other day. I think it is very funny but it does play on the stereotype of the dangers of Australia just a wee tad, though the recent spate of shark attacks might suggest it is pretty close to the mark. However, to put it in perspective we have only ever had one, no wait, make that two backpacker killers. And the ‘giant’ spiders they refer to are probably wolf spiders, so called because they eat wolves. Just kidding, we don’t have wolves in Australia, well not officially anyway. ๐Ÿ™‚ The surprising number of things here named after wolves might lead you to think otherwise but don’t believe everything you read (or most of what I write :-)). Anyway, wolf spiders are really only about the size of your hand, with a body about 2.5cm long, and they don’t kill you, they can just cause a little thing we call ‘creeping necropsy’ if they bite you. All this means is that the flesh dies back from the wound, and up along the nerve if they happen to have hit one, nothing major. So to put giant spiders on this is really being disingenuous, the ones that will kill you are only tiny.

And our mosquitoes are no more dangerous than any others. In fact, ours only cause Ross River and Barmah Forest Virus and the worst of that is over in eight weeks. And as for the killer koalas and sharks with lasers, clearly nonsense. I also take issue with the giant rats in the north of Western Australia and the jellyfish on the south coast of Western Australia. The rats live further down south and are only a real danger if you ever have to lie down in a state of semi-consciousness, like to sleep for instance. ๐Ÿ™‚ And the jellyfish live off the coast of Queensland and are of no danger to swimmers at all…as long as you swim somewhere else.

And, for the sake of completeness, they haven’t mentioned blue-ringed octopus and stonefish either. One could gather from these linksย  that a prudent strategy might be to stay the hell away from the Great Barrrier Reef. I really wouldn’t bother, these things are found all over the place. If you are going to killed by one it may as well be in a beautiful place. ๐Ÿ™‚

All this reminds me of a little story I have been meaning to tell. I was out riding my bike the other day and something hit me on the back of the head. It felt like a football or something except that it had attached itself to my helmet and was flapping madly. Turns out that I had ridden through a magpie nesting area and one of the males was attacking me to drive me off. We call it ‘being swooped by a maggie‘ in Australia. And when they hit, they hit hard. People can occasionally lose eyes, because our first instinct is to turn to face an attacker I guess, and I have had my cheek gashed by one recently as well as, on the biking occasion, holes punched into my helmet by their beaks. So even our damn birds are dangerous, a bit more so to 10 – 30 year old males riding bikes apparently (read the article! ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

Having said all this though, I will take the many natural dangers that Australia has to offer over the dangers of walking through the wrong parts of Glasgow wearing the wrong coloured tracksuit! ๐Ÿ™‚

I love these kinds of stories

I think I may have mentioned before that I get a bit of stick from a friend that most of my blog post are a bit heavy and argumentative. She implores me for more fluffy bunny stories. And I have to admit that I find the fluffy bunny stories embiggen my soul. Btw, don’t bother looking up ’embiggen’, it is a made up word from The Simpsons.:-)

So, for the sake of a little embiggening, here is a great story my parents sent me about a year ago. I think little projects like these are great and I have so much time and respect for the people who actually get off their arse and do stuff like this. I was thinking about that today as I was walking home from a quick trip into town. It is slightly off-point but people like the Occupy Wall Street protestersย  and the legitimate protesters at major events like the G20 Summit deserve our respect and admiration I think. We might not always appreciate their cause or their methods but at least they are getting out and trying to make a difference. And so often those of us who sit at home and do nothing benefit from their actions. The world is now addressing climate change (Our parliament passed legislation for a tax on CO2 emissions today. Yaaaaaayyyyy!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ )ย  cos people other than me were prepared to get out on the streets and march about it. And most of us have good pay and conditions at work cos members of unions, other than me, have been prepared to strike to achieve them. And people like Will Allen, the guy in the article, will hopefully make a difference that will make all our lives better. I have no idea where my argument is going at this point so I’ll stop. I don’t even know if there was a point to be made, let alone whether I made it or not. Oh I know what it was, actually it wasn’t but I’m going to go with it. If you aren’t willing to get off your bum to walk alongside the people who are trying to make a difference you can at least send them some money, or sign their petitions or send a letter on their behalf to a politician.

Well that’s what I do and it embiggens my soul. That’s alls I’m sayin. (Man, did this one live up to the blogs title! ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Wasters!

I just watched a documentary, The Light Bulb Conspiracy, that made me really sangry (that’s sad and angry. Clever hey, feel free to use it.:-) ). It was about how the world’s economic growth model deliberately incorporates obsolescence. So the basic idea is deliberately make things with either a short physical or desirability lifespan so that people have to buy things more often. When you think of it, it makes perfect sense, if you are a sociopathic arsehole. Actually, that’s not fair. It probably did make sense at the time when the idea was first flagged, during the great depression, to stimulate the world’s economies. But now that we know of the potential damage that continued economic growth will do the environment, it is considerably less justifiable. Btw, planned obsolescence isn’t a thing of conspiracy, it is an accepted practice that takes many forms. Some countries, like the UK, consider it real enough to have their Office of Fair Trade investigate that any product that continually fails soon after the warranty period expires.

Some of the examples they gave in the documentary would have been quite interesting if they weren’t so fucking infuriating! For example, when Dupont’s scientists came up with nylon it was so strong that they could tow a car with a pair of stockings and they would last a couple of years. So the scientists were told to go back and make it weaker. Just think about that the next time you get a run in your stockings, ladies, they don’t need to be that fragile.

Or the next time your printer suddenly stops working, it might well just be the chip a lot of printer have installed that shuts them down when a set number of pages has been reached, even thought there is nothing actually wrong with the printer. The manufacturers call it a protection chip.ย  Btw, if you search the net you can find instructions for how to rest the chip if your printer has one.

And even well respected companies like Apple seem to be in on it. The original iPod was designed with a battery life of between 12-18 months but was advertised as having a battery life of the lifetime of the machine. They then made replacing them so difficult and expensive that they advised you just to replace the iPod, at around $500 a pop. This was eventually challenged in court and Apple settled. But in the meantime a third party industry had sprung up to provide battery replacement services to iPod owners. Funnily enough, subsequent iPod models had their batteries either welded or glued in. ๐Ÿ™‚ And, as this article suggests, they seem to still be at it. The iPhone was the first mobile phone to come out with a battery that could not be easily replaced by the user.

Now, I’m not against buying stuff, though I do think that most of us already have too much, but I think that what we buy should at least last a decent amount of time. There is a book, called Natural Capitalism, that suggests that the average life of all consumer goods, or maybe it was all Christmas gifts (I can’t remember exactly) is about one year. Whichever one it is still makes for a pretty wasteful society. Compare this to the model used in the old East Germany, where, because they had limited access to natural resources, consumer goods had to be designed, by law, to have a minimum 25 years working life. Now this is probably a bit extreme, because I can’t imagine that those machines are particularly energy efficient and a market for new products probably drive innovations in this area. But, when you think about it, given the energy that goes into the production of a new, say, washing machine, one machine that lasts 25 years may still be over-all more efficient that building 5 machines over the same period. But I digress. As I was saying, 25 years is probably a bit extreme. But 1 year is definitely too short! Somewhere in between would be nice.

And just to show you it can be done, here is a link to a 60 watt light bulb that has been burning for 110 years! This is the reason for the name of the documentary. Apparently in the 1920’s a consortium of light bulb manufacturers got together and decided that light bulbs should be limited to a lifetime of 1000 hours, even though technology existed at that time to make light bulbs that lasted over 2500 hours. There is great article here that goes into the social and environmental impacts of planned obsolescence much better that I have here. Pop over and read it. But before you get too outraged by this bastardry ๐Ÿ™‚ it is probably worth remembering that one of the most often used forms of planned obsolescence is Style Obsolescence, where we are ‘convinced’ to buy the latest and the greatest. So we are part of the problem too.