BlogOfTheMoon

Friday, 4 January 2013

Happy New Year

Happy new year to everyone!  My annual retrospective is now up, as usual, on my website.

The years sweep by
Like Leaves off a tree in autumn
Let this be one to savour

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Eastercon photos

If anyone’s interested, I’ve put some of the photos I took at this year’s Eastercon up on Picasa.  They’re mostly of the (very impressive) masquerade with a few other random shots as well.

Widening participation in fandom

I am a science fiction fan.  That won’t come as a surprise to most people reading this.  But beyond that, I identify as a fan, and the whole subculture of fandom.  It is a fairly large part of my personality and much of my free time is spent associating with other fans and with books and media within the genre.  I spent the Easter holiday weekend at Olympus 2012, the annual British National Science Fiction Convention (Eastercon) and had a thoroughly amazing time.  Now, it’s not unfair to say that the genre and the subculture as a whole has a reputation for being overwhelmingly male and white, but one of the things I found exhilarating at Olympus was the feeling of a culture in the middle of change – it really felt like there’s a push to bring women and feminism into fandom and it was good to be part of that.  This year’s Eastercon could proudly boast that half of its 1300 or so members were women, and there was gender parity on panels as well.  While there’s still a long way to go — I did hear about incidents this year that no woman should have to put up with in the 21st century — it does feel like the idea of diversity is starting become part of fandom.

And so it’s obvious that the next logical step to diversifying fandom is minority ethnic representation.  Just looking around the con, there were probably more BME fans that I’ve ever seen at a con before (not that that is saying much, given that I’ve only made it to about half a dozen of them so far).  Partially I imagine this was the “London effect”, and partially a function of just how big Olympus was, but I also attended a panel on widening minority representation in fandom which indicates that it’s something which is starting to be discussed within the culture itself, which I’m glad about.  At said panel, I was intrigued to hear one of the panel members, the actress Ruby Sahota, state that Indians really love SF.  That’s a very general statement, and one that I’d love see more analysis on.  However, I can’t even provide any anecdotal evidence evidence, given that I actually don’t know many Indian people.  I grew up in a small town in the heart of Northern Ireland where the Indian “community” consisted of two families.  Then I moved to Glasgow, where my friends were almost all met through science fiction, and, well, you can see the flaw in that plan :-).

Actually, on that note, I joined Io in my second year at Uni and remained active in the society for about a decade.  In that time, as far as I can remember, there were, in addition to myself, two other non-white active members (and one of those was my sister, who I introduced to the society, and would probably not have otherwise have become involved, so I’m not sure she even counts for this purposes of this discussion).  In that time, I very much noticed the lack of BME members, especially in a University with a fairly decent non-white student population and embedded in a city with a large Asian population.  University seems like a great time to bring people into fandom, with students trying out new things, but Io remained stubbornly mono-coloured during my decade’s involvement.  Perhaps I could have done more to change that, bringing it to the attention of the society as a whole, trying to appeal outside the traditional market, but I never did, which I somewhat regret now, although I’m still not really sure how to go about widening the appeal of the genre in that way.

Anyway, the point that Ruby was making was that although Indian people may love the genre, most of them would never think about about coming to a con or getting involved in fandom.  The panel didn’t really come to any solid conclusions or make any suggestions on how to change that (to be honest, it could have done with some stricter moderation and cutting off some audience members who had a tendency to ramble and go off-topic) but it’s definitely the beginning of a new conversation within my fandom.  It’s inspired me to look for new writers beyond the traditional (an appeal over Twitter has given me several leads which I intend to follow up on this year) and I’m certainly going to continue to follow the development of minority representation in fandom over the next few years, in the leadup to Satellite 4 and London in 2014.

Monday, 23 January 2012

A Modest Proposal Regarding the West Lothian Question

There was a discussion on this week’s The Week in Westminster on Radio 4 regarding the West Lothian Question (i.e. the ability of non-English MPs to vote on matters regarding only England).  Since this discussion is now being set in the context of huge constitutional change (that is, Scottish independence) then why not think big when it comes to creative solutions to the Question too.  Assuming that Scotland remains a part of the United Kingdom, my question is: why is nobody discussing a possible federal structure for the United Kingdom?  Scotland already has its own Parliament, we just grant it some more powers and upgrade the Welsh and Ulster Assemblies to full Parliaments and set up one for England as well.  Westminster would remain the ‘Federal Parliament’, with a much reduced number of MPs (and possibly even peers) and a remit to cover only those issues relating to the UK as a whole.  The most obvious of those are defence and foreign policy, but no doubt there are others.

Obviously it would be More Complicated Than That (© Ben Goldacre) but it’s a good starting position, surely? Is the fact that such a discussion isn’t happening at all purely inertia and conservatism (with a small ‘C’) or are there more serious objections to a federal UK that I’ve missed?  That is very likely since I don’t have a political science background and haven’t thought through all the implications, but surely there are many models throughout the world that we could look to, the US being the most obvious, but also Germany, Russia and India spring to mind (and there are more on the Wikipedia page).

As I said above, I’m discussing this purely as a side-issue to that of Scottish independence, so issues specifically relating to whether such a state would satisfy the demands of Nationalists are irrelevant to this discussion.  I’m interested purely in the thought-experiment of a federal UK.  I’d love to hear thoughts on the subject.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Happy New Year

Happy new year to everyone!  My annual retrospective is now up, as usual, on my website.

After the turbulence of the last year
May the tides of history subside.
Wishing you peace and happiness
For the year before us

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Improving the new Google Reader

Google recently updated the look and feel for several of their web applications, including Reader (the one I use the most) in a way that I find makes it uglier and less usable.  A quick google web search reveals that I’m not alone in this but unlike some of the other apps there’s no way to revert to a “classic” look.  The new UI is unnecessarily large, with lots of wasted space, which is especially bad for netbooks, smaller screens and those of us who like making the most of larger screens.

This annoyed enough that I spent some time with SeaMonkey’s DOM Inspector to help trim some of the wasted space.  If you’re using Firefox or SeaMonkey, you can add the following rules to your userContent.css file:

@-moz-document url-prefix("http://www.google.com/reader") {
   #lhn-add-subscription-section {height: 50px !important;}
   #viewer-header {height: 50px !important;}
   #sections-header {height: 50px !important;}
   #entries.list .entry .collapsed {padding-top: 0 !important;
   padding-bottom: 2px !important;} #nav {width: 230px !important;}
   #chrome {margin-left: 0 !important;} #entries {padding-right: 0 !important;}
   #search {padding-top: 10px !important;}
   #top-bar {height: 45px !important;}
}

Tweak as required. I hope someone else out there finds this useful.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

A family wedding I actually wanted to attend

I’m a little late with this (this whole Twitter thing really does distract one from real blogging) but my little sister got married a few weeks ago and I should probably record something about the whole affair. Yes I had to deal with Family overrunning my home for several days; yes getting people down to the park for the photographs was harder than it should have been; yes the ceilidh band were more aggressive than I would have liked, but ultimately my baby sister had a wonderful day and looked amazing, and that’s what matters.

The lead-up to the wedding had me dealing with a few sets of relatives who were staying with me as well as dealing with people stressing out over the logistics of getting the rest of the family to the wedding, but ultimately, that was a good thing, in that more members of the family came than I was expecting. On the day of the wedding, I was probably more nervous than I had any right to be, given that I wasn’t doing anything, but eventually family were organised, everyone was where they were supposed to be and my parents and I arrived at my sister’s house as requested. She disappeared upstairs with her bridesmaids pretty soon after that (although not before giving me a present – a USB pen that’s both a USB stick… and a pen! I was most delighted :)). I don’t know why, but I was expecting a fairly slimline, figure-hugging dress from her, but instead she arrived back downstairs in an amazing red dress that was pretty huge (red since that’s the traditional Indian wedding colour) but she looked fabulous.

While the ceremony itself was a purely civil one (rather than, say, a Humanist one) and as such fairly impersonal (something I noted about the only other civil ceremony I’ve attended, last year) there were enough personal touches to make it sweet. My cousin’s flute playing; the readings (especially the hilarious poem read by the mother of the groom); and the tea and scones afterwards – not to mention the exit to the Star Wars theme – all made a great event. I hadn’t actually realised how emotional I had become about the whole thing until Sam asked me how I felt afterwards and I completely choked up and had to take a minute to collect myself!

I also got to meet my cousin’s partner and their new baby, my nephew1, for the first time at the wedding as well. The baby is only a month or so old, so I wasn’t actually expecting them to make it at all so was awfully pleased that they did. There’s even photographic evidence somewhere of me, looking rather terrified, I must confess, holding the bairn2.

Much ceilidhing was done later, and I’m pleased that both my aunts were up and giving it a try. I’m pleased that I also managed to persuade my mum to do (half of) one dance as well, although a more spinney one might have been more fun than the rather sedate one we got. Mind you, I must confess I felt the ruse used to get people on the dance floor for the second half of the ceilidh was a bit of a dirty trick.

So to sum up, it was a wonderful day (even the weather held marvellously) and my sister was so happy all day that I was happy just watching her. And to cap it all off, I’ve got a thoroughly good chap for a brother-in-law.

My photos from the day are up on Flickr, as is a group to collection all of them.

 


1 Technically not a nephew, he’s my cousin’s son, but by Indian tradition cousins are treated more or less like siblings, so if he’s my brother, then his son is my nephew. QED.
2 No, this isn’t going to become a regular occurrence, I’m not getting soft on babies, Family has responsibilities

 

Friday, 11 February 2011

Corrupted Podcasts on iPhone/iPod Touch

I’ve had a few times now when something has happened while I’ve been copying podcasts to my iPod Touch from iTunes and it’s got corrupted and doesn’t show up on the device.  Each time this has happened, I’ve spent ages trying to get it fixed, so this is a guide to myself for the next time it happens and to try and save anybody else pulling their hair out. Note: this only applies if you’re managing your podcasts and music manually.

  1. In iTunes, find the file in your Podcasts section that isn’t appearing on the device. Right-click it, select “Get Info” and select the Options tab.  Set the “Media Kind” to be “Music”
  2. The file will now move from the Podcasts section in iTunes to the Music section.  Find it again and drag it over the iPod/iPhone.  The file won’t be copied, but its meta-data should be updated
  3. Go to the Music section on your device and find the file (where it should now appear!) and delete it
  4. Back in iTunes, change the Media Kind back to Podcast, find the file in your Podcasts and drag it to your device.

With a bit of luck, that should have fixed it and the file should appear correctly under the right podcast.

Have I mentioned lately how much I hate iTunes and the whole locked Apple ecosystem?

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Forestry Privatisation Concerns

Whilst I share many of the concerns about the Government’s plan to sell or lease many of England’s forests to private companies and charities, there’s another question that’s been bouncing around in my head ever since I heard it and which I haven’t heard answered yet.  If forests are sold, leased or donated to private companies or charities, will this bring them within reach of Freedom of Information laws?  And if not, then how will they be accountable for managing a fairly major public asset, and one that protests have shown that the public seem awfully protective of?

It’s a truism to say that the (Tory part of the) current government is ideologically in favour of the State not actually doing very much and getting the private sector involved in everything, but they have never satisfactorily answered questions of accountability.  Public companies are accountable only to their shareholders, and their only goal is to enrich those shareholders with no obligation to wider society.  I find this deeply concerning, both in this instance and more generally.  The “Big Society” is all about getting private companies and charities involved in public work.  Once they are, how do we as a society hold them to account, and punish them if they are greedy, incompetent or malevolent?  Democracy might not be perfect, but we can at least, in theory, vote out people we don’t like.  What will we be able to do in the (admittedly unlikely) case that a private company starts cutting down the New Forest for toilet paper?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Officially a twit now

I’ve been pondering joining Twitter for some time now and now that I think that I’m starting to get an idea of what the heck it’s actually for, I’m finally taking the plunge.  Some git had already taken @lordofthemoon, so you can find me @1ordofthemoon.  Go ahead and follow me, and let me know if there’s someone that you think I should follow.  I may get bored of the whole thing and just give up, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway.

Also, does anyone use a particular desktop application for Twitter, or do you all use it exclusively from your smartphones?

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