Why is There Peace? — violence is declining, over history, at least in relative terms, though not, one suspects, absolute ones.
This morning, my Dad opened an exhibition in the museum in my home town, of ninety photos taken by my great-grandfather, found (on glass plates) when Dad retired, and recently restored by him via digital photography. Here’s an article on the BBC, including an audio interview with Dad, in which (I think) he sounds fab. Rich voice, Terrence!
The Guardian have published video footage of Ian Tomlinson, a bystander caught up in last week’s G20 protests in London, being struck from behind in the leg with a baton and pushed to the ground by a police officer as he walked away peacably with his hands in his pockets. He died of a heart attack a little while later.
It becomes clearer that the purpose of riot police is not only to protect the public at large by controlling riots, but also to protect the status quo by discouraging dissent and protest — if you know that even protesting peacefully (or being in the area of a protest but not participating, as in Tomlinson’s case) you are at risk of unprovoked attack by armed, armoured and aggressive large males, you will tend to be discouraged from doing so. I know I am. :-/
The bin purge continues: Strength in weakness: judo design. Alan’s a clever and interesting fellow.
Years ago I also read about a programme to strengthen bridges as lorries got heavier. The old arch bridges had an infill of loose rubble, so the engineers simply replaced this with concrete. In a short time the bridges began to fall down. When analysed more deeply the reason become clear. When an area of the loose infill looses strength, it gives a little, so the strain on it is relieved and the areas around take the strain instead. However, the concrete is unyielding and instead the weakest point takes more and more strain until eventually cracks form and the bridge collapses. Twisted ropes work on the same principle.
We tried to imagine the parties. Given that this was 75 miles from town, many of the evenings must have been sleepovers. The questions culminated in someone asking if Junior ever married. When the answer came back no, someone in our group shouted “bingo!” Our poor guide put her hand to her face as if this was all too much.
Malc’s coat recommendations — had this link lying around for a while, and it’s about time I archived it here.
One of the best books I’ve read in the last few years was Collapse by Jared Diamond. It’s meaty, well researched, well argued, systematic, fascinating, and fairly terrifying (though with the possibility of hope, at least).
In this 20 minute video, Diamond pretty much summarises the whole book. If you think it’s something you might want to read, watch the vid, because everything he talks about is explored in much more depth in the book — and all the book’s major themes are touched upon.
Good Math, Bad Math has a nice post today drawing a distinction between Social Security and Ponzi Schemes; some interesting discussion in the comments, too – always good to see Life of Brian brought into the fray. :-)
As I’ve been saying for a few years now, there’s no such thing as Fair-Trade cocaine; this may, of course, be freely construed as an argument for legalisation or for greater sanctions, according to your prevailing political worldview.
Bash had her iPhone stolen yesterday, in a rather ugly-sounding scam — and then wrote an eloquent and reflective blog post about it. Kudos.
An interview with Marcus du Sautoy from last Monday’s G2 — which I’ve only just got round to reading. Pleasant.
“You know, I’m not terribly fast at my times tables, because that’s not what I think mathematics is about. I think it’s the same thing as thinking that a good speller will make a great writer. Well, no, actually – great writers can be crap at spelling, but have great vision and ways of bringing stories alive – and I think you’ve got to put over that mathematics is a similar idea.”
Sadly, I think he’s wrong that “nobody’s going to question” that there are infinitely many primes, despite the existence of a simple proof (woo Euclid!): I’m pretty sure I’ve seen crackpot pages on the web asserting that the whole thing’s part of a big conspiracy. Yes, of course they’re nonsensical crackpots who should be ignored, but when did that ever shut anyone up? (Eh, Dawkins!? Eh!? ;-) )
Schneier on terrorist motivation, positing that it’s less about achieving political ends, and more about being part of a social structure [brunns]. Sounds quite reasonable. I was struck a bit by this sentence:
We also need to pay more attention to the socially marginalized than to the politically downtrodden, like unassimilated communities in Western countries.
Now, I won’t argue with that, except: aren’t they often the same people?
In other news, I hear the American electorate did something right yesterday (or to put it another way…); unfortunately, at time of writing it remains unclear whether Californian voters have dropped the ball and approved Proposition 8. Sadly, it looks like they have, and Stephen Fry claims they have, but I suspect he’s responding to polls not actual results, as the latter don’t seem to have be announced yet. OTOH maybe there’s something about being a British National Treasure in the middle of nowhere in Madagascar that gives you prophetic powers. It’s looking like an increasingly near thing, so there’s hope yet.
A nice interview discussing various aspects of the history and philosophy of Haskell. SPJ sees purity, monads, and type classes as Haskell’s key aspects, and mentions a number of interesting other ideas along the way (along with uniqueness typing as seen in Clean, and functional reactive animation, which I first came across back when I was investigating music in Haskell).
I’ve just realised that the title of that previous post should have been “Two guys, one dinosaur cup”. Ah well.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been wondering when and indeed whether those noted culinary swashbucklers Dave & Zac would return with more great recipes for us to try out.
Wait no longer, dear friends. The final two installments are here! We have high-tech Gourmet Chocolate Pancakes and surely the pinnacle of their joint works, yes it’s Sausage Croissants. Mmmm, mmmmmm, that is a tasty croissant.
Take one-time Gimbo tutee and long-time beard user DaveA, and one handsome stranger from outta town goes by the name of Zac, some beer and some Jaegermeister, whisk them together briskly in a kitchen in Helsinki and you’ve got what we in the 1970s American sitcom business call a recipe for laughter. Oh yes.
Update 2008-09-15: they have a website!
Update 2008-10-01: two more recipes!
Surreal… This page, explaining why “Andy” is a better abbreviation of “Andrew” than “Drew” includes this picture (taken by by Markus) of me pulling one weird-ass face — apparently that’s some good Andy! If I recall correctly, I was listening to Yoshinao Isobe explain his encoding of one of the models of CSP in Isabelle/HOL. That kind of thing will tend to induce face pulling, mind.
Andys rule. Andys play bass and trombone and some of us even play bass trombone. Andys are good with their hands. Andys will make fun of people but no one will care because everyone knows an Andy is just being an Andy and not out to hurt anyone. An Andy will send you flowers just because.
Andys will date your sister and marry her.
I can’t really fault his logic. Partially because there isn’t any, but also because it’s all true.
Nice vid, Dan. :-)
Yet people talk about programming as if it were a production process and measure “programmer productivity” in terms of “number of lines of code produced”. In so doing they book that number on the wrong side of the ledger: we should always refer to “the number of lines of code spent”.
Dijkstra, The Fruits of Misunderstanding, and also a similar sentiment (earlier) in “Why is Software so Expensive?” An Explanation to the Hardware Designer — quote spotted on reddit.
… and from the second (first, chronologically) of those essays, Dijkstra hitting the nail on the head with regard to aspects of some recent rumblings about higher education:
To the economic question “Why is software so expensive?” the equally economic answer could be “Because it is tried with cheap labour.” Why is it tried that way? Because its intrinsic difficulties are widely and grossly underestimated.
To any of my students reading this: don’t underestimate the difficulty of the tasks we’ve been educating you to tackle; thus, don’t underestimate your worth if you get good at attacking those tasks; thus, hopefully you’ll appreciate (if not now then one day) the value of a degree in (actual, not pretend) Computer Science.
My my, I’ve had a busy (by which I mean fun and not working at all) and sociable (by which I mean much ale and good food, including bananas, was quaffed with silly people) weekend.
It started on Thursday evening, when a whole bunch of us went out to celebrate my birthday at Wasabi, my most beloved local eatery. I mean we celebrated at Wasabi, not it was my “Wasabi birthday” or something. Anyway. Through a combination of the magic of Facebook and the strong appeal of sushi, some forty people chose to celebrate Gimboday with me. I actually turned up a few minutes late, having gone for a quiet pre-meal beer at the Uplands Tavern, and was a) gobsmacked at this crowd of people waiting for me, and b) without somewhere to sit. Oh, it was great. The food was super, although Wasabi really doesn’t seem able to handle large groups: we were split across two tables, and it’s not a gross overstatement to say that everyone on table 2 (which I was on) had received all of their food before anyone on table 1 had received any. Given that by its nature Japanese food tends to come in many small portions (just like Arnold J Rimmer’s love), that really doesn’t make any sense, and must have been hugely frustrating for the denizens of table 1. Anyway, everyone was lovely and I really must log on to Facebook and thank them all for coming more coherently than I managed to in the speech I vaguely remember making. If I tell you I got everyone’s attention for the speech by clanging together my (empty) sake flask and (empty) sake cup, you’ll get the idea. A few of us topped the night off at Mozart’s for good measure. Apparently. Photos here.
Friday was, by comparison, very quiet. I tried not to make too much noise, or be anywhere too noisy, all day. I’d like to say I enjoyed two episodes of BSG with Bash on the sofa in the evening, but in truth only one could be enjoyed, the other being an insult to all intelligent beings. Tedious predictable cliched crud, alas.
Saturday was banana day. There’s a photo of me on the cover of Mondays’ Evening Post, next to the headline “WORST CHILD PORN EVER”, so that’s nice.
Saturday night was the annual SUCS beach party, and it was the biggest yet. Despite thunder and heavy showers (and even a spot of hail) earlier in the day, it was a fine fine evening, and a beautiful morning when the sun arose “sticking her rays all over the place” as Dave delightfully put it. I may possibly have had a few ales as the night progressed, it’s really impossible to say. I certainly laughed a lot.
The highlight of the night was noticing a bunch of third years playing a drinking game based on my name. Well, to be fair I think they’d adapted a “bingo” drinking game, but anyway. The object of the game was to spell the word “GIMBO” by shouting out its letters one at a time, but if two or more people shout the same letter simultaneously, they have to take a drink. I noticed them shouting “G! I! M!M! Fuck! G! I!I! Fuck! G! I! M!” at which point I jumped in (literally, splatto on the sand) and shouted “B! O!” to cheers and a rousing cry of “And Gimbo was his name-oh!”. Probably one of the happiest moments of my life.
If anyone can remind of the context which gave rise to the following 8AM tweet, I’d be grateful:
Wondering why no-one calls their firstborn “Gimbowang”. Why do you all continue to defy me?
The weekend was rounded off beautifully by spending Sunday with my new friend Sioned, a fellow drummer, ending with a visit to Arthur’s Stone and The Greyhound for dinner. Awesome X.
At King Arthur’s Stone, seeing for miles, hearing nothing but tweets and bleats – lush. Next stop: The Greyhound!
another tweet, 7:20pm
“People who wear suits to work in Manhattan are the biggest god-damned dicks you’ll find anywhere.”
(Answer: because it plays into my prejudices. :-) )
Upsides of being down — the positive side of depression.
Having spent most of 2006 and 2007 going through this myself, I can, I think, agree. It was unutterably awful, the worst experience of my life bar none (happily, both my parents are still alive) and I would not choose to repeat it but on the other hand, on the other hand, I am, somehow, improved, I think. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say more resilient but yeah, with a better perspective, less rose tints (but also no yawning chasms of nihilism), and a bit more serious. But don’t worry: not too much more.
To explain why depression has not been “bred out” through Darwinian natural selection, theories have suggested that rather than being a defect, depression could be a defence against the chronic stress that misguided people can put themselves under. It is possible that depression defends us against the tendency to deny our true needs by chasing unobtainable goals and helps to bring these needs into sharper focus. More specifically, the proposed benefits are as follows: removal from a stressful situation, introspection, problem solving, the development of a new perspective, and reintegrating this with the community upon recovery.
On a related but geeky note, it’s very annoying that the otherwise excellent Guardian Unlimited fails (yes, epic) when it comes to search. Go to the front page and search for “upsides of being down”, the title of this article. It’s a hit but you have scroll down a long way to see it; google, on the other hand have it right at the top, on the day it was published — damn, they good! So come on, Simon, sort it out. ;-)
… and have done for five years.
Waiting: A Necessary Part of Life — Don Norman on buffers. I think this has possibly the best first sentence of anything I’ve ever read, ever:
Just as dirt collects in crevices, buffers collect in the interfaces between systems.
I’m impressed by the breadth of this. I like the idea that “interface” is a general and fundamental enough concept that the problems we see, and the mental models/tools for thinking about/solving them are essentially similar whether we’re talking about device usability, protocol design, or soft squidgy stuff involving only meat entities.
Problems arise at interface, any interface, be it person and machine, person and person, or organizational unit and organizational unit. Any place where two different entities interact is an interface, and this is where confusions arise, where conflicting assumptions are born and nourished, where synchronization difficulties proliferate as queues form and mismatched entities struggle to engage.
To the analyst, such as me, interfaces are where the fun lies. Interfaces between people, people and machines, machines and machines, people and organizations. Anytime one system or set of activities abuts another, there must be an interface. Interfaces are where problems arise, where miscommunications and conflicting assumptions collide. Mismatched anything: schedules, commuinication protocols, cultures, conventions, impedances, coding schemes, nomenclature, procedures. it is a designer’s heaven and the practitioners hell. And it is where I prefer to be.
Also worth a read: A Fetish for Numbers: Hospital Care.
Reading and listening to Long Now stuff has given me an (at its most optimistic) more skeptical and (at its most pessimistic) more long term non-human-centric view of stories like this, but it’s nonetheless food for thought (excuse the pun): Financial Times: impending food crisis? [i-r-squared via jreighley, randomly via twitter].
Hard red wheat is limit up again (i think thats 9 days out of 11) and is at $19.80 a bushel. When it broke $6 a bushel last summer that was an all time high.
A WFP official, for example, recently showed me the red plastic cup that is used to dole out daily rations to starving Africans â€“ and then explained, in graphically moving terms, that this vessel is typically now only being filled by two-thirds each day, because food prices are rising faster than the WFP budget.
But it’s this that really caught my eye:
Darren Nixon had been waiting at a bus stop in Stoke-on-Trent on his way home from work when a woman saw him reach into his pocket and take out a black Phillips MP3 player. The woman thought it was a pistol and called 999.
Police tracked 28-year-old Nixon using CCTV, sending three cars to follow him. When he got off the bus, armed officers surrounded him. He was driven to a police station, kept in a cell and had his fingerprints, photograph and DNA taken.
The Liberal Democrats, who are campaigning to have the DNA records of innocent people destroyed, said the national DNA database now held more than 3m records kept for life, an estimated 125,000 of which belong to people who were neither cautioned or charged.
Slowing down — awesome video.
New York-based performance art collective Improv Everywhere showcases their latest project, â€œFrozen Grand Centralâ€, which mischievously targeted victims of the Big Appleâ€™s notoriously short now.
I delivered my first lecture, for CS-228 Operating Systems, 5 years ago yesterday. Today, TR delivered his first lecture — for, er, CS-228 Operating Systems. I’m sure he’ll do it very well, and certainly better than I, as he is both more informed and opinionated on that topic than I am. Well, on all topics, really… ;-) Welcome to the club, TR!
LMAO @ the Guiliani visualisation on Defective Yeti’s analysis of the current state of the US presidential contest. I must say, I’m glad to see him out.
Once you get into flow it’s not too hard to keep going. Many of my days go like this: (1) get into work (2) check email, read the web, etc. (3) decide that I might as well have lunch before getting to work (4) get back from lunch (5) check email, read the web, etc. (6) finally decide that I’ve got to get started (7) check email, read the web, etc. (8) decide again that I really have to get started (9) launch the damn editor and (10) write code nonstop until I don’t realize that it’s already 7:30 pm.
Glad it’s not just me, then.
So: humans may be capable of cold startling beauty but so too the sea.
Both via [ffffound], spamming my RSS with notable pixels.
I think this is probably the most valuable and worthwhile thing I’ve ever posted on Gimboland. Totally worth making it to the end.
Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch, who is dying from pancreatic cancer, gave his last lecture at the university Sept. 18, 2007, before a packed McConomy Auditorium. In his moving talk, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” Pausch talked about his lessons learned and gave advice to students on how to achieve their own career and personal goals.
Earlier this evening I went to a great lecture by Tony Sale, on “Code Breaking in World War 2″.
He discussed Enigma, and how it was broken, then the Lorenz cipher/machine, and how that was broken, and then the Colossus, leading to the Colossus rebuild project. He should know about this stuff: he started the project.
I took some notes if anyone is interested [PDF, 76Kb] (naturally, these are rough notes, may contain errors, are my own, etc.). You might also want to check out codesandciphers.org.uk which includes a virtual Colossus.
Kinda like a fundy bash.org: 100 greatest quotes from fundamentalist Christian chat rooms — well worth a look if you want to experience the feeling of not knowing whether to laugh or cry [pixi].
Gravity: Doesn’t exist. If items of mass had any impact of others, then mountains should have people orbiting them.
You are banned. You are not a Christian for Christians don’t accuse brothers and sisters in Christ of being non-Christian.
Make sure your answer uses Scripture, not logic.
Deoxyribonucleic Acid, for example… sounds impressive, right? But have you ever seen what happens if you put something in acid? It dissolves! If we had all this acid in our cells, we’d all dissolve! So much for the Theory of Evolution, Check MATE!
Caveat: this post mocks idiots, not Christians; in no sense do I assert that either set is a subset of the other.
At the end of Shu, what she sees is nothing but the rules — everything looks like the rules. At the end of Ha, what she sees is nothing like the rules. At the end of Ri, she doesn’t see but work with her mind.
David Byrne’s Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists, including audio snippets of him in conversation (somewhere very tasty sounding) with Brian Eno (and others).
David Byrne and Thom Yorke on the Real Value of Music. Gosh, don’t “Radiohead’s Oxford offices” look rather tasty, too…?
(Aside: grrrr at having to click a stupid “full page” icon to get the full versions of those stories rather than one page at a time. The web is not paper!)
Sigh… Surely not another “gosh, haven’t I been quiet lately” post? Well, yes. These always give me the same feeling as phoning my parents when I should have phoned them a week ago, replying to messages that have got buried at the top of my inbox (ha! buried at the top!), and seeing Rich at Christmas for the first time in Jesus was it over a year? Actually no, that didn’t feel guilty and crap, just good to see him again. Anyway…
It’s partially because of Facebook, and a recent tendency to post stuff there instead of here. Of course, the sensible thing to do is post it here and then post a link to that on Facebook. So that’s what I’m going to do from now on.
Of late, I’d say it’s increasingly been because I’ve started fairly enthusiastically using lovely ickle super microbloggy Twitter, with its lovely 140 character limit that gets me burning on my SMS-honed character-saving neurons, oh such joy. Actually it’s really great, especially the text message integration… I realise I could probably post to this (WordPress) blog by SMS if I was willing to jump through enough hoops, sacrifice a goat, set my penis on fire, etc. but frankly life’s too short and fire hurts. With Twitter someone else has taken care of making it work, and all of a sardine I can “blog” from anywhere. (Yeah, I know you can with Facebook too but I dunno, I’m still somewhat and actually increasingly ambivalent about the closedness of that particular community.) Getting tweety updates of what everyone else is up to is super fun too. It’s quite random, in fact: at some point, and for no reason I have been able to discern other than that I am cool and handsome, a Danish girl called Nina started following my tweets. Naturally I reciprocated, leading to the somewhat surreal experience, around New Year’s, of every now and then over the course of her 4-day bender, getting little snippets of the Edingburgh hogmanay experience (I infer that her bloke, “the imported alien” hails from thereabouts, also by his reported sporting of a kilt in Copenhagen on Christmas Day). All very odd, but also strangely encouraging for the future of the humanity.
So, yeah; Twitter: it’s jolly good. What I need to do now is find a satisfactory way of integrating it here (work in progress). Probably I’ll just arrange for every tweet to appear as a blog post, though that might annoy anyone who follows me both on Twitter and via the Gimboland RSS. The vain fools.
My other big occupation of late has been my thesis. I have about another month or so to complete it (ie completely). The word count limit for an MPhil at Swansea is 60,000 – this doesn’t look like it’s going to be a problem as mine is currently around 23,000, but it’s hard to tell with LaTeX, particular given the large amount of mathematical notation in chapter 11. Probably it’s even less… Picking another dimension to measure, it’s 93 pages long; I expect it’ll be about 120 to 130 by the time I finish, so you can see there’s still a chunk to do. Still, I’ve been working on this project for two and a half years now, and researching in the area for four, so I must say it’s a real pleasure to finally see some chapters which feel complete and well written, and to have the feeling that I might actually know and have done something. It’s also of course warm and fuzzies that the end is in sight, certainly with a telescope and possibly with binoculars. Every now and then I get a hint of the feeling of a future in which I have a Masters degree (hopefully not being too presumptuous), all smug and validated. I could do with a bit of that…
Finally, I’d just like to mention that I started using Google Reader for my RSS needs today, having got annoyed with trying to run and synchronise two slightly different versions of Liferea on my laptop and work box. Screw it, life is (again) too short. Con: it doesn’t seem to do HTTP authentication, which makes Basecamp feeds out of scope. Pro: what happens when you hit “?” and how pretty that looks. Main pro: declaring “newsfreed bankruptcy” and starting again. Ah, the fresh winds of change!
Water! From the skies! – Armstrong & Miller comedy gold on Youtube.
I used to love Armstrong & Miller — hit and miss, for sure, but when it hit it hit well. If you ask me what the funniest thing I’ve ever seen was, I’d tell you it was a sketch of theirs involving an undercooked steak, some surly chefs, and a remote-controlled car. Haven’t found it online yet, and in a way I hope I never do because it’ll be bound to be a disappointment now, but oh, the memory…
Bash cut her hair today. Photos (mainly by me) here.
(Photos of the Circles of Sound gig should be forthcoming soonish, but she’s got about 500 to wade through – ’twas a good night!)
Find your own pose!
Fantastic quiz, particularly question 3. Evany still rules, I’m happy to say.
No blogging for ages because: lots of work, nobody cares anyway, and the devil that is Facebook. Have re-established contact with many many old friends, and made the somewhat disquieting discovery that most (but – yay – not all) of the girls I used to fancy have settled down and started making babies. The life, she goes on.
Back in June 2003 I blogged about the truly wonderful Roy Orbison In Clingfilm stories – if you haven’t seen these yet I highly recommend a visit. Anyway, I’ve just noticed, returning for a long-overdue refresher, that there’s now also an interview with the author which is also not to be missed.
I am not aware of anyone seeing it as humour. I venture the occasional joke or puckish remark in my work as relief from the sensuality and romantic lyricism, and if people laugh that is nice, but I do not think my fans would class me as a humorist in the way that you would, say, Dan Brown.
I remember I read an interview with Gunter Grass just before my tome was delivered to the printers, and he talked of his forthcoming book and said that it was the best thing he had ever written, and I thought Oh no! Gunter Grass has had the idea to write a book on Roy in Clingfilm too! I will only be the Buzz Aldrin of this genre. And I can laugh with relief now as his book turned out to be some boring thing about the Nazis, but at the time this obsessed me, and I considered examining his dustbins and so forth to find out. Perhaps I should not admit this but I actually rang his agent of literature and pretended to be a reporter and asked ‘May I enquire, who are Herr Grass’s favourite musicians?’ but he only mentioned people like Rush and Hawkwind so I knew it was OK.
(If you can’t be bothered to read all the of the following, just watch this video and know that I Was There…)
At 5pm yesterday, I left Swansea in the company of eight excellent people. Around 10pm, we arrived at the car park at Stonehenge, and set up our tents. Around 11pm, I stood before the stones and took a deep breath, before walking among them, touching them, looking, wondering (and weaving my way through a tight-packed throng of revellers). Around 4:50am, along with about 24,000 other weirdos, I looked to the sunrise but alas, ’twas hidden in clouds. Around 6am, I was in the tent, being horizontal; around 10am, I was up and about, rejuvenated and ready for the drive home; around noon, we left. Around 5pm I was waving madly at ex-students from the passenger window of a mini on the M4, much to their amusement. Around 7, I got home and made the cats happy through the magic of food.
26 of the most pleasant hours I have ever spent, I must say. The only thing missing was Bash, which is an excellent excuse for going again next year.
I’d never been to Stonehenge before at all, and I am incredibly grateful to my parents for never taking me, because this was the best first visit I can imagine. Ordinarily, it’s impossible to get right up to the stones (see google maps – those greayish dots trailing around the stones are disappointed tourists), but for the solstice it’s open and free – all praise English Heritage. It was so good to be able to walk right up to this incredible site without restriction, and I recommend a solstice visit if only for this purpose. Word to the wise, however: if weirdos bother you, arrive early, touch the stones, and don’t stay past sunset.
Cos yep, it’s gotta be said: the place was full of weirdos. I was happy to be one of them, but definitely on the normal side, alas. Much nonsense was spoken, but I was particularly amused by: “Emergency! Emergency! Glowstick breakage on the western stone!”, “If you’re not drinking ginger wine you don’t really exist – it’s a quantum thing.”, and “Your hat would be no good for Burning Man: they’d run you out of town. No, they’d fire-poi you out of town.”
BBC coverage here – though I’m sure most of the crowd didn’t get up early: they stayed up late. :-) “It’s bad lovin’, woo hoo, it’s bad lovin’!”
It was a clear night with stratocumulus scudding in from the south just in time to sprinkle us with a couple of light showers and obscure the sunrise – given the rain lately, we were more than grateful for the weather. I certainly didn’t mind not seeing the sun actually break the horizon: I was there for the night, not for the moment. It was a bit chilly around 3am, but I was kept super snug (and thus smug) by my birthday present from Bash and my parents: a shiny new Montane Extreme Smock, as recommended by intrepid Mountain Rescue types. All hail.
Interesting: 5000 more people than last year, but 1000 less cars. Only four arrests.
Photos will follow.
Two weeks ago, we spent the weekend in London, to attend a civil partnership ceremony (I call it a wedding as, I’m sure, would the happy couple) and a house-warming. The wedding was on Friday morning, so (after giving up on trying to find reasonable rail tickets) we drove up Thursday night and stayed with Jason & Sid, whose party was on Saturday. The wedding was lovely: Robin & Oliver, South-African compadres of Bash’s who came to ours (front row/right in this photo), so we were very happy to return the honour. :-) They made a lovely couple, and the ceremony was very touching. The wedding took place at Old Marylebone Town Hall (“Reception Room”) – a very nice venue, with lovely officers (though marginally and amusingly haphazard a couple of times), followed by reception at The Groucho Club. I shudder to think how much it cost them, but the food and wine were both delicious and copious. No, we didn’t see anyone famous. :-)
We milled around Wimbledon on Saturday, wombling on the common and browsing expensive charity shops. In the evening, the house-warming party… Continuing the geeky tradition begun at New Year, some of us did some programming: this time on the classic Amstrad CPC-464 at the top of the stairs (Jason is Very Retro). This being a bit old and light to run a python interpreter, Jason and I knocked up a simple BASIC program to print “Welcome to Jason & Sid’s party” at a random place on the screen every 5 seconds. We even had to RTFM.
It wasn’t all geekery, of course: evidence here. My choice cuts follow.
Jenny had a mouthful of Carillon gueuze â€“ one of the most exalted blends â€“ at a bar on Friday lunchtime, and she looked at me in horror. “I suppose it’s meant to taste like that,” she said. “Yep,” I replied. “It’s not for me,” she said. I took a sip. I could see exactly what she meant. It was like an wildly unsuccessful stab at a Lithuanian salad dressing. But… I had to keep ordering gueuze, where’er we went.
Wtf? Warrant issued for Richard Gere’s arrest in India following public kissing. Kissing on the cheek, mind you. An “obscene act”, apparently – it’s official!
Public displays of affection are still largely taboo in India, and protestors in Mumbai (Bombay) set fire to effigies of Gere following the incident.
Wtf? They burnt effigies of him? For a bit I wondered if the anger was directed solely at him. Apparently not.
… while protesters in other cities shouted “death to Shilpa Shetty”.
Here we have actual human beings, calling for the deaths of other actual human beings, because they kissed in public? Ye gods and little children, will the insanity of men never cease?
From Bash, a great portrait of my father and I:
… and from Gimbo, three pictures of our cats:
Bonus from Bash, just ‘cos it made me say “wow”:
A name I’ve come across in my work on hets is Grothendieck. In a great example of Wikipedia cascade, someone on #haskell this morning mentioned the programming language Joy (which looks pretty cool), which led to the page on monoids, which led to the page on Grothendieck groups, which led to the page on Grothendieck himself, who a) also looks cool, and b) “gave lectures on category theory in the forests surrounding Hanoi while the city was being bombed, to protest against the Vietnam war”. Respect.
The Reason for Blogging, or rather Josef Svenningsson‘s reason for blogging – but I agree with what he says. In fact, I was only reading that post because he had commented on an earlier post of mine – a post which someone (ooh, dons)has submitted to programming.reddit.com and which was hence received some attention. As such, the following particularly resonated:
But then, why do I blog, as opposed to just writing on a piece of paper? The reason for me is that the possibility that someone might read what I write helps me write. Blogging means that I have an (at least potential) audience which I can target my writing towards. This (perhaps imaginary) audience is very important for me, I wouldn’t be able to write without it. I simply can’t motivate myself to write only for my own sake.
Absolutely. That post of mine about sections started with me just playing around for my own sake, investigating something interesting I’d just come across for the first time. I like to make notes (my memory is lamentably poor), and a blog is a nice way to do that; but as Josef says, once you commit to publishing, you think more carefully about what you write, how it’s structured, etc. Of course, I’m fairly used to writing (sometimes extensive) notes for semi-public consumption in my work, but a blog is nicer than a lecture in that anyone can leave comments and expand my understanding. That happens in lectures sometimes, but rarely, and almost never with random Haskell experts from all over the world. :-)
Another goodie of Josef’s: yak shaving. Yep, been there.
Boy falsely jailed for bomb threat for 12 days due to DST changeover. (URL in RISKS story doesn’t seem to work? Lots of google hits though, many of which have the same content and no attribution, sadly.)
Webb gave an insight into the school’s impressive investigative techniques, saying that he was ushered in to see the principal, Kathy Charlton. She asked him what his phone number was, and, according to Webb, when he replied ‘she started waving her hands in the air and saying â€œwe got him, we got him.â€’
‘They just started flipping out, saying I made a bomb threat to the school,’ he told local television station KDKA. After he protested his innocence, Webb says that the principal said: ‘Well, why should we believe you? You’re a criminal. Criminals lie all the time.’
Dorks. Dorks in positions of authority, more to the point.
Oh wow. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia Corey Feldman‘s second marriage was offociated by MC Hammer! I think that’s the best thing I’ve heard all year.
(Why am I Feldman-surfing? Last week, Bash & I watched The Goonies. I hadn’t seen this movie since its original release, when I went with my mum to see it at a cinema in Aylesybury. That must have been late 1985, and I’d have been 11 years old. Fun film, good to see it again, but made me wonder whatever happened to ol’ Corey. Well, now I know. :-) )
Consider the function (:) in Haskell…
Hugs> :t (:) (:) :: a -> [a] -> [a]
So, (:) is a polymorphic function which takes an element of some type, and a list of elements of that type, and returns a list of elements of that type. In particular, it prepends the singleton element onto the list. For example:
Hugs> 'c' : "ello" "cello"
Now for the fun part.
Hugs> :t ('c':) ('c' :) :: [Char] -> [Char]
Here, we see that ('c':) is a function which takes a list of characters (ie a string) and returns another one. As you might expect, it prepends it with a 'c':
Hugs> ('c':) "ello" "cello"
('c':) is an example of a section: we “partially evaluate” a function by providing only some of its parameters, which yields a new function. Obviously this is only possible if we have higher-order functions in our language.
We can take the section “on the other side” of the :, and define the function which takes a character and prepends it onto the string "ello"…
Hugs> (:"ello") 'c' "cello"
What’s its type?
Hugs> :t (:"ello") flip (:) "ello" :: Char -> [Char]
Interesting. The type is as we would expect (Char -> [Char]), but what’s this flip thing?
Hugs> :t flip flip :: (a -> b -> c) -> b -> a -> c
So flip takes a function with type signature (a -> b -> c) and returns an equivalent function with type signature (b -> a -> c) – OK, simple enough. But why did hugs introduce it here, I wonder, though, why didn’t hugs just do what ghci does, and say:
Prelude> :t (:"ello") (:"ello") :: Char -> [Char]
? I say: shrug.
In other news, I’ve just discovered Neil Mitchell’s Haskell blog. I met Neil at BCTCS 05 in Nottingham, and again at BCTCS 06 in Swansea (though at that time I felt like I was moving away from TCS). He’s a thoroughly nice bloke, and clearly knows considerably more about Haskell than I do, thus, a good blog to find. I enjoyed:
I think I was quite a bit less successful at explaining this one. The only way you can show sequence is not necessary is by writing an OS, a compiler, a web server etc in Haskell – all of which have been done. Unfortunately I only had a small piece of paper so couldn’t write any of those.
(The section saga continues here.
Clive James on hoaxes & fraudsters. I’m with him on this one.
Some commentators regard fraudsters as romantic types, more interesting than poor old plodding us. These commentators say that few of these frauds would work without our greed. Perhaps not, but none of them would work without the propensity of the fraudster to lie.
Found while rambling. Yowzer.
She so foxy. 4 years ago now, mind! Oh, but still foxy. Don’t hit me, Bash. Ow.
That is comedy.
Wow… The Blind Melon bee girl (or someone claiming to be her) has sent a postcard to Postsecret. Apparently she’s 18 and still trying to find where she belongs. She shouldn’t worry; I’m 32 and only just starting to work it out, I think.
(I hope that permalink remains valid – in the past, Postsecrets have been impossible to link to effectively once they fell off the front page.)
Ninety four percent of the world income goes to 40 percent of the population while sixty percent of people live on only 6 per cent of world income. Half of the world population lives on two dollars a day. Over one billion people live on less than a dollar a day. This is no formula for peace.
Poverty is the absence of all human rights. The frustrations, hostility and anger generated by abject poverty cannot sustain peace in any society. For building stable peace we must find ways to provide opportunities for people to live decent lives.
Today, Grameen Bank gives loans to nearly 7.0 million poor people, 97 per cent of whom are women, in 73,000 villages in Bangladesh. Grameen Bank gives collateral-free income generating, housing, student and micro-enterprise loans to the poor families and offers a host of attractive savings, pension funds and insurance products for its members. Since it introduced them in 1984, housing loans have been used to construct 640,000 houses. The legal ownership of these houses belongs to the women themselves. We focused on women because we found giving loans to women always brought more benefits to the family.
In a cumulative way the bank has given out loans totaling about US $6.0 billion. The repayment rate is 99%. Grameen Bank routinely makes profit. Financially, it is self-reliant and has not taken donor money since 1995. Deposits and own resources of Grameen Bank today amount to 143 per cent of all outstanding loans. According to Grameen Bank’s internal survey, 58 per cent of our borrowers have crossed the poverty line.
There’s a story in today’s Guardian about banning happy-slapping videos on sites such as Youtube. The journalist understates the difficulty and complexity of this issue beautifully:
The issue is likely to be raised when MPs debate the violent crime reduction bill next week, but it is unlikely an amendment on such a complex area of broadcasting freedom could be put together in an acceptable form over the weekend.
Unlikely? Over the weekend? D’ya think?
It reminds me of the debate over the hate-speech bill, one of the counter-arguments to which was that the law, as framed, would also in fact exclude much comedy. Gladly this doesn’t seem to have transpired, but still, the powers are there and could be used.
In particular, if you ban YouTube from hosting disturbing videos of indiscriminate and unwarranted violence, that law could well ban videos such as these, of protesters being tasered. Some of these are truly disturbing, and not the kind of thing you’re going to see on BBC News any time soon – but their availability is progress in the battle towards an open society.
Robert Fisk was on Desert Island Discs yesterday. Say what you like about him, he spoke well, and clearly sees the job of the journalist as telling the truth – whatever it is, however unsavoury. Youtube and its ilk are an opportunity for anyone to engage in telling the truth as they see it, and in documenting world events. News is a highly politicised monetised commodity (hello Mr Murdoch), and any movement towards decentralising news gathering/distribution to the public at large is progress. Something else Fisk said, IIRC, was that if the public saw the reality of war as he had seen it, “the dogs eating the corpses of children” as he put it, they would never, ever, support any war. A law which bans violent videos from the internet runs counter to that trend.
The only mitigator would be a “public interest” clause, I suppose. So if you seeing a violent video law being framed without such a clause, protest. Even so, I’d argue it’s problematic…
Somewhat in the spirit of “Gabriel at the airport”, here’s an amusing little snippet from Paul Miller.
“…the talks and tapes offer a momentary boost of inspiration that fades after a few weeks, turning buyers into repeat customers. While Salerno was a self-help book editor for Rodale Press… extensive market surveys revealed that “the most likely customer for a book on any given topic was someone who had bought a similar book within the preceding eighteen months.” The irony of “the eighteen-month rule” for this genre, Salerno says, is this: “If what we sold worked, one would expect lives to improve. One would not expect people to need further help from us – at least not in that same problem area, and certainly not time and time again.”
Further to this post, Sean kindly pointed out a BBC story on the topic. Actually, the story did make me feel a little uneasy – to be honest, I don’t think it’s unacceptable to publish these views, and actually yes, the editor had every right to let it go to press. (Though his assertion that “there was no intention to offend” is fairly laughable – at best naive, and at worst, cynical.)
The point, however, is that we must then respond by all pointing our fingers in derision and horror at Lowri and the Western Mail, and tearing those freely-expressed opinions to pieces.
TV presenter Lowri Turner made some “interesting” remarks lately, asserting in a Western Mail column that sexual orientation has an actual effect on ability and thus, in her mind, right, to participate in government – and that in particular, gay men should not govern. She also tells us bisexuality doesn’t exist, and other little nuggets of wisdom. Lots of people blogging on this, btw. eg, this one‘s quite good/coherent.
Wow. I can of course tolerate people who are small-minded, closed-minded, bigoted and generally unpleasant to their fellow humans, so long as they’re not in government, anyway. Turner is, however (worse!) all over the shop with her logic.
To summarise, we have her telling us that sexual orientation is fixed, that bisexuals are fooling themselves (oh, that old chestnut!), and that if you’re gay you shouldn’t be running the country because, um, you’re not capable. For some reason.
She defends this last point in time-honoured fashion:
Before I am accused of prejudice, I should say that not only are some of my best friends gay, but probably most of them are. I work in the media, for goodness sake. It is precisely because I know such a lot of gay men that I can say that I don’t think many of them are capable of representing the interests of the vast majority of people. Their lifestyles are too divorced from the norm. They are not better or worse, but they are different.
Does she really believe she can speak authoritatively of all gay men just because she works in the media? Furthermore, I’d assert, with tongue only slightly in cheek, that the reason their lifestyles are “divorced from the norm” isn’t that they’re gay – it’s that they work in the media. (Just kidding Bash.)
Anyway, she then contradicts her assertion that “they are not better or worse, but they are different”, by explaining how “they” are, in fact, worse:
“Gay men face challenges of their own, but they do not face those associated with having children which is the way most of us live. … My gay friends have not sat in accident and emergency with a small child. They have not had to make the decision over whether to give them MMR. They have not struggled to get their child statemented or gone through the schools’ appeals process.”
No Lowri, gay men (and women) never have children in their life. You’re absolutely right. They never do. They never adopt, for example. And when they do they make an even bigger mess of it than straights, even straights with jobs in the media. By the way, I’m being sarcastic at this point.
There’s more of the same, and she does seem obsessed with the parental experience. Saying that gay men don’t have the experience of sitting in casualty with a small child is crazy – gross and patently untrue overgeneralisation. I will grant that you’d probably find it happens less than with straight parents (purely on numbers, I mean), but that doesn’t validate the point. Further, if your next statement is “thus all gay men know nothing of children”, and the one after that is “thus, this particular gay man should not govern”, you clearly haven’t grasped the idea of rational thinking yet. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what she does. It’s also a deeply flawed argument in that it would apply equally well (if it worked) to straight people who happen to be childless.
Anyway, has she never heard of the Conservative Party? ;-)
I note with interest that the tips on giving a talk say “use handwritten OHP slides”, but the tips on writing a good research paper, themselves from a talk, are Powerpoint slides. ;-) I suppose the excuse is, that wasn’t a research talk – it was a research meta talk. Or a meta(research talk). Or something.
Wow – great story, wonder if it’s true.
Here’s an interesting Guardian story about an autistic savant who’s unusually able to discuss, analyse, and explain his worldview. Fascinating.
The number two, for instance, is a motion, and five is a clap of thunder. “When I multiply numbers together, I see two shapes. The image starts to change and evolve, and a third shape emerges. That’s the answer. It’s mental imagery. It’s like maths without having to think.”
Developers have much to learn from Hackers & Painters, a review of Paul Graham‘s book “Hackers and Painters”. Sounds like there’s lots of functional programming evangelism going on here, and it’s interesting to read that Graham asserts:
The programmers you’ll be able to hire to work on a Java project wont be as smart as the ones you could get to work on a project written in Python.
… particularly because I’ve heard that quote before, but it was Haskell that was being bigged up, not Python. All the same, it’s nice to have my status as a cognoscenti reaffirmed in public. ;-)
Lisp in Web-based Applications sees Graham expanding on what makes Lisp great, if you don’t want to buy the book just yet… There’s a particularly interesting bit about using closures to elegantly solve the problem of HTTP’s statelessness. Quote: “by using closures, we could make it look to the user, and to ourselves, as if we were just doing a subroutine call.” I’ve bolded the important bit: all web apps these days make it look to the user like you’re just doing a subroutine call, but to make it look like that to the developer is much more impressive. Sure, there are mechanisms in Java or whatever, but I love this idea of using closures: so much simpler and more elegant. (Here’s a nice explanation of closures, for the unsure.)
Finally, I disagree that “its hard to find successful adults now who don’t claim to have been nerds in high school”. For my whole life the world has seemed to be full of successful ignorant bullies and deceivers, and I don’t really see any signs of that changing. It’s a nice dream for a geek to have, I guess, and I can see how rising to the top during the dotcom bubble would surround you by enough successful nerds that you might think it was even true.
But who cares about the iniquities of the world when we’ve got shiny shinies like Haskell and Python to play with, eh? :-)
TR just put some shelves up in his room. I asked him how they were. His reply:
[18:05] [TR] They still exist, and they still don't have very much on them.
[18:05] [TR] It's like having loads of RAM, but with shelves instead of RAM.
Tamsin Grieg in the Guardian, wittering about celebrity and the absurdity of fame and all that and everyfink. Worth reading if you’re a fan, I guess.