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January 30, 2005

Blogging from the Desktop

A first post using MT Client 1.60 - so am now blogging straight from the desktop.Came upon the program first via the MT Wiki, then, having learnt a degree of caution with the onset of old age, checked it out at a good overview/test of available Blog Clients (mainly for Movable Type) carried out by the delightfully-named ohfuckingwell blog, I took the plunge and..here we are.

First take - pros: very easy set up; great to have a MS Word-like spell-checker; plonks the whole of the MT entry interface on to the desktop, customised as desired; imports all your categories and different blogs from each domain specified; has a UK English as well as US English dictionary, plus a Custom dictionary you can add to; and there’s a useful online forum. Also basic HTML formatting, link-insertion, entities insertion for accented characters etc., and a good deal more I haven’t yet looked into.Cons - no visible Help system (not that its really all that necessary) and no Preview function (which I understand is planned for the first public release - this is a late Beta version I’ve got). Generally speaking: great! Oh, and its all free, which is nice.

Further reports as usage dictates.

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January 15, 2005

Talibanning Babylon?

If this is true - that the US/Coalition forces ‘have caused irreparable damage to the ancient city of Babylon’ - then I can’t see that its much, if at all, different from the Taliban destroying the Bamian buddhas.

As it is no less an authority than The British Museum that reports

“Sandbags have been filled with precious archaeological fragments and 2,600 year old paving stones have been crushed by tanks”

there seems little reason to doubt the veracity of this terrible story.

The BBC quotes John Curtis, author of the museum’s report, as saying that when American troops occupied the site of Babylon, some 50 miles (80 km) south of Baghdad, this was

“tantamount to establishing a military camp around Stonehenge”.

Against this, US military spokesman Lt Col Steven Boylan said the base, which has around 6,000 troops under Police command, is needed to “further defeat terrorists and insurgents”. He stated that any excavations or earth work that had been carried out was done so in consultation with the director of the Babylon museum and an archaeologist.

From the British Museum report, one wonders what these experts were taking at the time.

Seeing that for many people the destruction of the Bamian buddhas was sufficient reason in itself to rid the world of the Taliban, the demolition of Babylon must potentially be an even greater crime against history and art, deserving a proportionately more severe punishment.

Bottom line is, there are some things, doesn’t matter how much money you got, once gone, you can never get them back.

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Bolton 1-0 Arsenal - and on a day when Manchester United beat Liverpool (including Morientes) 1 - 0 and Chelsea beat ‘on a roll….not’ Spurs 2 - 0, this was indeed a tragic result for the Gooners, putting them a daunting 10 points behind Russia’s Chelsea and a mere 1 point ahead of Man U.

Something is wrong with the greatest team on earth…Arsenal are just not meant to lose, and especially not at this time in the season, when Chelsea is beginning to look home and dry for the Premiership. And certainly not to a team from somewhere like Bolton, so far north you’d think they’d stick to Rugby league, or bowls, or whatever.

I think jamaicaGunner might be right when he says ‘Wake up Wenger….BUY some dam players’. Not any criticism of the team he’s already got - you could hardly wish for anything better - but perhaps a little new blood is needed to spark them up to where they can and should be.

Its not all over by a long chalk - and for a change we still have the Champions League on the agenda - but Arsenal do seem to have lost a little of the magic of last season at the moment, and this is not a good time to let go of the reins.

Mr Wenger is perhaps slightly disconcerted to have someone like Jose Mourinho up against him in the Championship - somebody else modern, cerebral and euro-smart, a far cry from the old and easy Scottish meat still hanging out in Manchester. It would be nice to think he (Mr Wenger) realised its not exactly a party for his supporters at the moment, seeing how everyone else in the country is laughing their pants off watching the Gunners in a spot of trouble - when everyone else hates you, its not a great idea to give them the opportunity of taking the piss.

We could still nick the Championship…just. But only if some of the superstars wake up a bit from where they are. Henri? Viera? Its payback time - now its getting cold outside, we need you to deliver. Maybe a new kid in Highbury might be just what’s needed to fire them up, remind them that tomorrow always comes, and maybe a great deal sooner than the Gooners think.

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Titan Landing : three floppy disks from outer space

Huygens space craft sends first images from Saturn’s moon - sceptics had predicted the landing of the $250 million space probe Huygens would not produce enough visual data to fill a single floppy disk (1.2 megabytes), but already with the first transmission as the craft parachuted down through the thick haze enveloping the Titan moon, over 300 images (which would fill more than 3 floppies) have been received. And they are amazing, according to The European Space Agency, who are responsible for this momentous space triumph.

Titan moon surface with channels and dark lake of liquid

Photo taken by Huygen spacecraft of Titan’s surface, showing possible drainage channels and a dark lake of liquid

With an atmosphere dominated by nitrogen, methane and other organic/carbon-based molecules, the surface of Titan is thought to be similar to the way it was on Planet Earth 4.6 billion years ago.

If there is any form of life in the solar system other than our own, then Titan is the hot (albeit extremely cold, -180C) favourite to harbour it.

“All the ingredients for life are there, except one: oxygen”

said David Southwood of the European Space Agency. The Hugyens landing is by far the most distant ever achieved by man: the Cassini spacecraft which carried the Hugyens probe to Saturn made the 2 billion mile journey in 7 years, after 13 years of prior preparation. The significant European involvement in this spectacular project goes some way to mitigating the embarrassments of the snafued Beagle landing on Mars last year - any dramatic images of giant waves and the like may obliterate the memory of this sad episode completely.

At the speed of light, signals from the mother space craft Cassini took 67 minutes to be beamed back to Earth.

The first images hint that waves - probably of enormous height - are visible on the surface of Titan.

“And did one see, perhaps, some waves? Our dreams have been fulfilled. There is activity, there is processing going on, on the surface.”

Wow. Check out the BBC reports plus the Guardian’s to get the full flavour of all this sudden explosion of success.

Saturn's moon Titan

Photo of Saturn’s moon Titan, from Cassini space craft

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January 11, 2005

Downwardly Mobile

A study too late by the colourfully-named National Radiological Protection Board warns that children should have restricted access to mobile phones on health grounds, and parents should not give them to kids aged eight or less.

A bit late in the day to tell us, isn’t it?

One of my innumerable namesakes, Professor Sir William Stewart, big cheese at the NRPB spelt it out thusly:

If there are risks - and we think there may be risks - then the people who are going to be most affected are children, and the younger the child… (the better? no…)..the greater the danger.”

The Guardian hints at possible difficulties in implementing these guidelines by way of latest research that indicates around a quarter of primary school children are thought to own a mobile, this rising to 90% among 11- to 16-year-olds.

And they don’t just own them, the kids, they mangle them with unrelenting and passionate use. My standard favourite eight-year-old, Tamara, will happily mash her way through a £10 voucher in under an hour, largely through friendship-seeking calls to the emergency services, operators the length and breadth of the nation, and whoever happens to be sitting nearest to her with a working mobile of their own. She rather undermines the well-meaning (i.e. anxiety-tormented) initial acquisition motive cited by many parents that a mobile allows them to keep track of their little un’s movements, by sensibly switching her Nokia off the minute her credit’s used up ‘to save the battery’ in readiness for the next cash donation to her swipe card.

Get this:

Worldwide spending by young people on mobile phone-related products and services is worth $1.1 trillion. In the UK our kids spend $5.4bn a year on mobile technology.

Who’s going to back-peddle on a target market like that? Possibly not Communic8, makers of the MyMo - Baby’s First Cellphone, which is aimed directly at the UK market. (It now appears Communic8 has put the project on hold, following publication of the report in question).

And how many sweet little things in that target market are going to adopt the prudence of the careful gentleman I heard on my favourite radio station Five Live this morning who always terminated mobile phone conversations the moment their radioactivity level made the side of his face ‘uncomfortably hot’?

One thing you don’t see the under-eights doing, thank God, is whatever it is those sad souls on the underground are up to, bent with intense concentration over their shiny but dead mobiles, pushing buttons to nowhere or just gazing raptly - what are they doing? (A gmail or orkut invitation for the best answering comment - please state your reward preference).

Whatever it is, it looks a far more serious, and a definitely more prevalent, condition than the benign ear tumours of Compulsive Mobile Phone Abuse Disorder Syndrome (CMPADS) - current disease of choice of the well-eqipped 21st Century child.

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