Wishing I was a welder

It’s soon midnight on Friday and I am not out partying. I am working. To add insult to injury I am lying on the floor with my laptop as this is the best way for my back to survive my work. I am stuck working on translating and commenting a software license. The deadline has come, gone and is now terrifying. It is on occaissions such as this I wish I was a welder who could not take his work with him home but when Friday comes be able to switch off and relax. Oh damn, it’s time for §10…

Scientific Humor: Cello Scrotum

In 1974 Elaine Murphy reported the condition that came to be known as “Cello Scrotum” to the British Medical Journal. The condition was supposed to be occur among cellists and was a painful complaint caused by their instrument repeatedly rubbing against their body. Well over 30 years later the originator admits that the condition was a just a hoax. BBC writes:

“Anyone who has ever watched a cello being played would realise the physical impossibility of our claim. “Somewhat to our astonishment, the letter was published.”

Baroness Murphy, formerly a professor at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London, did not sign the 1974 letter herself, fearing that she might get into trouble. Her husband John, now chairman of a Suffolk brewery, signed it instead.

The reason for coming clean according to the Baroness was when the hoax was included again in the 2008 Christmas edition of the BMJ. Even though making up science is serious I just can’t stop smiling at this which feels more like a prank than the scientific fraud it is. It also goes to show that even well established journals are not to be trusted.

Rubbing the cello against the body causes “cello scrotum”? It makes you wonder how the editors of the BMJ thought the cello was played – or did they think it was something that cellists did after hours?

Cellist by St Stev (CC by-nc-nd)


A great step for UK art & world culture

This is really cool news and it just makes you wish that all other countries will follow suite. So what’s the news? Well the director general Mark Thompson of the BBC has just announced that the BBC is going to digitalize and put online all paintings in public ownership in the UK and the contents of the Arts Council’s vast film archive online as part of a range of initiatives that it has pledged will give it a “deeper commitment to arts and music”. Just the art amounts to around 200,000 oil paintings! (via The Guardian)

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw

John Singer Sargent, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

Lady Agnew is one of the 200 000 pictures we can look forward to seeing online. The good news may still be spoiled if the technology used (or indeed the licenses) somehow prevents users from being able to enjoy them properly.

Mobiles on planes

Mobile phones are radio transmitters and as such were banned from use in civilian airplanes, for fear such devices could interfere with airplane avionics. So we turned of our phones and stared angrily at those who did not comply – it’s strange how well behaved we are in the air, especially when we are told it was for security purposes. The strange thing is that almost any laptop is packed full of wifi and bluetooth devices but no-one stops us from using a laptop on the plane.

The Telegraph reports that British Airways will be trying out mobile phone technology that will allow passengers to send and receive text messages, emails and access the internet during the flight. British Airways will introduce voice calls if the trails are succesful. I wonder what constitutes a success in this case. British Airways is not the only airline, the Telegraph reports:

Since Emirates introduced the service, on a flight from Dubai to Casablanca, it has begun extending the technology to the rest of its fleet – more than 100 aircraft. So far, 28 planes have been fitted.

Low-cost carrier Ryanair announced last year that it would begin testing the technology – including voice calls – on at least 10 of its aircraft, with the intention of extending the service to its entire fleet.

While the fears surrounding mobile telephones and airplane security seem to have been magically resolved the question remains whether or not we want to be stuck in airline seats while passengers around us invade our privacy and disturbing us speaking loudly about all their crap.

Also, why do only the business class passengers get this service? Is it that we plebs are undeserving or can it be that British Airways is being elitist?

Viral Spiral, Bollier’s new book

I have been a fan of David Bollier since I read his book Silent Theft so I was happy to see that he had written a new book on the importance of the public domain and the commons. The book, Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a
Digital Republic of Their Own
is also available for download under a Creative Commons license. From the website:

One of the big themes of Viral Spiral is the enormous value generated from making one’s work openly available on the Internet. While publishing traditionalists are skeptical of this new reality, a number of pioneering authors and publishers have shown the commercial appeal of posting their books online using one or another Creative Commons licenses. Among the more notable authors are Cory Doctorow, Lawrence Lessig, James Boyle, Yochai Benkler, Dan Gillmor and Peter Barnes. In the same spirit, New Press has authorized the following download of the text of Viral Spiral. I hope that anyone who has the chance to browse through the PDF version of the book will want to buy a hard copy.

Technology too far

Technology is fun and often frustrating but for me the most frustrating element of technology are touch screens and automatic sensors. The reason for this is that they never seem to work properly when I am around. As a result I stand in public restrooms pointlessly waiving my hands under the tap and hoping for water. Or standing in line at for train tickets only to attempt to attempt to input my wishes on a touch screen that adamantly insists that I am not here.

Its not like I have not tried different strategies to attempt to fool the technology in question. My cooker at home is based on touch screen technology so I know what I am talking about. But the cooker at home is not as embarrassing as all the public technology and in particular not being able to work the technology available in the men’s room.  The last area is also more than mildly disturbing from a hygienic point of view when I think about others who cannot wash their hands.

I want a return to knobs and switches, taps and real buttons so I will not look like such a fool in public. So! From a hygiene point of view I demand a return to the more primitive technology! Call me a luddite if you want, but all I want to do is to be able to wash my hands in the bathroom…

Facebook made me do it…

A man has been convicted for murdering his wife after she changed her Facebook marital status from “Married to Single” (BBC). Technollama argues that Facebook needs to come with a better disclaimer and suggests:

“This website can cause long-term damage to your relationship; put you in contact with people you would rather forget; destroy the idealised memories of that person you used to have a crush on in high-school; follow the daily happenings of the terminally inane and self-absorbed; and it may eventually cause death.”

Personally I think the disclaimer is too short and facebook should warn against all kinds of social interaction and not only the idealised re-unions online.

From the public relations department

Dear World:

We, the United States of America, your top quality supplier of ideals of democracy, would like to apologize for our 2001-2008 interruption in service. The technical fault that led to this eight-year service outage has been located, and the software responsible was replaced November 4. Early tests of the newly installed program indicate that we are now operating correctly, and we expect it to be fully functional on January 20. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the outage. We look forward to resuming full service and hope to improve in years to come. We thank you for your patience and understanding,

Sincerely,
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
(via Art Threat)