Friday, 26 February 2010

Public Key Encryption

I now understand the process, and realise it is very simple.

Several years ago I was baffled by the turgid prose of a document about 100 pages long that failed to explain it.

Yesterday I heard a brief and lucid explanation by a fellow member of the Leicester U3A Science and Technology group.

His text is available for inspection on the group web site.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Initiative Overload

I heard that wonderful phrase for the first time this morning, in the Radio Four news programme.

It was offered as an explanation of disappointingly slow improvements in educational standards, and well sums up some of my own experiences as a college lecturer.

I recall time that might have been used to prepare for classes or mark students' work, being used instead preparing for and attending meetings from which nothing of significance ever emerged.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Mincemeat Pudding

I made my own mincemeat for last Christmas and afterwards found I had a surplus, so I tried this odd recipe from an old cookery book.

1 lb mincemeat
1/2 pint stout
1 beaten egg
4 tablespoonfuls  flour
4 tablespoonfuls breadcrumbs

Mix stout, mincemeat and egg in a bowl.

Then gradually sir in the flour, followed by the breadcrumbs - I used a simple non-rotary whisk.

That produces a brown liquid of unappetising appearance. Don't be discouraged. Pour it into a buttered basin, then steam for 2 1/2 hours. I put it in a colander over a saucepan of boiling water, using my largest saucepan, and putting the lid on.

The pudding solidifies, but has quite a soft texture. It tastes a little like Christmas pudding, but is much lighter and would would make a good substitute for that.

I ate mine with custard made with custard powder, but imaginative readers will be able to think of alternatives.

I used Guinness the stringency of which balanced the sweetness of the mincemeat. With a sweeter stout the pudding would have been too sweet.

Monday, 15 February 2010

The Alternative Vote

Recent discussion of of various ways of voting has missed one point that I consider important: How much information can voters supply when they vote.

Under the prevailing system where we vote for just one candidate the number of valid ways of filling in a ballot paper equals the number of candidates.

Using the Alternative vote, where one may order as many candidates as one chooses, the number of valid submissions equals the factorial of the number of candidates.

So if there are 4 candidates for a seat, the present system allows to say one of just 4 things, whereas the Alternative vote would allow any of 24.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Crying Wolf

Iran's nuclear fuel programme and the genesis of the Iraq war are two topics that are never out of the news for long.

There is a link.

Possibly there will come a time when we shall need to make war on Iran, but if there is we'll never be quite sure that the politicians who tell us so are telling the truth.

They cried wolf over Iraq, so for all we know they may do so again.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

A Monthly Anniversary

In this morning's Radio 4 news programme, a commentator said that today is the 'monthly anniversary' of the Haiti earthquake.

I wonder how they recruit the people who compose such stuff.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

A Gastronomic Discovery

At last I know what gefilte fish is. It's a doughnut shaped fried fishcake.

I made the discovery at this afternoon's meeting of the Leicester U3A, which heard a talk on Jewish cookery.

After the talk we were able to taste samples of some of the dishes. I found the gefilte fish quite palatable, but a little too sweet for my taste.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Signs of Spring

At last the days are getting longer!

I find that short days make me very lazy, so that I potter about on my computer doing nothing in particular. However today I managed to do something in particular. More than a month late I made the new year's revisions to my website !!