Freesteel Blog » Whipping

Thursday, April 30th, 2015 at 10:13 am - - Whipping

I’ve not been doing as much as I should regarding this General Election. A few leaflet rounds, one canvassing session. After attempting (and failing) to contribute code to the Election Leaflet website, I’ve been handed the job of reading through hundreds of election leaflets each morning to look for anything interesting, which I report by entering it into a google excel spreadsheet. Urgh. But it’s my duty. Takes hours, and I’m going crazy with it.

Top issues are: NHS more funds, HS2 abolished, Green belt protected, increasing recycling, cutting carbon use, and opposing those ineffective flickering noisy windfarms that clutter up the countryside when we need more flood defences that aren’t going to work due to rising sea levels, you dumb-dumbs.

Basically, this election should be cancelled for lack of interest. I’ve driven from one end of the country to the other, from Land’s End to Liverpool, then to Newcastle and back to Liverpool, and there are approximately zero election posters of any kind (plus or minus less than 5) in gardens, on walls and billboards. Even the news media is bored to the extent that it barely makes it into the first half of the news hour each day. There is nothing to say.

Now I’m going camping in a field in Southeast Wales to get humiliated and intimidated at a HG competition for the next few days so I’ll miss whatever comes about internetwise. Be back on Wednesday night in time for the 5am leaflet drop on election day and the count (unless I can avoid it). The real fact is that it’s only the votes that count on the day. Nothing else matters.

Sunday, April 5th, 2015 at 7:26 pm - - Kayak Dive, Whipping

I’ve washed up on the annual Easter university diving trip, though my heart’s not in it. There’s a long period of stable weather forecasted, which should mean the silt will have time to settle out of the water ready for when the novices to get good enough to come out to more exciting locations.

sennendive
snakelocks anemone encrusted wreckage in Sennen Cove

It’s a bit of a rehash: I’ve done them all before in previous years in better conditions, with Becka by kayak back in 2010. I’m too tired at the end of the day to do any of the hacking I’d hoped for, so I’m marking time. Maybe I should go to the pub more often and not try to make best use of my time all the time.

Curiously, that last time in Cornwall (but one) also coincided with a General Election campaign, and I remember a big Conservative Party poster in a farmer’s field at the end of the lane. There isn’t one there this year. Either the land-owner is not so keen on Cameron this time, or he can’t be bothered, or he’s sold up to a new owner, or who knows? It’s another metric that could have been noted and cross-correlated over the years if we really had the data. For the life of me, I don’t know why these posters never became a substrate for some time-limited concentrated geocaching game. Geocaching happens on a lot sillier things, and this could have been like tracking down sightings of rare wild animals.

fishinweeds
Fish approach between the boulders and kelp

Meanwhile, the serious programmers are making hay with the ElectionLeaflets.org site and Parliamentary candidates CVs.

Watching them discuss stuff I realize I’m totally lost in the last century in terms of the technology. It’s a full time job just keeping up. (And in the large software company I briefly worked for, nobody seemed to be employed to keep up, so they didn’t.) Nowadays I don’t know much more than the difference between JPEGs and PNGs.

Other projects are pinging up around the net, such as VoteForPolicies.org where they blogged their technical case study like so:

We are using the RabbitMQ messaging system, our queue server is run by CloudAMPQ (Big Bunny instance, dedicated server)…

Our worker servers also live behind an ELB but don’t have auto-scaling enabled; we manually manage the amount of instances based on the size of our queues, we can check using the RabbitMQ management console…

All of our MySQL queries are handled by the Doctrine ORM and written using the Doctrine QueryBuilder. These doctrine queries are also cached in Redis as SQL…

Our application is based on Symfony 2.6.* standard edition.

For Redis we use the SncRedisBundle. For RabbitMQ interactions we are using the RabbitMqBundle.

We’re using the DoctrineMigrationsBundle for database migrations and the data-fixtures and AliceBundle for database fixtures.

Our CI tool Jenkins runs all of our tests and triggers a new capistrano deployment if they pass.

Is it me, or does it feel like I’m in the world of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reading about how to build a Globular Cluster Information Hyperdrive?

And this, all in the name of electing Members of Parliament, an institution whose daily procedures were already antiquated back in the Victorian era.

Once the process of governance starts getting anywhere near state of the art web technology, it’s going to be awesome.

Or it will be a whole lot worse. You never know.

As the human debacle around the science of climate change has proved, this tech is equally good at spreading knowledge and intelligence or ignorance and stupidity. It’s our choice as to what we want from it.

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 at 6:08 pm - - Whipping

I’m doing a lot of politics stuff running up to the general election, but I don’t feel like blogging about it much.

Actually, I’m not doing that much. What’s happening is that all the work I did ten years ago is finally being put into use today by other people, resulting in an event such as this fine rant from the LibDem MP in Bristol West:

To claim, as the website Public Whip does, that I ‘voted very strongly for selling England’s state owned forests’ is misleading in the extreme. I have never voted in favour of selling forest land – I voted against two poorly worded and hyperbolic motions submitted by the Labour Party.

I never believed I’d see the day where MPs would have to answer for the things they voted for in Parliament. Anyway, there’s that and electionleaflets.org and Francis’s Candidate CVs project gathering steam. What a difference five years of internet technology advancement and greater generational awareness can make.

Meanwhile, I was in Bristol for a few days helping a friend with some DIY, because I want to put this kind of laminate floor down in our kitchen on top of some real insulation:
aaflooring

Then I did some painting before getting relieved of my duties for spreading paint all up the paint brush handle.
aaskirts

I spent the night on the Blorenge, then flew at lunch time completely alone for two hours until I suddenly got dumped down in the bottom landing field in Abergaveny. Nobody took any notice of my death spiral down to the ground; just kept walking their dogs. I am still working hard to process the data into something meaningful — if this is possible.
hgbloreng

An invite went out for a surf on the Dee Bore on Saturday morning. I thought it might be special, being the day after a partial solar eclipse, but it was a damp squib and most of us lost the wave within a few hundred metres.
deebore

On Sunday I tried to fly on The Gyrne, but there was no wind and few thermals, so I went off on a long cycle round Lake Vyrnwy with my friend.
aacrinkly
The land-scape round these parts is ever so crinkly.

Monday, November 10th, 2014 at 10:39 am - - Whipping

It was an expensive London and Cambridge weekend for me and Becka (£99.20 return train ticket each), but the chance to get home on Sunday night directly from the middle of London to the middle of Liverpool in under three hours without needing to be awake beat the plan of car shuttling onto a local train via some backstreet parking spot in St Albans to avoid driving to the centre of London.

You win some, you lose some.

I got a motion for electionleaflets.org to be done properly accepted by the members at the UnlockDemocracy AGM on Saturday. This has the potential to get some professionalism on the situation in time for the next election.

Then I spent 36 hours working and sleeping in the basement of the National Audit Office at the Accountability Hack 2014 on a my project, with Becka getting predictably very bored at times.

The purpose of the project was to learn how to use PDF.js, which Francis told me about the day before.

I thought I had a good chance with it (being as it is completely practical and could be implemented by the Public Accounts Committee right away), but it did not even get an honourable mention. That honour went to Richard whose Parliamentary Bill analyser disclosed how many goats would need to be skinned to print out the Act, among other things. For more details, see my blogpost from six years ago: The vellum has got to go.

povbrain

We met Rob for dinner who had a brain machine on the bookshelf, which Becka was very taken with. I can tell you that someone will be learning how to solder in the next couple of weeks, because that is the only way they are going to get one of their own.

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 at 11:55 am - - Whipping 1 Comment »


The Green Party Spring Conference was held in St Georges Hall at the weekend. I didn’t take any photos except for this one of Jean Lambert MEP.

International governance is a serious issue with major consequences. It doesn’t help that the British public enjoy electing clowns from UKIP and the BNP to these positions where they don’t even pretend to do any work. Politics is not a sports show, like the football league. This stuff matters. And it is logical.

This morning there were two politicians debating on the radio news program: LibDem MP Martin Horwood and UKIP Leader Nigel Farage squabbling about immigration, and tripping over themselves to praise the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership treaty being secretly negotiated between the EU and the US. Horwood asserted, without any evidence, that this deal would “eventually help to create millions of British jobs”, while Farage said that if we were out of Europe we could sign this deal much faster than allowing Europe to do it.

Farage argues for Britain to get out of Europe on the basis that it gives us greater national sovereignty and control over our own laws — something which is flatly undermined by these trade deals whose sole purpose is to establish the supremacy of corporate rights over people’s rights, and where there will be no Parliament to over-see its operation.
(more…)

Thursday, December 19th, 2013 at 12:29 pm - - Whipping

kilk4

It was getting rather full of electronic accretions that kept me awake at night. The server disks had been moved four years ago with everything left intact. It would have been easier to have renewed it another year, but I decided that it’s best to do this sort of spring cleaning when things were quiet.

Back when you had to buy computing resources by the barrel, you had to throw a big on-going party to use up all the resources. But nowadays you can buy it by the glass, which means each project can go into a separate container, which makes each one cleaner and easier to retire. It’s a nightmare when they are all in the same box and start depending on each other in unpredictable ways. The apache httpconfig file in there was a disaster area.

So many projects get started. And so many lie around half finished.

Here’s the Eulogy.

@symroe: @frabcus you’re killing seagrass??
@frabcus: Eulogy #1: Ah http://seagrass.goatchurch.org.uk/ it was nice sysadmining you all these last 8 years.
@frabcus: Eulogy #2: You did so much – in the early days running codeabode (a version control hosting thing with @rufuspollock) and
@frabcus: Eulogy #3: and parlparse (powers @theyworkforyou, @publicwhip) while it looked like @dodspeople might support it, and so many years since
@symroe: @frabcus just logged in to seagrass (for the last time), and found a copy of ‘MP fight!’ in my home directory!
@frabcus: Eulogy #4: For a while you were popular: with caving software and blogs and SaveParliament and Think Twice conference
@philipjohn: @frabcus Yay Save Parliament #memories
@frabcus: Eulogy #5: Changing the world around you with the move of ethereal bits in the electric dark of a new information age
@frabcus: Eulogy #6: Later you were the first place to have direct links to United Nations documents (UNDemocracy) and crowd-sourced election leaflets
@frabcus: Eulogy #7: All the while, tirelessly helping millions find out how their MPs voted, with PublicWhip and its @theyworkforyou feeding API
@symroe: @frabcus you missed out the first scraperwiki on seagrass!
@frabcus: Eulogy #8: Your hardware changed, you moved to Manchester. Yet stil your heart was the same, your systems Debian stable, your RAID monitored
@frabcus: Eulogy #9: In your twilight years all gradually left. Abstraction, commodification, the cloud in the real sense of IaaS. And your services
@kindofwater: @frabcus Thought about how we now just delete servers in the cloud. They have no personality. Total immateriality.
@kindofwater: @frabcus When I used to work at the University of Kent we turned off an ancient Sun server with similar ceremony.
@frabcus: Eulogy #10: Gradually left early adopter – either dieing, or entering mainstream to grown up servers.
@frabcus: Eulogy #11: And now finally, your paymaster sees no point in your bills. The energy of controlling you dispersed. You must go.
@frabcus: Eulogy #12: Put down like an old cat, when really you are at the prime of life. Your vhosts gradually erased, email directed from you.
@frabcus: Eulogy #13: The clock ticking on the last DNS entry pointing to your port.
@londonlime: @frabcus this one made me well up! :(
@frabcus: Eulogy #14: Ah seagrass, times were good. To the server afterlife – reformatted and reincarnated, like an @Mythic_Beasts you will rise again
@Floppy: @frabcus I’m humbled to be part of that story. It was truly a hero among servers. #seagrass

Monday, December 16th, 2013 at 11:53 am - - Whipping

More important than charity work (aka filling in for the failures of political governance), there’s volunteer work for the electoral system. For some reason society believes that the business of placing options on the ballot sheet and publicizing what they mean is not something that needs to be done systematically and professionally, like, say, collecting the garbage.

So here we are at 6am on the morning of Thursday 5 December collecting our batches of get out the vote leaflets from the Green Party candidate who has been working this city council Riverside Ward for years.

Here’s the leaflet:

(more…)

Saturday, November 16th, 2013 at 11:50 am - - Machining, Whipping

A lot’s been going on in the world. It’s out of my hands. I don’t know anything or have any influence over it, so what I say shouldn’t matter. Very sensitive. Yadda yadda. Got to watch out because it’s publicly listed companies and there’s shares and high-stakes gambling and all that money stuff.

Funnily enough, private non-listed companies that do not have any jittery share-holders or regulations to worry about are even more extremely secretive about their businesses. I wonder if they bother to invent positive and vaguely plausible excuses for their secrecy when there is apparently no commercial reason for it.

Secrecy is actually about power in all frames. This is the week that the TPP trade agreement got leaked. The text outlines a vast expansion of no-strings-attached corporate monopolies (aka “Intellectual Property”) in all sectors of the economy — policies that have been soundly and democratically rejected in the past. There’s no reason to keep that stuff secret, except in order to facilitate a plan to ram it through into law in an instant as a shock to the system in an opportune moment.

Not sure why I’m talking about that. I wanted to talk about food.

(more…)

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 at 6:02 pm - - Whipping

We hit the culture night last Friday on our approximately annual working visit to Copenhagen. With only a program in Danish to guide us, it was a bit hit and miss. Mostly miss. One thing that was a hit was an exhibit in a back room of the design museum where we said hello to lots of different materials.

(more…)

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 at 12:04 pm - - Whipping

The project for bringing forward the final date of human extinction remains on track.

We seem to be doing pretty well with our global engineering project to move as much as we can of the deeply buried fossil carbon into the atmosphere as quickly as possible.

But how are we doing with that other threat to the species: nuclear annihilation? Last night there was a Parliamentary debate. I am happy to report that Great Britain intends to maintain its responsibility for ensuring that this continues to be a potential outcome.
(more…)