How karma works

It’s really good that I didn’t tease stronger for locking herself out last week, because the very next day I lost my own keys. That’s karma! No wait, that’s not right – the karma wasn’t that I lost the keys, it’s that they were returned to me so quickly.
The quick return was because of this:

This keyring tag was a gift on my 21st birthday, waaaay back in ’97, from the redoubtable Rob Moon. I’ve carried it with me ever since, all over the world. When my keys slipped out of my pocket at a conference, they were handed in to the woman co-ordinating everything. She thought to herself “there’s only one person who would have that on a keyring tag”.
So thanks Marie, thanks Rob, and thanks karmic principles. That could have been an annoying turn of events but it turned out just fine.
Related: got the Facebook username to suit. Just fancy, no-one else had taken it!

Assorted notes

Got Filament issue the first in the post. It’s really nice! Well-put together physical artifact = awesome. Content is smart and has a good rhythm. We liked it very much. Can get your copy here.
It was Bloomsday yesterday! Here is a comic of Ulysses with neato notes and guides. Related: Ulysses as a Twitter feed.
And here is the meal Dan of Freshly Ground made for me and Cal. OMG NOM NOM.

Ghost Posts

Esteemed leader is conducting some fixin’ backstage, and it has made two of my posts go all ghosty. Like, they don’t show up in my blog owner super secret list of posts, and they don’t show up on the blog, but I can direct linky ’em just fine. Can you?
Principled, in which I second guess calling Ahmadinejad principled – see also Stephen’s comment to the Iran election post, and follow the link he gives for a great overview of the Iran situation.
Marie Antoinette Project, in which I reveal the cool sekret project I’m involved in!
I’ll probably make those posts exist again when the fixing is done. But right now, they can sit in the phantom zone for a while. Play spooky music while you read them…

Here come the Iran experts

As you’ll note from every news service, something’s up in Iran. They just completed their Presidential elections and announced a big victory for regime favourite Ahmadinejad; now there are protests that the result is fraudulent. The word ‘coup’ is being bandied about.
The overall result doesn’t seem out of line with what little I know about Iran; Ahmadinejad has a lot of support out of the cities. That said, the details I’ve seen talked about certainly raise eyebrows. The reported victory margin is huge for a President whose only consistent public-image successes were in his interactions with the U.S. More alarming signs are noted by Juan Cole, such as Ahmadinejad reported as taking Tehran by over 50%. Cole is of course cautious about whether this is proof of tampering, but he concludes that it “looks to me like a crime scene”.
In any case, it is clear that the big cities are hosting a challenge to the legitimacy of the election result, and that the regime is mobilising in force to put down the dissent. If the election was stolen, there’s no way to hand it back to the rightful owner now – the regime has thrown its weight behind this and unless the Supreme Leader goes down we’re stuck with four more years of Ahmadinejad. What’s at stake now is the terms on which the regime operates from here on. Things have got a bit rougher and tighter since Khatami’s term as President but overall the Revolutionary Council and the Supreme Leader have been able to exert a lot of control relatively softly; expect that to change, and for political battles to get a lot more upfront in the coming four years.
Iran exerts a lot of power over the region, so there will be global consequences for this sequence of events. We all just have to wait for the battles to be fought and resolved. Of course, the rest of the world should be quick to demand transparency of election processes and the right to protest freely. Soft support for the relatively-reform friendly candidate Mousavi isn’t a bad idea either. Still, Ahmadinejad will be in the seat for the next four years and it’s important to keep talking with the man. He’s far more conservative than I’d like but he’s also smart and principled; we could do a lot worse than him.
And don’t get carried away. This is hardly a coup; the President of Iran isn’t even the head of state. It isn’t a civil war either and isn’t going to become one. And as dramatic as the photos of protest are, they do not tell more than a tiny part of the story.
Also worth a look: Laura Secor at the New Yorker.

No Men On Cover plskthx

Suraya’s Filament magazine has been getting a fair bit of press of late – a five-minute feature on nightly current affairs TV show Close Up, an interview on NatRad and BBC Radio 1, and also The Daily Mail spat the dummy and missed the point which, Suraya reports, is quite good for the credibility.
So this latest post from Suraya gives you a good opportunity to raise your eyebrows in consternation:

Filament has just been knocked back by the first distributor to say they’re not going to distribute us on the basis that we have a man on our cover, not a woman. That’s the rule – women’s magazines can’t have men on the cover. But men’s magazines can have either a man or a woman on their cover.

Yes indeed. I leave all the ways in which this is stupidwrong as an exercise for the reader. (Okay, you get one free to start you off: there is a global print media crisis happening. These old rules do not work.)

Pecha Kucha 5

Made it to Pecha Kucha last night, first one I’ve got to. It’s a format for creative types to share Some Stuff using a 20-slides-with-20-seconds-per-slide format. Was gud.
Briefly, I particularly enjoyed:

  • Tim Bollinger, whose distinctive comics-based political activism was great fun;
  • Jared Forbes of Lumen who talked about remodelling the visitor centre at Mt Bruce nature reserve;
  • Maurice Bennett, the guy who makes art out of toast, who was just as much fun as you’d expect;
  • Chris Jackson talking about chair design across 2000 years;
  • Joshua Judkins of global geektech darlings Ponoko, who talked about playing the Lost Ring alternate reality game and blew my mind a bit with some of what happened after I stopped paying attention (my earlier post on the Lost Ring);
  • and of course Edward Lynden-Bell of this parish, who talked about the Drake Equation and the likelihood of intelligent life existing elsewhere in the universe.

It was good fun and definitely worth the $9. Pecha Kucha nights are springing up all over; check your local area to get in on the action.


Yesterday attended a talk at university by Dr Wojke Abrahamse of Surrey’s RESOLVE working group, about their research project to encourage lifestyle changes in the home in response to climate change. Their project used a mix of information provision, goal setting and tailored feedback over the internet, and achieved significant changes.
This has a lot of crossover with my own research in this area (indeed, one of the questions asked was whether anyone had tried using groups – I held my tongue but will email the relevant parties later). It also has the same limitations – self-report risks of inflating results, preaching to the converted, etc.
Three things of interest:
(1) there is some evidence that environmental changes are more likely to take root when accompanied by other big lifestyle shifts, particularly moving to a new home. Seems obvious now it’s been pointed out. Something to keep in mind anyway…
(2) one of the participants in Wojke’s study was so enthusiastic he tracked carefully the energy usage for each shower by each member of his family… among his detailed conclusions? “The strongest indicator of shower energy use is hair length”. Hee! Is Greenpeace ready to start a “short hair will save the planet” campaign?
(3) this came out in discussion – Wojke felt that the very different circumstances of each person make it difficult to advise people in general where they should start if they want to make some changes, but I think her own data tells a different story. The right place to start is with the very easiest things. All behaviours are not created equal, and some can shift markedly without much difficulty (e.g. stopping the use of standby on your appliances, shifting to low-power lightbulbs) while others demand much more to shift (e.g. using your car less, shifting to home-cooked food from prepared processed food). In her own data, car use patterns hardly changed, even though change in other areas was distinct; this is precisely to be expected. It just seems obvious to me that people should start with the very easiest things (regardless of the relative ecological impact of those things) because each change builds up context for, commitment to and moves identity towards environmental responsibility. (This also betrays my bigger diagnosis that individual action is primarily useful for its consequences in the political marketplace, making politicians act like this stuff matters to voters.)