What Happened to Getglue?


When it came out a couple of years ago, I really liked Getglue. It was like Foursquare, only instead of posting that you were at a cafe or store, you posted what books you were reading, TV programs or films you had watched, radio programs listened to, or, if none of that quite fit, a topic that interested you at the moment.

Not only did they reward posts with virtual “badges” they even promised to mail stickers of the badges. (That last was a bit iffy, I think out of five or six promised sticker mailings, I only got two. But they were still free, so hard to complain.)

Getglue was always very America-centered, so they didn’t list things like BBC radio programs. And sometimes the book database was flakey, if I wanted to post that I was reading a brand new book, it often wasn’t there.

But in recent months the service has deteriorated significantly. Suddenly radio, topics, and even books are gone, even current best-sellers like Dan Brown’s “Inferno”. All that’s left are movies and TV. Worse yet, there is an apparent new censorship. In connection with recent events in the Middle East, I wanted to post that I was watching the very excellent Al-Jazeera English. But even though I had posted about Al-Jazeera before, and could find that post in my feed, you can’t post about Al-Jazeera any more, it is gone from the database.

Yet the far more biased Fox News is still there. This is a very troubling sign of censorship, social media should not impose their political positions on users.

Britain Misses the Real Tobacco Legislation

I don’t get it. While the  EU Parliament has bern enacting the Tobacco Products Directive:

10 July, Brussels – Today, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have taken a significant step forward in the race against the massive harm that smoking causes to millions in Europe. In a vote on the revised EU Tobacco Product Directive (TPD), the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) supportedstronger measures to prevent young Europeans from taking up smoking and encourage millions of smokers to quit.

(Something which has had important repercussions for Sweden.)

…the British Government and Parliament seem to be on a totally different planet as they discuss completely separate rules:

The government has denied claims it has caved in to the tobacco industry after plans to introduce plain cigarette packaging in England were put on hold.

Where the EU is concerned, Britain seems to live in an alternative reality, as if the Directive that applies to the other 27 does not exist for the UK.

EU Wants Sweden to Review EU-mandated (?) FRA Law

Against the background of the PRISM revelations, European Parliament News reports:


Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee will conduct an “in-depth inquiry” into the US surveillance programmes, including the bugging of EU premises and other spying allegations, and present its results by the end of this year, says a resolution passed by the full House on Thursday. Parliament’s President and political group leaders formally confirmed the launch of the inquiry. MEPs also call for more protection for whistleblowers.

But the story goes on:


Parliament also expresses grave concern about allegations that similar surveillance programmes are run by several EU member states, such as the UK, Sweden, The Netherlands, Germany and Poland. It urges them to examine whether those programmes are compatible with EU law.

In Sweden’s case, this has to be a reference to the infamous FRA Law, which allows Sweden’s counterpart to the American NSA to spy on all data traffic going into or out of the country (which effectively means most traffic within the country as well).

Yet, in forcing through the legislation, the government argued it was mandated by an EU directive. Something doesn’t add up….

Opponents of Gay Marriage Don’t Understand What Marriage Is

I’ve written about this before, but in the light of the US Supreme Court striking down the Defence of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, and the recent demonstrations against the legalization of same sex marriage in France, it needs to be said again.

Opponents of gay marriage fail to understand that “marriage” means two different things.

One meaning of “marriage” is as a religious sacrament, a holy blessing within the bounds of individual churches. If a church or other religious group only wants to confer their sacrament on specific people, that’s their right. If you don’t agree you can join another religion.

That’s what all the rhetoric about what “traditional” marriage is about.

The other definition of “marriage” is the completely different concept of a legal institution granting certain rights and responsibilities. These include a relationship with the state regarding inheritance, property rights and taxation. It includes extensive responsibilities regarding children.

But this isn’t a religious sacrament. It has nothing to do with churches and their rules and traditions. It is a compact between the state and its citizens. And the state can define this anyway it wants.

It isn’t just opponents of gay marriage who fail to grasp this distinction. Some months ago the leader of the Swedish Center Party was under fire for a proposed party “idea program” that recognised polygamy. This was apparently an attempt to get the support of Sweden’s many Moslem immigrants.

At the time the media played old recordings of now party leader Annie Lööf where then, in her youth, she explained her reasons for recognising polygamy. She too missed the distinction and missed the fact that legalising polygamy in her conception would open the door to massive confusion in inheritance and property rights, etc. It wouldn’t be nearly as straight forward as she seemed to think.

It would be good if people would understand the difference between sacred “marriage” and secular “marriage”. Not the same thing.

Who’s worse, the NSA or the Chinese?

Against the background of the revelation of the National Security Agency’s Prism program, spying on the world’s electronic communications, two very different publications in the past few days have illuminated government control, or attempted control, of the online world, one fact, one fiction.

Obviously, after the Guardian disclosures, the world’s media are writing about Prism. The latest issue of “Wired” magazine has an article by James Bamford, who originally exposed the NSA in his 1983 book “The Puzzle Palace”, back when hardly anyone had heard of the Internet and the mission was monitoring signals broadcast through the air.

The Wired article, “The Silent War”, discusses the NSA’s current massive plans for expansion under the leadership of Lieutenant General Keith Alexander, as well the recent cyber-spats between the United States and Iran over the Stuxnet virus and Iran’s retaliation.

It was the extent of the NSA’s reach into the online world that Edward Snowden revealed through the Guardian. Now the US government has called for his return to the United States to faced charges for spying. In a fascinating story the New Yorker comments that the comments made by the NSA seem to be dripping with unintended irony:

At a press conference to discuss the accusations, an N.S.A. spokesman surprised observers by announcing the spying charges against Mr. Snowden with a totally straight face.

“These charges send a clear message,” the spokesman said. “In the United States, you can’t spy on people.”

Seemingly not kidding, the spokesman went on to discuss another charge against Mr. Snowden—the theft of government documents: “The American people have the right to assume that their private documents will remain private and won’t be collected by someone in the government for his own purposes.”

“Only by bringing Mr. Snowden to justice can we safeguard the most precious of American rights: privacy,” added the spokesman, apparently serious.

It was with this in mind that I read “The Enigma of China” the latest mystery by Qiu Xiaolong concerning the Shanghai police inspector Chen, who strives for justice while trying to keep his position in a China filled with corruption and a desire by the party leadership to keep anything unfavorable secret.

It’s ironic that Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong, which while relatively free is still part of China. Inspector Chen is constantly trying to unravel crimes that his bosses wish would go unpunished.

In earlier books the inspector was baffled by the world of computers. By now he is familiar with e-mail and the Internet, and they play a major role in the story. A high official falls after an overly detailed photo is posted on a web forum, and a “human-fleshed search”, a crowd sourced hunt by Internet users, turns up more dirt.

The book makes no references to the hacking activities of Chinese government or military agencies. But it does explore the extent the Chinese government is able to control freedom of speech online. With the media under government control or censorship, blogs and social media provide an outlet for free expression. The government seeks to stifle dissent there as well, but the picture given in the book is that this control is imperfect.

Much online activity apparently takes place at Internet cafes, but even the imposition of stronger rules there seem to be hard to enforce or often ignored.

Obviously the West is much freer than China in most regards. But, as the Prism revelations make clear, to some extent the NSA goes even farther than the Chinese authorities in monitoring personal communications online.

Flawed Apple TV update


Here’s the way the Unofficial Apple Weblog describes the update:

Apple announced today that HBO GO and Watch­ES­PN are now avail­able on the Apple TV. Eddy Cue, Apple senior vice pres­i­dent of Inter­net Soft­ware and Ser­vices said that “HBO GO and Watch­ES­PN are some of the most pop­u­lar iOS apps and are sure to be huge hits on Apple TV.”

The two new con­tent providers are joined by Sky News, Crunchy­roll and Qello. Sky News on Apple TV will deliv­er 24/7 news to view­ers in the US, UK and Ire­land. Crunchy­roll is a Japan­ese anime and Asian media provider, and will let sub­scribers view the lat­est HD shows one hour after air­ing in Japan.

Now the bad news:

Despite our HBO Nordic subscription, when I click it just shows a black screen.

Despite our ESPN America subcription via Telia, it just recognizes American cable operators.

Dear Apple, there’s a world outside the United States.

The good news:

The Sky News app works in Sweden (despite the press release claiming it only works in the US, UK, and Ireland)!

And hopefully this opens the door to more new apps on the Apple TV.