Saturday, September 23, 2006

Crane flies...

...or if you prefer, daddy-long-legs.
Just one question: why?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Fake Internet People

It has been interesting to discover on the Ship of Fools, that a number of different personae were created by a single individual in order to dupe the community. One set of personae were a person who died of cancer and various other individuals, one of which committed suicide. As far as I can see, there was some Serbian connection and these people had obviously suffered torture during the conflict. I never really involved myself in any of the conversations but it would appear that many regular SOF people got sucked in via blogs, photos, emails and phone calls. Many sent flowers to funerals, cards of sympathy, wrote poems etc. There were two other characters stemming (I think) from the same individual: one a woman with Aspergers and the other a doctor whose husband was involved in a serious car accident. This was the persona I was aware of. On Saturday, after a week in hospital with serious head, chest and back injuries, the woman posted that her husband had died. Trouble was, he had never existed in the first place. And as you can imagine, a lot of people had invested time in wishing well, praying and feeling involved.

As far as I can see, these people (and on investigation this is a BIG problem) don't tend to want money or to scam you. What they want is your emotional energy. It would appear that the internet is the ideal place for a person with Munchausen's Syndrome and the condition has been especially renamed for people who need attention via the internet.
There is a well documented case to read here.

The internet is a great place but social interaction via the internet is completely different to other areas of life. Some people are naturally gullible, some naturally cynical. I think on reflection, we have to take people at their word on the whole. However that doesn't mean we can't be canny while using the internet; try these hints:
  • Never give your own personal details out. If you "met" someone via a forum, always use the PM system in place there to communicate and make your email address invisible
  • The more tragic the situation, the more alarm bells should ring
  • Share your misgivings with someone else who you know and whose opinion you trust
  • If the person posts long and detailed medical information, they are definately hoaxing. Try copy and pasting the words into Google and see if you can trace the original web page the information was lifted from
  • Maintain a healthy distance from the person and try not to be sucked in as things will inevitably escalate in order to gain attention
  • Be aware that various other characters will become involved in the story that give substantial weight to the whole charade. Look out for similar writing styles or larger than life characters, often all having a very difficult time
  • If alarm bells are ringing because things don't add up, that's because the story isn't true.
  • Check out any details you can. For example, if there was a major accident, search for it on the news, ask for details of hospitals, wards etc. You could always ring to find out if someone is actually there. Excessive maybe but will tell you once and for all if its a faker.
  • Fakers like details but obviously don't want to be found out so when it comes to saying "Oh I'll send flowers!", they'll come up with all sorts of excuses.
  • Try saying, "Oh I know that place really well" and try to get them to pin down locations. See them squirm.
Watch A Beginners Guide to Faking Your Death on the Internet. Be aware that the language there is not suitable for 4.30pm CBBC viewers but it is very good at summarising what I've said!

And just to let you know, I am real, honest!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Youth Opportunity Fund

As reported in the Evening News here , young people in Norfolk have access to £1.57 million of government money. Perhaps if you're under the age of 19 you and some friends would like to tap into some of that money? Or would you like the experience of being part of a group that analyses applications for funding? Let me know either way as I'm involved in the project for the Central (Norwich) area.
Download an application form here.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Canny rebranding

I think the Conservative party have stumbled across a very useful new tool in moving away from the old and appealing to a new audience. By changing their logo from:

To this funky new design:

They have tapped into the new deciding feature of politics: green issues. As an oak tree stands for solidity and a typical English countryside, it seems the ideal choice Lord Tebbit of course doesn't like it but then he wouldn't would he?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Interesting Fact No.7

I'm a big fan of George Alagiah's and was surprised to learn that his surname is actually pronounced "ullerhiya".

Friday, September 15, 2006

Brunel University

I spent 3 days this week on the Brunel uni campus, staying in halls of residence, eating in the refectory and going round the university library. It was cool! I couldn't believe there were so many people there! Our tutor is a very engaging lecturer called Nic Crowe whose specialism is in sociology. He was very inspiring. Looking forward to a slower pace and concentrated efforts of completing the degree.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Moral dilemma

Steve Irwin died on film. There is now a debate going on about whether this footage should be shown to the public (BBC story here). What do you think?
Steve was a showman. He lived on the edge because he understood animals and their behaviour really well. His message was about the power of animals and the respect that they deserve. His accident proved that whatever knowledge you have and precautions you take, nature is a wild phenomena. His death proved what he was saying all along. It almost seems like the natural conclusion to what he wanted to teach us. In that respect, this final chapter in Steve's life should be broadcast as a warning, a conclusion and celebration.
On the other hand, Steve's long time friend and producer John Stainton says the tape should be destroyed. At this time I am unsure what his wife thinks but presumably, her wishes take top priority. As a potential viewer, what would be my motives in watching what I would know were the last moments of a man's life? Voyerism surely?

On balance, I think that we shouldn't view the tape. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Vandalism or art?

I rather like the new look that someone has given to some local postboxes. The Evening News article says it will cost the Post Office £1000 to correct the "vandalism" but I'm not convinced it IS vandalism. What do you think?

The size and style of the box tells us what it is, why does it have to be red?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Chinese Girl

I remember on a heated NYFC forum debate mentioning an iconic picture of green faced girl that represented naff 60's working class culture. The person I addressed had no idea what I was on about. Well this picture is what I meant.
It is thought to have sold more in print form than either Sunflowers or the Mona Lisa, selling more than half a million copies. Art critic Brian Sewell of course, hates it.
What do you think?
Is it art?
Even if you don't like it is it art?
If it has vast appeal, does that devalue it's worth?

BBC news stories here and here

Friday, September 01, 2006

Living forever...

It would appear that wrinkle defying creams and botox injections are not enough. Now a
growing band of scientists and philosophers who truly believe that biological boundaries can be pushed back, allowing humans to live to 200, 300, 1,000 and maybe even longer argue that it is time humans broke free of their "biological chains".

They call themselves "transhumanists". Dr Aubrey de Grey - a geneticist at Cambridge University -believes that many of us who are fairly young now will live to 120 and believes there's probably someone alive today who will live to be 1,000.
There are several considerations for me contemplating living a vast number of years. As a Christian I already believe that I have gained eternal life and that that eternity has already started. So in effect, I am immortal, only not in this body! Now I don't know about you but the thought of eternity terrifies me anyway but that needs to be considered too I think when looking at the life expectancy of humans.
If scientists suggest that we can live realistically to 200 but speculating further to 1000, what implications does that have on us and our environment? We would still be living in the same "fallen world" (ie a world of suffering, injustice and sin) so friends may die of disease, hurricanes will hit homes, your car broken into etc. Life would be the same, only longer.
But what physical condition would you be in at 150? What quality of life could you expect? The major concern would be how could you afford to live for longer. Currently people work until they are 65 and then have a period of retirement. The average life expectancy for men is 75 and for women 80 so you would expect to have 10/15 years of pension. With all the well documented problems people are having with their pensions, I doubt that schemes will be able to cope with (unwilling to cope with) people living to 120.
I am guessing that this will mean that people will have to work until they are 100 perhaps although I think if "transhumans" will exist via a series of injections and other treatments that only an elite will occupy near immortal statuse.
Also thinking of an increasing aged population and the impact that will have on the environment. More people living for longer means increased consumption of the earth's resources. Possible over crowding and the economic impact (elderly relatives not passing on inheritance to younger generations etc).
Sounds like a living hell to me.
Anyway it's been interesting to think of my own mortality. I'm quite happy to think that if God blesses me I'll live to about 90. Quality of life is paramount in thinking about life on earth. An extended number of years doesn't improve your quality of life, it just extends the years you have to experience life.

* revised to add:
What would you do in 1000 years?
Do you think that people without a belief in an afterlife are likely to be more desperate to extend their lives?