Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.
It’s been a quiet start to the week, with work taking up most of my time. There are a few eager skaters around which is encouraging, and I’m thinking it’s nearly time for me to dust mine off and try and remember how to use them.
I seem to have got my aggregator working OK at this point, so at some point in the near future I’ll add some configuration options to it and look at releasing it to the world. I’m not sure how much the world will care, but someone somewhere might find it useful.
I’ve started reading the Tesseracts, a collection of short science fiction stories by Canadian authors, that I received at Ad Astra (see Friday). I’m travelling back in science fiction time, having already read (most of) the fourth collection of the series, which I got last year. We now have the third collection as well, with just the second to acquire at some point, maybe next year.
The first story is a variation on the Blade Runner world, not badly written, but not particularly interesting. The second is hard to describe, but I’ll try anyway. Set in a far future with human immortality, the inability to reproduce, a decaying society, an automated baby factory, some off-worlders of indeterminate species, and finally the development of warrior children by encouraging them to fight to the death over Christmas. I doubt I’ve given the plot away somehow…
This post can’t be classed as breaking news, but it’s an important subject from the perspective of how this war started. As pointed out here by Charles Dodgson the original French position was not a veto under any circumstances. The original position was that any resolution that automatically authorised war would be vetoed because the UN weapon inspectors had not given up on Iraq’s disarmament through inspections.
This statement was made on the 10th of March, and was reported fairly accurately by the BBC here. By the 12th however it was being spun by the British that France had threatened to veto under any circumstances. Unfortunately France did not act on this interpretation and issue a statement to clarify the position, a move that implicitly gave credibility to the British interpretation of their position. It wasn’t through lack of time either, the war started a week later on the 20th.
This lack of clarification is in my opinion the biggest mistake that the French made in handling the crisis. A statement to the effect that France will back a war, and commit troops to the effort, as and when the weapon inspectors declared that Iraq could not be disarmed peacefully would have turned the tables on the US/UK position. The public could easily have supported such a position, and the focus would have shifted back to whether inspections worked rather than the politics of France versus the US.
There’s another film being shot in our neighbourhood, apparently called Soul Food. It’s not in IMDB, so I can’t tell you anything about it, except that it’s shot in our part of Toronto.
Ad Astra starts tomorrow, and while I haven’t yet decided on going to the whole weekend, I will certainly be going to the con tomorrow for Jason’s show…
I wonder why more people don’t use the image element of the RSS specification. It’s been available since version 0.91 and is still there in 2.0, yet of the 17 feeds that my aggregator is currently collecting only 1 (my own weblog) has an image present. The BBC RSS feeds have them, but that’s the only other place where I’ve seen them used. You would imagine, given the popularity of favicons, that more sites would be interesting in being able to associate an image with their posts.
As more of the major websites start using RSS we should hopefully see the use of images expand. By using an image in their RSS feeds a publisher can avoid the problem of loosing brand identity (one new article among hundreds a user my have aggregated), and it provides an easy way for a user to quickly identify the source of a feed. A good example of how this can work is the use of images on the friends pages of LiveJournal (LJ), where each post has next to it the image selected by the LJ user who made the post. It also shows a potential explanation for the lack of image use in RSS: even though my feed has an image, the LJ aggregator does not include it in the friends page.
If aggregators do not support the image element it becomes a chicken and egg problem of few tools to display it, and few feeds bothering to supply it.
I’ve just finished watching Robin Cook’s resignation speech, and it’s good. In fact it goes beyond good, it’s eleven minutes of a clear, rational, well argued description of exactly why the UK should not go to war. While there are additional reasons to oppose the UK participation in the war that aren’t mentioned in this speech, all of the reasons mentioned are strong enough to stand on their own. If you can spare more than eleven minutes on this subject then also read the news article, which accompanies the speech.
This snippet alone should show just how desperate the US is to wage war on Iraq, regardless of any justification for it:
Furthermore, he said, Iraq probably had no weapons of mass destruction in the “commonly understood” sense of being a credible threat that could be delivered on “a city target.”
While it still seems highly unlikely that parliament will rebel against the government on this vote, at least the cause now has someone that can articulate the argument forcefully and with credibility.
I’m back after a good trip down to Connecticut for the weekend, celebrating an 80th birthday and visiting some of Shana’s extended family. The weather was wonderful, as it was forecast to be here in Toronto, and the environment interesting. The countryside of New England, or at least the small part I saw of it, is very wooded with houses dotted throughout it in a strange semi-natural arrangement. Houses have plenty of land around them, which made it difficult for me to think of them as belonging to a village, and gave an impression of a continuous wood dotted with houses and roads. It was not my first trip there, and I’m sure I’ll be back again, so hopefully I’ll get to see more of the place and form a fairer impression.
The last thing I had expected on the trip was to see much evidence of any political debate going on, but there were a couple of instances where the current debate surfaced. It’s understandable that the issue was raised by people with either far-left (or what passes for far-left in the US) or far-right stances, but it was healthy to see first hand some of the internal debate going on in the US.
If you are at all interested, even in a passive way, in British politics then there exists a weblog that you should be reading. Formerly known as British Spin, the author stopped blogging for a while, but is back now as good as ever.
Now known simply as British Politics I’ve added a link to my, very slowly growing, list of recommended weblogs.
I’ve changed my RSS template to no longer include the Date/time in the title of the post. The change is motivated by my newly minted web-based, template driven, RSS aggregator. More on the aggregator in another post, except to say that the default template displays the date/time next to the titles of posts, so it was looking a bit strange on my own feeds…
Email: colin at owlfish.com