Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Newsnight last night interviewed the 6 contenders for the deputy PM job. The most amusing question was would they had voted the the War Against Iraq had they known what they know now? The replies were uniform and predictable. Each blamed the 'false intelligence' but would still have gone for it. Reading between the lines, I interpreted it as 'yes, I would keep my snout in the trough'. No-one in the real world believed the 45 minutes claim, hard on the heels of the dodgy dossier.
We can only guess at Blair's orders from Bush, but we can guess the other half of the deal was that the uk would share in the pillage, between the grab for oil, the reconstruction contracts and Iraqis having to pay for the cost of the west's attack on them.
Only a fool amongst politicians who crave a seat at the top table would speak out against the war.
I just wish they wouldn't pretend to be motivated by conscience, it's as sickening as it is transparent.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Moscow riot cops

Moscow riot cops backwards
Why do they wear their badges backwards?

There... I've corrected the photo by flipping it horizontally.

I just hope it embarrasses the bejasus out of them, obviously their actions don't.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Software stuff

Spent the afternoon installing ubuntu on my laptop (kept windows xp purely so I can run photoshop and illustrator). Well, what else is there to do on a wet Sunday afternoon in a dismal outer suburb of Cov? The basics of the install are dead easy though I don't have apache, php or java running yet. I think the real difficulties with it are 'cultural'- you have to get used to the ubuntu way of doing things, which is a bit different to other linux distros I've used in the past. I think the big difference compared to indows though is it has the feel of solidity about it, I don't feel I'm on the edge of a crash or infection from a nasty lurling on the interweb.

For the last month or so I've been working on version 2 of simplyallstuff's 'backend', the order processing system. It's the 1st thing I've written in Java SE1.5 and I'm very impressed with generics. They increase java's typesafe aspect, which considering the other language I use mostly is PHP (totally non-typesafe) I really appreciate. It means for one thing that if a chunk of code compiles there's a far greater chance of it working correctly 1st time. I suppose the holy grail of programming languages would be one in which coding was so unambiguous and so restricted to the rules of formal logic that if it was valid it would also be logically valid too. We're still decades away from it, at least, but generics are a welcome step along the way.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The dalek tunnel

How could I have failed to include this in my post on the mismatch between old and new in Cov's architecture. This monstrosity is in a class of it's own.

It links the Council House with an annexe across the road. The Council House is not as old as it looks, it was built in 1911, mock-gothic like the Houses of Parliament.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Thailand crisis?

The king made a public speech on Thursday night, which is rare enough to be news in itself, directed toward the judges who may be called upon to give a verdict on the dissolution of the 2 main parties by the (separate consitutional judges). Thai Rak Thai and the Democrats are both facing serious corruption allegations, though it'd be TRT that's the main cause of concern. TRT was Shinawatra Thaksin's party and presumably he still leads it form the uk where he's now based and poised to take over manchester city.

In the king's speech, he takes great pains to point out how he's not allowd to interfere in constitutional affairs but urges the judges to consider carefully what the effect of their judgments might be. At first I thought it was just the usual Thai 'face'; thing, demonstrations look bad. But for the king to speak out like this could mean he fears something more serious, perhaps a 2nd coup?

Whatever they decide will lead to trouble or damage, not only to you but me as well.

It was widely speculated that the last one had at least his tacit approval - could this mean something's being plotted in which he has no influence.

As many people as might support thaksin, the king's popularity is far, far greater than any thai politician's. But what would happen if it was an army faction that the king openly opposed? It could go as far as civil war, but I think that possibility's remote.

More likely some face-saving solution will be found and in a year or two, thailand will go back to democracy under yet another constitution. The endemic corruption that killed the last one will probably still be hanging round though.

BBC report

Thursday, May 24, 2007

All change

Getting the dslr will, I think, force bigger changes on my photography than was first apparent.

Firstly, much of my equipment is obsolete, not just my big old hammerhead flash but also little items such as my cable release. Most filters are now unnecessary apart from a UV to protect the lens and a polariser for shooting near water and suchlike.

A bigger change comes with processing where I need to rethink the workflow. Critical stuff is best done as .nef files (nikon equivalent of RAW) so I think it'll be a matter of downloading them, converting them to .dng while doing any gross fixes like correcting colour casts then delete any unwanted ones. Remaining ones can then have a working copy made, a smaller .psd and the .dng's backed up and deleted. Subjective changes (e.g. cropping) will be made from the working copy and saved as still smaller versions, probably .jpg's.

One thing that strikes me as slightly tragic is that I or others apart from a few diehards or photographty students, will never get that great delight of seeing a print come up in the developing tray. Your first one is really almost magical.

Moreover I'm not happy about the inherent obsolescence of equipment now. In a few years time, the D80 will be worthless. Compare that to Nikon's legendary F2, which came out in the late 60s IIRC and yet still had professionals using it widely until just a few years ago.


Monday, May 21, 2007

The death of culture

Saturday's FA Cup final was by common consent one of the dullest in living memory. The excuse being given is that both sides were tired, being in so many competitions this season. The thing is it felt almost inevitable it would be between Chelsea and Man Utd, being the only clubs with the financial clout to get there. We're now waiting to see which of the takeovers by big international capital will allow other clubs to compete.

The truly remarkable thing was the New Wembley with a plethora of celebrities and prices to make most of us flinch, £1 for a packet of crisps and £8 for a burger. As so many lamented, football is no longer the game of the cloth-capped working man.

There's nothing really new here though, the seeds were sown with the sell off of tv rights to sky, pay per view putting it out of reach of many of the poor.

It's not just football. Many of our pubs are now identikit chain outlets, there's little if anything new coming through in popular music, virtually all fashions seen on the streets are rehashes of the past and most of television has got dulled down to the point it'd make a goat vomit.

Big capital wants to reduce risk. Culture needs it.


Blogging from a blackberry

Wow, this technology....... :)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

New toy

Bought myself a Nikon D-80 body as part of starting to upgrade my equipment for providing a full set of digital services. Tried it out today in the centre of Coventry.

I've long been wanting to get a shot of this shop.

Right on Tyme shop, Coventry

The Old Schoolhouse - it's disgraceful how this venerable building has been allowed to decay:
The Old Schoolhouse, CoventryThe Old Schoolhouse, CoventryThe Old Schoolhouse, CoventryThe Old Schoolhouse, Coventry
The Old Schoolhouse, Coventry

My other great bugbear is modern architecture in Coventry. I'm not against modern architecture, far from it. It's just that nearly we get here is awful and at best hopelessly incongruous amongst what's left of a mediaeval city. Take for example this beautiful walkway going through Lady Herbert's Gardens which includes a couple of gates from the old city wall.
Incongruous walkway over Lady Herbert's Gardens, Coventry

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A new version of fusion?

The usual 'hot' one has had umpteen billions pured into it and so far has produced nothing valuable. Dr Robert Bussard's work by comparison looks rather interesting and yet's starved of funds. Picked up on it originally in u75, best description seems to be here.
When energized, the cube of electromagnets creates a magnetic sphere into which electrons are injected. The magnetic field squeezes the electrons into a dense ball at the reactor’s core, creating a highly negatively charged area.
To begin the reaction, boron-11 nuclei and protons are injected into the cube. Because of their positive charge, they accelerate to the center of the electron ball. Most of them sail through the center of the core and on toward the opposite side of the reactor. But the negative charge of the electron ball pulls them back to the center. The process repeats, perhaps thousands of times, until the boron nucleus and a proton collide with enough force to fuse.
That fusion turns boron-11 into highly energetic carbon-12, which promptly splits into a helium nucleus and a beryllium nucleus. The beryllium then splits into two more helium nuclei.

The great thing is that the only "pollution" from the process is helium, great for blimps and party tricks that make you talk like Donald Duck. There are high-energy neutrons given off which rot the equipment meaning it has to be replaced occasionally, but nothing like the radiation and dirty isotopes produced from fission. And the inputs are hydrogen and boron, both dirt-cheap to source.
More here, though this bunch seem mainly concerned with the spaceflight applications.

While Bussard's far from the fruitcakes that seem to infest the cheap energy scene, it seems perverse that such a promising area is unfunded. If you follow the second link far enough, you find they had a very promising device on a mere $2m funding, which got cut, in Bussard's words:
It was not a cutoff of OUR funding, but the entire Navy Energy Program was cut to zero in FY 2006, and we were a part of this cut. The funds were clearly needed for the more important War in Iraq.
While it's so far been a US Navy project, there doesn't seem much chance of the private sector taking up on it:

As for energy companies "stampeding" to support us -- It is clear that a view like this is ignorant of the reality of energy companies. There is only one thing the oil cvompanies want, and that is to sell oil, and more oil. So long as the fields pump, the oil companies will squeeze. They have NO, absolutely NO interest in anything new, ins spite of all their foolish ads in magazines for wind mills and solar-PV roofs. It is all just show and tell. I know these guys, and there is no way they would support anything that might get in the way of oil. The only way to stop oil, from their view, is when it does run out. And then they''ll go for deeper drilling, new fields, Gulf geopressure gas, LNG, etc, etc, and keep raising the price, until finally foolish solar and windmills become competitive.

It's the ultimate sadness of the human race in the 21st century that while we have a major crisis in terms of depletion of oil and global warming, efforts instead go into wars to control the oil-bearing countries and to prop up existing business and governmental hierarchies rather than to genuinely find solutions. Our energy / pollution crisis may look bleak but there are plenty of possible solutions on the horizon, but first and foremost we have to sort out our own society.