Wednesday, 28 March 2012

SOPA Retrospect

Okay, let me just start by saying this: I know the SOPA issue is in the past. I know I'm jumping on the bandwagon too late. But I just submitted an op-ed on SOPA recently so I might as well post a retrospective now. And don't worry, I'm translating it back into casual terminology, not all the official lingo the assignment called for. But the joke I used at the start was so good / awful (depending on your perspective) that I had to leave it as it was. Alright, here goes.

For those of you not in full knowledge of SOPA, allow me to explain. Soap is a cleaning agent found in the average household bathroom. SOPA is a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that, if passed, would disrupt free expression on the internet.

(Aside) Sorry. I know that was terrible. Now onto the casual part.

If you were to look up the objective of SOPA on Wikipedia or something, it sounds like a good development. "No more illegal download websites putting viruses on my computer right?" Well yeah, maybe SOPA could help out with that, but those aren't the only websites that would feel the effects. At the time, the general consensus of internet users and online organisations, among others, was that the act would mainly affect websites with a lot of emphasis on user generated content. Think YouTube and MemeBase.

Now, don't get me wrong. I can see the innovation behind SOPA. The act was intended to protect intellectual property and prevent online piracy. For example, Doctor Who could legally be hosted on BBC iPlayer as both the website and TV show are owned by the BBC and programs are only added to iPlayer after being shown on a BBC television channel. But on the other hand, if the same show were to be hosted by and watched on a different website, such as putlocker or Mega Video, the BBC would receive no benefit from those views. Hopefully SOPA could prevent that.

As I'm sure many people will remember, on January 18, 2012, many websites and internet users staged a mass protest against the looming bill. I'm pretty sure the Wikipedia blackout ticked off a fair few students who needed it for research. There were well over 700 votes of approval for the blackout and a comparatively minor 104 opposed the opposition. Try making sense of that one. And like I said, it's not only the websites moderators who made their opinions clear. Internet figureheads like Mark Zuckerberg and Chad Hurley sent formal letters identifying their opposition. Even the online community joined in on Facebook, Twitter, discussion forums and the one I remember most, YouTube. One of the channels I'm subscribed to posted a protest video that was just a black screen for ten minutes. I'm a little ashamed to say I didn't watch the whole thing. But it's actions like that that make me proud to be a part of the online community.

But on January 20th the House Judiciary Committee made the decision to postpone passing and consideration of the legislation until something closer to a compromise could be found. So for now, no SOPA.


Foreword: You may be pleased or disappointed to know that this post will be plenty shorter than the others.

So, I went to give blood for the first time last week. Didn't hurt nearly as much as I expected although I still have a small scar in the crook of my elbow. That doesn't bother me in the slightest, I'm a slow healer. But whatever, I'm going off topic again.

Everything went fine until it was time for me to go lie down on the bed-stretcher thing (I probably should know what they're really called) and give blood for real. First off, the nurse had trouble even finding the vein in my arm. When she eventually did find one in my right arm the needle went in with no difficulty. The sample tubes and test bag filled up as quickly as I thought they should but once the main blood bag was attached, my blood flow seemingly slowed down. The nurse ended up giving up when the bag was only half full. Apparently my veins were just too thin that day to let much blood through. I still feel guilty, like I cheaped out, even if it wasn't under my control. And I can't help but wonder why. I still really hope that what blood they got from me will be able to help someone.

P.S. I still find it rather amusingly ironic that 'Another One Bites the Dust' came on the radio right as the needle was being put in my arm.

Sea Monkeys?

So, since first year I've been under the strong, and probably pretty accurate, impression that the general public really don't like journalists. I mean, in some parts of the world, that job gets you killed. But the other day I came to realize that the job has perks too. You know, beyond the standard stuff. Let's face it, anyone who would willingly go into a job they know they'll hate doesn't have their head screwed on the right way. And this is probably going to be the first post to make me sound like a superficial ass, assuming I didn't do that already.

Anyway, getting back to the point. The other day me and some friends / course mates / colleagues went to shoot some background footage for a news story at an aquarium a few towns away. I won't even go into how much of a pain in the neck it was getting there. Let's just say it took my colleagues 20 minutes in the car and me over an hour on the bus and walking the rest of the way (there was no room left in the car for me). So, by the time I caught up, the others had finished shooting the interview and the relevant cutaways we needed. Sigh. But we were still going to walk around the rest of the aquarium and film some shots of the other fish and other critters (check the title).

Now, entry to the aquarium is usually £7.50 for students. We got in for free. And let me tell you, there aren't many things better than going to a coastal town, when the weather is close to what you'd expect in May or June, and watching adorable seals and otters swimming around and spending no more money than what a return bus fare costs. And I will quite happily say that that aspect of being a journalist is awesome.

P.S. There were monkeys in the aquarium. Land-dwelling monkeys. What the heck were they doing there?
P.P.S. If you were wondering what an aquarium has to do with news, the staff there were rescuing and cleaning the shells of a bunch of illegally imported turtles.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Do We Shut Ourselves Off From The Rest Of The World?

Okay so, I was playing online scrabble in a lecture the other day (I know, sue me) and I got to thinking, how much do we really cut off our senses without realising it? And in doing so, make the rest of the world not want to approach us (with the exception of those guys that sell the big issue).

If you're like me (for your sake, I hope not) then there's some times that you can't help but listen to your iPod at full blast - to the extent that I don't realise I have it at sound distortion levels until it's too late. I've actually had someone complain to me on the bus before that they could hear the music coming from my iPod. My bad. But it's not just that, the sight of someone with headphones in their ears doesn't exactly encourage someone to approach them. Which leads me on to...

... sunglasses. I don't have as much to say about this one but like with other things (which I'll get to in a minute), sunglasss obscure your face and it means that other people can't make eye contact with you. Now, I know a lot of people find it awkward to make direct eye contact during a conversation, I'm one of them, but they also find it just as awkward to not be able to see the eyes of their conversation partner at all. Basically what I'm trying to say about sunglasses is: you can see them, but they can't really see you.

Now for another stylistic criticism. I don't know how much you guys out there in internet land know about motorbikes but there's a specialist scarf that's sold alongside specially adapted motorbike jackets and jeans called buffs. I'm just guessing here but they're probably used to keep the wind off biker's faces when they have their visor up. Like I said, just a guess. But last year, a variant of them came out called hoodie buffs, basically the same thing but with a hood attached. Now the thing that differentiates buffs from your workaday scarf is that you can pull them up over your nose and mouth. Like I said, keeps the breeze off. Now, picture someone with their hair, nose and mouth covered. Definitely not approachable. I own one of these things and even my friends say it makes me look like some kind of mugger-ninja hybrid.

I was going to say about how gloves cut off your ability to touch stuff to an extent but this entry is getting to be a bit too long so for now, I'm out.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

What's the Big Deal?

Okay, I'm not trying to start any kind of controversy here but, I'm a student, and I really don't see what you'd call the whole appeal of partying.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but the main staples of a night out at the bars and clubs are: too much to drink, making out with random strangers and losing a load of money (usually on aforementioned drinks). Oh yeah, and often either throwing up afterwards or waking up with a terrible hangover. When did throwing up come to consitute fun? And making out with people I've never met before (which I've never done and never will) seems like one heck of an invasion of personal space. I prefer to spend my money on things I actually need like say food, rent and maybe the occasional DVD or video game.

Yeah, call me a loser if you want but, as far as I'm concerned, I can have just as fun a night, if not even more fun, by staying at home with my housemates and friends with some home made pizza, multi-player games on the Wii and a few DVD's. Aand maybe some hilarious karaoke every once in a while.

And don't think I'm dissing all those people who do like to go out and get smashed every time they've got a night off. You guys do what you want. But me? I just don't see the appeal. Sorry.