Friday, June 23

You're going to have to bear with me about all this Mars stuff that's been happening recently, but I've got to say that I'm impressed with what seems to be BBC News' most civilized and vitriol-free discussion topic. That is, apart from the person who said 'Who cares if there is water there, it has not stopped raining here for days.'

Here's a wonderful little article at Salon about the difficulties of finding a comfortable position in which to read.

11:18 PM | permalink | discuss

Thursday, June 22

It's impossible to say how angry this new television programme makes me: Who's the Smartest Kid in America. It's beyond belief. Apart from the fact that you're unashamedly exploiting 10-12 year olds, don't these people have any idea what they're doing to these kids? There are 50 contestants, all of whom will have been brought up by their parents to think that they are the brightest kids in the universe and that they'll win. 49 of them will be disappointed and end up thinking that they're 'second best'. And the winner, well, I wouldn't like to think of how he'll cope with the unnatural expectations placed on him.

Don't you Americans have any idea of when you've gone too far with TV?

6:41 PM | permalink | discuss

I've just finished watching the NASA Water on Mars press conference, and would like to post a few thoughts... about the coverage of this event.

BBC News 24: By far the best coverage. They joined the conference about 3 minutes after it started, slightly before CNN. They did have a very irritating info banner that obscured some of the NASA graphics, but then again so did CNN. I think they stopped their coverage about 17 minutes after the beginning by talking to Prof. Colin Pillinger, Beagle 2 Project Director. I'll let a friend describe Pillinger's debating skills: 'utter shite, the guy couldn't explain why we should go to Mars.' Pillinger seemed very relaxed and in fact excited as he wobbled about in his rotating chair and tried to appear cool with a leather jacket. Interesting points - during a section of the conference they zoomed out and started scrolling through the headlines without interrupting the feed.

CNN: As far as I could tell, CNN started their coverage at about 4 or 5 minutes. They stopped at roughly 13 minutes - not bad, considering they had to cut to a break straight after that.

Sky News: Absolutely terrible. I'm not sure whether they covered the press conference at all.

Final scores:

BBC News 24: 8
CNN: 6
Sky News: 0
Colin Pillinger: -2

4:31 PM | permalink | discuss

While watching BBC Parliament today (there really wasn't anything else on) it struck me - wouldn't it be a good idea if there was some kind of discussion group or summarising team who would watch BBC Parliament and turn the long-winded speeches into material that could be consumed without listening to the rhetoric? You could have a weighted-rated-scoring system, Slashdot-like, so that speeches and appropriate Internet commentary would float to the top. After all, it's not as if anyone actually listens to BBC Parliament. Generally, I just watch it, letting the words flow unhindered over me.

I then went to use the computer.

Half an hour later, I came back down to turn the TV on and the same speaker was still struggling away at her speech. There's definitely room for improvement here, I think. I just wonder if anyone has the stamina to watch even an hour of this pap and make comprehensible notes out of it all.

The reason I was watching TV in the first place was to check out the NASA Water on Mars press conference on BBC News 24. Typically, the times for this conference haven't been well reported and range from 2 PM GMT (or is that BST?) to 4 PM GMT.

Perhaps, in the days of XML, we'll have pages that will automatically recognise the location of a browser and 'translate' all the times into their local time. Either that, or we do the unthinkable and adopt the Swatch Beat (too... much... Flash...)

Yipee! I've been invited to participate in a Mars SF panel which may have Greg Benford on it (don't bother asking who he is if you don't know). Thanks Patrick!

3:24 PM | permalink | discuss

Wednesday, June 21

There I was, expecting the BBC News story When your phone becomes a laser gun to be some insanely futuristic talk about hand-held laser weapons converging with mobile phones when all it turns out to be is some talk about a paper-scissors-stone publicity game for Titan AE.

Water found on Mars (possibly)

In case you're wondering what it is I'm doing these days since I've finished school and exams, here's another sneak preview of the content I'm working on for a website I'm developing with some friends... You've got to love educational stuff.

6:34 PM | permalink | discuss

Tuesday, June 20

I never fail to find it amusing that my most accessed essay is the one about Britney Spears (you can go and find it yourself). It's certainly not my best, and probably not the funniest. Which just goes to show, eh?

In today's Times was an advert by Friends of the Earth, complaining that the levels of pesticides are so high in apples that the government is telling us to peel them. They say 'Public action forced a rethink on GM foods - we can do the same with pesticides.' I'm not quite sure I understand this - I was under the impression, from reading New Scientist and Nature, that the whole point of GM foods was to reduce and possibly even eliminate the use of pesticides on farms by making plants naturally pest-resistant.

Obviously I'm in the wrong here, as are Nature and New Scientist.

There are many reasons why we have such high levels of pesticides, the most significant probably being that they're used to keep food prices down by reducing the proportion of crops lost to pests. For once, I wish people would put their money where their mouths are - if you want pesticide free foods without using GM crops, be prepared to pay a lot more.

11:50 PM | permalink | discuss

Monday, June 19

In all the excitement, I'd completely forgotten to mention that Vavatch Orbital was in this month's issue of PC Format here in the UK. I quote:..

"British blogs?...

...Looking a little further, though, we managed to uncover some local Web logs that can easily compete with the best the US has to offer. The new Vavatch Orbital (www.gen-mars.freeserve.co.uk) has hefty amounts of commentary and links (you would never guess the author was only 17), the Daily Doozer is entertaining..."

Anyway, I was pretty pleased, walking around with an idiotic grin all day (which was met by the response 'What's a weblog?'). I wonder whether PC Format noticed the subtle irony in that they'd mentioned my brother's weblog straight after mine. He's scanned in the images of their feature on Weblogs.

I predict it's only a matter of time that the trendy supplements of broadsheet papers in the UK start doing features on the 'new' (two year old) 'phenomenon that is sweeping the Internet' (not really) called Web Logs (you can bet they'll spell it wrong, as well).

I'm not sure what I think about this idea - using juries to grade students' presentations. Certainly interesting though - I like the idea of more community involvement, but I wonder whether you'll end up with the same problems as normal juries - many long trial cases are made up of people who simply don't have anything better to do than to sit through it all.

I loved the title of this page, it sounds as if it should be in the Onion. Lately, Teens Less Likely
To Engage in Risky Behaviors

11:33 PM | permalink | discuss