Wednesday, February 28, 2007

National Quaker Week

National Quaker Week is coming up in September and I, for one, am looking forward to the chance to become a Quaker for a week. Centrally, a programme of newspaper adverts and publicity is being planned and local Meetings will be doing their bit to bring people in off the streets or gather them in the market places and hills as in old.

It should be fun. Just as Fairtrade fortnight is a chance to indulge in good chocolate, coffee and again decide you will buy fairtrade clothes instead of cheap bright things from H&M, National Quaker Week will be a chance to enjoy some silent Meetings and worship in your own style. Be sure to give up violence (physical and structural) for the week, especially if you are an arms dealer, prime minister or manager. Wage real, active peace and discern some brilliant ideas, being sure to find collaborators who can change the world with you. If you really want to go for the Fox style of Quakerism, wear simple clothes, drop all titles for the week, wear a hat at all times (especially if asked to remove it) and step into pubs to verbally abuse the revellers in such a way that actually persuades them to come out and join you in a Great Gathering.

I hope that Quaker Week will spread internationally too, with all the great new Friendly bloggers sharing their journeys online. Online Meetings will undoubtedly take place but it's also worth checking out a real Meeting in your area where hopefully they will be holding some at better times than Sunday mornings (in my experience a time of silent slumber without me having to get up to sit in a circle with other people). The Meetings I've taken part in during busy times have been the most valuable, injecting inspiration and energy into the day from an apparently quiet time.

I've decided that the only way to celebrate National Quaker Week is through a Facebook group. Let's hope my addiction hasn't moved on by September. I'm now looking for real-life Quakers to be the elders and overseers of this enterprise so if you're on there, come and find it!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Modern times

Yesterday I went to the Publishing Expo at Olympia, after a four hour journey to London Paddington via Reading. Paddington is lovely, shame about the rest of West London. The curious thing about the exhibition, but entirely expected if you think about it, was having a barcode on your entry badge scanned all time by people at the stalls and as you went to the lectures. Now as they have my work contact details and will probably want to write to me about services I can choose to use or not, I didn't much mind.I would probably find this more bothersome if I had paid to go in.

Apart from the books of fonts (as Chloe said: mmmmm), there was one thing that really impressed me. A tool to turn our whole world interactive.

There are links displayed all over the place nowadays. But the trouble with links is that you have to remember to go and look them up when you get onto your computer. And there's so much else to do online – once you've checked your email and updated your Facebook status you're in a whole different realm and what ou saw on the side of a bus has disappeared from your mind completely.

So there I was, a-wandering round the show, thieving as many pens as I could. 'Do you want to see our stenographics', he says [actually I have a feeling this might be a longer, more dinosaur-like word]. 'OK…' says she, one eye already on the bowl of sweets at the next stand. We peer at an ordinary looking page with pictures of clothes on.

And then, he whips out his mobile phone, takes a picture of a rather nice dress and before you know it, the phone is connecting to a website with more pictures and information on how to order the dress. Ooh! If you look very closely, you can see how it works. In the background of the
image, a faded yellow jumble of symbols acts rather like a barcode – but it's much
less ugly and indeed you barely notice it. Suddenly, with that, life is breathed back into the dead medium of paper. Your newspaper could become a truly interactive experience. You would be able to point and shoot at adverts on the bus or paintings in an exhibition and find out everything about it. That instinctive tactile feel we have for the web, where we click away wherever the whim takes us, will apply to the real world. Soon, I ponder, they'll be imbedding this stuff on plants so we can instantly tell if it's a daffodil or a pansy. After all, our memories, like hard drives, need to keep space free, so who wants to remember whether that's a chaffinch or a goldfinch and how far each migrates, when all this stuff can be accessed at the press of a button?

It's bloody amazing, that's what it is. And it's in Japan already, so expect it here in, well, probably less than ten years… Google it on the Fujitsu site to get a much more technical description.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Cats, cats, cats

I had to post this after watching it for the third time this morning and laughing just as much - it has everything that is amazing about cats: genius, stupidity, dexterity and a miraculous moment of a cat bouncing on water