oolong, tea

So, farewell then, Margaret Thatcher

I recently went up to Edinburgh for a week and a bit, mainly for the Maker Faire. It was a good trip, nicely balanced between being social and being alone and productive, in the company of an extremely fluffy and affectionate but profoundly deranged cat. I didn't get to see a lot of people I would have liked, though, largely because I barely did any advance planning, and that was largely because of a family crisis that I will probably write about in a later (filtered) entry.

While I was up there, Margaret Thatcher died. Just a couple of weeks before, I had reached the stage where I was confident I could finish my puppet of her ghost - which I've been sporadically working on for about a year - in the space of a day or two. That would give me time to get it done and bring it to the street party in Trafalgar Square, long planned for the Saturday after her demise, and that was indeed how it worked out.
IMG_4179

I'm always uneasy, at best, about celebrating anybody's death, but I do think it's important to remember her as in many ways a monstrous figure, whose demented vision of political economy did more to undermine community feeling and cooperation in this country than anybody else has ever managed. She stood for inequality and greed; she took it for granted that it was only by elevating our basest instincts that humans could thrive. In this she was wrong, and the history of the last three decades shows clearly how wrong she was - yet we have been ruled by Thatcherites of one stripe or another ever since. She was venerated by Tony Blair; Gordon Brown was the first to publicly suggest a state funeral for her; and the Tories now in power are pushing her lunatic doctrines further than she ever dared. In the light of this, and the multi-million-pound robbery from the public purse that is funding her war-themed celebratory extravaganza of a funeral, I make no apology for celebrating her passing. With a huge, monstrous puppet of her visage.

We are entering the post-Thatcher age, at last. That is a cause for rejoicing - even if it is arguably in bad taste, and even if there is a hell of a lot of fighting to do before Thatcherism is laid to rest. Let us remember her as a woman who probably tried to do what she thought was best, who overcame great obstacles of class and gender to become the leader of a Conservative Party which to this day disdains those from her background and sex. Let us remember her as a Prime Minister who did more to transform Britain than anyone else in the last half-century. But above all let us remember the damage she did, the insanity of the ideas underlying the transformation she effected, and the importance of undoing her legacy. If those too young to remember her rule are going to be fed eulogies to her, we have a duty to balance those tributes out.
oolong, tea

Notes on Visiting Waterstones in the West End

  1. I want all the books.
  2. I want time to read all the books.
  3. I am pleased to see that God Bless You, Dr Kevorkian has been released with a foreword by Neil Gaiman and is in the Staff Choices bit, but dismayed that people think it's okay to charge eight pounds for a book that is less than a hundred pages long, even with foreword, list of personages and so on.
  4. Kurt Vonnegut presents classification problems, as he tends to. I found the rest of his books under general Fiction, even Armageddon in Retrospect which is another of his non-fiction works, but no copies of God Bless You, Dr Kevorkian or The Sirens of Titan in Science Fiction (in two different editions)
  5. The staff, who didn't seem too busy, listened with apparent mild interest when I mentioned this, but gave no indication of whether they felt like it was a problem that someone should really fix some time. Apparently the system says Sirens of Titan is sci-fi.
  6. There is a Smart Thinking section, which struck me at first as a stupid name for a section, but I can see why they have it, looking over the collection of hard-to-categorise non-fiction books about assorted interesting ideas.
  7. The Philosophy section is tiny and incredibly hard to find, but full to bursting. Each shelf was packed to its physical limit, making it hard to put things back, while a whole separate collection of Penguin editions of philosophical classics is invisible from there.
  8. I bought exactly one book, which I count as a win.
  9. The book is Delusions of Gender, by a neurologist who is also a feminist. I had the feeling that I should really read it some time, and the strong suspicion that if I didn't buy it then, it would never come up again. Having read the introduction now, I still think I should read it, so that's good.
  • Current Music
    Music for monkeys on stilts
  • Tags
oolong, tea

Finding communities on LJ

So um there's probably a London community on here, isn't there? Can anyone point me to it? There seems to be only a search function to find people-and-communities, and I can't be arsed wading through pages and pages of users who somehow have something to do with London to find an actual community for it.

Alternatively, if anyone happens to be driving from London to Edinburgh before tomorrow (Sunday) night, you could make me a happy man. But I'll probably just get the coach, realistically.
  • Current Mood
    blah meh
oolong, tea

Exciting things

  • I'm making a giant puppet for Beltane this year. I've been wanting to get into making puppets for ages, and this is a great opportunity to do it. It's also a relatively low-time-commitment way to stay involved with Beltane.
  • I've got a new housemate, the girlfriend of one of my existing housemates, with a van. Indirectly this has made it possible to completely rearrange the kitchen here so it's a pleasure to use, no longer cramped and misshapen. It also means we now have a truly massive tea collection - her collection's about as big as mine, and mostly but not exclusively herbal, so there's now a full shelf of tea tea and a full shelf of tisanes. We should probably have a tea party.
  • I've been playing about with jQuery, a beautifully designed JavaScript library. Among other things this has allowed me to hide the trickier bits of my page about trigonometry under expandable headings. I'm quite pleased with the effect, and I'll probably be using jQuery to make better interactive diagrams for the page later. I do like interactive diagrams.
  • I finally retrieved my wood-carving chisels when I was down in London in the Winter - someone had tidied them away unfindably a few years ago, much to my disappointment. I've just about finished carving a snake into my monopod-staff now, doubling as grips for my fingers.
  • I had fun reading the odd little piece 'The King, Multidimensional', about fifteen ways for Elvis to die, for the next Everything2 podcast. Hear it here if you're interested.
  • I made myself a pinhole camera! Actually I made the pinhole bit about a year ago, but got stuck trying to figure out a way to build a winding mechanism for 120 film into the tea tin I'm using. Went to a pinhole workshop at the Forest yesterday and discovered there was an old Hasselblad back kicking around in the darkroom! That takes care of the winding very neatly - all I had to do was cut a square in the back of the tin for it to sit on top of, and apply gaffer tape to hold it in place. I'm not confident it's sufficiently light-tight, and I'm not sure how far I should be turning the handle for each frame, but these are things I can sort out after I've run a film through it.
  • I'm going to the Miyazaki double bill at the Cameo in an hour - the new one, Ponyo, plus Spirited Away. I've been watching quite a bit of Studio Ghibli lately - I think I've got through most of them now.
  • Current Music
    Train Song by Eliza Carthy
oolong, tea

Open letter to Google

Dear Google,

I've long been a fan of the things you do, and thought that overwhelmingly you manage to live up to that 'Don't Be Evil' mission statement.

However I'm really very unhappy about the privacy implications of the way you've launched Google Buzz. If you're going to automatically generate a list of contacts based on who I talk to, you need to tell clearly me before you share it with the world, and ask me clearly if that's okay.

The privacy implications of failing to do so are downright disgusting. It needs to be opt-in, and flagged carefully, and I need to be able to opt out of appearing in other people's profiles - especially as long as you're not asking them clearly to opt in before displaying me there!

This is a shocking mis-step on your part, a betrayal of trust and extremely dubious under standard data protection laws, especially if it is confirmed - as it's been alleged - that people's contacts lists are displayed before they even say 'OK' to Buzz.

I expect you to fix this soon; until then I'll be angrily directing everyone to http://www.businessinsider.com/warning-google-buzz-has-a-huge-privacy-flaw-2010-2

Yours sincerely,

Fergus Ray Murray/fergusmurray@gmail.com/0olong/Oolong