Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Post #51 Google Knol Primary Impressions

Here are the impressions on Google Knol. Why it is not worthwhile to build links through it? Why links hold no weight? What to do first on Google Knol, and almost everything you need to know when you start Knolling...From CuteWriting by Lenin Nair

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Thursday, 24 July 2008

Post #50 Google Knol Finally Out for Wikipedia?

Yesterday, Google announced its Knol project publicly. Its a Wikipedia-ish content system, in which authors can contribute about anything and get a share of revenue generated by their articles. In this way, it can be compared to Adsense...

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Post #49 A Russian Belle

stiletto heels, originally uploaded by russiangirls.

A test post from Flickr...may as well be interesting!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Post #48 Hire a Hall/Everything (Won't get fooled again?)

I've just read Rough Justice, by Robin Bowles which reviews some controversial cases in Australian criminal law. Among the cases referred to is the disappearance of Peter Falconio in connection with which Bradley Murdoch is currently imprisoned, after being convicted of his murder. This struck me most amongst the contents because I had been utterly convinced of Murdoch's guilt. Of course I'd also previously been prepared to accept the guilt of Andrew Mallard (at least at the time of his prosecution) and I'd almost been convinced of the guilt of Lindy Chamberlain, just before the dam burst on the truth. I'd never really taken much notice of the cases of John Button or Darryl Beamish; they popped up occasionally in the media and I'd never really formed a strong view one way or the other, but I certainly wasn't convinced of their innocence until Estelle Blackburn's work, Broken Lives, appeared.

Reading Rough Justice I became exasperated. The DNA evidence against Murdoch, which had been presented by the media as absolutely damning, is probably somewhat dubious. There were aspects of Joanne Lees' mutating testimony that were also perplexing. The general picture was a familiar one...familiar from all of the other episodes where a reasonable book had shown up the superficiality and omissions of media coverage of a major criminal investigation and consequent trial. Now, I don't tend to believe whoever last "got" at me, and I surely don't accept what the media pumps out as highly credible. So why do I keep being surprised by revelations in the works of (usually female) authors who seem to have a better grasp of the facts than I do? Probably because I keep behaving as if I do accept what the media pumps out.

I suspect that this is because, in the very serious matters of which I'm thinking, there is some as-yet-unextinguished faith that "They" won't allow gross misreporting of the proceedings. This probably has a deep foundation in my childhood when the authority of journalism as a profession was not as prolifically disparaged as it is now. It also relies on that youthful faith in the forces of law and order that served John Button so well (for those who don't know his story; he was fitted up). I've learned a lot better, including from my own work in the field. And yet, the things one learns earliest in life (I should say: is taught) are the most enduring. So the tendency to believe persists. It persists in the realm of heinous crimes; where one expects that the gravity of the matters will impose a constraint of care and honesty which it doesn't occur to one to expect in political blathering or celebrity gossip.

Now, do I take the work of Estelle Blackburn, Robin Bowles, and Colleen Egan as authoritative? To the extent that they have a track record of reliability and proven results, yes. John Bryson's 1985 work, Evil Angels, was the first work of this kind which I read that dealt with an Australian case, (although there appear to be plenty of predecessors). It examines the Chamberlain "dingo" case and was the beginning of my loss of credulity for the media's treatment of high-profile criminal investigations and trials. I remember being amazed at the depth of the material which I and millions of others had not been provided with by the apparently intense and detailed coverage of the case.

So, where's all this leave me with regard to Brad Murdoch? I can't say I believe in his innocence but the seed of doubt has been planted. From it grow a multitude of optional other scenarios to explain the events of that case. One fact is certain: Peter Falconio is not to be found by the world at large. If we take that as a starting point, the possibilities cover a spectrum from the simple explanation that all is as Lees has said, except for the identity of the offender, to Falconio having used Lees as a dupe in a complex scheme to fake his own death.

And what does it say for the continuing dilemma of how to respond to the often-wrong published accounts of investigations and trials? I wrote above that I'd expected that "They" would not allow such schlamperie. Of course the authorities represented in the archetype "They" are often up to their necks in scamming the public, so it's not remarkable that no governmental thunderbolts fall upon the misreporters. One approach would be to not believe any of it, but that doesn't seem very practical. You'd have to believe that everyone convicted was innocent and either live complacently with it or start throwing bombs. Nor can every citizen battle through the labyrinth of process to check transcripts of trials, police files, etc. Not that you'd be allowed to anyway. The only thing I can think of is some kind of oversight by an Official Witness Agency that would be established to provide a neutral and comprehensive summary of the transactions. That expression "Official Witness" came to me as a bit of "cryptomnesia", but I finally remembered where I'd seen it: in one of Robert Heinlein's works, Stranger in a Strange Land. One of the characters performs such a function and provides a demonstration of her technique at the behest of Jubal Harshaw, one of the protagonists. He asks her to tell him what the colour of a building on a nearby hill is. She replies, "It's white on this side."

I'd like to see such an agency, perhaps established through the State Constitution as a branch of the judiciary, which would provide an overview of court proceedings in the same manner: just the irrefutable facts about what happened in a hearing, sans any tinting whatsoever. They could be fed through a website for any matter before the courts which had a minimum penalty of more than one year's imprisonment. That should give pause for thought to some of the more reckless fabulists in the media. Now all that's needed is for someone to persuade the governments of Australia to do it.

Don't hang by 'em.

Post #47 The Chinese Diet Could Solve The West's Obesity Crisis

Chinese food has a bad reputation in the UK. The rice-heavy meals and fatty meat dishes are thought to lead straight to obesity and heart disease. But properly prepared, says Chinese food expert Lorraine Clissold, the very opposite is true: the Chinese way of eating is healthy and fulfilling, fights illness and prolongs life. She also insists...

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Post #46 APOD: The Colliding Spiral Galaxies of Arp 27

I have heard that these galactic collisions are on such a vast scale that the stars miss each other and that galaxies pass through each other. It seems unlikely that there are no collisions at all...

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Post #45 Dream déjà vu

A dream from Michael Gorey...the sort of thing that keeps skeptics in work; but can so many people who have these experiences be wrong?

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Monday, 21 July 2008

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Post #43 A ride with the panzers

I found an interesting website a while ago, called Achtung Panzer! It gives a fascinating amount of detail about German armoured vehicles and opens with this disclaimer:

It is important to understand that this website is not dedicated and does NOT support any Revisionist or Neo-Nazi beliefs and does NOT glorify war. This website is dedicated to the history of tanks and people of the Panzertruppe during World War II. It describes most of the armored fighting vehicles used by the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS Panzer Divisions from September of 1939 to May of 1945. It also describes some of the Panzer Generals and Aces along with other information and additional articles related to the Panzertruppe and/or World War II in general.

No, it doesn't glorify war, it just glorifies the implements of war...but that's okay by me, so let's get to the heavy metal!! The site contains videos showing original footage from WWII and pictures of all sorts of obscure war-wagons you've never heard of. I spent a couple of hours delving into the fascinating corners of what is obviously a labour of love. One interesting thing about these contraptions is the extent to which they were often improvised from captured enemy kit or put together from bits and pieces of other designs which had failed to reach full production. As a research tool or just an interesting read, I recommend it.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Post #42 17 Electric Cars You Should Know About from 2005 to 2008

Electric Cars: You Want 'Em? We've Got 'Em!Over the past 3 years, we've written about many electric cars here onTreeHugger. We think it's time to look in the rearview mirror, so here's an overview.

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Post #41 An opinion piece from on banking.

Why government intervention in the banking sector may not be a bad idea after all.(When the government is a player in the field it can do something direct to influence the interest rates charged in the market place. It can also effect the "service" fees charged.)

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Post #40 Incredible Space photos: Star Dunes + more [PICS]

Amazing space photos from National Geographic.

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Post #39 The Moon Rocket Project NASA Doesn't Want You to Know

By day, the engineers work on NASA's new Ares moon rockets. By night, some go undercover to work on a competing design. These dissenting scientists and their backers insist they have created an alternative rocket that would be safer, cheaper and easier to build than the two Ares spacecraft that will replace the space shuttle.

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Post #38 Tesla Roadsters now rolling off production line

The wait for the much-anticipated all-electric sports car is almost over, as manufacturing begins this summer with anticipated ramping up later this year.(But US$100,000 !!?? - Retarius)

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Monday, 14 July 2008

Post #37 Dear Iran: We have Photoshop, too!

Several images, all 100% as genuine as the Iranian test launch photos.

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Post #36 The New Face of our Galaxy

The good people working with the Spitzer space telescope have made a huge discovery...An article by James Savik.

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Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Post #35 Why "Wikiblogs" (probably) won't be coming to a site near you.


The project I referred to in the previous post was twofold; initially it was simply to write a biographical article for Wikipedia about the journalist and author, Estelle Blackburn, whose main claim to fame lay in the writing of the book Broken Lives. In the course of doing this, I noticed recurring messages appearing at the top of my screen from the Wikimedia Foundation, asking for donations to fund their projects. I knew that there had been recurring suggestions about placing advertising on Wikipedia and I felt as uneasy about them as I do about advertising on Australia's SBS broadcasting network. An idea occurred to me which seemed to provide a compromise:

The Wikimedia Foundation could support a firewalled fee-free blogging platform which would have the benefits of the flexibility of the Wikipedia editing system and be superior to the systems being offered by most other blogging servers. By "firewalled" I mean that the Foundation would take the same approach as Google and other providers by laying down certain basic prohibitions but otherwise allow the bloggers to get on with it. As for the content, as long as it stayed within the basic rules, the Foundation could, as the Mission Impossible cliche goes, "disavow any knowledge of you and your actions". Along one side of the blog page would be discreet Google-style ads that would produce revenue that would go entirely to the Foundation.

Now, in principle, that seemed a good idea and was a potential source of massive revenues. I also thought, as I told one Wikipedia administrator, that it was a good riposte to the Google/Microsoft/Yahoo cabal who were feeling the edges of the rug that Wikipedia was standing on with ideas such as "knol". I also know enough about "great ideas" to see that it's best to subject them to a thorough test before taking them to The Boss. I've conducted that test and, when I take up the story later, I'll tell you how the whole thing seems to have crashed and burned...


The most obvious danger to the Foundation from hosting blogs (apart from the strictly illegal material that would be proscribed) is the opinion content of those blogs. That's what blogs mostly are; opinion pieces. I needed to find a stimulus to test the response to an opinion; an opinion that would provoke a hostile response. By chance, that turned out to be rather easy to find.

The post about Estelle Blackburn, Carmen Lawrence and Teddy Kennedy was a response test to see how Wikipedia could/would cope with an editor expressing a provocative opinion on a blog in the context of contributing on a related topic on the Wikipedia site. It occurred to me to choose that matter because it was readily to hand; being a controversial issue related to a couple of people I was writing about. I first created a link from my Wikipedia user page to this blog, then a couple of days later, posted the test material. Apart from a literary conceit of joining some characters together by pointing up similarities in circumstances it was basically a replay of criticisms that were prolific in the Australian media some years ago. I was careful to limit my comments to those matters which would be protected in the United States, where the blog server is located, by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and in the Commonwealth of Australia by the ruling of the High Court of Australia pertaining to comment about public figures.

To this end my criticisms of the main subject, Carmen Lawrence, had to focus on her time as an MP and avoid any reference to past or later activities of a type that were pejorative of her, or went beyond her role as a public office-holder. I also had to avoid any accusation of guilt in the context of a charge of which she had been acquitted in court. It's a fine line, but the original scandal which led to a Royal Commission and a perjury trial is one thing; the issue of testimony at the Commission and perjury before it is a complex forensic issue and must be treated completely separately. I kept my commentary well away from that.


Sorry...The rest of this yarn is at a private blog where those I've invited can read it.

Post #34 The case of the missing mistress...a deletion explained...

I refer to Wikipedia in my blog posts but I usually refrain from blogging about Wikipedia and those who contribute to it. I'll make an exception here for a moment, in a moment.

First off: The whip-wielding lady in the latex suit who has been prominent on the sidebar has gone. She's gone because I felt that there was a certain type of traffic being attracted to this site by her presence. I have several traffic meters on this blog. The Feejit ones are visible, the others aren't. Feejit, although quite good, seems to miss a proportion of the traffic detected by other systems. For some reason, Google sites, of all things, seem to occasionally fail to register on Feejit. A lot of people seem to be finding their way here by way of Google images - a lot more than Feejit shows. I have a feeling they're not coming to look at the gladiators, Daleks, plastic soldiers, etc. Maybe I'm wrong. If they keep coming, great.

So why did I put her there if I felt uncomfortable with it? Here's where Wikipedia comes in. A couple of months ago some friends got into Wikipedia editing and I helped them with some intermittent advice and let them copy my formats from my user pages. I didn't discover until a few days had passed that they were doing some indiscreet things. One wanted to explore her interest in a certain type of sexuality... she created a name and user page that drew a block. After a further false start and some negotiating I persuaded her to take a lower profile on the site and give up the attention-drawing approach. Another friend wanted to be rather cheeky about certain matters involving ethnicity and also left a raunchy coded message on my talk page. Not only that, she wanted to do a project on a rather dangerous topic that you wouldn't want tracked back to you in real life. I also persuaded her to go for a "silent running" approach. I promised, in the course of our discussions, to give both of them some kudos on my blog to pay them off for going quietly. Well, I wasn't going to blog about bondage sex, but I kept my word by finding a comparatively tame picture for the sidebar. After a while, it just didn't look right to me or fit the general tone of what I wanted to say. I also noticed those visits from Google.images that might be on her account. My friend has kindly consented to the lady's departure. As for the other part of the deal, it involved taking time to bash certain rights-abusing governments and that's fine by me; that's what we're here for.

All this happened after an episode in which a couple of other people did some edits to a Wikipedia article and one of them left some messages on talk pages (including mine) that had the same effect as a stick down a bull-ant nest. It drew a wide-ranging block that affected several public sites which I and my friends like to edit from. I was able to defuse that situation and talk the party concerned into dropping it, but only after some unpleasant disputation with another Wikipedian.

Some of the Wikipedia crew believe that I created all of the user ID's involved as some kind of role-play and that the four entities are my "sockpuppets" as the Wikislang goes. I've heard of people creating imaginary friends, but never imaginary obstacles to their own plans. Their appearance and the affects thereof were just a coincidence with a project I was advancing. Also, the occasions when you need peace and focus are when the gods decide to vex you. Everybody knows that the best way to provoke rain and hail or dust-storms or the arrival of flocks of enthusiastically-defaecating birds is to hang out a large quantity of laundry that you've busted a gut to clean. So it was in this case. They broke the surface for their own reasons; they submerged and went away because I asked them nicely. As to what I was up to - you can read about that in the next post.