Archive for March, 2008

Judas Wept!

March 31st, 2008
This weekend’s book purchase was Judas Unchained by Peter F Hamilton. At €11.99 its not the same bargain busting price of last weeks purchase with the direct translation of the UK price being £8.99/€11.29. Still at 1234 pages its not a bad deal. Yes 1234 pages, which means that together with its companion Pandora’s Star the Commonwealth Saga is a hefty 2386 pages. I am not so impressed with the books and have yet to figure out if they are best used as doorstops or books.

I suppose there is a lesson here somewhere about not just buying any random rubbish using book vouchers (because its not my money!) and then having to buy the second book (because I’ve started so I’ll finish!!). But for the life of me I can’t see it. And I’m sure I will do it again and again. But at least only in paperbook and the first hit is always free…

Rules to Panic by

March 27th, 2008

Nev pointed me at Paul Krugman’s author talk@google from December 2007

Rules To Live By

March 27th, 2008
Cheryl Morgan has distilled her experience of online communities into a few short and useful observations on online discourse.
1. Your blog is not “personal space”. If you say bad things about people on it, there’s a good chance they will find out and come calling. If you want your thoughts to stay private, use a privacy feature such as “friend-locking”.

2. Using sarcasm and irony after you have got people angry with you is generally not a good idea, because angry people don’t have much of a sense of humor.

3. Sometimes the best thing to do with someone who disagrees with you is to let them have the last word. Accusing someone of bullying you because they can’t see your point of view doesn’t help, especially if you appear to be using that accusation as a means of preventing them from responding to your points.

4. If you complain about someone’s behavior to your friends on your blog, don’t be surprised if your friends then go and crap all over said person’s blog in a much more unpleasant way than you would have done. You might not have intended to spark a mob, but these things can happen.

5. If you call someone a “Nazi” then people will think that you are unpleasant and an idiot.

6. If people do crap on your blog, don’t delete their posts. Being rude makes people look bad. Deleting posts makes you look bad.

They also correlate nicely with Cheryl’s observations on fannish and human behaviour.

1. Never accept accident or incompetence as an explanation when a bizarre and complex conspiracy can also be advanced to explain the known facts.

2. One data point indicates a dangerous trend that must be resisted; two data points indicate a sacred and holy tradition that must be preserved.

3. If a tree falls in Central Park, New York, is seen to fall by 100 New Yorkers, is captured on film by CNN and the video of the fall is broadcast around the world, but I wasn’t there to see it, then it didn’t fall.

Here is probably a good space to throw in Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s experience in moderating her own webspace and boingboing.

1. There can be no ongoing discourse without some degree of moderation, if only to kill off the hardcore trolls. It takes rather more moderation than that to create a complex, nuanced, civil discourse. If you want that to happen, you have to give of yourself. Providing the space but not tending the conversation is like expecting that your front yard will automatically turn itself into a garden.

2. Once you have a well-established online conversation space, with enough regulars to explain the local mores to newcomers, they’ll do a lot of the policing themselves.

3. You own the space. You host the conversation. You don’t own the community. Respect their needs. For instance, if you’re going away for a while, don’t shut down your comment area. Give them an open thread to play with, so they’ll still be there when you get back.

4. Message persistence rewards people who write good comments.

5. Over-specific rules are an invitation to people who get off on gaming the system.

6. Civil speech and impassioned speech are not opposed and mutually exclusive sets. Being interesting trumps any amount of conventional politeness.

7. Things to cherish: Your regulars. A sense of community. Real expertise. Genuine engagement with the subject under discussion. Outstanding performances. Helping others. Cooperation in maintenance of a good conversation. Taking the time to teach newbies the ropes.

All these things should be rewarded with your attention and praise. And if you get a particularly good comment, consider adding it to the original post.

8. Grant more lenience to participants who are only part-time jerks, as long as they’re valuable the rest of the time.

9. If you judge that a post is offensive, upsetting, or just plain unpleasant, it’s important to get rid of it, or at least make it hard to read. Do it as quickly as possible. There’s no more useless advice than to tell people to just ignore such things. We can’t. We automatically read what falls under our eyes.

10. Another important rule: You can let one jeering, unpleasant jerk hang around for a while, but the minute you get two or more of them egging each other on, they both have to go, and all their recent messages with them. There are others like them prowling the net, looking for just that kind of situation. More of them will turn up, and they’ll encourage each other to behave more and more outrageously. Kill them quickly and have no regrets.

11. You can’t automate intelligence. In theory, systems like Slashdot’s ought to work better than they do. Maintaining a conversation is a task for human beings.

12. Disemvowelling works. Consider it.

13. If someone you’ve disemvowelled comes back and behaves, forgive and forget their earlier gaffes. You’re acting in the service of civility, not abstract justice.

Failing all else, you should always fall back on the classics.

You got to learn to play it right
You got to know when to hold them
Know when to fold them
Know when to walk away
Know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sitting at the table
There’ll be time enough for counting
When the dealing’s done
Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

RAW Deal

March 26th, 2008
Mohd Shakir has a written a simple bash script for converting RAW files from his Nikon D40X into jpegs. And not being one to reinvent the wheel, I modified it for the RAW files produced by John’s Canon EOS Rebel XTi.

mkdir jpeg
#Convert RAW files to low quality JPEGs
for i in `ls *.CR2`; do
ufraw-batch –out-type=jpeg –out-path=jpeg/ \
–compression=70 –size=800,600 –overwrite $i

Shakir’s pages contains a wee bit of discussion and some comments about using the script and the packages needed to process RAW files in ubuntu. ‘man ufraw-batch‘ gives more details on the workings of the ufraw-batch program.

In the meantime here is a photo taken at the Cliffs of Moher on Monday and converted today

Bank Error in Your Favour

March 25th, 2008
Amongst other things, the credit crunch is also triggering currency fluctuations in the Pund Sterling and the US Dollar. As people may already know, the euro is getting stronger and stronger vs the Pound.

That is good news for those of us who buy books as book prices are often just euro equivalent of the sterling price. And sometimes a bit less. So I was able to buy Wrath of a Mad God on Saturday in O’Mahonys for €20.99 which is a bit less than the exchange rate would suggest. €20.99 is £16.47 at current rates, and the recommended retail price for the book is £18.99. So not too shabby.

Yes its cheaper to buy on amazon (at a 42% discount) but you still have to pay delivery charges and then wait for the book. This way I get it at a price I am more than happy to pay (although roll on parity and sub €20.00 hardbacks!) and I don’t have to wait to start it. Not that I have started it or anything, but it is top of the list of books to read next. Well near the top. At least its on the list…

UPDATE to correct figures from €22.99/£17.93 to €20.99/£16.47 for even cheaper books.


March 6th, 2008
Today is world book day, and while there doesn’t seem to be much on in the city, I know that O’Mahonys at least are doing stuff. Its all children’s stuff of course. Nobody seems to make that much of an effort to encourage adults to read, either in acceptance of or despair over that fact that not a lot of adults seem to read much at all. At least in the US, during 2006. I couldn’t find similar stats for the UK or Ireland.
A quarter of US adults say they read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll. The typical person claimed to have read four books in the last year and, excluding those who had not read any books at all, the usual number of books read was seven.

…The median figure for books read – with half reading more, half fewer – was nine books for women and five for men. The figures also indicated that those with college degrees read the most, and people aged 50 and over read more than those who are younger…

…the Bible and religious works were read by two-thirds in the survey, more than all other categories.

This year I am using facebook to track what I am reading and so far I have finished ten books and am reading five, one of which I am definitely reading, 3 I am actively reading (a chapter or so a week) and 1 less so. No prizes for which side of the median I am on.

This isn’t probably too much different to previous years, except that this year I have a Sony Book Reader, which allows me to carry around more books than ever before. And which has been filled up with a series of online purchases and free books.

In the meantime, a survey of British Librarians has produce a list of 30 books to read before you die, of which I have read depressingly few. Although I am generally wary of things to do before you die/become 30/get married lists as I don’t them sufficient motivation for stuff.