Friday, November 30, 2007

What craziness is this?

It seems that an English teacher working in the Sudan was threatened with 40 lashes and a year's imprisonment for stirring up religious hatred.

What was her crime?

She had taken a vote among her mostly muslim 6-7 year old pupils on what to call a teddy bear. They ignored her suggestion and voted 20 to 3 to name it Mohammad, after one of the boys in the class.

Two months later a secretary in the school complains to the Education Ministry, and the teacher is arrested, and local Islamic clergy are baying for her blood. Before you know it, she is charged (Wednesday), and tried, convicted and sentenced (Thursday). She got 15 days, not one year and a flogging - but it's still absolutely daft!

I wrote it up for wikinews over here.

To be fair, the Muslim Council of Britain has roundly condemned this insanity:

This case should have required only simple common sense to resolve. It is unfortunate that the Sudanese authorities were found wanting in this most basic of qualities.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission was among Muslim groups to call for her immediate release, and some Sudanese bloggers are not impressed.

Picture by angelathesloth.
Not the real Muhammad.
I don't need a fatwah right now!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A tree has been planted on your behalf

OK, maybe a couple of trees:

Innocent, the nice smoothie people, are planting trees to help rural communities in India and Africa (see how here). There are even virtual images of two of them: one tree, and another tree.

If I keep drinking the smoothies, there may be more.

Friday, November 23, 2007

All your database are belong to, err.... no idea really!

Banking details of all families with kids in the UK, and details of their kids, have gone missing. Lost in the post, apparently. This is exactly why the government cannot be trusted with the enormous interlinked collection of data on its citizens that their ID Card scheme would require.

Mistakes happen in any system, especially if security is not considered at the outset. The bigger the collection of data, the more of a prize it makes for wrongdoers, and the more likely it is that someone, somewhere, will make just such an error. A national ID card scheme, bound as it is to grow and grow, as new and more cunning uses are invented for the data, and more and more people need to access it, is a disaster waiting to happen.

And best of all, it's completely unnecessary. Nobody has explained exactly how it solves any of the excuses being offered for its sorry existence - can't stop illegal immigration unless the police get the powers to make us show our papers on demand, can't prevent employment of illegal immigrants by unscrupulous employers who pay slave wages, can't stop terrorism (Seriously, how could it? The London tube bombers all had valid ID, for goodness sake).

At least it will make a few IT suppliers (who definitely won't have ties to government, right?) very rich indeed.

On a lighter note, it seems the missing CDs have turned up on ebay:

"Cash on collection ONLY please from Portsmouth PO8, since we wouldn't want these to get lost in the post!"

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Romance, sarcasm, maths, and language

If you liked Douglas Hofstadter's books, you'll enjoy this!

I just found a rather unusual web cartoon site - check it out at They even use a creative commons licence, so you can copy their stuff for personal use.

But they warn you: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).

Hello Maithrie!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

If you were wondering why clear plastic bags make toothpaste safer...

Anyone who is puzzled by the peculiar EU rules on bringing "liquids" onto planes (you can, as long as they are in a resealable clear plastic bag, and they are in containers less than 100ml) will be pleased that sanity is dawning - in the European Parliament of all places.

They have asked the European Commission to repeal the ban, unless new facts emerge. They also, quite sensibly, ask for information about exactly what you can bring (the real rules, not the cartoons that every airport interprets differently), and the reasons why, to be given to passengers.

Of course the Commission have a record of ignoring the Parliament, so don't hold your breath waiting for the sanity to spread.

Credit to Bruce Schneier's October Crypto-Gram for spotting this.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Art 2 get

Last week I saw something new - door to door art salesmen. Young women actually, but never mind. They seem to roam the world, selling paintings. Some interesting pictures too.

I think it's these people!

(photo by numstead, creative commons licence)

Elephants at Pinnawela elephant orphanage

What I did on my holidays

Some pictures from Sri Lanka...

There are a few more stuck on my phone... I did say they might have to wait a bit :-/