Tuesday, May 10, 2011

400 Glorious Years

Since the first edition of surely the greatest work ever produced by a Government committee, the King James Bible.

(Three BBC progs about the production thereof here)

Unbelievable Fact Of The Day

I noted in the post on Kate Middleton's family tree that the English are pretty much all related to each other. And of course the colonies which became the USA were English projects.

Every single US President bar one (Martin Van Buren) is a descendant of King John I of England.

Including Obama (who's also descended from (inter alia) King Edward I (Longshanks) of England, King Henry III of England, King Henry II of England, King Henry I of England, King William I (the Bastard) of England, Count Baldwin of Flanders and his daughter Matilda, King Robert Capet I of France, King Louis I of France, and Charlemagne). Obama also shares a common descent through Richard Eltonhead with Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain.

Not to mention apparently being descended, along with George Washington, from Halfdan The Old and through him from the Norse god Odin.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Savour The Diversity

Well, we know now where some of the hippy boomers and alternative types went. I bet they've got more than a few Type 2 girls.

The irony is that a Green council in Brighton actually does bring a bit of diversity, in the real sense rather than the 'not white' sense, to UK politics. I, for one, welcome Brighton's new Green overladies, and am very glad I'm not bringing up children there.

Lament For The Makars

Wiiliam Dunbar's great ode to the Bards of medieval Scotland and England, freely adapted from the original by Laban the other night when feeling a tad deflated after the Baggies lost to Wolves.

Dunbar's also noted as being the first writer to get his four letter words printed. It's interesting to see that his great English contemporaries rank so high - no "effete ****holes" in the Dunbar bestiary - not English ones, anyway - and it's sad that many of the Scots he praises leave no surviving work. There's a worthy task for antiquaries and researchers - to find the verses of Stobo, Herriot, Blind Harry and the rest.

I, that hearty was and hale,
Am troubled, sick and like to fail,
Enfeebled by infirmity;

Our pleasure here is all vainglory,
This false world is but transitory,
The flesh is bruckle, the Fiend is sly;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

The state of man does change and vary,
Now sound, now sick, now blithe, now sorry,
Now dancing merry, now like to die;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Nought of this earth here stands securely;
As the wind shakes the growing barley,
So trembles worldly vanity.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

On unto Death go all estates,
Of Court, of Church, all potentates,
Both rich and poor of all degree;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He cuts the knights down in the field,
Full armoured under helm and shield;
Victor he is at all melees;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

That warlord merciless and wild
Tears from the mother's breast the child,
And sorrowing he leav├Ęs she;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He takes the warrior in his power,
The captain in the strongest tower,
The bowered beauty, all takes he;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He spares no lord for elegance,
Nor clerk for his intelligence;
His deadly stroke may no man flee;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Magicians and astrologers,
Logicians or theologers,
Their wits help them no more than me;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

In medicine the best practicians,
The leeches, surgeons, and physicians,
Find Death to have no remedy;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Poets and playwrights of our day
Play out their pageant, then away;
Spared not for their great faculty;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He has impetuously devoured,
The noble Chaucer, of poets the flower,
The Monk of Bury, and Gower, all three;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Also Herriot, and Wyntoun,
All taken out of this country;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

His sting has left the world bereft
Of Master Clerk, and James Affleck,
Of ballad-making and tragedy;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Of Holland, Barbour we're bereaved;
Alas ! He would not even leave
Sir Mungo Lockhart of the Lee;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

The Clerk of Tranent's also gone,
That wrote Adventures of Gawain;
Sir Gilbert Hay - ended is he;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He has Blind Harry and Sandy Traill
Slain with his shower of mortal hail,
Can Patrick Johnstone from it flee ?
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He's given Mercer his goodnight,
That did of love so lively write,
So short, so quick, of sentence he;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He has ta'en Roull of Aberdeene,
And gentle Roull of Corstorphine;
Two better men you'll never see;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

In Dumfermline the race is run
And Sir John Ross embraced has he;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

And he's now ta'en, last of all,
Good, gentle Stobo and Quentin Shaw,
All men might wish he'd left them be:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Good Master Walter Kennedy
At point of death lies verily,
Great pity that such thing should be;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Since he has all my brethren ta'en,
He will not let me live alone,
And I shall be his next, you'll see;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

For death there is no remedy,
So for our death, prepare must we,
That after death, new life may be;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

A Few Rabbits From The Curate's Back Lawn

Victor Davis Hanson returns to the transformation of his home town into Mexifornia. First covered by him here.

Three little tales from the Heavy Woollen District :

Goodbye to one Working Men's Club.

Hello to three lapdancing clubs - run by a failed asylum seeker.

Having 'massage parlour workers' beating each other up over one - not something I've experienced.
It's our very own Crow Creek Massacre - only this time the women were not spared.

Nearly half of children can expect their parents to separate by the time they turn 16.

Abusing the girls the locals just don't want to abuse in Blackpool.

I've always thought of maths as the subject that really sorts the clever-clogs from the rest, but there can be other tests. Law and logic is one - I sometimes read the Times law reports and find I'm lost in a maze of conditional clauses, can't tell what they're saying, and have to go to the first or last lines to find out who won - and even then I don't know why. OK, I might be able to work it out by making notes, but I can't hold all the logic in my head.

When I first learned programming we did Assembler, which IIRC is as low-level a language as you get before you have to start worrying about what hardware you're writing for. One of our exercises was a simple task - read a file, print the contents to a page, keep a linecount for the new page, print a pagecount on each page. It took me about a page and a bit of code, written on a coding form - you didn't actually get to see a keyboard back then, as the training section also trained data entry staff, and they typed the code in. Most of the people in the class wrote a similar amount.

One guy wrote it in 6 or 7 lines of code - and it worked. We looked at his code and how he was using the registers - and we could then see how it worked. What none of us could understand was how he'd seen that way of doing it, which was so obvious to him. His brain worked on a different level.

At another level, Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen on recognising when you're in the wrong intellectual league :

I was decent in math, and Bill (Gates) was brilliant, but by then I spoke from my experience at Washington State. One day I watched a professor cover the blackboard with a maze of partial differential equations, and they might as well have been hieroglyphics from the Second Dynasty. It was one of those moments when you realize, I just can’t see it. I felt a little sad, but I accepted my limitations. I was O.K. with being a generalist.

For Bill it was different. When I saw him again over Christmas break, he seemed subdued. I asked him about his first semester, and he said glumly, “I have a math professor who got his Ph.D. at 16.” The course was purely theoretical, and the homework load ranged up to 30 hours a week. Bill put everything into it and got a B. When it came to higher mathematics, he might have been one in a hundred thousand students or better. But there were people who were one in a million or one in 10 million, and some of them wound up at Harvard. Bill would never be the smartest guy in that room, and I think that hurt his motivation. He eventually switched his major to applied math.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

'KeyWalk' marches sparked by Toronto officer's remarks

A new protest movement sparked by a policeman's ill-judged advice to motorists "not to leave their keys in the dash" has taken root in the US and Canada.

Thousands of people are arriving at car parks, some leaving their cars unlocked, others leaving the key in the dash provocatively - and then taking part in marches round the car park, or "KeyWalks".

The aim, say organisers, is to highlight a culture in which the victim rather than the car thief is blamed.

About 2,000 people took part in a "KeyWalk" in Boston on Saturday.

Boston organiser Siobhan Connors explained: "The event is in protest of a culture that we think is too permissive when it comes to car theft and break-ins.

"It's to bring awareness to the shame and abuse car owners still face for expressing their ownership of their own cars... essentially for behaving in a healthy and non-paranoid way" the 20-year-old told the Associated Press (AP) news agency.

Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti had been giving a talk on health and safety to a group of students at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto when he made the now infamous remarks.

"You know, I think we're beating around the bush here," he reportedly told them. "I've been told I'm not supposed to say this - however, car owners should avoid leaving the vehicle unlocked, or the keys in the dash, in order not to be a victim of car crime."

He has since apologised for his remarks and has been disciplined by the Toronto police, but remains on duty.

Some 3,000 people took part in the first "Keywalk" in Toronto last month. The Keywalk Toronto website said the aim of the movement is to "re-appropriate" the phrase "perhaps not the wisest thing to do".

"Ownership of a motor vehicle should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of theft of property or of the vehicle, regardless if it is locked or unlocked," it says.

"KeyWalks" have now been held in Dallas, Asheville in North Carolina, and in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, and are planned for Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, Reno and Austin.

Everybody, from singles, couples, parents, sisters, brothers, children and friends, are encouraged to join in.

The rallies typically end with speakers and workshops on stopping car crime and calling on law enforcement agencies not to blame victims after break-ins or thefts, AP says.

In a similarly-inspired protest, thousands of demonstrators failed to turn up at the first 'MoWalk' planned for Bethnal Green, London yesterday. The protest, where marchers were to wear T-shirts showing cartoons of Mohammed, was planned after a senior Metropolitan police officer said that anyone planning to wear a T-shirt bearing an image of the Prophet Mohammed in East London "needs their head examining", "must be tired of life" and would be "arrested for their own safety".

The aim, said organisers, was to highlight a culture in which the victim of an assault rather than the assailant is blamed. But they were disappointed with the turnout, as no marchers turned up. It is believed a mass outbreak of a little-known disease called timor mortis caused the no-show. Other "MoWalks" planned for Bradford, Burnley and Balsall Heath have been cancelled.

Of course the protesters are right. If you drive to New York City, and leave your keys on the hood, it is never, ever your fault if the car or its contents are stolen. The fault lies fairly and squarely with the thief. Nonetheless, the fact is that there are car thieves in the world. The cultural history of the twentieth century tells us that cars are very desireable objects, the subject of thousands of pieces of verse, art, literature and music. As Steven Pinker, in his review of Randy Thornhill's controversial "A Natural History of Car Theft" puts it :

"Men will spend huge amounts of money on cars; will spend hundreds of hours underneath them, repairing, restoring or enhancing them; will devote their leisure time to studying them. Many people desire cars that they do not own, cannot afford and never will be able to afford. It would run contrary to everything we know about human beings if they were NOT prepared to steal them."
The fact of leaving keys in your car, or doors unlocked, can be interpreted by unscrupulous and unethical people as an invitation to steal your goods or your vehicle, despite the fact that you have every right not to be violated in this way. I can see the unfortunate police officer's point - it's probably true that fewer cars would be stolen were their owners to lock them up and not leave the keys on show.

But that, in the end, is not what this issue and these demonstrations are about. They are about the absolute and unfettered right of car owners to conduct themselves (within the law) in any and every way they wish, with no limits or restrictions.