Monday, November 26, 2007

Patronising Sexist Tosh

You know how it is when you're a member of various organisations and the journals and magazines come through the post, you sometimes wait some time before opening them.

In my latest copy of Engineering and Technology from the IET I noticed the following piece that reads as if it has come speeding from the 1950s.
Do you know what WAF is?” LG Electronics president and CEO James Kim asked the audience at the IFA consumer-electronics show in Berlin in August. The answer came back from the floor immediately: “woman acceptance factor”.
Kim was far from alone among executives at IFA in citing it and although he introduced WAF as a joke, he thought that there was money to be made by solving one of the stereotypical conflicts of the sexes. “No longer does the man make all the decisions regarding electronic products for the home,” he claimed. “By creating products that offer the ‘woman acceptance factor’, we can please both parties.
Has anyone read anything so patronisingly unfunny, outside of a Jimmy Carr gig?

This casual, patronising, sexism is what is deemed acceptable content, in the 21st century, for a magazine from a prestigious professional organisation. Whatever happened to feminism?

The argument is not only sexist it's also wrong. For the past twenty, nay thirty, years consumer electronics have used design and aesthetics as selling points. Look at the queue outside the Apple store for the aesthetically pleasing but over-hyped iPhone: nary a woman in sight. People want well designed consumer electronics that do not have the appearance and appeal of a brick. And that's "people" of all genders, not just people of one gender. To argue otherwise is to perpetuate a patronising, unhelpful and offensive stereotype that serves to perpetuate the stereotype of engineers as socially unaware geeks who wouldn't recognise a feminist if one came up and rammed an iPhone where the sun fails to shine.

Music Was My First Love

Just found, probably years after everyone else, the BBC's Peel's Festive 50s. With 31 seconds (probably a licensing fair use thing) of almost every track.

I was actually trying to find the song Venceremos, off the album Working Nights by Working Week and there it was number 50 in 1984. Singing on the track were Tracey Thorn and Robert Wyatt. What more is there anyone could want?

And now I find they've reformed (well, they had in 2005 and I've only just found them again).

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tributes Being Paid after Untimely Death of Scotland

The Daily Mash reports that
TRIBUTES are being paid to Scotland this morning after the entire country laughed itself to death.

Most would have been dead within minutes. The alarm was first raised at around 10pm last night as thousands of phone calls and text messages went unanswered.

Small groups of volunteers from Berwick-Upon-Tweed and Carlisle ventured north just after midnight only to find houses full of dead people gathered around still blaring television sets.
For more of this sad story read on.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More on Sudanese Refugees

Lisa Goldman interviewed some refugees from Sudan who were living and working on a kibbutz in northern Israel.

We asked why the kibbutz had decided to accept refugees from Darfur.

Jeanine looked at me sternly. “Do you know what happened at the Evian Conference in
1938?” she asked. “When all the countries gathered to try to find a solution
for the Jews of Germany and Austria but no-one was willing to give them

Yes, I answered, of course.

“So that’s why,” answered Jeanine. “We knew that we had a moral obligation, after what happened to us.”
Read on.

Thanks to Lisa Goldman in the comments.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sudanese Refugees in Israel

Israel is becoming an increasingly popular destination for refugees from southern Sudan and the western region of Darfur.

Greater economic prospects in Israel are encouraging Sudanese refugees to cross from Egypt into Israel evading border patrols on the way.

Al-Ahram Weekly reports
Excessively harsh socio-economic conditions and racist attitudes in Egypt seem to be the main reason why Sudanese refugees want to relocate to Israel. Of the Sudanese refugees now resident in Israel 71 per cent report verbal and physical abuse as the main reason for their fleeing Egypt. Some 86 per cent had refugee status with the UNHCR in Egypt, though those crossing the border spent an average of six months in detention upon arrival in Israel. Others are subject to indefinite detention.
There's another section that suggests southern Sudanese are "culturally more attuned to Israeli culture, and Israelis warm up to them", whereas Darfurians are not so liked.

Israel, as is the wont of richer nations, is suggesting that Sudan's neighbours should take more refugees. Al Ahram says
There are an estimated 400,000 Sudanese refugees in Kenya, 400,000 in Chad and 100,000 in Egypt. Yet on the UN human development index, Israel stands at 23, Egypt at 111 and Kenya at 152. Chad is among the world's poorest and least developed nations and Sudan is not far behind.
Via Lisa Goldman's informative site I found this beautiful and emotive set of photos about Sudanese refugees in Israel. Go look.

What's happening in Darfur?

Here's a link to Globe for Darfur's news page.

And, reader, the news isn't good.

Here's Latin Quarter's Radio Africa - "I'm hearing only bad news from Radio Africa".

A day

Woke up early today, a sunday. Had to go in to work for 7am to finish a big system upgrade. The database upgrade scripts had been kicked off at 8pm on Friday. The scripts finished at 9am this morning. Our experience in development, with full copies of our development database took, on average, about 26 hours. The much more powerful production server took 37 hours. Go figure.

If I was making a symbolic point I would say that the development box succeeded without power, perhaps validating the withdrawal from power principle of Subcommandante Marcos. Or maybe not.

Give the system back to users. Return home by lunchtime for breakfast. Eat. Sleep. General malaise.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Power and Resistance

When you meet with power and resistance and treat those two impostors just the same, and then you'll be a revolutionary, my comrade.

Slavoj Zizek writes on power and resistance in the current London Review of Books. The piece is a critique of the latest book from the philosopher Simon Critchley, Infinitely Demanding. Critchley argues for a "politics of resistance" operating at a distance from the state "bombarding the state with impossible demands, of denouncing the limitations of state mechanisms". Zizek then brings out the "superego" to describe Critchley's "anarchic ethico-political agent" which "bombard[s] the state with demands; and the more the state tries to satisfy these demands, the more guilty it is seen to be. In compliance with this logic, the anarchic agents focus their protest not on open dictatorships, but on the hypocrisy of liberal democracies, who are accused of betraying their own professed principles." Wow. Liberal democracies aren't perfect lands of milk and honey. Tell me something new. Sure, it is worth seeking to change the egregious parts of liberal democracies, like the UK's immigration policies and the USA's prison system. Leaving critique's of "open dictatorships" to the people of those countries is like telling those people "I have heard your heart breaking story, now go and annoy someone else", and washing your hands of their predicament. Whatever happened to solidarity and internationalism?

Zizek then discusses the 2003 demonstrations against the war in Iraq:
Their paradoxical outcome was that both sides were satisfied. The protesters saved their beautiful souls: they made it clear that they don’t agree with the government’s policy on Iraq. Those in power calmly accepted it, even profited from it: not only did the protests in no way prevent the already-made decision to attack Iraq; they also served to legitimise it. Thus George Bush’s reaction to mass demonstrations protesting his visit to London, in effect: ‘You see, this is what we are fighting for, so that what people are doing here – protesting against their government policy – will be possible also in Iraq!’
Finally Zizek argues against "impossiblism".
... the truly subversive thing is not to insist on ‘infinite’ demands we know those in power cannot fulfil. Since they know that we know it, such an ‘infinitely demanding’ attitude presents no problem for those in power: ‘So wonderful that, with your critical demands, you remind us what kind of world we would all like to live in. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, where we have to make do with what is possible.’ The thing to do is, on the contrary, to bombard those in power with strategically well-selected, precise, finite demands, which can’t be met with the same excuse.
If these are not possible then what is possible? Make things better.