Monthly Archives: December 2006

The illusion of light

Yesterday it felt like springtime, because there was some decent light after an extended dull grey period.

Today, that’s gone. It still looks as if it’ll be bright: there’s a heavy mist in the valley, but the moon (a tiny sliver of crescent) is bright and clear above it. But, reverting to seasonal norm, it’s such a long wait:-(

It’s still absurdly warm, with temperatures more like October than December.  In any normal year we’d get our first daytime frost sometime in November.  This year we haven’t even had a night frost yet.


Technically speaking, the solstice is yet to come. But going by time of sunset alone, it was on Wednesday, and we’re past the worst. Not that you’d have noticed on Thursday or Friday, both of which were dull and grey.

Today was different. The dawn, though technically still getting later, came bright and sunny. So the daylight came much earlier than of late, in defiance of seasonal details. I took advantage of it to go up the moors on the bike, and of course feel much better for it.

41 pages an illusion

OK, so the 41 pages they sent was not typeset. Looking at the indexes in three comparable books, I see they’re all two columns per page, so that 41 pages reduces to 21. That still seems a lot, but it’s now within the same ballpark as the other books.

Index for the book

They’ve just sent me the index to review. This is the absolute last task I have to deal with in the publishing process, according to the schedule they sent me when we went into production.

First reaction: 41 pages of index? Aaargh!!! I think that’ll be down a little, but it’s still big.

Body Language is the Liar’s Friend?

The Indy today reports previously-suppressed evidence that the Prime Minister/Government never believed its own lies about Iraq.

That comes as no surprise to me. Throughout the lead in to the war, it seemed blatently obvious that Blair was lying. Just hearing his voice on the radio gave it away. So how come it wasn’t obvious to all those in the chattering classes who believed him, or at least gave him the benefit of the doubt?

Here’s a theory. Blair’s body language tells an altogether different story. So anyone who saw him on the telly saw a convincing display of a man who truly believed what he was saying.

This is courtroom technique in action. As a successful barrister, his job was always to convince an audience (jury) of a case. That would commonly involve a virtuoso display of distorting the truth out of all recognition. After all, a litigant who has truth on his side is unlikely to see any need for the hideous cost of a barrister, so his livelihood comes almost entirely from the dishonest.

So that’ll be why those who live by deception insist on the importance of face-to-face contact, while those of us who can’t or won’t lie can envisage a better world.

Weapons above the law – official

Since the end of the cold war, the major armaments exporters have moved in two directions. Some have wound down their industries; notably the former Soviet Union. But The US and UK have instead instigated a series of high-profile smaller wars as armaments industry trade fairs, and have economies that are critically dependent on arms exports – which go very largely to some of the world’s nastiest regimes.

According to The Economist, the UK’s arms exports are second only to the US, and over three times more than the next biggest exporters Russia and France.  That of course is the real reason why the US and UK always need more wars, while other countries oppose them.

In the UK, that has just become more blatently corrupt than ever, as the serious fraud office abandoned a major investigation on the grounds that billions worth of exports were at stake. So arms exporters are now officially above the law. Fraud is just fine if you’re One Of Us™.

We’re just like a drug addict who can’t kick the habit.

I was right again:-)

If anyone thinks some of my rants (like here) OTT, it’s now official: muzak is torture, and people shouldn’t have to suffer it. Does that mean we can get effective action taken against those who regularly inflict it on people’s homes and the world at large?

And in a more surprising bit of “I was right” news, it seems sitting in an upright posture really is bad for the back, according to a report on Radio 4. One of the main things that drove me out of working in an office was lack of flexibility over how and where I could sit, leading to back pain. An unsuitable chair and/or desk was unbearable, and the worst of all were those things described as “workstation” with a hugely inflexible and strained posture.

I used to think that one was just me being quirky. I wonder if they’ll come up with a report about the stress caused by collars, ties, wristwatches, or unsuitable shoes (some of the other things I’m fussy about) next?

Getting our footbridge back?

Tavistock is built in and around the valley of the river Tavy. It is also the start of a canal leading to the Tamar, the larger, navigable river that forms the border with Cornwall a few miles away. The canal is a fine example of Industrial age engineering, and includes a big tunnel through the hills, and a big drop – too big to work on just conventional locks – where it joins the Tamar at the far end.

Around the river and canal, there is a park. Normally there are paths along both sides of the river, and a footbridge connecting them near the Wharf area (little theatre, library, and sports facilities). But for some weeks, one of the paths has been closed, and the bridge has been removed and left as an ugly mess on the remaining path. Not good.

Today I passed the site of the bridge, and they appear to be replacing it. Nothing is open yet, but there’s a new footbridge. Let’s hope it’s for real, and they reopen that other path!

El Reg column

As mentioned a while ago, I’ve used the mod_security acquisition as a hook for an article at El Reg (dammit, I really mustn’t forget to supply a title for my articles).  I’m afraid the article is a tad unfocussed and not quite a worthy followup to last month’s piece, but I dug up the idea when my editor started talking about copy.

I hope it doesn’t mislead readers into supposing I have any kind of “insider” knowledge of the mod_security deal.  I don’t: all I know is what I have from an announcement email, and published webpages.   The article isn’t really about the deal itself: rather it’s using it as a hook to raise “what if?” questions, and discuss issues concerning open source, licenses and business.

And in further news, David Reid’s shiny new rdf-driven face to looks like a good hook for another article.  Maybe.

Little boxes’ progress

As I write, they’re taking down the scaffolding on the building site across the road from me. This time last year they’d already been working several months on knocking down the (far nicer) buildings that occupied some of the space. In December 2005, the heavy pile drivers were out, shaking the whole area. The worst nuisance was in the summer, when the builders were putting the roof on and blaring out Radio 2, the BBC’s monument to mindlessness: I had to spend the hottest July on record with my (double-glazed) window firmly closed, the sun blazing in, and the computer running.

It’s been on the market for a while, and is described by the estate agent as “A private new development offering a fine selection of nine individual apartments ideally situated for level access to town centre shops and amenities.” And given that we have lots of single-person households and a major shortage of space, I guess little boxes like these make sense.

The road I’m on goes diagonally up a hill. On the other side of the road is a stone wall, about 5 feet high, with a long drop on the far side to the building site, and the gardens of neighbouring buildings. The new flats are below the level of the road, so I look over them, and they presumably look over nothing much.

They have one interesting feature: grass roofs. And no car parking or even access, so there’s at least something that could attract good people to live there. But apparently the eventual inmates won’t have access to the roofs; neither do they have balconies, which seems like a missed opportunity for a little token luxury. Neither do they have solar panels: another missed opportunity. And they’re going to suffer dreadful noise. No thanks.