From May 2006

Towel Day

Towel Day

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels. A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value—you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you—daft as a brush, but very, very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough. More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag [non-hitch hiker] discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have ‘lost’. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.” (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Chapter Three)

Yes, today is Towel Day! Are you carrying your towel?


What do you get when you take 600km of river, US$100 billion, 27 million cubic meters of concrete, 14 million people displaced, environmental devastation … just some of the facts about the world’s largest hydropower plant, the Three Gorges Dam in China.

Yangtze River

NASA: Yangtze River – May 2001, Bottom – March 2003

Even though it’s not yet fully functional the impact of the project is already apparent from space and truly an engineering marvel, if ethically and technically questionable. It’s a big price for a system which will only provide 3% of China’s power needs.

Google Analytics

I recently received an invitation for Google Analytics beta, their free web stats (and more) service so thought I might take it for a spin. All you do is insert a bit of javascript in your page and it begins collecting the info. Once its got enough it presents you with some pretty graphs and all sorts of data about how people find and interact with your site.

Google Analytics

I especially like the Geo Map overlay visualisation – by the looks of it I get hits from mainly Europe, North America and East Asia (surprise surprise). All of this is very nice but of course is mainly aimed at people who run adverts on their sites and want to better target them – i.e. not me! Even though, it’s another service well done by Google and a worthy complement to traditional server stats.


When Bill met Hu

(Inspired by Private Eye)

With its economy on the rise China is rapidly becoming best friends with western business and yet it is still a communist state with an appalling human rights record, widespread censorship and an large proportion of its population living in abstract poverty. It is this dichotomy which makes China a country of contradictions.

You can’t help but feel that this economic prosperity has done more to brainwash the Chinese people into a position of political indifference than the Chinese government could have ever dreamed of post 1989. In other words if you have a comfortable life with all its materialistic trappings who cares about the government? Of course on the flip side while a few prosper those on the bottom of the heap are no better of, in fact the indicators in some areas show a steady decline in well-being. The ironic thing is that these people are in the vast majority and history has much to say about what happens when you push the majority to far…

Still the propaganda continues. 1989 still hangs in the air but has been all but erased from the collective memory of a population where careless talk really can cost lives. Even the children of the intellectual elite, when presented with a photo of the Tank Man, could not identify this iconic image. I think this just about says it all.

I’d recommend anybody watch this excellent documentary from PBS (Torrent available). Perhaps a few multinationals also might thing about re-evaluating their corporate ethics statements also!

Update (29/06) – Please read Stephanie’s comments after the break for a much better insight into the situation by someone who would know much better than me!


Life out of balance

A little over two years ago (how time flies!) I did a review of the final part of the “Qatsi” trillogy – Godfrey Reggio’s seminal nonverbal films which captured spectacular visual images of the world, accompanied by an equally stiring score by Philip Glass. Looking back at these highly thoughtful and provocative works (including others such as Baraka) when I saw a piece written by said director I thought it was about time for some reflection…

By any measure, we live in an extraordinary and extreme time. Language can no longer describe the world in which we live. With antique ideas and old formulas, we continue to describe a world that is no longer present. In this loss of language, the word gives way to the image as the ‘language’ of exchange, in which critical thought disappears to a diabolic regime of conformity – the hyper-real, the omnipresent image. Language, real place gives way to numerical code, the real virtual; metaphor to metamorphosis; body to disembodiment; natural to supernatural; many to one. Mystery disappears, replaced by the illusion of certainty in technological perfection… [read on].

Can you see where this is going? Yes, without even noticing it have we have fallen into our own self-created Matrix by which we have insualted ourselves from reality through technology? Sounds far fetched? Perhaps, but in a world where we have had to re-invent organic-this and eco-friendly-that surely a few alarm bells should be ringing?! Perpetuated by cheap air travel the world may be a smaller place but at the same time travel will become pointless when everywhere looks the same as everywhere else. Just take the UK as an example – every city has the same shops etc that distinguishing between them becomes positively hard. Globalisation? Techno-fascism? Has technology replaced/overwritten nature? You tell me!

N.B. I’m not arguing either way, just presenting a topic for reflection.