Sunday, 31 May 2009

Blogging Statistcs

I've noticed my blogs tend to cluster. There will be a week or so when I don't blog at all, and then blogs seems to tumble out almost daily. Perhaps I have bloging moods and non-blogging moods, though that may be more a desciption than an explanation.

I wonder if other people blog with similar irregularity.

I can't think of a helpful statistical test. I could show clustering by testing for a Poisson distribution and show that it isn't one, but that wouldn't tell me what distribution does apply.

Suggestions would be welcome.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Dull minds in high places

Opening the latest edition of 'The Philosophers' magazine' I noticed there was an article based on an interview with a member of Parliament.

Tony Wright MP, chairman of the Public Administration Select Committee, used to teach Politics in the University of Birmingham. My enthusiasm waned a little on reading that.

'Only Politics' I thought, 'still, better than nothing'.

It turned out he read Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at the LSE. That sounded a little more encouraging.

Then I read 'I have trouble with concepts and logic. I remember doing logic at university and finding it impenetrable'

Advanced logic can indeed be tricky when it develops into the foundations of Mathematics, or formalises modal logic, but the sort of elementary logic (see chapter 2 of my notes) that would be taught to the general run of Philosophy students is extremely easy.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that anyone baffled by logic has no intelligence at all, but what intelligence they have would amount to little more than the ability to recognise superficial similarities. Careful critical analysis would be beyond them.

Apparently that is all it takes to pass as brainy in the Palace of Westminster.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Upton Hall

Yesterday my knowledge of clocks was greatly extended.

I visited Upton Hall with members of the U3A Science and Technology group.

For the benefit of readers too lazy to click on the link, Upton Hall is the headquarters of the British Horological Institute. The Institute provides correspondence courses in clock and watch making, conducts examinations and awards qualifications. It has a large collection of clocks, dating from the sixteenth century to the present day. Almost all have been acquired as gifts. 

We were conducted round the collection by Viscount Middleton, who is the curator, and of course himself a horologist.

The tour far exceeded one's normal expectations of a guided tour; it amounted to an erudite, entertaining and highly informative seminar on the history and technology of clock making and time keeping.

We began by contemplating a reconstruction of a medieval clock. That was designed to divide both day and night into twelve hours each, so that for most of the year it had to run at different speeds during the day and night. It therefore had an adjustable governor, which would normally have been altered at dawn and again at dusk so that the speed of the clock would vary according to the hours of daylight and dark..

We moved on to a master clock with built in electrical generator to provide the electrical pulses that controlled the slave clocks. Power was provided by a two hundredweight weight that had to be wound up daily.

Another remarkable exhibit was Britain's first speaking clock, incorporating an early example of an optical reader.

There was also a clock that indicated the state of the tide.  Another clock had a special lock to prevent the servants getting inside the case to put it back when they were behind with their work.

Not all clocks have twelve hours on the dial; there was one with only four hours, so the hour hand made six circuits every day (there was no minute hand), and one depended on background knowledge to decide which of the six possible times applied.

A separate display of watches and small clocks included the alarm watch Captain Scott used to wake him up every two hours so he could take exercise to avoid frostbite, and there were several clocks in which all the parts were made of wood.

We concluded by examining a clock specially constructed to commemorate the 150th Anniversary on the BHI. It had a glass case through which one could see what was going on inside and was unusual in having three pendula, intended to compensate for the effects of movement.

Having spent a fascinating two hours looking at the collection, we adjourned to the Southall Minster Refectory (as they call their tea room) for tea.

Upton, by the way, is a village in Nottinghamshire, on the road from Southwell to Newark.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Web Dependence

A few days ago broadband was down for the best part of a day. I felt isolated, cut off both from friends and from information.

Luddites might say that is because I've become addicted to technology, but they are wrong.

Thinking back to the days before I had an Internet connection, I realise how isolated  I was then.

Information could be obtained only laboriously by plodding through reference books, all out of date.

To meet more than one person at a time required elaborate arrangements, and unless the people in question lived nearby one had to chose between the haphazard superficiality of a, usually expensive, phone call, and the time consuming chore of letter writing.

I am so glad we now have email and the Internet !!!

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Virgin Web Space in Limbo

I've noticed that a high proportion of visits to this blog result from Google searches for information about problems with Virgin media. That such searches should lead people to such a lowly site as this suggests that information is scarce. I've therefore decided to bring the story up to date.

Since late April I've made at least eight phone calls about my inability to alter the contents of my Virgin web space. 

The response has varied considerably. One help person sounded terrified and said 'I can't help you about that' before ringing off. Another promised that someone would ring me back, yet no one did. 

A breakthrough came on 5th May when an unusually astute person tested my web space, observed the problem himself and referred the matter to Swansea, promising a solution within three days and giving me a reference number for the problem.

I later learnt that reference to Swansea constituted 'escalation' of the problem.

Subsequent calls in which I quoted the magic number have received answers that revealed an awareness of the nature of the problem, and elicited various promises for its speedy solution, such as 'tomorrow' which would have been 14th May, and 'after 10 working days' which would have been 19th May.

The last call gave no date, counselled patience and revealed that I am not alone in having the problem, which is related to a change of server.

Although I have not been told this in as many words, extrapolation from what I have been told suggests the following:

They decided to move their user data to new servers. Almost all user data consists of the contents of mailboxes, because few customers realise they have any web space, and fewer know how to use it. Web space was thus forgotten in the move, so that the mail is running on the new servers, but the contents of the web space are still on the old server, visible but unalterable, and they are wondering what to do about it.

At least I've made one useful discovery: that problems that are taken seriously have numbers and are escalated. Anyone asking Virgin to sort anything out would therefore be wise to ask for the problem number, and ask if the problem has been escalated. Knowing the magic words can help!!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Checking the Virgin cable Modem

I've found how to get the attention of Virgin help folk.

If you report that your Broadband connection is down and the ready light on the modem is flashing, an engineer will be dispatched the following day.

Apparently that flashing light indicates something wrong, either with the modem itself, or with the broadband cable.

Once you mention the flashing light, there's no more fussing about resetting the modem - though they may ask you to switch it off while they do a few tests, but you get your engineer fast.

In my case the signal was poor, so he boosted it to the maximum, and said if that didn't suffice he'd arrange for a new cable to be 'pulled through', giving me his mobile phone number just in case.

So far I haven't needed to use it.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

A Party Political Broadcast

A few days ago I watched a party political broadcast.

Usually I don't watch any, feeling that if I watched one it would be unfair not to watch all, a prospect  too depressing to be contemplated.

However I switched on the television set just after one began, so I didn't know whose it was, and it seemed so odd that I watched to find out.

It showed a man striding about in a purposeful manner, yet with no obvious purpose, in what looked like an underground car park, though there were no cars. From time to time he came across a punch bag. Whenever he did he punched it.

At first I thought he was an updated version of Nietzsche's Ubermench, and that the broadcast was on behalf of the BNP.

The verbal content consisted entirely of disparaging comments about the domestic policies favoured by Mr. David Cameron, and it gradually became apparent that the broadcast was part of the Labour Party's campaign for the European election, though there was no mention of any European issue and on the issues that were discussed the BNP would have taken much the same stand.

Perhaps if I watched the broadcasts of all the other parties I should be equally appalled; I can't face the prospect.