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Monthly Archives: November 2008

Just a quick explanation of “Neil’s Shared Items”

Jim Belshaw is very fond of this aspect of my blog and has said so several times. Marcellous has noted a downside: it sometimes collects early versions of a post and keeps them on display, which can be embarrassing. In one case, though I am not sure Thomas noted it, I collected a post which has not even been published, but must have briefly been long enough for the Google Reader to grab it. It is a rather good post too, so I hope it appears some time.

All Google Reader does is aggregate in one place feeds from whatever sites you are interested in following. Whether a whole post or a part post appears has been determined by the blogger, or by their blog platform. In my own blogs I allow feeds a five line opening, not whole posts. Google Reader allows you to “share” these feeds with others through a reasonably attractive blog-like page.

Some of the people I have picked I know either personally or through some time exchanging comments on the Internet, some I have just come across and found interesting. There are some blogs I would like to include, but can’t because they don’t allow feeds. There are others – Aluminium is one example – that I decided against not on any grounds of quality but because I felt they were rather personal and meant for their usual readers rather than people in general.

Some of the “feeders” are very regular, especially if it’s a group site or blog. Others are irregular. They represent only a tiny bit of the blogosphere, but I always find myself stimulated, informed, amused, or sometimes annoyed, every time they post, so that I wanted to share. You should explore their blogs further by going to the sources which are always just a click away, usually on the entry title. That way too you may see if Marcellous has been rewriting. 😉 (I rewrite too, I should add, though not always.)

In the side bar here you have two options. One is a feed of Neil’s Shared Items which comes via Feedburner and lists the latest 20 choices. The other is the Google Reader itself which currently is kept to 65-80 posts – that is, kept to that by me: Neil’s Shared Items. This displays around ten posts per page. You will notice I preface my choices with a comment, sometimes very brief, sometimes a short essay! These are merely my responses and are in no way “canonical”. As I choose from what Google Reader offers around 10% of what is there, you can be sure any post I share is there for a reason.

Here is a list of the blogs currently feeding my Shared Items:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on November 30, 2008 in blogging, Blogroll, Jim Belshaw, Marcel, other blogs, site news

 

This post is by no means meant to be cynical…

There’s a story in Lawrence Potter’s This May Help You Understand The World (2007) – see Book notes and footnotes – that prompted this, along with today’s Sun-Herald story NSW students to get promised laptops.

Lawrence Potter was at one time teaching in Rwanda.

The school I taught at had a link with a school in Australia, which occasionally raised funds for it. During my time, the link resulted in two improvements. A group of Australian schoolchildren visited and painted the school hall yellow, and twenty laptop computers arrived on the back of a truck.

I don’t want to be ungrateful, but it struck me that there might have been better uses for the raised funds than yellow paint and computers. The school hall had been a little dingy, but it was perfectly capable of doing its job, and was really only used by the karate club anyway. Meanwhile, the students slept two-to-a-bed in the dormitories (not out of choice), and most of the classroom windows were broken. And what about the computers? Well, I know that ICT is meant to be the solution to most problems, but it can’t do much if there is no regular electricity supply. Nor is it that helpful if nobody knows how to use it. The computers sat around in a room, to which visitors of the school were often shown. But students never went near it.

And I note: Rwandan Government to Digitalize Schools (22 July 2008).

The Rwandan government is moving to digitalize primary and secondary school curriculums based on the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) plan, which aims to provide each student with a laptop computer.

Rwanda is participating in the OLPC roll-out program, which the government said will be extended to all primary school children within five years.

The initiative is a move away from the traditional chalk-and-blackboard methodology, instead using ICT in curriculum development and transmission to students, said Théoneste Mutsindashyaka, Rwanda’s minister of state for primary and secondary education.

Integrated science and technology in the education sector is one of the ministry’s priorities, Mutsindashyaka said. Rwanda’s ICT adviser is currently in India in order to adopt that country’s digital science content, he affirmed, as the two countries have similar curriculums…

While the ministry hopes for all schools to make use of e-learning, details remain sketchy, as Mutsindashyaka was tight-lipped regarding the deal with OLPC and its cost.

Last year, Rwandan President Paul Kagame confirmed that a deal had been reached between the Rwandan government and OLPC to supply laptops to schools. Under the deal, Kagame said at the time, OLPC would provide laptops and support to fully test its concept at no cost to Rwanda.

I am not knocking that story, though the juxtaposition with the previous one is intended, as it is with our latest Kevin Rudd and NSW venture:

EVERY senior NSW public school student will get to keep a mini laptop after a new funding deal was thrashed out at yesterday’s Commonwealth-state funding talks in Canberra.

Some will receive their custom-built computers, powered by a wireless broadband network, by the end of term two next year, with the State Government planning to seek expressions of interest from manufacturers as early as Wednesday.

The successful tenderer will produce laptops based on a prototype already developed by IT experts in the Education Department. Students will be able to keep their computers after they leave school.

The funding breakthrough came after months of bitter fighting over the Federal Government’s offer of $1 billion to the states to fulfil federal Labor’s election promise to give every year 9 to 12 student a computer…

the breakthrough in negotiations yesterday means NSW students will soon add a lightweight laptop to their schoolbags after Premier Nathan Rees secured sufficient funding to finalise a massive bulk buy with a computer company.

The Federal Government has coughed up an extra $3.55 billion in education funds to the states.

Mr Rees immediately pledged that NSW would lead the country by providing 197,000 senior public school students with the specially designed teenager-friendly computers. [sic!]

Half the state’s public high schools would have wireless internet connections by mid-2009, he promised, signalling the start of the laptop rollout. Mr Rees told The Sun-Herald NSW would receive $200 million from the Commonwealth for computers in public schools – and offered the other states and territories the chance to join NSW in a huge computer spending spree.

"We’re ready to push the button to seek market players as early as Wednesday and we can help other states get on board by being the national broker for the deal."…

Hmm. This may not be as good an idea as it seems. Think about it.

Very often foisting things on people because it seemed a good idea at the time is not the brightest thing to do, but it makes good copy and gives the impression of decisiveness. I would include the former Australian government’s Northern Territory Intervention in such a critique, by the way. In another era Disadvantaged Schools in NSW were at some time (I think in the 70s) all issued with carpet, because it was decided, not all that unreasonably, that this actually had certain educational benefits, noise reduction and insulation not least. However, it soon became a standing joke that you could always tell a Disadvantaged School because even the store rooms were carpeted… Carpet was just thrown at them whether they needed or wanted it or not, and had to be used for, well, something.

I have similar niggles about what Rudd and our Premier Rees have just stitched up. I can see the potential for all sorts of duplication and wastage here. I can, I might add, see why the schools don’t, it seems, get to keep the laptops. After two to three years of “teenager-friendly” use they will probably not be worth keeping!

Back to Lawrence Potter again. I love his ability to take a really fresh look at the issues he deals with, while clearly taking great care to check his facts – a point he does make in his introduction. Don’t let his “teenager-friendly” style fool you. He is hard-nosed when needs be, but it is impossible after reading his concise account of world finances and the developing world (a term apparently not quite politically correct in some circles) to escape the conclusion that Free Market Enthusiasm is itself a convenient delusion which has among its many advantages its power to relegate concrete human problems and real ethical and moral issues so that they don’t interfere with profit too much.

And on “teenager-friendly”: should we read that as a clue? See Hewlett-Packard to Unveil Teenager-Friendly Computer Line.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2008 in Africa, Australia, Australia and Australian, awful warnings, computers, education, future schooling, globalisation/corporations, Kevin Rudd, NSW politics, Political, politics, weirdness

 

One year on this blog: looking back, looking forward

Yes, it is one year since this blog appeared, the material back to 2005 being imported later. In that time (to when I write this) there have been 73,385 hits according to WordPress.

This post will have the usual “what’s new” section for the coming week, and then I will bore you silly with the November stats for all my blogs, as they come in!*

What’s new on my blogs: Sunday 30 November to Saturday 6 December

Stats, stats, and more stats

I begin slightly prematurely with this blog, looking at the top individually visited posts and pages so far.

* UPDATE: Now (Monday 1 December) I am adding those monthly stats. Feel free to look. 😉

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2008 in blogging, milestones, site news, site stats

 

My “best of 2008” choices (also posted on Ninglun’s Specials)

To bring down all the pictures on Ninglun’s Specials to just fifty “best of” was a bit of a challenge. I was of course limiting myself to pics I had taken, not those I have gratefully borrowed — usually with acknowledgement by name or link. I was looking for a bit of variety, but also looking at what I thought actually was interesting photographically.

You will find them displayed on the new modest photo blog, but here they are in miniature. Clicking on each set takes you to the corresponding live archive. There you may view individual pictures full size, if you want.

best08_1

best08_2

best08_3

What do you think? Are any of your favourites missing?

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2008 in 2008 in review, site news

 

Quick interim stats

There won’t be the usual Saturday stats today, as the end of the month is too close. I should mention that my humiliation earlier this month at the hands of Deus Lo Vult is correcting itself, but only in the past few days! 😉

Top individually read posts in the past seven days.

Floating Life

  1. Australian poem: 2008 series #9 — "The Angel’s Kiss"  115 reads
  2. Australian poem 2008 series #10: Peter S 81
  3. I have been gender analysed… 35
  4. The Great Surry Hills Book Clearance of 2005  32
  5. How good is your English? Test and Answers 24

Ninglun’s Specials

  1. Sequel: Art Monthly Australia July 2008 22
  2. 05 — Old Blog Entries: 99-04 18
  3. Sights of old Sydney 2: Moore Park boundary post 1833 18
  4. Top poems 2: John Donne (1572-1631) 15
  5. Surry Hills 90: Bourke Street and The Beresford 13

The new photo blog has had 26 views so far; that’s around twelve hours worth. It is not included in Sitemeter, incidentally, so all its stats will come from WordPress.

3.30 pm Update:

110 more reads now of the new photo blog! 🙂 There are now 25/50 pics in “Best of 2008”.

And Sitemeter visitor #290,000 arrived from Auckland New Zealand at 3:05pm our time and read this.

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2008 in site news, site stats

 

Book notes and footnotes

sat29 On the right you will see a small stack of (bargain!) books, two that I have referred to just lately, and one that I am about to review.

The new book

LawrencePotter Lawrence Potter (left) has inadvertently led me to a very good book blog via This May Help You Understand the World by Lawrence Potter. As that entry says:

In a confusing universe, it’s reassuring to find that it isn’t only you who doesn’t grasp the intricacies – or even the basics – of the world’s problems. We probably all feel that at some instinctive level we understand most of the big issues, but the truth is – certainly as far as I’m concerned anyway – that we couldn’t even begin to explain the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims (and why it matters) or the US electoral system, or the Weapons of Mass Destruction controversy, or why the Palestinians are fighting each other or even why organic bananas are so much better for everyone, not just you.

In fact, I suspect that the number of people who could get any further in their explanation than “Err … well …” would be tiny.

Those are just some of the topics covered in this excellent and well-timed book…

I concur! The first entry is on jihad

Potter is very thorough and up-to-date (as of early 2007 of course). Other topics include: Israel/Palestine, US elections, world trade, climate change, Darfur, Russia, nuclear proliferation, and China. On China, about which I know a bit, I find it very well informed. Back to the review:

Considering what a comparatively slim volume it is, the amount of information in it is amazing, and it’s just so pleasing to be able to listen to a news broadcast or read a paper and actually have a reasonably clear idea of what they’re talking about. In fact, smugness is in danger of setting in …

Oh … and Mr Potter also tackles the thorny question of whether George W Bush really IS stupid.

The answer may surprise you.

And any author who looks like that has to be credible. 🙂

Seriously, this is an excellent and very readable book. He avoids pomposity and excessive predictability or overdone PC. Not a bad achievement, eh! It’s another Best Read of 2008.

Footnotes

Well, that horrible set of events in Mumbai continues to distress and perplex, doesn’t it? In my post Some thoughts on Mumbai I ventured some background gathered from good sources, but the plot really is thickening, isn’t it? Trouble is there are so many vested interests at play here it is hard to know what is most likely. There can be no doubt none of it bodes well.

In today’s Australian one letter writer expresses quite a common view, which would seem to have much in common with what I tried to say in Dark energy, God and humility, which in a way is also about Mumbai…

IT’S all too easy to see the current terrorism in Mumbai as the work of an insane minority. These men are not deranged. They are intelligent and psychiatrically normal men who just happen to believe literally the words of their silly and dangerous religious books.

Both the Koran and the Old Testament frequently advocate violence towards those of differing religious beliefs. Most people, perhaps influenced by secular humanism, instinctively do not take these “silly bits” literally. Unfortunately, a minority of the devout can’t make a distinction.

Until the major world religions, be they Muslim or Christian, are prepared to “clean up” their violent and often murderous literature, they deserve to be proscribed just like any other terrorist group.

David Phillips
Southport, Qld

As John Dominic Crossan says in God & Empire, however, it is not quite as David Phillips and many others portray it. If one considers a dual portrait of God as a God of Violence and/or a God of Love:

It is positively, absolutely not that one solution is found exclusively in the Old Testament and/or the Jewish tradition while another is found exclusively in the New Testament and/or the Christian tradition. It is not ecumenical courtesy, political correctness, or post-Holocaust sensitivity but simply biblical and historical accuracy to insist that both solutions run side by side, and often in the same books, from one end of the biblical tradition to the other. They are asserted relentlessly as the twin tracks of the Divine Express…

He’s quite right, an assertion I base on having read the Bible and Apocrypha from one end to the other, not cherry-picking as I went, and much the same can be said for the Qur’an, a substantial amount of which I have also read. (Few books are more bloodthirsty than The Apocalypse of John, after all.) It is what you do with this that matters. Crossan comes up with one solution, which I am not sure works, but at least leads to a rather healthy analysis of life and politics… I can’t help thinking, though, that the life-time study of the biblical traditions and the Ancient Near East/Greek World/Roman World has led to an only too understandable cultural myopia… We’ve all been there. What he knows he knows in depth and explains very illuminatingly, however. Can’t see fundamentalists liking it one little bit.

I make a case in that “Dark energy” post for quite a radical rethink by believers of their sacred scriptures, one that is not I have to say original to me. At the same time there are those not willing to be quite so radical who can still be perfectly harmless, even desirable, as neighbours and fellow-citizens, even if they regard me with suspicion and I regard them as being a bit cracked. Only through such benign tolerance do any of us have much hope, after all. We don’t have to be right, you know…

And the excellent blog I found…

… It’s Vulpes Libris (The Book Foxes). Have a look.

On Mumbai

This is pretty impressive: Terror in IndiaDileep Premachandran. (ABC Unleashed)

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2008 in Best read of 2008, Bible, Christianity, current affairs, events, faith and philosophy, humanity, interfaith, Islam, other blogs, reading, religion, South Asian, terrorism

 

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This is an experiment at this stage

You may recall I dropped one blog when “The Gateway” disappeared after The Great Invasion of September 2008. Now I am toying with this idea:

photoblog

Click on the image. Opens in a new window.

Yes it is a plain and simple photoblog with hardly any text. There are three pics there so far so you can see how it will work. When you go there, the navigation arrow will take you to the previous of the three – one you haven’t seen before. If you click the ARCHIVE tab you will see one of the great attractions of this template.

I would continue photo-essays of one kind or another on Ninglun’s Specials as well, should I decide to keep Neil’s Modest Photo Blog.

What do you think? A worthwhile addition?  Leave a comment, or vote…

It must be the time of year. This present blog came into being around this time last year! Everything here on Floating Life back from November 2007 is imported from other blogs; the original Floating Life on WordPress ran from April 2006 to the end of November 2007, with some retrospective entries in December, many of them now deleted, and an occasional update.

UPDATE

I am adding what I think are the very best photos I have taken so far, one at a time. That features thumbnails of what I have chosen so far.

It’s no longer really an experiment. I think I have decided to keep it, which is at least in line with the two votes at this point. 🙂

Now I’d like you to vote again, but in a different way. Go to that very best photos link and choose the one you like best and open it up by clicking the thumbnail. Leave a comment to tell me it is your choice, and maybe why.

Here you may care to make suggestions of any you have seen among my photos that you think should be included.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2008 in site news