Freesteel Blog » Whipping

Sunday, December 10th, 2017 at 2:51 pm - - Whipping

Page 332 of Buckminster Fuller’s 1981 book Critical Path has the following passage (rewritten for readability):

In the early 1960s I was commissioned by a Japanese patron to design one of my tetrahedronal floating cities for Tokyo Bay.

Floating cities are designed with the most buoyantly stable conformation of deep-see bell-buoys. Their omni-surface-terraced, slope-faced, tetrahedronal structuring is employed to avoid the lethal threat of precipitous falls from sheer high-rise buildings.

The tetrahedron has the most surface with the least volume of all polyhedra. As such it provides the most possible “outside” living. Its sloping external surface is adequate for all its occupants to enjoy their own private, outside, tiered-terracing, garden homes. These are most economically serviced from the common, omni-nearest-possible center of volume of all polyhedra.

In 1966 my Japanese patron died and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development commissioned me to carry out a full design and economic analysis for potential USA use. With my associates I completed the design and study as well as a scaled-down model.

The city of Baltimore was interested in acquiring the first such floating city for anchorage just offshore in Chesapeake Bay. At this time President Lyndon Johnson’s Democratic Party went out of power. President Johnson took the model with him and installed it in his LBJ Texas library. Baltimore’s politicians went out of favour with the Nixon administration, and the whole project languished.

That’s interesting, I thought, and looked for information about it at the LBJ presidential library.

I couldn’t find any record of a model, but I did get this transcript of an oral history interview with, I think, one of the White House staffers.

Liz [Carpenter] (press secretary to the formidable First Lady) and I had a fascinating afternoon. Charlie Haar, assistant secretary of HUD (under RC Weaver), who had some money for grants for new and innovative kinds of things, had given Buckminster Fuller a grant to develop a concept and model of an offshore city, floating habitation. Bucky had done the model in terms of, I think, San Antonio. Am I right? Is that on the coast? No, no, Galveston. That’s on the coast.

Haar was intrigued by it, and he thought we’d be interested in seeing it. So over we went, and there was this great model in the hall. Mr. Fuller and Secretary Haar began explaining how it worked, and Liz looked at it and she looked at it. This was the latest and most advanced, most sophisticated concept of all integrated facilities and services and shops and schools and housing and residences and everything all piled in a great bundle out at sea where it didn’t take any land, et cetera. She said it looked like a filing case, and what kind of people were going to live in a place like that? What was going to become of them if they lived in a place like that? She was shocked with Charles Haar. In fact she was going to turn the Sierra Club loose on him if he ever surfaced this proposal anywhere. People would turn into moles and be stunted if they had to live in a filing cabinet. She thought it violated everything we’d been standing for and working for.

Poor Fuller blinked, and I think that’s one of the best things that ever happened to him. Because he’s the kind of person who’s a demigod among technocrats and innovators, and everyone pays tribute to his genius. But Liz Carpenter sure didn’t. Liz just cut him down. He began talking about the mobilty of people these days and how he lived out of a suitcase and went from hotel room to hotel room. He was always making speeches and consulting here and there, and people really just need a place to bathe and lie down for a while. This kind of facility was designed for the new mobile age. Liz said, “Well, if they don’t stay home, it’s because we haven’t given them anything to stay home for.”

Charlie began getting worried that his august consultant might be offended. Liz was so direct and so irrefutable and so to the point and so insistent that they face up to the more basic question she was asking that Charlie finally sort of pulled her over under one side of the model, and I pulled Fuller over to the other side of the model to keep them away from each other. We temporized as hard as we could, and then we got Liz in an elevator and sent her down. I sort of patted Fuller on the back and said, “Now don’t you worry, and don’t you ever forget anything she said, because you know she’s right. But don’t let it get to you.” Charlie and I rolled our eyes at each other and felt that one had distinctly backfired. I think it shows her extraordinary contribution, and I couldn’t help but be glad that she’d done it.

For a bit of context, this was the era of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project disaster, which was designed by no less than the architect of the World Trade Center buildings. Public housing is hard– especially when public administrators are politically instructed to ruin everything in their power.

A clue of the personal-social dymanics between the professions is provided in an essay entitled; The Pruitt-Igoe Myth:

Even after the architects had switched to an all high-rise scheme, they faced continued pressure from the Public Housing Administration to keep costs to a bare minimum. In a 1975 study of the St. Louis Housing Authority’s expenditures on Pruitt-Igoe, political scientist Eugene Meehan analyzed the extent to which these budget constraints affected the final design. In addition to the elimination of amenities, such as children’s play areas, landscaping, and ground-floor bathrooms, the cost cutting targeted points of contact between the tenants and the living units. “The quality of the hardware was so poor that doorknobs and locks were broken on initial use. …Windowpanes were blown from inadequate frames by wind pressure. In the kitchens, cabinets were made of the thinnest plywood possible.”

…By continuing to promote architectural solutions to what are fundamentally problems of class and race, the myth conceals the complete inadequacy of contemporary public housing policy. It has quite usefully shifted the blame from the sources of housing policy and placed it on the design professions. By furthering this misconception, the myth disguises the causes of the failure of public housing, and also ensures the continued participation of the architecture profession in token and palliative efforts to address the problem of poverty in America. The myth is a mystification that benefits everyone involved, except those to whom public housing programs are supposedly directed.

Sunday, December 10th, 2017 at 1:27 pm - - Whipping

I’ve had a bit of a layoff for the autumn due to various issues, but strength seems to be returning. I have just finished reading Buckminster Fuller’s 1981 book Critical Path, which was written well before the internet or the invention of free software.

I wanted to type up an excerpt. But since the writing was so terrible I decided to edit it down extensively so you can read and get the gist more easily.

Chapter 8, Critical Path: Part Two

It was important to adopt a target date so far in the future to avoid making any of the power structures of 1927 feel their interests were threatened by what I was proposing. It was necessary to reach beyond their most forward developed visions so that my concepts would appear to be either a pleasant “pipe dream” or innocuous nonsense.

I was able to do exactly that. The most powerful people I knew found me utterly unaccreditable but “interesting” — and to some “fascinating”. This induced them to invite me to their parties to entertain their guests with my “dreaming out loud”. For this reason their press frequently gave my projects prominent publicity– because they found my concepts popularly entertaining. They published them ever more frequently and prominently, hoping for advertisements-inducing, increased readership.

I will now discuss the probable order of livingry-reoriented realization of the socioeconomic results of our already-accomplished, half-century, critical-path-artifacts development.

Approximately 60% of employed US America are working at tasks that are not producing any life support. Jobs of inspectors-of-inspectors; jobs with insurance companies that induce people to bet that their house is going to be destroyed by fire while the insurance company bets that it isn’t, and so on.

The majority of Americans reach their jobs by automobile, probably averaging four gallons a day– thereby, spending four million real cosmic-physical-Universe dollars of nature’s stored accumulated millions of years mineral wealth without producing any physical Universe life-support– which alone constitutes wealth.

We can ask a computer the question: “Should we carry on as at present, trying to politically create more of these no-wealth producing jobs, or pay everybody a handsome fellowship to stay at home.”

The answer is obvious.

But then wouldn’t all the people staying at home just continually buy all kinds of expensive things? The answer is No. Because these people will want to travel around the world, and they will quickly discover that while you can’t take it with you when you die, you also can’t take it with you around the world. They will each discover for themselves that the greatest luxury is to be able to live unencumbered while able to get any information you want in split seconds and any desirable environmental condition they want in a day.

Assuming that, as a result of technological advances with machines, we can produce adequate life-support for humanity in half the present time, present custom would say we should adopt a four-day, five-hour-per-day work week. But this would result in living in the same spot and clogging up the highways with local weekend to-and-froing. Instead I propose a few years of continuous six-day-per-week, eight-hour-per-day service as in the military or medical internship so that by the age of 38 workers will have completed their service in direct production support of humanity. With their wisdom evolved, they will have more than half their lives left to live. They will be extremely well-informed and free to initiate their own commitments to the improvement of human functioning within the eternally regenerative integrity of Universe.

Along with making it economically feasible to permit a large majority of people to remain at home in country or city, to think fearlessly and unselfishly, we will permit all children to study at home, eliminating the schoolhouse, schoolteachers. school janitors, and school-bus systems, which cost unnecessary trillions of dollars each school year. At home we shall provide each child with a private room, television set, and video-education cassettes as well as world-satellite-inter-relayed computer and controlled video-encyclopedia access. These will make it possible for any child anywhere to obtain lucidly, faithfully, and attractively presented authoritative information on any subject.

Children and grown people will be able to get their continuing intellectual education at their home terminals. They will get their social experience and tool-handling education in locally organized neighborhood activities when humans wish to converge.

Those who have attained high scholarly capability assure us that the only real education is self-education. They also say that this self-discipline is often inspired by great teachers who make it apparent that it will be worthwhile to take the trouble. The records of all great self-educated individuals show that they discern intuitively when and what it is they want to learn. Thereafter they arrange to do so by four main strategies. The first is by self-conducted experiments, if they are scientists. The second is by going to living people who have educated themselves from direct experiences. The third is to contact through books those who have discovered and learned but are now dead. Fourth, they sometimes recourse to word-of-mouth information passed from generation to generation by craftsmen-artists.

Fearful of losing their jobs, the tenured professional educators of today and all those earning a living by teaching are relentlessly fighting video. Since they can’t tell the truth about their motives, these tenured pedants rationalize, “What the children need is the personal equation.” What I’ve long observed in the movie world is that millions of human beings fall in love with heroes and heroines knowing only their photographic images cast upon a blank wall. All the “personal equation” can be transmitted with more poignancy by electronics than would ever be feasible in ordinary, personal-contact life.

After beginning to receive their home-research lifetime fellowships and trying the video educational system themselves, professors and researchers won’t protest anymore about loss of the “personal equation” in education.

With complete freedom of choice, much of humanity will begin to discover that it loves to work at tasks of its own choosing — that it loves to discipline itself to demonstrate its competence to others — that it will compete with the many to demonstrate its competence to serve on one of the multitude of production teams. There will be no pay for work. It would be like qualifying for the Olympic team to be allowed to do what you want to do. You would have to prove that you could do the job you wanted to do better than anyone else available to get onto the production teams. Permission to serve on the world’s production teams will be the greatest privilege that humanity can bestow on an individual. There is no joy equal to that of being able to work for all humanity and doing what you’re doing well.

There will be no attempt to block automation to keep human muscle and repetitive-selection jobs operative. There would be continual inspiration to invent more automation. Those who are real craftsmen are good at developing the tools-that-make-tools and love their work will be at the heart of the production teams. There will be no need to earn more because your fellowship will always get you more than you want. You won’t be able to buy any non-consumables– you will only be able to rent. If you are renting more than you can use, the system will call the excess back.

Those who love to teach and have something valuable to teach can discipline themselves to qualify for membership on the subject-scenario-writing teams or on video-cassette or disc production teams. Great scholars will thrive, whatever their fields may be. They will be free to devote their entire time to their labours of love. Vast numbers will discover that they are earnest, capable independent-research scholars. What they have to say, if unique, can become the subject of a video-cassette world-satellite-relayed encyclopedia entry.

Monday, June 19th, 2017 at 2:17 pm - - Whipping

Quick pre-holiday blogpost when I should be packing. A couple of things in the past few days.

Firstly, I tried to help out in a small way on the LibDem campaign to hold the Parliamentary seat of Southport. In spite of hundreds of hours of canvassing (mostly knocking on doors of people their database said were supporters) their being demoted to third from first place came as a complete surprise on the night. It seems no one, including me, had thought to look up the polling estimates that looked like this:

yousouth

I put a lot of the failure down to the assumptions embedded into their expensive Obama-campaign based software ngpvan where its fundamental error is expressed in its selling pitch at minute 0:38 thus:

Campaign tech 101:
The Key to a Successful Campaign depends on ONE THING:
Your Supporters

No no no no NO!!!

The key to a successful business may depend on one thing: your customers.

But the key to a successful campaign within our could-not-be-more-shitty first past the post electoral system depends on one thing:

That no one else gets more votes than you!

The massive canvassing and leafletting effort may have added a few hundred votes onto the outcome, which would have made a difference had it been close. But afterwards it is important therefore to subtract those votes back off the final tally when estimating next time how far you have to go to win it. Unfortunately, this control variable is usually forgotten from the equation.

If we had a decent proportional representation electoral system, then maybe your own supporters would matter equally, and the national party would run some kind of franchise system around the country where they gave us a target of how many votes we were expected to get given the local circumstances. In the same way that a Mercedes dealer in Kent should have a higher sales target than one in West Wales.

Speaking of which, I then went to the vote count in Liverpool, where it was quite depressing to watch as the Green Party vote dropped by 80% and tens of thousands of votes were piled on to the majorities of our wretched pack of Merseyside Labour MPs who have spent the last two years fighting against Corbyn and all of his popular policies by the Corbyn surge.

As an example, take my own warmongering MP Louise Ellman, who is head of the Transport Select Committee which produced a report as recently as February 2017

Riverside MP Louise Ellman has said the Government’s management of the railways is “not fit for purpose.”

The chairman of the transport select committee said passengers and the general public are running out of patience with rail companies thanks to poor performances, rising fares, overcrowding and late-running services – and has now called for an independent review.

Her committee reported: “The current model fails to deliver for passengers, to drive industry efficiencies, promote competition, reduce the taxpayer subsidy or transfer financial risk to the private sector.”

Yet when pressed by the news presenter on the radio at the time, she flat out refused to consider renationalization as an option whatsoever, even though this is now on the Corbyn Labour Party Manifesto and most members of the public approves of it.

These New Labour ideological capitalist clowns had 13 years to fully renationalize the railways when they were in government. After a series of huge train crashes caused by cost cutting and maladministration of the engineering and then a total bankruptcy, they took ownership of the tracks — only because they couldn’t find any other company whom they could bribe to own it. On the other hand, the railway franchises keep being bunged back into the private sector over and over again at great expense, when they could easily be rolled back into the public sector and managed efficiently as the contracts lapse. But allowing this as an option proves that it could have been done 10 years ago, and that they are complete dimwits — which they totally are. Rather than get with the program, they far prefer to waste our time, spend our money and lose elections that admit that it’s possible for this policy to change.

Meanwhile in the Microshaft Word Department

I came up with a nifty idea to scrape the comments tagged into a Word document and output them formatted in an excel spreadsheet.

While looking around for the tech to do this (OMG Powershell is shite) I discovered this gem:

3 effective methods to extract comments from a word document

Each of the three methods takes about 12 steps and generally you wind up with the content in some XPS file in a format you don’t want where you have to do as much cut-and-pasting as if you did it to each of the comments individually.

The article ends with this fine summary:

File Loss Happens All the Time
To sum up, in this article, we discussed 3 methods to extract comments. Yet two of them involves saving file in other formats. This operation definitely increases the risk of damaging files. So when it happens, you need to recover Word doc with a specialized tool.

You can’t believe how anyone puts up with this. Mind-boggling. It’s like watching treatment for blood loss with leeches.

Then I went to Tailbridge on Saturday when it was too sunny and flew around for 3 hours along a short 500m of ridge not getting more than 150m off the deck until I got sick.

pic2

pic3

Monday, February 27th, 2017 at 7:13 pm - - Machining, Whipping

For a number of years I have been familiar with the observation that the sophistication of, in particular, time series data analysis is adversely impacted by the use of the Excel spreadsheet program. More recently I have discovered exactly how it is an irreparably deficient application and I am convinced that its use should be abolished from all non-small business accounting applications (ie everything except what it was originally intended for).

Hitherto I did not attach much importance to this view, owing to the fact that it is considered an anti-Microsoft bias as well as a “lost cause” because “everyone uses it”. However, on learning the existence of a large body of signal processing theory which is all but inaccessible to users of Excel due to its fundamental nature, I submit my observations for consideration below.

My first remark is that if data scientists don’t know about the benefits and substantial applications of multi-source data combinations, Kalman filters and seasonal adjustments reliant on the autoregressive-moving-average model, they are missing an important part of their job and are deferring the implementations of these concepts to mere “estimation by eye” from the graphs.

My second remark is that when external software exists that can be used to, say, calculate and compensate for the seasonal adjustment, it generally requires the data to be submitted in a time series format, and this requires a great deal of preparation of the spreadsheet data. Thus the appearance of being able to open up and immediately (and supposedly do) work with the spreadsheet data within seconds is deceptive, because there is now a longer route for the data to move it back out in a form to be processed and re-imported back into the spreadsheet for familiar viewing.

Let us consider a couple of time-series data sets. For example, the monthly national GDP and the employment statistics, or imagine one minute intervals of temperature and electricity use in a building.

What elements of the data are required to perform any useful processes on it, beyond simply the production of visual graphs?

For time series data (which a great proportion of data can be described as being), the existence of a reliable datetime value is paramount. Excel may in theory have a datetime cell type, but it is not visibly distinguishable from an unstructured string type with its ambiguous American and English date orderings. As such, it cannot be consistently used because improper use does generate an unignorable error (eg anything in column A must be in this datetime form or you can’t save the file).

Furthermore, just the datetime is not enough, because there are time series intervals (for example, monthly or quarterly data) and these cannot always be approximated by a single time point. By convention quarterly intervals can either be represented by the end of the quarter (eg sales results) or the start of the quarter (eg sales targets) but both need to be boxed into the same entity in any subsequent regression model.

Finally, when you have different data series from different data sources they usually work to different sample rates, so you cannot represent them adequately as a single row per time sample. This would apply to the power use for the heating system which is provided every minute, when the average outdoor temperature is recorded daily.

Accordingly, the primary dimension of the data points, the datetimes, are problematical. But what of the data point values, the measured quantities? If they are each recorded into a single spreadsheet cell we will invariably be lacking an associated standard deviation/confidence interval for them. The standard deviation is an crucial input to the Kalman filter for the determination of the weight applied to each individual measure.

Take the example of the monthly political polling data prior to an election. These are often supplied by different agencies and almost always come with a confidence interval that depends on the size of sample so we know to take less notice of a poll which defies the steady trend when it has a wide margin of error. But then if there are more polls with the same wide margin of error that are also in line with that new trend, the best guess of the trend will be pulled in the new direction as much as it would have been by one very good accurate poll with a narrow margin of error. This balancing of the estimations from the aggregation of the location and accuracy of the measures is optimized by the Kalman filter, and should not be done by eye from the charts themselves merely because it can’t easily be applied in Excel and we’re too lazy to convert our working platform to something where it could have been easily applied.

And this brings me to the final point about Excel, which apparently can do anything because it can run programmed macros. Really? Who can honestly think, if they have every stopped to consider it, that it is a good idea to co-mingle software with data? You might as well nail your vinyl record onto the record player and then parcel-tape it into a heavy cardboard box to prevent interchangeability.

The co-mingling of data and code with no reliable means of disconnection leads to dangerous and ridiculous practices, such as copying the data into and out of the spreadsheet by hand just to access the service of the macros.

Come on folks. If you’re going to call yourself data scientists, you cannot rely on a single tool that prevents you from applying the last fifty years of data science know-how optimally and productively — and then rely on its inadequacy as an excuse to not challenge yourself to learn and master the amazing mathematical technology that would have been at your disposal had you not chosen ignorance over education.

We have got to get beyond the pointless issue of formatting data into “machine readable form” for the mere purpose of making graphs for visual titillation, and get to grips with actual intelligence and effective control theory.

There is, for example, nothing smart about having to control a car with a human looking out through a window for white lines on the tarmac and the traffic lights on the verge in order to move the steering wheel and pedals in response. Smart is getting the data to feed-back directly into a computer that controls these motions optimally while you sit back in awe having merely specified the destination. But if someone out there building the tech has dared to embed a copy of Excel within the process chain between the sensor acquisition and the motor control actuators, then we are doomed.

Thanks to the famous Go to considered harmful letter of 1968. There was a heated debate about it, and 30 years later it was unconscionable that programming languages could even be conceived of to include a goto statement. Kids these days probably don’t even know what one is.

But just think about all that programming wasted and how much further on we could have been without the inclusion of that single statement which caused so much unnecessary expense and buggy code throughout the years, and then imagine how much damage is being caused by inappropriate use of this inadequate data non-analysis tool up to now and for the next 20 years before it too finally gets buried in the ash-can of history and people don’t even remember that we ever used it in the first place.

This has been the moment of truth.

Good day.

Friday, November 18th, 2016 at 11:23 pm - - Science Fiction, Whipping 1 Comment »

Well, it happened. Donald Trump got elected. And into the hard vacuum of his political philosophy, he’s sucked in all kinds of plague carrying rats.

Rats like Myron Ebell.

People ask me if I am going to restart my proxy blog for Ebell, which I wrote from 2004 to 2011, called The Myron Ebell Climate chronicling his part in the suicide of the human species.

But there’s no point.

Not only is it too late, but everyone else is covering this walking cancer now.

Where were you folks when it mattered? Back in 2004 I said we should run a proxy blog for each one of these think-tank bastards and form a shadow network for this corporate funded disinformation infrastructure. It was required to correct the reputations of these monsters who were constantly popping up on the TV and in the newspapers carrying out lies and damaging all of society. It would have been easy. They’re slippery pricks, but one could systematically keep their record alive to make sure some of it sticks.
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Friday, June 17th, 2016 at 12:03 pm - - Whipping

I went to the International Festival for Business down at the Liverpool docks to see a presentation on the funding competition for 3D printing by InnovateUK yesterday.

I was quickly trapped in a dark room full of suits as the Government man painstakingly powerpointed his way through the process by which they were going to hand over several millions of pounds to the sorts of respectable businessmen who ultimately don’t give a damn if the technology can be made to work productively or not, because the underlying purpose of their job titles is to extract financial profits for themselves as the primary objective.

That is the very definition of a respectable businessman these days. It’s not ever defined as someone with the character to manage and inspire the teams of technologists who would have the capability to deliver the technology, or a preparedness to use finance in the service of these ends rather than as an excuse to impose inefficient and ineffective research and development methods onto any program they control.

Back in the old days when the Government wanted some new technology developed, like nuclear weapons, space travel or machine tools, people sought out and spoke to the engineers who were ultimately going to have to do the job, and then designed programs around the necessity of organizing these engineers to get it done as efficiently as possible.

If their one idea is that people like me have to be subserviently employed under a contract to deliver closed source software for the know-nothing suits they’ve deliberately empowered to curate this technology by virtue of proving them the grants, then it’s going to be a disappointment.

I walked out to the main hall where FW de Klerk was being introduced prior to his speech.

deklerk
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Tuesday, May 17th, 2016 at 4:22 pm - - Whipping

I met my first Leave Europe supporter yesterday, but didn’t have enough time to quiz them. But they referred me to Boris Johnson’s speech in Manchester as an explanation.

I listened to it all.

Boris banged on about those nasty EU regulations infiltrating every part of the nation:

“They can’t tell us what sort of trains we can run, can they?

“Oh yes they can!

“Oh yes they can!

“The EU Commission told us that by 10 Nov 2018 we must create a rail freight corridor to Glasgow and Felixstowe, which means that Network Rail can be legally obliged to accept rail freight trains in place of passenger trains.

“Of course our excellent transport minister spotted this insanity, with the west coast main line full to capacity. If we had more freight trains, fewer passenger trains, there would me more overcrowding and higher fares. So he wrote a fierce letter to the Commission complaining that they were circumventing requirements, bending the rules, and of competence creep aka sticking their nose into something that wasn’t their business. But the Commission told him to ‘go and jump in a lake.’

“So we took them to the European Court of Justice, and what did the Court of Justice say? They told us ‘allez vous plonger dans un lac.’ They ruled on that occasion as they have done in 80 per cent of the cases in which Britain has been involved – they rules against us.”

Now these are the days when the world is interconnected, and we have a Channel Tunnel, and roads that are utterly chockablock with a hundred thousand fat diesel trucks that can freely drive onto the motorways in enormous numbers.

In the meantime it’s practically impossible to arrange for a zero-carbon electric train to haul heavy steel products direct from the steel mills on the Clyde to the construction sites in Barcelona because of the amazing national railway bureaucracies along the way.

It takes years of painstaking systematic work to identify and address these problems, like those articulated in a Select Committee report from 2005:

Many of our witnesses told us that getting rail freight through France was very difficult. The significance of this problem is greater because France’s geographical position means that international rail freight to and from Great Britain and the Iberian Peninsula travels through France. We were therefore encouraged by Mr Hilbrecht’s confirmation that Europorte 2, a subsidiary of Eurotunnel, had received a licence and a safety certificate to operate in France…

The French two-part tariff system was also said to be a particular barrier to open access and fair competition within France. Mr Hilbrecht was happy “to say that we have achieved agreement with France . . . . They agree that it (the two-part tariff system) should be changed”. Unfortunately the French government claim that because of the public service contracts with regions they cannot do so before 1 January 2006. This two-part tariff system needs to be abolished. We hope that the Commission will ensure that the French government abolish it as soon as possible.

The last problem that we identified is the least tangible, but is nevertheless an important challenge facing the rail freight industry. The evidence we received led us to believe that the rail industry in general, and in particular the rail infrastructure managers, have inadequate incentives to win new traffic. We recognise that, for political reasons, rail passengers are given priority over the movement of rail freight. This appears to have resulted in an institutional framework within the rail industry in which there is little incentive to increase and improve rail freight.

Whatever the cause of this lack of commercialism and competitive performance, it has to be overcome if the rail freight industry is to revive and achieve its potential.

But Boris doesn’t give a toss about this if he can make people laugh at his stupid jokes.

He’ll say all EU directives and ECJ rulings are about Brussels bureaucrats meddling in everything with their crappy regulations, when these ones are about unpicking the thicket of stultifying regulations and prohibitive monopoly rules that make it impossible run trains across national borders.

You have to pass laws to repeal laws, and fight hard to get rid of bureaucracy.

Anti-democratic? Never mind that each one of these directives is examined, amended and passed by a European Parliament that gets elected every five years where every vote counts equally, so that when the Green Party gets 6.7% of the votes, it gets 6.7% of the seats — unlike in the utterly screwed up system in the UK that gives disproportionate representative power to tosswits like Boris to tell us like it isn’t.

Yes, I mentioned that steel industry, the jewel in the crown of Britain’s awe-inspiring industrial revolution of the 19th century. You remember how a private corporation in one of our former British empire colonies bought it in its entirety for small change ten years ago and then shut the whole thing down last week? How humiliating is that?

So much for the Commonwealth Dream, eh? I don’t see Britain owning any comparable assets in foreign lands, other than a few seedy tax havens.

This should have been a seminal moment in our nation’s self-image.

But it isn’t because our political feelings have become pathologically detached from reality.

Apparently the EU tried to save the steel industry by putting tariffs on Chinese impots, but this effort was blocked by the UK government because our policy is to toady up to everything the Chinese want no matter what the cost.

That’s because the country that built the first commercial nuclear power station in the world in 1956 needs that Chinese finance to pay French engineers to consider building a new one — at a cost not quite as high as the International Space Station.

It’s not going to fly. And it doesn’t include the cost of taking it down, let alone in time for the sea levels to rise and wash the resulting radioactive sludge inland to Bristol and all along the North Devon coast with the tides.

Isn’t it curious the highest profile proponents of the Britain to Leave Europe are also climate change denialists? Once you have one delusion of supremacy, it’s easy to get more.

As Professor Danny Dorling pointed out:

The UK is not a typical country in Europe. If we were more typical I would have more patience with those who suggest that we could leave and our lives would improve. But in many ways we’re a poorly performing affluent country. This poor performance has little to do with the EU, and a lot to do with us, and our legacy of having had an Empire. From the Suez crisis right through to the Panama papers, there’s a series of embarrassments that have occurred and, in a way, this referendum is just another one of those embarrassments.

Some people have a fantasy (enjoyed by the majority of the Brexit group, particularly the Cabinet ministers) that if we were to leave we would become ‘Great’ again. We could become the richest country in the world again, and our EU membership is why we are not ‘Great’.

And, so, because a lot of sensible people are sick and tired of arguing with these total idiots, we feel like letting them have what they desire, and getting us out of Europe. And then the Europeans are not going to help us with driving our trains, cars, people, money, goods or anything else across our the borders and into their lands. Things will pretty quickly stop working and go south.

And these politicians who sold us this knackered bill of goods will absolutely own it. We’re going to have to finally learn the hard way how Not-Great we are. It’ll be good in the long run — if there was a long run — for us to have a more realistic perspective about who we are. After all, losing their big wars seems to have done a power of good to the standard of living of the people in Germany and Japan.

In the end none of this matters one little bit. We are arguing about these petty matters when we should be freaked out by the fact that the near-term human extinction has become inevitable.

At some point everyone will learn that we are nothing more than ten billion monkeys farting around on one lonely planet with made-up borders. We’ve used our big brains just enough to fuck things up royally, but we just cannot be arsed to turn it up another notch to avert disaster, can we?

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 at 1:24 pm - - Whipping 1 Comment »

If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal — Emma Goldman.

So, if you want people to vote, they have to believe that it can change something.

The Labour Party is undergoing a sudden and spectacular revolution with hundreds of thousands of people signing up on the belief their vote will make a difference when they elect Jeremy Corbyn. No one saw this coming.

Just one month ago the former leader Tony Blair said that anyone who supported Corbyn should get a heart transplant.

Funnily enough, Blair only became party leader (and, by default, Prime Minister) because John Smith had a heart attack and died. Blair was then stupid enough to believe that he was there because of his awesomely crappy policies that caused so many people to quit the Labour Party he had to fund his 2005 election by selling seats in the House of Lords.

Voting in Scotland in a referendum was going to make a difference, and the turn-out there was massive.

But in the wider country there continues to be a problem with General Election where necessary change is not coming about and people are getting screwed.

Young people don’t vote because they know it doesn’t make a difference. The system is too skewed. The old people in the rural constituencies reliably root for the Tories and provide their base. The Tories return the favour by redistributing the wealth from the youth to their elders on a massive scale through rising house prices, tuition fees (after this older generation got educated for free), historically low wages, a rising retirement age, a declining pension (which doesn’t effect the current generation of pensioners), expensive public transport while car driving becomes cheaper, cuts in inheritance tax (how old are the “kids” when they actually get the money?), and huge bank bailouts to protect the savings of those with hundreds of thousands of pounds on deposit.
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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.