“The World is Getting Better. Quickly.” — Anil Dash

Anil Dash’s account of meeting with Bill Gates to hear about the progress of the UN Millenium Development Goals:

Last week, I had a chance to sit down with Bill Gates as part of a small group, in a discussion focused around the release of his annual letter and the progress that has been made against the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. You can also read his annual letter as a 6.3MB PDF. Ill write separately about what it was like having a conversation with Bill Gates, but the biggest highlight that came from the meeting was a simple lesson:

The world is getting better, faster, than we could ever have imagined.

Worth reading the whole thing to see how much progress our species has made in 20 years.

London Bloggers Meetup

Yesterday I posted about my new film blog, Obviously Not a Golfer. Something I didn’t mention in that post is that the new blog owes its existence largely to the London Bloggers Meetup.

I attended one of the meet-ups just before Christmas, and of course the natural thing to ask each new person you meet at such an event is, “What do you blog about?” Despite that being a question I’ve been asking myself about this site for just over ten years now — or maybe because of that — I didn’t have a very good answer. I talked to a few people about the conundrum of deciding what subjects should and shouldn’t go on a blog that has no set topic, and eventually I was convinced to choose a single, well-defined topic to start a new blog about. With that, and a subsequent few hours of trying to find Big Lebowski quotes that would work as a domain and weren’t already registered, Obviously Not a Golfer was born.

This evening I went back to LBM, and this time I had an answer for all of the people who asked, “What do you blog about?” Apparently I also had an answer for most of the questions in the Q & A session with the guest speakers, as I kind of overwhelmed the #LBMlive hashtag for a while. Topics included making blogs mobile friendly, whether you can retain editorial control and still run ads, how to find people who might be interested in reading your stuff, how to stay motivated about writing, and the Kama Sutra. I suspect the lady that brought up that last topic might have got a few more readers this evening.

New Blog

Chances are that as a reader of this blog you probably also follow me on Twitter, Google+ or Facebook (or some combination there-of). So you’re probably already aware that I’ve recently started a new blog, at obviouslynotagolfer.com, where I’m reviewing the 500 greatest films of all time, as well as offering my thoughts on some other films and posting about other film-related topics. But if you weren’t aware, you are now.

I delayed posting anything about the new site here until I had posted enough to be sure that it’s a project that I want to continue with. I’m really happy with how it’s going so far though, and I’m glad to have received some very kind and encouraging feedback both online and off, so I’m comfortable saying that it’s something that will continue for a while.

As usual I also have all sorts of plans to post more here at roryparle.com, but the wise move would be to believe that when you see it.

Happy New Year

Depending on where you are in the world, it seems likely that any hangover you may have acquired in the service of ringing in the new year should have mostly subsided by now. I hope your year has started well and that it continues well. May your plans for the year survive first contact with the enemy.

Adults do not obey

The best comment I’ve read on the topic of Savita Halappanavar’s death comes from Emer O’Toole, in the Guardian:

I am no longer a Catholic, so I need to look for earthly explanations as to what happened to Halappanavar. The medical technology to prevent this painful, senseless death was at hand. Yet doctors did not use it. Why? One could argue that they had to obey Irish law. In The Origins of Totalitarianism, speaking of defences mounted by the perpetrators of atrocities during the Holocaust, Hannah Arendt says that adult citizens cannot obey. Children and animals can obey, but adults have the capacity to morally assess the actions that their sociopolitical systems demand of them.

Adults do not obey, they consent.

Godwin’s Law aside, the message here is clear. Regardless of what Irish law may be (and of what it may become) with respect to abortion, any doctor who has stood by and allowed a woman to die, rather than even attempt provide the medical care she needed, bears moral responsibility for her death.

Bacon search

You know the Kevin Bacon game, where you try to relate a given actor to Kevin Bacon by counting the number of “…was in (such-and-such film) with…” links? Like Keira Knightly was in Pride and Prejudice with Donald Sutherland and Donald Sutherland was in Animal House with Kevin Bacon, so Keira Knightly’s Bacon number is (no more than) two. Bacon himself has a bacon number of zero.

If you liked that game then you might enjoy spending a few minutes playing with a new Google search feature:

Just search for an actor’s name along with the phrase ‘bacon number’ and you get both the number and a sample chain of films linking your actor to Kevin Bacon in that number of steps.

I looked for a few obscure actors who appear in IMDb but who don’t have Bacon number results on Google, but it seems to give decent results for most people you might have heard of. Sadly, no results for Paul Erdős.

The Internship

News of a new Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson movie took me a bit by surprise today:

In the story, Vaughn and Wilson portray two old school salesmen who, finding themselves suddenly unemployed and passed-by in the digital world, try to reinvent themselves by becoming interns at a major tech company.

That brief piece doesn’t reveal which tech company it is, but the set pictures might give a bit of a clue.

That’s not a real Google office. According to this Reddit thread it’s actually a building at Georgia Tech.

Streetview

We recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of Google in London by welcoming the Streetview car at the office. The imagery went live today.

I love the variety of hats on display. Those hats were actually for a reason. We wanted Googlers’ faces to be unblurred, so we all wore hats to identify ourselves as Googlers. Anyone walking by without a hat would still have their face blurred just like on the rest of Streetview.

Can you spot me?

On reporting of murders

The way the media cover an event influences whether there will be repetitions. For example, if a fan runs onto the field during a baseball game, the broadcast cameras usually avoid showing pictures of the fan. The TV producers know that the fan on the field is seeking attention, and that, presumably, getting his picture on television will reward him. Moreover, broadcasting the man’s antics would encourage copycats.

Killing time at a baseball game is a tiny misdeed, compared to killing people, but many media decisions have the effect of encouraging copycat murders.

— Reducing the risk of copycat killers, David Kopel, 2007