Tuesday, November 23, 2004

UK Civil Contingencies Act

I was listening to the Today programme on Radio 4 as usual this morning, with John Humphries interviewing the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, when something really made me sit up and take notice. Humphries challenged Prescott on the emphasis on "security" (i.e. scaremongering) in the Queen's speech and made reference to the Civil Contingencies Act (which became law in the UK on the 18th November 2004) which allows for the suspension of virtually any Act of Parliament in the UK. That scared the hell out of me. Was I lax in not having heard about this? Some further digging revealed that it wasn't just my fault. There was a lack of coverage in the mainstream media, but there are a few websites covering the issue. Spyblog covers the major points of the bill (as it was then) very well, with an update here. As one of the commenters says, I.e. as of Thursday we have no legal protection against the govt should it decide to institute a dictatorship. How comforting.... Shame it's too late to do anything about it now, though.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Ballboy – the next best thing™

I just bought the new Ballboy album – The Royal Theatre and it is (to coin a phrase) fan-dabby-dozy-tastic. I've felt moved to write an Amazon review of it:

Having just bought the album today, I've listened to it three times already and it gets better every time. Faster and less acoustic than the last one (The Sash my Father Wore and Other Stories), it completely lives up to the high standard that Ballboy have set for themselves with their previous work.

I was interested to hear what, if any, effect that the new keyboardist Alexa Morrison would have on the album, and, to be honest, I can't really hear any difference from Katie Griffiths, which, I have to say, I'm perfectly happy with, since they still sound fantastic.

Particular highlights on the album are "The Art of Kissing" (available as a single for free download from which has an irrepressibly happy tune, and some rather depressing lyrics, and "Shallow Footprints in the Snow", which reminds me more of "Sash".

Summing up: a great album for newbies and old fans alike.

That means, go out and get it (or get Sash if you prefer, that one still has the edge, as far as I'm concerned).

Friday, November 19, 2004

European software patents stalled

It seems that Poland has withdrawn support for EU software patents, which according to The Register, had scuppered the project, at least for the time being. As a software developer myself, I think that this is great news and look forward to a software industry that doesn't revolve around threats and bullying (some background reading about software patents can be found at the FFII).

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Thoughts on privacy in the UK

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I'm worried about the implications of the introduction of ID cards in the UK. I've thought about this long and hard to try and come up with justifications for these fears. I don't know if I have or not, but my conclusions can be found in this essay on my website. Comments (here, or by email) are welcome.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Ashcroft quits

US attorney general John Ashcroft has quit the US cabinet. A slightly more colourful record of his time in office can be found at The Register. Looks like his replacement is going to be a Bush loyalist who thinks that the Geneva Conventions are "quaint". Nice to see Bush keeping up with established tradition then.

Solar-powered spacecraft

Cosmos-1 will be the first spacecraft to use solar sails rather than an engine for propulsion, and although this is a very funky technology, what I find most interesting about this is that it appears to be an entirely privately funded operation, by the Planetary Society. It looks like the era of private spaceflight and exploration may be about to dawn.

The flight isn't going to be particular ambitious – just orbiting the earth before (probably) decaying and burning up in the atmosphere, but it will be a proof of concept which I find very exciting. Combining it with giant orbital lasers to provide continuous thrust in the outer parts of the solar system is the next step! :-D.

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