‘Amazon Watershed’ by George Monbiot

Superb.

I had already been impressed by Monbiot’s style of journalism / investigating from what I’d read before of his travels in ‘No Man’s Land’ and ‘Poisoned Arrows’.

I enjoy greatly the way he writes, with clear concern, but at the same time clearly articulating a very concise and accurate picture of what he believes needs to be done to solve the problems raised. He’s realistic in acknowledging what’s feasible and what’s impossible, and states very simple common-sense solutions that could be implemented easily if the people who have a say were prepared to look the other way.

Out of the three travel books of his that I’ve read (this, ‘Poisoned Arrows’, and ‘No Man’s Land’), I would say this is a good place to start with what he’s setting out to do, although I would recommend buying the most recent prints of it – the copy I read was an early one, so the only ‘status update’ of the current situations was from 1991. From reading the other two titles from a more recent print, these more recent progressions and updates are much more accurate.

For people interested in such matters as the state of the Amazonian Rainforest (of which I personally know very little) I would think this has established itself as necessary reading. Monbiot’s thoughts and questions probe deeply for important and sometimes glaringly obvious answers which appear to not be answered.

Applications: The Downfall of Facebook?

When I first signed up for Facebook I didn’t quite know what to expect. I’d come from starting off using MySpace and instantly getting frustrated with it – excessively heavy modifications by people who didn’t really know what they were doing meaning you’d open up a page to have 3 separate flash videos try to play, 2 songs, and a slideshow of pictures… blegh.

It was clumsy and got to be unusable, especially when trying to do anything with it on a system without flash installed. Everything took ages to load and it seemed to become more of a huge advert-fest than anything else. The only thing that kept me holding onto the account was the fact that it gave me the chance to actually download MP3s of the bands I liked from it – provided I had flash installed and working properly. In the end I gave up – the frustrations easily outweighing that one benefit.

At around the same time, Facebook ‘opened its doors’ to allow non-Uni types to sign up. Figured I’d give it a try seeing as I knew a lot of people who’d just started off to Uni and figured it would be an easy way to keep in touch with what people were upto. I half-expected to see a MySpace clone and was pleasantly surprised at the smooth layout, lack of customisation, and straight-forward approach to everything: All the information was where you want to find it. Photo Albums (while not strictly necessary) were easy to access but tucked out of the way, giving you the choice to access them if you want. Anything else you liked you could link to easily in the form of Posted Items, be they videos, news articles, external galleries, games, whatever. Again, it gave folks viewing your profile the opportunity to view these things if they want rather than just shoving it in their face all at one time. You could use it as your blog, or could import your blog posts from another site. It was simple. It was clean. And it worked.

Then Applications started to arrive. iLike, Movies, Grafitti, Fortune Cookies, god knows what else. The layout stayed the same and fairly clean, but already it starts to load slower and look overly clustered with things that can be described as little more than gimmicks. They don’t aid the application in any way and make the main page load up slower.
Perhaps they’ve got application, thinks like the grafitti segment could be really nice, but why not make it a separate page, like the photos with a big white board people can doodle on and the owner can wipe-free at will. That could be quiet fun and doesn’t clutter things up.
iLike, whilst I tried it, seemed a complete waste of time. And, again, pure gimmick.So far the only application I’ve seen that’s worthwhile (and perhaps this is because I am a Last.fm user already) is the Last.fm application, which can display latest information about who and what you’ve been listening to. However, this could be better tied in by being less flashy and simply replacing the music interests section of the profile, rather than basically adding an extra lump that effectively repeats the same thing again. Still, there’s time.

I don’t know, it just seems to me that with the introduction of all these Applications and the number of people jumping on to have these extra gimmicky sparkley bits to their profile, Facebook is transforming, day by day, into MySpace. And I’m not sure I like it.

Just my two cents.

BBC NEWS: Iran Condemns Rushdie Knighthood

News Source:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6760927.stm

First of all, let me be undiplomatic: this is bollocks.

Besides the simple fact that the honours list is voted for by the public or expert organisations, and the fact that the guy is a gifted author, the claims made by the Iranians are just absurd.

Mohammad Ali-Hosseini, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman made the following claims:

“The measure that has taken place for paying tribute to this apostate and detested figure will definitely put British statesmen and officials at odds with Islamic societies, the emotions and sentiments of which have again been provoked.”

First of all, without sounding dismissive – what’s new? As far as I’ve seen, the select few Islamic communities that want to be at odds or cause problems with British statesmen and officials (and more besides) are already doing so. Secondly, what emotions and sentiments have actually been provoked? Many largely-Muslim countries banned the book when it was released, so how can emotions and sentiments be provoked, unless, of course, a select few people are telling the masses what they should be offended by…?

But that’s by the by. Because let’s just say that all these people who are told to be offended by it really did read it and really were offended (because they perceived a blasphemous depiction of the prophet in the novel…), let’s just say they were… is their faith really that weak that one fictional novel by a non-Muslim can really cause that much offence? Or put another way, is it so weak that you’re prepared to see some sort of twisted ‘logic’ in condemning this same non-believer to death, just to defend your peace-loving faith and appease your god… erm, check please.

“Giving a medal to someone who is among the most detested figures in the Islamic community is… a blatant example of the anti-Islamism of senior British officials,”

Erm, no it’s not. It’s a blatant example of giving credit where it’s due, regardless of race, creed, or religion – none of which are real dividing lines anyway.

Bravo Rushdie.

Back to Basics

Well, not quite, but back to WordPress at least.

I played with Serendipity for a good while and, whilst it is pleasant, it just doesn’t do as simple a job of blogging as I find WordPress to do. So I thought I’d come back to what I know. It’s nice.

Still need to theme it and link it into the other pages yet, but that’ll be sorted soon.. honest.

LUGRadio Live 2007

Booked and ready to go. Looks like an interesting lineup. If anyone else is heading down and fancies catching up for a beer / general ‘hello’ then let me know, as I’ll be down on my lonesome 🙂

Really not sure yet quite how much of the talks I’m actually going to understand, but we’ll see – points of interest for me include:

  • Chris Di Bona
  • Alan Cox
  • Joe Born – The Path to the $100 Media Center

Of course there’s more besides, but those ones really grab my attention from the outside. Which one do I think I’ll understand the least from? Alan Cox, without a doubt. But he does have a good beard. Not ‘arf.

‘The Righteous Men’ by Sam Bourne

I guess it was because I enjoyed the Da Vinci Code, combined with the fact the the reviews bill this as the greatest challenger to it, that prompted my mother to buy me this book a while back, although it has taken me a while to actually getting around to reading it.

I enjoyed it a lot. As with the Da Vinci Code, I have a tendency to read it for what it is – a work of fiction – and try not to get caught up in the whole ‘but it’s a distortion of the truth theories’ – if I wanted to find out the facts behind the theories mentioned in any of these books I’d go and read non-fictional titles about them, but as it is, I just enjoy the storyline… Sorry.

Having read all four of the Dan Brown novels and enjoying them, I guess it was a reasonable assumption that I’d enjoy this, and I did. In honesty, I actually preferred it to the Da Vinci Code or any of the other Dan Brown novels I’d read – the story was more engrossing, a little bit more realistic (if that’s the right term) and with slightly more ordinary characters. Although perhaps half the reason I enjoyed it more is that I have only read this one of Bourne’s novels – by the end of the fourth Dan Brown novel I was noticing the same trends in all the stories – hopefully Bourne won’t fall into the same trap with his future novels.

However, as with Dan Brown’s novels, The Righteous Men did bring some interesting ‘real-life’ societies / beliefs to my attention that I didn’t know about and would like to read more about. The direction towards useful reading sources at the end of the novel definitely helps point me in the right direction. Find my Amazon wishlist if you want to buy me a gift… 🙂

Definitely worth a read, and very addictive once you start, but I don’t know how quickly I’d go back to read it again – just like with Brown’s novels. I think it needs a substantial break from it before going back and seeing if it gets any better second time around, which my guess is it won’t, and I don’t want it to disappoint!

New Video: Dave Does “Giannis D”

Had a couple of very fun dives this week. One of them, with Hassan Adly, we took the video and made it our own little project to see what we could get.

One dive, 85 minutes, 2 scooters, maximum depth 27 metres. And a lot of fun.

It’s these sort of dives that really remind me exactly how fun things can be when you put your mind to it. Video editing was fun, and something I hadn’t really played with much before, but want to get more familiar with.

Still, a lot of stuff we could / should have done, but all useful notes to bear in mind next time we try to do a similar thing. I’ve always enjoyed diving with Hassan and look forward to doing some more stuff like this in the future.

Most enjoyable.

Video Available on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULhxpWpnF2o

‘The Idiot’ by Fyodor Dostoyevskiy

After reading and enjoying Crime and Punishment I figured I had to try another Dostoyevskiy, and The Idiot was the one I’d heard the most about, so I figured I’d give it a try.

Like with Crime and Punishment, I didn’t find it an easy read, and it took me a good while to work through, but it was enjoyable, and some moments of sheer genius.

There’s lots of long-winded explanatory parts, which sometimes can start to feel tedious but usually just before it does there’s a really nice segment that breaks it up and brings it back together.

It’s an entertaining read, and most probably ranks as a classic, so of course it’s worth a look. Maybe I find them a harder read than others, there’s only one way to find out. 🙂