Environmentally aware shopping site EcoCentric has just launched a chopping board made entirely from recycled cardboard. Made from layers of compressed packaging, the finish is apparently ‘slate-like’ and meets health and safety guidelines (for the home at least, I wonder if it’s restaurant friendly? I’ve asked the PR, along with a question about what the manufacturing process specifically entails and if other materials are used – the release says not) It’s certainly tough for a paper-based product, reckoned to be heat resistant to 175 degrees Celsius and dishwasher proof.
EcoCentric claims that the production process, aside from using no raw materials in the board or packaging, consumes around 70% less energy than manufacturing a board from new.And, of course, at the end of its life you can just recycle it again – although I’ve never thrown away a chopping board in my life I don’t think. Do they actually wear out?
Makes me a bit angry that the local council simply composts all our cardboard. Think of the things you could make with this stuff.
I’m a big fan of EcoCentric’s products – I looked at one of their laptop bags made from old leather belts and recylced jackets last year for a feature in Stuff and it was absolutely lovely. Higher quality feel than most new bags, in fact.
I’ve just been listening to a show on Radio 4 that gives a name to something I’ve always been curious about. It’s a principle apparently called ‘Experimental Philosophy’, and while that’s a name I’ve not come across before, the idea ties into something which has fascinated me since university. It boils down to this: the circumstances in which you find yourself are more important in the decisions you make than your personality or moral code.
There are a few semi-comic examples of practical experiments cited on the show, Analysis, that bear this out: a group of theology students were asked to prepare a sermon about the Good Samaritan, and then instructed to go preach it. Half of them were told they were running late for the service, and on the way, all were stopped in the street by someone who needed help.
The ones who were running late didn’t stop, while the people who were on time did. All could be assumed to be of very moral character.
The ‘bread theory’ as I shall dub it in future creative works is a riff on the idea that people who are about to sell their house should do some baking, and that supermarkets should pipe the smell of the ovens to the front door to encourage people to spend. The test this time was asking people who were stood outside a shop whether or not they had change for a dollar. Half of the group were stood in front of a bakers, with the scent of yummy bread wafting over their heads, the others weren’t. Naturally the first group were significantly more willing to help a stranger with change, presumably for the car park.
It’s made clear that no-one is saying we could improve society by pumping food smells into everyone’s home, but the idea is touched on nevertheless.
The radio show moves the argument into ethics, where it starts to become very academic and a way of exploring our moral relativism. The example cited is the Peter Singer argument from Famine, Affluence and Morality: if you dive into a pond to save a drowning child knowing you were going to ruin a pair an expensive pair of shoes, why wouldn’t you sacrifice the same pair of shoes to prevent a child starving in Africa? Looked at objectively, it’s the same question.
Personally, I find the thought experiments less interesting than the practical ones. They touch on too many issues about human behaviour to ever be comfortably resolved: call me a pessimist but I don’t foresee a time that the imperative to live according to that kind of considered morality will ever overtake the desire for material comfort in Western society, and so you have to work with what you have.
The practicality issue, though, that circumstances are a controlling factor in choices is nothing new. I first came across it studying Brecht, who challenged the nineteenth century consensus of Stanislavky, Thomas Hardy et al that character is a fixed notion and said that – and I paraphrase from memory here – faced with the same set of decisions I made today, I wouldn’t make the same choices tomorrow. Because everything, including me, would be slightly different. In a simpler form it’s expressed in modern movies like Sliding Doors or the car crash scene in Benjamin Button.
The most interesting creative experiment along these lines I took part in was a dramatic piece by a friend about an old people’s home. All the characters were cast cross-gender, but played absolutely straight with no reference to the fact other than physical appearance on stage. It worked perfectly, quite intense dialogue about life experiences which we assume are typically ‘male’ or ‘female’ made absolute sense regardless of which sex the actor speaking it was. The defining morality or behaviour of a character was easily transposable.
There’s more to write on this, but it ties in very closely with a story that I’m writing and I’m not sure how it’s going to develop at the moment – and they’re not something I’ve used this blog for yet – so I’ll save it for later.
The random thought for today is about online video. It’s been around for ages, obviously, but I’ve never been a fan. I can count the number of times I’ve visited YouTube’s homepage, rather than just following a link, on one hand, and have always been deeply skeptical of friends who go off to set up online video channels. I was sort of involved with one a couple of years back, and rapidly lost interest – what was the point with no viewers?
I’ve just finished doing a video feature for PC Gamer‘s next issue, though, which I’m quietly hoping makes it to the website too. And I know that the next chance we have to get a major traffic spike at LearnAsOne will be when Nerys and Steve start uploading video. I’m really excited about the fact that Response Network has the Flip which was donated to LearnAsOne, so that they’ll be able to film George’s reaction to the first cheque that gets sent over.
Which means that somehow, without me noticing, online video clips have become quite important to me. To the point that I’m noticing their absence from sites I write for like TechRadar. And I think it’s because of Twitter. Being constantly alerted to videos that might actually interest me – like Linsey’s preview of the HTC Hero this morning – is very different to the spammish emailing of comedy clips, which was all that ever seemed to arrive by email. Perhaps I’m just late to the party, and everyone else knew this before, but suddenly I’m very interested in online video reporting and want to do more of it.
Of course, there are some rules that sites posting videos should stick to (and many don’t). Like being able to embed their video files when linking to them. The fact many don’t is why there aren’t more examples of good videos in this post, and the opening HTC Hero vid is from a site I don’t work for, rather than one I do.
So I went ahead and got me an iPhone. And I’m just childish enough to want to test out the blogging software for it. Pretty good actually, even if I am still having a few problems with the keyboard. You can’t tell, because the auto correct is doing a fine job, although it gets confused if you put in one too many characters.
Never quite realised what I was missing with the App Store either. It really is more than just a novelty isn’t it?
Right, now I’m writing from a proper keyboard (well, the Eee901 anyway) here’s some more random thoughts…
- Big downside is that now I need my netbook to be as fast and responsive, or else I’ll just stop using it. And that doesn’t make sense because the iPhone isn’t good for writing more than 140 characters at a time.
- Slightly concerned that without MobileMe I appear to have no security. All my passwords for Twitter, Facebook, this blog and more are saved into apps and autostart, but setting a PIN unlock is impracticable since the phone shuts itself off every 30 seconds, and remote wipe isn’t available unless you sub for MM.
- Related point, the battery life is crap.
- Switching to landscape view is inconsistent and occassionally doesn’t work where it should. why can’t I flip the screen for comfort when browsing the app store?
- Having problems with pairing my bluetooth headset, and it’s still too big for a phone…
But really, these are all very minor concerns compared to everything that’s good about it. I don’t use a Mac or iTunes, so will need to figure out a hack for getting music on there without going through VMware every time, but the speed and cleverness of switching to the screen you want to be on is brilliant. But there’s enough written about how good it is elsewhere, and it’s all pretty much true.
According to DWPub it is. They’re the company that serves up several gazillion press releases a day tailored by subject matter to an enormous database of journalists – kind of like Press Association but without the editorial middle man. It’s surveyed commissioning editors and reckons that almost one in five of them say between 50-75% of their content is generated by freelance.
I can well believe it, having seen the state of small print magazines these days and the general trend for larger presses and newspapers to lay off staff in favour of freelances. What the report doesn’t mention, though, is average rates paid for freelance work – there’s lots of anecodotal evidence that these are falling through the floor (I’ve had to compromise with a couple of regular outlets recently). More work for freelances doesn’t necessarily mean there’s any more chance of making a living wage at it.
I love these photos – Fallen Princesses: Disney Just Got Real. Dina Goldstein is currently creating an exhibition of shots showing Disney characters coping with modern day issues like childcare, addiction and mental illness. A brilliant idea, my favourite is Rapunzel dealing with chemotherapy.
One of the big problems with the Dead Aid debate is that people only seem to see the issue in extremes. It’s either cut off the supply of aid to Africa in five years (which not even Dambisa Moyo really suggests, only certain types of aid) or bring in Sir Bob as president.
There’s some statistics here – Debunking the Claims of African Regression – which are quite interesting. They show progress made which can be directly attributed to international aid programs. I find the claim that only 10,000 people in the whole African continent were receiving AIDS treatment in 2001 a little hard to believe, but otherwise it seems like good ammunition for showing that international aid does work.
As the papers have picked up on today there’s some incredible stories appearing on Twitter and various blog sites from protesters in Iran who have functioning internet connections. I used to work for an Iranian woman in Exeter whose family fled the country after the revolution in 1979 – haven’t spoken to her in years but I imagine she’s fairly distraught at the moment. She always wanted to go back, but being a divorcee married to a white guy who was running her own business, didn’t really fit the model of acceptable female behavior the Supreme Leader proscribed.
There are some fascinating pictures here of destruction inside the university where @Change_for_Iran was Twittering while under siege last night. They’re all haunting and macabre, in a non-gruesome way, but this is the oddest.
What was in the elevator that they needed to get in so badly? Can you imagine being on the other side of that? And, most importantly, don’t elevator doors slide open? Why go to the bother of battering it down when a simple crowbar would do the trick?
Apologies for the lack of posting lately – I’ve been pretty much off for a week with some odd throat infection.
I’ve finally managed to get part of George’s story up on LearnAsOne though, which I’m incredibly happy with. He’s literally one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met: I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out he ran a kitten sanctuary on the side. Funny, polite, unassuming and incredibly well educated, his presence at Simakakata alone destroys any preconceptions you might have about poverty in developing countries. George was born in a community very similar to the ones we visited and has dedicated his life to giving the kids he associates with a future.
For months now I’ve had an annoying problem with Ubuntu. It boots to Gnome login in less than 30 seconds, but then pauses for a long time before showing the desktop. Through tweaking and fixing I’ve got this down to something reasonable – another 30-40 seconds, but it’s still too long. I’d narrowed the problem down to an error message with PulseAudio, but figured a full reinstall was the only way to fix the machine (and undo all the other bits I’ve fiddled with and lost track of). Not having the time to do that recently, I’d filed it under ‘Things to do’ at some random point in the future.
Except I don’t need to any more. After months of occassional searches, yesterday finally threw up the solution. In order not to trigger a time out error during login, both your user and root apparently need to be members of the groups pulse, pulse-access and pulse-rt. But, for some reason, they’re not by default. At some point in the past I’d added my user to one of these, but not completed the whole set.
Anyway, the upshot is that now everything is working smoothly and perfectly and I’m happy. Anyone else who’s having problems can find a much more detailed troubleshooting guide here.