Monthly Archives: November 2008

ORG 3rd Birthday

The UK Open Rights Group has now been around for 3 years, and they have released their 2008 Review of Activities. It shows how busy the group has been, and also how much more they are needed.

It seems that a week doesn’t go by when a CD isn’t lost or a laptop isn’t stolen containing personal data. Surveillance, ID cards, RFID passports, all are being touted as necessary to keep us secure. But when it’s so poorly implemented, it becomes a liability, and is it really necessary?

As more and more music is bought and distributed digitally, the ORG has a part to play in ensuring that you own the music you bought, rather than just owning a license to play a file which can be revoked at will.

There are many more issues. The review describes the problems that face not just the ORG, but everyone living in the UK. Happily, the ORG is making great progress in advising, guiding, and where necessary, stopping the powers that be. The review is packed with info on work with the grassroots, the press and behind the scenes with policymakers, and it shows that ORG is now a respected digital rights advocate and also looks forward to expanding our operations in the coming years.

As one of the Founding 1000 members, I can show you these fantastic badges. I need to choose one to put in the sidebar, but in the meantime, here they all are. As you can see, I was member number 192!

Now that I live in the US, I’ve joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is the US equivalent of ORG. It’s been around longer, and has more permanent staff, and it’s had some very high profile cases, including suing President Bush, the various Attorney Generals, and the NSA. I’m proud to support them both.

Recent Links, 20081113

» John Peel Wiki Complete with MP3s of all his shows, and listings of tracks played. Wonderful. (via Phil Gyford)

» Open Rights Group » Ordnance Survey cripples Gov Show Us A Better Way winners The Ordnance Survey are getting all whiney with what should be public data. Dicks.

» Matthias Rath, the alternative health eurosceptics and the MEP « gimpy’s blog A collection of unpleasant quacks and dangerously unscientific salespeople have snared an ignorant MEP into supporting their cause.

» Tiny Geo-coder | The fastest way to find latitude and longitude Boom, it just works. Now, what can I use it for…?

» Should We Kill People Over Gay Marriage? Another Sci-Fi author goes mental. Unlike Hubbard, Orson Scott Card’s books are quite good. But he seems to be advocating a bloody revolt against the “barbarians” that are “stealing” his marriage.

» music search plus Uses clever search terms to find “free” music files.

» All UK 1980’s Number 1’s nailed together into one mp3 Memories…

Recent Links, 20081110

» The locals slag you off (Phil Gyford: Writing) Mr Gyford seems to be going through the same thought processes and dilemmas I have about Facebook, Twitter et al.

» Blood tastes good » Drink-soaked Trotskyite Popinjays for WAR …and another perspective on the recent US Election. NSFW, rude written words. Refreshing though.

» Guy Fawkes’ blog: Home Secretary’s Biometric Data Compromised Hee hee they got her fingerprints. That’s kind of silly but pretty funny.

» RepRap: Blog: Lasercut RepRap Extruder Instructions on Wiki These things look amazing, and I’m sure they do something great too. Very interesting project, RepRap.

November Beach Weekend

I’m now parking in the underground lot beneath my building, which cuts down on the time needed to get to work, and the amount of calories I burn to get from the car to my desk (uh-oh, gym tonight). My building has every convenience, it’s going to make life easy for me. It’s gonna be easy to get things done. I will relax, alone with my loved ones. And that’s what I did at the weekend.

Cassie took her turn to come down to SD at the weekend, bringing Gordon (pron. gor-DON, rolling the “r”). I had another Friday off under the every-other-Friday-off-in-return-for-longer-hours regime, which is working nicely for me, even after only a month.

I spent Friday running some errands and generally pottering. I had an optometrist appointment in the morning, which was a spur to getting up and about. I like going to the optometrist – all the technology and gadgetry, and they don’t even hurt you! He did that thing where he puffs air at your eye, which makes you blink, and he took photos of my retinas. As with my dental x-rays, I was tempted to ask for copies of the images and post them here. WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MY CAPILLARIES? My eyes are fine, my prescription has hardly changed, no I don’t want Lasik or contact lenses. I have to say my company insurance rocks for optometry.

My computer seems to have been fried by my putting 110v volts through it instead of the 240v it was expecting. Why that should fry the power supply is beyond me – this is why I failed A-Level Physics, and am not an electrical engineer. Anyway, I took it to a friendly repair place, who diagnosed the fried PSU, replaced it, and sold me a wireless router as well. Proteus2 lives again. Now to get the router working…

Cassie arrived early evening, and after the usual Zagat’s discussion we went to a nice Moroccan restaurant, Kous Kous. The food was great: Cassie had a chicken tagine dish, and I had beef, all washed down with hot mint tea. We declined dessert – she had a craving for ice-cream (!) so after a stroll round the trendy neighbourhood we stopped off at 7-Eleven.

We both wake up early during the week, so it’s hard to sleep in at the weekends, especially with Gordon whining to be let out. Unfortunately, “out” means getting up, dressed, and taking him downstairs and out of the apt-plex to pee and poo, so by the time you get back, you’re fully awake and dressed. So we decided to go straight to Coronado Dog Beach. It was a lovely day, altough the temperature hasn’t been as high, so we weren’t planning on swimming. Very wise too – the surf was quite impressive, crashing and booming, and paddling was very cold. The adjacent air base was launching some F-20’s, and Gordon had a great time dashing about, barking like a loon, and digging as predicted. After a good length of time playing, relaxing, walking up and down, and throwing the ball for G, we though maybe it was time for lunch. Then we saw that it was 9.45am. Hmm. We managed to drag it out for a while longer (I know, poor us), before taking the mutt to the scrub shop for a soaking. A slice of pizza and a coke later, we were home.

In the evening we met a colleague of mine and her husband for a couple of beers at O’Briens (“the hoppiest place on Earth”), which was really nice – the first time I’ve socialised with a colleague outside of a couple of happy hours and lunches. Must do more.

Sunday morning I made pancakes with Bisquick – my Americanization continues. I added slices of banana to the batter in the pan, so they were embedded. We ate them with Aunt Jemima’s Original syrup, hand-made by the lady herself in a gigantic stainless steel factory. I was horrified to see you can buy sugar-free syrup at the grocery store, which I’m sure is just like the real thing. Whatever, they were delicious, and I’ll be doing it again.

On Sunday afternoon we went to the horrid Mission Valley mall to pick out some frames for my new glasses. I took the plunge and chose some with very bold frames, a departure from the half-framed or frameless look I have sported for so long. The prescription wasn’t very different from my current specs, so I can keep my old ones for a choice of looks. I’ll be picking them up in a week or so, and I’ll post a picture.

While at the mall, we saw Role Models with the very funny Paul Rudd. The commercials really don’t do it justice. It veered from so-so crass comedy to the climactic surreal end sequence, where the guys dress as KISS to enter a LARP battle. I was laughing a lot throughout, especially when swear words were yelled – I’m a simple man.

Status Of Missing

So, how is the great experiment doing? Am I missing the country of my birth? A little. I miss my ex-dog quite a lot. My Google Reader feed of all Flickr photos tagged “westie” is either helping or not helping. I miss my good friends. I didn’t have such a huge circle. My brother and sister are up to their necks with family, so we’re separated by years, miles, and lifestyle. I miss them, but it’s cool. I guess things are still not settled here. I like my condo, but it is clearly a temporary thing, and I guess I want to have a home.

I’m trying to build up a circle of friends in SD, but that’s a slow process when I’m away most weekends. We’re having a work happy hour this evening, so I’ll try not to alienate too many people there.

I knew it was going to be hard, but the whole philosophy of it was that sample at the beginning of Sweat Loaf:

“… it’s better to regret something you have done, than to regret something you haven’t done…”

…and I certainly don’t regret it.

Cassie is coming down at the weekend, and though it’s a little cooler here now (I’m wearing a suit jacket to work!) we’ll walk on the Coronado dog beach and have some fun. We’ll watching Gordon run in huge circles growling as he streaks past us, then stopping to frantically dig a hole in the sand and stick his schnozz into it. This will require a visit to the dog wash, which he needs anyway.

Before this though is another Friday off, which I’m filling with taking my PC to the repair place, my eyes to the optometrist, my wallet to various places, and my lazy fat arse to the gym (perhaps).

Recent Links, 20081105

» 365 Days Of Trash Experiment to not throw anything away for a year. Worm farm, basement full of stuff etc. Over 300 days through now, and he’s had to reduce his consumption to keep on top of it. That said, the photos look quite liveable.

» Language – The New Adventures of Mr Stephen Fry Wonderful essay, referring to a 1980’s Fry and Laurie sketch. It has been said too many times, this man is an institution. He is one of my few heroes.

» Never Trust a Hippy: Time to pick sides Honestly, I step out of the country for a few months and suddenly the Daily Mail is confirmed as the arbiter of morality.

» On not finding London After Midnight « The Bioscope A melange, if you will.

» YouTube – THE MIGHTY BOOSH – Hitcher visits howard Last weekend I was an amalgam.

» 100 Illustrated Horror Film Posters: Part 2 // WellMedicated Some more horror posters. Hee!

» 50 Incredible Film Posters From Poland // WellMedicated More posters. These range from amusing rehashes of the original, to fantastic expressions of the mood of the movie. I love the uneven Letraset in some of them – reminds me of Tech Drawing class.

» 100 Illustrated Horror Film Posters: Part 1 // WellMedicated Some great stuff here, plus a few non-horror classics. Happy Halloween!

» Achewood § July 8, 2004 Just browsing in the nostalgia with my Face Eyes, sitting in my Body Chair. I want a t-shirt of frames 5 and 6.


I’ve not said much about the US election campaign swirling around me in my first few months living in the US. I’ve not felt confident enough to express my hopes. If you talk to me, I’ll explain who I wanted to win. But here, I don’t know - I think there are so many political commenters, I’ll leave it to the experts and the articulate.

I went home on my own last night, and used the TV to watch the results coming in. I was flipping between NBC and CNN. I preferred NBC, even though their graphics were a bit shiney-shiney. I like NBC anchor Brian Williams, he’s very funny when he appears as a guest on the Daily Show. I don’t watch TV news normally. The KPBS newsroom just looked a bit sad and, well, publically funded. “No commercials; No mercy!”

California lags behind of course, due to the vastness of the country. So Obama was announced President-Elect at 8pm local time, just as the CA voting closed. It was pretty clear by then, but still it needed to be stated. It was kind of funny that they were in a commercial break, and when they returned, the news was announced as if it had happened about a minute ago. Why didn’t they break from commercial to bring us the news?

I enjoyed watching McCain’s “gracious” concession speech. I used quotes there to show that the general concensus is that the speech was gracious, not to show that I don’t think that. He even managed to quiet the booing hundreds when he mentioned Obama – a nice change from whipping them up yesterday and throughout the campaign. Palin said nothing. Good. She’ll be back though, despite being a major reason people voted against McCain.

I was folding laundry while Obama gave his speech. It was fine, no surprises (apart from the puppy!). He’s a good talker, no doubt. The part where he would end a paragraph with, “yes we can” and the crowd would respond irritated me a bit. It sounded like a church service with the little interruptions from the congregation that I only see when I go to weddings. Or like Adama from Battlestar Galactica saying, “So say we all!”.

I was also watching a few websites – CNN, NBC, NPR local affiliate KPBS,, Twitter, and of course, All were slow to update, but that may have been my PC being an old one of Cassie’s, until I can get my proper one fixed. Seeing as all the results came from the Assoicated Press, it was just a case of the various channels interpreting the data. It was pretty frutrating at times, seeing such a big disparity between the channels, and waiting for the refresh.

It was also frustraing that all the news sites I was looking at didn’t mention the ballot measure Prop 1A for a Californian High Speed Rail system. This is dear to me because it is the project  I was (kind of) brought to the US to work on. If it had failed, there was a risk I would have no project to work on – although I had been assured by my masters that I would have been found something else to do. The stationery cabinet needs organising, for example. We need firewood for the approaching winter.

I found that KPBS had the most detailed local results. When I went to bed, I was a bit nervous, but the Trader Joes pizza and Karl Strauss beer helped me drift off. Prop 1A was trailing in the results, with about half the precincts having returned their totals. When I awoke, however, 95% of the precincts had returned, and Proposition 1A had passed!

Other good news (IMHO) from the ballot measures: Prop 2 has passed (food animal welfare); Prop 3 has passed (childrens hospitals); Prop 4 has failed (doctors informing parents about abortions on minors).

Bad news: Prop 8 passed, in a shameful display of bigotry and paranoia. Replace the word “gay” with the word “interracial” in the measure text, and see what you get. “But think of the children!”. Oh grow up. In California of all places! “But the Bible says…”. Stop. Your holy book does not apply to everyone.

Also Props 7 and 10 for renewal energy and alterntaive fuel vehicles failed. Fair enough, the price of oil is coming down now. You thick f*cks.

I spoke to Cassie a couple of times. She was with her roommate and a few friends in LA, having a little Election Night party. We were nervous at first, then relieved, then nervous again as the votes for the California Ballot Measures came in. Cassie told me her roommate Brendan looked like her nephew on Xmas morning. Big grin.

The atmos in the office is quiet (then again it is just 8am). I think many people will be happy, but equally as many will not be. Unfortunately, some of those are people who think Obama is a secret Muslim, and that abortion should be made illegal, and that God said marriage is one man and one woman, and why should I have to teach my children about gays? So no party poppers here. But there will be some secret smiles in the corridors.

All this, and I didn’t even vote!