Friday, December 30, 2005

Luka Bloom, telescopes and the steam engine

What do all these have in common? Birr, home to estate of the Earls of Rosse which I visited today. Its Luka's song writing spot and whilst the estate's gardens where not at their summer finest they where still very beautiful and I can understand his muse a little better from visiting that spot. In addition, it houses the Levithan, once the world's largest telescope and beautifully restored. A later family member Charles Parson's invented the steam engine. All the family's interests in astronomy, engineering, photography and horticulture/botany are covered in a first rate museum on the estate. It was really great to visit what is being marketed as Ireland's historic science center and it is definitely worth a visit. It was a great way to chill out after having a few pints in Birr last night.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

VHI and rails

Looks like there is finally a bit of equality in the health insurance market with risk equalisation between VHI and BUPA. Its funny to hear BUPA's arguments as most of its senior executives are ex-VHI and were fully aware this equalisation was on the cards. The other funny point is that they're only using the Irish figures but if taken with the wider UK figures of BUPA a much more illuminating picture is revealed. The simple answer for BUPA is to set its prices in line with reality and the actual costs of providing health cover. Its looks like we'll be treated to a spin overdrive from BUPA and Vivas on this hot issue.

On some other fun notes I got Ruby on Rails working on Mac OS X and have been enjoying the examples in Agile Web Development with Rails. Its a big difference from my experiences with PHP and I can see why its cornering a very substantial slice of the web services market.

Christmas and the holidays are going well and so Happy New Year to all.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Chistmas Wishes and random readings

Happy Christmas to all and here are a couple of last minute readings for the long Christmas nights.

From Worldchanging we got one of my favourite topics which is the potential of microgeneration and even better is the nice UK government/NGO detailed study on it. A major issue for the developing world is the need for universal access to clean water, one solution might be the Watercone but it is probably too expensive to be a viable solution. Here is a really cool idea that is timely and useful, the provision of emergency instructions as podcasts by FirstAidPod which are providing (so far more to come) podcasts on the situations of "No Breathing, No Pulse - CPR", "Choking - CPR", "Drowing - CPR" and "Bleeding - CPR" which are divided into three categories of infants, children and adults. Fanatastic idea, I'm currently certified as a REC Advanced first aider and I would love to see more people being actively involved in learning the simple skills of first aid which can save a person's life.

There is a nice analysis of the election results in Iraq. In other election related news seems some States in the US are finally tossing out there crappy diebold voting machines. You can also check out the "A Fascist Philosopher Helps Us Understand Contemporary Politics" which is part of a dicussion about Carl Schmitt and his latest book, Political Theology which talks about the relationships between political leadership, the legal processes of the state and the state of political emergency with regard to a nation's soverign leader.

A really sweet site which has maps scaled to visualise the world population and GDPs.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Somewhat more normal

Normality is slowly returning after the rush to get everything done and sorted for yesterday's Metamusic meeting. So here's a bit of a catch up on stuff.

Firstly, here is the concert call for a sonification piece for next year's ICAD. From the call we have
.....Global data are ubiquitous - one finds them in every newspaper, and they cover a range of themes, from global warming to increasing poverty, from individual purchasing power to the ageing of the world's population......Closing the feedback loop by informing society about its current state and its development is a task that both scientists and artists have responded to, and this is the key point of this call......a basic dataset which includes 190 countries with geographical data (capital location, area), population numbers, and are extended by several basic social indicators such as GDP, access to sanitation and drinking water, and life expectancy.Using this reference dataset is mandatory: All submissions must include countries, capital locations, population and area data......
end snip

Here's another good one on prisoners and their ingenuity, will Kyrgyzstan be host to the next regional base for the US? The state of commercial satellite imagery. A cool gadget site, might be a little late for Christmas but still ...

Some interesting articles on Disaster Communication and a good piece on Common Alerting Protocol which is a very citizen centric approach to managing communications in times of emergencies. Visualisations are always a fun topic so here is a couple of examples and a really good one on Ethical Maps.

Other news in brief is that we've gotten a couple of shiny N770's from Nokia to do some evaluation, testing and hacking with, so thanks Sami!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Party time

Its a mad couple of days with the Christmas party tomorrow at Dolan's and then recovery in time for the Skynet talks on open source politics followed by the society's Christmas bash! Picking holes with the budget was fun as ever (no index linking, no changes to VAT, remember the days when you'd get an increase in the grant and rent would go up as, well its the same hole Biffo has opened with Childcare, I'd need to see the details about the 4th level stuff as its years behind and still majorly underfunded but good news. I think the killer point is underspend and if they can't manage the current monies so what about extras) and Ivor the Engine seems to be out as a junior minister.

On a more personal note, Cheers lads - you're a great bunch. The ship is back on course and full steam ahead into that undiscovered country. But I'm still not wearing a dress to the Christmas party tomorrow night!

Now back to manufacturing miracles for next week's demo...


A happy beating heart broken to a thousand shards, you forget sometimes who reads this.


Betwixt the void and the dark. Relationships are hard, distance harder still. Anyone got a light?