Saturday, 10 October 2020

Zooming Again


On Thursday I hosted a Zoom meeting. Although I'd used Zoom before that was the first time I'd hosted a meeting. There were only four of us so it was easy to experiment without confusing each other. We pressed every button we could find so I now have quite a good idea how the software works. I plan to hold regular virtual, meetings henceforth, replacing the monthly meetings the U3A Science and Technology Group used to hold on Age UK premises.

Friday, 2 October 2020

Misplaced Faith


Depressing stories have emerged about Post Office staff convicted of alleged crimes that had never been committed either by themselves or by anyone else. What had actually happened was that the Post Office computer systems made errors. Gullible managers had assumed that the computers could not have erred. 

Ever since computers came to be used widely there have been cases of people making the absurd assumption that computer systems cannot err.  No one making that assumption should be allowed to hold any senior post in any organisation.

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Double Counting


I just heard a comment that all the money people spend on cigarettes would suffice to pay for inoculating the entire world population against the corona virus. In Britain at least most of the money people spend on tobacco goes to the Government in taxes and so is already available for whatever good deed the Government is inclined to perform, so persuading smokers to give up, though in itself highly desirable, would not solve the problem of corona virus.

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

10 pm Closing


A uniform closing time is producing crowds of garrulous people outside recently closed pubs and restaurants. Total closure of such establishments would make things difficult for people who travel for work or other good reasons. I suggest that we should instead allow eating places to remain open as long as they like, but forbid them to sell alcohol. I believe that sober people would behave less recklessly than tipsy revelers.

We do have alcohol limits for drivers. Why not for everyone in a public place? Those wishing to drown their inhibitions could do so at home, and have virtual pub crawls in a specially designed computer game. 

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Rationing Toilet Paper


I spotted a news item to the effect that some supermarkets are restricting customers to at most three packets of toilet paper. I wonder how they measure the quantity. Toilet paper seems to be sold in packs  ranging in size from two rolls to at least 16. It would be strange to condemn someone buying four packets of two rolls as greedier than someone else who buys one packet of 16.

 Buying four small packets would indeed be odd. but odd cases are often good tests of rules.

Friday, 25 September 2020

Da Home Sexy


Thus did the BBC sub-title algorithm transcribe 'The Home Secretary' . I've often wondered whether the algorithm is embodied in an AI or a human. Whichever it is, it provides me with a good deal of amusement.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Paising HTML

I've recently been brushing up my Maths by reading old text books. A great obstacle to understanding is the need to follow references of the form:

'see example 4 following theorem 2 in section 9'

Usually such references contain no page numbers, and section numbers are shown only on the first page of each section, not at the heads of individual pages. I need a bookmark to keep my place, and even then by the time I've shuffled through numerous pages to locate the reference I've often forgotten why I needed it.

In an html document one simply clicks on the reference, and there is it. The BACK key returns on to the original. There are many reasons for publishing online, but the ease of cross referencing is rarely mentioned.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Bibulous Loquacity


I worry about the likely consequences of reopening public Houses. The core activity of those institutions is the consumption of alcoholic drinks, and many people drink in pubs to meet people they don't meet elsewhere.

Alcohol reduces inhibitions and slackens self control making 'social distancing' harder to maintain. Voices are often raised and raucous laughter is common. The louder the talk and laughter, the more copious the accompanying emissions of infected droplets. 

Pubs are best avoided. Drink only in your bubble!

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Infuriated by Microsoft


When I logged on to my computer after the last update to Windows 10 the screen was filled with a Microsoft Edge window, with buttons telling me where to put files of various sorts, and an incitement to explore the alleged wonders of a new version of Edge.

The buttons that ought to have closed or minimised the Edge window had been disabled, and I had to resort to summoning Task Manager with ALT&Ctrl&Delete to close the offending disutility.

I find Microsoft's tendency to try to tell me how to organise material particularly infuriating. I have devised a filing system that arranges material where I can find it easily. When I get a new computer I copy the accumulated material onto it and I don't want any interference, yet still the operating system tries to put downloaded files to places where I can't find them.

Thursday, 27 August 2020

My Website


I've brought several pages of my website up to date, so those eager for enlightenment are invited to look at and follow the links on that page to garden and books.

Monday, 24 August 2020

Praising Quadratic Equations


It irritates me when people who know little mathematics refer to quadratic equations as examples of very difficult mathematics.

I still remember when I was taught how to solve quadratics by completing the square. I was twelve years old  at the time and was most impressed by the ingenuity of the method. I think that was the first time I found Mathematics exciting. To me those who shudder at the mere thought of a quadratic are identifying themselves as intellectually pre-adolescent.

Quadratics are the key to solving polynomials of higher degree and thus to finding the eigenvalues of a linear transformation - at the heart of quantum theory- and to solving the differential equations governing electrical circuits and the oscillations of the wings of an aircraft. Quadratics are wonderful, and they are also easy.

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Paperless Frustration.


Yesterday I tried to check recent contactless electronic payments to various shops.

I sorted out accumulated receipts, found my bank account on line and started to check. After just a few minutes I was automatically logged off. Having made three attempts, and vainly tried to persuade the bank to increase the five minute  limit for reading the account I decided to download.information and check it offline.

 Paperless banking is less delightful than we are led to believe.