Choose your superstition wisely…

Been on a bit of a blogging hiatus, but this is too good to ignore…

Birmingham (UK) city council has blocked its staff from looking at some religious websites, but not others:

Lawyers at the National Secular Society said the move by Birmingham City Council was “discriminatory” and they would consider legal action.

The rules also ban sites that promote witchcraft, the paranormal, sexual deviancy and criminal activity.

The city council declined to comment on the possible legal action, but said the new system helped make it easier for managers to monitor staff web access.

The authority’s Bluecoat Software computer system allows staff to look at websites relating to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and other religions but blocks sites to do with “witchcraft or Satanism” and “occult practices, atheistic views, voodoo rituals or any other form of mysticism”.

Nice that they class atheism as a form of mysticism… but otherwise really dumb.

Fortean twosome

Firstly, noting the death of Lyall Watson, author of Supernatural (and my favourite of his work, Gifts of Unknown Things), aged 69. A true pioneer.

Also this… faceless ‘aliens’ at Wimbledon.

Clearly someone’s gone to a lot of trouble over this. Is it a viral marketing bit? A little Operation Mindfuck action? The Anonymous crew pulling a fast one? Hopefully, time will tell.

EDIT – well, that didn’t take long. It was indeed a marketing ploy. For a fucking car. Oh well.

A Tale of Customer Service

…so one of the main selling points about the Nokia N810 is that it connects seamlessly to your smartphone, for things like Bluetooth modem-ing when you’re away from Wi-fi. It comes with a wizard to set this up, which is straightforward enough – especially when my smartphone is also Nokia (E65, geek-fans).

Except it utterly refused to connect to the net.

I repeated the process several times and got the same result. I’ve done the same thing sucessfully with my old Palm, so I know it’s neither the phone or the network directly to blame.

Since the gizmo is all of a day old, I ring PC World’s customer service. Their phone guy has no clue, can only look up the how-to online and he finds nothing.

Next step, thinks I, should be the phone network – in this case, Three. I phone them and get put through to a lady in the Indian subcontinent. She informs me that not only will they not entertain the notion of talking about a third-party gadget, she won’t even tell me basic Bluetooth modem settings for the machine I got from them.

I hang up, sigh, swear – and phone Nokia UK.

They have a recorded message informing me that due to technical difficulties, they cannot take phone calls right now. Yes – a phone company had their phones crash. Encouraging.

So I give up and go to what should have been Plan A in the first place – I google “nokia n810 three bluetooth modem”.

Second hit has the answer.

(Which was… the set-up wizard puts a typo into the connection settings. This consists of a single blank space appearing at the end of the connection URL. I find the URL, backspace, save. Problem fixed.)

In short – Google really is your friend.

(Meanwhile, the gizmo is running splendidly, especially since I flashed the harddrive with the latest OS upgrade. Thanks for guidance on doing that go to the splendid folk on Internet Tablet Talk.)

Upgrades

After struggling loyally with my old-school Palm PDA (a Sony Clie UX50, fact fans) for too damn long, I finally bit the bullet and got a new pocket machine. I’m posting this from a Nokia N810 Internet Tablet – tiny, shiny and full of the Modern Stuff. Things like GPS, 2 Gig of memory (expandable to at least 10), a web browser that actually lets me log onto forums… And it’s Linux-based, which means all kinds of open-source ‘ware.
And to aid the transition, there’s a Palm emulator, so I get to keep my old favourite apps.

Geek-boy happy. I’m sure you’ll hear more on the subject.

The death of UK monotheism in a century?

Found via Disinfo.com:

Laura Clout writes in the Telegraph:

“Research by the Orthodox Jewish organisation Aish found that just over a third of people thought religions like Christianity and Judaism would still be practiced in Britain in 100 years’ time.

Although four in 10 people said they would choose to be a member of the Christian religion, almost the same number said they would rather practice no religion at all.

Buddhism however, proved more attractive than both Islam and Judaism, and was chosen by nine per cent of those questioned”

At last! A good reason to pursue longevity!

…aaand we’re back! Meanwhile, people keep telling fibs

Fully broadbanded again, thankfully.

While I was out, there was an interesting little flap about an undiscovered’ Amazonian tribe, with photos and everything.

Shame it was all bollocks

They are the amazing pictures that were beamed around the globe: a handful of warriors from an ‘undiscovered tribe’ in the rainforest on the Brazilian-Peruvian border brandishing bows and arrows at the aircraft that photographed them.

Or so the story was told and sold. But it has now emerged that, far from being unknown, the tribe’s existence has been noted since 1910 and the mission to photograph them was undertaken in order to prove that ‘uncontacted’ tribes still existed in an area endangered by the menace of the logging industry...”

Well at least it was bollocks for a worthy cause. That makes it alright, doesn’t it?

Well, no. It fucking does not.

Due to the spectacular stupidity of BE* (an ISP so incompetent that not only are they unable to maintain as simple a service as reliable email, they also can’t handle me swapping to a new ISP without fucking up) I am without full internet access until Monday 9th June at the earliest.

(I can just about read email and – obviously! – send emergency entries like this one via Palm-plus-phone.)

See you later…

[Posted with hblogger 2.0 http://www.normsoft.com/hblogger/]

Because Warren asked nicely…

…a quick pimp of Ellis’s excellent webcomic Freakangels, drawn by Paul Duffield. Six free pages of flooded-London-telepathic-apocalypse goodness every Friday. This one is in for the long haul and it’s well worth a look. (Not quite as amazing as Doktor Sleepless, but it’s up there.)

Also take a look at the associated discussion board Whitechapel, which has a whole lot more going on than just discussing the comic… it’s become one of my favourite online hangouts.

What would you do with six trillion dollars?

Charlie Stross asks the best question I’ve seen in a long while:

The direct cost to the US government of the war and occupation of Iraq — counting only funds appropriated by Congress — so far runs to roughly $523Bn.

However, that’s the direct cost — money directly spent on the project. There are indirect costs, too: Joseph Stiglitz estimates the true cost of the war to be $3Tn to the United States, and $3Tn to the rest of the global economy. These are indirect costs, and factor in the long-term additional expenses that the war has accrued — everything from caring for brain-damaged soldiers for the next 50 years through to loss of economic productivity attributable to instabilities in the supply of oil from Iraq.

We can tap-dance around the indirect costs, but the direct costs (that headline figure of $523Bn) are inarguable.

So. What fun boondoggles could we have bought with either $523Bn (at the low end) or $6Tn (at the high end)?

Charlie does the math and works out that the money pissed away on The War For Oil could have paid for over 500 colonists to set up on Mars, or enough nuclear power stations to provide a quarter of the worlds electricity needs. Then asks for other suggestions.

Well… what would you do

EDIT 30 May: It’s notable just how quickly the thread replies were jumped on by wingnut neocon apologists trying to say that when Iraq 2 is ‘a success’ there’ll be loads of profit and benefit. Yeah, sure, if you’re a major shareholder in Halliburton or Blackwater…