Category Archives: UK

Meanwhile, in the British News

The UK papers are all, ahem, a-Twitter, about this story: Scientist announces that she is call girl and blogger Belle de Jour.

It seems that one of the leading 'sex bloggers' in the UK took up the oldest profession in order to pay for her 'education habit'—her Ph.D.

Magnanti said she was working on a doctoral study for the department of forensic pathology of Sheffield University in 2003 when she began her secret life. “I was getting ready to submit my thesis. I saved up a bit of money. I thought, I'll just move to London, because that's where the jobs are, and I'll see what happens.

“I couldn't find a professional job in my chosen field because I didn't have my PhD yet. I didn't have a lot of spare time on my hands because I was still making corrections and preparing for the viva and I got through my savings a lot faster than I thought I would.”

Unable to pay her rent, Magnanti's mind turned to other things. She told the Sunday Times she wanted to start doing something straightaway, “that doesn't require a great deal of training or investment to get started, that's cash in hand and that leaves me spare time to do my work in” Her solution was prostitution.

Full Sunday Times story here.

You have to wonder about a world in which a person decides that the optimal way to finance a Ph.D. in informatics, epidemiology and forensic science is hooking, however (apparently) happy. Even at £300 an hour.

(No idea if the fact that she went to high school in Florida is relevant.)

On her blog she says, yes, I paid my taxes. It seems that is what people wanted to know.

Posted in UK | 2 Comments

Fowl Humour

Maybe due to my sick sense of humor, but I think this is one of the funniest political videos I've seen in a long time—Open Up: Stately Home.

The back story, for those who don't follow British politics, has to do with MPs claiming all sorts of things on their housing allowances — including, famously, a Tory MP claiming for a duck house. More here and here and here

(via Boing Boing)

Posted in UK | Comments Off on Fowl Humour

Be Grateful for the First Amendment (and the Internet)

Guardian gagged from reporting parliament:

The Guardian has been prevented from reporting parliamentary proceedings on legal grounds which appear to call into question privileges guaranteeing free speech established under the 1688 Bill of Rights.

Today's published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.

The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

Fortunately, sanity (and the internet) prevailed. Gag on Guardian reporting MP's Trafigura question lifted,

The existence of a previously secret injunction against the media by oil traders Trafigura can now be revealed.

Within the past hour Trafigura's legal firm, Carter-Ruck, has withdrawn its opposition to the Guardian reporting proceedings in parliament that revealed its existence.

Labour MP Paul Farrelly put down a question yesterday to the justice secretary, Jack Straw. It asked about the injunction obtained by “Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton Report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura”.

It's called the Streisand effect now,

The Streisand effect is an Internet phenomenon where an attempt to censor or remove a piece of information backfires, causing the information to be publicized widely and to a greater extent than would have occurred if no censorship had been attempted.

Having one major country with the First Amendment and lots of servers means that most other countries cannot at present easily censor like they used. (See my 1997 article The Internet as a Source of Regulatory Arbitrage). But there are exceptions: countries with almost no Internet access, and countries that have managed to control both the basic routing information and limit the number of connections to the outside world. That would be China, so far.

Posted in UK | 2 Comments

The Joys of International Cell Phone Roaming

When I went shopping for a cell phone about a year ago, I knew I wanted four things: I wanted great call quality and a speakerphone; I wanted a clamshell style phone; I wanted a GSM world phone so I could take it anywhere, and swap out the SIM card when needed; I wanted a national family plan that didn't cost too much since even the kids don't chew up the minutes, but we do use them when we are away from home. We were more or less stuck with AT&T as a call provider, as they have the strongest signal indoors in our house; there was only one other company that had a strong signal too, but they were much more expensive.

I ended up with a RAZR Z9. It seemed to fit my needs, being a quad-band clamshell with great sound. It had some other disadvantages, like clunky software and a reputation for a little lack of ruggedness, but I decided I could live with those. AT&T unlocked it for me without any argument.

Indeed, everything has gone fine with this phone until I got off the plane in Manchester. Unlike my old, reliable but sometimes comical, NEC 525, it wouldn't find a signal.

On the old phone I had to reset the networks to Europe; there's no control for that on the Z9, and the manual suggests it should switch automatically.

So I go to the AT&T help pages. Nothing seems of much use. I check out the plan description and see that international roaming isn't selected — aha! Now, why anyone would want a quad-band phone that wasn't set up to work abroad, I can't begin to imagine, but then again, AT&T has gotten into legal trouble for turning int'l roaming on without warning people and then sticking them with their insanely high rates. So I'll just turn it on then. Wait, what's this? There's been a problem with my request, and they can't fulfill it. And I should click the image below for live person assistance? But there is no image below…. Ah. In the very fine print well below it says that if there is no image, I should just call them… but the PHONE ISN“T WORKING.

So I email for help. And I get a reply within minutes:

Thank you for contacting AT&T.

We appreciate your business and know that your time is valuable. An AT&T Online Specialist has been assigned to your case and will respond to your concern within 2 business days; however, our response may be sooner. We will do our best to exceed your expectations.

Now at this point, I'm thinking that isn't going to be hard, since my expectations are pretty low. Good thing I've got a UK SIM card sitting somewhere in my luggage. I only want the US SIM connection to pick up messages anyway.

Between the time when I started this note, and getting to this point in the account, I got a second note from AT&T, this time from a real person. The person tells me I don't have international roaming set up on my account. So I reply asking to have it activated. And they say it's fixed, turn it off, wait a minute, turn it on.

So I do. But it still doesn't work.

And then 10 minutes later, it does.

Posted in UK | 1 Comment

I’ll Be Good

I'm leaving for the UK today, but I won't be going to any parties — especially not any all-night parties.

I'm aware that US cops can use excessive force in busting up a party — a political fund-raiser at that! — but the difference is that by all accounts the US cops were acting illegally and used excessive force. It appears that the UK cops were just a little enthusiastic about enforcing a pretty draconian law.

Even so, it's instructive to recall that although the civil liberties situation in this country is in many (but not all!) respects at an ebb, things are in fact worse in several other liberal democracies. I'd take French health care, but not French cops or treatment of minorities. I'd take British tolerance for middle-class dissent and eccentricity, but not the intolerance for young people enforced by ASBOS. According to the worn notices tied to lampposts in the part of Manchester I visit there was, and maybe still is, an ASBOS order in effect which pretty much makes it an offense for groups to congregate on the street in the evening. In practice, I imagine that it's a license to arrest young people, at the cops' whims.

Posted in UK | 4 Comments

Studies in Comparative Stress Reduction

Blenderlaw catches something at fighting stress in the uk and in miami:

The BBC and the Miami Herald both addressed the issue of how to fight stress this week. The proposed solutions aren’t exactly the same. Top of the BBC’s list are lightboxes – which we don’t need in Miami!

The BBC’s list:

  • lightboxes,
  • get out in the garden,
  • get yourself out of breath,
  • cook a meal from scratch,
  • stroke a cat,
  • pat yourself on the back,
  • take up a lifetime hobby,
  • do something for someone else…for free,
  • seek intimacy and
  • good things take time.

The Miami Herald:

  • exercise,
  • positive thinking,
  • hypnosis,
  • massage,
  • tai chi,
  • yoga,
  • laughter,
  • music,
  • meditation,
  • biofeedback,
  • make a friend,
  • acupuncture and
  • get going.

Blenderlaw again:

There are some similarities here: both lists suggest exercise and positive thinking, for example. But whereas the Miami list is largely focused on what the stressed out person can do for herself, the BBC’s list encourages more looking outwards. Even stroking a cat is presented as being a good thing partly because it involves giving: “in a way we reward ourselves by being nice”. Nowhere does the Miami list suggest that being nice to others or volunteering can help you fight stress.

She's right. But if I were making the Miami stressbusters list, suggestion #1 would be, “Don't drive.”

Posted in Miami, UK | 2 Comments