Wednesday, June 29, 2005

xenolinguistics revisited - The Language Construction Kit

Discovered whilst surfing Karen Traviss' excellent website (shame about the frames, but there's some really good information on there). I've just finished reading her two novels, City of Pearl and Crossing the Line. Almost made me a vegetarian again, or possibly even vegan. Not sure that I'll be able to eat squid or octopus any more, just in case it turns out to be sentient.... Actually, what gives us the right to eat any other animals?

My only criticism of City of Pearl is that the Pagan character appears to be a duotheist. I liked everything else about it though. I got a bit confused at first about who all the different species were, but you pick it up quite quickly, and then you're hooked. And I really like the wess'har.

[see previous Xenolinguistics post]

inbox clutter

This week I have received two well-meant but unnecessary forwarded emails. The first was an email petition to save the Brazilian rainforest (the project was shelved two years ago, but I have received the email petition at least three times already). The second was a hoax virus warning about a "WTC survivor" email.

There are various excellent sites where people could check if these things are real before forwarding them. So why don't they check, instead of cluttering up my inbox?

The main ones are: - for virus hoaxes; - for all categories of hoax

Petitions via email don't work anyway, as there is no way of verifying the signature. The only valid web-based petitions are the ones on actual websites, like

Conversely, there is nothing wrong in forwarding details of genuine campaigns to one's friends (as long as one doesn't do it too often, and only to friends that one knows are likely to be interested in the issue). If you really want to get involved in online activism, sign up to Friends of the Earth's campaign newsletters, or Greenpeace's, or OWOS, or Iraq Occupation Focus.

rebel yell, er, whimper

Encouraging news: there were 20 Labour rebels against the ID cards bill, but sadly it still got through to a second reading. However, it looks as though they would have to modify it quite considerably to get it through, or perhaps the bill will get heavily modified by the House of Lords (though doubtless the government will find a way of ignoring them as usual).

Monday, June 27, 2005


Usability: Empiricism or Ideology? - Jakob Nielsen's latest

The sort of people who regard usability as an afterthought or some form of political correctness should read this article. It sets out very clearly why it's a good thing to ensure your website is usable (because if it isn't, people won't carrying on using it), and puts forward the 4 basic tenets of usability as ideology.

pledge update

5,177 people have signed up, 4823 more needed:

See also and an article by Shami Chakrabarti (Director of Liberty) for details of the arguments against the ID card and national database.

Friday, June 24, 2005


So glad I didn't go to Glastonbury Festival... I mean the place used to be a big island in the middle of a marsh, and the flooding on the Somerset Levels can be spectacular, so it's kind of a no-brainer that if it rains, it's going to be horrible. And it certainly did rain heavily last night. (Oh no, I just turned into one of those British people who talk about the weather all the time!)

Monday, June 20, 2005

first they came...

First they came for the miners, [1]
and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a miner.
Then they came for the travellers, [2]
and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a traveller.
Then they came for the asylum-seekers, [3]
and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't an asylum-seeker.
Then they came for me, [4]
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.

(with apologies to Martin Niemöller)

The thing is, we weren't expecting them to come for these categories of people - we were expecting them to go for gays, bikers, or other categories. A biker friend of mine always used to say that he was all for gay rights because the gays would be the first line of defence - they would come for the gays before they came for the bikers; then would quote the Niemöller poem. But whilst I have protested or written to my MP about various things (Iraq etc.), it seems to me that we are just sticking our heads in the sand about the erosion of various freedoms (the removal of the right of habeas corpus, for example). And now ID cards. Great, I really want an ID card like I want a hole in the head - I realise they can easily work out I'm a Pagan as it's posted all over the internet - but other people prefer anonymity, particularly after the experience in the late 1980s and early 1990s of social workers threatening to take our children away because they were convinced we were all satanists. [5] But if we have ID cards it'll be much easier for the government /social workers (delete as appropriate) to round up people they don't like.

[1] closing of the mines, 1984
[2] Battle of the Beanfield, 1985
[3] Asylum seekers, ongoing
[4] well I'm not going to tell you everything they could get me for, am I?
[5] Rochdale, Orkneys, Cleveland, etc

Friday, June 17, 2005

roll over Beethoven

Found this great music site where you can listen to loads of classical piano music in mp3 format:

The only drawback with it is that you download each movement separately. I suppose this is because the file sizes would be too large otherwise.

blogs for freedom

"Blogs are a great tool in repressive regimes." - Julien Pain

Well we'll be needed when Britain becomes a police state after the introduction of ID cards, then.

Humanist weddings

Humanist weddings will be legally recognised
Britain's first legally recognised humanist wedding is to take place in Edinburgh at the weekend.

Right, so if the humanists can have legal weddings, why can't Pagans? My husband and I conducted a handfasting at the weekend, but the couple still had to have a civil ceremony afterwards. Which was very nice, but it all adds to the expense.

And at last gay weddings are legal. Hooray!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

sans plastique

ID cards: implications for Black, Minority Ethnic, migrant and refugee communities
By Arun Kundnani
26 May 2005, 6:00pm

The Identity Cards Bill, introduced on 25 May 2005, is aimed at enabling the policing of a harder boundary of entitlement between British citizens and foreigners. The result will be the creation of a new under-class of those who are 'sans plastique'.

the view out of my window

The leaves outside make it quite dark in here, but I like the way the sunlight shines through them. It makes a kind of green tapestry. On the other side of the carpark, the chestnut trees have leaves with dark green centres and a paler green border around the edge. I've not noticed this on other chestnut trees, so I wonder if these are a special kind. It's like variegation but too regular. There is something very restful about looking out onto greenery, it must be because green is in the centre of the spectrum, but it's also the irregularity of the patterns of leaves and twigs, and the way it all moves in the wind. It's just a shame there's a security grille on the window. At least I don't have a view of a brick wall out of the window, like one guy I know (who got a job that I applied for, so that could have been the view out of my window).

Monday, June 13, 2005

be a refusenik! - Sign the pledge to refuse to register for an ID card - all the tools you need to join the campaign - this is the actual grass-roots campaign I was looking for!

no to ID cards

I just received this email from OWOS and agree completely. I've been wondering when someone was going to start a full-on campaign. Obviously Liberty and the Liberal Democrats have had information on their websites about this for a while, but there was no grass-roots campaigning going on as far as I could tell. It's ridiculous that we will have to pay to be oppressed - I thought the initial amount mentioned was £85, but it's even worse if it's £300. Those on low incomes won't be able to afford it anyway, especially asylum seekers - who are the main excuse for introducing this measure! Though I think that all the reasons given for introducing ID cards are completely spurious and morally wrong anyway. It's even worse that the government are proposing to share information with the USA. If they introduce this measure I for one am going to go and stand outside No 10 Downing Street and set fire to a fake ID card. I would do it with a real one but I haven't got £300 to burn! Ooh this makes me really angry. I am quite prepared to identify myself when I need to access a resource or prove that I have a right to do something specific, but I shouldn't have to have ID merely to prove that I have right to exist in the country where I was born. It is a moral outrage.

Fight ID cards and declare the UK an ID Card-Free Zone

Our World Our Say are launching a campaign to have the UK declare itself an ID Card-free zone. The cards, which will cost anywhere upwards of £100 up to £300 each, with penalties of £2,500 for failing to carry one; not having up to date information, or even that the card is not working. Everyone over 16 will be fingerprinted and must provide the government with any information they require on demand. Alarmingly, the US administration has asked the UK to ensure that the national identity database is compatible with US systems so information can be shared.

Tony Blair's Labour government have shown how little they care for our opinions - or our rights. They have already thrown out the centuries old right to a trial before detention - now we must do everything we can to stop these further breaches of our rights and privacy.

In the next few weeks we will be contacting you again to let you know how to declare your home, your neighbourhood and your country an ID Card-free zone - and increase the pressure on the politicians to vote against ID cards.

OWOS ACTION: Contact your MP - - and tell him or her why they must vote against ID cards.

For more information on ID cards go to:

Friday, June 03, 2005

let's just stop...

Let's just stop putting annoying quotes at the end of emails. It's not big and it's not clever, and it's even more annoying when you have to snip someone's ridiculously long signature in a trailing series of replies. - The Gallery of Annoying Email Signatures

Like the guy says, there's nothing wrong with amusing quotes in your personal emails, it's just silly having them on your work signature. Especially when with email clients like Mulberry, you can configure multiple signatures for multiple identities.

I must admit I quite like this one: "The message above is just this .sig's way of propagating itself" Also, a friend of mine has one of those random quote generators for her email, and she has a really excellent collection of quotes, which occasionally provide an interesting complementary insight or counterpoint to her message, and she only uses them for personal emails as far as I know.

And people should get rid of extraneous characters in their signatures, like *********** and ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ and _/_/_/_/_/_/ and _________ and ----------- and ++++++++

Equally irritating are people who format their emails with a graphics background - if I wanted a huge gif file cluttering up my inbox, I'd put it there myself. And the ones who format their emails as HTML and don't provide a plain-text version for people who don't have an HTML-enabled email client. And people who don't snip long trailing previous posts on mailing lists, so that people who are reading the digest have to do loads and loads of scrolling.

But it would be good if people put their job title, website address, and phone number in their work email signatures. Probably a good idea to put your email address too for the benefit of people using Outlook, since it routinely hides email addresses in a really irritating way.

And those pseudo-legal disclaimers are really silly as well. Here's why:

Oh yeah, and don't get me started on Word attachments!