Monday, November 02, 2015

If, else, sometimes

May I join my friends Theodore and Evadne Google in wishing a happy birthday to George Boole (no point, he is dead, Ed.) who celebrates his 200th birthday today.

George is famous for having invented the game of “Boules” which is named after him, later developed into something called Petanque by the ungrateful French who resented having a game named after an Englishman. Petanque comes from the French words “Pet” and “ancien” – meaning “old fart”. I think that this says a lot about the French and their disrespect for the sciences in general and mathematics in particular.

Anyway, the games of boules is, as every schoolchild knows, the basis of modern computer programming. A group of nerdy men (and the occasional woman) stand around trying to get as close as possible to a solution and when everyone has had a go they all say “Fuck it, that will do” and release it as the new version of the software. Sometimes they get so close to a solution that the software nearly works.

My more fanciful friends, Eric and Cynthia Wikipedia, who run an enormously popular spoof web site report on petanque thus: “When a player loses 13 to 0, he is said to fanny … and must kiss the bottom of a girl named Fanny.” Had this sort of reward been afforded to those of us less than athletic during my schooldays, I would have made more effort to turn up for P.E.

Dear George was at one end of the scientific spectrum, trying to apply rules of order and reason to the physical universe. At the other end were the proponents of the second law of thermodynamics who believed that the natural state is one of disintegration. Until these two camps can find a common ground I shall not regret not paying attention to my dear science teachers – it was basically just RE with Bunsen burners.

I didn’t pay much attention in French either, and perhaps someone attempted to teach us how to say “Fuck it, that will do” but I do not remember. My attention lasted a couple of minutes into my first lesson where Mr Bruce introduced us to the language of Voltaire and Hugo by declaring “C’est un r├Ęgle.” Since then all opportunities to assist a puzzled Frenchman who was unsure what this item was called have evaded me. I must confess that I have not been over-enthusiastic in my pursuit of such chances, but I am still ready should the need arise. Do they still use rulers in school? I suspect their use is in decline, so perhaps Mr Bruce’s lesson might still be useful as some members of the younger generations may not recognise a ruler should they encounter one.




Saturday, October 24, 2015

Tempus fuckit

I am told by the running dogs of fascism that I need to alter my clocks tonight. It is truly a sign of the age of darkness in which we reside that we still adhere to these arcane practices that are more fitting to mythology and superstition than an advanced technological society. In ancient times, when my ancestors were too poor to possess timepieces, the process was quite straightforward involving as it did moving the little hand on the clock a short distance. These days we are beset with more complexities. I have two battery operated clocks that I can manage quite well, being of the generation where we learnt important life skills at school, such as telling the time, reciting the Lord’s prayer and dying of whooping cough.

I have a wristwatch that cost me nearly £20 – the previous, cheaper version had a plastic strap which broke and so I, embracing the frivolity of the zeitgeist, splashed out on one with an unbreakable strap. My watch has 4 buttons on the side. If I press them in the wrong combination it ceases to be a watch but tells me the temperature in Samarkand, predicts (incorrectly) the winner of the 3:30 at Exeter and changes the base language to Arawakan.

If I want to change the time on the various mains powered alarm clocks around the house I have to press a button that increments the time an hour at a time such that even the most docile of souls will become bored and press the button so many times that it goes past its desired destination and round the whole 24 hours. Several bleeding times.

To alter the time on my central heating control I have to contort myself into the airing cupboard armed with a torch.

In my motor vehicle I have to press a combination of buttons that I can never remember to adjust the time. What I can remember is that if I want to find the instructions in the manual it will take so long that I need not bother as it will be time to move the sodding clocks forwards or backwards again.

If I want to set the time on the digital clock on the cooker (I don’t) that involves a combination of four buttons, some of which have to be held down simultaneously. If I get that combination wrong it means that the cooker will be set to come on for 26 hours starting in the middle of the night, or will send a message to the National Grid converting the frequency to 384 Hz and setting fire to an intimate electronic device owned by a lady in Cumbernauld.

So bollocks to it all. Which steaming twat decrees that we need to adjust the time? Sod off. Which prize imbecile called it “Daylight Saving Time”? Even I, with my natural antipathy to the perverted cult of science can see that this is clearly impossible. Sometimes things are just better left as they are.


Now, does any bugger know what time it is?

Sunday, September 06, 2015

I am the head of IT and I have it on good authority that if you type "Google" into Google, you can break the Internet

Here are some very simple observations about the episode of Horizon that was broadcast on the electric television this week concerning the topic of the multiverse (the idea that our universe is one of an infinite number of universes).

I was a little distracted by the fact that Katherine Parkinson was the narrator. I have seen her act in many productions, but listening to her voice I found it impossible to not visualise her as Jen from the IT Crowd, and expected Moss to take over at any minute.

Anyway, the hypothesis discussed is based upon the behaviour of particles in quantum mechanics where they appear to be both waves and particles simultaneously. Physicists are baffled by this, and one theory which is supported by some of the cleverest people on the planet is that there are an infinite number of universes in which every action that occurs causes a division of the physical at that point to cover every possible eventuality. This is far more complex than the simplistic example used in the programme in which a physicist used the example that, on the toss of a coin, he could either remain in the interview that was taking place, or leave. From this comes the idea of the infinite number of universes. For every micro-event since the Big Bang (and why not before?) there is a universe out there which shows the outcome of that event and every possible subsequent one.

Of course this is no new theory. I do not read much science fiction but the idea of parallel universes is not uncommon.

I am sure that all of you are familiar with the Ramacharitamanasa (if not please go and read it before continuing this) where Bhusundi describes being swallowed by Ram and experiencing infinite universes therein.

If there are infinite universes, then there must be an infinite number of them in which the theory of the multiverse has already been proved. Equally, there must be an infinite number of universes where it has been incontrovertibly proved to be total nonsense.

There are even universes out there in which people read this.

In other words it is beyond my comprehension. I have dwelt on it briefly and will now go back to preparing myself for the Rugby World Cup. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Another blow for culture.

I trust that fellow viewers were as appalled as was I about the lack of respect shown towards one of our great authors and his magnum opus on the electric television the other evening.

I was watching an egregious conglomeration of excrement called "Task Master" on the Home Dysentery channel, where a bunch of space-filling sixth rate self-styled comedians press the public towards suicide by attempting silliness.*

In the course of the latest episode, there was an unwarranted attack on that fine publication “I Blame the Beatles” by Tom Widdicombe, who if he is not already, will shortly be a Nobel literature laureate. Seldom has a work of art so accurately encapsulated the zeitgeist (have you encapsulated the zeitgeist, missus?). My first edition sits proudly amongst Eco, Trollope and Solzhenitsyn and not too far from Wisden. (Widdicombe’s later equestrian books are more fanciful and satirical but, I am told, still worth a read).

There are still copies available at Amazon although the current prices reflect the value of the works. Amazon.com has the book at half the price of that of the UK site – a reflection perhaps of how much in need of enlightenment that forlorn continent is.

I expect that if you are reading this then you will have fallen into the category of widely-read and cultured individuals who maintain high standards on the electric internet and probably have a copy of your own. Why not buy another?







*Actually quite funny.

Monday, July 06, 2015

The search for truth continues.

TCM are always a source of joy and inspiration. In a paper published recently by those wacky dudes at Michigan State University they explain that some time ago someone estimated the quantity of some stuff that we cannot see but now someone else has said that this quantity is too high, and that there may be less stuff that no bugger can see out in a part of the universe that we can never travel to. So, when we get there, which we never will because it is impossible, there is less stuff to bump into which would make the impossible travel less risk-prone. This is, naturally, a great comfort to me as I begin the task of looking for affordable holiday destinations in my retirement – I don’t want to go anyplace that is crowded. On the other hand, this is a great source of anguish to me as I begin the task of looking for affordable holiday destinations in my retirement – there may be many fewer options from which to choose. On the other hand I may prefer not to visit these “dimmer galaxies” – the bright ones, as their name suggests, may be preferable anyway; who, after all, wants to be stumbling around in the dark looking for the kitchen when billions of light years away from home.


Once again, the ruminations of the physics community has done nothing to help with the practical issues facing us daily, and I am beginning to doubt the worth of my grade 3 CSE physics certificate, wherever it is. Perhaps the staff of MSU can help me look.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

If they wanted me to remember history they would have made it happen more recently.

I have been watching Andrew Roberts’ series on the electric television concerning the career of Mr Bonaparte. As a right wing nut job with an overblown ego, it is not surprising that he has not been judged favourably and Napoleon is not much better.

There have been some interesting historical documentaries shown over the last couple of years; the series on the Spanish armada was pretty good despite the narrator having to appear periodically on a boat in La Manche just in case there were those watching who had no idea what the sea looks like ffs.

I am puzzled by the practice of filming, at great unnecessary expense, the narrators strolling about in various locations (some of them not associated with the narrative). At least dear Lucy Worsley in her series on the Georgians affected a silly walk to add to the drama. Roberts walks around like a bemused twat looking at stuff as though he had not seen it before.

At least in the Armada series they had several historians giving slightly different interpretations. The Napoleon series would have been improved by having someone arguing with Roberts pointing out that while Nappy introduced some liberal reforms and brought a degree of stability following years of post-revolutionary chaos, he was still an asshat. Perhaps would have been better had this someone replaced Roberts altogether. I had to install some anti-smug software on my sky box after 3 hours of this man.

I like to watch this stuff to learn more about events/periods/people in history but I want some assurance that if what is being presented as fact is just one person’s opinion then that is made clear.


Let us have some more personable presenters than Andrew Roberts he had as much charisma as Mr Thingy who taught History in the 3rd form when I was at school. Or was it French? Or was it the 4th form? Or was it Miss Thingy?

Saturday, May 09, 2015

George's (sort of) New Job - Part 15

George was very relieved to be back in the small drawing room (although it did not seem very small, and he had never found any crayons or drawing paper after many hours of searching and he distinctly remembered asking Kylie to get some for him from Ryman’s).

The last few weeks had been very tiring and, frankly, disorientating. Because of this election nonsense he had been required to leave the house and travel around the country meeting some frightful ordinary people. Some of them did jobs and he had had to dress like them and talk to them and listen to them. Then, to cap it all, he had had to go on the television and be asked some impertinent questions by that awful man Marr. How dare he ask where the money was coming from? Didn’t he understand that George had a staff of thousands to know the answers to difficult questions and do the hard sums? His friend David had made it quite clear to George that he was not to get involved in the details of the economy. (At the time George had asked David what his job was and why he was there. David had winked and said something along the lines of surrounding himself with a sturdy duffer-buffer. George had not understood, but did not want to appear silly or bother David because sometimes David had important things to do.)

Anyway, George was sitting quietly listening to his New Kids on the Block compilation CD and wondering whether dunking his custard creams would make them too soggy, when the telephone rang and it was David asking him to “pop round for a chat”. Within 10 minutes (and he had only had to ask directions 3 times, 4 if you include the time that a dreadful man in the kitchen told him to fuck off) he was in David’s office.

David didn’t ask him to sit. “As you know, George,” (George didn’t know, but wasn’t going to say anything) “it is standard practice after an election to reshuffle the cabinet. I want to thank you for all of your hard work in the Treasury” (David appeared to be sniggering) “and I have decided to reward you by making you Secretary of State for Scotland.”

George couldn’t remember ever feeling so shocked. “No, David, please, please you can’t do that. I don’t speak the language and they all frighten me. I have been working with Mr Alexander for five years and even now can only make out one word in ten. The only thing I understand is when he is cross because he turns very red. Whenever he leaves I have to lie on the ottoman for ten minutes while Kylie fans me. When we visited Lancaster a couple of weeks ago I picked up a virus and I think Scotland is even further away.”

“Just kidding, you wanker” said David. “You are staying exactly where you are. You know you make me look clever”. George felt very proud.

“I want you to get your people to work on some of our new policies. Find one of the less gormless plebs at the Treasury to work out how much it would save if we charged people the going rate for all ambulance journeys, and get some figures for a window tax on all terraced and semi-detached houses (apart from those with a postcode beginning SW1A).”

“I don’t think we can do that, David” said George politely. “Dr Cable won’t like it. He’ll be in my office every five minutes shouting in Polish. I have nightmares about his vast bald head cracking open and snakes coming out”.

“George, you hopeless sod, haven’t you heard? Dr Cable is not only working with you no longer, but he lost in the election. Come next September he will be working as junior technical drawing teacher in a comprehensive in Hounslow.”

George wanted to climb over the desk and kiss David but knew that David hadn’t liked that ever since they left Eton.

“What about Mr Alexander, though?” asked George, hopefully.

“We’ve rid ourselves of that porridge-sucking tosspot too” said David gleefully. “Didn’t you notice the portrait of the Duke of Cumberland on the wall as you came in?

“For fuck sake, George, go back to your office and have a snooze, but send someone out to buy some shares in GoveFrack plc while they are still cheap. I can’t afford to give you a pay rise of more than 75% before next April”.




Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I don't remember eating that

For those of you inclined to criticise the scientific community for lack of purposeful research let me point out that their latest idea is a literal goldmine.
My friends at the BBC News report:

Gold in faeces 'worth millions'


Highlights of their report include:


US researchers are investigating ways to extract the gold and precious metals from human faeces.

 

The good news is that they will wait for it to be excreted.

Extracting metals from the waste could also help curb the release of toxic substances into the environment.
In addition to gold and silver, human waste also contains amounts of rare earth metals such as palladium and vanadium.
The scientists are experimenting with some of the same chemicals, called leachates, which industrial mining operations use to pull metals out of rock.
While some of these leachates have a bad reputation for damaging ecosystems when they leak or spill into the environment … in a controlled setting - they could safely be used to recover metals in treated solid waste.

In a previous study, another team of scientists calculated that the waste from one million Americans could contain as much as $13m (£8.6m) worth of metals.

Yes, we can solve so many problems at once; find useful employment for the indolent masses, finance the entire waste recycling industry. The most prolific producers could be identified and paid a bonus for extra output. Who says capitalism doesn’t work? And never mind this nonsense about the dangers of leachates – we should all by now have full confidence in the corporate world to make safety and care for the environment the priorities.



Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I believe there is some talk of a political event this summer.

The other day some passing nitwit left a pamphlet and a business card in my letterbox. The business card was from "UK Independance Party"

I felt obliged to reply to this kindness and have sent the following email 

I have replaced the gentleman's name with that of a common friend. 



Yo! Plevneliev

I bet you cannot guess how delighted I was to receive your leaflet and business card the other day. Mainly of course because there is no reliable empirical measure of delight and even if there were, because you do not know me nor anything about me, I could still safely bet on your not knowing.

The first thing that struck me was that you had spelt the name of your party incorrectly on your business card. It is very clever of Nige to have a party that could be nicely abbreviated – it covers up the spelling deficiencies of so many members – proving, were it needed, that he is a talented political activist and not some grinning, knuckle dragging halfwit.

Of course, to many of us, the Conservative party is the “C” party, but I do not want to make this all about abbreviations.

I did not read the whole of your tract to check for other errors as I am occasionally prone to nausea but those sections that I did read impressed me with their coherence.

Now it would be churlish of me to refuse to vote for you because of a typographical error and that is not the reason that you will not be getting my support. You will not be getting my support because you represent a group of people who appeal to a very base and nasty section of the electorate. Yours is the party most likely to attract racists, a party riddled with xenophobia and a party marching ignorantly onwards towards a culture of scapegoating and divisiveness. We are faced with global problems that will only be solved by unity, peace and cooperation; UKIP is going in the opposite direction.

So, Plevneliev, my dear old cucumber (I understand that pickled cucumber is favoured in Romanian cuisine – have you tried it? Perhaps we can open a Slavic restaurant in Frith End or Dockenfield?), it is not too late to come to your senses and abandon these silly people you have cajoled you into a foolish alliance. Not that it would make much difference really, as North East Hampshire would vote Tory even if they had an inbred nincompoop as candidate. Is Damian standing again?

You will note that I have not made this personal – I have not accused you of racism or xenophobia. I have no personal quarrel with you, and wish you well. Should I encounter you as I skip merrily down the byways of North East Hampshire I will bid you a sincere “Good day”. However, if you or your potty friends knock on my door soliciting my support, particularly if there is a good cricket or rugby game on at the time, you will be greeted with a variation on the theme of “Bugger off, you stupid bastards”.

Love and peace

Scurra

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Stop it

I found this image on line – recently added to the collection at Ancestry.com under UK Army Register of Soldier’s effects.

This is a record of my uncle Harry, killed at Hohenzollern Redoubt in 1915 – a battle for a fucking useless mound – where Harry and his friends were ordered to run uphill into machine gun fire.


This from Wikipedia:

The final British assault on 13 October failed and resulted in 3,643 casualties, mostly in the first few minutes. In the British Official History, J. E. Edmonds wrote that "The fighting [from 13–14 October] had not improved the general situation in any way and had brought nothing but useless slaughter of infantry".

Then, a year later his father gets paid whatever was due. I imagine the accompanying letter read something like:

“Yo! George
Thanks for your lad, here’s ten quid. Got any more?”

At least the record keeping was accurate.

One hundred years ago, and I weep for this senselessness.