Tuesday, 18 May 2010

All sorts of nice things, and one troublesome thing

Nice things
1. I strongly advise you to watch this video about a gorilla.
2. This man who got stuck in a river had standards which he would not compromise: first he was too embarrassed to call for help, and then he refused to let firemen pull him out unless it was with his trousers still on.
3. Here is a touching story about two people who had both had a miserable battering at the hands of life but met when they picked the same suicide spot and are now getting married.
4. Now this woman has a gun she is no longer scared of tramps. (Is this a genuine advert?)
5. Our prehistoric forebears got up to all sorts of stuff. Let's hope they all loved each other very much. (My favourite comment on this is the man who says he doesn't think artists have been painting Neanderthals sexy enough.)
5a. There's an iphone/Android app for Neanderthalising yourself. It's called MEanderthal.
6. A young man who had a difficult time growing up gay in Vermont at least has a wonderful mother who wrote a letter to the local newspaper in response to some homophobic opinions. This is actually really old, so hopefully the youth has got to somewhere more accepting now.
7. Would you like the day better if you could hear the sound of rain? Here is a site that does that. I have tried it and decided that I don't particularly find the sound of rain helpful.
8. Bronte sisters action dolls! I do like how angry Anne looks. What a shame they're not a real product; otherwise they'd be on my amazon wishlist for my god-daughter when she's a bit older:

9. This animation where a kid with asperger's interviews his mother is really sweet and quite funny. I like when he asks her if she has any mortal enemies.

Q&A from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

10. You should really hear Big Mama Thornton singing Hound Dog, which was originally her song before Elvis did it. Excellent stuff.

11. I keep forgetting to blog about how much I love the Bugle podcast. Since discovering it a few months ago I have developed and then successfully suppressed an unsuitable crush on John Oliver.
12. The Drunk History project involves getting someone very drunk, asking them to recount some history, and then acting out their narration with quite famous actors. Vol. 3, about Oney Judge, is actually rather moving, and Vol. 5 is also great.

13. Justin Bieber has been out-Biebered by a kid called Grayson Chance. (I looked on trendsmap.com yesterday and Grayson was trending in Exeter, which suggests that the whole phenomenon is probably over by now anyway.) Bieber was upset about this, because apparently twitter has changed their tweet trend rules. Anyway there's now a thing called Twieber, which describes itself as "twitter for beliebers". "Twieber" is trending on twitter. How much this makes your head hurt depends exactly on how many times your age is divisible by twelve.

The troublesome thing is Facebook. I watch the repeated furores about facebook as a non-user -- I was first introduced to it long ago when I did a lot of teaching, and felt that my multi-facetedness was an appropriate part of my professional life rather than some sort of hypocrisy. People are getting very upset about the privacy issues. The most sensible comment I saw was, I think, on boing boing, where someone pointed out that for facebook you are not their customer, but their product. I think that makes it all a bit less inflammatory. Facebook puts a lot of programming time, infrastructure and general effort into making a facility that people find useful, and if you want to use it then it's up to you to consider whether you think the exchange of data for features is fair. Their actual customers are the companies who mine that data. The problem is that Facebook keeps changing what it does with data, and is a bit obfuscatory about privacy options. (In my brief membership of facebook, back when it would only accept university e-mails, I had two accounts, one for cam.ac.uk and one for cantab.net, and I used the cantab.net one solely as a means of checking up that my cam.ac.uk account was as hidden as I wanted it to be.) Anyway, if you're interested, here's the story about the Facebook founder calling his early adopters "dumb f**ks" for trusting him with their data; here's the story about how even things you delete from your account remain on facebook's records and will still be used for data-mining; here's an interesting thing suggesting that facebook should be as transparent about exactly what is happening with your data as it thinks you should be with that data yourself, e.g. by logging all searches and views and letting you see what third-parties have had access to it. If I used facebook I would probably find all this pretty disturbing -- but then I have a friend who refuses to get a nectar card because he doesn't want the supermarket to get to keep track of what he buys, and I don't have a problem with that, so it's all relative. (Although it is a tad depressing when they send me lots of targetted vouchers for Pinot Grigio and Chocolate Digestives, as if their computer has run me through a system and decided I'm Bridget Jones. Also, although I usually quite like the Amazon feature where it suggests things you might like based on the purchasing histories of people who also liked them, once even though I had been buying nothing but novels and popular history it decided that my next purchase should be a book on living with borderline personality disorder, which felt a little judgemental.)

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