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2006 — Yearly Archive

Quick Bits: Competitiveness, Localization, Moms

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5 December 2006 8:00 am

Flat-Rate 3G Internet

Mobile operator 3 is all set to offer ADSL/Cable-style flat-rate pricing plans for people using their 3G network. UK service will begin next month, other countries are slated to follow soon. This was long overdue; I remember the complete cluelessness on a 3 rep’s face in 2003 when I asked him why I had to pay extra to send email on a network touting its data capabilities. 3 and its cohorts seem to have gotten the religion now, with Sony-Ericsson’s President quoted as saying “Moving to flat rate charging is the key to unlocking the value of the mobile internet”. No kidding.

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17 November 2006 3:14 am

Quick Bits: Zotero, Hotmail, Feet

  • ‘Intelligent’ prosthetic feet
  • Hotmail is now offering 1GB of storage space in all markets. Apparently this goes up to 2GB when your Hotmail account is upgraded to Windows Live Mail (paying users get double, i.e., 4GB).
  • Zotero is a citation manager that works within Firefox. Pretty useful, especially for those who find systems like Endnote overly complex. (via BoingBoing)

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2:59 am

Quick Bits: Concrete, Bollywood, Piercings


10 November 2006 12:46 am

The A380 Defections Begin

Fedex is cancelling its order of 10 A380s because of Airbus’ delivery delays, and getting 15 Boeing 777s instead. This comes after Virgin Atlantic’s deferment of its order for 10 planes last month. Of the big customers left (scroll down for ‘A380 Orders So Far’ on this page) Emirates is already making threatening noises and has cancelled some A340 orders, Singapore Airlines could cancel or ask for a deferment (which results in no money flowing into Airbus’ coffers, although I’m guessing they’ll book the revenue anyway), and UPS will be under pressure to look at Boeing as well. Only Lufthansa and Air France look like reliable customers.

Given the number of people Airbus employ, none of this is likely to be well-received in Europe. However, given the reorganisations at Airbus the A380 delays have prompted, a leaner, more effective Airbus may be the lemonade that came out of the A380 lemon.

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7 November 2006 7:50 pm

Mysooru Sandal Soap

Karnataka’s got the whole Kannada Pride thing going. From 1 November, they’re getting rid of ‘colonial’-era town names:

Bangalore becomes Bengalooru (this is the correct spelling, not Bengaluru)
Mysore becomes Mysooru
Mangalore becomes Mangalooru
Shimoga becomes Shivamogga
Hubli becomes Hubballi
Belgaum becomes Belagaavi

Maybe this is a good time to remind them of West Bengal’s Calcutta → Kolkata experience. For those not in the know, practically no one but Bongs can actually pronounce Kolkata right, thereby guaranteeing that I’ll cringe every time I hear the City of Joy’s fair name being mis-pronounced on Indian TV, usually as kol-katta or kol’kaata or worse. (The correct pronounciation is ‘kol-kata with a soft t, people. Or just say kal-katta in Hindi, Calcutta in English, and whatever you want in other languages).

Heh, now that linguistically sensitive Kannadigas will face the same mangling (how do you spell Hubbali again?), I no longer feel quite as bad.

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1 November 2006 1:56 pm

Move Google Toolbar Custom Search Buttons across PCs

If you’ve created a lot of your own Google Toolbar custom search buttons and want to move them to another PC, simply copy over all the *.xml files in the following folder from the old PC to your new one: %userprofile%\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Custom Buttons. You must close all IE windows and re-open one again for the buttons to show up.

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28 September 2006 5:51 pm

Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain

I remember being impressed by Darren Aronofsky’s Pi (for its sheer manic energy — the mathematics were dodgy) and have heard very good things about Requiem for a Dream, so I’m looking forward to The Fountain — it’s a challenging plot for a movie, but I’d expect no less from Aronofsky.

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25 July 2006 2:12 am

The Church of Gaia

In 2003, Michael Crichton aroused some indignation from largely-nonreligious environmentalists with his Environmentalism as Religion speech at the Commonwealth Club of California:

Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it’s a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsdaythese are deeply held mythic structures. They are profoundly conservative beliefs.

Fast forward to 2006 and the Anglican church has decided to become eco-friendly. Richard Chartres, the Anglican Bishop of London, was recently quoted in the Sunday Times as saying “Making selfish choices, such as flying on holiday or buying a large car, are a symptom of sin.”

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme had a short but interesting chat (mp3) with the man today, and I thought some of what he had to say was particularly apposite to the environmentalism-as-Faith (capital F) thesis:

Q: … You’re a bishop, and what gives what you say particular force is when you give it a moral dimension, which is why I’m trying to establish whether you’re saying … whether the language of language of sin is appropriate to use in the context of these decisions [flying on holiday, buying a large car].

A: … The language of sin is absolutely right as we look at our responsibility as people living in what we believe to be a creation… the responsibility to their neighbours especially the poor of the world and our responsibility to our wellbeing so I think it is very proper to put these questions in the context of our moral responsibility … and that’s what a Christian understands sin to be … sin is living a life that’s turned in upon itself that’s unaware of responsibility and connections.

Q: So we should think about things like the sort of decision we take about the car we buy in the same context and in the same way as we think about decisions we make about relationships with other people, sex, all those issues which perhaps have been more traditionally the area in which people have used terms like, particularly like, living in sin?

A: Well that’s absolutely right because our energy use is something that has an impact on the creation and on other people. And seeing that it is a really important moral issue is one of the ways in which the church has to respond I think to the conditions of today [...]

(The rather hurried transcript’s mine.) It is fascinating to see the environmental movement’s message of ecological responsibility being co-opted as a religious message, turning the non-compliers into sinners, with all the heavy connotations that word contains (would people who enjoy driving end up with the gluttons in the third circle of Hell?).

I’m sure the intention behind these interviews, and of the bishop’s recent booklet on environmental matters circulated to every diocese, is noble — to appear to be a church that’s up-to-date with the current scientific consensus. And yet in doing so, Bishop Chartres has harkened back to one of the oldest devices of organized religion (and a particularly Puritan device at that) — control and prohibit the things the masses might like under threat of damnation and bring them back to a life less filled with luxuries and presumably closer to God. Me, I’m betting technological innovation (examples 1 2) will before long make such sinning unncecessary: a culture of environmentally inspired privation is no more necessary than a culture kept in privation by vested religious interests or poor state planning.

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1:44 am

Books Piling Up

I have a bunch of books piling up unread (or read very slowly): Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander, Iain M Banks’ The Algebraist, Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Shadow Of The Wind, as well as Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and the first two volumes of Dan Simmon’s Hyperion, as well as several others.

On top of that, two recent reviews — of JPod and Farthing — have gotten me interested enough that I’ll probably end up buying them inspite of all the reading list congestion anyway. Ah, the delights of plenty.

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22 June 2006 9:49 pm

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