Tuesday, 11 September 2012

I'm a generous sort at heart, so I thought I'd give you all the chance to share in a wonderful business opportunity that has just come my way;

Dear Sir/Madam
 Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus christ. 
I apologize if the contents in this mail are contrary to your moral ethics,
which I feel may be of great disturbance to your personal life, But please treat
with absolute secrecy and personal. I pray that this email reaches you in the best
of health.
I am Samuel Kofi Atta Mills 24years of age, i'm the son of the late President of 
Ghana Professor John Evans Atta as i will like to discussed a mutual business 
transaction that would benefit the both of us as this is 100% risk free.
This is of ulmost important and need urgent attention and if interested do contact
me on my private e-mail ( attamillssamuelkoffi@yahoo.com.hk   )
Thanks and God bless as i look forward to hear from you Asap.
 Yours Sincerely,
 Samuel Kofi Atta Mills.
(I've got to wonder - is there anybody left on the planet that would take up an offer like this?) 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

It's a park, Jim, but not as we know it.

We spent an afternoon in Golden Gate Park.  It's a cracking place, but not what we expected...

OK, folk were playing games, strolling around, but things were so much more organised.

It wasn't a few kids kicking a ball, it was a load of kickball teams, cheerleaders and everything.  The few kids throwing a frisbee were actually teams of Ultimate players.

There are groups of friends who gathered in a corner of the park with folding chairs to sit and chat.  There was a wedding party of over fifty guests, cycling around behind a bike laden with a sound system and bubble-blowers.  Ten minute's walk away, a Shinto wedding ceremony was packing up.

Extended families with tables, table-cloths and barbeques, at least three kids birthday parties, complete with bouncy castles.

It's like a whole chunk of San Francisco moved their lives into the park for the day.

It was odd, but in a really good way.

We didn't penetrate far into the park, just as far as the Bison Paddock (about half way, I think), but it's such a nice place to be.  There's a hothouse, a design museum, a science centre, an open-air concert hall, areas set aside to practice your cycling, a shuttle-bus for the tired, and, as I mentioned, the bison.

And that's only half way through the park!

Later in the month, we spent time in several parks - Duboce, Force Mason Green - and they're all the same.

I suppose it's obvious, since so many homes here have neither yard nor garden, but I never expected this.

I like it.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Day One

Right, I've done my first full-ish day at the Lab.


What happened...?

  • I met lots of seriously cool people.  I missed most of their names, but that's me - I'll probably get everybody straight by the time I leave.
  • I got my "base" - I'm between the Editorial Team and the Big Silver Table of Working, Meeting and Eating, Often Simultaneously.
  • We had a mass meal of "Super Duper" burgers, salad, fruit, and chocolate cheesecake to say goodbye to Matt D, who's going back to "school".
  • I spent a chunk of time reading and judging the finalists in a contest.
  • I found out something of how the site works behind the scenes - I didn't really grok how much work goes on in this happy family to make the site trundle on.  Certain folk complain that the staff don't listen to feedback, but I can tell you from the HQ side side of the monitor that most of what gets talked about is what the members are doing and saying.
  • Matt gave me a tour of the office, Jessy gave me a tour of the other sites and workshops linked to Instructables (ohhh, toys!), and we spent some time drooling over the very high-end 3D products on display at the AutoDesk building (they're open to public view on Wednesday afternoons - I recommend it).
  • I did two other useful things (apart from the judging).  One, I robotified my new mobile cell phone (Kitewife bought two identical cheap handsets so we can stay in touch, just in case), the other is remaining secret - I want to see if the rest of the guys notice that it happened...
  • With the family, I went to look at the Bay, saw a flock of parakeets overhead (unfortunately in silhouette, so I don't know what kind they were), didn't see the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog.
There was some paperwork stuff as well, but that was boring...

Oh, I also decided what to do as my first proper project tomorrow...

Monday, 30 July 2012

First Impressons of San Francisco

Well, we're here, and we're moved in to our apartment.

In no particular order, these are some of our first impressions of San Francisco:


I love the voices here - everything has a robot voice asking you to hold tight or remind you hold on to your bags, and the BART sounds like you're inside a giant Speak-and-Spell. 


I'm pretty sure that everywhere is uphill.  I was born in a mountainous area, but this city beats that into a cocked hat - a paved residential road round the corner from our apartment is over 1:1, I'm sure.


It was odd, as we slogged up the afore-mentioned hills to our apartment, sweat streaming down our sun-heated bodies, to look around over the bay and see the Golden Gate Bridge standing in a thick bank of fog.


Every city has its dispossessed, but either SF has more, or it wears them on its civic sleeve.  Either way, they were a lot more visible than in any UK city I've visited. 


Where are they?  British cities are stuffed with pigeons and sparrows at least, flocks all over most high-pedestrian-traffic streets.  Here, hardly any.  I've seen a few pigeons and crows, and added to my list (Chipping Sparrow and Northern Mockingbird, plus a small finchy thing with a red bib that was singing in the rafters of the BART station), but I've not seen the quantity of birds I see in other cities.


You may know I'm a beer fan, bordering on the snob.  We found a rather nice grocery store, and it stocks beer.  Now, the rest of the shop was quite posh (several kinds of root ginger, heritage tomatoes, that kind of thing), but they can't look after beer - ales, IPAs and bitters kept in the fridge!  That is bad - they even had imported British beers [including St Peter's (one of my local brews)], known for being "warm" by Americans, stored at close to freezing - that's borderline blasphemy!


We switched the TV on in the apartment, and the first programme that came on was Doctor Who, and the first advert break included an advert for Newcastle Brown Ale.  0_o

Anyhoo, I'll keep things updated on an as-and-when kind of way, but that's it for now.


Friday, 20 July 2012

Creationists and the, er, "truth"

Oh, dear, it seems that Creationists don't like it when their bluff is called...

David Klinghoffer, a creationist blogger complained about being "hounded" by scientist Carl Zimmer on FaceBook.  This "hounding" amounted to a repeated request for evidence to support a claim made in a book.

Instead of providing the references requested, Klinghoffer offered a "debate" with Zimmer, but, bizzarely, limiting the debate to two, one-thousand word posts, and ensuring that the creationist side got the last word.

Who ever heard of a debate being limited to two short statements??

Klinghoffer is also complaining that "almost everyone on the evolutionary apologetics side has refused to read [the book]", and yet are still attacking it.  Klinghoffer claims to have been a book reviewer, so he must realise that even the most dedicated reviewer does not buy the books they review.  The publisher sends them a copy, secure in the knowledge that the book will receive a fair coverage.

I made a personal offer to Mr Klinghoffer;

I am a Science teacher, rationalist and atheist, and I would be more than happy to take up your challenge, but I am afraid I do not have a copy of the book to be able to properly address any of the points therein.

If you would be so kind as to send me a copy of the book, I will gladly read it and then enjoin in debate.

Unfortunately, I am leaving the country in a few days, and will be out of the country until the end of August.  If you would like to enter into the debate more quickly, you may prefer to send me an Amazon voucher by return of email, so that I can download the book onto my Kindle, and work on it as I travel (I will be online every day).
I look forward to the opportunity of establishing some truths with you.
I am quite happy for you to publish the content of this email on your website, on the clear condition that you keep my email address and postal address strictly confidential.
Klinghoffer has not had the manners to reply to me personally, but has instead blogged about my offer:
I've just received an email ... offering to stand up as champion for the Darwin side in a debate if we'll provide him an Amazon voucher so he can download the book onto his Kindle.

I was hoping for a substantive exchange with one of our familiar antagonists who have ample time to monitor a Facebook thread but no time or inclination to read the book under discussion and tell us what they think of it. Like PZ Myers, it seems I'm bound to be forever disappointed.
I offered him exactly what he wanted, and he responded with scorn and lies.

I do not monitor FaceBook, and I have a strong inclination to read the book, and to tell anybody who will listen what I think of it.

I believe, though, that Mr Klinghoffer is, at heart, scared of what people will say about the book.  Why else does he go out of his way to obstruct the normal book review process (never mind the peer review process!), and expect reviewers to buy the book before he reveals even one reference contained therein?  Why else does he not reply to emails?  Why else are replies disabled on his blog, forcing me to post here in the vague hope that he will see it?

Why else, when he receives an offer of exactly what he asked for, does he attempt to spin it into some sort of con?

Mr Klinghoffer, I call you coward, but it is very easy for you to prove me wrong: just send out review copies of the book, and accept what comments you get, just like any honest publisher does..

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Olympic SCUM

Hey, LOCOG! I think you're a bunch of greedy, immoral corporatist swine who've sold out London to a bunch of multinationals and betrayed the spirit of athleticism and international cooperation. You're a disgrace. And I'm linking to you. In a most derogatory manner.

What are you going to do about it? 

 I agree with every word of this BoingBoing blog post.

The way the London 2012 Committee have run the commercial side of the Olympics is a national shame and disgrace.  Promoting junk food, sugary, additive-loaded drinks, attempting to censor video- and photo-hosting websites, banning all branded foods and drinks except for those that have paid a fortune to be linked to the games, and having tighter "security" restrictions than an international flight - they even put limits on the size of picnic lunch you can take into the arenas, specifically to force ticket-holders to pay out even more on the over-priced sponsor foods.

And you come up with schemes like this:

There some countries where presenting the nation in such a bad light would be a crime.  Today, I think it's a shame that Britain isn't one of them.

LOGOC, you are SCUM.

Like the man said;

I'm linking to you. In a most derogatory manner.  

What are you going to do about it? 
Hey, look, I'm using the Olympic rings without asking first - according to LOGOC, that makes me a criminal.

(Olympic lanes image tweeted by Jeremy Vine)

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Throwing away a fortune...

You know, one day, one of these emails might be real, and I'll miss out on a fortune...



My Dearest One,
   Good day to you, I have decided to contact you after much thought considering the fact that we have not meet before, but because of the circumstance oblige me, I decided to contact you due to the urgency of my present situation here in the refugee camp, I am Miss Beautrice Kipkalya Kones, 25yrs old female and I from Kenya here in Africa; my father was the former Kenyan road Minister. He and Assistant Minister of Home Affairs Lorna Laboso had been on board the Cessna 210, which was headed to Kericho and crashed in a remote area called Kajong'a, in western Kenya. The plane crashed on Tuesday 10th, June, 2008.

 After the death of my beloved father my wicked step mother along with my uncles team together and sold everything that my late father had and share the money within themselves. Unfortunately to me I fined my father's briefcase and when I opened it I found a document, which my late father use to deposit the sum of Eight Million Five Hundred Thousand United State Dollars ($8.500.000.00) in the Bank, here in Burkina Faso West Africa with my name as next of kin, right now I am in Ouagadougou Capital of Burkina Faso to withdraw the money so that i can start a better life and also further my education.
On my arrival to the Bank, the Bank foreign remittance Department Director whom I meet in person told me that my father instruction to their bank is that the fund would only be release to me when I am married or present a trustee/partner who will help me and invest the fund overseas after the transfer, and the bank ask me to go and look for a foreign partner, that was why  I decided to contact you, which I believe that you are going to be honest and reliable person that will help me and stand as my trustee/partner, so that I can present you to the Bank for the release and transfer of the inheritance fund into your bank account in your country, and It is my intention to compensate you with 40% of the total fund for your services and help, 5% for any expenses that may arise on the process if any and the balance shall be my capital in your establishment.

 As soon as I receive your positive response showing your interest i will put things into action, in the light of the above, I shall appreciate an urgent message indicating your ability and willingness to handle this transaction, awaiting your urgent and positive response, Please do keep this only to your self, i beg you not to disclose it to any body till i come over because am afraid of my wicked stepmother, i will send you my picture in my next email, with due respect, i am pleading that you help me, i am giving all this detailed information with every transparency believing that you will have a clear picture of the base of help i need from you.
I hope to hear from you soon, May truth and love be the guiding word in my refuge,
Best regard,
Yours Sincerely
Beautrice Kipkalya Kones.      

Saturday, 30 June 2012

All the Bells

The Olympics are coming, and although I will miss most of it, it would be cool if I could take part in some way.

It turns out I can, and so can every other Brit reading this, in an event called All the Bells.

The short version is, on Friday 27th July, at 08:12am, UK time, as many bells as possible, from doorbells and bike bells, all the way up to full cathedral bell-towers will ring, all across the United Kingdom.

  Taking part is easy - just stand on your doorstep and press your doorbell - but why not go the full hog? 

  • Are you in a cycling club?  Get them all out in the street, ringing their bike bells.
  • Live near a church?  Even if you're not religious, get in touch and get them involved.
  • Go to school?  Talk to the music teacher, borrow the hand bells or the tubular bells.
  • Are you an engineer?  Hang up the biggest lump of steel on the site, and beat it with a hammer.
Heck, just get all your friends to set an alarm on their phones and iPods with a bell-tone at 08:12, or turn up your PC speakers and play with sound effects.

Pass the website around your friends and contacts by Facebook or Twitter, put a poster up at work, add graphics and links to your blog, and generally spread the word.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

British Courts Rule American Law Enforcement has Jurisdiction Over British Use of British Websites on British Servers!

If you have arrived here via Twitter, welcome.  If you are a British citizen, I hope you contact your own MP and Teresa May about this matter.

If you are American, then please contact the British Embassy.


If you feel moved to making a comment, please keep them to corrections of any errors I may have made, rather than long expositions of rhetoric.


You may be aware of the pending case of Richard O'Dwyer, currently facing extradition to the US from the UK because he allegedly broke US copyright laws.

However, the alleged offence did not occur on US soil, US websites or US servers.

In fact, Mr O'Dwyer did not host any copyrighted files on his website, just hosted links to other websites.

I contacted the Home Secretary over the matter, and received this reply from an underling (I have removed my personal contact details from the text, emphasis is mine):

Direct Communications Unit
  2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF
Switchboard: 020 7035 4848 - Fax: 020 7035 4745 - Textphone: 020 7035 4742
E-mail: public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk - Website: www.homeoffice.gov.uk


[Address removed]                                                                                                              28 June 2012

Dear [Kiteman],

Thank you for your email of 25 June to the Home Secretary about the extradition of Richard O’Dwyer.  Regrettably the Home Secretary receives so much correspondence that she is unable to reply personally to all those who write to her.  Your letter has been passed to me to reply.

Richard O’Dwyer is wanted in the US for offences related to copyright infringement connected to the TVShack.net website.  The comparable offence in the UK is one contrary to Section 107 (2A) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, which carries a sentence of up to two years.

Mr O’Dwyer’s case has been heard before a District Judge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, who considered whether there were any bars to his extradition under UK law.  On 13 January 2012, the District Judge ruled that extradition was not prohibited, and accordingly the case was sent to the Secretary of State for a decision to be made on surrender.

In reaching her decision, the Home Secretary must, in every extradition case consider four issues: whether the person is at risk of the death penalty (she must receive satisfactory assurances that if the death penalty can be applied it is not carried out); whether speciality arrangements are in place (these ensure that an extradited person may only be proceeded against in respect of the conduct for which extradition was ordered); whether the person concerned has previously been extradited from another country to the UK, and the consent of that country to his further and onward extradition from the UK is required; and whether the person concerned has previously been transferred to the UK by the International Criminal Court.

On 9 March, after careful consideration of these issues, the Home Secretary, decided to order Mr O’Dwyer’s extradition to the USA.  The current position of the case is that Mr O’Dwyer has decided to exercise his right of appeal to the High Court, and it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.

You infer that, if extradited, Mr O’Dwyer would face charges that would not result in a prosecution in the UK.  Under the current UK-US bilateral extradition treaty, no-one can be extradited from the UK to the US (or vice versa) for conduct that is not a criminal offence in both jurisdictions.  This is a principle known as “dual criminality”.  At the extradition hearing the District Judge considers whether the request meets the requirements of the Extradition Act 2003, and whether any of the statutory bars to surrender apply, including the question of dual criminality.  The comparable offence in the UK is one contrary to Section 107 (2A) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, which carries a sentence of up to two years.

In terms of the relevant jurisdiction in relation to Mr O’Dwyer’s alleged offence.  Any alleged offences for which a request for an extradition is made would have to come within the requesting State’s jurisdiction (as well as being an extradition offence as defined by the Extradition Act 2003) for it to be valid under UK law.  The UK courts have held that US authorities have jurisdiction in relation to the offences of which Mr O’Dwyer is accused, and are entitled to seek his extradition.

In general terms, the question of whether or not any individual should be tried in the UK is a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Government is conscious that there are a number of areas of the UK's extradition arrangements which have attracted significant controversy in recent years.  Following the Home Secretary’s announcement on 8 September 2010, the Rt Hon Sir Scott Baker led an independent panel, which conducted a review into the UK’s extradition arrangements.

The review was published on 18 October 2011.  The review panel found that the UK-US Treaty does not operate in an unbalanced manner.  However, the report makes a number of recommendations to improve the UK’s extradition arrangements. 

It is important to note that these are the findings of the panel which the Home Secretary has not yet accepted.  The report is now being carefully examined and the Home Secretary will announce what action the Government will take shortly.

Yours sincerely,

B McGuire

My response:

Dear "B McGuire" (sorry, but your signature did not indicate gender),

You are somewhat missing the point, I am afraid that it might be deliberate.

If Mr O'Dwyer had committed an offence in the USA, or even using a website based on American soil, then I would not be concerned about the extradition.

However, the alleged offence did not take place in any location, real or virtual, connected with the USA.  The ruling that the United States has jurisdiction in this case is absolutely horrifying - that a British court can rule that any foreign country has jurisdiction over the actions of a British citizen, in Britain, using British equipment is so deeply disturbing that I am beyond words in expressing my horror that a democratically-elected government can so easily hand over legal powers to a group representing commercial interests in another nation without consulting the electorate at all.

Consider: if I stole a wallet from an American tourist, would I be extradited to America to face prosecution?  No, I would not - if the offence is committed on British soil, then the alleged offender must be tried in British courts under British law.

You are also misrepresenting my words.  I did not say that Mr O'Dwyer would not be prosecuted for the alleged offence - I said that he would not be jailed.  The potential penalties that could be imposed by a US court (depending on how the court chooses to to interpret the alleged offence, it could involve a fine of $150,000 for every single link on the website) are far, far in excess of the maximum penalty should Mr O'Dwyer be found guilty in a British court.

Needless to say, I oppose this extradition, and all other like it, on the grounds that they contravene the civil liberties of British citizens, and that the abdication of jurisdiction to an unelected foreign organisation is, at every level, wrong.

I look forward to an official response that indicates that the United States no longer has jurisdiction over British soil...


(Concerned British Citizen and Voter)

Friday, 22 June 2012

Advertisers never thought of this... (UPDATE - they did!)

I don't actively watch a lot of TV - I tend to record programmes or films I find interesting, and then watch them in chunks when the rest of the family aren't watching cartoons or soaps.

I record them on our Sky+ box (if you're not in the UK, that's a satellite TV digital video recorder).

I love the DVR, because, not only does it let me time-slip my viewing, it lets me easily zip through the adverts on commercial TV.

It occurred to me, though, that, now that DVRs are so common, advertisers are definitely missing a trick in the adverts.

When I zip through the breaks at x12 or x30 speeds, the adverts are meaningless, because I hear nothing, and the images are too disjointed to register anything more than the occasional brand marking or logo.

Yet, this is the time when I am focussed most intently on the screen, watching for the end of the break so I can hit play.  I can't be the only one using the DVR like this, yet the advertisers haven't responded in any way.

Imagine; adverts that look boring or even old-fashioned in real-time, but make normal-speed silent films when zipping through the breaks.  A single stationary image, ignored for twenty or thirty second in a normal ad break, would become a powerful tool to reach all the DVR users that sit and focus on the screen to zip through the break.

Now, pay attention, media types - nobody is doing this right now, which means that nobody has thought of it before.  This idea is mine.

I think 20% of your contract fee is reasonable, don't you?


UPDATE: Damn, somebody has thought of it!

I just watch a movie I recorded from  5*, and they've found an even simpler way of making you watch the adverts - they flash up the channel ident, which normally shows the end of the break, every few adverts.  You're zipping through, see the ident, automatically hit the play button, and accidentally watch an advert.


Sunday, 20 May 2012

Incredible News!

I needed a kick to restart the blog, and here it is...

It's not a secret, but you may, dear reader, have missed the biggest news since I got a new job:

I am going to America!

Yes, dear reader, yours truly has been invited to be "Artist in Residence" at Instructables!

The entire Kitefamily will be spending the whole of August 2012 in San Francisco, "working" alongside the staff, on whatever projects I like!

If you do not know me, it is hard to express the significance of this event.  It's lottery-win excitement.  It's a soap-box racer being invited to join an F1 team, a bedroom musician getting the half-time gig at the Superbowl.

After I got the invitation, I grinned so much I actually got cramp in my cheeks!

Now, the plane tickets are booked, I've put a deposit down on an apartment for the month, and our visas are sorted.

I promise, as things move on, I will keep y'all updated.