We are not alone

Techno Tuesday captures the reality of travel


Picture by Andy Rementer (CC BY-NC)

Wifi searching has become more common due to the costs being charged by commercial actors and the closing up of so many networks. This is mainly due to the default settings of the major Internet providers who are now automatically providing wifi routers with closed defaults (more about this stuff here). In addition to the scare tactics in the media. Using a scanner I walked around my new apartment and found 40 wireless networks but only two were open – these were too far away for me to be able to use.

Travel Fraud & Plagiarism

Just because it’s plagiarism doesn’t mean that it has to be bad writing. A travel writer for Lonely Planet, my favorite travel series, has admitted to the Sunday Telegraph that he has not been in the countries he has written about. He wrote his book on Colombia from San Francisco and has admittedly never been in that country he has also admitted to plagiarising  large sections of the book.

The Lonely Planet has fact checked his books but discovered no faults in them.

So what is the problem with a travel writer who has never been in the country? Well it is dishonest and fraudulent since the premise is that the writer is writing from personal experience. The fact that it is good writing is not the point. In fact, as most students are aware, a prerequisite for good plagiarism is good writing.

Suspicious travel patterns

The MI5 wants access to the Oyster travel card database to be able to trawl it for possible suspects. Today they may demand the data to track specific individuals under investigation but the change will allow them to search for unknown suspects based on “suspicious” travel patterns.

Systems such as these will make sure that people with strange travel patterns around the metropolis will be seen as being suspicious in general. If you are an oddball (in your movements around the city) you will now be able to be classed as a potential threat to national security.

Another step in the loss of anonymity, not to mention the fact that taking the scenic route to work in the morning suddenly becomes more ominous…

More at the Guardian.


Love to travel, but it’s the traveling I hate! Yesterday I woke up at a little past four. Not much sleep, the usual charming security checks and waiting in line to squeeze into a small city hopper jet and as usual I always end up next to the eccentrics – must be Murphy’s law of airline seating. An all to brief stop in Vienna – my travel agent must be a huge optimist but I managed to make the connection by barging through the passport queue and the security line.

And all of a sudden I am in Ljubljana. Travel is funny like that. Wake up in Sweden and in Slovenia before lunch.

By taking the afternoon off (conference begins tomorrow) its time for sightseeing. Another reason for taking the afternoon off is the lack of wifi. Anyway, the city is really charming with lots of cobbled streets and old houses from all periods and in all states of repair (or dilapidation – if you are more pessimistic).

The center is old and filled with cafés and restaurants I was told that this is the place to find some old antique or maybe some art but what I have seen is reasonably generic and rather pricey. The only really original artwork I have seen is the masses of graffiti on the walls and most of that is pretty generic stuff.

Lots of photography but no souvenir as yet. I have managed to try the local coffee and the local beer (Lasko) and I am happy to report that the Slovenians take these seriously. For some odd reason I ended up eating Mexican food so I cannot comment on their cooking.

The conference begins tomorrow and I am hoping that they have wifi so that I can post this. So if you have read this they must have had…

From Ljubljana to London

The coming week is hectic and filled with a bit more exciting travel locations than the recent train trips I have taken. On Monday I fly to Ljubljana in Slovenia for a conference with a focus on content licenses and copyright. Then on Thursday I am of to London to give a lecture at the London School of Economics and to have discussion with a group of Andrew Murray’s PhD students.

So this week promises to be an exciting mix of locations and content. I have never been in Ljubljana and so I am looking forward to the half day off planned for sight-seeing. London is an old favorite and I have already booked dates with friends – I just hope that I will manage to squeeze in some of my second-hand bookstores. All I need to do is to start packing…

Seven Kilometers per Minute

This week I began my interviews. Basically I am going to conduct between 25-30 interview at university libraries all over Sweden. First up were Borås on Wednesday, Linköping on Thursday & Jönköping on Friday. The interviews went very well and it was fun to visit the libraries (pictures on my Flickr account)

The problem with travel in Sweden is that the distances are most easily covered by train and buss but there are too many lakes to be able to travel in straight lines. I have been to places that I have never heard of. This means that:

  • Wednesday – an easy stretch (total 2 hours)
  • Buss: Göteborg – Borås
  • Train: Borås – Göteborg
  • Thursday – delays due to a derailed train (total 8 hours)
  • Train: Göteborg – Katrineholm
  • Buss: Katrineholm – Norrköping
  • Train: Norrköping – Linköping
  • Train: Linköping – Norrköping
  • Buss: Norrköping – Katrineholm
  • Train: Katrineholm – Hällsberg
  • Train: Hällsberg – Göteborg
  • Friday – too much travel, not a happy traveler (total 4 hours)
  • Train: Göteborg – Falköping
  • Train: Falköping – Jönköping
  • Train: Jönköping – Göteborg

The final two hour stretch was sitting next to a young man who smellt really bad, drank beer and had bad teeth. Boy was I happy to get home. At an estimate I have traveled 1400 km in 14 hours over three days for 3,5 hours of interviews. That works out to seven kilometers per minute of interview… Science is an arduous task.


Some help for the geographically challenged

Sports, Politics and Resistance

Tommie Smith was the winner of the 200-meter dash at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico. His teammate John Carlos came third.


“The two American athletes received their medals shoeless, but wearing black socks, to represent black poverty…” Both the americans and the silver medalist wore Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) badges. “Carlos had forgotten his black gloves, but Norman suggested that they share Smith’s pair, with Smith wearing the right glove and Carlos the left. When “The Star-Spangled Banner” played, Smith and Carlos delivered the salute with heads bowed, a gesture which became front page news around the world. As they left the podium they were booed by the crowd.” Wikipedia

This is a classic image in symbolic resistance which has been an inspiration to all those who struggle.

The coming Chinese Olympics have already been the target of political campaigns. The Chinese civil rights record is a natural target for acts of civil disobedience – whether symbolic or not.

In order to prevent any such things the British Olympic chiefs are going to force athletes to sign a contract promising not to speak out about China’s appalling human rights record – or face being banned from traveling to Beijing. (Daily Mail)

OK, so maybe there cannot be any official positions taken from the participating countries but to prevent individuals from protesting is going to far. The Chinese naturally see the Olympics as a perfect opportunity to present their position and of course this has not gone unopposed – for example AOL video, RSF, and Yahoo.

Open Your Wifi

Bruce Schneier is a security expert and author, in a recent Wired article he argues for maintaining aopen wifi networks. It’s very nice to see that someone who is focused on Internet security can also argue for keeping open networks.

In particular when out traveling finding an open network is a great. Since I often rely on this I leave my own network open to others. In the early days most networks were open, but after some years of scare propaganda and the companies delivering wifi are making them closed by default. When I moved into my new apartment I found seven wireless networks from my kitchen – but none were open. Mine is still the only one available.

For me, keeping my network open is a way of helping others. But, it’s annoying to have to defend this position, so now it’s nice to be able to refer to Schneier and his arguments. Why not read his blog?

Is the people's car a good idea?

The Indian Tata corporation have presented their new car the Tata Nano at a car show in New Delhi. The car is being described as as a people’s car due to it’s low price (100,000 rupees or $2,500). It will go on sale later this year. The main market for the car is to provide cheap motor transportation to developing countries. The Nano is a four-door five-seater car with no extras (no air conditioning, electric windows or power steering) and has a 33bhp, 624cc, engine at the rear.


Simply looking at the specs above make me concerned. I would not like to be among the five people in this car when it gets hit by a truck.

Is producing a cheap people’s car really a good idea? While I am pretty sure that Tata Motors will sell lots of cars I did not mean this question as a risk analysis in a business venture.

Considering the experiences of all highly motorized countries the car has caused plenty of trouble. The implementation of a personalised transport technology means that it will become a natural part of the infrastructure. It will be used and the costs to the environment in the forms of pollution and overcrowding will be felt.

In addition to this the personal car has also changed the way in which we organize ourselves socially. Were we choose to work, live and socialize depends very much upon the transportation possibilities around us.
But is it fair for someone living in a motorized community to preach the environment and social change? Sure these are the downsides to adding to the amount of cars on the roads. But what about the needs of the people to travel in countries where cars are today an un-affordable luxury? Should the motorized societies be allowed to preach to the non-motorized from the driver seats of our SUV’s?

(via BBC online)

Coping with the Crap and thinking the thoughts

After spending the best part of a morning doing admin, in particular going through my inbox only to discover what I have missed, I realize (not for the first time) that I need to be more systematic about my work. In particular I need to divide my day in a more efficient manner.

For me the three main productivity and time thieves are:

Interruptions and short meetings – this is because I try to work before and after but interruptions and short meetings make me lose my chain of thought and send me off on a different tangent. A well placed interruption can create a chain of events that cause a whole day to be lost.

Travel time – Since I spend several hours a week on trains (mainly) I need to reconsider the way in which travel can be seen. This time must be used more efficiently. Computer work is possible but not desirable. Reading may be the optimal use of train travel.

Administration – By this I mean the whole process of ensuring that my research and teaching works. It is everything from maintaining email correspondence to filling out the reports. The actual time spent with administration concerns and annoyances is almost as high as the time spent actually carrying out the administrative tasks.

The plan: A proposal of a new work order for myself.

First of all I need to create a meetings and administration day. On this day the main point of going to work will be not to write or to research. It will be to efficiently resolve my administration tasks. This will also free up my mind from thinking about administration.

Second of all I need to create the opposite of an administration day and this is my Creativity day. The whole point of this day will be to think. Not to write but to think. A whole day to work out solutions to problems, lay plans and develop ideas. This day should not be spent writing. Of course I will make notes but maybe I will do this longhand with a paper and pen. This day should be as unplugged as possible. Little or no computer use.

Third I will create two research and writing days. This will include writing out the ideas from the creativity day, carrying out research, writing articles, chapters and books. Writing research proposals belongs to the administration day and should not be done here. These days should be relatively unplugged – keeping Internet use to a minimum.

Fourth and last will be the teaching day. During this day I will lecture and guide, have student meetings and seminars. Since I have a low teaching burden at present this should be more than enough and the time not spent in teaching should be used in preparing for teaching and teaching administration.

Naturally an idea like this cannot work without making sure that there are exceptions. Every now and then I am sure that the plan will implode but the idea is to strive for improvement.

When will you blog? The exception to the rule

However while the focus of these days is as mentioned I do believe that there is a need to apply oneself to work on a regular basis. Therefore in each day I will include one hour of academic writing (except on the two research and writing days since this is already included). One hour of other writing (mostly emails & this blog).

This is the basic plan and I am sure that it will require some fine tuning but I hope to be quite strict about its application. It’s not a new idea that the freedom embedded in academia requires a great deal of self discipline but what is new for me is the attempt to implement a strict organized regime instead of trying to solve things on a priority basis.