Thursday, July 26, 2007

utopic vision and religiousity in world leaders

I just finished reading "Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia" by
John Gray which is quite persuasive in its argument and evidence - one interesting thing about the illusion of progress is that initial conditions matter so much - witness guns, health care and education work very differently in different cultures - so a lot of socio-politico-"science" is about bogo-hypotheses that are supposed to explain how one progresses (how a market or a welfare system operates etc). In reality, we can see from the examples that actually cultural pre-determination might be far more important -

for example, guns: there are as many guns as adults in switzerland and crete, yet gun related crime is virtually un heard of - the UK has some of the toughest antigun law in the world, and yet gun related crime is on the increase - would Gun Law in the US have a beneficial effect or not? i dont pretend to know.

for example, health care -the UK has one of the largest state run/funded free healthcare systems in the world (actually eyesight and teeth and prescriptions are no longer free, but so long as you dont need drugs, aren't short sighted, and are a descendant of slave trade, you're fine:) - some liberal countries (Denmark) leave it up to local decisions whether to have private or state provison of health-care - the state underwrites insurance for the poor, but refuses to pay unreasonable prices - since there are a lot of poor, the state is the biggest customer and gets to have good control of both private and state provided health-care seems to work - what doesn't work is America but i dont see why. I dno t pretend to me Michael Moore (is he related to dickless brit sci fi writer?)

for example, education - private education in the UK is increasing in price at 12% per year in the last 5 years - despite competing against a state system that is improving, and universities that bias against private school kids - no i can;t explain it - its cultural -

the point about these (and I could say a lot more about each and how they operate in practice in many other cultures differently) is that there is no evidence of "progress" towards some improved (asymptotically platonic ideal) state - there's just a bunch of different systems which operate well or badly, and yet what determines which operate well or badly is outside the scope of any traditional "explanations" offered - its arbitrary - its pragmatic, dummy

UK-US special dysfunctional relationship

render unto bush that which is anti-american, but will he even notice that the brits help him? will he heck.

the "special relationship" that this portraits is one of a bully and his victim, where the victim keeps sadly going back for more as its the only kind of attention they get. why is it after countless evidence that most people in the US (government/population, you pick) don't even know where england is let alone who blair and brown were and are, that UK government persist in relying on a special relationship which is thin air?

There used to be some trade advantage, but there's precious little britain makes that the US would want. we have the old commonwealth and new euro partners - why do we care - let the US go sink, as far as I am concerned:) but is so sad and pathetic to be part of this abusive and degrading dependancy that seems to obsess people in whitehall. would we have had the bombs in london of 7/7 if we had taken more of a laidback approach to defending the US right to defend themslves without helping them to attack random innocent (in the sense of not being the perps of 9/11) other targets like iraq?

who knows, but the one-sidedness of the security forces "trade" reports above(we help them, they take our citizens to guantanamo, and don't actually help us catch our own bad guys) is surreal and begs for us to leave it and find a self house for abused nations - who knows, we might form a club there :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

pocomoco, neopomo, momo, and plain nono

so its becoem de rigeur to deconstruct the slightest post modern, semidiotic piece of media (scream, dr who, fake steve jobs, whatever) and reveal that it is, of course
un peu mot dit, or pomo for short - that aint nutthin to do with Dune, y'know, but everthin to do with fouccault (was ever there a name that sounded like a french person saying fuck off) and derrida (he who derides).

watching the really fabby jekyll on the telly recently, i was struck by how formulaic the pomo tendancies have now becoem - this is not to deride or f-off the very very fine writing of this work, but to point out that if something is now so much part of the wallpaper or tools-of-the-trade, it can't be very post-anthing anymore - its
current (cumo), and not very neo or meta, or uber at all. in the words of amy whinehausfrau, it aint gone to rehab, no-no.
"Look, Dr Jekyll, you can run, but you can't Hyde" :-)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter - the End, or is it?

"know this, harry potter. I am your father"
"No you aren't - that's Darth Vader and he's Luke Skywalker's father"
"look out, behind you - a Dalek"
"no, voldemort, that's Dr Who, and you don't look much like david tennant"
"But harry, all i have left is these tears in the rain"
"nope, that's the replicant, batty in do androids dream"
"speak, friend, and enter"
"no, gandalf"
"look at me ma, i'm on top of the world"
"jimmy cagney, public enemy no. 1"
"look harry, after 500 years of peace, all hogwarts ever produced was the damn cuckoo clock"
"nope, harry lime, the third man"
"prepare to die"
"inigo montoya, the princess bride"
"I don't think I can do that harry"
"Hal, 2001"
"you know how to whistle, harry, you just put your lips together and.."
"lauren bacall, to have and to have not - hey, voldy, are you by any chance, uh, gay"
"I thought you'd never ask"
...exeunt off to the sunset (well, the club, heaven) pursued by sundry daemons and other long running Unix programmes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Poles apart

So I'd heard about the polish arrival in dublin (estimates vary, but on the order of 250,000 apparently) but what was truly impressive today on going between DUblin Airport and TCD in the City Center is that the only language I heard on public transport was polish, and the first newstand I saw in O'Connell St was selling polish papers alongside the Irish Times - Europe works:)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Our friends eclectic

Aye, Dis Pie's Good
or , perhaps, I dispise good?

The Ants are my friend,
he's blown in his win

from earcorn to giant toke, treee!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

i'm insulted by islam so there

so some people in some islamic groups feel insulted that salman rushdie was knighted for his contributions in literature. so what. I'm insulted by their treatment of 51% of the world's population _every day_. i don't want them ignored except when the spout rubbish about what happens in other countries - i want people to take action against them in their countries. we wouldn't tolerate slave trade jsut because of sovereignty, so why to we tolerate the inhuman treatment of women under sharia law? i think we need a fatwah against them in the name of humanity.
Groups that hate half the population have n moral authority - groups that show no compassion (threaten to kill people for mere words (rushdie) or film (van gogh) - have no right to tell us (look, we just lock up people even when they try to blow up hundreds of people - at least we don't stone them or cut their hands off)

such an asymmetry of applied ethics tells us something - it tells us there's a fundamental incompatibility, and that one side in this "debate" is wrong.

I think the UK government appears to be changing its tone a bit perhaps towards the line that
australia is taking

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

NHS healthfair state

I am sick to death of people saying "you need to charge fo health care
otherwise people a) don't understand its cost/value/utility, and can ask for arbitrary amounts more" - this belies a fundamental truth about large deviation theory and how humans are really bad at comprehending risks that arrive in a self-similar fashion - the way to fund health care _requires_ either that you shift peoples' understanding of risk over non-normal time frames (i.e/ you need to insure for an uncertain future, when you may either be sick for a long time, or drop dead unexpectedly, or else live longer than you thought and need more pension than you planned) or you need to _spread_ the risk over multiple people (the purpose of public, tax funded healthcare) or both - since the cost/benefit and outcome of health-care itself is a product of rapidly advancing research and technology, you cannot expect individuals to judge this correctly, so all the libertarian and right wing views on this are, frankly, bollocks.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

NHS trying to kill us all

I keep having a vision of the London Eye raped with dead bodies and the capsules full of people having a masqued ball

so my mum went in to hospital (UCH) to have a fairly routine procedure which involves putting a tube down the oesophagus (i.e. your throat) to look at her insides - unfortunately, (3% chance) the procedure resulted in a puncture which means she is unable to eat or drink for 2-6 weeks (depending) - 3 weeks later, after visiting almost every day, I am shocked at the appalingness of the NHS today (and UCH is supposed to be one of the better hospitals). The nursing at nighttime is largely done by people that hardly ever speak to patients and do not respond to calls from patients - sure they have a large ward to look after but this is a bad scenari o - in many cases it is clear that there is a significatn "jobsworth" attitude going on, particulalry amongst people who take advantage of the NHS massive overeas recruitement just to get trained in the UK then head home - they often do not even speak english well enough to have a conversxation with an elderly person with poor sight and heating - in some cases they tried to offer food/drinks/drugs despite a large sign o nthe bed saying "Nil by Mouth".

continuity of knowledge amongst doctors visiting the bed was por - often they spent less than 10 seconds (3 times in my sight) looking at the patient notes and relied on the patient - a bad idea with an 85 year old person with problems with sight and hearing.

The fact that the patient was only there because of hospital error (no I am not blaming them completely, but it ought to be a factor) should mean they are ALL aware that they ought to be extra careful - the only times I've seen them act profrssionally is when I (as an ex UCL professor) mention my affiliation or my sister (a doctor) show up. That is unfair on other patients, but also means that the bar for adequate care is simply way too low to be acceptable.

Other problems - the wards are not that clean (not as bad as the Free (also run by UCL) where my father died of MRSA, or Addenbrookes, where I was with a broken leg, treated very very well, but not much good compared, say to my bathroom at home, and I am not a OCD about cleanliness:)

Problem is that everyone is spending (visibly) significant time on management processes (forms on PCs and paper) rather than listeing to patient, family and colleagues - the silo-mentality is obviously driven by the constant re-org;s the NHS has had to undergo - I don't hold much hope out - I havnt seemn Michael Moore's SIcko movie yet about US healthcare, but I would be interested in a comparison...the TV documentary recently on trying to clean up UK hospotials was quite amusing, but there are far more fundamental problems, if UCH (which is suppsoed tobe good) is anything to go by. The NHS connecting for care and NPfIT programmes are irrevant, and infinite sink of dosh whoch should be used to fix personnel and medical professional morale and community immediately or the system will spiral into complete irreperal position.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

whats the different between wily coyote and a terrorist

so the weird thing about wily coyote that always puzzled me is that every time he tries to catch the road runner, he tries out a new, insanely baroque device (always acquired faster than amazon can ship, from ACME, for some reason - i wish I could buy things on the net from them!) but why, when you see how it always goes wrong in some equally baroque way, does he not refine his method and try again with the same weird gadget? Why oh why?

on the other hand, the recent terrorist attacks in the UK have been monotonously similar, and yet have failed - are they even more stupid than wily coyote? They certainly seem to be darwinianly challenged in terms of blowing themselves up, or catching fire, or using cell phones to call all their mates while on the run. luckily for (most of) us...

meanwhile, do NOT mess with glaswegians

Monday, July 02, 2007

end to end arguments in social engineering

so edge versus core seems to be a political position as much as an (internet) article of technical faith but its founded in some naive model of the way humans, societies and network technologies work - either extreme, fully centralised or fully decentralised, suffer from an absolutism which I find amazing - command economy or networks are rigid, fragile and dont scale in safety, security, responsiveness etc. anarchic systems are resilient, but don't harness resources to any particular goal - why would you want to run any system by either extreme? what is wrong with a middle ground?

the smart network = communism
the dumb network = free market

neither really ever existed or worked. time for something more plausible