Tuesday, July 9th, 2019 at 10:29 am - - Kayak Dive

Things go on. We did some excellent kayak diving up in St Abbs that was planned to take advantage of a student who could be in a sea kayak on the surface so we’d feel more at ease going deeper and further underwater than we’d normally venture on our own.

Our main mission was to see a wolf fish, frequently sighted on Black Carrs rock below 20m.

Here he is:

This was along the low cut down that runs due east from the rock, in a horizontal crack behind an upstanding rock. It’s probably always the same fish that everybody sees. He caught my eye as we were searching along the bottom, and I propped up a cairn on the spot so we could come back to him after pushing on a bit deeper to the brittle star carpets.

And here’s my cairn marking the spot of the shy fish’s lair.

My pics make it look a lot less pretty than what it was it was to be there in the water, but they work for me as evidence.

Our support kayaker (plus visitors) was present when we went down at this deep spot.

As usual they were nowhere to be seen when we came up. They tend to get bored and find something else to go look at, because it all seems well from the surface to non-divers who don’t know what disasters might be unfolding below the water.

The wolf fish dive was on the Tuesday 2 July 2019. It was a stiff northwest wind and swell that made it impossible to go near the coast and explore the caves anywhere further round towards Pettico Wick.

The weather and water visibility conditions had not been the best we had hoped for, but the trip had to fit into a narrow time window of people’s availability and Becka not being on a caving expedition.

We stayed overnight in a three bed shared room at Marin Quest, which was a little expensive, but it paid off well when on Monday over breakfast the boat skipper was able to give us the position of the wreck of The President at this spot: 55°52’10.0″N+2°04’25.0″W/@55.8694568,-2.0741817 in a very sheltered channel to the south of Eyemouth directly in line with a fence style.

Here’s us loading up the kayaks at the convenient concrete access path near Greenends Gully.

We overshot too far south on the paddle out. The cliffs further towards Burnmouth look well worth exploring, but we didn’t have time for that.

The dive on The President was excellent, progressively finding bigger and bigger bits of scrap steel until we finally hit the boilers. Otherwise, there was not much life.

Sam, our look-out student, spent the time watching dolphins doing leaps and flips close in.

Here’s a blurry shot from a Mark One blurry gopro to prove he saw something jumping.

After a tank changeover at the carpark, we hauled our kayaks against the wind and waves to the north of Eyemouth and into the shelter of Weasel Loch.

Sam took my wallet shopping for junk food as we did a shore dive out of the channel to look for Conger Reef.

We didn’t find the reef, so here’s a picture of a flatfish and small lobster in the rocky wasteland it was supposed to be.

We circled back to the cliff wall, which was spectacular, huge, deep and overhanging, and then found the way back in. I could spend all day shore-diving out of this loch popping in and out of the water trying to get my bearings. Maybe I’d eventually find this reef.

Back by the car we changed into wetsuits and I gave Sam a try dive, during which we saw a small lobster on a ledge at minus one metre.

Stepping back in time to Sunday, when Becka and I arrived in St Abb’s (before Sam came), we dashed out for an afternoon dive on Wuddy Rocks.

Becka managed to haul down the anchor at the start of the dive, but couldn’t stay down because she didn’t have enough lead.

Normally this is my fault for not putting enough on her weight belt, but this time it was because she’d forgot to put it on at all!

Once sorted out, we found the way into the tunnels where we tried out our new new diving torches, one wide and one narrow angle.

Up till now I’d been using a Dive Scurion Light, which Becka has appropriated into her caving gear. I’ve nearly lost or broken on a couple of occasions. I’m glad not to bother with that thing again, because a burn time of 12 hours is no use when dives are at most a couple hours a day. It’s huge and has a dangly wire between the battery and the headset.

Torches are a good investment, because one of the points of diving is to see things. Over the years they’ve become smaller and brighter, until maybe soon you’ll just have some bridge specks on the fingertips of your gloves that will emit rays when you cup your hand in a particular way.

Then we did a second dive and went looking for Cathedral Rock from the shore. Here are the instructions from Marine Reserve booklet:

To reach Cathedral Rock follow the main gulley between Broad Craig and the harbour wall. Keeping Broad Craig on your left and the training pool on your right, enter a narrow gully which drops down to approximately 5 metres. Swim to the right around the narrow gap and proceed until you reach a pile of angular boulders. From here head approximately 45 degrees to the right, passing over kelp forest on the way, until you reach a small rock face covered with dead men’s fingers. Swim past this rock keeping it on your left shoulder into a sandy gully. Cathedral Rock is on your right, just over a large boulder.

Not surprisingly, I didn’t find it.

The Lawson Wood diver guide (whose position for The President are out by 3 minutes of arc) describes the route like so:

Swim over to Big Green Carr [this is the wrong rock -ed]; keeping it to your left swim south in line with the reef. At the end of the reef you should see a low lying ridge extending at right angles in front of you; pass over this and you will meet a wall that curves to the left over a tumble of large boulders. With this wall to your right, you are now swimming east and you will reach Cathedral Rock in about 12 yards.

The problem with these descriptions is that everything is relative in terms of what constitutes a large boulder or a sandy gully. This is no use underwater where the visibility is such that you can only see one thing at a time. If you swim into a boulder that’s 2 metres tall, then it’s large if is alone on a rubble strewn plane, but small if it is surrounded by 8 metre high blocks. When you can see only than 5 metres distant, you can easily persuade yourself either way, and therefore the description is of no use. It might as well have said: turn left at the boulder that once had an octopus on it in 1998.

Had I realized that these descriptions were so utterly defective, I’d have looked online, and found this dive description:

The one thing you must do on this dive is trust your compass, so take your bearings and follow them!

On entry head right and at the end of Broad Craig there is an area of almost white gravel (actually shells and worm-casts); Take a compass bearing of 120degrees and swim approximately 30m to reach the site.

We had driven partway up to St Abbs on the Saturday and slept overnight in a layby on the A7 before seeking out breakfast in Berwick upon Tweed. The cheap eating place was packed out, so we wandered into town and hit upon the Mule on Rouge, which is where I’d be hanging out every day if I lived in this town. Unfortunately, Becka had just decided that we were now on an economy drive, because I haven’t been paying my house bills for a while, so we shared one single bagel.

On the Saturday I had been taking my telepresence robot around Makerfest Liverpool in the Central Library. It’s possible that this toy had something to do with the cashflow crisis.

Isn’t it cute?

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019 at 12:45 pm - - Whipping 1 Comment »

I just had a petition to the UK Parliament rejected on 20 June that I submitted on the 23 of May.

Now you could say that it was delayed because they were busy, but I went back through the list of rejected petitions, and found that they had turned down 320 other petitions in the meantime.

This tells you that they had a hard time finding a problem with it, and in the end just made something up.

Here is the text of the petition:

Legalise party political placards on street furniture during an election

The laws in the UK against fly-posting are so restrictive that, unlike in most other countries, elections are totally invisible to people on the street. Yet during the Christmas season the councils find time to put up decorations on every lamp-post to remind us that we need to keep shopping.
More details

In most countries (throughout Europe and especially Ireland) you can really tell when an election is on because the lamp-posts, bridges and traffic railings are festooned with coloured placards and banners, often with photos of the smiling candidates.

I used to be against it, but now I can really see the point in letting people feel there is something is happening. We have gone way too far in banning these notices. Trials should be run in selected parts of the country at the next election.

And the rejection notice:

Why was this petition rejected?

It’s about something that the UK Government or Parliament is not responsible for.

We can’t accept your petition because this would be a decision for local councils and not the UK Government or Parliament.

The law doesn’t explicitly prevent political advertising in this way. It does allow local authorities to remove any “picture, letter, sign or other mark painted, ascribed or affixed on the surface of the highway, or any structure or works on or in the highway.” It is up to local authorities how they use that power.

Obviously they are wrong, because Parliament makes the laws that tell local authorities what they can and can’t do, or indeed what the heck these institutions are.

If they’re claims were right, I would not be able to find in Section 5 of The Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015:

The Deemed consent for the display of advertisements

… deemed consent is hereby granted for the display of an advertisement falling within any class specified in Part 1 of Schedule 3, subject… to the standard conditions, except that paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 does not apply in the case of any Class 13 advertisement.

What’s that mean?

The way to read UK legislation is to know it for the tangled mess that it is. There ought to be an inquiry into why it gets so bad.

Schedule 3, Part 1, Classes of advertisements which may be displayed with deemed consent says:

CLASS 13 – Advertisements relating to an election

Description: An advertisement relating specifically to a pending Parliamentary, European Parliamentary, Northern Ireland Assembly or district council election.
Conditions: The advertisement is removed within 14 days after the close of the poll in the election to which it relates.

And then Schedule 1, Standard contions says:

Paragraph 4 No advertisement may be displayed without the permission of the owner of the site or any other person with an interest in the site entitled to grant permission.

To me, that looks like election posters can be put up without the persmission of the property owner. For “property owner”, you should think of local government property (eg lamp posts), not someone’s leafy garden lawn.

Sometimes posters do get cut down, but according to the reporting it’s seen as wrong because election posters are an important part of the democratic process.

The same is true in southern Ireland, where everyone knows election posters are important and simply considers them a necessary evil.

The law passed by the Irish Parliament is in Section 19 of the the Litter Pollution Act 1997:

A prosecution shall not be brought in a case in which an offence under this section is alleged to have been committed in relation to an advertisement if… [it] relates to a presidential election, a general election or a bye-election, a referendum, or an election of representatives to the Assembly of the European Communities, unless the advertisement has been in position for 7 days or longer after the day specified in the advertisement for the meeting or the latest day upon which the poll was taken for the election, bye-election or referendum concerned.

There’s also an Election Posters FAQ.

I’ve not looked up the Statute Law on the Isle of Man, but the Department of Infrastructure does “recognise that the campaign process for elect/on candidates may include the siting of posters and banners, and will allow for these providing they do not adversely affect the safety of the Island’s residents and visitors and those putting up the election material.[link]

Oh, but it’s different in the United Kingdom, you say — even though the first regulation I quoted there was laid before the UK Parliament and applied to Northern Ireland (which is still part of the UK at the moment).

Let’s look at that Regulation in more detail. According to its explanatory memorandum:

Parity or Replicatory Measure

Equivalent Regulations have been made in England [Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007], Wales [Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 1992] and Scotland [Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (Scotland) Regulations 1992]

So, Regulation 6 of Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007 says:

Deemed consent for the display of advertisements

… consent is granted for the display of an advertisement of any class specified in Part 1 of Schedule 3, subject to

(a) the standard conditions; and
(b) in the case of any class other than Class 12, the conditions and limitations specified in that Part in relation to that class.

So far so good.

Hit me with Class 12 from Schedule 3, Classes of advertisement for which deemed consent is granted:

Class 12 Advertisements inside buildings

Description:

12. An advertisement displayed inside a building, other than an advertisement falling within Class I in Schedule 1.

Humph.

There are no special cases for election posters listed anywhere here, or in any of the other versions of this legislation in the rest of the UK.

So, what are the consequences?

Posters on the street are the best thing for telling people of an event. Individual fliers delivered to houses take to much time, get thrown away and do not work. Online engagement is expensive and difficult and can only be undertaken successfully by experts.

There is nothing better for telling people that there is an event on or an election ballot within walking distance of their house than a sign on a lamp-post that they will walk past twenty times in a week.

I think people have to start putting up simple plain posters that there is an election on a particular date coming up at crossings and road junctions that do not state a party or candidate, but just reminds people of the date. As I said in the petition, it’s an important event, like Christmas. And just as the Council puts up gross plastic Santas that remind us to buy crap, but don’t say from which shop, they ought to have an equivalent set of decoration on every lamp-post to remind us to go vote, if they’re not going to let parties put up their own.

Update

Anti-politician posters seen in Belfast this March:

Probably quite illegal as they didn’t say what [real] party they were from.

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 at 1:35 pm - - Whipping

Someone who works on the railways told me that his Union, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) was one of the big unions in the UK that supported Brexit.

I wanted the check why, having recalled doing some research about railway policy and the EU (reported in a blog entry from May 2016) following some crappy speech from Boris Johnson about the nasty EU using an ECJ ruling to run their freight trains on our national tracks in preference to our patriotic privatized passenger trains.

The problem is that if a factory in Hungary wants to send 5000 tonnes of cheap sausage meat to the UK, they can put this into 200 lorries and drive them all the way to their destination on our roads, causing lots of pollution, and traffic jams getting in the way, and Boris doesn’t complain. But lord help us that they might possibly put this load onto a more efficient train and expect it to get through to its destination unspoilt.

You’d think that railway unions would be in favour of legally binding international agreements to increase the guarenteed capacity of the railway. But it turns out that Brexit stupidity is not all on the Conservative Party side.

In a Press release on 21 April 2016 the RMT wrote:

The European Parliament’s decision this week to back the opening up of all rail routes across the EU to more competition for private operators was just one more reason to vote Leave on June 23, transport union RMT said today.

Under the proposals in the EU’s so-called Fourth Railway Package, train operators would have complete access to the networks of member states to operate domestic passenger services.

The European Council had already agreed that mandatory competitive tendering should be the main way of awarding public service contracts.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said that the failed Tory privatisation of rail over twenty years ago using EU directive 91/440 was now being imposed on 500 million people by EU diktat without a mandate.

“This rail package is designed to privatise railways across Europe and its proposals are remarkably similar to the McNulty report on the future of GB railways, imposing further fragmentation and attacks on workers.

“McNulty, the Tory government and the EU share the business-led mania for privatisation and agree on the need to jack up fares and attack jobs, pay and pensions to pay for it, no-one has voted for that.

“It is impossible to make changes to this privatisation juggernaut inside the undemocratic EU so the only solution is to get out by voting Leave on June 23,” he said.

None of this makes sense.

How can we believe that the EU — every other country of which runs a nationalized rail service — is going to impose privatization on the UK whose railways are already privatized?

Also, I do recall that we had a Labour Government for thirteen years post-privatization, who carried on with the private railways policy at vast expense of money and political capital, only nationalizing the trackways themselves after a series of lethal accidents and a bankruptcy when it had no alternative. Now there were serious issues as to the democracy within the Labour Party during that time, which resulted in the RMT breaking from the party in 2004. This history needs to be remembered, because it indicates that the EU is not the source of our problems.

Later that year, after the referendum, the RMT wrote in November 2016:

MEPs have a critical vote on the future of our railways taking place on 12-15 December 2016. Privatisation of rail passenger services could be imposed on all member states if new EU regulations are passed into legislation. Even though the UK is leaving the EU, regulations in the Fourth Railway Package could still apply to the UK for years to come…

The Fourth Railway Package must be stopped. Please email your MEP before 12 December to let them know that you want them to vote against the Fourth Railway Package.

Oh yeah, what was that bit about the undemocratic EU?

It’s so bad and incoherent.

A fact checking organization looked at the case in June 2016, three days before the referendum, and concluded:

The pending changes to EU rail regulation, known as the fourth railway package, don’t require member states to privatise any aspect of their rail networks. Neither do they require any member to break up its national operator.

There was an initial proposal for rail infrastructure and services to be split into separate organisations, which would have meant breaking up national operators, but the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, directly intervened and it was dropped…

The new EU regulations promote competition for the market between rail operators irrespective of ownership structure, but not privatisation. As far as renationalisation is concerned the reality is that, unless the rules are interpreted in an extreme way, they do not make it any easier or more difficult than the structure in place at the moment.

The RMT did support a No2EU party that ran in the 2009 and 2014 EU elections garnering about 0.3% of the vote in the second poll, so was quite a waste of time.

What we’re seeing is an unreasoned, illogical, incoherent, counterproductive hatred of the EU from a large union who has a lot of sway with the current Labour Party. I can’t see where it comes from, because from the point of view of railways and transport, the EU and its structures are beneficial. They bring in a semblance of order, integration, interoperability, purpose and reliability that is essential for any transport infrastructure to serve society’s needs.

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019 at 11:57 am - - Flightlogger, Hang-glide

I think I’ve not been blogging ongoing projects are not working. A long running one that I have failed to report here is this dabbling with the RTK GPS system, which I learnt about by researching precision agriculture, having been tipped off about it by a guy from sixty-5 when I was working out of farset labs in Belfast earlier this year.

Anyway, in theory one can log the raw data from these ublox M8T GPS chips, use the open source RTKLIB software to process the rover GPS against a base station GPS to get a 2cm accurate time series (with a lot of help from the rtklibexplorer blog, and then plan to put one of these rover stations in each wingtip of a glider.

And this would have all been fine if one of the wingtips ESP32 devices that receives and transmits the UBX data from the GPS to my phone through wifi didn’t keep failing. I finally found out what it was: the tiny sheet metal antenna had snapped off so cleanly that you couldn’t tell it was missing.

Here is a picture of my three devices. The 2 rovers go into pouches with their own batteries and get tied into the wingtips.

Anyway, it was a rubbish and rough flight that I did last Tuesday, never getting higher than 2600 feet. Meanwhile, Becka was doing her Welsh 3000s walk across 15 peaks all of which were higher than I managed to fly, and got a photo of this Brocken spectre on the peak of Snowdon at 8am, having set off at 5am from the car.

I was tasked with being a few kilometres further down the road to provide the second breakfast and some sandwiches for her further journey.

No I wasn’t going to do that walk, after my experience with the Lakeland 3000s. Walking too far in one day is annoying, especially when you are constantly being told you’re not going fast enough.

The logical consequence of having more strength and always wanting to do more than anyone else is… that other people will want to do less, and this is going to be a disappointment.

So I went flying, and RTKLIB processed my one working GPS track, like so:


(Blue is the phone GPS and orange is the RTK gps.)

I was going to show some correspondences between the RTK GPS altitude and the barometric altitude when suitably filtered, but my interacting plotting system broke down. There are a lot of oscillations in the GPS, which I don’t understand. Will get back to it.

Monday, May 20th, 2019 at 11:57 am - - Kayak Dive

I’m carving out some valuable time from the other stuff to blog some notes and records.

The car failed its MoT inspection with 3 condemned tyres. (Some kind of bump in them that I couldn’t see.) I had an unhappy evening because I thought this had trashed our kayak diving weekend in Anglesey.

Apparently the dangerous bulge is in this picture here at bottom inside:

Yes, normally back in the 1990s I’d have driven the car anyway, because who’s going to know? But now with all the MoT records being computerized so you can’t shop around for a garage who might overlook the flaws, and all these automatic number plate recognition cameras on the motorways, I was for sure I was going to be busted by the police on our way out.

Fortunately Becka phoned up a kwikfit garage and I took it round in the morning for some new tyres at a high price, but it was worth it. We kept the fresh receipt on the dashboard as evidence that the issue had been addressed and didn’t encounter a problem. Even though we didn’t need it, it’s good price to pay for not to have this eating your mind during the whole drive.

After a stop off at Vivian Quarry for some air-fills (£4.50 for only 200bar and a long time to fill), we dropped in on the Astral Ship for an inspection.

We concluded that it wasn’t a robot friendly place, so I took it away and we were lucky to get my robot into someone else’s car for the ride back to Liverpool. More on this story some other time.

It was now 4 o’clock, and we got a kayak dive out from Cable Bay to the Euphraties, which was swarming with large spider crabs and had mounds of chain and other wreckage that blended in with the rocks so well you couldn’t tell, except by their form, what was natural or man-made.

Then we headed off late to the Tyn Rhos Camping Site Ravenspoint Road and ended up on the wrong side of a locked gate because we hadn’t approached it from Ravenspoint Road (idiot). The Liverpool Canoe Club were spending the weekend there and some of them had paddled to the Skerries durinig the day (one of the things on our bucket list). One of the other parties had passed us coming in while we were going out for our dive. They didn’t stop off to watch, as no one is particularly interested in kayak diving. In the morning we tried to see if there were any trips being planned that we could dive in the direction of, as it gives peace of mind to have a bit of company on the surface when you are underwater, but nothing presented itself. So we were back to our original plan of diving the Kimya, which I have been trying to get a decent dive on since 2004!

The wind had picked up from the northwest (it was supposed to be northeast on the forecast) and there was a bit of chop. The May bloom was overdue. It all looked like it would be another failure.

But we got there. After much anchor dragging of anchors, shouting and checking the GPS on my expensive phone in a pelicase (all my waterproof GPS’s are bust), Becka seemed to hook something at last. (After the dive she understood my outrage that it had been so difficult to hook — the wreck is massive and full of holes.)

Just as we were going down the line, a dive boat showed up. That made me feel more comfortable.

If everything went tits up, they’d probably pick up the pieces. It’s a 3km paddle from the nearest landing and there are no fishermen on the headlands, so it’s a pretty lonely spot round about here. No one is ever going to see you.


Becka collected the anchor from the bottom and carried it as we circled the wreck twice. I thought the lifeline to our kayaks was going to get tangled continually, but she skillfully kept it running free. I had thought at the start about tying the anchor to a good spot on the wreck, but it was so big you wouldn’t be sure of getting back to it again.


There were a couple of swimthroughs, and a huge hold that we sank down into towards the end of the dive. Luckily the divers from the boat hadn’t been in there to stir up the silt by then. Little splashes of bright colour from nudibranchs on any surface you cared to focus on.


And so we surfaced, climbed back on our boats, chatted with the other divers (who were from St Helens) and arm-power hauled our way back to Porth Cwyfan (the cove with the white church), and then hoofed the kit across acres of sharp low-tide rocks to the shore.

Now we would have had our tea at that spot, except that the place is very much in earshot of the Anglesey racing circuit, whose noise diary for 19 May 2019 gave their No Limits Motorcycle Track Day a noise category 2. It was pretty bad.

We drove to Newborough Warren where the guy collecting the £5 entrance fee had already gone home, and brewed up some tea just over a sand dune from the carpark (unfortunately melting the handle on the trangia tea-pot in the process).

Then, of course, we had to walk out to and along the whole length of Ynys Llanddwyn, scrambling up and down the rocks at the far end.

I was knackered.

Becka accused me of getting soft and complained that we had done nothing all day.

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019 at 7:00 pm - - Hang-glide

Lots of adventures that have gone unreported on the blog for the last few months, including a month long stay in the city of Belfast, including a couple of dives in Strangford Lough. I’ve been putting stuff in twitter/goatchurch instead.

I haven’t finished writing up my logbook, but anyway I was on a hang-gliding competition last week where I got 12th place in spite of levels of fear before takeoff that made me question whether it was all worth it.

It turned out it was. There were some lovely flights from Builth Wells, Hay Bluff. And then there was Merthyr. Becka was there to pick me up from where I landed, and I sometimes made enough of a distance for this to be worth it.

Here are some quick pics.


Acting as a wireman to put off the fateful moment when it’s going to be my turn.


Getting low on Merthyr Hill in the grey after an hour and a half of flying in the rough air.


Finally getting up to cloud-base, at which point I decided I was done with this place and went straight off downwind.


I landed two hills back with some curious cows. Not such a result that day.

The gopro failed on the other two days, so no in-air photos are available.

I got a lot of stuff to write about, like RTK GPS, ESP32s with MQTT asyncronous mDNS capabilities, Sonoff POWs, differentiating time-series values by curve fitting polynomials. The trouble is none of it is working too well, so I’m preferring to work on it rather than report it. I’ll force myself to hammer some stuff out in the next few days whatever.

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019 at 12:56 pm - - Whipping

I received a complaint about a blogpost via an intermediary from folks who have chosen not to contact me directly, even though they have my email address.

My view is that figures that are wholly undeserving of respect should be accorded maximum disrespect on the basis of maximum research and background knowledge.

However, rather than check me out on that matter, I have been accused of breaching the confidentiality of certain documents.

Due to my respect for the intermediary, I have taken the post down. However, I would like to leave in its place a clarification.

The following documents are public, by virtue of the fact that they are published on a public website by those who are authorized to publish them.

On the website entitled: Liverpool John Lennon Airport Strategic Vision to 2030 and Master Plan to 2050 the public are invited to download the following documents:

In addition, should you need them, here are links to the conflicting documents on the www.gov.uk website:

Fans of my style of blogging may enjoy a previous post from October 2014 entitled Take this job and shove it up Carl’s Bass published on the day I quit my job at a company whose millionaire CEO was at the time Mr. C. Bass.

All documents referenced in that post were public, including those sourced from court documents, although I had to know what I was looking for.

One of the chapters in that blogpost was a story about Socialcam, which Bass’s company had bought for $60million dollars.

I had gotten into a lot of trouble while I was an employee of his company for posting to an internal corporate site that the business plans I had found for it were completely ridiculous.

What made it even funnier was that the internal site I posted to was based on software by company called Qontext, which they had just acquired for $24million (see a pattern?), that was so lacking in features there was no capability for managers to flag and moderate an embarrassing post. (I was uncontactable for twenty-four hours as all hell broke loose.)

As like now, the displeasure was communicated to me via intermediaries (line managers) rather from those who felt aggrieved and who were evidently cowards.

By the time I quit the job 18 months later, the Socialcam website was riddled with uploaded porn videos, because no one was watching it any more. I had proved just too irritating to managers who preferred to wallow in their flagrant incompetence, by posting benign suggestions like:

“With all these companies you’re taking over, maybe you ought to institute an independent two-year review after any acquisition to get the best from the lessons learned, so you don’t keep doing the same embarrassing mistakes over and over again?”

Interestingly, there is a bit more to this story. Six months later I happened to strike up an email conversation with Mr Bass on a different matter following the Develop3D conference in Coventry in March 2015, during which time he found me out, and wrote:

A couple of months ago, someone showed me your post after you quit saying I did all kinds of shit to you. Struck me as odd since we’ve only met once (I think) and I can’t reconcile any of the stuff you claimed I’m responsible for with what I’ve done.

Among the stuff I wrote back, was:

I can forgive you for not getting past the title. However, nobody must have read very far into the post — given that the following page still has a lot of porn: https://socialcam.com/public

The next day the page was still up.

I couldn’t believe it.

This led me to the surreal experience of having to email hard-core porn to the CEO of a ten billion dollar American company. (The image is truncated and blurred as it’s too gross to post in full):

You just can’t get the staff!

Finally, they worked out how to take down that $60million website. No apologies or thanks given for pointing it out. No admission that maybe they should have listened to me earlier. Even if they had acknowledged me, they’d have blamed me for the tone. They don’t like my tone. I have to moderate my tone if I am to get heard.

Yeah, right. I have tried hard and found no evidence for that. The message is the problem. There is no tone that will get the message through. As I quoted the business consultant Tom Peters at the end of my rant: The situation is hopeless. Might as well go and do something interesting.

And if there is one thing that would make the world a better place, it would be for Billionaires to just get a life and go and do something interesting, instead of always trying to make more money out of causing damage to a lot of little people. Isn’t that right John?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019 at 3:40 pm - - Whipping 1 Comment »

This is just awful. It makes things worse. We need someone to speak truth to these elites, like Rutger Bregman just did at Davos where he said: “Enough with the philanthropy bullshit, just pay your taxes, and then we can improve society.”

Cambridge University provides an intellectually stunted education. Why else would one of their graduates, who made a lot of money on financial speculation, donate a stupendous sum of money for:

  • £79m toward funding PhD scholarships
  • £21m will help fund undergraduate study
  • £1m will go towards funding access efforts for applicants from underrepresented backgrounds.

The most basic due diligence would have revealed that Cambridge (and Oxford) were put into special measures last July 2018 for not fulfilling their obligations of their Access and Participation Plan, which they are required to do in order to charge inflated fees.

The Office For Students, which authorises Cambridge’s fee hike, believes that, while they are spending tens of millions on bursaries for students from low-income households, there is no evidence that the money is actually attracting young people from such backgrounds.

In other words, they already have too much money for this, and they are wasting it.

Exactly the sort of institution a lazy billionaire would look to give his money to — ie not one mile beyond the one place he encountered during his youthful formative years.

Is this evidence he has broadened his horizons during his career? Nope!

Just remember kids, earning a billion dollars does not make you smart.

If it does anything, it makes you stupid.

I mean, if I were surrounded by people telling me I was smart, not needing to concern myself with problematic details where the devil lies, and rarely getting challenged on any of my stupid ideas, my head would be more chock full of dumb stuff than ever. No room for intelligent life.

I don’t blame billionaires for letting their minds go blunt. Staying smart is bloody hard work. What’s the point of being rich if you are going to endure that kind of pain?

No brain can function clearly under the burden of wealth, any more than it can respond to events when it is on alcohol. But unfortunately, while most drunk people now know they are unfit to drive, even when they feel confident, no one has come to terms with the fact that the super-rich are unfit to decide how to allocate wealth. It’s an inevitable a car crash.

I mean, listen to this wooden fence-post of a Vice-Chancellor:

I’m immensely grateful to David and Claudia Harding to for this extraordinary gift to the student support initiative of Cambridge University.

It will transform Cambridge’s ability to attract and retain the very best post-graduate students from across Britain and around the world.

It will also encourage greater philanthropy and support of our undergraduate students…

In October 2018, without blinking, this same Professor Toope announced a £500million target for the Student Support Initiative. So he’s got about another £400million to raise from brainless rich people and then to squander on already ineffective bursaries to fulfill overdue obligations.

At some point I’m going to get phone-banked by these clowns, because they have my address, and this is the university I graduated from. I intend to arrange to meet a representative in person, rather than vent my spleen at the hired call-centre operative they’ll have procured, because this has gone too far.

If the university had one inkling of their problem, they could attempt to convene a panel of randomly selected students from across the country from their target audience and give them the resources to probe the institution about its failings in a way that would make them squirm and then possibly do something.

But that’s not going to happen. This institution, which knows about science, and political corruption, and the future, can’t even wean itself off fossil fuel donations and investments in the face of overwhelming opinion.

Meanwhile, the same rich benefactor, who made his money with algorithmic trading, has also in the past sponsored the Winston Program for the Physics of Sustainability, whose program is notable by the complete absence of anything to do with the very near-future threat to the sustainability of organized human life on this planet.

Just take a look at titles from their Symposium last November 2018:

  • Gravitational wave detectors : precision measurement technologies and their applications
  • Atom Interferometry for Geodesy and Fundamental Physics
  • Taking inspiration from biomechanics to engineering, dragonfly drones and other bio-inspired vehicles
  • Electrical machines: from Microwatts to Gigawatts – the future challenges
  • Implantable Biomedical Microelectromechanical Systems
  • Power at the Nanoscale: Speed, Strength and Efficiency in Biological Motors

Here’s that institute’s inspiring logo, the recycled atom:

According to the institute’s description, “There will be a strong emphasis upon fundamental research that will have importance for the sustainability agenda in the long-term.”

Guess what? After eight years of this crap, the problems we face are now short-term. These guys are from the Island of Laputa without their clappers.

Another thing Mr Harding’s Winton Foundation has donated money for in Cambridge (and presumably found wholly satisfactory) is the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication in which he says:

David Harding: Statistics is an immensely powerful subject, but unfortunately it’s counter-intuitive. (Laughs.) So the normal ordinary human brain trying to do statistical analysis will come firmly and to the wrong and often the opposite conclusion to that which is the right conclusion.

And this is dangerous, tragic, and leads to a very strong shortfall in terms of optimal public policy outcomes, and often outcomes for ourselves in our own lives.

Harding, of course, has an extra-ordinary human brain, and he can see through to the really pressing issues of “Risk, Evidence, and Communication”, such as:

  • The risks of alcohol
  • Predict breast cancer tool release
  • Coffee and cancer
  • Can nine lifestyle changes change dementia risk?
  • The dangers of insecticides, poor statistics and over-enthusiastic press offices
  • Does air pollution kill 40,000 people each year in the UK?
  • How dangerous is burnt toast?

We are totally screwed.

For different reasons, the historian Malcolm Gladwell had also had it with this philanthropy universities crap going on in America and tweeted four years ago:

He followed up with a very fine podcast episode about the phenomenon, where he exposed just how utterly insatiable these institutions are, when there are just so many other places you could make a thousand times more of a difference if you thought about it.

In his interview (minute 25:00) with John Hennessy, the President of Standford University, who was just then ushering in a $750million endowment for the hundred most elite graduates chosen by a panel of wealthy professors from a set of high-flying graduate applicants, Gladwell asked:

Gladwell: How much is enough for an institution like Stanford?

Hennessy: How much is enough? Um. I think if our ambitions don’t grow, then I think you do reach a point where you have enough money, and I would hope that our ambitions for what we would want to do as an institution, both in our teaching and our research, grow

Gladwell: Hypothetically, if Bill Gates or Larry Ellison came to you and said, “I’m giving you ten billion dollars. I’m retiring and my will says everything goes to Stanford.” Would you say, “We don’t know, we don’t need it.” Or would you say, “We can put that money to good use.”

Hennessy: Well, first of all I don’t think either Gates of Ellison is going to give me ten billion dollars, unless I tell them exactly what I’m going to do with it, and how I’m going to make it a good investment. And since I know both of them I can tell you they won’t do it.

Gladwell: Could you make an argument to Ellison that if he gave you ten billion you could put it to good use?

Gladwell (narrating): Ten billion, just to put us in the ball-park, because I worry sometimes that Americans get a little jaded about big numbers. Ten billion is a few billion more than the GDP of Barbados and four billion shy of the GDP of Jamaica. Basically I’m asking what would happen if someone gave you, Stanford, the average economic output of an entire Caribbean country for a year. Tax-free, by the way. The guy who gives the ten billion gets to write it off, and every dollar Stanford earns on that ten billion, they get to keep.

Hennessy: Ten billion. I’d have to do something really dramatic for ten billion dollars. Really dramatic.

Gladwell (narrating): He thinks about it for a moment. Actually I counted. For about two seconds. Then he comes up with something really dramatic.

Hennessy: The one area where I think there is an opportunity for significant incremental funding is in the biomedical sciences. If that were an endowment, for example, so you’re throwing out about a half a billion dollars a year, I could find a way to spend half a billion dollars a year in biomedical research.

Gladwell (narrating): Ten billion! He could totally use another ten billion! At this point, I’m just curious… So I keep posing more and more far-fetched scenarios.

Gladwell: Do ever imagine that a president of Stanford might go to a funder and say, “At this point in our history the best use of your money is to give to the UC System , not Stanford?

Gladwell (narrating): The UC System is the University of California System. Ten schools: Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego, Davis, Santa Barbra, etc. Maybe the finest group of public universities in the world… In the previous episode I talked about the NYT Access index which is a ranking of the 180 universities in the US according to how good a job they do in finding, educating, and financially supporting low income students. Right now… six of the first seven spots on that list are University of California schools. Stanford has 16,000 students, the UC System has 238,000 students.

So I’m asking John Hennessy, might there ever, ever, be an instance where he might tell a would-be super-philanthropist, “Look, we’ve already got £22billion in the bank, higher than two Caribbean countries combined, and it’s earning us a couple of tax-free billions every year. Your dollar would go further at the public institutions down the street, since they educate 222,000 more students than we do, with a fraction of the endowment.

I’m not holding Hennessy to his answer. I’m not looking for him to make a solemn pledge. I’m just asking.

Hennessy: Well that would be a hard thing to do, obviously, to turn them away. And I think the other question we’d be asked is, “How can I have confidence that they’ll use my money well?” which obviously the president of Stanford is not in a position to vouch for I think.

Gladwell (narrating): Now I realize he has institutional loyalties. He’s the head of Stanford. And I must say, I liked him. But I must say, am I the only the only one who finds his answer ridiculous? Even offensive?

He’s suggesting that he can’t guarantee that the UC System, perhaps the most successful and socially progressive public university system in the world, he can’t guarantee they would use that money well?

As opposed to what? As opposed to spending $800million on a boutique graduate program for a hundred elite students a year: that kind of using money well?

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018 at 6:51 pm - - Hang-glide

Quite a lot of work in the last week (especially at the weekend) reading a big book called Tailless Aircraft: Their Design and Characteristics, published 1994, translated from German.

The blurb on the inside cover reads:

The authors are uniquely placed to compile the first practical and comprehensive treatment of this fascinating branch of aeronautics. They have for many years collaborated on the practical and theoretical development of flying wings, applying themselves to sailplanes and powered designs ranging from models to full-size craft. In 1988, together with Klaus R, they received the “Berblinger Award” from the City of Ulm for their investivation into the design for an optimum tailless hangglider.

What the heck is the “Berblinger Award”?

The winner of the 100,000 Euro Berblinger Flight Competition was declared on Sunday 17 April, in the Ulm town hall. In all, 36 participants competed for the prize, which focussed on the use of innovative, ecological and resource-saving technologies. Of the 36 applications received, 24 aircraft were initially admitted to the competition. 13 aircraft started successfully; due to insufficient financial backing, technical difficulties or the absence of the appropriate flying licenses the remaining competitors were not able to take part in the practical phases of the competition, which was carried out at the AERO global for general aviation, in Friedrichshafen. Eight participants successfully completed the exercise of flying from Friedrichshafen to Ulm.

Two anniversaries were celebrated with an extensive programme of events during this weekend in Friedrichsau Park and the Adlerbastei: 200 years ago, King Friedrich 1st gave the Friedrichsau Park to the people of Ulm. In honour of his visit, Berblinger performed his attempt to fly across the Danube.

Who the heck is Albrecht Berblinger?

One of Berblinger’s inventions was what appears to be a hang gliderKing Frederick I of Württemberg became interested in his work and sponsored him with 20 Louis. He tried to demonstrate the glider on the evening of 30 May 1811 in the presence of the king, his three sons and the crown prince of Bavaria. The king and a large number of citizens waited for the flight but Berblinger cancelled it, claiming that his glider was damaged. The next day he made a second attempt. The King had left by this time, but his brother Duke Heinrich and the princes stayed to watch. Berblinger waited so long for a good wind that a policeman finally gave him a push and Berblinger fell into the Donau (Danube).

It sounds like the experience on some of my takeoffs.

But enough of that rabbit-hole.

I’ve been attempting to replicate some of these graphs and diagrams from the book, like these ones:

After many days and many attempts, I got to this matching version:

This was not helped by the mistake in Formula (2.7.5)!

I could not replicate the other four lines for the “neutral point” (some details about dc_l/d(alpha) has been left out).

In the process of this I have wasted no pencil and paper, and proved the power of SymPy, which I think all mathematics should be written using.

The details are all on the Horten sailplanes Jupyter notebook. It’s probably a good thing I don’t have the technology to inline mathematics into this blog.

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018 at 12:24 pm - - Kayak Dive

A quick weekend to take advantage of Becka’s trip to Southampton University to work as an examiner. Unfortunately the university library was card controlled, so I hung out in the Burgess Road Public Library skimming through a tourist book about the Isle of Wight (containing no useful information) and then reading part of a Douglas Adams book.

We drove over on the ferry on Friday afternoon to stay with an old hang-gliding buddy, who is now the last hangie on the island. This, down from a time when, during the 1980s and 1990s, one of the largest hang-glider manufactures in the world was in operation.

It was too windy for that game, and blowing from the north, so we took our kayaks, went out of Freshwater Bay and paddled to The Needles.

It seemed too windy and scary to get out to the far needle, so we got back and gave our friend a trip round the bay, then walked up to the battery to see the stunning white cliffs from another angle. It was cold and windy.

On Sunday we took the cycle trail from Newport to Sandown, emptied all our tuppences into a machine, and cycled back again, pumping up the tyres every couple miles due to a slow puncture.

I’ve been doing my best to get through the book Tailless Aircraft in theory and practice that I nicked from my friend’s bookshelf on the way out. More on this later. The mathematics in it feels a bit shoddy, which might be why I’ve never got through such engineering books before. Foundational assumptions, such as the optimality of the elliptical lift distribution, are stated in passing because the practitioners have so internalized them they don’t even notice. It’s as basic to the equations as the conventions of using (x,y,z) for the axes and t for time. Also, these engineering guys will divide anything by anything just to get a dimensionless constant.

Then on Monday I put it in practice by driving over to Treak Hill in the peak district and bombing out to the bottom landing field, while everyone else had a lovely time flying all round Mam Tour. (The airforce glider is a two person glider that also went down, because it’s quite heavy. I packed it up while the pilot went up for a proper fly.)

Maybe tomorrow.