Charlie's Diary

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Sat, 30 Nov 2002

The horror, the horror

This is just so wrong ...

[ Link ] [ Discuss The horror! The horror! ]

posted at: 19:28 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 28 Nov 2002

It's uncanny!

Japanese roboticist Doctor Masahiro Mori has a fascinating theory about the psychology of the uncanny: why do glittering robots and aliens and fey folk in movies appeal, while zombies and monsters repel us? It's all to do with our emotional responses to entities that look similar to -- but not identical to -- human faces and bodies, and tied up with the deep-rooted human perception of beauty in symmetry. David Bryant gives a digest of his theories.

[ Link ] [ Discuss writing ]

posted at: 21:36 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry


Last week was bad; I was sleeping later and later and getting tired earlier and earlier. I had a constant urge to sally forth and eat fried food, fish and chips, or maybe garbage pizza; and no matter how much caffeine I drank I still felt fatigued. Then, around Friday, I realised what was going on.

It's hibernation season.

I get this every year, but this time round it seems to have hit me particularly hard: some time in November as the nights draw in I seem to lose the ability to stay awake and do a full day's work. It's mild seasonal affective disorder, aka winter blues, and living at a latitude fifty miles north of Moscow doesn't help; sunrise is currently some time around 9am and sunset is getting closer and closer to 4pm. Whatever, the upshot is that it takes me longer to wake up and get going in the morning and I get tired earlier in the evening. For the past week it's been all I can manage just to keep up with my basic writing workload, never mind updating the blog, tidying the flat, or doing anything else for that matter.

Anyway, next weekend Feorag and I are off to London to do some seasonal shopping. After that, I guess I'll doze off and see you in the new year.

posted at: 21:30 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

Quicktopic is down

Quicktopic, who host the discussion areas for my blog (and others, such as BoingBoing) is down right now. (One of these days I'll have to write my own ...)

posted at: 17:23 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

Sun, 24 Nov 2002

Web comic of the month

Found, via Warren Ellis' Die, Puny Humans: the excellent Nowhere Girl. Serious (for a change), and well worth reading -- only question is, when will the next chapter come out?

[ Nowhere Girl ] [ Discuss book reviews ]

posted at: 15:02 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

Sat, 23 Nov 2002

Mailing List

People keep asking me when the books are coming out, or ask me if I can email them when there's something to announce.

I'm now running a mailing list for people who want to be notified when a book is about to be published -- or when I'm due to make some kind of public appearance (readings, signings, con appearances, whatever), or when I've got something major to announce, like a new novel sale. It's a moderated list (meaning: no spam and no side-discussions), and the expected posting volume is about one message per month. If you want to subscribe to it, point your web browser at the list home page (or alternatively send email to charlie-pr-request(at) with the subject text "help" if you want to subscribe via email).

[ Link ] [ Discuss shameless self-promotion ]

posted at: 10:29 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 22 Nov 2002

Book covers

Here's the cover of my forthcoming novel, "Singularity Sky", due in hardback from Ace Books next August. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) Hopefully I'll have several pieces of good news, fiction-wise, to announce here between now and the end of the year.

cover picture

[ Discuss shameless self-promotion ]

posted at: 19:59 | path: /promo | permanent link to this entry

Man the Lifeboats!

The Lifeboat Foundation believes that disaster is nigh: "advanced technologies thought to be available by about 2020 may enable one evil or simply clumsy person to destroy all life on earth. Our goal is to develop an 'insurance policy' in case of such a disaster. We believe that the entire world of nature, including human life, is deserving of such protection." In other words, as becomes more obvious if you read their background material, they're afraid of a hard take-off singularity with negative externalities.

So they want to build a starship and go live somewhere else where the runaway intelligence excursion can't eat their brains! (Booga booga!)

I admire their spirit, but I think they're pissing in the wind. We have met the singularity, and the singularity is us: even if they can run away (and the energy budget it would take to do so is enormous: to shift just 1 kilogram from here to Alpha Centauri in roughly ten years takes the equivalent of a 20 megaton H-bomb), they'll have to fundamentally change the way human beings think if they want to prevent their descendants from going down the same road.

Moreover, they assume that running serves some useful purpose. Me, I'm not so sure. (They might be right, if the bandwidth hypothesis is correct -- that posthumans will want to stay as close as possible to the point of maximum informational density -- but there's no guarantee of that; an examinationg of most interstellar scenarios suggests that post- singularity seed AIs travelling on tiny relativistic starwhisps could easily outpace any lumbering human exodus, converting the target star systems into a seething mass of nanomachines long before the exiles could hope to arrive.) Space is a more hostile environment to life that has evolved at the bottom of an oxygen-saturated gravity well than it is to software intelligences living in clusters of radiation-hardened nanocomputers.

Maybe their efforts would be better spent ensuring that any singularity is the kind that we can live with ...

[ Link ] [ Discuss singularity ]

posted at: 12:34 | path: /sing | permanent link to this entry

Wed, 20 Nov 2002

Quiet in here ...

Yeah, I know I'm not keeping my blog up to date. That's because I'm busy working like crazy on story #8 in "Accelerando" (my series of novellas and novelettes running in Asimov's SF magazine). This stuff is hard to write and leaves me feeling drained. Speaking of which, story #3, "Tourist", is due to be reprinted in Martin Greenberg and Robert Silverberg's next "Year's Best SF" anthology, and the novella I co-wrote with Cory Doctorow (title: "Jury Service") should be going up on this time next month. Nothing to see here folks, move along now ...

posted at: 18:32 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

Sun, 17 Nov 2002

The Manufacture of Dissent

Something's bugging me. Since January 1st, 2000, the trans-Atlantic gap has gaped wide in our collective perception of the way the world works. You need look no further than the blogosphere for evidence of this, from warblogging Americans denouncing spineless European perfidy to Europeans expressing outrage and disgust at American warmongering. You can see it in the news every night, US diplomats and politicians snorting contempt at the EU and EU politicians calling George W. Bush Hitleresque. Or ... can you?

I'm not particularly well-travelled, but in the past year I've visited the United States, Eire, Holland and Belgium, as well as the UK. (And I've chewed the political fat with people from other EU countries.) The feeling I get from many people in all these places is that they think the other side is wrong -- that what they're saying is ludicrous propaganda aimed at us, and we are of course right. Huh? Can someone tell me what's going on here?

Some of the dissent seems to be subtly manufactured. I'm not a one-man media monitoring agency, so I can't quote chapter and verse, but I think the trans-Atlantic rift over Israel is one symptom of it. Palestinian atrocities against Israeli civilians tend to be underreported in Europe, with significantly more emphasis directed towards the Israeli army carrying out reprisals. Meanwhile, US TV news is full of atrocities that are cut short in the BBC coverage, whenever a suicide bomber wipes out a restaurant or a bus stop, but coverage of the suffering of the Palestinians is minimal. It's not overt censorship; we hear about both sides -- but one side gets more airtime than the other, more pans and zooms across the bloody carnage.

Another example is reporting on the EU itself. In the USA, and to some extent in England (but less so in Scotland and Northern Ireland), the EU has a reputation for being a huge, bloated bureaucratic nightmare of misrule. Stories of strange EU regulations are lovingly repeated; the committee to standardize the radius of curvature of the banana, or the perfidious attempt to destroy the Scottish fishing fleet by banning them from catching anything. But step outside the charmed circle of anti-EU reporting and some uncomfortable facts become clear. The EU employs fewer bureaucrats than the British government assigns to the Scottish Office in London. The banana committee is a myth. And the stories about the Scottish trawler fleet quota are entirely true but ommit the key detail that last year's total North Sea catch was down to 37,000 tons, from a peak of 250,000 tons in 1977 -- the ban on fishing is a desperate last-ditch attempt to save the North Sea from following the Grand Banks off Newfoundland into sterile extinction.

Meanwhile, stories about George W. Bush's legendary stupidity, insularity, and ignorance abound in the European media.

Do I have to draw you a diagram?

Something nasty is going on, something that seems to follow Noam Chomsky's doctrine of the manufacture of consent -- only in a different direction; it's the manufacture of an artificial dissent, a mutual contempt between the inhabitants of the fifteen richest, most developed nations on the planet. The key is the way issues are reported in privately owned news media in different countries. "Balance" is a fetish in news reportage circles -- the idea that both sides of a story must be equally described. In reality, it's a chimera -- one side always gets more airtime, or is otherwise favoured. You pick a moderate on one side, and an extremist on the other, assert that it's a balanced debate -- and you've just shifted the centre ground towards the second faction's territory.

At present, "balanced" reporting seems to be being used to drive a wedge between Europe and America, by building a climate in which concilliatory statements of solidarity are downplayed and the extremists are represented as the voices of the centre ground. I wish I knew why this was happening; not that I believe it's some kind of colossal top-down conspiracy. It may be an emergent property of the way news media work -- after all, bad news is good for audience ratings, and conclusive proof that the other guys hate us is bound to get more eyes focussed on the silver screen than yawn-worthy reports that they're on our side after all. Or then again, it may be a conspiracy -- a conspiracy of dunces, that is, of privately owned conglomerates pandering to the ideological prejudices of their owners. Rupert Murdoch reputedly hates the EU, and so does Conrad Black, after all: and the power to sack editors must exert a wonderful concentration upon their minds.

Whatever the cause, it's worrying to consider. Because we're going to have to live with the consequences of believing these lies for many years to come.

[ Discuss politics ]

posted at: 14:55 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 15 Nov 2002

Spring cleaning ...

I've just done some spring-cleaning to make the blog easier to maintain. The main effect you should see is that the archives are now static HTML code, rather than being dynamically generated each time you click on a month name -- this should ease the load on the server a bit!

If you notice any breakages, please yell at me using the link below.


posted at: 12:38 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

Wed, 13 Nov 2002

Life During Wartime

Russian humour.

[ Link (Thanks, Larry!) ] [ Discuss ]

posted at: 22:49 | path: /wartime | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 11 Nov 2002

Did astronauts really walk on the moon?

Here's conclusive evidence that they didn't -- and that NASA are also covering up contact with extraterrestrials!

[ Link (Thanks, Feorag!) ] [ Discuss ]

posted at: 20:10 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

Sun, 10 Nov 2002

I need some time out ...

Excuse the quiet around here. I just did some quick sums and worked out how much I've written in the past year, and I'm slightly freaked:

80,000 words
This blog
100,000 words
Usenet miscellanea
100,000 words
Email (approximate estimate)
120,000 words
Magazine feature articles
70,000 words
Sold short fiction (inc. 25,000 words collaboration with Cory Doctorow)
150,000 words
Approximate length of first-draft material, "The Iron Sunrise" (Ace, 2004)
200,000 words
Approximate length of first-draft material, "A Family Trade" (publisher TBA)

Yes, there is such a thing as too much writing, and I think 820,000 words per year is probably getting there. I've been feeling somewhat fatigued for the past few months, and it's no surprise; so I've decided to ease up somewhat. Buy real, old-fashioned paper newspapers instead of reading them on the web, get out, read books, play games, have a life, and all that sort of old-fashioned stuff. I am therefore resolved to take today off, and maybe even the whole of next week, except for that 4000 word magazine feature that's due in on Friday, or until I get too anxious about not having written anything recently ...

[ Discuss overload ]

posted at: 14:35 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 08 Nov 2002

Gadget report ...

Okay, so I was dragged out of bed at the horrifying hour of seven thirty in the morning to answer the doorbell. It was a postman bearing a large jiffy bag containing the new writing implement for review. That was about two hours ago. What do I make of it so far?

(To recap: I'm a writer. I've been interested in seeing an AlphaSmart Dana, so I contrived to get hold of one of the first ones to arrive in the UK so I could review it for Shopper -- and at the same time see if it fits my own personal needs. It's not available via the shops yet, if ever, so most prospective purchasers are faced with a dilemma. Lucky me.)

This is not a Computer Shopper review; this is my personal take on the machine. Shopper gets a rather different take, in a week or two's time.

First impressions: it's about as solidly built as the Cambridge Z88 of yore, Sir Clive Sinclair's semi-legendary ultraportable writing machine. The Z88 was sized to occupy exactly the same footprint as a 200-sheed pad of A4 writing paper. The Dana is curvier but fits inside the same footprint; it's wedge-shaped, lowest at the front and higher at the back, with a screen recessed half a centimetre into the body behind the keyboard. (See for the gory pictures.) There are one or two minor molding artefacts on the sample machine's plastic case, but nothing complaint-worthy -- and in general the build quality seems fine.

Keyboard: it's as good as the best laptop I've used. Seriously. They didn't cut corners on this aspect of the machine.

Screen: after a decade of bulky flip-up laptop LCDs, it's a bit of a culture shock to go back to a recessed built-in black-and-white (or rather, black-on-green) LCD. However, it's better than I'd expected. The contrast is comparable to one of the better black-and-white Palm Pilots (such as the M105). Resolution at 160 x 560 is same height as a Palm, but 3.5 times wider. In size, it's physically bigger than the Z88's screen, and much clearer than the Z88 was (even straight out of the box). It's not comparable to a bleeding-edge colour palmtop screen, but neither's the battery life.

The PalmOS environment isn't notorious for its good font handling, but there's a utility that can manage fonts on your machine and the built-in AlphaWord word processor -- a port of the excellent Wordsmith word processor for PalmOS, with added wide-screen capability (see -- can use them. One catch: the utility to convert TrueType fonts for use on PalmOS runs only on Windows. Bummer, I guess I'll have to crank up WINE on one of the Linux boxen.

Operating system: the Dana runs PalmOS 4. This is roughly comparable to an old MacOS system -- say 5.0 -- except that PalmOS is application- centric and doesn't really like working with files; only recently has it even acquired the concept of separate mountable volumes with subdirectories. Well, that's okay; if you're used to PalmOS you'll figure out the Dana within five minutes without opening the manual. There are some rough edges, of course. Most of the standard apps haven't been re-written to take advantage of the wide screen -- they hover in the middle of it in a little PalmOS square, with the soft grafitti area off to the right or left. (Like the Palm Tungsten T or the HandEra 330, the Graffiti area isn't silk-screened onto the screen but is generated in software and can be hidden when it isn't needed.)

The Dana has 8Mb of RAM built-in, and like newer PalmOS devices, you can install applications on SD cards (as well as saving files on them) to conserve built-in memory. It took my 128Mb SD card without complaint and still has a slot free for another memory card or a Bluetooth or 802.11 SDIO card (when I get my hands on one). If you can imagine a Z88 with a good screen, a non-rubber keyboard, 128Mb of non-volatile storage and a wireless ethernet card, this is the beast: it's a little dizzying.

Applications: I've yet to try out the stuff on the CDROM, including a modified version of the Palm Desktop (that can support a Dana as well as an ordinary PDA), a version of QuickOffice that does wide-screen stuff, an email client that can handle POP3 accounts, and so on. It all looks pretty much like you'd expect.

Batteries: the built-in NiMH pack is charging right now. Takes four hours to charge full from empty, runs for about 25 hours. You can buy spares for US $10, or use three 'AA' cells instead. Minor complaint: the battery compartment cover is secured shut with a screw. This is probably appropriate to the education market, but I can see journalists losing the screw pretty damn fast.

So what's my overall verdict?

It's early days yet and I haven't had the thing long enough to use it in anger. There are some minor rough edges with the OS, but nothing major; it's basically a laptop that runs PalmOS. But the screen and keyboard are better than I'd expected, the design is good, and I actually think I could do serious work on this beast. If what you want is something to sling in a briefcase or backpack that's light enough you won't notice it, powerful enough to cope with the word processing and check your email, cheap enough it won't kill you if it goes missing, and entirely independent of the mains socket, this is the biz.

Later: I've spent a day with it now. There are some not-so-fun rough edges; the AlphaWord conduit seems to be allergic to either MacOS X 10.2 (or to the setup on my iBook), so I'm having trouble getting work on and off it. (Which is a bit of a bummer, although I could make an end-run around it by buying an SD card reader.) Some PalmOS apps work okay on the wide screen, but others provide a most amusingly screwed- up display. Not many apps support widescreen yet, so you're stuck for now with programs running in the middle of the screen, or the stuff that came bundled with the machine.

Despite these caveats, it's a kick-ass gadget; the second coming of the Cambridge Z88 or Tandy Model 100. Not a laptop but a laptop-alternative, that goes places you wouldn't necessarily want to take a machine worth a month's income. I really like it, and if the AlphaWord synchronisation problem goes away I'll be quite happy.

[ Discuss writing ]

posted at: 19:12 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 07 Nov 2002

More singularitarianism

Whole Earth Review are putting together a special issue, 100% devoted to discussing the Singularity -- "what do folks who understand the implications of exponential technological change, and are generally optimistic about technology's possiblities, think we ought to be watching out for? If the Singularity, or at least small-s singularities, are on their way, how can we make responsible, careful, forward-thinking, just and democratic choices about how they unfold?"

Expect it to surface next year. Should be indispensible reading ...

[Discuss singularity ]

posted at: 11:44 | path: /sing | permanent link to this entry

Tue, 05 Nov 2002

It's the oil, stupid

George Monbiot comes up with a useful reality check in today's Guardian; I'm normally a bit skeptical of his viewpoint -- he has an axe to grind -- but his Iraq theory hangs together rather neatly, and certainly goes a long way towards explaining Tony Blair's supine reaction to the White House.

[ Link ] [ Discuss Iraq invasion ]

posted at: 11:31 | path: /politics | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 04 Nov 2002


Excuse, please, the lack of blogging today (Sunday): I just had a major fit of inspiration and, after writing 7000 words, am pleased to report that (a) my hands ache, and (b) the first draft of "The Iron Sunrise" is complete -- and sort of hangs together.

I've been sweating bullets over this novel because it's the first time I've had to write a sequel to a book that's sold, with a deadline and a contract hanging over me. It's not ready to show around or send to my editor and agent yet: there's a bunch of polishing and bugfixing ahead. But it now has a story arc, a theme, and a structure that goddamn works, which means it now resembles a real novel instead of a bunch of random incidents strung together on the cutting-room floor.

"The Iron Sunrise" has had a painful gestation. It's a sequel to my first novel, "Festival of Fools" (in the UK; "Singularity Sky" in the US). I began writing it in 1997, right after finishing the first draft of "Festival" stopping in 1998 when, in a fit of sanity, I realised it would be a good idea to sell the first novel first. (There is a very limited market for sequels to unpublished novels.) At that point it ran to 65,000 words, was half-finished, and was seriously broken-backed. In hindsight, I succumbed to what computer programmers call the second system effect; the second release of a piece of software is always bloated, overly laden with spurious features, and full of bugs due to the over-confidence of the designers. But it took me a while to figure this out for myself ...

I got stuck into "The Iron Sunrise" in earnest this summer. I picked up the first draft, saw that It Was Not Good, ended up ditching all but 15,000 words, and started writing new stuff. But when I hit 80,000 words in August, and broke for a trip to ConJose, I realised it had gone off the rails again. 25,000 words of cuts later I had it back on course -- and I've finally nailed it down at 130,000 words, after some considerable sweating and worrying about driving it into the sand again. By the time it's on the editor's desk it will probably have grown to 140,000 words (there's an epilogue to write, and the bits that have to come out are outweighed by the bits that have to go in), so we're talking about a project that'll have taken 7 years and involved writing 210,000 words. (In contrast, the two novels I wrote before this one were both started much more recently, and lost far less material in the writing process. I think re-working old material is a little bit problematic ...)

I think the only word that sums up how I feel right now is "ouch".

Anyway, the worst is over. I now get to leave it on the shelf for at least a month before I start hacking on it again. And I am incredibly relieved.

[ Discuss writing ]

posted at: 00:37 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

Sat, 02 Nov 2002

Pink stuff, again

Back on Wednesday I re-jigged my procmail scripts and spamassassin configuration so that all spam goes into a single mailbox (rather than just dumping some well-known offenders after reporting them to Vipul's Razor -- the "toner" spammer, for example).

I can now report that the charlie(at) account receives about one third of a megabyte of spam per day. About 20% of this is Korean or Chinese language spam, which isn't readable using my (text mode, UNIX-based) mailer. About another 20% of it is porn spam, and I'm getting maybe one Nigerian 419 scam come-on a day.

This is as nothing compared to the old account, which I've had since 1993, and which is now a dedicated spam trap -- any mail sent to me there will go straight into the Vipul's Razor database. I don't read it any more; the positive rate is roughly one piece of email per nine hundred spams. The volume of spam received by the Demon account is roughly the same as for my account, suggesting that both of them are well-saturated on the spammer mailing lists. Even though I subscribe to numerous mailing lists, the volume of spam on my main account exceeds the volume of legitimate email -- it exceeds the volume of incoming non-mailing-list mail by an order of magnitude.

An interesting observation is that I am now receiving >100Mb of spam per year, to each mail address. Spam is increasing by roughly 40% per year, compounded. If this is the case, then at this point in 2003 I can expect to be receiving around 300Mb/year of spam. With a doubling period of roughly 2 years -- the rate of increase of spam is itself increasing -- I can expect to be up to a gigabye/year of spam by 2005-06 (with maybe 100-200 spams per account per day), and would exceed the current bandwidth limitation on my current colocated server some time in 2012.

More worryingly, I maintain and provide POP3 email for a handful of family and friends -- maybe fifteen peope in total. Assuming that they, too, being getting spam (and I know for a fact that four of them have asked me to run spamassassin on their accounts, so this is a fair assumption) then as their names filter out into the spammer mailing lists I can expect to receive and process on the order of 1.5-2Gb of spam during the course of the next year. This volume considerably exceeds the data throughput from this blog, and is getting to within an order of magnitude of the web throughput on -- which is frightening, as antipope hosts some rather successful private websites, with monthly hits in the 25-50,000 range.

The CPU load incurred by running spamassassin isn't exactly a bundle of fun, either. This is a feeble, elderly machine, and spamassassin is a bit of a resource hog -- especially when it's running several thousand times a day and chews up virtual memory on the order of [a couple of megabytes plus] twice the size of the incoming mail each time. Sooner or later antipope will receive so much spam that its ability to function as a normal server will be impaired.

And this is before I get onto the subject of the asshole from Turkey who has been sending out spam -- in Turkish -- with my email address forged as the Sender: address. Last month I was fielding up to ten bounce messages a day. If I find them, they'll be hearing from my lawyer about a little case of defamation that I'll be bringing under Scots law. (First, however, I need to find an interpreter ...!)

This brief rant has been brought to you by the Society For Shooting Advertisers and the League Against Information Pollution.

[ Discuss spam ]

posted at: 12:34 | path: /spam | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 01 Nov 2002

Big Brother in Green Wellies

Here in the overwhelmingly urban UK, about 2-3% of the population live in the countryside. We're overwhelmingly a city-based society; about 40% of 12 year olds don't know that eggs come out of a hen's arse, according to one recent "shock horror" survey. There's a political dimension to this demographic, too. Countryfolk are disproportionately more likely to vote conservative than city-dwellers, and tend to have hobbies that are seen as odd by their urban cousins -- huntin', shootin', and wearing green wellington [rubber] boots.

Today, there is a certain element of acrimony between country dwellers and their overwhelmingly elected-by-the-urban-proletariat government. The government is seen as not giving a shit about the country -- the collapse of the agricultural sector in the UK is one aspect of this (as Dave Bell and other readers of this blog can attest), but there are weirder conflicts in the mix. For years there has been a vociferous anti-hunting lobby in the UK. Hunting here isn't a matter of guys in orange vests shooting birds; it's about Hooray Henries in red jackets riding horses after a pack of dogs, in pursuit of a hapless fox (which usually gets torn apart by the hounds when they catch it). While the core of the anti-hunting lobby is motivated by the ideology of animal rights -- and they comment, rightly, that other forms of animal cruelty such as bear-baiting and cock-fighting are criminalised -- there's also a class aspect to the dispute: hunting with hounds costs lots of money (you need to have a horse, for starters), and is seen as an upper-class pursuit.

Legislation was passed by the Scottish parliament last year banning hunting wild animals with hounds, and is in progress in the main Westminster parliament (to cover England and Wales). This didn't go unopposed; there's a large lobbying organisation, the Countryside Alliance, who strongly object to the way the urban-dominated parliament is running the country, and the CA is capable of organising a very big demonstration on occasion.

What isn't so well known is that the Countryside Alliance has some unsavoury habits. Organisations in the UK that maintain databases of information about individuals have to register what information they store in accordance with the Data Protection Act. According to this report in The Guardian, the Countryside Alliance has some rather odd information on file; in their 27-page compliance declaration, it turns out that they maintain data on the religious, sexual, political, and criminal history of their opponents, using data from sources including private detectives, political groups, police and debt collection firms. It's not clear how many enemies are in the CA's database, but they hold records on their 400,000 supporters -- and insiders at the Data Protection Registrar's office regard the information they collect as rather excessive.

So. Don't like fox hunting? Ever wondered what those guys in trench coats are doing outside your front door? Now you know: it's the Green Wellington Gestapo detectives.

Now, here's another fun piece of legislation from our liberty loving government; the Lord Chancellor's department has just issued a consultation document (comments required by January 31st) proposing to remove the right of individuals to demand copies of data held on them by registered organisations in order to correct it, in accordance with the terms of the Data Protection Act.

The DPA is one of the keystones of data privacy law in the UK. Basically, if a credit reference agency screws up their record of you, you have the legal right to demand a copy of the data they hold on you and submit corrections (in return for a basic fee to cover expenses). Nominally an attempt to harmonize the DPA with the rest of EU practice and the new Freedom of Information Act, the new proposal would, ah, reduce the scope for embarrassment on the part of large data-collecting entities. Like the Countryside Alliance. Or the government.

Score: Private Citizens: 0, Big Brother: 1.

[ Link 1 ] [ Link 2 ] [ Discuss Big Brother ]

posted at: 19:57 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry


Is SF About to Go Blind? -- Popular Science article by Greg Mone
Unwirer -- an experiment in weblog mediated collaborative fiction
Inside the MIT Media Lab -- what it's like to spend a a day wandering around the Media Lab
"Nothing like this will be built again" -- inside a nuclear reactor complex

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Missile Gap
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The Jennifer Morgue
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The Clan Corporate
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Iron Sunrise
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Some webby stuff I'm reading:

Engadget ]
Gizmodo ]
The Memory Hole ]
Boing!Boing! ]
Futurismic ]
Walter Jon Williams ]
Making Light (TNH) ]
Crooked Timber ]
Junius (Chris Bertram) ]
Baghdad Burning (Riverbend) ]
Bruce Sterling ]
Ian McDonald ]
Amygdala (Gary Farber) ]
Cyborg Democracy ]
Body and Soul (Jeanne d'Arc)  ]
Atrios ]
The Sideshow (Avedon Carol) ]
This Modern World (Tom Tomorrow) ]
Jesus's General ]
Mick Farren ]
Early days of a Better Nation (Ken MacLeod) ]
Respectful of Otters (Rivka) ]
Tangent Online ]
Grouse Today ]
Hacktivismo ]
Terra Nova ]
Whatever (John Scalzi) ]
Justine Larbalestier ]
Yankee Fog ]
The Law west of Ealing Broadway ]
Cough the Lot ]
The Yorkshire Ranter ]
Newshog ]
Kung Fu Monkey ]
S1ngularity ]
Pagan Prattle ]
Gwyneth Jones ]
Calpundit ]
Lenin's Tomb ]
Progressive Gold ]
Kathryn Cramer ]
Halfway down the Danube ]
Fistful of Euros ]
Orcinus ]
Shrillblog ]
Steve Gilliard ]
Frankenstein Journal (Chris Lawson) ]
The Panda's Thumb ]
Martin Wisse ]
Kuro5hin ]
Advogato ]
Talking Points Memo ]
The Register ]
Cryptome ]
Juan Cole: Informed comment ]
Global Guerillas (John Robb) ]
Shadow of the Hegemon (Demosthenes) ]
Simon Bisson's Journal ]
Max Sawicky's weblog ]
Guy Kewney's mobile campaign ]
Hitherby Dragons ]
Counterspin Central ]
MetaFilter ]
NTKnow ]
Encyclopaedia Astronautica ]
Fafblog ]
BBC News (Scotland) ]
Pravda ]
Meerkat open wire service ]
Warren Ellis ]
Brad DeLong ]
Hullabaloo (Digby) ]
Jeff Vail ]
The Whiskey Bar (Billmon) ]
Groupthink Central (Yuval Rubinstein) ]
Unmedia (Aziz Poonawalla) ]
Rebecca's Pocket (Rebecca Blood) ]

Older stuff:

June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
(I screwed the pooch in respect of the blosxom entry datestamps on March 28th, 2002, so everything before then shows up as being from the same time)

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