Seasonal gifts, shit card, Christmas cake

There’s a 12ft chanukiah on Gants Hill roundabout.

Received: Perles de Lalique from Matty, as well as books by Anthony Crosland, Colin Thubron and a dummy guide to SLR photography (having a spot of bother with f-stops and shutter speed (not to mention light metering – in fact exposure generally). Champagne, a Camping and Caravaning Club book, millet for 15 Africans for a year, candle and candlestick, a faux-Tiffany lamp, chocolate, chocolate, soap, an ironing board cover, Field Music, and some other stuff. No jewellery this time, everyone seems to have got the message. All the same a proportion of it is in the charity shop. £100 from Mum and Dad for my birthday. Christmas was alright, pretty funny. Got quite cranky towards the end. Doesn’t feel right having Christmas, but it makes everybody happy. Dad liked his birthday present camera and seems quite capable of using it.

Picked up my 2Gb Lexar card from Mum whom we got an MP3 player instead. The effing card only works through Palm Quick Install, which isn’t. Neither Matt’s nor our laptop can talk to it. It’s a replacement too. In order to use it I have to set up a custom HotSynch or strange things are liable to happen. Custom HotSynch takes a while to set up. I lost it in fact because I had to log out / log in to get HotSynch to work. Now it’s having trouble with The Clash.

The Christmas cake recipe from the Readers’ Digest Cookery Year works in my 8 inch tin – egg replacer as directed and a couple of bananas. Less time than suggested though, less marzipan and more brandy. The royal icing wasn’t really a great success. I used Orgran No Egg and lemon juice to make it as stiff as I could but although it has a thin crust it’s more like fondant on the inside. Matt and Brian like it. I think it’s fine.

One neighbour gave us Ferrero Rocher, wine and her customary blessing. The other side gave us Elizabeth Shaw. I’d given the first lot some of my cranberry sauce because they’re always plying us with gifts, and the other side a card.

Tomorrow we pick up Brian and head for Craven Arms. Plan to paraglide.


Passport arrived

It calls itself “biometric”. But unless they collected my spit off the envelope I sent the application in, the only thing they have is my photo. So how is that biometric?

Maybe I should find out what I can expect at passport control if I’ve nuked the chip.

2007: The Year Of Respecting My Digital Rights

2007 is approaching and I’ve been thinking about making it my personal year of digital rights, including privacy, and starting with myself. The first thing I’m about to do is sabotage my Google profile. I now use Google pretty heavily (Docs, Reader and Gmail as well as Search). Google’s bread and butter depends on finding out as much as they can about their users – my profile would be enough to make me a laughing stock, incriminate me in several countries and maybe even get me executed in a few if their leaders were bored enough at the time. For obvious reasons the search engines aren’t queuing up to relinquish their right to profile. Google probably wants to model me, figure out what I want, and then – what – sell the evidence to companies so that they can sell me solutions? Or to politicians so that they can persuade me to vote for them? Offer to subliminally indocrinate me? My entrepreneurial imagination fails me, but I’m not the only paranoid Web user round here.

Back in August, AOL released about 20 million search queries from 650k of its customers without their permission. The most unnerving thing is that although they caved into the outcry and took their own site down, a number of mirror sites had been created in the meantime, at least one of which is still around. On the Web, information practically has a half-life.

So I’m adding Trackmenot to Firefox. This sends off background searches which introduce noise and, in theory, spoil my profile with random data. The bottom few lines of current queries:

twin towers,minimum wage,daniel smith,steve irwin,suri cruise,vanity fair,jack kerouac,nip tuck,dana plato,brady quinn,september 11,brynn cameron,kyra phllips,hurricane john,gillian chung,carolyn kepcher,katie couric,john mayer,serena williams,warren jeffs,sharapova,

It’s worth mentioning that there’s a price to pay for preventing Google from finding out about me, though – it can no longer personalise my experience. The three corners of online personalisation are trust, attention and relevance – the system has lost my trust (not specifically Google which has lost my trust, since it has previously resisted pressure from the US government to hand over data – but the notion of profiling has lost my trust), so I’m no longer giving it the chance to catch my attention. Another side effect of this obfuscation is the invalidation of an enormous body of evidence which, in gathering data which signal our intentions, has an anthropological value as well as a commercial one. As the Trackmenot developers observe “our search behaviours profoundly reflect who we are”.

I’m pretty sure these can be filtered out by Google or whoever – I tend to search for more abstract or conceptual phrases so any natural language processor might be able to make a stab at what was mine, even if they couldn’t be that sensitive about what wasn’t. Configured it to search at a rate of one per minute, so if there are 2 per minute, then one of them isn’t trackmenot, for example. But even so, if search engines persist in profiling us without our permission, the noise and smoke approach to privacy will probably be the only option. There’s also encryption and anonymity e.g., but these take more know-how than the average Web user can muster. The alternative is legislation to protect or destroy our records with the effect of – I reckon – necessitating an entire new business model for Google, Yahoo &tc.

There are implications for Personal Learning Environments which are worth thinking about.

To read: Marx, G.T. (2003). A Tack in the Shoe: Neutralizing and Resisting the New Surveillance. Journal of Social Issues;59(2):369-390.

Christmas essence

Piles of sick are everwhere, so I’m surprised they don’t picture in either 10X10 (100 words and pictures every hour which have been aggregated, statistically analysed and identified as the most important – prevalent – that hour) or the 30 most recent images uploaded to (from Martin, who tells me that livejournal is mostly Euro and Far East, whereas MySpace is more US and UK).

Bourgeois Boheme and a move into London

With some trepidation I ordered shoes over the Web for the first time from a vegan company called Bourgeois Boheme. They’re 1930s-style two inch round-toed with two straps which cross and button – olive green. The leather is a good fake. They arrived today in a hand-packed brown paper parcel addressed “Especially for” me and with a hand-written compliments slip from the owners. I liked that, but I hope that doesn’t mean that they haven’t they got anything better to do. Because I want them to prosper – pretty vegan shoes are difficult to come by – there’s some monstrous stuff out there. Like these.

The shoes (Ruth Olive size 36.75) are pretty nice – good fit, nice colour, toe cleavage, a little baggy in the straps (which aren’t adjustable) but I’m hanging onto them. Verdict: Bourgeois Boheme, je vous adore.

The other interesting thing so far is that there was an announcement on Fairlop platform today that as of January 7th 2006, we will be Zone 4 instead of Zone 5. Woo! Doesn’t change the fields and the farm shop, but it should change my tube fare. Or would that be too obvious…?

Oh, and Matt dropped his mobile phone down the toilet in his hotel – onto brown!