Its a mad world

From today’s Times, page 15 (not online): "All one million £5 notes issued as a tribute to mark the first anniversary of the death of George Best have been snapped up, with some selling for as much as £30 each on the internet. The Ulster Bank said that stocks of the commemorative notes had sold out. there were queues outside its branches across the Province when the notes went on sale this week."

I ask you. Even if GB were of the stature of fellow "noters" such as Darwin, Shakespeare and Newton and belonged on the currency in the first place, the poor man is not even cold in his grave yet.

Here’s some saner news: same paper, immediately underneath the above paragraph "A Hebridean thrush has flown 3,000 miles (4,800 km) to nest in a Canadian garden. It was seen in Saint-Fulgence, Quebec, and identified after reports to the RSPB [Royal Society for the Protection of Birds] in Scotland. Experts [sic] said that it was ultimately doomed with no hope of finding a mate. The thrush has been hailed Bird of the Year by North American ornithologists."

Bit of a disjointed "brief", but let’s hope the poor bird got sent home OK to its loved ones. I trust wrapped up in cotton wool, rather than the uncomfortable-sounding GB souvenir fivers, to keep it warm.

A shameful confession

I sense I’m  going to regret writing this, but I just love Internet Explorer 7.

The other day, my computer, which as regular readers know is quite new, asked me if I wanted an upgrade. Our IT department at work has firmly told us all not to install IE7 as it is full of bugs and they won’t support it. But a few days’ earlier, Cathy had been invited to upgrade at her laptop, and had accepted. I was very worried about this (as we share a wireless network at home), but Malcolm reassured her that the download was OK.

So when I got my invite a day or two later I thought, darn it, and let MS do their stuff. And I love it. IE7 has nicked all the good things about Firefox– tabbed browsing mainly, and improved the typeface no end so you can read stuff pretty easily.

I know that IE7 is probably not a patch on FF, but I have to use IE, because that’s what all my work applications are in and my computer at home (the old one) did not like the constant switches between the two and kept crashing.

So I am happy at the moment, and am still holding out against the "Bill Gates is evil" fraternity. I think he was very nice to give me IE7 for nothing when he didn’t have to do a thing, thanks Bill. Also thanks for all the work you do on AIDS, malaria and TB, and libraries, etc. Don’t forget Scott Adams hasn’t yet come up with a better presidential candidate.

I expect someone will explain why Bill is evil to give me IE7, or it will all start crashing in a few days, but for the moment I am enjoying it tremendously.

Mean height of a blogger

Debra has been having a tidy-up, and in the course of nosing into her domestic life and advising her on her bookshelves, Susan and I revealed our height.

Susan – 5′ 6"".

Me – 5′ 9".

What’s your height? I’m curious to know the blogger mean. Please do drop your details in the comments if you aren’t too shy, and I’ll see if we can get a histogram out of it.

(The top page of Susan’s blog currently features a rather attractive internal door, by the way, if you want to pay her a quick visit at the link above her vital stats — or at least the only one of those you are likely to see featured here.)

In praise of a polymath

The Kenyon Review publishes part 1 of a great interview with Frank Wilson, Book Review editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and of the blog Books, Inq.

Frank talks about how he became a book reviewer and book review editor; the recent storm in a teacup about bloggers vs mainstream publications; and what makes a good book review, among other things.  Frank and the interviewer talk about religion, but Frank is also very well informed about science, which I find unusual among "general" book review editors.

Part 2 tomorrow. Can’t wait.

Frank is truly one of the most thoughtful, articulate and interesting book people I have ever come across.  And a complete gentleman.

Blog for the skies

What’s the difference between a blog and a mainstream publication?

Arianna Huffington, ex-associate of Bernard Levin and now owner of one of the most popular blogs on Technorati, the Huffington Post, is hiring reporters for the blog, according to the New York Times.

"The site already offers a mix of opinion and breaking news from wire services and other sources, but Ms. Huffington said she wanted to produce reported pieces that were expressed with individual voices.

“That’s the combination you need online,” she said, adding that unlike bloggers, who generally file when they want to, her reporters will have deadlines and regular schedules and will travel for their articles. Also unlike bloggers, Ms. Huffington said, they will be paid."  "

The Huffington Post, "a political website for celebrity bloggers",  in the New York Times’ words, started about 18 months ago and now attracts 2.3 million unique visitors a month. The front page is very busy, full of gossipy headlines along the lines of "Lindsay Lohan ate my hamster" linking to tens of stories, just like an online version of a newspaper or magazine.

And on the other side of the coin, the Pulitzer prize is now open to bloggers. (Don’t tell Rachel Cooke.) From the organisation’s media release:

"Last year, the board for the first time allowed some online content in all categories. However, with the exception of the Public Service category, the online work was limited to written stories or still images.

Now, an assortment of online elements will be permitted in all journalism categories except for the competition’s two photography categories, which will continue to restrict entries to still images. The Pulitzer categories range from investigative and international reporting to commentary, editorial writing, and cartooning.

"This board believes that its much fuller embrace of online journalism reflects the direction of newspapers in a rapidly changing media world," said Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes."

It seems from reading the Pulitzer’s press release that the online-only content has to be part of a newspaper, but it is surely only a matter of time….