Saturday, 30 April 2011

Technology: Of Air Travel


Yup, it's time to head back to Blighty...

As ever, Barcelona was fun, albeit the more you visit a place the more you start to see where it is rough around the edges. But, that's a story for another day. Maybe. Right now, I'm thinking mostly about the actual trip back. Yes, flying has made it possible to visit far flung places but I think it is still actually in its infancy. Nothing to do with the security theatre, although it has added another layer of inconvenience. But look: gotta be there two hours before, gotta jump through various hoops of check-in, baggage drop, go to gate, board in order (or not - hard to say what's worse)... Just too much of faffing about for what is really just a glorified bus, and one that is way safer, and way less comfortable, too. Do I have an answer? No, don't think so. But then, I'm not an airline professional. So, airline professionals, here's something to think about:

For a start, let's halve the pre and post flight fuss...


Friday, 29 April 2011

Beer: Escapism


Yes, beer is a great vehicle of escapism...

I will not deny it, even if I don't normally use it to that end. It is, after all, a beverage deserving of proper attention, and not just exploitation in pursuit of that which blanks out things we don't like about life - or about ourselves. However, today of all days, I think I will have to resort to just such use of my favourite drink. Yes, you guessed right. It is the British royal wedding. I can only hope there'll be a bar in Barcelona not showing the event. Or that the weather will be clement enough to allow sitting outside and staring into thin air. And try to forget how bad Spanish beer is. In fact I may even opt for wine. It's cheaper and better. Certainly better value for money. But, I will make sure to raise at least one glass to the newly weds. They do seem to be royally nice people, after all.

So, William and Katherine, here's looking at you kids...


Thursday, 28 April 2011

Politics: Res!

Nope, not gonna waste precious holiday time on politics...

No, I really ain't going to do it. The weather's been just to nice, and the beer, if not of the quality I expect, then certainly comes in ample quantities. And the Spanish red wine is nice, too. Cava? Not so much. I mean, not so much a drink for me. Not the one for the bubbly, me. So, again, no politics allowed today. Ain't gonna bother, and ain't gonna bother you.

Nada... or rather, res...


Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Science: Of Priorities

Central Barcelona is littered in banners begging "volem un barri digne"...

If you reach for your Google Translate you will find that it means "we want a decent neighbourhood". And you know what? They really do need something like that. From what I've seen in central Barcelona this time - and this time I have had a lot of time to just wander around aimlessly - they are right to be protesting and asking for a better place to live. Central Barcelona, especially the nooks and crannies tourists only brush past are in a terrible state of disrepair and dirtiness. Truly appalling some of it is, too. And all that in a city that brims full of tourists every time I care to visit, and that has been very often recently - mostly because it is a really nice place. Or it could be if it was given a bit of a facelift or just a bit of proverbial TLC (oh, and an improved cuisine, too). First and foremost, people of Barcelona deserve it, and only a distant second, we - the tourists - deserve it, too, for the extortionate prices we pay for the joy - and privilege - of coming along for a ride.

Barcelona elders, take note. You're losing both present and the future of your own citizens...

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Food: Cheap And Plentiful?


One thing can be said for food in Barcelona: it's plentiful...

And, when one looks at the local rate of VAT (IVA) charged on eating and drinking out, which is a measly 8%, one might expect it to also be cheap. But it ain't. For the difference in VAT of 12%, the food in Barcelona's normal looking restaurants is at least on par with similar ones in London. Which is frankly infuriating seeing as the fare is far from exciting. One has a distinct feeling of being served as little and as good so as not to leave without paying (and without throwing the lot into the proprietors face), and then also rushed to clear the table for the next victim by a less than polite and caring waiting staff. To add insult to injury, on offer is mostly Spanish cuisine, meaning one cannot even escape to relative safety of Chinese, Thai, or even Mexican. Oh, and it seems like mission impossible to find a place which will allow you to just sit down for drinks. It's like all of them have a burning need to feed the world (by mediocre paellas) - and their wallets (by my hard earned cash).

Barcelona, wake up and smell the coffee: the world is growing sick of what you feed it...


Monday, 25 April 2011

Business: Five Star Service



Premier Inn - where everything is five star, but the price...

If you live in Blighty you may well be acquainted with the advertising slogan above. And, while nothing really is five star about Premier Inn hotel chain, at least it does give you roughly what you paid for and expect. Or even a bit more, if you're lucky. Sadly, the Hesperia Tower Five Star hotel I am staying in right now - and yes, they did put the "five star" in the name, sure does not either keep the promise or meet the expectations. Yes, the rooms and the lobbies are uber-designed (to the point of being non-functional), but the Premier Inn staff certainly puts to shame Hesperia lot when it comes to customer service. Or just service. Which in Hesperia lobby bar it seems one cannot get without an hour's wait. And so on, from a double room getting only a single's toiletries, to... I'd better stop. After all, I am on holiday and need to relax for another few days - even if it is in Hesperia Tower (not putting "five star" 'cause it ain't).

Hesperia Tower - where nothing is five star, but the price...


Sunday, 24 April 2011

Religion: Of Science?

The Economist recently ran an interesting article on engineering a religion...

Of course, this caught my attention, not least since it comes hot on the heels of my reading the brilliant Religion Explained, by Pascal Boyer. It is fairly obvious (if you read Boyer) that The Economist does not quite buy into all of its findings, but it is close enough. For some rough-and-ready ideas pop over to the article, and for truly in-depth understanding of human mind and how it creates religions as a by product go read the book. What interests me here, however, is whether it is really possible, as the very last sentence of the article suggests, to create a religion that will succeed because it builds on the findings of Boyer, but one that will shun the usual silliness of ancient deities and arcane rituals and instead help nudge people towards the world view that is essentially scientific? The world view that will give wide berth to a notion of a supernatural creator and his (or hers) random rules (yes, some are usually sensible, but they are too often interspersed by truly ridiculous or even dangerous ones). Frankly, I doubt it is possible. A religion, almost by definition, is irrational and caters for the unconscious and irrational in humans. But still, it's a tempting thought to put an end to all existing ones in favour of a carefully crafted one deeply rooted in science.

A pipe dream, I know, but even atheists are allowed to dream sometimes...

PS
I know I've promised mobile posting, but this one was too good to leave to chance so I wrote it on Friday already. ;-)

Religion: Never Too Late


No, it's never too late to say a word or three about religion...

And, thanks to Barcelona's lovely mobile coverage underground I can do just that, hot on the heels of the previous post, and while still on the train. Yes, the hotel is that far from town. But it's nice. But never mind that. Religion. Easter. Yes, it's Easter today. So, Happy Easter. Enjoy your eggs, chocolate or hard boiled, depending on where you are. And enjoy your fable of a zombie that is Jesus. A good man he was, I agree. But that he died and lived again? Come on, let's be serious. But then, there can't be proof, can there be? I'll leave you to ponder the words of the wise Douglas Adams:

"I refuse to prove that I exist'" says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."

Happy Easter, ye faithful...

Technology: Late


Yes, this post is a day late, too, but that's not the point...

The point I'd like to make is that London is woefully late to the party when it comes to mobile coverage. It might be all hunky-dory above, but underground there's none. And look at Barcelona. In other respects way behind, yet all of its Metro has coverage. It's blistteringly fast HSPA at stops, and at least GSM between. Lovely. Especially if you want to spend a 25 minute journey browsing - and blogging about it. Wake up London! I know you don't have MWC, but still.

But still, it is crap having a teenager yakking into your ear on the train...


Saturday, 23 April 2011

Beer: Never Too Late



I've been remiss in not publishing yesterday...

But the, it was a Friday, a Good Friday as well, and I was quite busy getting in the proper Holiday mood. No, not the Easter holiday mood. Just holiday. As in not going to work, and as in going somewhere nice instead. Like Barcelona. Where I intend to do a bit more than drink beer. Like the one in the photo. Hopefully, I'll tell you more about that in the following days.

Sadly, the beer ain't going to be any better...


Thursday, 21 April 2011

Politics: Of Blue Tits

Weather is gorgeous,
long holiday is nigh...

Add general laziness, and the makings of a not-bothered-by-politics are writ large. Politics, after all, is only there to right wrongs. In an ideal world you wouldn't need it. In an ideal world it would be a matter for historians. So, no politics today. Instead, let's imagine a perfect world. And enlist help of the three blue tits outside my window, busy figuring out the best match for the girl among them.

Sadly, normal service will resume shortly...

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Science: An Experiment

What would science be without experiments? Religion comes to mind, but let's leave that for a Sunday...

Today, in the second Science post I won't talk about any news item, scientific discovery, or any other thing you may have gotten used to here. No, I am going to announce a couple of things to do with this blog, one of them a public service announcement, the other an experiment. I hope that the latter will be a success, or at least not a complete flop, and the former, well, neither you nor I can really do anything about it. Even if we wanted to. Which I don't.

So, without further ado...

A public service announcement
I am off on a holiday. Yes, again. I guess my company spoils me this way - too much money, too much holiday, too little sense. Mine. Turns out the forecast for Barcelona (yes, that's where I'm off) is much, much worse than for South of England (which is where I'm enjoying looking out of window right now - sun, warmth, bird, bees, that sort). But, it is a holiday, so I am going to make sure I bloody well enjoy it, if for nothing else then for the fact I won't be around to be drowned in hyperventilating coverage of the Royal Wedding.

So, with this in mind, you'd be excused for suspecting I'll either post less, or just prepare a bunch of posts for Blogger to automatically publish at various times over the next week or so (yes, I have been guilty of that). But, you'd be surprised - and wrong.

Which is where the experiment comes in...

An Experiment
I've been toying with the idea for a while, but it is now that I have decided to take a plunge and try one of the myriad post-from-your-mobile applications. Sadly, I could find none which could enable me to reliably post in the format(s) I like and got used to (and you got used to and like, one hopes). So, it seems that the posts will have to be quite a simple affair of a title, and haphazardly formatted (if at all) text.


Not to mention that I will be on holiday (see above) so probably won't want to bother too much with either writing or thinking (much better to devote time to drinking - especially since thinking, as opposed to drinking, has never been a particular strength of mine).

So, there you have it: an experiment, if ever there was one. It probably isn't best conceived as it fiddles with at least two parameters (holiday and posting tool), but hey, it's still worth a try. After all if it works as well as I have hopes for it I will need to seriously consider doing more of it - both posting on the move and being on holiday.

And that can only be a good thing, no?

Science: Bittersweet

I almost wrote a longer post about this article in NY Times...


For one, a longer post here is long overdue (but life gets in the way of art sometimes - or more likely often). Then, when something hits Slashdot, and NY times, and is a Youtube hit, and purports to be a scientific (or at least public health) breakthrough it probably deserves a bit more attention than a news short. But then I read further into the article itself (I admit I did not bother watching the lecture it comments on) and realised that there isn't really much more to say about it than would fit in the post this (small) size. Everything seems to sum up nicely as: everybody knows and agrees that all sugars we eat end up metabolised by liver into fat (the fructose part of them anyway, but all have it so...); everybody knows and agrees that too much fat is bad for you, and also that overworking your liver isn't the wisest thing to do with sugar - or any other thing, like alcohol; ergo, everybody knows and agrees that too much sugar is bad for you.

So, why the fuss then?

To me at least it is obvious: Robert Lustig is a master of PR, and while probably genuinely concerned about public health, is also not averse to being in the limelight - and making truckloads of money in the process. Why else he'd go on the public stage and foam at the mouth about something everybody already knows, but chooses to discuss in less emotional terms (toxic, toxin). And what amazes me as well is how Gary Taubes of NY Times patiently uses (wastes?) thousands of words to make this a newsworthy topic. He starts with admitting he's a convert (from what? believing a ton of sugar a day is OK?), and also makes it clear that he also subscribes to the conspiracy theory of scientific community at large hushing up secret knowledge Robert Lustig now bravely shouts from the rooftops. But look, what I said above about everybody knowing all these things and agreeing on them already actually comes straight from the bulk of Taubes's article! His article is in fact a review of the sugar-science history and state-of-the-art - and it actually is an argument against Lustig's hysteria. Go figure. But I guess something has to sell NY Times, just as something has to create lecture invites for Robert Lustig. Sad, really.

And as for me, I'm going to sweeten this bitter pill for you by including a nice photo at the top...

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Food: Or Justice

An interesting article in the print edition of The Economist on relationship of food and justice...

It transpires that the statue of Justice, so familiar with her sword, scales, and blindfold, probably misses one final ingredient: a lunch box. Sadly, at least for the supposedly food related post, it doesn't seem that it is the blood sugar level which makes the Israeli judges turn down more and more parole requests the further away they are from their breakfast, brunch, and lunch respectively (the figures show that if your case is heard just before the latter two, you might not have bothered at all). Rather, the conclusion is that it's the fatigue of constant decision making that does it for the judges (or rather, the prisoners). But it seems that there is one effect that was not explored: in light of positive decisions, time to reach them, and number of words to explain them all seeing a significant drop just before meal breaks, I would like to offer an alternative, or at least aggravating, explanation. What if the knowledge of an upcoming break, possibly filled with tasty food, makes judges even more likely to rush their decisions, rather than the only reason being mental fatigue? After all, and as the article and the study point out, too, the judges are but human and us humans tend to rush a chore if it's to be followed by a juicy treat. The good news? British judges seem to have learned this lesson, and are thus keeping their hours extremely short, and lunches extremely long. A win-win if ever there was one.

And for poor Israelis? Well, just keep out of prison...

Monday, 18 April 2011

Bussines: You Messin' With Me?

As if it mattered any more, Oracle now wants to give OpenOffice back to the community...

Well, it may not matter any more for the community, as it is doing just fine, thank you very much, with LibreOffice and The Document Foundation. However, as it turns out, this whole mess will probably have a significant impact on Oracle's business itself. OpenOffice was one of the cornerstones of Oracle's ambitions in both productivity suites and cloud based services. Now, with all developers worth mention having jumped ship to LibreOffice this particular venture - at least its productivity suite part - has suddenly become untenable, or rather, too expensive for Oracle. Too expensive, because Oracle can no more rely on free (as in beer) work of independent developers. If it wants to press on on its own it would need to hire more of the in-house variety - which costs money. But worse, all the good will of both developers and users has shifted to LibreOffice so quickly and completely that I believe everyone was taken by surprise. It does seem that messing with beloved community projects like OpenOffice can only be done at the detriment of the proprietary vendor attempting it - as Oracle seems to have learned the hard way. Heck, even I felt obliged to donate to the initial fund of €50,000 for incorporating The Document Foundation in Germany!

And this mistake from the company with such a wise sounding name. Greed is really a horrible thing...

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Religion: Built On A Lie

And here I am, just like Jesus before me, trusting a woman above all others...

And why wouldn't I when she so obviously talks sense, and not just in the post linked to above. And not only that the account of the fate of the Gospel of Mary (and Thomas, and Philip, and Judas) is true - and well known to any who read their history from more than the Bible - but it also makes perfect sense when viewed through the acts and canons of the current Christian churches, starting with the Catholic and all down the line to any you care to think of. Not only they are content - and hell bent, to use that particular turn of phrase - on building their whole teaching on a blatant unscientific lie, but they also obviously don't even stop at forging their own brothers - and sisters - if it seems to threaten whoever happens to be in the driving seat at a prudent moment. And having lied for centuries to their own followers about the role and acts of the most important figure in their religion, one must ask how can those selfsame followers trust anything they're told. And yet they do.

A two thousand years long brainwashing conspiracy, if ever there was one...

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Technology: Yarn Power

German students are mounting (spinning?) a woollen anti-revolution...

Woollen not so much because it's soft and peaceful (although it is, for now) but rather because they are putting up anti-nuclear "posters" made of knit wool. Anti-revolution, of course, because they are protesting against one of the safest and cleanest ways of generating useful amounts of electricity today. If you yearn to see their yarn hope over to this post in The Economist. I'll warn you that it's not pretty. First, because I've seen much better knitting from much less motivated (or at least self-motivated) knitters. And then it's ugly because they are forcing the wool that has been pulled over their eyes over mine and yours, too. And sadly, on average, we see that your eyes quite easily allow for wool to be pulled over them. How else would media make obscene amount of money spinning their own tales of horror, where there is none? And I'll leave the question of what possible motive BBC has to do the same, and using  my (and your!) own money for some other occasion. Right now, I am more worried if the wool Germans are wasting on their protests is organic. Because if it is not, and their knitting needles are not sustainably farmed (they must be wooden - or else), then I think they are showing a very serious conflict of interest and are cheapening and invalidating their own message. For we all know that power to make metal for needles comes from electricity, and electricity in large part, especially in Europe, comes from nuclear power plants. Just ask the French, if you don't believe me.

So, kids, whence your needles, whence your wool?

Friday, 15 April 2011

Beer: Disgusting

No, I have not suddenly found my favourite beverage disgusting (and neither is Paddy Jr, pictured to your left on a trip to Brighton, the gay capital of Britain, a couple of years ago)...

Rather, I have been utterly disgusted by this story about a gay couple being kicked out of a London pub for kissing. Yes, kissing. And, while the owner of another pub (the owner of John Snow pub would not comment) tries to persuade us (and possibly himself, too) that he'd have done the same "whether they were gay, whether they were lesbians or whether they were heterosexuals" I don't believe him for a second, and so shouldn't you.

I mean, have you ever heard of a man and a woman being asked to leave premises after exchanging a kiss? And for that matter, even two girls would have probably gotten away with it. Oh, I am all for the rights of landlords to impose "house rules". I am the first one to support a safe and fun drinking environment. However, as everyone should know by now, there is a small matter of human rights, and that small matter trumps any other legal requirement. At least in European Union, and last time I checked Britain was a member, and a founding one, too.

Now, I want to believe that Samuel Smith's Old Brewery is not the one behind such "house rules". They run good many decent (and cheap!) pubs in London (and probably elsewhere - I haven't checked), and the ones I visited were always nice and well run, with no hint of bigotry or anything similar. So, I will place the full brunt of blame - and shame - on the landlord of John Snow pub, or whoever was in charge on the night of this incident. They do not deserve to run a pub or for that matter any other public facing establishment. It should also be indicative that BBC had to go all the way to Barnsley to find a landlord who would defend this sort of thing. Who also need to be named and shamed, and his pub given a wide berth.

So, here's the list of culprits, as I see it:

  1. Landlord  or manager of John Snow pub in London
  2. Daniel Griffiths, owner of Miner Rest pub in Barnsley
    (surely it's Miner's Rest? BBC? Mr Griffiths?)

I am glad to see that Mr Griffiths is only an "ex-president of the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations". Surely such a noble institution would not condone people who condone ghettos for people they don' like, since Mr Griffiths was quoted in the same BBC article saying the pair should have gone "where the matter is accepted". The matter being an otherwise (i.e. in heterosexuals) accepted practice of kissing one's partner in public.

Does Mr Griffiths also expect gay clubs to kick out heterosexuals who kiss their partners? Probably not, because I bet that in his view, people running such places are such perverts that nothing would shock them. Well, from personal experience, not only one can freely kiss one's heterosexual partner in a gay pub, but the owner of the one I have in mind would actually be rightfully shocked at people like Mr Griffiths and his ilk.

Finally, being set for a good beer-fuelled day out in London tomorrow, I know exactly where I will not be imbibing. And as for Mr Griffiths's little pub, well I haven't heard of either before today and will now make sure that I promptly forget I ever did hear of it, even if I ever find myself in Barnsley. Which is unlikely.

And Samuel Smiths - I'm watching you...

Beer: Porker

We've all heard about massaged beef, but beer-fed pork is a new one for me...

As the article explains, these porkers are fed a daily ration of beer, but also spent grain from breweries. Apparently, the meat is good enough to be served in area's best restaurants. Pigs are also fed other treats, such as fruit and veg. No wonder the farmer says: "It doesn’t do the pigs any harm at all. They are very happy animals." It would be difficult indeed for anyone to try and disprove this, seeing as the animals are guaranteed a steady supply of first class ales from "award winning" Liverpool Organic Brewery. Which very nicely brings me to the main point I wanted to make here: not only the pigs must be leading a happy, albeit a bit tipsy, lives, but their inevitable deaths must be a much happier event, too. I just wonder if, just before the hammer falls, they are allowed to get really plastered so they well and truly don't feel a thing. It may even make for an even tastier meat, deeply cured in good booze.

One thing is certain, though: I am now on the lookout for porter fed porkers...

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Politics: Vote YES

The Economist has a nice little piece about the AV campaign...

For those not in Blighty (and those who are, but have lived in a cave until today), AV is the Alternative Vote system, a rather difficult to explain in a sentence one, and one on which Britain will vote on 5 May this year. Difficult to explain, but I'll give it a go: you takes your voting ticket, you marks your choice(s) in order of perference - 1, 2, 3, ..., and you're done (you can still vote for just one candidate); should nobody have more than half of votes the second choices are counted, and so on. Well, maybe not so difficult to explain, but it is difficult to visualise potential outcomes. It also has its problems. One is notably forcing people to possibly tick some unpalatable boxes in order to avoid the most unpalatable ones. The other is, and that may make a lot of people averse to it, it actually requires voters to think. And we know that your average voter doesn't. Is this any better than what we have now, which is first-past-the-post. IMNHO, the answer is a resounding YES. But then I'm also weird in that I'd go straight to the fully proportional system where the whole Britain (or at least constituent countries) are treated as a single voting district. But then I'm also not opposed to coalition governments. But then I am originally from the Continent. But then...

But I'll but you no buts any more: just go vote on 5 May, and make sure you vote

YES

You know it makes sense...



Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Science: Of Money

Whenever you think Linux users are cheapskates, have a look here...

Did you have a little look? Did you bother to scroll down far enough to see this:


Of course, the majority of people buying the Humble Bundle come from the world of Windows. How could they not when they for a vast majority of computer owners. But note two things. One, the proportion of Mac and Linux users buying the Bundle is considerably higher than their proportion in the world of computer owners. One might even say by an order of magnitude. Secondly, and much more importantly, Linux users are prepared to pay much, much more (more than twice) for games they could have got for free, than their Mac and Windows counterparts. Cheapskates? I don't think so. That label surely is a better fit for Windows, and especially Mac users. The latter because their beloved kit and OS cost a lot more than humble (pun intended) PCs. Methinks there may in fact be a lot of money to be made from "free", and businesses should think long and hard about it.

And as for you, personally? Off you go, and buy the Humble Bundle. You can not only have fun playing the games, but can also choose to support some worthy charities. A win-win if ever there was one!

You're still here? Off with you now. The Humble Bundle is here...

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Food: For The Ignorant

Have a look at the title and the self-selected quote for a BBC article...
Second opinion 'saved tumour man'
A County Antrim man told by Belfast Health Trust that his brain tumour was inoperable, has had life-saving surgery in a private clinic in Dublin.
How many alarm bells do you hear ringing? Even without having to read the article itself I can point to at least two. The first one is in the title, of course, because it implies that people should not have to seek second opinions even in cases of serious illness being diagnosed, which in turn perpetuates the fallacy of medicine, lone among human endeavours, is totally error free and thus we only need go to the good witch doctor and all will be fine. The second problem is at the very end, implying that the only reason poor man was saved was because he went to a private clinic. One has to read the article itself, however, to learn that Mr Nelson was indeed offered second opinion from the NHS which he apparently refused in order to go privately. Which is fine, but does not a news article make. NHS also claimed that in Mr Nelson's case there is no proof surgery is effective, something I did not go and check on the interwebs, but something that I hope Mr Nelson will not discover himself to his detriment, even if he currently feels he benefited. But what he, and the BBC, forgets is that treatment success is a game of big numbers, and he might have just won the lottery. Which is not a bad thing, as long as the media do not try to make it into a par for the course.

So BBC, thanks for nothing. Reporting like this does not help anyone, not in the long run...

Monday, 11 April 2011

Business: In The Pay Of

It seems that Daily Mail has taken the film & music industries' shilling (via Slashdot)...

I can but wonder how much did it actually cost to hire the pen of Alex Brummer of Daily Mail. probably not much seeing as how cheap the rag for which he hacks is. Which, sadly, does not help prevent a large audience of chiefly under-educated Brits to feast on it on a daily basis. Saving grace probably being that not many shakers and movers follow this particular red-top, it is still worrying that aforementioned music and film industries still cannot wake up and smell the coffee, and thus woken up realise that Internet (or Google, or Napster, or BitTorrent, or...)  are not destroying any value per se, but are rather moving the goalposts and requiring businesses to change the way in which they realise their revenues. And while music and film industries may not survive this change of the rules of the game, it does not mean that music and film will disappear - or stop being a way for some to make a living (those some hopefully being authors themselves). So, instead of bemoaning a "license to steal" why don't you work on just a new end user license model that will feed all involved?

But then, that would be actual work and not stealing artists' futures...

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Religion: Who Do You Think You Are!

It seems that Catholic church is still fighting kicking and screaming being taken into the modern world...

Or, from another, slightly less confrontational, angle they seem to want to have their cake and eat it, too. Cake in this case being taxpayer money they receive in return for their (tax exempt!) properties being used in Australian elections. Which cake may even be declared as just fine (or at least not criminal), but the accompanying refusal to cater for all the legal parties who take part and may want (and are allowed by law!) to display their posters is criminal - and in more ways than one. And so even if we decide to discount their opposition to Sex Party's materials (remember, Sex Party is a legal and legitimate political party in Australia) we are left with a Greenpeace activist thrown out (together with his material) on the basis of "ideological differences". Ideological differences! The whole freakin' (to use a baby word) parliamentary democracy idea is based on different parties (and different people) having "ideological differences". Were it not for that we might as well live in an absolutist monarchy. But then, Catholic church is an absolutist monarchy, and it's little wonder they yearn for all their host countries to become thus. Criminal!

And to Australians: fight now, or forever lose your freedom(s)...

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Technology: Pictorial

As recently as a month ago we celebrated a thirtieth birthday...

While I remember that machine very much and on a very personal level, the one celebrating it's thirtieth this week, the Osborne I only ever met through magazines and word of mouth. Which is probably a good thing seeing how portable that particular portable was and me never being very much of a porter myself. However, I will admit to see it as one of the beautiful machines. If you don't believe me, or if you're simply too young to consider any machine to be A Thing Of Beauty, hop over to The Register and look at the pictorial of Osborne 1 and it's innards. And, I'd be remiss if I didn't draw your attention to page 4 with the wealth of 64KB of RAM memory build out of two-and-thirty 2KB chips. Of course, this is dwarfed by the main logic board with an amazing 107 chips in total.

Nothing more to say: hop over and feast your eyes...

PS
I may talk a bit about the Osborne effect some other time...

Friday, 8 April 2011

Beer: Of Gypsies

Just like the folks at Economist I will also de-emphasise the leader of this story...

Suffice it to say that I share the scepticism that the iconic "If Carlsberg did X" will be successfully replaced by "It calls for a Carlsberg" slogan. As a matter of fact the latter vaguely rings a bell, meaning it is not as new, fresh, and original as Carlsberg hopes. What really whet my appetite for writing about this article is the revelation it provided, the revelation of existence of itinerant, or so called "gypsy", brewers like the Mikkel Borg Bjergso. here in Blighty we are very much familiar with the concept of micro-breweries. Why, it has practically entered mainstream. But I must admit I have not yet heard of itinerant brewers. Which is sad. But now I have, I will endeavour to cross paths with some sooner rather than later. It is only to be hoped that they do more than lagers, which is what I suspect the continental variety mostly does. In any case, I am very much looking froward to my first gypsy beer!

And so should you...

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Politics: Cutting Too Deep

A beautiful example of the costs of taking things to an extreme...

Now, as you may or may not know, I am not too opposed to the current cuts being introduced by the British government. Too much has been spent too unwisely and since the whole ship has since hit the rocks and almost sunk now is as good a time as any to bail some water and fix the leaks. Of course, how much and how quickly is still open to debate, but I do lean on the best soonest side of it. However, one thing I hope will not happen again. It is horrible enough for it to have happened once (as far as we know), even if we are lucky that - in the grand scheme of things - the cost wasn't quite that high. Yes, I am talking about BBC spending almost 40 million in order to save less than 20. A scheme and a project worthy of the greatest of minds - of Monty Pythons!

So, yes please save my money, but not quite that much...

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Service Announcement: Pssst...

...it's my birthday. Happy birthday to me!

Science: Of Tabloids (And Numbers)

It is almost a shame I didn't run across this gem before posting the previous snippet...

On the other hand, I think I was lucky because - unlike poor hacks at El Reg - I do not have to browse The Sun, virtually or otherwise. No wonder professional journalists have such short life expectancies! But, on yet another hand, this story ties in quite nicely into my previous post, being such a blatant abuse of statistics and scientific method the like of which one can see rarely. That is, unless one is forced (or - shock, horror! - likes to) read the tabloids. Because, according to The Sun's in-house medical "expert" we should all base our opinions of Nintendo 3DS health effects - ill or otherwise - on a "scientific" study involving precisely one non-randomly (in other words hand-picked) subject, who by all accounts probably isn't a volunteer either - at least not in the sense of a proper scientific (as opposed to "scientific") experiment. And then, even if none of the above mattered, there's the point of the exercise, both the experiment and a games console. If gamers wanted to lower their heart rates and adrenalin levels they'd all be listening to whale-song while meditating about the Big Blue - and I don't mean the IBM.

Having said that, I have seen an ant in my back garden today - it must be an infestation! Run for the hills...

Science: Numbers Game

Will you a quiz for me today? Of course you will. Here goes then...

If you take a HIV blood test which is 99% accurate and the result comes positive (i.e. you are HIV positive), how likely are you to actually still be happily HIV negative assuming there is around 2% of people who actually are HIV positive (i.e. really positive, not just tested positive)? Of course, the reality is much brighter - provided you live in a place like US which has incidence of HIV positive people between 0.2 and 0.4%. Sadly, if you live in sub-Saharan Africa you may be looking at double digits. But anyway... I've given you enough time to work out the original problem now, so out with the answers! And no, it is not 99%. You may well be surprised that the answer is 33.1%. If you don't believe me the good people at Intuitor have worked it out for you. Just hop over there and have a look. It even has pictures. In colour, too. So, now that you (hopefully) believe me (and them) what should you do if you want an HIV test? Is it still worth doing? Of course it is. What you need to do if you tested positive is to repeat it, and if you want to be really sure, repeat it again. Every time you do that you slash your likelihood of a false positive considerably.

So, as you hopefully now realise, not everything is as it seems, but science wins every time...

PS
Some assumptions made above: you do not belong to a known high risk group (e.g. intravenous drug user, having unprotected sex with a stranger), and that probability of false positive is the same as the probability of the false negative. The former considerably decreases probability of a false positive as the incidence grows from 2% to something much, much higher. The latter not so much because the difference in probabilities is usually not too great. Either way, if you know the incidence rates in your group and more details about the test procedure, you just plug different numbers into Intuitor calculation, and Bob's your Uncle. However, the result you get is very, very unlikely to be the headline 99%...

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Food: Devoured

I have absolutely nothing to say about food today...

However, I do have an awful lot to say about other things. Only, I am too busy these days to write much, and since writing here still cannot support my idle time I prioritise reading. Which is food for thought so you do get a (very) tentative link to a topic you may have expected today. So then, what has been feeding my thought recently? Frankly, it seems I have also been on a literary diet. The Lazy Project Manager left me as cold as a cucumber. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin tastes like a local cuisine that the natives cherish but foreigners find an interesting diversion even if a little bland. There is however a literary (and it is literary!) piece that I have been devouring for the last couple of days that you won't find in my reading list. This is - and if you haven't seen it yet rush there now and I won't take it against you if you don't come back for a week or two - a wonderful, and wonderfully clever, blog of The Honest Courtesan. I won't spoil it for you hear. It has to be read to be appreciated. And appreciation is what it deserves - at the very least.

So, off you go now and hop over to The Honest Courtesan to learn something...

PS
I almost left you without plugging my own piece along the same lines even if it is much, much poorer than what you'll find with Maggie. But I just couldn't resists. Because, just like you probably are, Ich Bin ein Hure...

Monday, 4 April 2011

Business: Customer Is Always Right

Flipping the virtual pages today, the following caught my mind...

No, I am not going to bother you (again) with a tract on how prostitution is just like any other business. For one, I've done that already (at least once), and two, I just want to share the first hand account on why, exactly, very little businesses accept American Express cards (or as The Honest Courtesan points out at least was the reason until a few years ago). No need to trust my word on it, here's the relevant quote:
Have you ever wondered why so few businesses accept the American Express card? It’s partly because though they don’t advertise it, Amex has a policy (or at least had; it may have changed in recent years) that basically made it impossible for a merchant to foil a chargeback if the customer was persistent enough.
For the rest, and much, much more wise and useful words, you could do much, much worse than spending some serious time listening to the nice lady. And to American Express:

Customers do like to be always right, but then they also want to see a service is actually available to them...

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Religion: Hangover

No, I am not referring to any sort of religious hangover...

Even if I could argue that religion in this day and age is just a hangover from the more ignorant times (and yes, I have read Religion Explained, and carefully - and I understood what I read) I won't. At least not today. I am too much troubled by a real hangover, and that's what the post title is all about. After all, you can't party all night without paying for it. So, no real zeal today to rant about religion. It'll have to wait for a better time. But in case you still need your radical atheism fix for today, I am sure that folks at Atheist News will be more than happy to oblige.

Over to you boys and girls...

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Technology: Of Birthdays

It's a certain someone's big birthday today, and an even bigger party is nigh...

And what exactly any of this has to do with technology, you may be excused for asking me, yourself, both, or neither. Well, isn't it obvious? Absolutely nothing! We don't need no educationtechnology in order to have birthdays. Or births, for that matter. And there's not birthdays without births. Right? Right. Only, without technology there'd be less births, and consequently less birthdays. Which would be a bad thing. Right? Right. And if you need to ask, at least according to the delectably challenging book More Sex is Safer Sex, we'd all be better off if people had more, rather than less, babies. And more sex, of course. Regardless of whether it would result in any births. Which is almost beside the point here. What then, is the point? The point is, there's a couple of very dear people who couldn't partake in today's celebrations because they're about to entrust their future as parents to technology. Which leaves me only one more thing to say, here and now:

All the best of luck friends! You know who you are...

Friday, 1 April 2011

Beer: April's Fools Edition

Unlike politics, beer is far from moot when one is on holiday...

As one still is, and it also happens to be April's Fools day, I've decided to break away from all the fun and games and tell you about some good beer. Only, sadly - very sadly, there really is none to be found in these parts. It's lager, lager, lager, as far as the eye can see, and as far as you may be prepared to walk to find some. Not really surprising as it is plum brandy that has made the region (in)famous. Unfortunately, the stuff is too strong and not really refreshing especially if you'd like a drink for the long run. And on holiday, it will always be the long run. So, is there anything that can be done? No, not really, apart from repeating the following mantra:

Patience, young grasshopper...