I’m Binaryape

About me

Photographer, software developer, sysadmin, startup-founder, atheist Buddhist, vegan and Green. Wears a hat.

This blog reflects my personal opinions only, although most posts are so old they might not even do that anymore.

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Sita Sings the Blues

- - posted in Ancient Archives

Ravana awaits his destruction
Originally uploaded by BinaryApe

This shot of an effigy of Ravana is my most viewed photograph, with almost 2500 hits at the time of writing. It got so many hits not because it’s a particularly good photo, but because Yahoo used it on a special page for Diwali Mela last year. They may have chosen it because of the link I included to Nina Paley’s wonderful Battle of Lanka scene: You will not see finer demon vs monkey combat. (This is an early version of the scene)

Nina Paley has now finished the entire Sita Sings The Blues movie and is about to start pressing DVDs. As well as being a great animation (with a marvelous soundtrack by early Jazz star Annette Hanshaw), the production of the movie has highlighted many problems with the current copyright regime, and turned Nina into a leading campaigner for copyright reform.

While I was at the Jain event last week one of the speakers mentioned Rama’s hunting of the deer, as described in the Ramayana. I haven’t read any of the Indian classics yet, but I knew of this legend from watching Nina’s film.

Sita Sings the Blues is Creative Commons licensed, like most of my photos. You can legally download the entire movie in various formats, and a special DVD edition will soon be available. Here’s a low quality version on GoogleVideo:

(That’s all)

Too Rotten to Drink?

- - posted in Ancient Archives

My local healthfood grocers Eighth Day are no longer selling Innocent smoothies as a result of Coca Cola buying a large share in the company. The sellout to Coca Cola and resulting boycott are a big disappointment to me, as I was an almost daily consumer of Innocent drinks until today.

Innocent’s generally ethical stance is a stark contrast to Coca Cola’s: doing business with a company that sells rubbish like Coke is one thing, but when a company is involved in the murders of rivals and trade unionists… that’s not pragmatism, that’s complicity.

The decline in the quality of Green and Blacks chocolate following their ‘merger’ with Cadburys shows what else can go wrong. The post-Cadburys Green and Blacks ‘vegan’ chocolate ended up with enough milk in it to make people will dairy allergies ill, so they’ve now abandoned claiming it’s vegan. I’ve read unsubstantiated claims that this is due to machines no longer being cleaned out between production runs of different products in order to boost profits.

The silver lining (chocolate wrapper?) of the Green and Blacks sellout was that Montezuma’s far superior chocolate filled the niche. I’m hopeful that something similar will happen with the niche Innocent have abandoned.

Update: Green and Blacks have sent me an email saying that although their dark chocolate’s packaging lost the ‘vegan’ label and gained milk on the ingredients, the actual recipe didn’t change following Cadburys ownership - what changed was a more cautious policy regarding traces of milk from previous production runs. They plan to produce proper vegan choc in the future. I’ve asked if I can reproduce their email here as a comment.

(I do sometimes eat choc that’s labelled vegan and has warnings of possible trace amounts of milk, because ‘traces’ implies incredibly small amounts - I think the appearance of milk on the ingredients list gives the impression of much larger amounts. Restaurant plates may have traces, but I wouldn’t eat a meal containing it as an ingredient.)

Here’s the email (comments are locked now…)

Dear Pete,
Your blog at http://apetracks.binary-ape.org/2009/04/fruit-thats-too-rotten-to-drink.html has recently been brought to my attention and I hope you don’t mind me taking this opportunity to address your comments about Green & Black’s recent changes to the dairy allergen and vegan labelling of our dark chocolate products.

I would like to assure you that there has been no change to the recipe of our dark chocolate; the change is simply in the way in which the risks of dairy cross contamination are being communicated on bar wrappers. I will outline the background behind this decision below:

As you may be aware, there are no milk ingredients in the recipe of our Dark chocolate bars and this continues to be the case. However, the bars are produced on the same production line as Milk chocolate bars within our range. The bars have previously, therefore, carried the following statement to reflect this: ‘Manufactured in a factory that handles dairy ingredients.’

A recent audit revealed that traces of milk residues can still be found on manufacturing equipment despite intensive cleaning. Therefore, in order to ensure that consumers are at minimum risk, our allergen statements will be changed and we will clearly state on pack that milk residues may be present in dark chocolate bars across the range. This will be indicated by the inclusion of ‘Organic Whole Milk Powder’ within the ingredients list itself and a ‘Contains Milk Ingredient’ statement on pack. The Vegan labelling was also consequently removed from pack, as you have noted.

Therefore, there is actually no change to the risk to allergy-sufferers as the recipes and ingredients that go into the making of the bars have not changed. What we are now clearly stating on pack is that we cannot guarantee the absence of milk. It is almost certainly going to be present – albeit at a low level. This packaging change ensures that consumers, especially milk allergy sufferers, are aware of the possibility and this represents a positive step in consumer communication.

We are eager to inform consumers of this change to prevent any possible concern that may arise. Therefore, this information is displayed clearly on our website at www.greenandblacks.com and we have been working with organisations such as Allergy UK, the Anaphylaxis Campaign and the Vegan Society to ensure that this may be clearly communicated to allergy sufferers and vegans alike.

Separate dedicated lines for our dark and milk chocolate bars would be the only way to eliminate the risks of dairy cross contamination in the dark chocolate. At present, the restrictions for organic segregation and the design of plant we need for our type of chocolate restricts the availability of equipment. We are very certain however that we must work towards alternative equipment and we are planning to provide a dedicated production line by the end of 2009. Our hope is that we can make product available early in 2010.

I hope that this information, along with the attached FAQ’s and image of the new labelling, is of some help to you to further clarify our position.

<<Milk allergy FAQs.doc>> <<Image of new labelling Dark 85%.doc>>
However, if you have any further queries or comments at all, please do not hesitate to contact me again. Green & Black’s also intend to update any consumers concerned about this issue to inform them of our updated position when the separate lines are up and running- if you would like to be contacted at this time, please do let me know and I will gladly add you to the list.

Kind Regards

Laura Bowyer
Customer Care Manager
Green & Black’s

Stealer of Souls

- - posted in Ancient Archives

Another couple of cases of Police officers applying laws that don’t actually exist:

“The officer was talking to me and said I don’t care if you’re a professional photographer or not you can’t take a picture of a child without written consent of the parent.”

(The child in this case was allegedly vandalising a tree)

Link: Police officer tells man he’s not allowed to photograph children

and of course the now famous tourists photographing a bus station incident

Manchester’s Jain Community

- - posted in Ancient Archives

Arteth and I went along to a Vegetarian Week event at the Jain Community Centre that had been advertised (rather minimally) on the Manchester Vegan Society mailing list. We weren’t that sure what the event actually was, but it sounded interesting and we were curious about Jainism in Manchester.

I was at first surprised that Manchester even had a Jain community - Jainism is so often described as being a relatively tiny religion in India that it’s easy to miss the fact that India is a very large, very populated country: in India 0.42% of the population is a lot of people. Jains are famous for their ethical, pacifist principles, Ahiṃsā (although historically there have been Jain warriors and armies). Jainism has been very influential in Indian history and culture.

The event was a series of short presentations by a variety of vegetarian and vegan speakers, from the Young Indian Vegetarians, Hare Krishna movement, Viva, Quakers, a Hindu religious/educational organisation (that I’ve unfortunately forgotten the name of), Joni Purmonen from MVS and veganfitness.net, and the founder of the Freshfields animal sanctuaries. The Jain community were very friendly and welcoming, and we were given a tour of the centre, including the temple. The centre is a meeting place and temple for local Jain families but is also used by other groups in the area, including for sports. The Jain religion is very keen on vegetarianism and pacifism, but also animal welfare - Manchester’s Jain community funds animal sanctuaries.

Amazon: Tonosama Shobai?

- - posted in Ancient Archives

A book seller did something idiotic this weekend: it hid books. Books on preventing gay teenagers from killing themselves effectively disappear from Amazon search results, yet books by Christian quacks on homosexuality remain. Novels in which two men kiss vanish from search results for being too ‘adult’, while books featuring graphic heterosexual rape, murder and incest remain. Books that have gay characters but no sex also vanish (apparently gay people are just too “adult” all the time). Notice a theme?

Twitters explodes with #amazonfail and a quick Googlebomb redefines Amazon Rank

And then this Monday morning (in the UK), things seem to revert to normal, at least in this test: searching for “Rubyfruit Jungle” in All Departments at Amazon.co.uk now works, at Amazon.com it still fails.

Until now I was a regular customer of Amazon, but even if they grovel this will cost them a couple of months of my custom. No groveling and I’ll go elsewhere.

Is this Amazon’s ’tonosama shobai’ moment?

“This is called tonosama shobai (toh-no-sah- mah SHO-bai), roughly translatable as “running your business as if you’re a feudal lord in ancient Japan,” and I guess it’s a way to show your customers that you are an extremely strong leader in your field, since no other company could get away with that kind of crap. If you’ve ever wondered at some of the bizarre actions taken by Sony over the years – the hubristic attitude that nothing could assail their strong position in video games, the Sony-only media formats, the rootkit DRM scandal of last year – now you know what the concept is called in Japanese” – Peter Payne

A good summary of Amazon’s stupidity is in An Open Letter To Amazon Regarding Recent Policy Changes

Photographers in the UK Should Read This House of Commons Debate

- - posted in Ancient Archives

There’s been a surprisingly good, sensible discussion in the House of Commons on the recent police vs photographer problems. The issue was raised by John Randall (Conservative) and a number of other MPs made good contributions. It’s well worth reading if you’re an amateur or pro photographer in the UK.

The official government position appears to be in favour of photographer’s rights and critical of police abusing existing laws

“I make it absolutely clear that unless someone is engaged in criminal activity, they must be allowed to take photographs in public places and that the law should not be used to discourage or hamper that activity.”

However, reassuring noises from junior ministers are not enough - abuses are still happening.

(I’m not generalizing police behaviour - I’ve got no doubt that most officers are fine, and many of those involved in these ‘photocop’ incidents are simply ill-informed. All the same, here’s why we need freedom of photography)

Hedgehog in the Mist

- - posted in Ancient Archives

The most beautiful animation ever made.

Hedgehog In The Fog (or mist) by Sergei Kozlov and Yuri Norstein.

YouTube really doesn’t do it justice.

Chorlton’s Big Green Festival

- - posted in Ancient Archives

Vegan Cupcake Invasion (4)

We visited Chorlton’s Big Green Festival for a few hours, and it was good fun, interesting and useful. Also much bigger than we expected - there was quite a crowd too by the time I left.

I came home with a free power saving gadget, lots of leaflets and a feeling that I’m not particularly good at photographing events… I hope it continues and grows more each year.

The photo of is of the impressive vegan cupcake stall from the lovely people in Manchester Vegan Society. All the cakes were made by volunteers in the group.