Fair Play
27/3/00 | 23:05 GMT

We live in a democratic society these days. At least, it's the most democratic society in history. So why do I read that animal rights protestors recently sent a mailshot to 1500+ shareholders of a bio company (Huntingdon Life Sciences) they accuse of violating animal rights? The mailshot told the shareholders in no uncertain terms to sell their shares within 7 days, or risk having a load of protestors turn up on their doorstep for 24 hours.

Whatever happened to rational debate? Do they not realise that they are going to alienate what little support they already had by not only breaking the law, but also pissing off the shareholders? I'm sure they'd come back with claims of 'Well, this is the only option left.' It is not. There exist formal arenas for debate, and we do have free speech. If they don't have any support, have they ever considered that what they are doing is wrong?

Sometimes it's necessary to resort to violence if your voice is being suppressed, or the government will not allow an open exchange of ideas. In other words, if you don't live in a democracy. But we have the (perhaps unenviable) luxury of not needing to resort to violence now.

As has been said, violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. And I think that we have more important problems to worry about than the rights of animals, the rights of humans being a notable example.

The group campaigning against Huntingdon Life Sciences

Here is an excellent site linking to news about democratic issues around the world. Well worth a look, and it's updated very regularly. I partcularly like this article entitled Education for a Democratic Citizenship.

Is it surprising that we have the world's first interactive TV commercial before we have the world's first interactive TV programme?

How on Earth does a sub-standard revision site like this manage to garner so much press attention? It doesn't just have bad content, it also has bad style, and bad navigation. I mean, you have to register to use the thing. What a put-off.

S-Cool, on the other hand, is a much better revision site despite it's terribly 'trendy' name. Looks much better and is a lot more accessible. Exactly how they intend to make money with no adverts is beyond me (not that I'm complaining, but I wouldn't mind getting a job there)

Both, however, have absolutely rubbish diagrams and completely fail to utilise the potential of the Internet. Where are the full colour interactive animations and diagrams? Where are the Java and CGI applets that demonstrate examples? Where are the moderated and data-mined discussion forums between pupils and teachers?

Ye Gods. The top sites at Thinkquest are all far better than these offerings. Take a look at Electricity Online and The Environment.

My computer is slowing down and crashing with alarming regularity. It might be time to upgrade to Windows 2000 properly now.



What do you want?
26/3/00 | 21:05 GMT

I'm still annoyed at weblogs who write stuff like:

Another one for the WTF clippings : look at this

In fact, I started writing a long piece about weblogs, until I realised that it was getting a little too long for a normal weblog entry and had someone metamorphosised into an essay. So here it is - What do we want from weblogs?

Original content? Incredible.

While playing The Sims, I was nodding happily to myself as my pet Sim was playing on his train set with a friend from next door.

"He's having fun and he's socialising," I thought, watching the bars for Fun and Social rise. Then I thought:

"Wait a second. Any normal person would be happy that their Sim is having fun, not crowing over that fact that he's being remarkably efficient in getting them to do two things at once."



Sailing on light
26/3/00 | 19:26 GMT

There was an interesting snippet of news in the Sunday Times today about NASA beginning trials to beam energy to orbiting satellites through microwaves based on the ground. I would have linked to it, if the Sunday Times' website wasn't so utterly useless.

Speaking of which, here's a link to a project I've been watching closely: The Rensselaer Lightcraft Project - they're creating a craft that will be powered by lasers and microwaves transmitted from space. This is next-next-generation space travel, folks.

I don't know how much you Americans use computers these days, but here's an indication of our usage. We're set an investigation topic at school, to find the effect of elevation on stomata density. Naturally, I do a quick search on Yahoo and Google to check things out. The next day, I find at least half a dozen other people looking around Yahoo on the computers at break, and the day after, someone's found a particularly relevant page which is currently doing the rounds.

The biology teacher soon caught wind of this, but didn't really care - in fact, he ran an unofficial betting pool on how many results Yahoo would return if you typed in 'stomata' (about 1500, as it happens).

To be honest, I don't think schools have much to worry about students downloading essays from the Internet. Generally, essays found on the Internet are sub-par (yes, I'm including the ones you pay for) and until there are:

a) better search engines
b) more high-quality comprehensive educational/scientific websites (like this, but better looking)

- I'm more likely to turn to a good textbook rather than the computer. And I imagine most other students would do the same.

The fact remains that it's still too easy for a teacher to go and check whether a student has downloaded an essay from the Internet to make it worth the student's time (or money). As long as the teacher has a competent knowledge of the Internet, that is (which sadly isn't the case for many).

In between getting home on Friday, and leaving for orchestra (~100 minutes) I managed to cram in watching 10 Things I Hate About You. Even though I enjoyed it a lot, I'll have to admit that it's difficult to say whether others would like it. Mind you, everyone I've spoke to seemed to like it.

On IMDB, however, one of the comments interested me. It said that the movie was a sub-standard adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, and proceeded to criticise in that special way where you don't give specific examples ('the characters are flat' and 'the father isn't acting sensibly' being two notable and particularly amusing quotes). It's not supposed to be a Shakespeare adaptation - they never pretended it was one. The characters are not realistic; who said they had to be, though?

Pronounciation of the day: Shakespeare as 'Shakk - esp - ee - are - eh'.



What is not said
25/3/00 | 23:15 GMT

I decided to have brief look at Kottke's weblog today (one of the few weblogs that I have the time or inclination to read) when my connection suddenly skidded to a near halt. As the bytes of his page were painstakingly downloaded, I went and read the source code of the page so I'd be able to read something while the rest of the page rendered.

His page finally loads up while I'm in the middle of reading a pleasant account of the modern music industry in his source code. But there's no pleasant account of the modern music industry - there's only some stuff about the direction his weblog is taking.

I pause, and wonder whether I've been concussed recently. I check the source code, and find that the entry I read was marked 26th March. Interesting, I think. I then check the date again (maybe I was concussed) and find that unless Kottke has a time machine, he's writing his entries ahead of time!

And the reason why you don't see his posts is because they're in <!-- tags. Cunning, no? I can't blame him, I never find the time to write entries myself these days.

So I'm going to send an email to him and ask him what it's all about. Politely, of course.

Hey, if he links back here, then I'll become popular by association! How... pathetic.