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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Titanic Artefacts Exhibition, O2 Bubble

On Tuesday Emma (@squiggle7) and I went to the Titanic Artefacts Exhibition at the O2 Bubble in what used to be known as London's Millennium Dome. Next year will see the 100th anniversary of arguably the world's most famous disaster, and the official salvor-in-possession, RMS Titanic, Inc., has put together this exhibition to showcase its findings and commemorate the tragic event.

I was impressed before we'd even got through the door, as upon handing over our tickets (you are given a half-hour entry window when you book them) we were supplied with a boarding pass in the name of an actual Titanic passenger (mine was that of Mr George Dunton Widener, returning from a European trip with his wife, son and two servants, and travelling first class).

I loved this idea: it introduced a personal aspect to the experience that may otherwise have been difficult to achieve. At the end of the exhibition there was a list of all 2,228 passengers and crew separated by travelling class and whether they survived or perished in the accident*.

Modelling contemporary dress on the Grand Staircase
Just before we entered the exhibition we had our photo taken in front of a green screen. In the inevitable giftshop at the end, an image of us standing on the Grand Staircase was available to purchase for the ludicrous price of £8. We declined!

The exhibition itself was very well laid out: it was spacious and separated into a number of sections that allowed you to progress chronologically from the Titanic's conception in 1907, through its design and construction (which began in 1909), its launch and fitting in 1911, its departure from Belfast and its maiden and final voyage in 1912, and the wreckage's rediscovery and gradual research and salvage from 1985 onwards.

Each room was equipped with large wall plaques providing narrative and illustrated with reproductions of areas of the ship, punctuated with many and varied artefacts retrieved from their resting places on the North Atlantic sea bed since the Titanic's rediscovery. There are regular snippets of personal stories from some of the passengers and crew, many accompanying personal belongings surprisingly well preserved after decades lying alone on the sea floor.

The penultimate two rooms are easily the most poignant, with the first detailing the sinking of the ship including written accounts from survivors, cgi reproductions of the actual event using data gathered from expeditions and even a reproduction iceberg made of actual ice. The second contains the previously mentioned passenger and crew list, which goes a long way towards illustrating the disparity between the numbers of people Who survived and of those who lost their lives.

The final room showcases the technology used and the achievements made since 1985 with regards to investigating the wreck of the Titanic and salvaging some of its contents and debris, and the leads you into the gift shop. The gift shop has long been one of my favourite places at any event, and this one had plenty of innovative options to keep myself, if not my wallet, happy.

I would recommend this exhibition to anybody with even a passing interest in contemporary history, the tragedy specifically, or science and technology during one of the most prolific periods of Britain's recent past. If you're planning on going, however, you'd better get your skates on: the exhibition's only open until September 29th, 2011!





* George Widener, his son Harry and Their servant Edwin Keeping died in the sinking. Eleanor Widener and their servant Amalie Gieger survived.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

How not to get hit by scam links on Facebook

I've seen a recent surge* in the most unlikely posts from the most unlikely people on my Facebook friends list, offering such varied things as free KFC, sub-epidermal spiders, newsreaders' breasts, and videos of fathers dropping their daughters. All of these links have one thing in common: They don't offer what they say they're offering. Instead, they automatically make a post on your Facebook wall, luring people on your friends list into clicking them and thus spreading themselves.

I'm struggling to see a point to this, as the links themselves don't seem to be designed to install any kind of virus or malware on the clicker's system, nor do they (appear to) allow a third party access to their Facebook account. Maybe it registers a click or an ad-read somewhere, and someone's getting a couple of pence for every thousand or so views. Whatever the reason, these links are an invasion, however small, of our privacy and we all have a duty to stop their spread. As with real-world viruses, the best way to play your part in stopping your friends and family from being affected by them is to inoculate yourself against them.

Thankfully, in the world of Facebook scam links, this is easy to do:

DON'T CLICK ON THEM

"Yes, durr," you're thinking. But in all seriousness, how hard is this to achieve? Most of the links I see cropping up on my Facebook wall that turn out to be scams are blindingly obvious as such, so I don't click on them. However, it is also blindingly obvious that there are many people out there who don't find them blindingly obvious, so here are some things to look out for / do / not do when someone posts a link on Facebook (or anywhere else, for that matter):
  • Don't click blindly: get the old grey cells working first:
  • Does it look like something that that person would post? If it's grandma Mabel, is she really likely to be posting to all and sundry a link to a video showing a weathergirl's wardrobe malfunction?
  • Read the status text accompanying the link. Is this written in the poster's usual style? If your grammatically fastidious buddy posts a link accompanied by "your guna love this!!!!11!", that's a dead giveaway.
  • Have the links been posted by a number of your friends already? This is especially important if the friends doing the posting are not known by you to be connected in any way.
  • If in any doubt, don't click. If you're desperate to see breasts, spiders, accidents, stupid things and gore, there's a wealth of material available on relatively safe sites just an internet search engine away.


But I've already clicked. What do I do!?

As I've already said, these links appear to be largely harmless to the clicker- they're just designed to spread themselves for some reason, possibly farming link clicks for monetary gain. So don't worry too much. In order to protect your friends and family, however, you need to remove the offending post from your news feed.

To do this, go to your profile (click on your name in the top left-hand corner of the Facebook website when you're logged in), locate the post in your news feed and hover over it with your mouse. A grey "x" will appear to the upper right of the post. Click this and choose "remove post". It'll ask you if you're sure; say yes.





* As I type, three of the five posts I can see on my Facebook news feed are fairly obvious scam links.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My Google+ Plan

As much as I try to avoid getting all het-up over brands, I have to admit that I'm a bit of a Google fanboy. O.k, so they appear to be trying to take over the world, which in some people's eyes makes them about as bad as Microsoft, Apple, McDonalds and SuperDry. The biggest difference, in my eyes, is that they're doing it without making me pay anything.

Their latest offering is Google+, a social/networking effort that's trying to add itself to that list currently populated by the likes of MySpace and Bebo, and arguably headed by Facebook, with Twitter setting up a bit of an orthogonal branch to the genre. I'm giving it a try for two reasons:
  1. It's a new, free toy and as such must be played with.
  2. I am, as previously stated, a Google fanboy.
But as a social networking platform it won't work unless there's someone to be social or to network with. At the same time, many people don't want to join unless they can be assured it works and is better than what they use at the moment. Bit of a catch-22, and it's where geeks like me and thee come in.


So here's my Google+ plan:
  • I want to find people who are mutually interested in linking up on Google+ for whatever reason to expand my contact base. I'm happy for this to be almost indiscriminate, though it would probably help for networking purposes if we had something in common. Take a look at my Google+ profile and see if there are any mutual interests going on.
  • After a few weeks (or however long it takes to get a decent number of people in my circles and me in theirs) I'll make a series of posts designed to fish out people with different interests or backgrounds and sort people into dedicated groups for each of these.
  • Hope that Google+ doesn't go the way of Wave and Buzz*, and that they continue to develop it and introduce the features that I'm desperate for.


What am I expecting?

My thoughts at the moment are that Google+ might become that mid-point between Twitter and Facebook; a happy medium between the useful but restricted quickfire interactions of Twitter, and the inane FarmVille-in-your-face-ing of Facebook. It appears to be a bit better set up with regards to networking and collaboration on a professional level, with Circles doing what Twitter's Lists should do but don't whilst being more fluid than Facebook's Groups and Pages.


Add me!

The only way Google+ can be useful is if there are people to interact with, so get the ball rolling and sign up. At the moment you'll need an invite, so feel free to send me a private message somewhere with your email address and I'll send you one, or just ask your Twitter and/or Facebook contacts- someone will have one, I'm sure.

And then take a look at my profile: https://plus.google.com/u/0/103867628699779359922

Please consider adding me to your personal circles if you've got any of the following in common with me:
  • Location: You're in or around Kettering in Northamptonshire, England
  • Professional: You're a teacher at any level with a particular interest in maths and/or science (I'm a secondary maths teacher)
  • Personal: You like/ are interested in reading, science fiction, mathematics, science, astronomy, playing guitar, classic rock music, Doctor Who, the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, real ale, religion (I'm an atheist), blogging, technology, Queen (as in the band, not the monarch), pseudoscience (like homeopathy etc. And I mean laughing about/ debunking rather than practicing), general geekery, errrr, lots of other stuff (check out the tags in the bar on the right-hand side of this blog)



* Buzz is now entirely unnecessary in the shadow of +. I hope they phase it out or integrate it properly with +. Come to think of it, Wave could possibly be more useful as a collaborative tool within +, but that's just thinking out loud.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

#project365 day 183: Spent the day at RAF Waddington's...

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... air show today. This has to be one of my all-time favourite planes.

If this were an audio blog I'd have tried to treat you to the experience that is the sound of an Avro Vulcan taking off, but in order to do so I would have to install a high end bass speaker system actually inside you.

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#project365 day 182: These are not...

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... the pictures relevant to today you're looking for.

Damn; they caught me...

#project365 day 181: Empty spaces, what are we living for...

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... abandoned places, I guess we know the score. On and on, does anybody want a pension anymore?

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#project365 day 180: Strike...

#project365 day 179: Free- range, home- grown...

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... delicious and completely finished scrambled eggs.

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#project365 day 178: We were allowed...

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... to take our ties off today!

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#project365 day 177: Another...

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... blue Sunday.

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#project365 day 176: It's not Jennie's...

#project365 day 175: First comedy gig...

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... in quite a number of years. Jon Richardson was... disturbingly like listening to my own ranting internal monologue. Only funny.

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#project365 day 174: I am so geek...

#project365 day 173: Ofsted...

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... are in for their monitoring visit tomorrow. Eek!

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#project365 day 172: After being encouraged for some time...

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... I have finally started to read this.

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