Monday 14 November 2011

More classic quotes reworked for the times

A rose by any other brand would sell more cheap.

Ask not what you can do with the country side, with the country side you can do - for a fee.

Sunday 13 November 2011

More classics updated: The Rubáiyát

The classic Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám is beyond my reach, but I can speculate on what might have been written had the author possessed the fore-sight of Nostradamus.


The press-ed finger spraying coloured scrit
  moves in the night, with daubs of teenage wit
Though teacher calls to write a dozen lines
  in tears of boredom motionless they sit

might have been rendered instead of the classic and more well known:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
  Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit,
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
  Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

It lacks the gravitas of the original but this is perhaps more than compensated for by the more comprehensive embodiment of the modern daily experience of many of us, which after all is what I feel the poet was striving for.

And which of us doesn't truly appreciate the lack of power that any amount of tears or frustration can exercise over the leaving bell?

Were I not able to express it so concisely I would go on with more verses as did the poet of old, but I feel that the reader will rightly be able to grasp my position.

I also feel it unnecessary to emphasis the difficulty in removing graffiti, a point which seemed to obsess the poet which caused him to labour the point.

Saturday 12 November 2011

Oswald McDuff

The official Ozymandias is a classic and well received all round, but it's not very realistic. So I've done my own version which I think answers the deficiencies of realism in the classic. Apologies to Shelly.

Oswald McDuff

I met, whilst travelling in an antique land,
a stranger, smartly dressed and on his own
who beckoning, drew near me, with his hand
a welcome bidding, and a winning smile,
a twinkling eye, an aspect oh so grand,
Then in his foreign tongue these words he read:
"You've just arrived in this historic place
the home of kings and queens though now long dead"

And on his shiny badge, the words inscribed
(lest there be any doubt in those who seek)
"official metropolitan tour guide"
but no-one listened... and I heard him say
that if I had the extra time to spare
the five pounds special guided tour today

Sam Liddicott 2011

The original is below, which I am sure you will agree was in need of improvement, as well as desart spelling properly. Old poets can get away with anything these days.


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Shelley 1819

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Goodbye Ubuntu - probably

Ubuntu has been great. I've had years of top-notch software, for free, and with access to the source code which I have had to hack about from time to time.

But it may be time to say goodbye. Ubuntu's direction is entirely their concern but it is getting in my way.

So if I can't like it, and I don't want to lump it, I may have to leave it.

The Ubuntu/gnome strategy seems to be to replace a nearly-done application with a much less done application which will catch up real soon.

For instance:
  • gthumb image viewer gets replaced with eog (eye-of-gnome) which can't print more than one photo to a page
  • rhythmbox gets replaced with banshee
  • beagle gets replaced with tracker
  • gnome 3 shell gets replaced with unity
  • tomboy gets replaced with gnote
and so on.

And then there are problems with using launchpad their issue-tracker. The typical ubuntu bug-report scenario is like like this:
  1. file a bug
  2. wait 1-2 years
  3. bug gets marked as invalid
    This doesn't mean it isn't a valid bug, it means the bug team can't/won't work with it - perhaps because the person who reported the bug got a new computer after a couple of years, and so wouldn't be able to confirm if a fix was ever released.
  4. If you are lucky, the bug was fixed upstream and you may get the fix in a future Ubuntu release, along with some different long-term bugs.
Bug reports languish dreadfully. For instance, the bug lifecycle for printers is twice as long as I keep a printer for. I can be on my third printer before a fix comes out.

Ubuntu use of launchpad seems designed to disuade people from using launchpad. Rather than the point of "report all bugs" it is the point of "being insulted for reporting any bug".

In an effort to fix this (it seems) bug reports are now automatically closed if no-one from the Ubuntu team has responds in an arbitrary the time-frame.

What makes it worse is that Shuttleworth abandoned his bug-bounty idea; so it is impossible for individual users financially support Canonical or Ubuntu, or get support or contribute to support on issues that matter.

Individual users (non-enterprise customers) are reduced to the level of beggars who can contribute if they don't mind being insulted by launchpad. But any value in the contributions will likely leak away through inaction.

I like ubuntu but they don't like me, and there is no way to pay them any money as I'm not corporate enough to be worth bothering with.

I think that Mint is where it is at; while ubuntu is "debian done nicely" - Mint seems to be: "ubuntu with the bugs actually fixed"

so long, and thanks for all the fish.

It's been really great, and if it's been mostly one-way, it's not for want of trying.

Thursday 3 November 2011

There are no human rights

There are no human rights, only obligations.

If I strip a human of his rights and abuse him, it is me that becomes inhuman and a brute, not him.

If, therefore, the removal of rights changes me and not him, then the rights are really vested in me as an obligation.

It is my obligation to act as a human, and (dare I say it) to treat others as I would be treated.

It is sad to see that close on the heels of worldwide recognition of human rights comes the terms under which humans can be denied those rights; certain classes of felony, enemy combatants, terrorist suspect, and so on.

I wonder if the talk of human rights is merely a precursor to wider defined abuses which are legally justified and now morally acceptable.

Once we see that the rights do not exist, only as an obligation, we are free to wonder how inhuman brutes obtain positions of authority in a political democracy.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Ulrich Schnauss

I've been introduced to

Ulrich Schnauss

possibly a replacement (when programming) for Jean Michelle Jarre as I'm starting to need something new.

However, thanks to Paul Parsons and Richard Parsons, I'm enjoying Pink Floyd.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Weightless - anti-headache music

Maybe this is another piece of music that could cure a headache. By posting it here I will be able to find it when I have a headache.


Sadly the website does not have a "buy this music now" link anywhere in site.  I guess I'll have to keep my money and just re-click the link each time I have a headache.

Link above broken, youtube works: 

Monday 10 October 2011

Boiled beef and cabbage sog

Right you are, gents, one boiled beef and cabbage sog coming up!

Positive discrimination for the reckless

There is a stretch of road I find very distracting. There are a few miles of speed cameras and varying speed limits.

I find speed cameras to be like the ruby eye in King Solomon's Mines, and when I see one I doubly make sure that I am within the speed limit. This is a distraction.

The bigger distraction comes from the fact that the speed limit signs are not easily visible around the camera areas. I think the back of a forward facing camera should display a speed limit on the rear which faces the driver.

Such camera deployments cause me to alter my priorities and to take abnormal action in order to avoid, at any cost, a fine or points on my license.

While such distraction and such abnormal action may be dangerous to some drivers, the effect of the cameras and hard to spot speed limit signs might cause reckless drivers to slow down.

So I wonder if the overall consequence is a decrease in accidents among reckless drivers and an increase among the less reckless drivers - a sort of positive discrimination. To make it fair.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

My todays favourite Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Here is my latest favourite that causes me to want to keep playing it...

Oh Divine Redeemer [video] [music] (October 2009 General Conference)

Saturday 10 September 2011

LDS Hymns in PDF form for service programmes

When producing a printed order of service it is traditional as well as convenient to include hymns in the printed programme.

This requires a source of the typeset hymns to insert into the programme.

Unfortunately there is no simple and convenient online digital source of typeset hymns that I am aware of.

There is not even PDF format LDS Hymn Book - if there was I could render the PDF as a bitmap (or convert to postscript) and embed it in the programme.

The closest and most convenient source is the online hymn book at which is driven by flash.

Fortunately it allows printing of the hymns (most of them) - but don't use your web browsers print option, use the "Print Song" option within the hymn player.

The hymns can be printed, and if you have a PDF printer driver installed you can produce a PDF.

The typeset hymn is represented in the PDF as a set of tiled bitmaps.

The following bash script will take such a PDF, extract out the tiled bitmaps, assembled them into one large png with borders cropped.

This png is then suitable for including into service programmes.

I usually edit the png to bring the hymn number down to the same line as the title, and the tempo up to the same line as the title, and also to reduce the space required by the copyright notice at the bottom of the page - this brings the png to the aspect ratio of an A4 (or A5) page allowing it to show full size - and is a requirement if all of the horizontal lines on the stave are to print properly.

#! /bin/bash

# Author: Sam Liddicott - This is dedicated to the public domain
# Usage: hymn2png print-to-file.pdf
# and produces print-to-file.pdf-1.png, print-to-file.pdf-2.png
# Although this is a bash script I tried to write it in LISP style
# hence the use of eval. I try to avoid most of the sin of eval
# by using it only to call another function but I guess it still
# breaks on file names with spaces in

get_row() { # page row
  pnmcat -white -leftright <( pngtopnm "$datadir/p-$1_$2.png" ) \

                           <( pngtopnm "$datadir/p-$1_$(($2 + 1)).png" )

get_next_row() { # page row
  if test -r "$datadir/p-$1_$2.png"
  then echo "<( get_row $1 $2 )"
       get_next_row $1 $(($2 + 2))

get_page() { # page
  eval pnmcat -white -topbottom $( get_next_row $1 1 )

get_next_page() { # page
  if test -r "$datadir/p-$1_1.png"
  then get_page $1 | pnmcrop -white | pnmtopng > "$file-$1.png"
       get_next_page $(($1 + 1))

mkdir -p "$datadir"
trap "rm -fr $datadir" EXIT

pdftohtml "$file" "$datadir/p.html"
get_next_page 1

EDIT: I try some other google terms and discover here that there is a PDF of the Hymn Book and the Primary Song book

This hymn book is vector form and so should scale better.
I print-to-file the page I want, and then convert that page to svg using pdftosvg.
I then edit the svg in inkscape and clip to a smaller size, and save-as .eps
I then insert the eps into libreoffice/openoffice documents and it prints very fine indeed.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

The sad state of buying sheet music online

I've been trying to buy some sheet music online. I've found a few places who will sell me the music if I will download and install their special sheet music viewing software.


I want to buy something from them I don't want to start a relationship with them. Why would I want to download their software just to be able to buy something from them?

I think the software is designed to stop me printing more copies than I pay for...


Like I don't know how to print-to-file and then do as many copies as I like. As if I don't have a "print-to-pdf" printer driver as well.  As if I didn't have a document-feeder-printer-scanner-fax-machine-copier right next to me like most of us have these days (and a simple scanner would have been enough).

I finally bought my sheet music from and instantly regretted it - as far I was able to tell their distinguishing feature was that they don't warn about the special software until AFTER the music has been paid for. It's possible they do warn about it but I didn't see any warnings, even at checkout time.

But I didn't use it. I did get a refund.

Of course their special treat-everyone-like-a-thief software doesn't run on my computer anyway.

Without too much trouble and while looking for someone who would sell it in pdf form able to find some illegal pdf-scans of the music I was trying to buy.

So my choice is illegal music or nothing. And I'm trying to pay.

So I chose nothing.

Remind me why the music industry is struggling again...

Saturday 3 September 2011

Friday 2 September 2011

Book of Mormon by Verse Reading Chart

A while ago I produce a reading chart for the Book of Mormon, verse by verse, using open office spreadsheet as an easy way to get a grid. Sadly I made a mistake. (I mean another mistake) and even though I had a bunch of formulas to calculate most of the verse numbering I didn't want the hassle of fixing it up and probably still making a mistake and having to fix it up again.

So I used texmacs a greate macro based text editor - like TeX / LaTeX but using lisp or scheme style macros with a simple syntax (instead of TeX's lisp like macros with it's forth-like parser).

It makes custom rendering of styles quite easy in a functional sort of way, and so I have this pdf to offer: (Download the .gif below but save as .zip and then open the .zip to get the .pdf)

Or you can just download the PDF here

Monday 22 August 2011

On the beach

The earthworks to the right go down to the water table, the quicksands and possibly the pre-cambrian.

Sunday 21 August 2011

A quiet Sunday afternoon.

I hear the sounds of a secret club, the sea, and endearingly cute lessons in solving word puzzles.
Surely sally is not a sudden violent excursion.
I played the Mickey Mouse game.
We had a nice walk down the beach - gentle wind and plenty sun.

Friday 19 August 2011

Fast Bowls

Went crown green bowling today with Rebekah, Tim and some guys from church.
Rebekah won her game 10-4.
Toward the end we did fast-bowls. All the players stand in a line and bowl on a ready-steady-go. Do that twice and all the bowls are bowled.
It makes for a quick and exciting game (as if it wasn't quick or exciting enough already).

Thursday 18 August 2011

Exporting to facebook

Most of my not-chat blog style posts will be made to my blog instead of facebook, but I use facebooks RSS-blog tracking to import these posts into facebook notes.

As I already copied many of my facebook posts into my blog I don't want them importing back into facebook, so I consulted so that I could prevent facebook from importing blog posts from before yesterday.

I'll still be using facebook for chatting (maybe until I get get plus'd)

Wednesday 17 August 2011

My Song in the Night

Slightly cheesy video in some parts, but I'll let them off.

Improved PNG and ZIP merging

Following on from my post on displaying a zip as a png, I wanted to do a more robust job, to have the zip file properly enclosed as a non-critical png ancillary stream and to maybe even to have the png included as non-compressed member of the zip archive. ouch!

My main reason for doing this is compatibility reasons as I hear that windows zip-explorer cannot easily open zip files appended to a png.


Reading the PNG file standard I find that I should probably use the chunk type: ziPS making it a ancillary, private and unsafe to copy if the PNG is changed.

As the zip file must be at the end of the PNG it must be the last data stream in the PNG, however ancillary chunks are not allowed to have ordering restrictions, and IEND should be the last chunk.

Making the chunk unsafe to copy reduces the chances that a png editor could place the chunk in another position, however 14.2 c states A PNG editor is always allowed to copy all unrecognized ancillary chunks if it has only added, deleted, modified, or reordered ancillary chunks. This implies that it is not permissible for ancillary chunks to depend on other ancillary chunks.

Of course we are not attempting to preserve the zip in any major way if the png is edited, only to stop any zip stream being preserved in a way that prevents it being used.


The resource for the zip format was wikipedia ZIP_(file_format) where I learn the the final part of the zip central directory is a 2 byte comment length and then a comment.

This tells me that the IEND image trailer could be the last 4 bytes of the comment... but it would mean that the ziPS chunk of the png would not include the entire zip file, as the last 4 bytes of the comment would be external to the zip file.

It means that a zip file which was formally extracted from the png would be incomplete and not recognisable.

I can accept this as the ziPS chunk is not intended to be formally extracted by png-aware software, we only enclose it as a png chunk so that it may be preserved in... er... circumstances where anything after IEND might be removed.


I hear that some zip programs fail to work against zip archives that have been appended to a png. This is an error on the part of such zip programs, which seem to presume that the first item of the zip file is a zip File Entry.

Wikipedia ZIP_(file_format) states:
Often the first thing in a ZIP file is a ZIP entry, which can be identified easily by its signature. But it is not necessarily the case that a ZIP file begins with a ZIP entry, and is not required by the ZIP specification.
We cannot accommodate such demanding ZIP programs, as the ZIP entry signature is:

ZIP local file header
Offset Bytes Description[5]
0 4 Local file header signature = 0x04034b50 (read as a little-endian number)
4 2 Version needed to extract (minimum)
6 2 General purpose bit flag

and the first eight bytes of a PNG datastream always contain the following (decimal) values:  137 80 78 71 13 10 26 10


The method then seems to be:
  1. Modify the zip file, by adding 13 bytes to the zip comment
    1. a NULL to sort-of terminate any existing comment to try and hide IEND which we add
    2. 12 bytes of IEND
  2. Parse the PNG to find IEND
    (Probably the last 12 bytes of the file)
  3. replace with the crafted zip file
As this won't solve the compatibility problem, I don't feel inclined to write the necessary code unless it becomes important to stop streams after IEND from being removed by png uploaders, if you know what I mean. (An ancillary stream or critical stream in a png is part of the png. A stream after the IEND is not part of the png).

    Tuesday 16 August 2011

    Fluid google template

    I'm using the Picture Window template but wanted a fluid (stretchy) design so that folk with wide screens don't need to see my lines of computer program wrapped in a terribly hard to read fashion.

    I was able to find notes on adapting this template with custom CSS.

    body {
    padding-left: 50px;
    padding-right: 50px;

    html body .content-outer {
    max-width: 1600px;

    which does the trick nicely

    pdf and zip in google blogger

    Google blogger allows only .png, .jpeg and .gif files to be uploaded as part of a blog post.

    As my blog is somewhat technical, I want to be able to offer a zip file from time to time, containing sources I mention.

    A first thought would be to rename the .zip to .png and tell the user to rename it after download, but even better is to have a chimera file which is both a .zip and a .png at the same time! The png could display the instruction to rename the file to .zip

    I can then upload this .png file to google blogger which will display telling folk to download and rename to .zip

    I've done this for a pdf in my blog post here where the thumbnail png brings up a large-png. If the large-png is saved to disk and renamed to .pdf, the pdf from which the thumbnail was taken is displayed.

    This works because .png and .gif files have their magic at the beginning of the file, and .zip files and .pdf files have their magic at the end of the file. (The magic is the part of the file that is first read by the file viewer to work out how to treat the file).

    Thus there is no deception. The chimera file is truly a .png file, and is truly a .zip file.

    This example file here contains the instructions:
    (right-click and save link/target as .zip not .png)
    Be careful to save the link-target (the original and full sized image) and not the thumbnail.

    Importing a threaded MBOX into google blogger

    My first blog used wordpress. I worked out some script to export the wordpress database as a threaded-mbox and for a while ran my blog as a web interface to a citadel imap folder.

    Circumstances moved me to google blogger and I didn't want to lose my old posts or comments.

    So I wrote a sed script to convert a threaded mbox into google blogger format.

    it's pretty complete. If you want to know how it words, just read ths source, man!

    #! /usr/bin/sed -f

    /^Content-[Tt]ype: /{
      # keep reading till new From
      /\nFrom - /!b-body

    /^Content-[tT]ype: multipart\/alternative/{
      # Are we a comment (convert to text) or a post
      x;/\n *<category.*#comment.*>/!{x;b-get-html};x

      /\nContent-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable/{
        s/=20/ /g

      s/^.*\nContent-type: text\/plain/Content-Type: text\/plain/i

      s/^/  <content type="html">\n/i;
      s/$/\n  <\/content>/i;


      s/^.*/From - /

      s|$|\n  <category scheme='' term=''/>|

      /\nContent-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable/{
        s/=20/ /g

      s/^.*\nContent-type: text\/html/Content-Type: text\/html/i


    /^Content-[tT]ype: text\/html/{
      # try to save the <title> instead of the subject line
        s/\n\n.*<title>\([^<]*\)<\/title>.*/\n  <title>\1<\/title>/i
        # rid of the old title
        s/ *<title>[^<]*<\/title>\n//

      s/^.*\?<body\b[^>]*>[\n ]*//i
      s/[\n ]*<\/body>.*//i

      # Are we a comment (convert to text) or a post
      x;/\n *<category.*#comment.*>/!{x;b-convert-html};x


      s|$|\n  <category scheme='' term=''/>|

      s/&/\&amp;/g; s/"/\&quot;/g; s/</\&lt;/g; s/>/\&gt;/g

      s/^/  <content type="html">\n/i;
      s/$/\n  <\/content>/i;


      s/^.*/From - /

    /^From - /{

      s/&/\&amp;/g; s/"/\&quot;/g; s/</\&lt;/g; s/>/\&gt;/g
      s/^/  <id>/

      s/&/\&amp;/g; s/"/\&quot;/g; s/</\&lt;/g; s/>/\&gt;/g
      s/^/  <thr:in-reply-to ref="/
      s/$/" type="text\/html"\/>/
      s|$|\n  <category scheme='' term=''/>|

      s/&/\&amp;/g; s/"/\&quot;/g; s/</\&lt;/g; s/>/\&gt;/g
      s/^/  <title>/

      s/&/\&amp;/g; s/"/\&quot;/g; s/</\&lt;/g; s/>/\&gt;/g
      s/^/  <author><name>/

      s/\([^ ]*\) *\([^ ]*\) *\([^ ]*\) *\([^ ]*\) *\([^ ]*\) *\(...\)\(..\).*/\4-\3-\2T\5.000\6:\7/
      s/&/\&amp;/g; s/"/\&quot;/g; s/</\&lt;/g; s/>/\&gt;/g
      s/^/  <published>/

    #  a</content></entry></feed>

    The hard part is that google will sometimes drop posts or comments without explaining why (even after claiming to have imported 20 comments it may be that only 17 are available after import) so it took a lot of trail and error.

    On comment seemed to be dropped because it contained this text:

    13. Use with the GNU Affero General Public License.

    And to prove it, I was able to post that a s a comment to a google blog, but if I exported and imported the blog the comment would be dropped.

    Thursday 4 August 2011

    Fast and Quiet - new heatsink

    My computer is faster with a new heatsink.

    3 of the fixing brackets on the old one had snapped and the computer would shutdown from overheating before it booted. It must have also been thermal-trottling before because now it is 2-3 times faster and SILENT instead of a noisy wind tunnel.

    Anne bought this Zalman heat sink from CCL online after an online vendor failed to ship the official HP part after a week.

    Socket LGA1366, LGA1156, 478, LGA775, AM3, AM2+, AM2, 754, 939, 940 compatible, Mfg Code: CNPS10X-Performa

    Wednesday 20 July 2011

    Vanish decades of newbie make pain

    I've just cured years of makefile hell with this single line:

       SHELL:=bash -c 'exec $(SHELL) "$${@//\\$$'\''\012'\''/$$'\''\012'\''}"' --

    It means that make recipes that use \ at the end of a line for multi-line recipes will now have the \ stripped off - at last you can have PROPER multi-line recipes!!!

    Previously, if you had normal looking multi-line shell clauses in your make recipe, you had to do something like this:

        if blah ; \
        then update-file ; \
        else create-file ; \

    Which is a bit of a hack, and is actually treated as a single line shell statement with semi-colons.

    And that is fair enough unless you have a multi-line sed statement as part of your recipe - which is easy to do by accident if you are using literate programming ( with auto-syntax-quoting as one chunk is included into another. (Auto-syntax quoting is when your shell chunk included in a makefile has the $ converted to $$ automatically [something the banking industry has been doing for years])

    Because make will start a new shell command every time it finds a newline in the command string (even if you hide it in a mid-line shell variable) there is no way that a backslash-newline can occur except when the human deliberately escapes it.

    The single-line SHELL re-definition of mine uses bash to replace backslash-newline with newline and then passes the command to your regular shell.

    And I get extra points for using exec

    Now my literate programming tools can automatically and nestedly invoke sed in a bash context and then that bash in a make context with automatic quoting and have it all work nicely!

    (As long as the makefile author inserts that sticking plaster at the top of the makefile)

    And the newbie who uses this can use backslash-newline in a makefile in the proper intuitive way.

        if blah \
        then update-file \
        else create-file \

    Thursday 30 June 2011

    How to draw a Union Jack

    The flag of the United Kingdom, the Union Jack, is a superposition of the flags of Saint George (for England), Saint Andrew (for Scotland) and Saint Patrick (for Ireland). This superposition is quite intricate, and often drawn incorrectly.

    J. D. A. Wiseman shows how it is done.

    Friday 10 June 2011

    Big brother's cousin over the seas

    ..Binney believes that the agency now stores copies of all e-mails transmitted in America... the N.S.A. has built enormous electronic-storage facilities in Texas and Utah. Binney says that an N.S.A. e-mail database can be searched ... in the manner of Google. ... “General Hayden reassured everyone that the N.S.A. didn’t put out dragnets, and that was true. It had no need—it was getting every fish in the sea.”
    The lesson? Beware when those in authority speak in metaphors.

    To me the "dictionary selection after the manner of google" is a dragnet, and to most people it's the sort of thing they were worried about, so when an authority denies a specific behaviour by means of a metaphor, try to see what is being hidden and thus perhaps admitted to.

    Drake, a former senior executive at the National Security Agency, faces some of the gravest charges that can be brought against an American citizen.

    Monday 6 June 2011

    Good intentions / good actions

    This analysis highlights the difference between good intentions and good actions.

    Oxfam's latest campaign, "Grow", seems so lovely and cuddly that to criticise it is almost like torturing puppies. What could be wrong with trying to feed the hungry and thus make the world a better place? Alas, if wishes were kings we could all be monarchs for the day and what's wrong with the campaign is not the initial wish but the list of damn fool things it intends to do.

    Saturday 4 June 2011

    What makes the improbable valuable

    When what makes a thing improbable also makes it valuable, the description "unlikely" is not helpful. Singular claims must be examined independently. That which is not normal makes life meaningful and worthwhile. Here are two good uses of the word "absolutely" to describe some singular events. My favourite paragraph: "How the Atonement was wrought we do not know. No mortal watched as evil turned away and hid in shame"

    Monday 30 May 2011


    Rationality... hmm... it affects more than just the individual. See link, with the hidden message (hover over the image) quoted here:
    "The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there's no good reason to go into space--each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision."

    Monday 16 May 2011

    The other placebo effect...

    It seems like sugar-water can make anti-biotics infinitely more effective... maybe a placebo is real-medicine too.

    Doctors may be able to kill off persistent staph infections using a cheap and easy method. A little boost of sugar can help kill the type of bacteria that regular antibiotics miss.

    Saturday 7 May 2011

    FOIA inquiry ducks FOIA

    An academic inquiry which recommended that scientists respond more honestly to FOIA requests has found a creative way to evade FOIA requests.

    Thursday 5 May 2011

    How do you know there is a god

    Apart from the confusion that the person asking the question doesn't usually define god the same way the person answering the question does, and apart from discussion on what know means and the meaning of means the question raises some very interesting points.

    Who knows?

    Often the questioner asking "How do you know...", "yes, but how do you know?" is really asking this slightly different question "but how can I know that you know?" or "how can I know that you know that you are not deluding yourself?" and this is often apparent from their dissatisfaction with the answers given, showing that it is themselves that they wish to satisfy that you know.

    Who knows what?

    The larger question we notice, is this: Is it possible for someone to know that you know that there is a god without themselves then also knowing that there is a god? I don't think so.

    Or, is it possible for someone to know that it is possible to know that there is a god without also simultaneously knowing that there is a god?

    More simply: Is it possible to know that a test-for-god is a valid test without knowing the results of the test?

    If it isn't possible, then it may be impossible for the question "yes, but how do you know there is a god" to ever be satisfied without the questioner submitting to the test-for-god.

    Is there?

    Of course is seems reasonable that the person claiming knowledge of god is lying or mistaken. Careful scrutiny by the questioner may reveal the lie or the mistake, but this would cast no light on the existence of a god, only on the character of the believer.

    The answer

    The answer of the believer is "You can't know that I know." and maybe also "but you can know for yourself."

    Of course, this second point is only true if we inhabit a universe in which there actually is a god who is willing to reveal himself, and who presumably will be the one to dictate the terms under which to do this.

    The deeper question

    The questioner really wants to know which universe they live in: with a god who will reveal himself - or without. (It would be embarrassing to undertake the proof-of-god test if it were unreliable).

    But to know that he lives in a universe with such a god is to know that the proof-of-god would work and also to know that god exists.

    And if he lives in a universe where there is no such god, then he cannot be sure what a proof-of-god test would show anyway.

    The place for Faith

    The only way to proceed with a proof-of-god is by faith, hoping that it will work if we inhabit a universe with a god, and of course if we are trying a valid proof-of-god.

    Some might suppose that in such a universe with a god with paying any attention to that a proof-of-god will find it's way to those who are looking.

    Faith is how I learned to walk, why I started brushing my teeth and how I learned assembly language with nothing but a mnemonic table and some few kilobytes of lightly commented assembler listings.

    I don't see why god should be a special case.

    The quest to validate the proof-of-god is the quest to discover god.

    Sunday 1 May 2011

    Do Be (do)

    Following on from the my remark on right-intention and right-action
    (and slighly paraphrased for clarity-of-extract):
    To DO without BEING is hypocrisy, or feigning to be what one is not—a pretender.

    Conversely, BEING without DOING is void. BEING without DOING really isn’t BEING —it is self-deception, believing oneself to be good merely because one’s intentions are good.

    May your efforts to develop Christlike attributes be successful so that His image may be engraven in your countenance and His attributes manifest in your behavior.
    When children misbehave, let’s say when they quarrel with each other, we often misdirect our discipline on what they did, or the quarreling we observed. But the do—their behavior—is only a symptom of the unseen motive in their hearts. We might ask ourselves, “What attributes, if understood by the child, would correct this behavior in the future?

    Thursday 28 April 2011

    We must do something

    "We must do something" is good intention speaking, but it shouldn't be confused with knowing what to do. Are the elite "greens" hi-jacking climate change in order to impose their societal view on the world? Read on... amazingly there are over 170 comments on this story already!

    Comment I find myself in an uncomfortable position over this climate change thing. I've no problem with the existence of man-made climate change, no problem with the idea that we ought to do something about it. But what we are actually trying to do about it seems bonkers, counter-productive even.

    Are we the genie in the bottle?

    I've heard that a genie should be sure to give you what you ask for but never what you want. This is what "incentives" and "targets" do. Someone else's slashdot comment follows:
        If you reward students for high grades in exams, you'll get just that. High grades. Not understanding of the subject, just high grades. If you reward bankers for making profits, you'll get just that. High profits. Not financial stability, just high profits.

        The problem with incentives is that exceedingly few people are capable of setting them correctly.
    I wonder if an incentive for correct incentive setting would fix things or make the problem worse...

    A well known quote from Thomas S. Monson is: "When performance is measured, performance is improved. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of performance accelerates"

    However the less quoted statement that prefixed that is: "When we deal in generalities, we shall never succeed. When we deal in specifics, we shall rarely have a failure."


    And the problem is with targets that are general proxy measures of performance. So if you want more unemployed people on training courses, lots of training courses will spring up. If you want shorter waiting lists, people will be made to wait somewhere else.

    The need to be specific so the genie has to give what is wanted instead of what was asked for...

    Friday 15 April 2011

    The next computer revolution

    The next computer revolution is here...

    They don't have guns yet... but freely available and modifiable software adding object recognition and tracking to a live digitized video feed.

    We can look forward to cheap security cameras that open the door to a picture of your face or track and blind secret santa with a laser or turns on the upstairs energy saving lightbulbs if you walk towards the stairs.

    Programming book reviews, programming tutorials,programming news, C#, Ruby, Python,C, C++, PHP, Visual Basic, Computer book reviews, computer history, programming history, joomla, theory, spreadsheets and more.


    HP Cynic said:
    I recently got into an argument with some "online folk" who genuinely believed that "giving 110%" was a valid statement and worthy goal.

    They were soon smashed down with something called "reality" and maths but not before one of them pointed out that he won't recruit someone "who only gives 90-100%" because that means "they are cruising". I weep for humanity
    The BigYin quotes someone saying: "It is in our company's DNA to give 110%" and then goes on to explain:
    1. Your company is not organic, it has no DNA
    2. Over-unity is not possible.
    More dreadful observations at...

    Old school football managers are often heard to confess they're "as sick as a parrot" because despite the lads "giving it 110 percent", their team has just taken a severe pasting. The problem is, 110 per cent just isn't enough of an overcrank for the modern world we live in.

    Thursday 14 April 2011

    Smaller processes

    I'm always overjoyed when we humans get to do something cunning that doesn't depend on large scale chemical and physical processes. I suppose the processing of the paper and chitosan come from such a large-scaleprocess; but I'm referring to the water cleaning process.

    A byproduct of the paper industry and crab shells may soon be used to take radioactive contaminants out of water.

    Rule by Corporation

    International media industries abuse an emergency session of the New Zealand parliament intended to deal with the Christchurch earthquake as a means to support their business by having the NZ government criminalize citizens on behalf of the music industry.

    (And if you think your UK vote counts for anything read this).

    The government of New Zealand is sneaking in its controversial "3-strikes" Internet disconnection law tonight as part of its emergency legislation dealing with the Christchurch earthquke. Bill 92A was passed once before and then rescinded after massive popular demonstrations, letter writing campaign
    An 8 minute response in NZ parliament of a green party representative:

    Wednesday 13 April 2011

    If nuclear were dangerous it would be free

    It is a total certainty that no child has or will suffer any such exposure. Occasionally, radio-iodine levels in water have been sampled at a rate which, if babies drank such water constantly for a year, they might achieve that one-in-a-million chance of dying decades down the road.
    If nuclear were allowed to be as dangerous as gas – that is, perhaps somewhere in the region of 400 times as dangerous in terms of deaths per terawatt-hour – there can be little doubt that electricity would become extremely cheap, maybe indeed too cheap to bother metering it for most users. Waste could be dealt with and supplies extended by many times by simply reprocessing fuel, something which the fearmongers have already managed to ban in many countries.

    Saturday 9 April 2011

    What a tangled web

    What a tangled web, etc, I wouldn't be surprised...
    In related news, why don't we all stop work, it'll be our turn to be bailed out by germany soon, we may as well just take it easy till then.

    Thursday 7 April 2011

    The Foolish Fight For Efficiency

    This is why I fear efficiency savings in the NHS. The efficiency drive may cost more than the savings but reduce the "inefficient" spare capacity in the NHS. I don't want an efficient NHS, I want one with the capacity when it's needed. I don't want to spend in reducing the spare capacity the same that has been saved by reducing that capacity.

    MPs have given the BBC a kicking over its Digital Media Initiative, a technology development programme that was meant to deliver a "benefit" of £17.9m but ended up costing it a net £38.2m.

    Monday 4 April 2011

    beware of mob rule

    More reasons to beware of mob-rule - sometimes (some of) the police are part of the mob. Note that others of the police also opposed the mob, were vigilant, alert and challenged the flawed evidence. Lives were still ruined in the effort to save the children.

    Exclusive Britain’s biggest ever computer crime investigation, Operation Ore, was flawed by a catalogue of “discrepancies, errors and uncertainties”, disclosed reports of two national police conferences seen by The Register reveal.

    More background here:

    The case resulted in 33 suicides of those investigated. I don't know if we'll know how many right thinking folk would say deserved it or how many were victims of bad policing. Many accept plea-bargains but may have been innocent.

    Saturday 2 April 2011

    Road congestion is the solution

    Road congestion is not a problem, it's a democratic solution.

    Pricing citizens off the roads reduces congestion to the sole benefit of those who can still afford to drive. Surely that is an even worse problem.

    Congestion is the democratic arbitrator, if a citizens journey is so important that they are willing to brave congestion, perhaps their journey really is important!

    Thursday 31 March 2011

    My letter to John Trickett, MP

    Please forward to ministers Ed Vaizey and Jeremy Hunt my concerns at their plans to allow businesses to decide on a motive of profit the parts of the Internet that should be accessible to British citizens, and which British Citizens should be permitted to use the internet.

    There are no shortage of "Pharoah's Magicians" in the lobby's of government selling the idea that there is always a technical solution for whatever problem ails us - even though this has never yet been the case.

    Government censorship has a long and fine tradition, practised across the world from the USA to China, but it is dignified in some way by the fact that it is done in the name of preserving the stability of the government and nation.

    Auctioning off the right of censorship to non-natural persons (companies) to wield for their own profit is laughable and an indication as to who the real masters-in-government are; i.e. not the elected members of parliament at all.

    If the copyright holders can't turn a profit then they need to look at how they do their business and not diversify into nation-oppression. They should make use of legal remedies that do exist instead of seeking authority that allows them to sidestep the judiciary and elected members of parliament.

    If my freedom of speech is to be suppressed it will be by Her Majesty's Government and not some temporary conglomerate of national and foreign entertainment industries.

    If propping up the failing entertainment industry is the best that ministers Ed Vaizey and Jeremy Hunt have got to work on, they should step aside.


    Sam Liddicott

    Blah sexist feminists

    I recently heard a famous feminist and comedienne complain about two men whose recently publicised private conversation used sexist terms when discussing a woman.

    I felt that she had missed that the conversation was discussing the woman as a woman and not generally as a person, and that therefore sexist terms that apply only to a woman would be used.

    One of my general rules in life is: never talk to a feminist - because they are always looking to pick a fight; and this one was.

    But I wonder if my rule is a bad one - if all men follow it then feminists will only speak to boisterous men which not doubt inflames and justifies their distorted view.

    In any case this particular feminist (who I had never heard of and whose name I forget) was hardly even paying attention to the conversation and seemed to be just taking an opportunity to speak and interrupt as much as she could.

    So I'm anti-feminist - because they hate all men anyway.

    Tuesday 15 February 2011

    Cull bogus A-Levels

    Important 2 page read for parents with children preparing for A levels (or choosing a high school).

    Today the Royal Society, Blighty's pre-eminent boffinry institution, has issued its "state of the nation" report into science education in the UK – and it doesn't make encouraging reading.

    Wednesday 9 February 2011

    Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore comments

    Page 2 is the best. This interview with Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore is not the astronomer.

    We do not have a problem growing enough food today. We have a distribution issue, and poverty – but if they could distribute it better there'd be no problem providing it. Then there are issues of corruption and civil disorder, wars, that prevent the food getting through sometimes.

    Saturday 5 February 2011

    Religion teaches obedience to laws

    Religion teaches obedience to laws which are important to society but unenforceable.

    In a landmark address today to the Chapman University School of Law, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirmed the importance of the free exercise of religion and called for people to work together to protect this First Amendment right. “It is imperative that those of us who believe in God and in the reality of right and wrong unite more effectively to protect our religious freedom to preach and practice our faith in God,” he said.

    Monday 31 January 2011

    Stupid tax arguments

    "We cannot justify taxing the poorest to pay benefits such as tax credits and child benefit to higher earners”

    - why don't you pay the tax credits and child benefit of higher earners out of the tax of the higher earners then? They are paying more tax than the lower-earners after all, so it should be easier to manage...

    Or, at least don't make stupid arguments.

    Three-quarters of a million more people are set to become higher rate taxpayers in April, says the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

    Saturday 29 January 2011

    Can science or religion win? No.

    I enjoy spectating the public debate between religionists and scientists, and I take an interest in the nature of the arguments. Neither side will win, something which is neatly covered here I feel.

    In the discussion below, I am samjam. I let my real position slip in the end, but I feel that this is not relevant in the debate as I find myself so often not siding with the religionists or the scientists. Generally both "sides" understand the other so badly that they spend the time punching eachothers shadows.

    The discussion takes place at:

    Disclosure: The discussion did not end there and my opponent rejected my position. I was unable to relate his rejection to the topic in a meaningful way.

    Re:Summary wrong, not so bleak (Score:2)
    by gardyloo (512791) writes: on Friday January 28, @10:22AM (#35032506)
    *Anything* can be "analysed" by philosophy. Philosophy is, in essence, thinking about stuff. Fine. But thinking about stuff should (in my opinion) include some sort of wondering about whether it's got any connections to the real world.
    Religions themselves are sometimes comforting, and they certainly seem to have some common grounds. That's interesting. Their history and the way they've influenced us and our world is interesting.
    Religions also consistently fail to accord with reality. That's sad. It's also interesting. And *that's* science.

    • Re:Summary wrong, not so bleak (Score:2)
      by samjam (256347) writes: on Friday January 28, @10:47AM (#35032844)

      If only you had used philosphy to analyse what you meant by "the real world" when you said "wondering about whether it's got any connections to the real world" however that is one of the questions covered by philosophy BUT NOT BY SCIENCE.

      Science exclusively investigates only things which are subject to the scientific method and by definition cannot investigate anything else.
      Some religions are comforting, and some seem to have common grounds. But to leave it at that and say that (some) religions consistently fail to accord with reality (whatever reality is) is really a fair admission that you have not found religion (rather than religions) worth studying, and this sadly reduces the force of your point in the same way that the freaking religionists lack of science makes their views on science so weak (and often laughable).

      As a comparison, some are perhaps unable to distinguish between decent knowledge based health care, and homoeopathic quacks, snake-oil salesmen and so forth. Such people, might classify all 3rd party provided healthcare as bogus together. I think we both think that they would be wrong.

      But the comparison holds to religions too. Because some are run by quacks, or have quacks in them, says nothing about the fundamental nature of reality or purpose, and for which religion provides sound answers to many seekers of truth and understanding (and I don't just mean timid fearful folk).

      The ignorant finding decency in health care is like the human finding truth in religion and like the philosopher seeking the purple cow. It's all academic until he finds the cow, and only then can be make a statement on it.

      Re:Summary wrong, not so bleak (Score:1)
      by Broolucks (1978922) writes: on Friday January 28, @12:19PM (#35034308)

      The problem is that religion only answers the questions that it begs. For instance, asking "why" the universe exists implicitly assumes the existence of a vantage point from which the universe might be said to have a purpose. Even though religion might "answer" that question, it really doesn't: it begs it. "What created the universe?" is no more pertinent a question than what created that creator, but the former stumps people more than the latter. Religion only provides answers about morality to people who cannot trust any other source. And so on.

      The essential difference between science and religion is that the latter has the luxury of not having to be correlated to reality. So whereas science will provide objective answers that are useful in practice, religion will provide subjective answers that are sociologically or emotionally useful. So depending on your point of view, religion either answers a lot of questions or it answers nothing at all (I must say I am in the latter group - I do not see how any religion can answer anything).
      •  Re:Summary wrong, not so bleak (Score:2)
        by samjam (256347) writes: on Friday January 28, @01:03PM (#35034952)

      You say that "religion only answers the question that it begs" because you disqualify as invalid the presumption that a vantage point exists from which the universe is said to have a purpose. You beggared the question by not sharing the viewpoint from which it is asked; but this is no more than a re-statement of your own position.

      Those who have that viewpoint do not find this question beggared, but rather the start of science beggared - perhaps you are familiar with the question "but who made it go bang?"

      The argument in providing the final answer between religion and science comes down to this:
      • Science must leave un-answered the final question: why
      • Religion must leave un-answered the final question: how
      When you prefer science or religion you chose which question you prefer to leave unanswered.

      The claim of blinkered scientists to be right against religionists is nothing more that a obscured statement of their personal preference, likewise for blinkered religionists.
      •  and so (Score:2)
        by samjam (256347) writes: on Friday January 28, @01:52PM (#35035774) Homepage Journal

      This brings us to one of the first claims of religion:
          to know god, god must first reveal himself to man

      and also to one of the claimed claims of God that he will reveal himself to all his creations: []
      "I rejected my Redeemer, and denied that which had been spoken of by our fathers; but now that they may foresee that he will come, and that he remembereth every creature of his creating, he will make himself manifest unto all."

      - now when? That's his business, but it would be a low sort of creator that forgot his creations.

      Anway, I just wanted to demonstrate where philosphy leads when it considers science and religion. Maybe Godel got there first.

      Science and religion are useful independent, but the quest for truth makes a tool of them both; and I'm after truth, not a plausible debating position. If there is a god, and one worth knowing, I expect him to notice that and take an interest; I expect to find him. I find the journey very satisfying, very delightful, and very subject to rational scrutiny. One might wonder if god is more scientist than religious - after all superstition so often masquerades as religion.

      Wednesday 26 January 2011

      Passenger cleared by jury after standing up to TSA

      A Seattle man has been acquitted of all charges brought against him when he refused to show ID to TSA officials and videotaped the incident at an airport security checkpoint.

      Were there problems with jury selection? This guy was found not-guilty by a jury. I agree, but I am surprised.

      An analysis of the trial:

      Staff at UK electrical retailers such as Currys and Comet know nothing about the products they're selling – unless you're after an extended warranty of course.
      Asking questions of the staff can be entertaining though...

      Friday 21 January 2011

      The sun is a major cause of global warming

      The sun makes the earth warm! Shock news for global-warming zealots!
      This is more evidence of the type mentioned at the end of this 90 minute talk on the falsity of the global warming trend and the harm and misery that comes to millions from following it.

      U R Rao has analysed 45 years of data and declared that the forcing from charged particles is higher than previously thought, at 1.1Wm-2, and human-forcing lower than the IPCC "consensus" of 1.6Wm-2.

      Monday 17 January 2011

      Try trading with pirates?

      Sony and Universal normally release music two weeks after everyone who wants it has pirated a copy. They've now realised that this hurts sales, and they have decided to start selling music to people who want to buy it right away.

      Two major labels are giving up one of their most powerful marketing tools - because they say it's "out of date". Universal and Sony have said they'll give make digital songs legally available the day they're first played on radio - moving to an "on air, on sale" policy from next month.

      Wednesday 12 January 2011

      Striking terror somewhere

      Read the story. Read the boot-note. Go back to bed.

      Parliamentary Ombudsman Ann Abraham today slammed bungling government departments for a series of systemic failures that left one of their clients distressed, fearful and out of pocket.

      A good friend from Ireland tells me that at some point he realised that the public in England had no idea what was going on in Ireland - and why would they - and so there is no sense in blowing them up.

      So when terrorists want to cause terror in a country, do they take political thought where to aim? Do they blow up civilians who also don't like the government? Do they blow up the government (including the opposition). I wonder how hard it is for them to "aim".