Thursday, 26 November 2009

What is the Point of Data Protection?

This article caught my eye today. There are calls to make a rough census from 1939 public. I am amazed at the comments from people that say this information should be made public. No doubt these are the same people who get annoyed when they recieve telemarketing calls or junk mail. Or their personal data being used for other purposes, outwith their control.

When I worked for the NHS archive, you used to get a lot of people coming through the 'back door' to trace relatives. This usually applied to individuals who were adopted or who had lost contact with their birth parents. In the eyes of the NHS record keeping authorities, the ownership of someone's birth record does not lie with the child but with the mother. So if these enquiries came in then we had to ask the enquirier to follow a certain procedure. They either had to provide written permission from their mother to release the information or evidence of her death. You'd rarely hear from these people again.

This is why I believe the 75 year rule is fine and dandy for these kind of records. In Scotland, the census is locked tight for 100 years for the potential problems they could throw up. Like the situation described above. How would an elderly woman feel if someone turned up at their door one day and said they were her child given up for adoption? Hence the existence of agencies such as Barnardos who handle such enquiries. It is not always a person's right, or appropriate, for them to have such information at their fingertips.

Yes records have been kept so people can use them for informational purposes. But we also have to respect the data subjects recorded in these documents. That is why I believe the early release of these records should not be considered. Although the introduction of an application basis with evidence that individuals are deceased could be the way forward.

This surge of legislation does not automatically mean people have the right to access information that does not relate directly to them as data subjects.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Sunday Salon and NaNoWriMo (not in that order though)

So it's the end of the second week of NaNo. I didn't post at the end of the first week but let's ignore that little fact.

In two weeks I have poured out over 25, 000 words (just over the target for the end of Week 2). I started with the names of two main characters, the idea that Soviets (I intend to keep that term) and zombies would be involved as well. Fast forward two weeks and I don't like one of the original main characters and the boyfriend she seems to be have picked up. My narrative has completed left these people behind and moved onto two new characters I am enjoying spending time with. It does annoy me that they are men but there's not much I can do about that at the moment. Perhaps I'll do an Alien casting decision in the editing process.

I feel tired and broken but know I have to put out another 25, 000 words by November 30th. Why? Just to prove I can. And to finish something. Although I beginning to think my 'talents' do lie more in the short story arena. I'm not sure I have enough words in me to attempt the great novel everyone is supposed to be capable of.

Please note, this is not a post looking for sympathy. It just sums up how I feel at the moment.

On another topic I have finished reading On Writing by Stephen King. It's half-memoir and half-writing guide. He has some great guidelines that I'm starting to adopt. One is to write with your Ideal Reader in your head. Him Indoors has been extremely helpful and I'm not sure if he realises he is being groomed into my Idea Reader. Already there has been a slight bickering moment over a title for one of my finished short stories. Nothing too serious though.

King discusses the importance of the writer's toolbox. On the top level you have important stuff such as spelling and grammar (yeah, I know, I have a lot to learn). Then the levels further down are the tools you use to chip out the fossil of an idea. Cheesy sounding but does make a lot of sense. As a writer, when you sit down to write that first draft, you're effectively using a sledgehammer to shake out those ideas. Then the editing process is using the top layer combined with more delicate tools to weed out the gold from the shit. More importantly King has a section at the back of the book which takes you through a step-by-step example of editing. I suck at editing and found it extremely helpful.

The Sunday

I suppose this doubles as a Sunday Salon post as well. At the moment I am currently cruising my way through Stephen King's The Stand. For a tome of a book, he certainly holds your attention. All I will say is that the story can be summarised as deadly flu wipes out most of population, the survivors that are left start coming together, crazy dreams and the horrors of trying to rebuild society. There's already been one crucifixition but not one of a JC. Unless JC took heroin. Oh dear, I really am rambling now.

Need to choose a new commute read now that I've finished On Writing. As I type I'm surrounding by books and I can the ones in my room calling to me. A tough decision and not one to be taken lightly.

Tomorrow I return to the horrors of university and I need some escapism on the commute. The best method I have of making this decision is giving the piles of books a swift kick and seeing what falls out. The first one that catches my eye goes in the rucksack for tomorrow.

Well it sure beats Inny Minny Mo.