Monthly Archives: August 2007

Links of the day

The forces of time and work are against me, so this will be short and sweet.

If you’re not moved by this you have no heart: Ollie Byrne RIP and the friendship of pets. How the late owner of Shelbourne FC ditched everything one January night to help somebody find their lost cat. (Michael Nugent)

A sure cause of controversy: Diggers laying a pipe under the Al-Aqsa mosque may have found part of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. This will be incredible if it’s true. (Catholicgauze)

Feeling the pinch: China’s key oil producers may suspend petrol imports. The country needs to supply its own people first, which isn’t a bad philosophy. (AFP)

“I will remind the deppity”: John O’Donoghue in full fury on the floor of Dáil Éireann. Damien resurrects our brave Ceann Comhairle’s attempts to keep control of the house, only for him to show what a flustering hothead he really is. (Damien Mulley)

Fight for your rights: Stop being a slave to your email. Go on, strike back! (Lifehacker)

Transport, but not as we know it: Flying cars are going on sale in the next couple of months. Woohoo! (BBC)

Blogs and the wider world: More women blogging than men. About 8% of Americans have their own blog, according to a survey; although because said survey was conducted among people using an online service the results likely do not reflect reality. (

Creepy crawlies: Got arachnophobia? Here’s your worst nightmare. A vast web crawling with millions of spiders that is spreading across several acres of a Texas park (and the picture with the article is amazing). (International Herald Tribune)

Fighting words: Kung fu monks seek apology for ninja affront. Shaolin monks are a bit miffed at claims by one web user that they were beaten in unarmed combat by a ninja.  (Reuters)

YouTube unblocked

Thailand has lifted a ban on its citizens accessing the video-sharing website provided it doesn’t allow files that break Thai laws or offend the people.

According to AP, Information and Communication Technology Minister Sitthichai Phokai-udom:

told The Nation [a major newspaper] that YouTube had finished creating a program that would block sensitive video clips from being accessed through Thai Internet service providers.

Thailand takes offences regarding the king seriously — just think of the Swiss man who was jailed for 10 years after he defaced posters with the king’s picture (he was subsquently pardoned and deported). The ban on YouTube came in after a clip was posted showing digitally-altered images of King Bhumibol Adulyadej next to a photo of feet. This is a grave insult in Thailand, as the people believe feet are the lowest and dirtiest part of the body.

I wasn’t able to find the clip in question, but there are many others about the king: some complimentary, some hostile. Watch at your own risk.

The ban raised legitimate questions about freedom of speech. Google, which owns YouTube, has decided not to remove the offensive clips, just ensure they can’t be seen in Thailand, to preserve this right. Freedom of expression is limited in Thailand, particularly since the military began shutting down political websites in the aftermath of the coup. (Ethics is a seperate concern — Thai media regularly shows pictures of people who have committed suicide, complete with smiling police officers next to the body.)

I think it’s fair enough for YouTube to respect Thai laws, though inevitably somebody will come up with a way to circumvent the filters. But where does it end?

We must always remember that Google is a company in search of growth and new markets.

The most blatant example of its working with the authorities is China, where it has modified the search engine to exclude the likes of Tiananmen Square and the Falun Gong movement. China is such a vast and growing market that not making a few compromises would curtail Google’s standing there, thus having a negative impact on its business potential in the country. That’s not to say we have to like what it did. I also have concerns about how much personal data it’s keeping on all of us.

Was Thailand right to have Google develop this filter? Was Google right to give in? Does Thai law need a major overhaul? Have your say in the comments box.

School of horrors

The magazine Mother Jones has a disturbing feature about the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Massachusetts.

The school, formerly the Behavior Research Institute, attempts to treat or change the behaviour of troubled children, be they severely autistic, schizophrenic or emotionally disturbed. It does this through

a complex system of rewards and punishments, including painful electric shocks to the torso and limbs. Of the 234 current residents, about half are wired to receive shocks, including some as young as nine or ten. Nearly 60 percent come from New York, a quarter from Massachusetts, the rest from six other states and Washington, D.C. The Rotenberg Center, which has 900 employees and annual revenues exceeding $56 million, charges $220,000 a year for each student. States and school districts pick up the tab.

Six children have died in the centre’s care since it was founded 36 years ago, and it was the subject of a daming report by the New York Board of Education last year (read it here or the main findings here). The children are often shocked for “behaviors that are not aggressive, health dangerous or destructive, such as nagging, swearing and failing to maintain a neat appearance”.

I can not adequately treat this school of horrors on my small blog. It makes me too angry. I would encourage you to read the article but also the refutatory comment left by Dejah, who claims to be a former employee of the facility.

(Story via BoingBoing)

Links of the day

One for us word nerds: Instructor creates cuneiform and hieroglyphic translator. Sadly I can’t see my name in Egyptian. Site still rocks though. (

Bloggers are screwed: This journal may disappear at any time. LiveJournal tells its members that posting links must be treated in the same way as posting the material itself must be treated. (Liz Marcs)

Ah, capitalism: US weapons, given to Iraqis, move to Turkey. Guns given to Iraq’s security forces by the US military have been recovered after use in violent crimes in Turkey. (International Herald Tribune)

Highwire: Russian village’s tightrope walking prowess. Nearly every man, woman and child in the remote mountain village of Tsovkra-1 can walk the tightrope. (Reuters)

Naughty boy? Olbermann re-enacts Senator Craig bathroom scene. Using the police report, Keith Olbermann recreates the incident which saw the US senator arrested after allegedly seeking some same-stall action with a policeman. (Crooks and Liars)

Protecting the nation’s interests: China passes new anti-monopoly law. Twill make it harder for foreign firms to buy Chinese companies. (AFP)

International relations: Should we be worried about Russia and China ganging up on the West? No, according to Ian Bremmer. That’s a relief. (Slate)


Yahoo reporter Kevin Sites spends his time chronicling the people of the web, with his latest article looking at lifecasters.

These folks broadcast every moment of every day via webcam — whether they be walking, talking, working or just vegging out. Justin Kan, for instance, has his camera mounted on a hat. He livestreams everything via a WiFi link to the laptop in his backpack (just don’t confuse him with someone who makes plaster casts of the body).

He has collected a group of lifecasters at his site, One of the stars is Justine Ezarik, who, according to Sites:

has model good looks and easy cyber savvyness that attracts both technophiles and casual users alike… [she] pulls off the tech-heavy setup with style, wearing a green sundress and camera mounted to a floppy Greek fisherman’s cap which, despite the dangling cables, still allows her to appear more woman than Borg.

Calm down, man. I guess it’s easy to illustrate an article with a pretty lady; even though Justin set the site in motion the Yahoo blurb and pics focus on Justine.

I can’t imagine why one would want to sacrifice their privacy for the sake of a website. I don’t like giving out personal information on this blog in written form; I could never allow the world to watch as I wandered about.
Sure, there’s the revenue and career potential. It could be great for advertising, and this in turn could create employment opportunities for the lifecaster. But is it worth it? Are they giving away too much of themselves for the off-chance of (even modest) fame or fortune? That is something only the lifecasters can answer.

Although I despise reality television, I found myself actively watching some people on Sarah, for example, was at a meeting of podcasters while at the same time chatting with her viewers. Now, I can’t say I’d still be watching if she was just walking around the place, but nonetheless she had me watching her feed. Was it the novelty? Was it the subject matter? I know not for sure.

Links of the day

Things that caught my eye when I should have been doing something more productive:

The mother of all battles: It’s a dance off! Princess Stomper produces this amazing video of characters from Morrowind, Oblivion and Guild Wars shaking their collective booties in a bid to resolve once and for all which is the greatest RPG of all time. Or at least have a lot of fun. (

Cool dude: A lone dreamer in the Aboriginal art boom. A lovely profile piece of Michael Nelson Tjakamarra, one of Australia’s best-known painters but a man who cares not for the trappings of fame and fortune. (International Herald Tribune)

Paranoid, much? Ethiopia accuses Norway of ‘destabilising’ region. That modern imperial power, Norway, is under fire for “repeated and widespread interference in destabilising the Horn of Africa”. All goofing aside, there are serious issues regarding the conflict with Eritrea. (AFP)

May the force be with them: NASA shuttle to launch Luke’s lightsaber. The original prop is going along with shuttle Discovery on its trip to the ISS in December. (

I have got to get me one of these: Practical fuel cells for electronics. Hydrogen fuel cells could run laptops for 50 hours at a go. (Technology Review)

These people can’t catch a break: Poor roads cost Cameroon cocoa farmers dear. A rubbish infrastructure means farmers get their beans to traders three weeks late — after the price had dropped. (Reuters)

The cows are screwed: The end of the world’s grasslands as we know them?  Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may prompt the large-scale conversion of grasslands to a landscape of woody shrubs, one study claims. (

Cheap plug: Policeman suspended for hugging bailed star. The story of the day as far as I was concerned while working the desk yesterday! Nine coppers are in trouble for welcoming Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt on his release from prison. (Irish Examiner)

All-round solutions: Blackwater flies… Blackwater Security, which provides “security solutions” to the US military in Iraq, is creating its own airforce. Feckin’ hell. (Scholars and Rogues)

I can empathise: The internet — why it’s better than real life. Glad to see I’m not the only one, though I have yet to embrace the likes of MySpace or Linkedin. (Sunday Business Post)

Big numbers: Iraqi pilgrims sent home amid violence. One million people have been ordered out of Karbala after 26 people die in two days of shootings. (AP/CBS)

Mothers’ boys: Even gangsters need their mamas. Nicaragua tackles gang violence by relying on guerrilla street cred and mothers’ love. Would this work in Limerick I wonder (sorry, cheap shot)? (