Monday, June 29, 2009

Protest is not a criminal offence...


'The report describes the policing of the G20 protests as a "remarkably successful operation"... "Aside from a few high-profile incidents, the policing of the G20 protests passed without drama," say the MPs.'

I'm sure they went on to add that the 1930s were a "remarkably peaceful decade. Aside from one high-profile incident, the decade passed without drama."

Oh frabjous day!

Someone I greatly admire really likes something I did.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

All artsy-caftsy like...

I finally finished my SoFoBoMo book. I decided to take the text of Cory Doctorow's essay Snitchtown, which, as with all of his work, is released under a creative commons license.

The SoFoBoMo website limits me to a 15MB upload, and the compression algorithm in Preview squashes the file rather brutally from 44MB to <1MB, so I'm also sharing the larger version here.

All the photos are available under an attribution, non-commercial, sharealike licence here.

For my next trick, I plan a new embroidery project. Keep in mind the fact that the last embroidery I did was my counted cross-stitch "buggy BASIC" sampler for the UCL CS panto. This time I plan to stretch myself a little.

For a long time I have been in awe of the drawings of neurons Santiago Ramón y Cajal, painter, gymnast, blower-up of shit and neuroscientist. See, for example, this observation of a Purkinje cell from a cat:

Kitteh can has new-ron...

"Kitteh can has new-ron..."

The thought of trying to do this as counted cross stitch makes my toes curl, so I spent a coupla hours yesterday making myself a transfer with a hot-iron transfer pen.

I ended up with one good transfer on canvas. I also have one ok-ish spare that I'll happily give to anyone else at the intersection of the sets "textile nerds" and "neuroscience nerds"[1]. See here for details.

[1] This makes the rather bold assumption that this set is not a singleton...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Someone at the Telegraph is an illiterate moron

University of Leicester Press Office:

"Promiscuous men more likely to rape"

Daily Telegraph:

"Women who dress provocatively more likely to be raped, claim scientists"

Women who drink alcohol, wear short skirts and are outgoing are more likely to be raped, claim scientists at the University of Leicester.

And yes. It's the same study. Nice gender-reassignment job in the headline there.

Full disclosure: I met Richard Alleyne during my fellowship at the FT. He was intelligent, friendly and supportive of the fellows. I remember him confirming the advice that a story should always lead with the "what the fuck?" Bizarrely, he seems to save the "what the fuck" until the end:

Using a sliding scale of sexual coercion from one to 27 where one was being allowed to enter the women's house to 27 being rape, they assessed how far men would go before "calling it a night".

Many men admitted they would go to within a point of rape before realising the girl was not interested in sex.

As a result, I'm really hoping that the egregious slant in this piece is the result of an editor's butchery. Because seriously. Yuck.

Oh yeah - and the sub-editor that wrote the sub-headline? Lying shithead. Let's review:

Daily Telegraph:

"Women who drink alcohol, wear short skirts and are outgoing are more likely to be raped, claim scientists at the University of Leicester."

University of Leicester:

"Alcohol, however, had the opposite effect than predicted, with participants more likely to coerce women who were sober rather than drunk."

Yup. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, Telegraph. Well. Fucking. Done.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Offences, Criminal and Disciplinary

Imagine wanting to publicly criticise the government (tricky I know...). Now imagine being told that you couldn't do so unless you consented to be photographed and videoed whilst doing so. Imagine too that the people carrying out this overt and intimidating surveillance took steps to conceal their identities. Imagine further that, when asked to identify themselves, the photographer's associates grabbed your throat, tied your arms behind your back and wrestled you to the floor before locking you up for four days.

West Yorkshire police officers, carrying out "Forward Intelligence" at a climate change demonstration did exactly this to Val Swain and Emily Apple on the 8th of August last year. What is more, they videoed themselves doing so. The two women locked up for four days before being released without any charge. Now the Guardian has the FIT's own video of the incident and serious questions are being asked[1].

The officers in charge may wish to refer to the annual review of anti-terrorism legislation recently completed by Lord Carlile QC, whose [PDF] report said:

"It should be emphasised that photography of the police by the media or amateurs remains as legitimate as before, unless the photograph is likely to be of use to a terrorist. This is a high bar. It is inexcusable for police officers ever to use this provision to interfere with the rights of individuals to take photographs...

"Police officers who use force or threaten force in this context run the real risk of being prosecuted themselves for one or more of several possible criminal and disciplinary offences."


[1] Unfortunately they're being asked of the Independent [sic] Police Complaints Commission. The same IPCC that, in conjunction with the City of London Police, issued a series of "move along now, nothing to see here" press releases anout the death of Ian Tomlinson after an assault by a policeman.

The same IPCC that had to do a reverse ferret over whether or not there was CCTV footage of that policeman assaulting Ian Tomlinson shortly before he died.

The same IPCC that tried to put and end to the Guardian's investigation of that same event by complaining that the paper was "doorstepping" Mr Tomlinson's family.

"The deputy editor-in-chief who met him declined and pointed out that the Tomlinson family at that moment were in another part of the building, talking to Paul Lewis, the reporter who had driven the story, and publicly thanking the paper for its help." (Nick Davies, The Guardian, 27 April 2009.

The investigation into Ian Tomlinson's death is now being lead by the IPCC.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Art is theft

And there are plenty of photographers leaving their cookies on the windowsill to cool[1].

The Guardian has a series, My Best Shot which showcases photographers' favourite works, accompanied by a short article about how the photo was taken.

I love Thomas Joshua Cooper's picture. It joyously breaks the rule about using an object to give some sense of scale. I can hardly tell if this is a crystal under a microscope or a mountain seen from a helicopter. The ambiguity makes me tingle.

Likewise the PhotoSynthesis blog showcases some of the best science photography on ScienceBlogs, with a different scientist curating each month. April was the turn of molecular entomologist and keen photographer Alex Wild. These photographs document some previously unseen behaviour: flies mugging ants for their food. And there are some stunning images in this essay on the dangers of anthropomorphism in science photography.

[1] This crap metaphor courtesy of high octane dental painkillers. Sorry...

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Magic Fountains, Barcelona.

I don't care if it is cheesy. The son et lumière at the Montjuïc Park Fountains made me very happy indeed.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Barcelona Champions League Victory.

We were staying in a hotel just behind the Placa Catalunya and to managed to experience the joy of the final achievement of Barcelona's historic "Triplete" (winning the domestic league, the cup and the Champion's League).