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November 29th, 2012
I wrote an UnNews for the first time in nearly six years: : UnNews:Guilty: Paul Dacre looks stunned as appeal against press regulation is rejected
This entry was originally posted at http://morwen.dreamwidth.org/393461.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
LONDON, United Kingdom -- Paul Dacre looked stunned this lunchtime after he dramatically lost his appeal against statutory regulation of the press.
Dacre, 64, and his newspaper had high hopes that he would be free to return home after spending the last 17 months hiding in his office in Goebells House, Kensington, wanted for the killing of British journalism.
As Dacre realized the enormity of what Lord Justice Leveson was saying he ceased his usual torrent of foul-mouthed swearing and abuse of foreigners, and instead sank into his chair sobbing uncontrollably while his family and friends hugged each other in tears.
A few feet away Hugh Grant, John Prescott and Christopher Jefferies, who had flown in especially for the verdict remained expressionless, staring straight ahead, glancing over just once at the distraught Dacre family.
Lord Justice Recursion said that "Whether prosecutors provided 'quotes for publication' in advance or not, there can be no argument that the description of events in the courtroom when the guilty verdict was read out was anything other than fictitious licence."
Prosecutors were delighted with the verdict and said that 'justice has been done' although they said on a 'human factor it was sad several old people would be spending years not just being able to arbitrarily make shit up any more'.
Following the verdict Dacre (and his co-defendants Desmond and Murdoch who are less attractive and therefore only mentioned in passing in this article) were taken out of court escorted by prison guards and into a waiting van which took them back to their padded cell at HMP Broadmoor.
All three will be put on a suicide watch for the next few days as psychological assessments are made on each of them but this is usual practice for long term Daily Mail readers.
Suri Cruise was not available for comment.
October 11th, 2012
I'm going to try to update this regularly.
List of things in order of severity of sentence:
September 10th, 2012
[REDACTED] On A Spaceship: An Adventure in Time and Space :
I keep seeing people on the internet claim that it felt like "Dinosaurs On A Spaceship" was a 6-part story compressed to 45 minutes. Let's work out what that 6-part story would have been paced like.( Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship spoilersCollapse )
Yeah, I don't think I want to watch that version.
August 26th, 2012
Ignoring the issue of the morality or utility of software and design patents (I don't much like them, professionally or ideologically), isn't there a deep malaise in a legal system where big companies sue each other so much?
The point of having codified laws and writing all these patents down clearly and getting an office to approve them is so that it should then be obvious to all parties involved what actions are prohibited and what aren't. There will always be some fuzziness over shades of meaning or edge cases that weren't thought of, or genuine disagreements about meaning. And there will always be people dishonestly trying it on, and having to be squashed legally.
But this big patent apocalypse that's going on, isn't it completely unprecedented for as many big companies in an industry to be suing each other? Neither Samsung nor Apple are at SCO Group levels of unreasonableness - they're sensible people, and for them to be contesting this means their lawyers reckon they've got a chance. Which means that these state-granted monopolies on products that are becoming increasingly important in the world economy really are that ambiguous. And it's not just Apple vs Samsung - how many tech companies are suing each other right now in patent suits? How many are about to? If there were this many disputes about real property rights, then the law would be clarified pretty damn clearly, either by statute, or by a precedent. But here there's no commonality. "infringing" has to be carefully evaluated for each individual claim. This could be perhaps managed when you had one or two or three patents per product, but it simply doesn't scale.
Computer-related patents were dysfunctional, I knew that, as they could be used for nefarious ends, and were often granted for ridiculously trivial things. But I see now they have failed to even be clear law. If Samsung's legal department can't tell whether they've trod on someone else's patents, what hope the independent developer?
August 17th, 2012
Doctor Who: The Dalek Invasion of Earth
Me and my new housemate have been watching Doctor Who from The Start, from 1963. Got up to "The Dalek Invasion of Earth", watching episodes and recons (full recons, apart from "Marco Polo", which we watched the condensed DVD version of).
It is amazing how much more watchable the era is when in order, compared to my previous attempts. It's fascinating to see it using all sorts of storytelling techniques that would be abandoned by the 1970s and 1980s (Dalek Invasion
cross-cuts between two exposition scenes where characters are being told more or less the same thing, to liven it up! It won't start doing this type of thing again until the Cartmel era.) The move to colour seems to have really harmed the ability to light things moodily.
Rather wickedly, I showed episode 1 of Dalek Invasion
to housemate without revealing the name on the box. (Clearly it was structured so that the Daleks are the episode 1 cliffhanger reveal, but this secret was blown in pre-publicity.) She spent the entire episode figuring it must be the one where the Cybermen are introduced (because of the Robomen) and is now possibly unique in being surprised by the shot of the Dalek coming out of the water.
The ending is abrupt. We're not the first to notice that, of course, but Susan never even got to say goodbye to Ian and Barbara.This entry was originally posted at http://morwen.dreamwidth.org/391971.html. Please comment there using OpenID.Tags: doctor who
August 1st, 2012
We just watched : Spaceballs
. We were wondering whether it referenced anything specifically from Return of the Jedi, but couldn't think of anything for a few minutes. Until someone pointed out that Jabba comes from Jedi, of course. The special editions have successfully changed our perception of the original film, it turns out.This entry was originally posted at http://morwen.dreamwidth.org/391910.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
July 14th, 2012
So, : London 2012 have a ridiculous and anti-web TOS
that purports to forbid image links, links using their logo or the Olympic logo, or portraying them in a derogatory fashion. I wondered how many of these things I could violate in a single link. Thus I present the following link (using an image nicked off the internet from 2007 by someone who had cheekily got the BBC to run it on their website as an alternate logo):This entry was originally posted at http://morwen.dreamwidth.org/391640.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
July 2nd, 2012
Since I got my new glasses, I've been reading things a bit faster! Um, yes. Oops. : Embassytown
was great. Although I don't understand people saying it's about language. It's not. It's about culture and lying, and the actual linguistic component of it is very handwavy... After that I got on to Whispers Under Ground
, the third in the series of Peter Grant novels by that Ben Aaronovitch. Which I enjoyed, although it could have done with being more subplotty.
After this I have been reading The Also People
, also by Mr. Aaronovitch, a Virgin New Adventures novel. This is basically a mashup of Doctor Who and Iain M. Banks's The Culture (represented here as the "people", who live on a Dyson sphere, run by a
giant AI called "
god". the humans are people, and the amusingly named ships are AIs and considered to be also people, and the entire society regretfully had a war with
some religious insectoids, which resulted in
rings being destroyed). I've only just started this really, but it's already provided an interesting look at childrearing in the
people, that I can't really remember Banks having done. Also, it has provided what might be my favourite line ever at the moment:
This entry was originally posted at http://morwen.dreamwidth.org/390822.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
"Of course I'm not sentient", said the table. "I'm a table. I have two functions, one is to hold material objects at a convenient height by virtue of my rigid structure and the other is to take your order. What would be the point in a sentient table?"
Bernice considered this. She had to admit it was a good point.
June 23rd, 2012
I committed a piece of Journey Into Mystery fan-art. Well, fan-industrial design (a term that I believe I have coined). I posted it to tumblr last night, and various people reblogged it (including Kieron). Unfortunately when I looked at it again in the morning, I realise I screwed up the font for the bottom part. The actual font that The Hacienda used wasn't Futura, but it was close, so I tried to use that, but somehow didn't get the bottom text in that. Lesson: do not do fan industrial design when tired. :
Here it is:
I can't see any way of fixing my original post on tumblr, sadly.
The Manchester Gods arc of Journey Into Mystery (#639-#641) is turning into my single favourite comic read of the year. I'm going to buy in in trade or hardcover and make everyone read it.This entry was originally posted at http://morwen.dreamwidth.org/389457.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
June 21st, 2012
the problem with Jersey
is not the problem. Why does this always have to come down to personalities? Perhaps Jersey
is the problem. Jersey has a strange constitutional relationship with the UK - it is another territory of the Queen, not part of the UK and not subject to Parliament's laws 1
, and is not in the European Union, even. It gets the benefit of relying upon the UK's defence and foreign affairs networks 2
. And there's an implicit guarantee of rule of law that the UK provides. It's used this pseudo-sovereignty to reduce taxes to attract corporations, to provide employment and revenue.
You'd, therefore, think that the States of Jersey were rolling in it from all the foreign companies having nameplates there, right? It turns out that it's a bit more complicated than that
. Supposedly, the UK exchequer subsidises Man
, which has therefore been able to put its corporation tax to nil. Consequently Jersey and Guernsey have had to put their taxes down to match, and their public finances are running at a deficit! I had assumed Jersey was actually getting some benefit out of this arrangement. But no, they're being screwed as well. They even had to introduce a new VAT-like tax
in 2007 - at the height of the bubble, to cover the gap, and then had to raise it
from 3% to 5%, while looking at cutting spending by several millions still.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether this is the result of subsidy from the UK to Man - either way, it's a dangerous game for Jersey to be in. The only reason they're competing against Man in terms of tax rates is to be the best English-speaking northwest European tax haven. It's not like you'd decide to put your business in either Man or Jersey on some other criteria and then pick the lower taxed one as a second factor. So presumably they must see some benefit in playing that game in the first place? A non-tax haven Jersey might be more like the Isle of Wight than the Isle of Dogs. It could be better off like that in the long run, but that would be a fairly revolutionary change, and the current state is probably a local maxima. If they raise corporate taxes slightly, then everyone goes to Man, and revenue declines.
In short, this is a classic race-to-the-bottom situation. There's a simple solution, though. Give it (and Guernsey and the Isle of Man) a choice: incorporation into the United Kingdom (presumably as additional home nations with devolution akin to Scotland's, or greater), or full independence. If you want to be part of our polity to the extent that you are, you have to pay our taxes. If you don't, that's cool, you can go off and become a Commonwealth Realm or republic or whatever you like. No business of ours. If you chose annexation, we'd hope to raise so much extra revenue as a result that we can afford to offer subsidy to you, for improvements in people's lives there, that you can't afford because of being trapped in this tax-haven rut. We'll even guarantee that subsidy if the revenues don't materialise. I see both options as better than the status quo for everyone, and there's also the extra bonus of addressing the undemocratic nature of the crown dependencies status.
1. Parliament still claims the right to legislate for Jersey, but it would be pretty undemocratic considering there isn't an MP for Jersey
2. which it does, in fairness, pay a contribution toward
3. an earlier version of this said, rhetorically, "protected by our Navy". Of course, the last time this came into question, the Navy wasn't much use.
This entry was originally posted at http://morwen.dreamwidth.org/388874.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
June 20th, 2012
Some political/economical thoughts. I've been having a lot of these lately: :
The private sector gets touted as if it had some kind of universal efficiency-increasing pixie dust that makes everything more efficient. It's true that there are some notable successes. Aren't a lot of these mostly due to the political ability of the private sector to adapt new technology quicker (and lay off or deskill large portions its workforce) - because it doesn't have to answer to an electorate, rather than being actually a result of it being private sector per se
. There are no productivity-enhancing devices that the nurses and teachers unions are stopping us from adopting. There's no mass overemployment of unproductive workers in the NHS or at schools! Best practice in healthcare and teaching can be observed by looking at staffing at the facilities the elite use. Teacher:student ratio at Eton is 8. EIGHT!
I see lots of talk about how they need to be able to sack bad teachers, and very little about how to attract good teachers who have left teaching. This will involve making the job more attractive, either through more money or other means, or both.
There are 8 million people in the UK between the ages of 5 and 16. If we take the teacher:student ratio at Eton as the target, we would need a million teachers. There are apparently 438,000
. That's probably unachievable without starving some other socially necessary area of resources. I can buy healthcare becoming more automated - due to expert systems - a few decades down the line, but there are several factors blocking it (the insistence of the state in keeping a human in the loop for controlled substances is a big one). But teaching is going to remain a labour-intensive job for pretty much forever, isn't it? Unless we by some miracle get full AI.
What would a capitalist economy look like if you banned public advertising (billboards, and television)? I target these two things as they are already regulated by the state - you need planning permission to put up a billboard, and the content of broadcasting is controlled pretty closely.
Banning advertising in these realms, for things considered harmful (i.e. cigarettes) is already considered to be a legitimate use of state power. It wouldn't be that much of a stretch to expand this to stuff like unhealthy food.
In a protectionist economy you could then make the argument that advertising stuff that needs to be imported is bad for the balance of payments. Due to the single market you couldn't discriminate by producer, but you could certainly target specific industry sectors.
What effects does this actually has? (ignoring the effects on people who own billboard space and television channels!)
Presumably people will buy less stuff? They'll buy stuff they need still. Greater emphasis on word of mouth for finding out about new products? Word of mouth is fantastic, especially today.
If we assume that consumption goes down, that leads to job losses in the private sector making stuff that people didn't need. Isn't making things that people only buy because of adverts unproductive labour anyway? So, there's an efficiency saving! Those are good, right?
And if consumption doesn't go down, well, we've just stopped consumer products subsidising commercial television. I don't think that's a bad idea in itself.This entry was originally posted at http://morwen.dreamwidth.org/388608.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
May 26th, 2012
high-frequency trading considered harmful
News story about High Frequency Trading and the Facebook IPO
Let's assume for the moment that the stock market is an efficient way to distribute capital in endeavours that will produce surpluses, for the pie-embigenning benefit of all [and I am becoming increasingly skeptical about that, but that's the premise that capitalism has been sold to us on]. Is this level of sub-second trading really necessary? I can see who benefits from each individual action, but who benefits from the system
being set up like that in the first place? Is there evidence that making price discovery faster by seconds or minutes benefits the economy overall? I very strongly doubt it. Once the stock market is efficiently allocating capital in response to information issued by the company and news, then that's enough, and the rest of stock trading is a zero-sum game.
[And let's not forget that day trading does not in fact distribute capital to companies. The point of stock exchanges is to provide a liquid market for company ownership, so as to encourage investment at flotation/new share issuance time - which is when the actual company gets the benefit - so it's already an abstraction away.]
There was a story recently about a new cable being laid down between London and Toyko
, to bring the ping time down from 230ms to 168ms. They spent actual resources in the real world, with actual engineers and an actual boat, putting down a cable to let people conduct high-frequency trades that bit more efficiently than their competition. Of course, their competition will just put down their own cable, and so on. Eventually, you're left with nobody having a timing advantage over anybody, and the system is exactly the same overall as it was. It's like the Red Queen
said - "it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place." Who loses out? There's the opportunity cost of what all the cable-layers and programmers could have been doing otherwise. And crucially it increases the barriers to entry for participating in the stock market.
So why have we have a society bothered doing that? They could achieve exactly the same effect by building in an artificial latency, and then levying a 'latency tax' to bring it down, the proceeds of which would be used for some socially beneficial purpose.
If they really must have automated agents doing stock trades like that, can we not find a more efficient way of doing this, perhaps using a central arbiter system and VMs running bytecode? Then we won't get people running transarctic cables down so they can get a slightly better ping time unless it's for something actually important to humans like voice communications latency or Quake.This entry was originally posted at http://morwen.dreamwidth.org/387553.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
May 23rd, 2012
And just as I had feared, I have Really Bad migraine today, which is not being budged by painkillers. Shouldn't even be looking at screen now, really. :
I started taking some nutritional supplements about at the start of March. I wonder if it's them. The internet has lots of people with anecdotes about them causing migraines/headaches. I think I'm going to stop them.This entry was originally posted at http://morwen.dreamwidth.org/386895.html. Please comment there using OpenID.