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