Facebook, yet-another-social-networking-site, made some controversial changes a few weeks ago that upset a number of people. The less interesting change is that they've opened their membership to people who are not university students (their original emphasis), becoming more generic of a filesharing site in so doing. The only thing this did is reintroduce the possibly irritating possibility that one's family would demand to be friended and thus see one's profile, getting rid of a certain amount of accidental privacy. The more interesting change is also about privacy.. kind of. There's now a tool that displays recent changes to the profiles of users one has friended (and similar stuff). This is, strictly speaking, not a privacy issue because it never reveals information one did not have access to (as far as I know), it's about presentation of information. For example, if "Spinach" is added to the interests of one profile, all of the friends of that profile might recieve a notice about it. There is a social expectation that people won't obsess over other people's details in real society, and it may facilitate that kind of thing, but the information is public to begin with. One acquaintence of mine recently had a bit of a scare when their boyfriend, presumably tweaking their profile settings, accidentally marked himself as single again on his profile briefly - it's good to take everything one sees on these sites with a grain of salt. Now that I've familiarised myself with the Livejournal API LJ::Simple gives me, I've been thinking about implementing a subset of that kind of functionality in a standalone client, primarily to let me know when people friend or defriend my LJ account. It's probably best to present that as a local atom file (or socket). Taking it further, it might be interesting to use firefox's RSS/Atom support to turn the browser as a general mechanism to present interesting information to the browser, from disk space warnings to reports on the off-box world.
I'm excited about some of the changes in future versions of GAIM (my preferred IM client) -- perhaps gaim-text will finally get curses-based IM messaging right. If you're interested in tracking GAIM development, this may be useful.
Dawkins recently gave a talk on religion that has people up at arms. DISCLAIMER: I haven't seen it yet. Also on that front, in Germany a play was cancelled out of fears that it might lead to security issues if shown, as it showed depictions of the severed heads of Poseidon, Mohammad, Jesus, and the Buddha. I find this disappointing -- courtesy to other perspectives should, in my opinion, boil down to a politeness to people of those faiths, not a respect for the institutions and traditions themselves. The destination put forth from the more liberal voices of the Islamic world, that respect should in essense lead us to the same notions of things being sacred by proxy, is unacceptable. To lose the ability to criticise, to mock, and to ridicule in the harshest possible terms is to give up hard-won freedoms, and to give them up in the name of getting along better with other civilisations is to give up against the very drive that people fought to get them initially. Things have not changed, and that struggle is still worthwhile, even if we have a certain breathing space in western society. There is a conflict possible between being kind and respectful and exercising these freedoms, but I hold that it is a better thing to have and deal with than to let civility become law.
If anyone knows anything about the Situationist movement and can suggest good, clear, non-propogandising books to read on them, I'll be grateful.
I recently had a few conversations with various people about "Dixie", a song I've been known to sing on occasion. A few people find it deeply offensive, in that they link it strongly to the Confederate States of America and thus to slavery. I don't personally equate it that way, but if I did, I still wouldn't be ashamed of it any more than I'm ashamed to like Handel's Messiah, or Wagner's opera. I don't support slavery, christianity, or anti-semitism, and if people are offended at these things because they make strong ties to the trappings of the thing and its origins, I don't think I generally should adapt my likings to accomodate them.
Mao briefly brings up and dismisses Trotskyite labour movements in China as being counter-revolutionary, claiming they supported the Kuomintang. I wonder if this is true, and why they would've done such a thing. It's possible that Mao's initially favourable relations with Stalin led to an initial bad impression of Trotskyites -- does it go further than that?
I had to shave off the facial hair -- the increasingly dry air means that I need to apply skin moisturisers to my face and I couldn't do that through the hair. It's not a big deal -- I was interested to see what hat+bare skin would look like. I'll put up some photos in one of the next few entries. I need to get a new shaver... any suggestions on electric razors would be welcome.