Monday, April 28, 2008

maybe it's because I'm a geek...

...but I love this keynote given at the Accessibility 2.0 conference held in London in April 2008 by Jeremy Keith.

It's got things in it like architectural shearing layers:
  • the site
  • the structure,
  • the skin (which is the exterior surface),
  • the services (like wiring and pipes),
  • the space plan and
  • the stuff (like chairs, tables, carpets and pictures).
What the great-grandson of Champollion is doing:
It was only thanks to the Rosetta Stone (also on display in this very city) and the valiant efforts of Champollion that we can read and understand hieroglyphics today.

By the way — and this is a complete tangent — do you know what the great-grandson of Chamopollion does for a living? I only know this because my wife is a translator: he writes software for translators. Well, I say software …he’s actually created a plugin for Word. So his legacy might not be quite as enduring as his ancestor’s.

The connection between Whitworth's standards for screws and Babbage's difference engine:
The true father of standards is a British man, a member of The Royal Society which was based, yes, right here in this city. His name was Joseph Whitworth and he was an engineer. A developer in other words. He standardized screw threads. Before Whitworth, screws were made on a case-by-case basis, each one different from the next. That didn’t scale well for the ambitious project that Whitworth was working on. He was the chief engineer on Charles Babbage’s difference engine which, although it can’t boast a direct lineage to this computer, bears an uncanny resemblance in its internal design. I love the idea that there’s a connection between the screws that were created for the difference engine and the standards that we use to build the Web.
It's also a really great article about the (near) future of web accessibility, and goes into some detail about future-proofing, another hobby-horse of mine that no-one else seems interested in; he also makes a connection between accessibility and future-proofing:
We can either spend our time and effort locking data up into closed formats with restrictive licensing. Or we can make a concerted effort to act in the spirit of the Web: standards, simplicity, sharing… these are the qualities of openness that will help us preserve our culture. If we want to be remembered for a culture of accessibility, we must make a commitment to open data.
He also likes science fiction - hurrah!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Happy birthday Will

It's St George's Day (and has been since 1222).
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!' ~ Henry V, 3:1
Historically St George was a third-century martyr. He acquired his dragon-slaying reputation from the Golden Legend. He has only been England's patron saint since 1415. The original patron saint of England was St Edmund.

St George is also the patron of many other countries and organisations. In other countries, George is associated with greenery, and is sometimes conflated with Khidr.

St George is also associated with the Crusades. Not the ideal association, to my mind, since the Crusades were a disaster for interfaith relations, and a brutal and bloody chapter in the history of warfare (and their reverberations are still being felt today).

It is also Shakespeare's birthday today - and personally I find Shakespeare more inspiring, as the creator of great literature. Happy birthday Will.

Shakespeare's plays (and those of his contemporaries) defied the unities of time, place and action, and illustrated a vast panoply of human life. Many of his words and expressions have passed into the English language; he has more quotations in the dictionary of quotations than any other writer, and his characters are a byword for the great tragic and comic experiences of life, love and death. He also wrote a lot of poetry and plays that inspire Pagans and have inspired other fantastical literature. Think of the Three Witches in Macbeth, based on the Three Norns of Norse mythology; Mercutio's speech in Romeo and Juliet; Herne the Hunter in The Merry Wives of Windsor; the whole of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and much more.

What about a patron deity of England? I would suggest Herne the Hunter (often conflated with Cernunnos), Robin Hood, Robin Goodfellow, or perhaps Brigantia, goddess of sovereignty, or Britannia, a personification of Britain.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

freakin' awesome usability rap

Usability explained in a mellow rap from The Poetic Prophet (AKA The SEO Rapper).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I'm so geeky

72% Geek

This is quite an improvement on my previous score.

tender is the night

Astronomy Picture of the Day has a photo of the night as we should all be seeing it, if only street lighting didn't cause so much light pollution.

I was lucky enough to see the stars like this once, on a visit to Dumfries and Galloway - but it should be available to everyone, everywhere - it's just a matter of putting proper shades on the streetlamps, which would direct more light down onto the street where it's needed, and probably save energy into the bargain.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

good ethics down under

I have just received an update about the Iraqi interpreters that I blogged about previously.

Whilst the UK government has refused to help the Iraqi interpreters whose lives are in danger because they acted as translators for British troops in Iraq, the Australian government has offered resettlement packages in Australia to those who have worked with Australian forces in Iraq.

If you want to support the Iraqi interpreters betrayed by the British government, the petition is still open.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Light a candle for Tibet

I have always wanted Tibet to be free, ever since I read Heinrich Harrer's account of his visit there (Seven years in Tibet).

If you want to show solidarity for Tibet, on 8th August, on the day of the opening ceremony of the Olympics, place a candle in your window for Tibet. If millions of people do this, it might get onto the news. It's also an act of global consciousness.

Other things you can do: sign the Avaaz petition; donate to one of the organisations linked below; write to your MP.

extreme bigotry

I was searching for information to verify this story about children's books about gay relationships being withdrawn from a school (which is bigoted enough), when I came across this story about a lesbian woman who was denied access to her dying partner by bigoted homophobic hospital staff.

The second story demonstrates why children need to be shown that there's nothing wrong with same-sex relationships, so they don't grow up to be the kind of bigot who would refuse to let a woman visit her dying partner.

Monday, April 07, 2008


Are you a Pagan with views about science and religion? Would you be interested in completing my research questionnaire, "Pagans and science"? Thanks!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

olympic spirit

Well done Nick Clegg. The Lib Dem leader has written to Gordon Brown telling him that he should not attend the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Ahead of the arrival of the Olympic torch in London this weekend, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg has written to Gordon Brown urging him to pull out of the ceremony in the light of China's human rights record.

He added that he did not believe the Prime Minister could attend the Beijing Games 'in good conscience', unless and until the Chinese Government took steps to 'honour the spirit of the Olympics' in its conduct from Tibet to Darfur.
He further quotes the Charter of the Olympics:
Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles."
This is all to the good, but it's not quite enough. I think Britain should withdraw from the Beijing Olympics altogether. I am sorry for the athletes who have trained for it and everything, but only withdrawal (and trade sanctions) would hit the Chinese government where it hurts the most - in their pockets.

So far the Chinese government's record on human rights has got worse in advance of the Olympics, not better.

Friday, April 04, 2008

in memoriam

In memory of Martin Luther King Jr, murdered on this day in 1968.
"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
Soulforce have a special update today reflecting on the relevance of Dr King's message to the struggle for LGBT equality; the parallels are quite startling.
While LGBT people defend their own dignity and struggle toward liberation, there are those within the Methodist denomination who would seek to attack the disenfranchised and label them "disrespectful, disruptive, and self-righteous."
In 1939, the Methodist Church told African Americans they were not welcome in the same church pews as whites and the Central Jurisdiction was formed as a racial compromise.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Chinese human rights activist jailed

Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia 胡嘉 has been jailed for "subversion" by the Chinese government.
He has long campaigned for the environment, religious freedom and for the rights of people with HIV and Aids.
BBC - Jail for Chinese rights activist

Sign the Reporters Sans Frontières petition.

When will the Chinese government realise that the more they suppress dissent, the more of it there will be, and the less impressed the rest of the world will be with their human rights record (both in China itself, and in Tibet)?

name meme

1. ROCK STAR NAME: (first pet, current car): Spicy Passat

2. GANGSTA NAME: (fav ice cream flavor, favorite Kind of shoe): Ginger Doc Martens

3. HIPPY NAME: (what you ate for breakfast, fav tree): Jordans Birch

4. SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you were born): Angharad Southampton (I haven't actually got a middle name but my dad wanted to call me Angharad)

5. STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 of your first name): Abu Yv

6. SUPERHERO NAME: (favorite color, favorite drink): Green Green Tea

7. NASCAR NAME: (the first names of your grandfathers/grandmothers): Felix Harold Mildred Doris

8. STRIPPER NAME: (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy): Ylang-ylang Winegums

10. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME: (Your 4th grade teacher’s last name, a city that starts with the same letter): Evans-Teush Edinburgh

11. SPY NAME: (your favorite season/holiday, flower): Beltane Cherry-blossom

12. CARTOON NAME: (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now): Sharon Hoodie

(Found at Copper's Klatsch and Catch-All)

ET loves Firefox

cheezburger kweschchun

Haz enywun akshly observd teh kittehs eatin teh cheezburgers? Must hav objektiv evidenz. Ai notiz that there iz no akshul kittehs in teh picturs akshly eatin cheezburgers. Simlurly, there iz no akshul evidenz of teh gendah of teh Ceilin Cat. Kthxbai

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

would you Adam and Eve it?

Parents in Manchester have complained about naked swimming, claiming that it's unhygienic (though it's obvious that the complaint is really just motivated by prudery).

The naked swimming is taking place in a private, closed session in a public pool (so no-one actually sees the naked people in public). The group concerned book the swimming pool of an evening.

Parents have complained that their children subsequently have to swim in the same pool. Well, as various commenters on the story have pointed out, swimming trunks are not an impermeable membrane - people's naked tackle is touched by the communal water when they've got swimming trunks on as well. Besides, that's what chlorine is for.

It's just a small-minded response to the idea of nudity. Though I wonder if the fact that the naked swimming group also happens to consist of gay men might have something to do with it.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Secret

(warning: may cause explosive laughter)

And for those who don't know what The Secret is. You probably will by the end of the video.

I found this very funny indeed, as I am deeply irritated by the utter smugness of the Secret, cosmic ordering and all that. So basically, if bad things happen to you, it's your fault for not attracting good things to you. Yeah, let's kick the dispossessed while they're down.

Spotted by Alison