Up Front by Emma Hart

31

Christmas Stockings

Tomorrow I'm off down to my mother's, and I'll be AFK for a solid week. I'm supposed to be making chocolates and taking the kids swimming today, but before I do that, I thought I'd leave some presents for my other, more PA, family.

My plumber seemed particularly impressed by this documentary on the history of pornography from ABC radio. (I believe the show is always called Rear Vision, no matter what the subject matter.) I was listening to this loudly enough that I could potter about in the kitchen while it was on when said tradesman arrived, and his facial expression was priceless. It discusses changes in attitude to pornography over the centuries, and the relatively recent emergence of censorship to protect the proles:

The assumption always was that if you were well-educated, if you were upper class, you could consume erotica, consume pornography, with no ill effects, and there's a sort of built-in prejudice against what we assume to be sort of un-educated minds… The real problem was that what he [Anthony Comstock] called immature minds might stumble across material like this… the minds of children, the minds of immigrants… and women, who were thought to be weaker, so that they had to be protected.

Comstock was a lovely man, who would no doubt be delighted to discover the existence of the erotic documentary film company named after him. Their Bill and Desiree would be my perfect gift for the Person Who Knows Everything. (These links don’t contain explicit material, but nonetheless may not make it through your work filter.)

Speaking of filters, our own branch of Watchdog has entered the debate across the Tasman in an attempt to ground the discussion in reality and counter the irrational fear-mongering:

The vendor supplying internet filtering software to the NZ Department of Internal Affairs says Australian ISPs and civil liberties lobbies are overstating the likely impact of filtering on the efficiency of website access

Auckland’s Watchdog International is working with some of the Australian ISPs who have applied to participate in the trial.

A modern filter need have no detectable effect on the passage of ordinary traffic, says Watchdog managing director Peter Mancer.

Mancer goes on to discuss at some length how easily their filtering technology operates without causing noticeable degradation – and if you’re a New Zealand TelstraClear customer you'd feel compelled to agree, because that filter is already running on your connection.

Still, it's odd he should feel okay to say the effect is undetectable, because that's not what happened in the trials. This Australian systems engineer has his doubts:

It may surprise you to read that Peter Mancer hasn't actually discovered a perpetual motion machine, an unlimited source of free clean energy or an Internet filter which has no performance impact whatsoever.

The Systems Administrators Guild of Australia (Guild? Srsly? Has somebody been playing a bit much WoW?) have their doubts too:

An application of Bayes' Theorem, shows that even for the most generous interpretation of the filters' accuracy, the chance of a randomly selected page actually containing unwanted material when it is blocked is only 55%

Anyway, enough of that. At Christmas, my thoughts always turn to those poor bastards working in the service industry, dealing with the stressed and short-tempered all day. If that's ever been you, you might appreciate my new favourite site, Not Always Right. Here's one of my personal favourites.

So for those of you who'll still be net-enabled this Christmas, what are your favourite sites for roaming around when the shopping and the eating get too much?

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