Worse and worse and worse

I’m almost speechless, every time I check the news the reports of death and destruction in south east Asia just get worse. I’ve spent several winters in India, Thailand and Malaysia among welcoming friendly people … I just can’t imagine what they’re all going through right now. If you haven’t already, please go and donate. This is a disaster on a global scale and we should all pull together and forget about our stupid conflicts and wars and arguments and help these people.

A White Christmas!

I’m not feeling inspired to write much, but I wanted to post this picture as I’ve not had a white Christmas for years. Although the snow didn’t settle too well in the valleys, up on the moor it was a good couple of inches deep.

[Snow covered fields on Dartmoor]

Come boxing day the moor was packed with people building snowmen and throwing snowballs at each other. A good way to recover from the excessive eating and drinking of the last few days. Cheers again to Marc for acting as chauffeur!

The Winter Solstice

Once again we arrive at midwinter, so raise your glasses to the gradual lengthening of the days and the coming spring thaw as the cycle of the seasons swings around once again. But don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate the beauty of winter while we’re here – the white on green of the frost on the hills, the crisp clear mornings… It’s not all rain and cloud and seasonal depression, there’s wonder here too.

Man that was cheesy.

Violent censorship: a successful strategy

BBC: Theatre ends play in Sikh protest. So, should you want to deny someone their freedom of speech and expression, you merely need stage a violent protest and you’ll get your own way. What’s the fuck’s going on here? I’m not necessarily a fan of insulting people’s religion, but if you don’t approve of a play, here’s a clue: don’t go to see it. Are the police afraid of being accused of cultural insensitivity or something? If there’s a danger of more violence, it is their duty to protect the theatre, not the responsibility of the theatre to cancel a play out of fear. I’m really beginning to despair of this country. I really am.

Faxed my MP

I used the excellent Fax Your MP service today. It’s the second reading of the ID cards bill on the 20th, so I thought I should make sure I registered my objections to the scheme with my MP, Jean Corston (Lab, Bristol East). Here’s the text of my letter:

Dear Jean Corston,

I’m writing in advance of the second reading of the Identity Cards Bill, which I understand will take place on Monday 20th December.

I would just like to express my opposition to this scheme. Whilst ID cards will be expensive and will involve deeply invasive regulation of our private lives, I have seen nothing that has convinced me that Identity Cards will in any way help protect us from terrorism, or assist in controlling immigration, or indeed any other of the areas that they are alleged by the Home Office to be of benefit.

I am also worried by the data protection and civil liberties implications of the scheme. Again, given that there seems to be little hope that the cards will substantially improve our lives, having so much deeply personal information available from a single source (and one which, let’s face it, has a farily abysmal record in implementing large IT projects) seems too much of a risk.

I suppose that my ideological objections can be summed up in that I see myself as a citizen of the United Kingdom, not a subject. The ID card is more suitable to a state where the opposite emphasis is true.

One final consideration is the cost of this project. Surely there are far more worthy targets of our nation’s resources. Poverty, homelessness, education, health… I’m sure you are more aware than I of many of these issues.

I hope that you will bear these concerns when debating this matter in the House.

Yours Sincerely,

Sam Pearson

Admittedly, doing this today might be a bit short notice, but it’ll be interesting to see what kind of response I get, if any.

Detained without trial: Bad and Wrong

I was encouraged by the Law Lords ruling today which came down decisively on the side of the foreign terror suspects detained without the prospect of a trial. This quote from Lord Hoffman (paragraph 97, p.53 of the ruling – see below for link) pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject: this kind of draconian measure is tantamount to giving up all that we value about our society, essentially conceding victory to the terrorists. If we can’t defeat them without dangerously compromising our values, what are we fighting to protect?

In my opinion, such a power in any form is not compatible with our constitution. The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve. It is for Parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory.

The full text of the ruling is available in PDF format (383kb) from the BBC website.

Blunkett’s gone

I’ll drink to that, although I don’t really think the recent fuss in itself warrented a resignation – his disregard for our civil liberties is another matter, however. Let’s hope his ill-conceived ID card scheme follows him out of the door. Unfortunately, I don’t hold out too much hope of that, but you never know. (BBC)

Blog spam and unmaintained lists of referers

I wish people who don’t closely maintain their blogs would stop publishing lists of top referers (unfortunately we are stuck with this illiterate spelling of “referrer” in this context). These lists are often crammed full of referer spam, and help to provide the incentive for the idiots who do this kind of thing to carry on.

While I’ve almost completely stopped getting comment spam – partly, I think, due to closing comments on posts older than 2 weeks – I still get vast quantities of referer spam despite not publishing my logs. Referer spamming my site gets the spammer nothing; I can only assume that they spam massive numbers of sites knowing that a proportion will blindly go on publishing their logs thus hopefully adding to the spammers PageRank and at least getting them the odd click-through. (Comment spammers often also leave referer spam with their comments, just to add insult to injury, so perhaps the referer spam I see is the result of failed attempts to comment spam.)

Referer spam isn’t quite so annoying as comment spam, but it’s irritating none the less – on a fairly low traffic site like this one, legitimate referers get lost in amongst the crap from spammers, and like most people who maintain a website I like to know who is linking to me. Wading through spammed logs is just another chore I could do without – and I can think of lots of things I’d rather be doing than continually updating my blacklist.

So if you run a blog, and don’t have the time or expertise to prevent spam appearing in your referer list, please don’t publish one. You’ll be doing your little bit to help remove the incentive for this kind of thing.