Archive for August, 2008

Ten Freedom Points if you guess where this happened

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Guess where this happened:

Protesters here in [XX] have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the [XX] police department and the [XX] handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than ‘fire code violations,’ and early this morning, the [XX] sent teams of officers into at least four [XX] area homes where suspected protesters were staying.

A: China

B: Russia

C: Cuba

D: Minneapolis, USA

E: Tibet

F: Iraq

Read this in full to see if you were right

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Being runner up in Miss Alaska is great practice for being runner up in November

Friday, August 29th, 2008
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Apparently Sarah Palin, McCain’s pick for Vice President, was a runner up in the Miss Alaska competition. (The swimsuit round must have been nippy, no pun intended – but go ahead if you spotted it).

Seeing as the female population of Alaska numbers around 260,000, that’s not saying much. Given those odds, I reckon if I padded up and wore a dress I’d stand a pretty good chance.

On a more serious note, given that she is three years younger than Obama and has even less experience of government than he does, it seems inconsistent to argue that he’s not ready to be President but that she is. Watching her next to McCain earlier just made him look even older and more wooden than usual. In a few weeks time I think the Republicans who thought this was a good idea will think again.

MacUpdate Back to School promo

Friday, August 29th, 2008
MacUpdate Promo - Big discounts on Mac software every day..jpg

MacUpdate have released their latest software bundle and it focuses on tools of use to students.

Among the titles of particular interest to anyone writing or researching essays and dissertations are DevonAgent, which is quite a useful tool for online research (I’ve found it great for finding links between different topics) and BookEnds which helps compile bibliographies.
A word processor, Mellel, offers an alternative to Word that promises to be helpful in compiling long documents with different sections.

As more bundles are sold, other programs get unlocked and MacJournal has just become available – another useful tool this time for keeping notes and ideas.

Highly recommended – all these titles would cost $600 (£300+) but are available for just $49.99 (£25+)

Click the ad below for more details or visit the MacUpdate promo page.

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A moment in history

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

The BBC’s Justin Webb on the nomination by acclamation of Obama:

It was stunning – a moment of brilliantly produced political theatre and a moment to cherish forever. Television conveys something but to be there, to see a death and a birth; that was something else.

What made it was the chaos, the crowd, the press of bodies, the tears, the consequence of it all. It reminded me of the British parliament at its best, rowdy and physical yet serious of purpose and aware of its potency: consequence.

People died years ago for America’s right to be able to have these moments and their descendents have done them proud, though in a way most of the nation’s founders would have found impossible to imagine.

The roll call went state by state (Hawaii happy, talk of sunshine, Michigan miserable, talk of lost jobs in the Bush years) and all was proceeding with that ceremonial and genteel decorum that America is so good at (‘Guam, can you repeat your numbers please? Oh thank you Guam!’) – and then came New York.

What made it was the physicality of the moment – she swept in from a tunnel, on to the crushed, cramped floor, arm-in-arm with the governor of the state and its other senator. When she took the microphone, it was not at a distant podium with music and autocue and clocks to time the start and the finish.

There on the floor Hillary Clinton uttered the words that she needed to utter, in slightly courtly language (reminders of the Brits again) but clearly and with awareness of their consequence.

Then Nancy Pelosi called for the seconder to the motion that Obama be selected, and the roar was surely felt down the years. She did not pause for those opposed – they were crushed too. That, too, is politics. A reminder that all this is the exercise of power, of one group of human beings forcing others to accept their dominance.

As people cried and hugged each other and the music blared, I thought of the little black children stolen from their parents, the daily cruelty and humiliation suffered by black people in this country for so long in what one historian calls ‘America’s Original Sin’ and, to a lesser extent, the daily miseries they still endure. From slavery to the nomination of a black man as the leader of a major party. Sometimes it really does appear that our political evolution matches our physical progress…

(Via BBC NEWS | Justin Webb’s America.)

It certainly looked dramatic. Up until then the DNC had made even British parties’ annual conferences look like things of substance.

Prediction Obama 311-227 McCain

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

I watched Hillary’s speech to the DNC on C-Span (via BBC Parliament) and I very nearly applied for citizenship there and then. Blimey she was good. And I got the feeling a lot of people in the crowd were thinking “what have we done?”.
Too late, Hillary, too late. But Michelle Obama was good too – you get the sense she won’t be the sort of First Lady who sits quietly and smiles on the official Christmas card.

Based on my extensive knowledge of US politics (I watched every season of West Wing at least twice and saw every episode of Commander in Chief before it was cancelled) here’s my prediction.

2008 electoral vote map - Los Angeles Times-1.jpg

Mind you I got the last one wrong – I still remember sitting there with my pack of American Hard Gums waiting for the results to come in, and giving up in the early hours after Kerry’s spokespeople started looking glum.

My rationale this time round is any state with a coast will likely go Democrat because there has to be a link between passport ownership and common sense; if the margin in the last election was within about 3% it will go Democrat; Florida and Ohio will not make the same mistake as last time. (Although I’m not sure about Alaska – both the people who live there tend to vote Republican if memory serves, but the latest poll had them down for Obama. But the whole Russia/Georgia thing might make them nervous enough to vote Republican) [Addendum – Sarah Palin makes it certain, I think. Alaska’s going Republican]

I thought about giving any state where a candidate lives to that candidate, on the basis of home advantage, but given the current uncertainty over the number of homes McCain possesses (he can’t remember how many he has, apparently) that might result in a clean sweep for the Republicans.

Having said all this, I’m just guessing. But then so are all the people on the US news channels. All I’ll say is this: when McCain lambasts Obama for being loved by the rest of the world, just remember that when electing the self-proclaimed “leader of the free world” it’s polite to consider who the rest of us think that should be.

Pollster.com currently puts Obama 10 EVs away from the winning post. It would be sweet if the national vote is close but the electoral vote gives it so clearly to Obama.

Designers asked by UK Government to tackle MRSA

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

Design Week is reporting that five UK design consultancies are being sought by the Department of Health and the Design Council to collaboratte with scientists and healthcare professionals. They will be asked to develop “innovative design-led hospital furniture and equipment that could improve cleaning and reduce patients’ exposure to healthcare-acquired infections”.

The programme, called “Design Bugs Out” starts with a briefing on 2 September and will focus on research in three hospitals, identifying key problem areas.

Having identified five key areas, each team will be asked to focus on one and given a £25,000 grant.
After the closing date for submissions on 10 October, final teams will be announced ten days later and given seven weeks to develop prototypes. Winning designs will be exhibited next summer.

Art and design degrees ‘need overhaul’, say academics

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

The Guardian reports that:

A group of 50 academics have called for major changes to be made to the teaching of art and design at UK universities after a review concluded it was not fit for purpose.

The Group for Learning in Art and Design (Glad), a forum of academics who discuss learning in the sector, said teaching needed to better prepare students for work in a fast-paced, changing world.

[…]

Students should learn more than the bones of their own subject to reflect ‘the multi-disciplinary nature of the creative industries’, and work with different groups of people during their studies.

Prof Linda Drew, dean of academic development at the University of the Arts London and editor of the study, said: ‘The creative industries have changed dramatically and so must we. Art education is at risk of becoming conservative – it is important that art and design remains at the cutting edge of higher education.’

Teaching staff should also be given extra training to improve the general quality of education, says the report.

The GLAD conference is taking place next week where I’m assuming this report will feature prominently.

This echoes much of what was discussed at New Views 2 in July (see this post, this one and this one).

So we’re all agreed. Let’s get on and do it, shall we?

Chinese Cooking

Monday, August 25th, 2008

After the Olympics closing ceremony yesterday, my friend Qin cooked me dinner – quite an honour! I thought I’d capture the moment so that anyone could follow along at home:

In case you’re wondering, it tasted lovely. 🙂

Kermit on Visual Thinking

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Via Qin Han

Filling buckets

Monday, August 25th, 2008

“Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.”

WB Yeats