Friday, 19 December 2014

Ruled by Hackers

Governments seem to be relying on hackers to attack computer systems they consider hostile.  I wonder if governments may eventually be controlled by hackers.

People who can do cunningly  malevolent things with computers are quite unlike the general run of civil servants or army officers. They are likely to see their activities as a game, and to feel more sympathy with those playing on the other side than with their employers, and if they decide to take control of their own government's computer systems their powers would be immense.

Monday, 15 December 2014

The Many and the Few

A few weeks ago the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition said something to the effect that we should put the needs of the many before the interests of the few. Even at the time I thought it sounded a bit sinister.

Now that we are considering the possibility that a British Government, of which the present Leader of the opposition was a member, may have been complicit in the torture of suspects by the CIA, I wonder if he and his colleagues told themselves that they needed to put the safety of the many before the humane treatment of the few.

Saturday, 13 December 2014


I'm sorry I've neglected this blog for so long.

I'm in the process of arranging to move house, and although I still have bloggable thoughts from time to time, I've been getting distracted before I get round to putting them here.

I apologise again for not saying where the new house is, but it's prudent not to put lots of personal information in the public domain. Those who need to know will receive an informative email a few days before Christmas.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Afraid to Appear Worried

Several times in the last few days I've heard politicians refer to something or other as 'concerning'

Are they avoiding the word 'worrying' because they don't want to admit to being worried, fearing that a state of mind is unsuitable for mention in an interdepartmental memorandum ?

Monday, 27 October 2014

Excessive Fuss

A few days ago I almost commented on a controversy about two footballers who exchanged shirts in the course of a game but the excitement seemed to subside so I said nothing, but today the story was revived.

Those who complain should be grateful that it was only shirts that were exchanged. The players involved might have exchanged their shorts, or even their jock straps !!!

Monday, 15 September 2014

I've just realised that I share a birthday with Prince Harry. How can it have taken 30 years for the penny to drop?

It's partly because I don't pay much attention to gossip about society folk, but also because I don't take anniversaries seriously.

People have the idea that today is somehow the same as previous 15ths of September, but what those days have in common is little more than the date by which we refer to them. The similarity is mainly linguistic.

People often use birthdays as an excuse to have a party. I need no excuse; if I want to have a a party, I have one, whatever the date !

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Too Few Doctors, or Too Many ?

For the best part of a year a friend has suffered from abdominal pains and intermittent vomiting. Two MRI scans having failed to enlighten hospital staff he was today on his way for a third scan when he had a severe attack of bloody vomiting. He rang his GP who advised him to go straight to Accident and Emergency, saying she'd ring ahead so they'd be ready for him.

On arrival he found the estimated waiting time was 14 hours, and after three hours he hadn't even seen the triage nurse, so he rang his GP again. After she rang the A & E Department he was seen by the triage nurse who diagnosed 'a bit of indigestion'. When he insisted on seeing a doctor he was allowed into a room where he found four doctors, none of them treating any patient, but instead discussing their adventures in the pub the night before. They eventually decided he was suffering from a burst ulcer, which ought to have been detected long ago, before it burst, by one of the MRI scans.

I wonder how far poor medical service is a deliberate attempt to fabricate a case for diverting more public money into the NHS.

Previous generosity having apparently produced little improvement, we should perhaps consider cuts instead.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Silence Explained

On this the last day of the June I realised that I hadn't blogged at all this month.

My excuse is that I've been distracted by by the excitement of preparing to move house. There will eventually be much to tell about my adventures, but not until arrangements are complete, which will not be for a while.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

A rare commodity

I noticed that samphire was on sale in Leicester Market today.

If only I know what to do with it, I might have bought some. Readers are invited to append their comments to this blog.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Why Thursday ?

Nearly all British elections for public office are held on Thursdays, though the votes for today's European election will not be counted until Sunday, the day on which  many other countries prefer to hold elections.

Sunday has the advantage that few people work on that day, so that it is not necessary to start voting early to cater for people voting on the way to work, or to keep polling stations open late at night for the sake of people wanting to vote after work.

I support Sundays!!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Expensive Plastic

While selecting cooked meats from a supermarket I noticed that slices of beef in plastic packets cost two pounds for 85 grams, but at the delicatessen counter beef was sold at £1-48 for 100 grams, at which price 85 g would cost £1-25.8, so the plastic wrapping costs more than 74 pence, more than a third of the total price.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Scottish Independence and the 2015 General Election

A referendum on Scottish Independence will be held later this year, but Independence, if approved, will not take effect until 2016. Meanwhile there will be a General Election in 2015.

If Scotland elects members to the 2015 Parliament, the composition of the British Government may be determined by Scottish MPs who will leave as soon as Scotland becomes independent, and the British Government that has negotiated the terms of independence may as a result fall as soon as Independence takes effect, possibly to be replaced by another government that might want to repudiate some of the terms agreed by its predecessor.

Things could get nasty.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Back Dated Compliment

The Turkish Prime Minister has tried to excuse poor safety in Turkish mines by saying that in the nineteenth century English mines were similarly dangerous. Is he offering nineteenth century England as a model for twenty-first century Turkey ?

Friday, 2 May 2014

twice neglected

Several times recently I've heard people on the television say "two times" instead of "twice". Where do they find such people ?

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Defeat of a Child-Proof Bottle.

Suffering from quite a bad cold, my afflictions were increased by the struggle to open a bottle of cough medicine, so once I'd opened it I investigated the top, noticing a layer of compressible material inside. Once I'd removed that with a knife, the top behaved in the normal child friendly way.

The victory has done at least as much for my cold as the medicine.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Overspecialisation ?

Riffling through some old jottings on one of my many clip boards, I found a reference to a Professor of the Philosophy of Sport in the University of Gloucestershire.

A Web search has revealed many references, yet if there is any point in Philosophy, it is a search for generality and a scrutiny of ideas. Is 'sport' sufficiently well defined for its supposed philosophy to constitute a subject? Is the institution in Gloucestershire sufficiently broadly based to constitute a university?

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A Few Minutes at a Time

I've usually been a little disorientated by losing an hour when we move the clocks forward to enter Summer Time, so I did it differently this year.

I moved my alarm clock forward an hour  on the night before the change, but also moved the alarm time forward by the same amount. Then, every day or two I moved the alarm time back a quarter of an hour or so until it was back at the original time. My inner clock was quite unperturbed, so that seems to be the way to do it.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Obsession with hot food

The deputy Prime Minister has proposed that all children in their first two years at school should be provided with a hot meal every day.

If children are to eat the meals without suffering trauma, those meals had better be enjoyable, and preferably also nourishing and filling, but why must they be hot?

Some people seem obsessed by the temperature of food and drink. "you can't eat/drink that, it's cold" they'll say trying to prevent me from drinking a beverage I've deliberately allowed to cool to a drinkable temperature.

Quite the cruellest thing anyone ever did to me was to provide me with a hot drink I didn't want.

I had a bad cold, and was consoling myself with drinks of Ribena with added slices of lemon, and had accordingly taken to work some slices of lemon and some Ribena. I made the drink with hot water, but it was at its best when it had stood for a while and absorbed lots of lemon. I left half a mug of this delicious concoction on my desk when I went to teach, thinking from time to time of the treat waiting me when I returned to my desk.

Alas, when I got back, a colleague had decided that I needed 'a hot drink', had thrown away my Ribena and the slices of lemon and replaced them with a cup of coffee.  I drink coffee only at breakfast time, and when a I have a cold, coffee gives me a headache, and I couldn't replace the discarded drink because I had no spare lemon - having intended to re-use the same slices through the day.

The sad event happened more than 25 years ago, but I still remember it vividly and recall it whenever anyone praises hot food or drink.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

A delightful Circumlocultion

Sometimes I'm just irritated by by people using complicated pseudo technical language to say simple things, but the following example delighted me.

 Referring to signals that might have come from the black box of a missing air liner, an Australian Naval officer said:

"If they gain another acoustic event" What a wonderful way of saying "If they hear it again"

Monday, 31 March 2014

Erratic Inspiration

I've noticed that I often make several posts to this blog in rapid succession, and then have long spells of silence; for instance I posted nothing from 1 to 26 of this month, but have subsequently posted every day.

I doubt if my periods of silence result from the absence of anything worthy of comment; I think I must have blogging moods, and non-blogging moods. Is is something to do with my hormones ?

I must examine other blogs to see if there are similar alternations of activity and silence.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

A Selective Price Cut

Supermarkets recently reduced the price of 4 pints of milk to one pound. A few days ago no 4 pint cartons were in stock, and I was surprised to be charged 89 pence for two pints.

It is clearly wise to plan one's milk purchases carefully.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

A Cunning Approach to Pornography

Earnest folk have been appearing in the media, deploring the numbers of children who have been watching 'pornography' on the web.

The young will always be intrigued by sex, because they have either just acquired, or are in the process of acquiring, the ability to engage in that activity.

Rather than trying to impede their search for inspiration, we should make use of their curiosity. People often lament the English neglect of foreign languages. Make pornography available to the young, but only in foreign languages, and there would be a strong incentive to learn.

Friday, 28 March 2014

A Plea for Indices

Recent news reports of developments in cosmological theories mention 'a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second'.

That appears to mean 10-36 seconds.

Confronted by a number either very large or very small, people are likely to count the digits to the left of the decimal point, or the leading zeroes to the right. It is therefore considerate to do the counting for them.

To someone who can't convert it to standard form 'a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second' means little more than 'a number too small for you to understand' so nothing would be lost by using index form in the first place.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Following The Leader

I heard that the Great Leader of North Korea has commanded that all men copy their leader's haircut.

Had he ordained that they all copy his large tummy, he'd have had to find a great deal of additional food.

When he's photographed surrounded by subordinates and admirers, he looks like a food source surrounded by hungry predators.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Learning Slowly

I recently started to revise my abstract algebra. I'm making good progress by going slowly. Each morning I advance one more step through the text book, where a step is either a new idea or a theorem, and then I enliven such humdrum activities as washing up, waiting for a bus, or peeling vegetables, by thinking about the idea of the day.

I actually cover each step three times, because I  preface taking the next step by re-reading the previous day's idea, and follow it by skimming quickly through what comes next.

So far I've got through 60 pages without a hitch.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Getting Away with Murder

A criminal prosecution has been halted because a government official had given the accused a letter promising immunity from prosecution for terrorist crimes connected to Northern Ireland. That letter was issued after an amnesty bill presented to Parliament had been withdrawn in the face of opposition, so immunity was granted, not just without the knowledge of Parliament, but in defiance of Parliament.

The precedent is terrifying. Some future government could set up 'hit' squads to eliminate its opponents, and give all squad members letters of immunity.

I propose the impeachment of whoever authorised the sending of those letters.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Enjoying the Garden.

It seemed to be a long time since I did any gardening, so long that I'd almost forgotten there was gardening to be done, but today's dry mild sunny weather tempted me outside, and I wrought destruction with my secateurs. It was most satisfying !!

Friday, 31 January 2014

Neglected Insulation

On my way the into town today I decided to put on my gloves, realising as I did so that it was the first time I'd worn gloves since well before Christmas.

I don't think there's been a single day this Winter when the temperature at midday has been below freezing, and, although I have spotted the odd snowflake, no snow has settled on the ground.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Rocket Science and its Contraries

"It isn't rocket science" has become a cliché for 'easy'.

Yet the science behind rockets is not at all recondite. It's a matter of gas pressure, momentum and viscosity. The details involve complicated calculations, but that shouldn't worry the owner of a calculator.

For difficult maths and science, consider the Riemann zeta function, or the eigenvalues of a quantum operator. Alas, most people feel no perplexity about those questions, because they've never even heard of them.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Reviving Past Frugality

Yesterday I darned a pullover. It was a knitted pullover and had a little hole that would have grown rapidly without action.

I've got into the habit of throwing clothes away as a soon as I notice serious dilapidation, but it struck me that that is very wasteful, so I darned the pullover. At one time most garments were darned or patched a few time before being discarded, and superannuated knitted garments would be unravelled and the wool preserved for knitting something else.

Nowadays it is rare to see darns or patches even on the clothes of people who consider themselves poor. Perhaps we should re-define poverty as needing to darn one's socks.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

"Scientifically Proven"

Some phrases annoy me greatly. Particularly irritating is "Scientifically Proven".

It appears in a television advertisement for something or other - I've never paid it enough attention to find out what is being advertised.

Scientific research does not prove things true; it tests hypotheses, and at best provides grounds for accepting them as a basis for further investigations.

I also  note the use of 'proven' instead of 'proved', hinting at the solemnity of legal proceedings.

I must find out what commodity is being advertised, so I can make a point of not buying it.

Friday, 17 January 2014

An Example to all Teenagers.

I'm delighted by the story of the two sixth formers who absconded from a boarding school to have a holiday in the Carribean.

It was at once a challenge to the pomposity of teachers, who tend to take themselves far too seriously - I used to be a teacher so I know what it's like - and a well deserved rebuke to parents who care so little for their children that they are prepared to pay nearly £30 000 per year to have them looked after by someone else.

I don't expect the couple thought about making a gesture. It's reported that they were just fed up with the rain and wanted to go somewhere sunny. That they thought school and families less important than that should put those authorities firmly in their place.

Well done!!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A Plea for Virtual Fireworks

Impressive firework displays were televised last night, and although large crowds gathered to watch at the scene, most of the spectators must have watched on the television. So for most people a computer generated simulation would have been at least as good, and very much cheaper.