Thursday, December 31, 2009

how to make flying safe and pleasant again

I think we just need to remove the USA as a flight destination, and everything will be fine - or else route ALL USA flights via Israel...

you could have a fleet of giant aircraft carriers 12 miles off shore (with gambling, prostitutuin and other legal off shore activities) and fast connecting boats to the shore in LA, NY, Boston etc....then a network of TGV/Bullet trains across the US - after all, the fear is the plane as weapons - so make the flyover country a no-fly country and problem solved - or alternatively franchise the israel hub idea as an economic regeneration for Gaza - the Gaza landing strip....

some sense from schneier on the topic

Monday, December 14, 2009

ethics - half way between Essex and Airfix

sounds like it anyhow - having just submitted my first application for an experimental protocol, for approval by an Ethics Committee, I am feelin like I glued it together with Airfix cement, and drove through the lowlands of Essex to get it there.

Now we await with a bated breath...

Friday, December 11, 2009

climategate - how to tell what is science?

so the discourse of scientists in public and private is different - just like anyones.
So when you see a bunch of leaked emails of discussions between people about writing, presenting and reporting results and about reviewers and editors, necessarily, you see a very different side to people than when they are finally reporting things in a formal publication - this is because scientists like to suppot the myhtology aboiut how science is done...

how can you then tell (as a lay person in a given subject) what stuff on the net that you find is sensible or not?
well, I don;t have a perfect answer - crowdsourced wisdom (what used to be called Delphi)
is nt necessarily sense (c.f. the fear of MMR vaccine in uk( - on the other hand, when you see the invective in an article like
this one, then it does make you think

If the CRU were like the Chiropractors or Homeopaths they could sue these folks for libel:)

Monday, December 07, 2009

let he bankers go

there seems to be an inordinate fear of taxing people that earn silly money based in the theory that when you have a higher tax bracket for bigger earners, they will go elsewhere and take their money and skills with them.

Firstly, there isn't a lot of evidence for this - we've had different tax rates in different countries at different times - I dont see any correlation between GDP or quality of life of a nation and whether it has high tax for high earners - people choose to stay or go based on many factors. secondly, there's plenty of evidence that countries like Ireland and the UK (and probably the US) that give huge tax breaks to the ultra rich, actually end up in a state of hopeless corruptin in the financial services area with government implicated alongside it (see Fintan O'Toole's excellent "Ship of Fools" recent book about the Celtic Tiger trainwreck).

Of course, there's a risk of losing businesses, if you tax an industry significantly more than elsewhere, if the industry isn't just geo-politically tied to an area (i.e. isn't goods, services, housing, transport, energy, food, for the local people). Of course things like financial services are about as virtualised and non-local as you can get - so in this global economy, we want the services here, but do we care who runs them? do we really believe that if we tax bankers (see
bbc report) then all the "talent" will leave the sector?
1/ what talent?
2/ where are they going to go if the services stay "here"?
3/ lets try it and see :-)

Friday, November 27, 2009

falconer on question time....

last nite on bbc 1 on questiontime, falcolner defended tony blair about the decision to invade iraq

why doesn't anyone actually ask the question
"Since invading Iraq, we've had 7/7/ and we've had shoe bombers and liquid bomber plots in the UK and this has been caused by this deciison - aren't the people who made the decision going to admit they are not only probably guilty of a crime by starting an illegal, and certainly unjustified war - they also are guilty of causing otherwise loyal British citizens to become terrorists in their own country and therefore cause the death, harm and misery for many people" - i.e. even if tone wont atone for the deaths in Iraq, why can't he say sorry for screwing things up for his own people?

iraquriy wont help one bit, of course.


so we can't all save as much carbon emission as we'd like - maybe we have gas guzzling cars and planes - so how could we reduce our feetprint?

one way would be to turn off lights - this would obviously be quite dangerous, but it would certainly save fuel - but (a bit like going round plugging in lots of plugs to stop electricity leaks, but then unplugging all the phone chargers to stop wasting electricity) it is "in the noise" (as david mackay's excellent book explains so clearly)

A better solution (as outlined in aforementioned book) would be to stop using brakes - lots of stopping and starting is what messes up your engine efficiency (and requires you to push all that air out the way, especially when doing take offs, or pullin away with both turbos on the 5.8 liter engine spinin on max) - so we just need to drive (or fly) at crusin speed all the time

what about intersections? No problemo - all that happens is after a few days of mayhem, darwin will eliminate all the drivers and pilots with poor timeing, and then the total number of vehicles on the road (or in the air) will be far less anyhow, so then we will have succeeded globally and locally in optimising the greenicity of the world's car and air transport networks....

simple, doncha see?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

john barleycorn - subversion NOT cautionary tale

I'm definitely very slow - after 11 zillion listenings to the old standard folk tune
John Barleycord, I finally figured out it is an
instruction manual on how to make booze, NOT a warning about its risks...viz

There were three men come from the West
Their fortunes for to try,
And these three made a solemn vow:
"John Barleycorn must die."

They plowed, they sowed, they harrowed him in,
Threw clods upon his head,
'Til these three men were satisfied
John Barleycorn was dead.

They let him lie for a very long time,
'Til the rains from heaven did fall,
When little Sir John raised up his head
And so amazed them all.

They let him stand 'til Mid-Summer's Day
When he looked both pale and wan;
Then little Sir John grew a long, long beard
And so became a man.

They hired men with their scythes so sharp
To cut him off at the knee;
They rolled him and tied him around the waist,
And served him barbarously.

They hired men with their sharp pitchforks
To pierce him to the heart,
But the loader did serve him worse than that,
For he bound him to the cart.

They wheeled him 'round and around the field
'Til they came unto a barn,
And there they took a solemn oath
On poor John Barleycorn.

They hired men with their crab-tree sticks
To split him skin from bone,
But the miller did serve him worse than that,
For he ground him between two stones.

There's little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl,
And there's brandy in the glass,
And little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl
Proved the strongest man at last.

The huntsman cannot hunt the fox
Nor loudly blow his horn
And the tinker cannot mend his pots
Without John Barleycorn.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

jobs and houses - how to take up slack?

1st capital connect didn't run any trains this sunday- reason? no drivers wanted to work overtime!

note there are a million able bodied people looking for work in the uk

similar - there are a million empty houses and a million people looking for somewhere to live

what government intervention would fix this without "distorting the market" too much?
in these times, I am not a fan of pure Adam Smith.....gimme some new deals, and some homeless bankers

Friday, November 06, 2009

what's not to like if you are the army?

"A US major is under guard at a Texas military base as officials investigate what prompted him to shoot dead 13 people."

spunds like he was doing his job, just a bit early - he was about to be shipped to the "eastern front"....

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Unversities versus Lord Mandelson

One good news measure of our economic impact -

The report is well worth reading as it puts a bottom line
(and an impressive one) on our economic impact
and explictly excludes the societal impact (which I believe
would be a trivial case to make)

On Mandelson and turning HE into a 1960s
Comprehensive System....
as part of his higher ambitions (viz
if you were having a hard time finding it)

I really think we dont handle these guys very well - obviously
we don't "just rely on A levels" when doing admissions -
that would be stupid -
its the government that are stupid to say so,

Why don't we have a Alastair Campbell type press person
to fight our corner in the public eye -
the government press office gets away with
repeatedly reporting complete and utter balderdash
(witness their attempts to trash the Cambridge report on primary education,
let alone their wilful ignorance in attempting to
supress other science advice recently).

Why do we listen to politicians when they don't listen to us?

We should take our case direct to the public more.

For example,
fundamentally, if someone is disadvantaged by a
state education in getting to university the
solution is not to disadvantage children of wealthy parents
by displacing them from university by people with lower achievements
which would be obviously 100% unethical,
reducing the quality of education for everyone,
but to put the resources into fixing
secondary schools.

every time some good university
catches "criticism" from Mandelson,
for a low %age of state school kids
(e.g. UCL, Imperial, Cambridge, Oxford)
we should look at the list of
schools where we rejected people from
and say
"so what are you doing
about these useless schools,
Lord M?"

and pass this on to the applicants and their parents to
go to their LEA and ask what they are doing with the tax money...
and the subsidy they are getting from people who send their kids
to private school and still pay tax but don't put load on the system
(oh, ok so the private school gets teachers....well if the state school was god, and more state schools are getting people in to uni than private, so more are, by this definition good) then they will attract good teachers - and they do - its just naff schools that don

comprehensivising the universities will screw them up just the way
it did to english 2ndary schools for a couple of decades - solution is
let the teachers do their job and resource it properly (like pretty much any where else in europe(including scotland for example) except england)

and lay off -if you cut university income, you are cutting a profit center - no-one who has "business" in their job title, vuts
profit centers.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

as with economics, so with science - british government refutes expert advice

the latest fiasco in british government denial of expertise involves drugs - but why should we be surprised when this is a government that since Tony (technophone) Blair, has been run by people whose only training is legal and who subscribe to medieval superstitions (e.g. religion)
and prefer the advice of marketeers and gurus than doctors and scientists (or even people who just do business properly!).

shocking if it wasn't actually going to also do harm, which makes it bordering on criminal ignorance.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Poppys and stuff

last day in october (a hallow's eve!) you're "supposed" to wear a poppy - well I suppose I wont because although I respect and am in awe of people who go fight to defend me, I am not enamoured of the folks that decided the last two times to send these guys "in my name" - no you didn't - and there's no way for me to unbundle this in a poppy without insulting people.

meanwhile, wallace and grommit should do a movie called
12 Angry Dogs

also recently, it occurred to me that the Cambridge Man-o-Science center should build a very small homunculus - that would be their crowning achievement..

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

to a first approximation....

to a first approximation....the second approximation
isn't any more accurate...

Monday, October 26, 2009

blairite society

ASBO - anti social-behaviour orders
sound like something you get in a restaursnt - like
anti-pasti -

waiter, here's my order for some SBs before we get on to the main event

the main event will be 42 days without Al Dante - this is just sufficient as every good Tuscan knows, to cure the most obstinate Florentine Ham...

I suspect Tony BLair wasn't a closet catholic at all - he is an afficionado of that ancient secret society of the lodge of flock wallpaperers, whose rituals include
stripping all the old varnish from their law degree certificates and prostrating themselves before a bowl of steaming pasta - the flying spaghetti monster rears her ugly head one more time...

you can tell I've been reading Dan Brown..

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

UK's proposed Research Evaluation Framework and "Impact"

One of the problems with this debate is that we are all so self deprecatory as
a community that we miss some important things about the big picture.

RCUK are trying to justify their budget to the treasurey and lord Mandelson
(both roles may change in the next 1-2 years:)
about science spending - note Joe Public is not in this debate - we are not being asked to
justify our existence in the wider arena -

my view is that in the last few years,
public appreciation of science has been very high
(note I say "appreciation", not "understanding")
due to efforts of great popularisers like
Attenborough and Jones and Hawking and many others.

I think it would be quite easy to win the fight that
science research is worth doing in public - that's not the problem - the
"adversary" we have to convince is the senior civil service and
the government in power (as Anthony Finkelstein correctly implied, and
Ross Anderson indicated)....

So what are we looking at in the changing evaluation framework...

1. transparency - is each project (or person) worth funding?
2. scale - is the total budget defensible? (the REF)
3. efficiency - are peer review and the REF/QR mechanism
good ways to assess how to allocate money, and which is better...

A Lot of what is going on is we
are being groomed in a concerted campaign
to believe that this is finely motivated,
(this grooming reminds me
of the way marxism, and free market philsophies
were put over on societies at points in history,
or wars are justified to populations) ...

The peer review system already is quite transparent
(if quite expensive) -
What I dont know why the same word is used
in the new project form 2 page impact statement,
as is used in the HEFCE Proposed REF ...

but what is obvious is that impact at the REF level is to do with QR,
so should be assessed on aggregates,
not on individual fine grain, and also
should be assessed on long time scales (not 10-15, but 15-50 years).

There are two obvious reasons for this
1. research high impact events are black swans.
2. however, the rare events considered as some time series
(probably self similar)
are in fact products of a large aggregate of work in reality
(indeed large deviation theory about such time series come
from collection of feedback processes over
multiple time scales) -

the lower impact work
that may have very low biblimetric impact
for example (typically drawn from some zipfian distribution)
are far from irrelevant - they are the background from which emerge
the succesful results - without all the searching,
we wouldn't get the significant events. (this is not simply
about negative results - its about predictability of impact).

What should be done in the REF?

I propose we accept the _collection_ of fine grain data,
but we object to the simple formual used -

the impact needs to be attributed,
and that is where the formula is clearly silly -

attribution of work in research is hard to do,
and the longer the time scale, the wider you have to look -
but we have quite a well known algorithm for attribution -
its called


I quite like things like pagerank,
satnav, cell phones, wii games controller/console,
PVRs with online programme guides, engine management systems,
programmable dishwashers, washing machines, ovens,
etc as examples of CS impact...we should get a big list together and
divy it up amongst us...there's plenty to go around...

p.p.s. at the other extreme
economic impact is rarely large, but some cases can justify an entire programmes
existence - for example, DARPA programme manages used to enjoy telling US congress
that 1 single tax year, cisco paid enough tax to justify the entire ARPA research budget
developing the Intenet (on the order of 600M dollars)...

if you're interested about the problems of research assesment,
one interesting source is the analysis of programme ctte
reviews from a number of conferences - for example, see

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Science fiction title fashions


The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38° 54' N, Longitude 77° 00' 13" W

The City and the Stars
Altered Carbon

The Neutronium Alchemist
The Difference Engine

woken furies
more than human

childhood's end
the goblin reservation
more than human

Thursday, October 15, 2009

word splay

Esplionage is a word I accidentally uttered could be
swimming in a sea of meaning, if it was esperanto, but it isnt - why don't you tell me what it might mean? :_

When looking at Chelsea tractors delivering kiddies to school in and around Cambridge each morning, narrowly avoiding being crushed by one of these farm vehicles set loose in the narrow streets of this ancient city, I wonder at the marketing wisdom of the automotive industry:-

Rage Rover
Free Loader
Porsche Crayon?

i dunno

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Detente and MAD

used to be about mutually assured destruction of capitalism v. communism

now we have capitalism v. the biosphere
or mammon v. gaia

who will win? well we'll never know.

just reading Stephen Baxter's "Flood" which is quite depressing, really.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Real reason for Polanski's arrest is.... suppress the release of the movie The Ghost, based on Robert Harris' fine book, a thinly disguised story about Tony Blair's memoirs, which has some fairly devastating material about the war, and a really shocking denoument - my guess is (conspiracy theory alert!) that Tone asked Obama to tell the Swiss to get Polanski before the edits were done

its clear the film is on hold, at least until they find someone else to finish the thing, which could be some time - time enough maybe for Tone to become first European President???

Friday, October 02, 2009

market dogma and impact

so reading more about herding and cascades - interestingly enough, cascades can be demonstrated to happen without appealing to behavoural economics - but behavoural economics means that they happen sooner because of herding behaviour....oh well.....another nail in the coffin for the dogma of markets - the more i read of the 1980s BS people wrote, the more it looks like the old Marxist style rants - one big hammer so everything looks like a nail. sad sad sad.

meanwhile, having an impact is an interesting problem (to which UK government funded researchers anre now required to address themselves) _ looking at the Mcleod fine book on the history of inventors, it is very much a matter of hit or miss whether some one thing out of millions is the one that succeeds - many people had a go, for example, at making telegraphs work, and radio work, and so on, but the guys that get their name on the thing (Edison, Morse, Marconi, Bell, etc) are just ones that got lucky, really...although in some cases, they were also extremely fine (and possibly ruthless) business minds as well as (maybe) being creative in the tech. arena. Its part of what I said before here - "realizing the applicability of an invention" is crucial, in both senses of the word "realize" -

1/ intellectually grasping the commercial or social benefit the "new" idea will have.
2/ building it and getting it out there as a product or service in the Real World (TM)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

driving licenses for everything

so we have these European Computer Driving Licenses, which are supposed to make sure you don't do anything dangerous on the net. I propose extending the scheme to other walks of life - obviously we should have a
European Voters driving license
to make sure people don't vote unless they actually have a) a clue about the candidates and b) a clue about politics, economics and society
and a
European Genitalia Driving License,
for obvious reasons - this would let us fine people for
being drunk in charge of a penis, for example.

Monday, September 28, 2009

all the sad young men

what is so sad about this is that it isn't just about geek guys 'n gals - its about most boys and girls and it doesn't have to be a notebook - it could be a paperback or a hat.
and this too...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

white van drivers, eh?

cycling down the road, i go thru a red light - hey, i'm a cyclist - this is my god given right

anyhow, at the next light a white van pulls in front of me, and pulls right over to the cuber and then into the greenbox (for cyclists only), so i pull out round him and go as the other lights go red (but before "ours" go green) then he pulls in front of me and stops in the middle of the road and shouts at me about going through red lights.....

he broke 3 laws and was dangerous to others v.
i broke 1.5, and was only dangerous to myself - n.b. I had carefully checked there were no pedestrians within a zillion miles - hey, we're not even talkin about 4-ways here - these were just crossings....

where do these people get off on thinkin they control the universe coz they've got a gearstick? bozos.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

US healthcare reform proposed solution

and the answer is: the US should outsource it to the EU - there's lotsa different systems to pick from and almost any of them are better than the US's or cheaper, or both. this would stimulate competition from the US healthcare industry to get its price/performance in shape, and that would in turn do the same the EU systems - proper global capitalism...clearly Americans will find many objections to this, which is just fine, as I really don't care what they do provided they go away from our tv sets and stop being so **** embarassing.

data points (always disputed by defenders of the status quo)

US spends twice OECD average (16+% GDP)
US has worse than OECD average healthcare(WHO)
Medicare + Medicaid are expensive
Private healthcare is even more expensive, and not significantly any better, and getting more expensive (see
for example)

US fear of big government (possibly correct in their case given military and healthcare and other costs) means local solution counter-indicated.

Solution: shop abroad.
(for anglophobes who love to kick the NHS, note we are allowed to buy healthcare
from EU - for people that hate state provided soliutions, noone's stopping you buying private, but it might get cheaper AND better if there's proper competition - if you like a free market, then the common market is for you:-)

only kidding...can you imagine americans having to go to a french hospital?

why do I care?

1. old fashioned middle class middle england anglican guilt about poor
2. i like most americans and wish them better
3. hospitals are like airports - people only remember the bad things that happen, and then they leave - few people look at the good stats.

Friday, September 11, 2009

when did britain start scorning engineers?

it was a truth universally acknolwedged that a chap in possession of a neat idea (possibly patent pending) could rise through the ranks of Victorian SOciety, yeah unto the Lors (viz Brunel, or read about the New Victorians in the Diamond Age, or the old ones in the steam punk literature)....

so when did this turn around...? its a very english disease (i dont think its true in scotalnd, or wales) - when did you get asked to check the oil in someone's car if you said you disigned airplane engines for rolls royce, or to fix someone's printer if you said you wrote VMs for citrix?

what went wrong and why?

is it the dominance of Oxford PPE/Greats educated politicians in parliament who thing
NatSci/Engineering geeks from Cambridge are "beneath" them?
Why doesnt the eminence of the Royal Society and Academies fix this?

Time for a techno-vanguard lead revolution!!!

Monday, September 07, 2009

parochial americans

most the americans I know are cool

but from time to time, i come across the most contrary people,
not that there aren't such people in other parts of the world, but
it's just more fun to rant about the richest country in the world (and shouldn't they know better after throwing their weight around the planet for the last 50 years and not even winning a single war in that time (think: korea, vietnam, chile, somalia, afghanistan, iraq, etc etc)

anyhow, what occasions this annoyance? you guessed it: healthcare

I have the temerity to get involved in what I think is an open debate (its online and not in a private mail list) on this, so I inject some comments
1. data from US medical pub
2. comment that there are many models for funding national provisioning of healthcare

Note: I did not venture an opinion, except to say that I accept that the UK NHS Is
a) not an exemplary model to follow (actually it isn't bad, but see next):
b) the conditions for setting up a system whereby the state employs all medical staff in a country are almost certain never to arise anywhere or anytime again other than in post war england which had some very odd pre-conditions and some timely money (thanks to Keynes) from the USA.

anyhow so I sugges that one might look at some of the other systems in the world that do better (or cheaper, or both) and take components of them for a revised US system - note that (as in the UK) this does not preclude people using private insurance based healthcare, just provides for a scaleable, cost effective, and lawyer/insurance company free syse that sets a better operating point for the majority (and therefore average) person - actually, evidence shows its better for rich people too whether they opt in or go private, but that seems to be too political for some people )though why evidence based medicine is political is a mystery to me - perhaps people prefer their pinions to be based in mythology and rumour rather than fact).

I drew an analogy with music where record companies often recently have their heads in the sand ignoring both old (e.g. live music, like the grateful dead used to perform or the rolling stones still do) and new (e.g. subscription, pay per item, or paid through adveritsing, as in lastfm, itunes and spotify models) - this was purely to point out that often there are many workable models and some beliefs that the incumbent model is best and futureproof may be weak under even the mildest scrutiny.

ANyhw, no sooner do i say this than I get accused of all sorts of things. I dunno, I gave up being involved in the "discussion" - but it depressed me that
the debate had sunk so low and that people that lived in such a great country could have their views distorted by the massive vested interests wheeled out and repeatedly given preferential coverage in the media - the majority voted for Obama, but the healthcare mafia are sure fighting to beat him down - the massive failure for constitutional democracy that this will represent is as bad as many things Bush did with virtually no mandate.

Some of the discussion bordered on the surreal type of conversation one used to have with white racist south africans during Apartheid, 10% reasonable on any topic under the sun except one.

I talked to a friend from microsoft who'd had a similar experience on a different topic (guns) when on a long visit to the US - note neither of us actually expressed a particular opinion as to one "side" or another, just put in some comments and datapoints....what is annoying about this is that there are lots of discussions on the healthcare model in the UK (and elsewhere) due to ageing population, recession, advances in pharma etc, and so an informed discussion is of global interest/relevance. Of course, I undersrtand that some americans have a distaste (hatred?) of "big government" and that this colours their views of anything a government might do - biut it is monomaniacal to reduce every debate to this (at the least, an hypothetical "good" government might do somethign better - indeed, as exemplified in germany, france, scandinavia, greece, ireland, and quite a few other places, they do. for much less money. allowing for differences in how data is counted (e.g. infant mortality etc) - do you think WHO and health practioners are morons and don't know how to do statistics? certainly the majority of widely circulated US press coverage doesn't present data - indeed, laughable errors "Stephen Hawking would have died if he depended on the NHS) are propagated daily.). Articles are written by people who havnt practiced for 30 years or are not actually on the medical front line, or have zero knowledge of economics.

I used to admire the US education system in its ability to instil a sense of open discussion from high- school on - perhaps many people still acquire this, but the rapid domination of any discussion by a small number of hyper-aggressive, sociopathic, parochial few makes engagement in any important topic completely pointless.

so there.

p.s. on a minor note, I got "told off" for suggesting that the US government had supported the IRA. well, from JFK until Reagan, successive US presidents courted Irish-American votes (much as they courted, or at least didn't offend Cuban-American voters) and went to so far as to claim their "oirish" ancestry - during this time, you could go into a bar in Boston or NY and see collections being made openly for the IRA, a proscribed organisation in the UK at the time (and the UK was allegedly supposed to be an Ally of the US). If that isn't government support, it is as close as needs be - certainly it wasn't until Senator George Mitchell's fantastic missions to NI to help the peace process that anything actually constructive towards solving the situation was attempted. One hopes his contributions in the middle east have even 5% of the impact. one wonders how the US would have felt in 10/11 if someone had gone round arab restaurants in the Edgware Road part of london collecting for al qaeda.

we live in financial times...however, not everything is rational...

for example, on Mill Road on friday I observed a Pizza Hut shop which would not sell me a hut of any description and a penguin dry cleaner which did not remove stains from a single book or flightless bird no matter how much money I offered them....worse, none of the gadget shops in Cambridge can offer me a device to separate a drawer full of tangled thumbtacks, paperclips, rubber bands and treasury tags - this is surely a business case begging for some serious Venture Capital

Friday, September 04, 2009

this is why we have to put up with airport nonsense

bbc reports so far jury has spent 11 days deliberating on the "drinks for bombs" case

At the very least, we know that the defendants claims (that they wouldn't have actually blown up a plane) are objectively true - the chemistry tells us so - of course, they could be naive (like the shoe bomber, the glasgow airport idiots, and the second lot of london underground wannabe martyrs). nonetheless, proving intent to do someting that isn't scientifically possible is going to be tricky

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"West" "versus" "Islam"

just finished reading the amazing
The Wasted Vigil, by Nadeem Aslam. Essential reading for anyone attempting to understand Afghanistan. and a lot of the relationship between the different shades of Islam AND the different shades of western culture (it is a complex tale spanning the soviet invasion and the american revenge for 9/11 and has english, russian and american characters as well as a range of "locals")

basically, this is totally against reductionism - the idea that there can be much of a meeting of minds in this book is really quite scorned, and the lament for the lost greatness of the past of the region is unbelieveabally tragic.....

it is, by absolutely no means whatsoever, a pro-western book either

Friday, July 31, 2009

economics and thatcher/reagan

I was reminded recently of the "Tell Sid" campaign to get the public to engage in share trading when THatcher was privatising British Telecom, Gas and other utilities.

So here's the questions I'd like to see numerical answers to
1. How much did the great british unwashed public actually buy?
2. How much did they gain in reduced tax or increased services as a result of the new capital and tax revenue the treasury got from the previously state owned businesses
3. how much did we just lose in the recent debacle/creditcrunch/recession

really, was it all a complete waste of time and money (and some lives, viz railway accidents after track privatation)?

basically, did sid sell his birthright for a mess of potage?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

what do the following books have in common?

A secret history (donna tartt)
A fraction of the whole (steve toltz)
Special topics in calamity physics (marisha pessl)
The virgin suicides (jefffrey eugenides)

Answer: no idea but amazon and friends all recommended them to me in the space of a week recently, even though they've mostly been out for a few years...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

free plotware foundation sf plot device #17

what if there was a total eclipse of the earth, which was visible no matter where you stood, on earth?


lets say it lasted 6 minutes - now, imagine the repurcissions for science and religion...

Friday, July 24, 2009

3 scams, a daft idea and a bad pun

1. we should all buy 50 quid cars with a year's mot?tax - we can cash them in for 2000 pounds off a new car in 1 year for scrappage...

2. we should all claim our tamiflu, and then send it to africa (or anywhere else they can't afford to stockpile this stuff) - ditto the vaccine when its out....

3 zittrain (see >article) claims the internet and the PC are generative - well, what about
generative LAW then, eh? bout time!

4. There's a points just south of cambridge where the line splits to Liverpool ST and King's Cross - L&K _ perhaps the people down each side are like the Morloks and the Eloi (Orcs and Elves, or even Daleks and Kaleds, there's an archetype if you like:)
The L and K (live and kill?)....

5. w should start a Cambridge University Breaking and Entering society (CUBE, known as C.U. Jimmy, to scottish members).

Friday, July 03, 2009

working time directive/ethic & political disengagement

I am now abslutely certain that it is Whitehall dogma to ignore the European working time directiove as much as possible and to keep the UK employed population working as many hours, days, weeks, months, years, as possible.
just so as they don't have time to think, or get engaged in politics in the slightest regard

once upon a time, there were alanded gentry, who had lots of time, and they were tories, then there was the English working class movement, which a bunch of self-educated and principled people who engaged in society and cared about things that matter in their segment, formed - partly churchmen, but also womens movements and other movements - these two elements of british society meant we had serious engagement with both self interest, and interest in the larger pictiure for these two mutually dependent facets of a complex whole.

now, noone has time to engage, except a bunch of overpaid, overcompensated career politicians (and many of them are part timeers) and civil servants - how many people actually know a local councillor, or have ever been to ther MPs surgery or even written?

we need to break this down to the way it used to be and one surefire way to do it is to give people time and inventives to use that time, to engage in running things for ourselves....

Saturday, June 20, 2009

cromwell on parliament - quoted in guardian review of book today

"Ye sordid prostitutes, have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord's temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance."

couldn't say it much better could you...?

Friday, June 19, 2009

liberty in the age of terror

new fine book by AC Grayling - Liberyy in the age of terror - essential reading

2 things struck me while reading this (and I'm not talking about pieces of a flying suicide bomber or a policeman's truncheon:)

1. "nothing to hide, so nothing to fear" - why is this bogus

well one reason is actually that hte elasticity needed in a multi-cultural society needs space between differences - in some sense, ignorance (not in the sense of not knowing of something's existence, but not wanting to know the gory details) is bliss - while
I hate the things some people do in their privacy of their homes, I defend to the utmost their right to do those things - but in private. I'm squeamish...the only way this works is if we don't shine a spotlight into every corner of the world (panopticon/prison/bentham style). you need some grey areas, some slack, some DMZs in life....

2. the "what if the bad guys take over" is a weak argument - a more direct argument is that a surveillance state requires a lot of eyes - those eyes have absolute oversight, which means they are tempted. If you tempt enough people, you will systematically corrupt some of them (c.f. MPs expenses) - this is an all too easy intro into the "absolute power corrupts absolutely, but the technology is not magic - surveillance, control and so on will attract large numbers of the exact wrong types of operators, and they will misuse their positions and without guardians to guard them, nothing will stop rapid mission creep (police action during recent G20 demos etc etc)....the better solution is to ring fence their powers in the first place and time limit any special powers (as Grayling proposes)....otherwise we don't need to wait for the BNP to become national socialists,. we will simply be training our own everywhere

Thursday, June 11, 2009


so in my usual bombastic way I overstated a couple of things in conversations with people yesterday

thing 1 was the size of the english language/vocab - if you get any
english/foo v. foo/english dictionary, you can see the asymmetry in the vocab
(for french, spanish, german, italian etc) - i think that english (according to OED) just made its 1 millionth word....

but when i say this, people assume I am making some moral superiority claim - I'm not - its just an observation - there is a cultural point (english survives by adaptation and laguages who have defense organisation like the Academie Francaise are doomed)

thing 2 was that a program which proves something cannot be patented and shouldn't and given in some senses all programmes are of this nature, then this should stay true - again someone decided I had some political agenda in saying this - i was merely commenting based o na shed load of law case transcripts I've been reading recently that it would be nice if the law wasn't just the product of a random walk through the set of cases that those people who can afford to bring against each other, and was, instead, actually thought out

Monday, June 08, 2009

british politics are now truly a fight between 4 or 5 dysfunctional families

having completely lost trust the tories and whigs can go jump - i blame them equally for the fiasco we now have of nazis and losers like bnp and ukip "representing" us
in europe

what a bunch of low life scum....and the bnp and ukip aren't a lot better either.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

simon singh's libel problem...

In general, I support the idea that a medical (i.e. scientific) claim should be supported by objectively verifiable (or falsifiable) evidence, and that claiming some nostrum is bogus should not give rights to someone to declare open season on the critic - the normal laws applying to arguing whether something is true on a balance of reason, should suffice - whereas libel law quite clearly reverses the burden of proof in a weird way

however, I think there's another, stronger reason that one should support simon singh against the chiropracters (well, specifically, the British Chiropractic Association):-

unsupported medical claims endanger lives. there's a process which has a bunch of checks and balances for deciding which therapies are appropoved - sure, there are complimentary therapies (mostly they have some sort of value if you believe in them), but there are serious problems claiming a therapy will address something (e.g. asthma) which can have deadly consequences, when there are mainstream medical producedures which have efficacy, nd yo umight take attention away from them.

I would claim that false claims about an alternative treatment, just as false claims against an established treatment (e.g. MMR) are actually a crime, since they are effectively 1. appropriating medical expertise which the claimants don't have (this is a crime in the UK) 2. could be construed as criminally negligent, if they do not position the claim correctly in the ranking normally afforded to different current scientific theories

so aside from the possibility the Judge has made a mistake technicall in the current finding (that is being appealed) AND aside from establishing a new set of legal stuff in and around science, I think one could counter sue the BCA for risking peoples' lives - I am not a lawyer, but last time I looked at something similar, I asked a lawyer and was told that this was in principle do-able.

see sense about science for the background and lots of details.
usefully primary source is the article, annotated with primary sources and the BCA's press releases

Note that wikipedia's entry on Chiropractic clearly claims it is "not based on solid science."

So is the BCA going to sue wikipedia too?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Tai Ping - martial art with pen&paper

with nothing more than pen and paper we can wage war on a welter of witless with
mish-takes (a cornish pasty of concrete like rigidity) and agile use of the tittle-tattle-tottle (an ancient essex version of the namchuk)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Voodoo History and Slow Time

to summarise david aaronovitch's fine book on conspiracy theories, then,
conspiracy theorists are losers,
who develop paranoia as a way to gain (or believe that they have gained) attention

you can detect a conspiracy theory by (at least these) two failings:
first, failure to apply occam's razor (principle of parsimony) in choosing between the official story and the alternative;
second, failure to develop falsifiable theories (i.e. insufficient self-criticism or adversarial argument).

Common other failings: ellipsis (turn a blind eye to inconvenient facts); repetition of early erroneoys data; beggaring belief ("there is no evidence" == "there is a cover-up").

on the other hand, "In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed", by Carl Honore, confuses speed with synchrony - the problem for socieity of time is the problem of synchronising disparate activities and places - wander, jitter and skew in a large system lead to inefficencies which are pleasant for humans, whereas the lockstep mechanism of clocks on all railway stations so that the UK became the first synchronous society was the real culprit behing the "sense of urgency" in modern society.....

I think we need to start a campaign for bad time-keeping

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

voodoo history and imagination

i used to love watching tales of mystery and imagination - now I am reading the very good Aaronvitch book about Voodoo News (conspiracy theories) and it is clear that a lot of people who sustain conspiracy theories by writing best seller books that take them seriously are basically wannabe scientists and novelists who fail in some way to be either - but there's a legitimate genre here - a bit like SF< detective and horror genres, where writers lack some specific skill (famously, characterisation in SF), in these pseudo-science pieces, which are after all massively popular, whether docu-drama, or "historical" fiction like da Vinci Code, obviously have some of the requisite skills but just not all. And while Aaronovitch's book will do quite well, I bet he doesn't sell any where as many copies as all the Monroe doctrinaire - and that;'s sad as he actually can write:)

Meanwhile, I think that "imagination" (as portraied by Arthur Clark or Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett) is clearly in fact a sign that someone's mind is bing controlled by a vast eldritch distributed articifial intelligent force from the other side of the lesser Megallanic Cloud - the origins of AI meets Cloud Computing...and intelligent design

Friday, May 22, 2009

lashback MPs - insulting our intelligence

so i continue to watch MPs try to defend their positions with increasing astonishment - viz question time on TV twice now

don't these fools realise we are both their employer and their customer so criticising us for criticising them
is about the biggest career limiting move that they can possibly make.

the data


so if (as some apologists have argued) this happened as a "stealth" pay rise, then why don't they pay tax on it like the rest of us would? If it is expenses, then how come it isn't supported on a receipt only basis, and only justified for costs incurred as a result of the job that would otherwise not have been incurred. these guys want it both ways and are surprised everyone else doesn't see it their way, and yet (as we know) many MPs also have other jobs where such behaviour would be audited and quite possibly erported to HMRC and the police if they engaged in it, so the idea that they didn't know it was an unusual practice is also bogus....

i've been saving up some insults for people like this
may your mother's milk be long life
may you lie on your mother's grave

etc etc

I mean like get a load of this dude who clearly is some kind of dinosaur!
what an insufferable basterd, to parafrase Tarentino

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

counterfeit novels...and other forgeries

steve toltz' very excellent "fraction of the whole" contains the alarming observation that while people forge paintings, they never forge novels.

in jazz, a lot of us use the "Real Book" which is a huhe tome with the words , chords and melodies of lots of "standards" (songs from the classic era's of jazz from dixie to swing to beop and cool and back again) - far as I know, the "real book" is a massive breach of copyright - luckily, nowadays, sheet music is not the Evil EMpire that it used to be when a) there wasn't P2P file sharing MP3 recordings to blame and b) people used to play the latest hits themsevlves on the piano in the "drawing room" - so slack has the copyright protection on sheet music become that people can get the "Fake Book" whcih is an "illegal" photocopy of the real book!
[bill bruford, in his amusing and interesting autobiography, cites some muso-socio-journalist as wisely pointing out that the "value" in music moved from medieval times being vested in the player, through vitorial times being vested in sheet music, to the 20th century being locked up in frozen recordings - a recent article in the guardian talked about new models of direct composer/player to audence via the web, which may be a final reversion to the oldest model, but usng the newest tech, which is a fine thing in my opinion)

in the world of software, you get things called "counterfeit" copies of Windows - but more interestingly, you get reverse engineered programmes...which actually involve some skil and are, basically, legal...

so why is the same set of law applicable to all these walks of life? weird.

george soros on recession &behavoural economics 101

so geo. soros, a man who has several cles, has a new edition of his book on "a new paradigm for financial markets" out - along with lots of other people he is saying "I told you so", although the original publication's date actually gives him provenance / prior art proof that he did so

but is his message so new? not really - basically he says that the model used by economics is flawed because it doesn't account for what he calls "reflexivity" - basically (my interpretation) this is that the idea that there is a "ground truth" to a value for goods/servies doesn't work with financial services since the "ground truth" is based in himan estimates - the humans doing the estimation (who think that laws of supply/demand and game theory based on a) those laws and b) rational selfish players) actually are flawed and unlike traditional goods and services, the financial instruments are all as much of a figment as the supply/demand figures.....

this is philospically a bit like Heisenberg (the observer perturbs the system so the observed value may not be what they thought) but is extremely familiar to psychology researchers (and therefore to peopel who do behavoural economics) since it is encountered daily in their experiments (tell a human that they are a subject, and they modify their behaviour - surprise - this is know to GPs who offer a DIY blood pressure test in the UK - some patients systematically produce a very high reading even when perfectly well - known as the "White Coat" reading, as their presure is raised by being in the doctors practice and about to see their GP...)

anyhow, the book is a good read for people that want to understand

meanwhle, I wish I lieved in a high tax country like sweden, finland or switzerland where they seem to have industry and be weathering the storm ok, and not everyone leaves the country at the drop of a hat - some sort of patriotism can be good (e.g. based in love of the culture and place one is from) and is not conditional....
and some industry (e.g. volvo, saab, nokia) doesn't seem to walk away from being created in countries which believe in progressive taxation and social servies.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

National Treasure de-moated

Stephen Fry appears to have annoyed a few journalists - the guardian contained a particularly stupid piece claiming that the news had made him a "national treasure" and how he was "not getting it" about public anger over MPs bogus expense claims.

there are two things almost all the "angry of fleet st" articles on this topic tellingly omit from Mr Fry's remarks

1. he started by saying (and listing) some more important things in the world we should worry about that MPs did wrogn (the SAME MPs) - so he wasn't letting them off the hook on this - just saying that if we want to take them to task, lets start on something more serious (this is not the same as saying that this isn't serious - just that life&death might be more so)
2. he pointed out that journalists (who are the people drumming up more news about this than, say, Sri Lanka, where there are matters of life and death) are prone to exactly the same sorts of claims - he also tried to defuse any accusations of getting off the hook by pointing out that he too fiddled claims (and he is, in the main these days, a journalist)

I think the "national treasure" backlash folks should be VERY VERY careful - we will want to see your expense claims in detail real soon AND ask why you don't actually do the journalism job of reporting things that actually matter most, first

Thursday, May 07, 2009

conservation of imagination

it is clear to me that there is a conservation law for imagination

the more there is somewhere, the less somewhere else

there may even be a field connecting the two in some way

Monday, May 04, 2009

the underserving rich

there's this lovely phrase about the working class which shews a marvelously British contempt - the "undeserving poor" - the "great unwashed" is another term of abuse for people that keep things like rubbish collection, primary school teaching, nursing, taxi driving, and other essentials working.

so i have a new one - the undeserving rich

this is not people in senior surgical jobs, or people that wrote a great tune or acted well in a great movie, or invented a cool new thing (for work or play)

these are the ultra rich and the people that inherited everything and added nothing.

this is to clarify - I am not against people becoming (or being) wealthy

this is to declare my utter contempt for those people who degraded a generation, and in the process, took the spoils. These guys would embarass Atilla the Hun or Ghenghis Khan
let alone Bill Gates or Frederick Sanger. Or even Paul McCartney or Steve McQueen (either actor or artist:)

Those are the people that should be paying 99% tax after the first 5500 pounds

the other guys deserve every penny - well quite a lot of them anyhow....

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

talk radio for the deaf - reminder

this is a reminder to people who read this (i know there's two of you, including me)

this is not my cambridge blog - thats the clog one;
this is not my net blog - thats the true history one;
and none of the three are to do with the university work i do.

this is my rant blog - if you take stuff here seriously, more fool you -
(as geo. bush junior so wisely said "fool me once...")

oh, and people accusing me of being a commie, pinko, liberal, socialist, leftie, etc:
you have no idea how completely and utterly wrong you are, you capitalist lacky, you:)

Deconstructing Wellington Boot

Wellington Boot is an interesting choice of nom de guerre - I think it behoves us to think about what a person is trying to convey by using such a moniker.

1. I don't think they mean they are claiming falsely to have invented soemthing (e.g. Duke of Wellington's claims to have invented a type of boot - sandwiched between the Earl of Sandwich's claim to having invented structured snack food and the Edison Lighthouse Family's claim to have invented the invention).

2. I doubt they intend to be a UK pharmacy in an antipodean city.

3. So do they want to inherit the dubious kick-ass honour of having routed the french?
odd? or do they mean that they are "booting wellington" i.e. kicking "brit" ass?

clearly they subscribe to some theories about economics. This is a bit like subscribing to private eye - amusing and occasionally informative, but hardly a fit activity for someone who asociates themselves with or against the british aristocracy of the early 19th century. Oh, wait - Wellington was a "west brit" (allegedly irish) and an anti-parliametary that doesnt work

hmm - weird pseudonym. oh well...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

hate the rich

seems like I am not allowed to tax the rich without hating them,
so let's cut to the chase and just hate them without bothering to tax them.

as long as there's no tax on hate, of course.

obviously we should get rid of government, state services and so on
and have zero tax and then use pure hatred to get trickle down to work
(if it doesn't get maundy money, it might at least extract blood from the stones).

meanwhile, those of us who are quite rich will use fear to combat the hate and trickle down - this will create a dynamic tension (so loved by Charles Atlas)
and build a fitter society.

of course it will.

Ayn Rand, I love you and your funny name. I love the politics of envy. I love the smell of revolution in the morning. So much healthier than starbucks.

This has been a lay brother's leveller rant, part 2
A self-hating rich guy:)

Smith, wealth of nations
Marx: Das Capital
The Spirit Level; WIlson & Pickett
The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes
Naomi Klein, No Long (according to
a malevolent thinker - so that is ok by me)
Collective Choice and Social Choice, Amartya Sen

expect more

Thursday, April 23, 2009

tax the rich

there's some serious lies going on to protect the rich - during the budget analysis yesterday, several people wih unstated but obvious vested interested said that there's no point in taxing the rich as you don't get much money, and you should raise the base rate of tax as that way you get much more.

are they completely stupid?

do these people actually believe that we can't look at graphs of wealth and see quite plainly that most of the wealth in the country is concentrated in a small number of hands (famously 7:84 is a ratio that has hardly changed in centuries)

the fact is that if you want more tax revenue, then you can get more of it without causing tax avoidance by taxing the great unwashed PAYE public, but the potential revenue is in the rich

what is more, during a world-wide recession, they have nowhere to run, especially with Obama et al closing down the havens.

no - i am sick of this - Labour?Darling did right to raise the tax tier to 50% above 150k - but as the liberals pointed out (especially the increasingly useful Vince Cable) he could haev done more (e.g. progressibvely higher tax on unearned income and earned income rising to (say) 90% at 1M per annum.

some people say this gets rid of incentives. well if people only do a good job because of money that is sad but there are two big errors in this statement anyhow
1. the highest paid people (directors, bankers) didn't do a good job, so its wrong
2. professionals (doctors, teachers, farmers, carers) do a good job despite not having great pay, so its wrong.

no, it's wrong and its a lie.
taxing the rich is fair and works - we just havnt tried it often and long enough.

(as per other postings, more level socieities are better for everyone anyway.)

I'm not sure about being a Leveller, but I'm sure starting to head that way.

update:- the nice thing about being a blog owner is I can change it. SO lets look at the evidence that increasing taxes reduces the wealth of the nation shall we. Ok, so tax burdens in much of europe over the last 100 years went from 0 for the poor to on the order of 20% and from 0 or close to for the rich to in the range 40-90% depending where you look. Did wealth decrease? did it?

so in the countries where state provision of services is high (lets say scandinavia)
how do they fare in average quality of life? how well does that correlate.

Maybe we need to ignore the USA as a pathologically weird part of the world. perhaps we need to ignore the frightened squeals of people who are wrong.
oh, no, wait, the US - now quality of life in Mass or Cal?

let me re-cite
the spirit level
which contains a wealth of evidence.
instead of ranting in a datafree way.

The history of tax might give some intersting indications about whether increasing the steepeness on the slope of progressive taxation (whether on income or on property or on goods and services) actually makes people move wealth elsewhere - it is fairly clear also that things have changed a LOT in the last 100 years - see the
HMRC's brief history in the uk
for a light read. US has similar figures - indeed, it seems to reflect the social moves from agricultural based population to an urban/industry or post-industry based one.

Certainly, raising a shed load of money purely by increasing slope of progressive tax on "earned" income is limited - but note there are many sources of income and repositories of wealth (and of unfairness) - Countries have redistributed wealth in lots of ways and I don't see a correlation with the sum total evaporating - of course you can get it wrong - that is irrelevant - we're arguing from a standpoint that the market model is bogus (always was - it just got lucky for a short time - gambler's streak) and its proponents are intellectually, morally, and probably sometimes economically bankrupt:)

lets move on...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

why not arrest all foreign national students on arrival

see bbc story: about students held for 11 days without trial

we might as well save hassle and arrest all students as they arrive in this country and give them a brief spell in jail - many of them will then go home in disgust, freeing up places for all the unemployed 25 year old and younger who now need a place to study...
and the ones that stay wont need arresting abgain, saving many embarassing moments for policemen carrying secret documents openly or hitting them on the head in demos with riot shields...

we could call it speculative anti-terrorism

a modest proposal, #123

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

apologists for official torture and police violence

so cheney now says torure works and the uk police chiefs defend handling of G20 demo

are these people completely stupid?
do they think the world is a static, passive, punch ball?

do they think the "other side" is a fixed point with fixed behaviour?

a) create more enemies
b) escalate the violence the enemies are prepared to commit

how do we fire these people?

this is not about appeasement. it is about us taking control of our servants and
not letting them screw things up beyond all recognition.

If we don't reign in the dogs, we will deserve what we get.

I think Obama should get Mossad to assassinate Cheney

Sunday, April 19, 2009

why we havn't seen any alients yet

there's this theory (conjecture/hypothesis) attributed to lots of different people that there cannot be any aliens else why havn't we seen any yet.

My explanation is that we are actually in a corner of the Universe that is an area of outstanding national beauty, and tourists are not allowed to visit here anymore
(viz, antarctica

why wouldn't they want to talk to us humans, I hear you cry.
why? would you?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

E-mail smears handling defended

sounds like some sort of mud slide/rugby tackle kind of scenario

smears handling - hmm - maybe not - maybe this is marketing fr a new web based laundry service?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

G20 police state

so journalists and police behaved equally (almost) appallingly at the G20 demo - first off, around 30 photographers surrounded the guy throwing stuff the the RBS glass window - not one tried to stop him while 1 demo guy (the ONLY other one there) did try and reason with him

then 30 police surround an "innocent" bystander and knock him to the ground (and the only visible demo guy there is trying to help the chap on the ground, but none of the polis do) and he dies. like it would have been ok if he was on the demo, maybe, or brazillian:-(

if this was a python sketch, his dying words might have been
"...I didn't expect the IDF..."

bbc for various video links...including lovely police medical help and
culpable by ommission journalists.
In this video you can clearly see the chap trying to stop the yoofs bustin up the RBS window....

now we have this woman being slapped in face with glove then hit with baton

this is not proportionate behaviour by the police - it is assault.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

fictional biograph of the mayor of london...

the risable rise of Mayor Johnson - Tragic Tory

first sentence,

like gollum, boris was a creature of Hobbit...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

three elephants in the G20 room

so the lovefest between Mr Brown and Mr Obama continues - but they seem to be completely ignoring the real problems - they are truly in lala land

the lessons of the Bush era are at least threefold

social capital is more important than banks

religion and terrorism go hand in hand

expansion and environment are incompatible

yet they are not doing anything about equalising the differences between rich and poor,
improving the education of masses so that religion is revealed as a distraction, and every statement about economy is about getting back to the expansionist days - what is wrong with them? they'be learned the superficial story and are treating the symptoms, not the cause.

frankly, I think we should have days where we
a) turn off the stock exchanges for 24 hours at random
b) anti-sabbath days where it is illegal to go to church/synagog/mosque
c) turn off the electricity grid for 12 hours at random to encourage people to lag their houses and fridges better.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Drugs Tests for Bankers

its time we instituted this = we need sober, level headed people in the financial world
and so we need people that don't down a bottle or two at lunchtime.

noone should be in charge of the world's future who isn't as sober as a judge...

actually, someone sent me this article in the FT on
10 principles of Black Swan avoidance which looks pretty sane

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

the randomness of fish

so how come every country in europe has a different word from a completely different root for every type of european fresh and salt water fish except salmon and trout?

i mean ask a grek, german, french, or whatever for the word for
Bass, Bream, Cod, Dogfish, Hake, Haddock, Herring, Lemon Sole, Whitebait, etc etc
and you get a totally different answer

obviously the norman french in england didnt eat much fish or at least in english we'd have the same words (as we do for the meat of animals) as the french....

Monday, March 16, 2009

Taxing Bankers Bonuses - simple proposal

so how about we propose a very high tax on bonuses which were not earned.
to determine if they were earned should be easy -
case 1 - the company is in profit (i.e. profit share)
case 2 - company is moving into profit from loss (incentive)

case 1 is trivial - indeed both cases would be covered if bonuses were simply shares and people were patient, and paying stock as a bonus was only taxed as income.

In the counter example, senior staff at companies like AIG or RBS who made a massive loss AND only exist because of bailouts, would be taxed at (say) 90% on income over (say) 1M pounds. This would leave incentives intact, but recoup money from poor decisions by early shareholders meetings. at least to the government. who is, um, the biggest shareholder now.

Friday, February 27, 2009

bankers enbezzling

enbezzeling is like embezzelling only its the opposite, and thinner - just as an
en is thinner than an em, and it takes n en's to make 1 em.

lovely headline in the metro today - picture of said baker's waste bin with apparently discarded cardboard box for a piggy bank!! given their ability at the job, I am surprised the bin wasn't just full of 50 pound notes.

Meanwhile, the row about Sir Fred's pension rolls on and on. There seems to be some confusion in the world - people claim :-

i) you have to pay people this much to get good people. well the banks got idiots, so the pay is obviously not the key to attracting able and smart individuals
ii) you can't take away his pension.

well, yes you can - its called tax. we could have a 99% tax for unearned income - given RBS went broke, he obviously didn't earn the money - this would be neat as it wouldn't impact bonuses for people that actually increased the value of a company

Finally someone said (many times) we can't have a high tax, low income economy as we would drive the smart people away. How come Sweden has Saab and Volvo and Ericsson and so on then? THey have high taxes, plausible income, and still make stuff.

Ah, I know what it is thatcher and major and blair and brown wanted the right kind of
stupid bankers who don't make anything useful (not even trickle down). You can't get those in a country that just wants to build stuff people want and provide good health and education. oh no.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

digital britain misses the point

lord carter's report on digital britain misses the point.

If it doesn't make stuff (buildings, food, entertainment, heat/light, transport)
more, or cheaper, or both, then it is no use.

services are out. manufacturing is in.

digital is just an enabler.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

hall of shame for economists, think tanks, bankers

we really need a sort of "amnesty international" site for all the bloody economists, advisory think tank and quangoes, government treasury officials and especially bankers who got us in this mess. a sort of fc for these bozos.

it is so clear that beneath the veneer of fancy maths (and a few people that might actually get it but know their limitations), things like black swan, etc, the reality is that there is no economic theory of value whatsoever. all that talk about stopping boom/bust by controlling interest rates, and rate limiting computer based automatic trades on the stock market to keep the system stable, and similar things are superficial - fundamentally, the root of economics that seem to support the free market idea was
the Chicago school, rooted in Nash Equilibria and game theory - but these assume rational players - as we know, people aren't rational selfish, they can be barking mad, they can exhibit herding and they can be altruistic - all of these mean that a market doesn;'t operate - Behavioural economists try to capture this, but once you open the door to including a "psychological" element to your model of the market, you have to admit that it is essneitally not a predictive model any more - it is just descriptive - and you have to agree that not only are the arrival processes of information/value heavy tailed (i.e. hard to predict rare events happen when you don't expect - so large deviation theory models, but doesn't help you contain the rare large event) but also synchronised irrational behaviour is hard or impossible to predict - some of this behaviour includes paranoia (i.e. non sharing of information) which means that the market doesn't operate correctly (e.g. bankers don't pass on risk information correctly)

all of this means that we should be haning out all the free market morons to dry in the cold cold wind.

bu alas, noone in positions of power seems to have the guts.

my proposals

1. let all the banks go broke -
get their acount information details, and bail out all indivudal savers only.
let all debtors off the hook.

2. institute a usuary-free world, worldwide - lenders can
lend for
i) share of profit only (sharia style - or just like venture capitalists, amusingly)
ii) as mutuals
all risk assesment must be published. non secondary trading (i.e. you are not allowed to sell or buy money)

of course, all the people that gave money to the democrats, republicans and tories and labour would then be broke - so?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

carp ark

this is what caused the willy-measuring excercise recently under the deep atlantic when the french and english navy tested the soundness of their nuclear subs....thee captains were momentarily distracted by a passing Carp Ark.

on the train recently , a joking driver said "please remember to take all their belongings with you ,and keep your seatbelt buckled at all times

meanwhile, Popco by scarlett thomas is an excellent book - it is the first time I've read a fictional work which has crypto jokes down to the main characters being called Alice Bob Carol, Dave, Esther etc....

I have to ask you, dear reader, are you an uncle or an aunt?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

what do comedy, music, video have in common?

answer: beat

a beat is a pause to elicit a response - musicians use a pause (breath)
and comics use it, and videos use it - even xkcd uses it:)

Monday, February 09, 2009

bbc news uncritically shows israeli politician redefining war terms

yet again, western media allows an Israeli politician slightly to the right of le Pen, get away with claiming all the children killed in gaza were human shields used by Hammas.

Just as with the american redefinition of people to get away with locking up
random suspects in gitmo (neither civilian nor army), the israeli right are basically redefining "civilian in the way" to be "shield". unfortunately for them, despite not letting in western press, there is not only plenty of evidence of (and witnesses to) cases where the children killed weren't actually in front of anyone, but there are also plenty of people who aren't stupid - if you invade another territory, and its urban, then if you don't give the people a) a place to go and b) time and means to get there and c) make sure they have gone, then when you drop bombs on it, you are killing civilians - it doesn't actually matter that you might also kill people in the army of the "other side" - of course, if the "opposing army" was about to fire a rocket that killed a zillion of your side, you might make some sort of Hiroshima-like judgement call. But you better have a pretty strong case - since this is blatantly not the case, then the only interpretation is that this is a war crime.

of course, the Hamas charter doesn't really help matters, given its fairly insane repetition of 80 year old nazi distortions of reality.given the nazis would have very happily gassed the palestinians alongside the jews, (given they're all semitic and un-aryan) its fairly suicidally stupid of the author's of Hamas charter to mention this B.S.

but that isn't sufficient excuse

meanwhile (pace, godwin) Hamas aren't exactly doing themselves any favours with this self inflicted harm

Friday, February 06, 2009

banker bonuses - what's the problem?

in the tech. area, when you want to give someone a bonus, you give them stock - this strongly incentivizes them to think about
a) working for the company
b) working for the long term

why are banks different? why do they get cash bonuses? bogus.
give them stock and let them rise or fall by their own success/failures:)

bad science in the news again.....more mmr (but also copyright)

see for the whole shebang - I think it is tricky to post more than a small extract of audio (ditto text from writing) in copyright aw, no matter that it is hard to see how really stupid the Jeni thing is without hearing the entire thing. I suspect, legally, there's no argument (the copyright infringement will trump the right of the public to discuss the abuse of media to give wrong medical advice)

one simple solution is to take THEM to court for risking kids lives, and then the evidence will be part of the court case, and in the public domain ...

it turns out that fraudulent medical advice is criminal...

meanwhile, the times reports that the report that started this whole sorry saga was (probably) based on fudged data

Thursday, February 05, 2009

legarchy - new (wrong) type of government...

so the government behaviour (in US and UK) in the current banking crisis and economic woes and excuse making (without any sorry) reminds me of the previous woes (iraq war, no weapon of mass destruction) and the NHS IT Programme, and other unapologetic massive mistakes of judgement and strategy that have gone on in the last 12 years.

Basically, the way the government(s) have gotten off the hook is by arguin the minutiae, like they are in court (indeed, actually in court when it came to the death of david kelly).

The minutiae aren't the point. they are lawyers tricks to distract people from the real
problem - huge failures of ethics and gigantic misunderstanding of the limitations of intelligence and market economics.

its like since Blair and Bush, everyone can get off "on a technicality" even though we all know they are guilty.

time for less credulous jurors.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

wildlife in an urban winter garden

on saturday, at 11am, in quick succession, we had a large grey squirrel, a big black&white cat, a VERY large wood pigeon, and a huge fox, sitting in the garden.
I hope they are
a) all ok in the snow we now have
b) are not about to test the food chain

the squirrel looked to fast for the fox and too big for the cat - the pigeon was about right for the fox, but probably too big for the cat - i have no idea whether a fox would go for a domestic cat (I doubt it but it would be a big meal).

Sunday, February 01, 2009

socialism 2.0 v. depression 2.0 - maybe governments will topple?

All over Europe (and elsewhere) people are starting to express their anger at the financial mess and it looks like the population at large (the great unwashed people that havn't stopped working harder and harder for the last 20 years, and can't see why they have to pay more tax to bail out banks whose bosses retire on multimillion dollar bonuses despite screwing up) are finally starting to demand some sort of significant change - one small aspect of this is the recent complaints about migrant workers taking local jobs - c.g. brown telling workers they are wrong to complain about people being moved 1000s of miles to provide cheap labour

The only reason this can work is that those people are coming from an area that
a) is in the EU (otherwise the availability of local labour would rule out work permit)
b) an area in the EU that has very low housing cost (otherwise the people moving would be paying for local housing and for housing their families back home)
c) apartment rent must be very low in the worker site compared with local labour's housing cost - if you move enough people, this will also impact local housing costs
and finally there is no allowance for carbon costs (let alone social cost) of moving people around peridocally

there's a short term argument (like shortselling shares) that this is just adjusting the labour market. but it doesn't allow for long term market (like transport and housing and so on - e.g. schools etc - if a person moves to Doncaster from Warsaw to do some work, then where do their taxes go to pay for infrastructure (schools, hospitals, police).

No sorry, this is not as simple as Brown likes to think it is and in the current climate, using free labour market arguments is really really going to annoy a lot of people.

interestingly the latest news appears to indicate the government has realised that allowing companies to move people from EU country A to B and to exclude employees who are from country B is not exactly the intention of "free" markets in anything...just dodgy company behaviour!

Davos - clueless - possibly as evil as Dr Who's Davros...

Saturday, January 31, 2009

RIP John Martyn

jonny too bad - saw him at a bbc "live" recording once where he was supposed to do just 3 songs - he was skining up and asking bob harris (compere) for a light all the time, and after the 3 for the beeb, he played an hour and a half of requests for the audience

mostly stuff from solid air or before - unbelievable - what is cool is how he worked out the timing for his breathing so he could sing these very long lines, with all sorts of vocal trickery, while still playing a mean guitar (whether just straight acoustic like in Spencer the Rover or May you never or glory of love, or with fancy echo/slap effects as in Inside Out or Dealer or even a mix in a slow song like Dancing or One World ...)

sad day to see him go...says pneumonia - unnecessary - and that he was just starting a project with pharoah sanders - what might have been (recalls that hendrix was about to start recording with Miles Davis...when he passed away)

Monday, January 26, 2009

BBC not showing the DEC Gaza relief appeal

so i suppose one might just about argue that the "news" that the BBC won't show the
DEC's Gaza appeal on TV today has made the appeal more newsworthy - indeed, the BBC's website has had updates (e.g.) on the BBC's position on this every day since the DEC first said it was going to run an appeal, and one suspects more people have seen that than would watch a "live tv appeal" nowadays.....

ironic really

on the other hand, the BBC's position on neutrality is completely bogus in this case.
ANY appeal for help surrounding a war will be seen by some as partisan. The point of the DEC is that they are very specifically neutral in what the conditions for relief are. The BBC has a public duty to report this, and license payers should complain if they don't.

If I was into conspiracy theories, I'd say it was yet another example of the power of the Jewish lobby (board of british deputies) in the UK. I'd point out it has backfired (see first point in this post), and would refer people to Avi Shlaim's fine letter in the guardian today

Note that the Beeb's senior people made at least one provably false claim when saying that audeicens might confuse footage used during the DEC appeal with BBC coverage of the "conflict" - Israel didn't allow foreign journalists in to cover the conflict, so we know all the BBC footage during the conflict was from outside Gaza. The DEC footage is from AFTER the conflict and is obviusly not during wartime (you can see this clearly in the appeal on TV today). So the beeb are immoral and bad at lying too.

Friday, January 23, 2009

atheist bus driver...

so this guy refuses to drive the bus with the atheist bus slogan on it - i wonder if he refused to drive buses with adverts for jobs in the army (given he's an evangelical christian, shouldn't he have problems with the "shall not" and "kill" thing?)

perhaps he should also read

Thursday, January 22, 2009

the whitehouse agenda

is public - see
obama's agenda

lots of good stuff - especially support for science and technology and
re-build programmes

but i still say he should re-paint and re-name it the Black House...

my only disappointment is his unequivocal support for Israel on the same page as talking tough about Pakestan and Iran (but he does say specifically good things w.r.t Palestine)

doesn't seem too joined up there to me:(

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

gitmo closure will be its own epitaph

basically it will be impossible for any of the remaining prisoners in guantanamo
bay to get a fair trial anywhere n the world - evidence obtained by torture, distortions by their captors and the risk to them in their own contries are all factors - this is why Bush was so DAMN stupid having hte place setup, as there's no doubt amongst this lot, were some bad guys- but how will they ever be filtered out? what a mess

the whole point of european and US justice systems is that they evolved a number of checks and balances over the last 1000 years to give a good chance of catching bad guys, a low chance of false conviction of good guys, and incentive alignment (so police/government aren't incentivised to cook up false evidence or torture people) - this stuff stood up for 1000 years despite despots, revolutions, wars, terrorism and so on - even nazi war criminal accuses after Nuremberg were handled carefully, despite all the massive complexities of getting witnesses (alive, not taken into darkest russia etc)

then a bunch of jumped up no-good redneck pig-ignorant (sorry, pigs) newbies who have NO discipline and do not understand this, think they can idly change the rules over night.


bush (and blair)'s legacies: crap justice; crap security; crap governments; crap economics.

meanwhile, see the slate for a report on the first inkling that there might be legal cnsequences for bush's administration - I wonder if Blair can be got similarly (or extradighted to the US for trial) because of contrituting via the extraordinary rendition (aka abduction).?

Monday, January 12, 2009

so i suppose the real explanation of gaza is...

....that the israelis need a holding position for when they cease getting the US support (8 days from now) that Bush has been giving (even to the extent of overruling Condaleeza Rice recently on the UN vote where the US abstained).....

so this is the ultimate cynical pre-emptive strike...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Irony used to be part of native jewish humour

so the repeated cant that Hammas are terrorists
holding innocent victims in front of them while the israeli army has to shoot them to stop the missiles is based in a model of Hammas as some invading force in Gaza rather than a representative government (however dodgy)
the recent demo by pro-israeli supporters in london led by England's chief rabbi in trafalgar square repeats this sadly incorrect view of the world, which is simply not going to help anyone understand where to go next.

the sad irony is that the british army viewed early israeli settlers just before the declaration of the state of Israel as terrorists - indeed it is pretty hard to see how the Stern Gang's blowing up of the King David Hotel which killed 92 people (significantly more than the last 3 months of Hammas missiles) could be viewed as anything other. Yet the british went on to embrace the state of israel only 2 years later.

one more point: pro-israeli apologists like to say that Hamas cause the civilian deaths by hiding their weaponsmasters behind women and children - aside from the absurd contradiction inherent in this (Hamas are a govnemnet in gaza - they can go anywhere they like - the IDF choose to shoot at them, and could equally choose not to. the Israeli's kill palestinian civilians and must take 100% of the blame. But more critical still, the Israeli's 300,000 settlers in the westbank are doing EXACTLY the same thing (hiding a settlement behind civilians) and then getting a certain level of IDF support (bulldozoing any homestead of a Palestinian daring enough to object with actual action).

perhaps the israelis learn something new again from their own history. in particular, they should learn how long the memories are of victims, since that's where they start from themselves.

Friday, January 09, 2009

IDF cowards - goliath versus david...

so the striking thing about the current conflict in israel/palestine is the inversion of the old story - when the 6 day war happened, everyone looked at the Israeli's as the underdog - and the brace "david" fighting the mad arab invaders. Indeed, up until the recent fights in Lebaonon with Hezbollah, this was still somethigng the IDF could coast on

nowdays a new generation of wishy washy 3rd generation israeli soldiers don't cut the mustard and the image is one of a lumbering Goliath of Zion, ironically against the brave david of Gaza....

now we have a classic inversion

what a shame to make a mistake of such biblical proportions. I used to respect them

the final figures (1300 dead to 13) are basically proof of a crime. Olmert was quoted as saying that this was "inevitable" again (seems like the Israeli propaganda machine only has one word) and that a lower death count of Palestinians could only have been achieved at a higher death count of Israelis. Not true - if israel had kept previous agreements to open up borders (as per Egyptian brokered deal in summer 2008) then Hammas might have fired less missiles - and no deaths. Typical distortion of realty.

How many dead palestinians does it take to change the equation "X wants Y totally destroyed" from X=Hamas and Y=Israel, to X=Israel and Y=Palestinians. ?

When would you start to call it genocide?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

bendy buses, boris johnson, bikers

I still havn't met anyone who admits for voting for boris for mayor of london - I never understood how his "policy" of getting rid of bendy buses was going to attract the (generally alt) biker community anyhow

i think some people thought they were voting for the elizabethan Playwright, Ben Jonson
(author of the aptly titled "the devil is an ass" :-)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

mullah versus moulah [b|w]ankers

this is the replacement for the cold war - the new crusade will be capitalism versus islamism....i suppose lotsa people have said this, but it seems more and more obvious - even Obama's US seems to be aligned this way during current events...


the word "banker" used to be a euphemism. now wanker is too polite for them.

Friday, January 02, 2009

no alternatives to war crimes in gaza?

Israeli Defense Minister Tzipi Livni claims that there is "no alternative" to bombing Hammas and associated diverse innocent bystanders back to oblivion.

Well there is - there is doing nothing. she claims Hammas will just go on lobbing missiles over the border. sure - at the current rate it would take them a year to kill as many people as Israel has done in 5 days. But would they? how does she know?
And what will they do as Israel goes on killing? does she think that support for Hammas (a US and Israeli supported democractically elected government in Gaza) will suddenly evaporate because of the assault? at which deathpoint will this happen? at what point will the death level and support level be "right" for Israel? what if she is simply wrong and the support for missiles is _proportional_ to the number of Gaza strip inhabitants killed? then what she is doing is not "the only alternative" - it is (as many people propose) the cause of the problem.

basically, as I've said often before, the state of Israel right now is behaving like one of the two optional behaviours for victims of child abuse (if you figure the Holocaust as massive chld abuse) - abusers either become extremely withdrawn, and difficult/autistic people, or else they become abusers. They perpetrate abuse. and they are perptetrating it on Gaza, and what will Gaza do in response? most likely, exactly the same thing again.

alternatives? Lizvni and her like do not understand the meaning of the word. this is fairly typical for fascists.

the latest in this line of control is that Israel won't let reporters into the area. They were happy to show off the "missile" (more like firework) damage caused by Hammas over the last few months, but are unhappy to let people around the world see the massive destruction they are wreaking on a re-nascent nation state. This is against Israeli law (by the way). I note that the Israeli primeminister is well versed in the art of misrepresentation ("how many rockets would be proportionate?", he asks. Well, doh, how many deaths/lives might be the question. "they shouldn't have started it" he says. well doh, how about not blockading their airspace and shoreline, so they can trade, get middle class and stop being terrorists then!).

what amazes me is that Israeli's vote for their stupid long-term suicidal governments instead of waking up and smelling the coffee ("Hell") and reading the writing on the wall (it's in their holy book) and crossing the rubicon.

here's what hammas has. fairly pathetic inaccurate, 10lb of fertlizer bomb.
in contrast, the IDF's kit includes 3rd generation laser guided kit at least as powerful as the old bolt which had 750lb of high explosive.

the IDF also has antimissile missiles and good radar. oh, and controls 100% of the sea and airspace in, around and above Gaza. oh, and UAVs. This is called a "killing ground".

yeah, Hammas should declare that Israel has a right to exist - co-exist might be a better way to put it- as that would kind of hint at reciprocation (e.g. rights for Palestinians in Gaza to live according to norms like abilty to travel, trade etc freely - the BBC have your say sight asked what should be done to get peace - as usual a bunch of ignorant right wing nutters dominate the contributions with calls for Hammas to "do something first". oh well - asking the public was always a stupid idea:)