Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

May 2006

PoliticalTuesday, May 30th, 2006, (10:30 pm)

Since 9/11 I’ve become increasingly concerned over the amount of surveillance and data hoarding that has been initiated primarily by the American government, but also by the British government too. We’ve seen a raft of quite shocking laws passed amid fear that terrorists were able to carry out complex and gigantic acts of horror against us. We’ve been told that Islamic extremist groups have abilities almost as advanced as the countries they seek to attack, and therefore these new laws were necessary to combat this intricate and well organized network of terrorists.

But questions surrounding just how organized al-Qeada really is are now being raised. A British Intelligence and Security Committee Report into the London Terrorist Attacks conclude that the Bombings were not linked with al-Qaeda, and the the attackers acted alone on a shoestring budget. Yet at the same time the British government continues to cite terrorism as one of the key reasons why the country must accept biometric identity cards, despite overwhelming evidence that such cards would not and will not prevent terrorism.

The US Patriot Act hurriedly bought into law after the September 11th attacks in America was a quite hideous piece of legislation that seemed to completely disregard rights that Americans hold dear when declaring they live in the ‘land of the free.’ Revelations surrounding US intelligence service eves dropping on overseas telephone conversations without warrants served to further harm the beleaguered President Bush. And despite the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq (both now re-branded into ‘the long war‘), Osama bin-Laden is still at large and Americans are still paying nearly 200 million dollars a day to find him.

America now fingerprints and photographs all visitors to the country, something which might not seem too much on an intrusion, but feels like a violation when the all powerful Department of Homeland Security refuse to state what happens to that data and whether or not it is ever erased.

However I was pleased to see the first significant sign that Europe has grown tired of this largely American tactic of questionable data hoarding. The European Court of Justice blocked an EU-US agreement that requires European airlines to send the US authorities 34 specific items of personal information, including names, addresses and credit card details, of the passengers on board flights bound for the United States. The court said the decision to send the US authorities any such data was not founded on an “appropriate legal basis.” The US say the data will help combat terrorism, but the European Parliament is concerned that the data could be misused.

The European Court of Justice decision has already been given a frosty reception in Washington with Washington American authorities warning of heavy fines and denial of landing rights for any airline failing to comply with the now illegal agreement. Washington also applied consumer pressure by threatening that passengers would be subject to long security checks on arrival, if the data was not sent in advance.

The courts decision and Americas insistence leaves European airlines in an awkward spot. They could potentially be fined $6,000 per passenger, or denied landing rights in the United States if they do not share the information Washington has demanded. But if they do share that data then they leave themselves open to legal challenges back in Europe where they would have broken data protection law.

No doubt some kind of resolution will be struck, but could this affair can’t be ignored by Washington as it continues to do everything in it’s power to gain more and more data about our every day lives in the name of freedom in it’s so called “long war.”

EU court blocks data deal with US
London bombers acted alone
British Intelligence and Security Committee Report in London attacks
Wars now re-branded
Cost of war
London bomb victim, Rachel North’s blog

Found on the webMonday, May 29th, 2006, (3:45 pm)

Remember the guy I posted about the other day who asked Uschi Lang to marry him via the Apple webcam at their new store in New York City? Well, she said yes!

According to, Uschi “couldn’t be happier to announce that she said yes to the proposal” made by her boyfriend who we now know to be James. Apparently James had been planning to ask her the big question for some time and had even asked Uschi’s father for his daughters hand in marriage. But being the old romantic he clearly is, James was looking for the perfect opportunity to pop the question.

On May 20th the couple were in line for the opening of Apple’s new store on 5th Avenue in New York when James spied the timelapse webcam that was snapping pictures for use on the main page of the Apple website. According to James it was then when he came up with his proposal idea that would be “unique, timeless, and surprising.”

At 4:30 the following morning, knowing that the webcam would still be snapping pictures and that the crowds would be all but gone, James snuck out of bed and headed back to 5th Avenue. He made his three signs saying “Uschi Lang. – I love you. – Will you marry me?” Then at about 5:30am, after a few minutes of milling around, (maybe making sure he was ready?) he stood in view off the webcam for 5 minutes with each sign to ensure it would get a clear picture. Surprisingly there were still quite a few people around at the time and James looks like he may have had a few funny interactions with some passers by judging by the smile on his face in some of the pictures.

Despite some interest on tech news websites, and even a fabricated story reporting that Uschi had said yes, Uschi didn’t see the footage until James set up a “romantic trail of candles” leading up to his Mac showing Uschi the video whereupon she said “yes.”

According to other reports it seems that Mac geeks are romantic souls. Long before James was holding up his three signs in-front of the webcam, Steven, who was waiting in line with his girlfriend Patti for the store to open at 6pm, turned to her and proposed. She accepted to a chorus of “Awwww”s from the large crowd that had gathered to visit the store in its opening few hours. Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, who was at the store opening even congratulated the couple himself along with actors James Woods and Kevin Bacon.

Now, the big question on every geeks mind is whether anyone would consider proposing to their significant other at the long overdue and launch of Microsoft’s Windows Vista? Surely not?

See James propose – click 5am
She said yes – Source

GeneralFriday, May 26th, 2006, (10:00 pm)

America : The land of the free and the home of the brave. Or is it? It seems to me (and many other who are on the outside looking in) that Americans are the most scared people on the planet. They’ve feared all sorts of things. communists, soviets, Muslims, terrorists, immigrants and now the latest thing to add to the list, bird flu.

TV Network ABC made a TV movie called “Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America” which follows an outbreak of an Avian Flu from its origins in Hong Kong through its mutation into a virus transmittable from human to human. Facts have no place on American television of course, and this is a movie so to hell with facts right? In the movie mass panic and near anarchy spreads across the ‘home of the brave’ as everyone tried to avoid certain death in a global pandemic.

From the movie’s website you can imagine the guy with the deep voice who does all the movie trailers reading the following. There are times that test humanity and challenge the soul of a community or a nation. News images and headlines tell stories of rising waters, quaking ground and tragic acts by man himself. But the real story, the human story, is found in the lives changed forever, in the strength of the survivors, and the resilient hope that gives them the courage to recover.

The site goes on to claim that the movie was “meticulously researched”, but what do we care about that? More importantly that sexy older woman from TV’s ‘Nip Tuck’ (you know the blonde one) is the movies heroin, and she discovers that those pesky backward Chinese folk have been too lax in dealing with avian flu and because of them we’re all going to die. The H5N1 virus, that bird flu to you and I, mutates into a version that can spread from human to human and microbes start to permeate the atmosphere killing lots of people in wonderfully dramatic fashion.

Although the movie itself makes no mention of the actual facts and theories that surround bird flu the website does at least have some good news to put scared Americans minds at rest. An ‘informational Announcement’ reassures us that; “To date, there have been no cases of the H5N1 virus in the United States nor has there been a human transmission of the disease in a form that could fuel a pandemic.”

So America, not only do you need to be on the look out for communists, terrorists, pedophiles, and your garden variety ‘bad guy’, you now need to be on the look out for the next big threat, a sick bird.


Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America
Some boring factual website about bird flu
Joely Richardson – Sha-wing!

Found on the webFriday, May 26th, 2006, (1:58 pm)

It’s hard to know how to follow a post about four decades of naked ladies and 76 blowjobs, but I think I have found the perfect follow-up. Doggie style the swiss way.

This is the ‘Doggie Bag‘, Für Reisende Hunde und Deren Halter. I have no idea what that last bit means, but I’m guessing it some catchy tag line that essentially says something about how this hideous thing is a ‘must have’ for all dog owners.

I’d be curious to know who on earth would buy such a thing, and more curious to know how the dogs that get carried in these style violations feel about it with their legs all akimbo. Surely only a person who is utterly detached from even the concept of good taste would purchase one of these?

I’m not a dog owner and not much of a ‘doggy person’ myself, so it might be that this swiss designed doggie bag answers a very real need within the dog owning community, but I’m guessing that anyone who loves their pooch would be alarmed at seeing it carried around like a laptop bag.

The dodgy ‘Doggie bag’ is an outright fashion and style violation worthy of some kind of citation and maybe even jail time for crimes against good taste, not to mention animals. But somewhere out there someone is looking at that now thinking what a great and handy idea the ‘Doggie bag’ is.

Whomever that is will probably also love the ‘Smitten mitten‘, a ridiculous double holed mitten that enables lovers to hold hands while sharing the same mitten as they walk along in the cold weather, presumably carrying their matching dogs in their Doggie bags with their free hand.

Makers of the ‘Smitten’ based in Provo, Utah, offer a package that including 2 hats, 2 scarves, a ‘Smitten’, and a pair of stretchy gloves. The companies website even has photographic suggestions of positions smitten couples might wish to try while wearing the fleece ‘smitten mitten.’ The site reads “Going on a first date….why not take along a Hand Huggerâ„¢, who knows….Wouldn’t grandma and grandpa look cute using them on their walks….. The possibilities are endless.”

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Doggie Bag
Smitten mitten

ArtWednesday, May 24th, 2006, (2:43 pm)

I came across some interesting art by Chicago based artist Jason Salavon the other day. A series of four prints begun in 1997 shows the result of mean averaging every Playboy centerfold foldout for the four decades beginning January 1960 through to December 1999.

According to; Using software processes of his own design, Jason Salavon generates and reconfigures masses of communal material to present new perspectives on the familiar. Though formally varied, his projects frequently manipulate the roles of individual elements arranged in diverse visual populations. This often unearths unexpected pattern as the relationship between the part and the whole, the individual and the group, is explored. Reflecting a natural attraction to popular culture and the day-to-day, his work regularly incorporates the use of common references and source material. The final compositions are exhibited as art objects, such as photographic prints and video installations, while others exist in a real-time software context.

I used to work in the Bluecoat art centre in Liverpool where this kind of work was commonplace. For me much of the enjoyment of such work was derived from watching how other people visiting the gallery interacted with it. We had some real off the wall installations. One of the strangest had to be a projection of a close-up shot of the needle on the record “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys playing at 1 beat per minute. The noise was hideous, we had to wear earplugs to be in the room for any long period of time.

You can see larger versions of Salavon’s work and other pieces including the rather humorously titled ‘76 Blowjobs‘ at

Playboy Decades

Found on the webMonday, May 22nd, 2006, (2:27 pm)

No, I’m not in love with someone called Uschi Lang, but a young man standing outside Apple’s new store in New York most certainly is. The romantic in question chose a time when the camera taking pictures of the stores first 24 hours would be quiet and therefore he would likely be seen on the resulting video on the Apple website. At around 5:40am the man in question arrives with A3 size hand written notices he holds for a few minutes in front of the camera.

The three notices say “Uschi Lang. – I love you. – Will you marry me?” After some hunting around online I can find no mention of whether or not Ms Lang said yes to the early-bird romantic young man, maybe in time Apple will tell us, maybe we’ll never know, but the romantic in me hopes that she did indeed say “yes.”

The timelapse video from Apple’s website

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