Friday, 26 June 2015

Glottal Stop or Globalisation

As discussed on a couple of occasions on this blog, it is something of a curse, as well as a blessing, to be a native born English language speaker. A blessing, because by it's by sheer number of speakers alone, it is one of the worlds lingua franca's, along with Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Hindi, and Arabic, but also because it is used worldwide, rather than being locked in one geographical location such as China, its dispersal means it is now the primary world lingua franca, either as the worlds most popular first, or second language.

English Is A Lingua Franca?

Googles Microsoft Moment

It had to happen one day, but it appears that the 'sooner' in the expression 'sooner rather than later', is now .... Google have become an old I.T. firm. They have in fact reached what I am calling their 'Microsoft Moment'.

That is the moment when it has to maintain legacy software at great cost, or risk alienating huge numbers of users/customers .... because up until now, Google have been able to:

(a) Easily maintain older versions of its Android operating system, and
(b) Rely on the fact that its customers were constantly upgrading their devices to the latest, which meant the majority were no more than one or at most two versions of the OS behind the latest release.

However a security firm has recently identified exploit vulnerabilities in the 'webview component' of Android 4.3 (aka 'Jelly Bean'), and this discovery includes the other older versions of the android operating system. The 'webview component' is used to display webpages on all Android devices ... that is mobile Phones, Tablets and even Laptops.

They informed Google of this potential exploit vulnerability, expecting that the company which doesn't 'do evil', would announce a patch release date .... but much to their surprise, they were informed that only the latest two versions of android, version 4.4 (known as 'Kitkat') and version 5.0 (known as 'Lollipop') are now covered by the relevant security patches.

Preaching To The Converted?

The sight of Michelle Obama giving an impassioned speech on the subject of the achievement of hope and aspirations for women in a Western society, to a girls school in London should not have been incongruous.

She has after all given similar speeches to girls across the globe. However in this case it was in Tower Hamlets. .. a rotten borough of London, and her audience was 95% Muslim. The young girls wore conservative dress and head coverings, and the talk of the freedom to believe what they liked, do what they wanted, or marry who they wished, must have been almost laughable, if they had even understood the concepts.

The Future Of Britain?

Calais On My Heart

When Britain lost control of Calais to the French, and the 100 years war effectively ended, the monarch under whose reign this occurred, Queen Mary, on her death bed, told her family: "When I am dead and cut open, they will find Philip and Calais inscribed on my heart".

Well, now, there are UK politicians who may well be thinking much the same thing .... because of the running sore that is the illegal immigrants, queuing up outside Calais port to try to get into the 'land of milk and honey', and the best welfare benefits for asylum seekers in Europe, that is also known as the UK.

Illegal Immigrants Heading To UK

Friday, 19 June 2015

Exit The Shadow World

As part of the occasional disappearing world series of posts on this blog, that have covered everything from Castanet making in Spain, through travelling knife sharpeners, to Spanish onion selling in the UK (I even thought about having a post on Scottish footballers, but their recent revival made me drop it .... only joking people!), I am highlighting another dying art ... the Chinese puppet show.

Chinese Shadow Puppetry

Smaller World

I don't know why, but I really l really love continental bars late at night. It may be the warm summer night air, or it could be the sassy barmaids, but whatever, there is something about it all that draws me back year after year.

Well it did, but lets be honest here, international travel is getting to be more of a pain in the ass with each passing year ... concerns about Islamic terrorists, usually travelling on the same passports as you and I, has produced ever bigger security queues, and illegal immigrants have not helped other queues, such as at Calais.

So I can't help wondering if international travel may once again become solely the preserve of the rich or the well connected. In the 1920's and 1930's, travel abroad was restricted almost entirely to the very wealthy (lords, financiers, politicians, and movie stars), with the poor only travelling as emigrants, or soldiers to colonial lands. We have seen a revolution in mass air transit since the 1960's, with new destinations and better planes, which have opened an entire generation up to international travel.   

Travel As It Used To Be .... And May Be Again

We Are Not Alone ... Maybe

Dr Brian Cox is a celebrity physicist, and ex member and keyboard player for the pop band D:Ream. He is the poster boy of the BBC science output, who get him to front many science programmes, some of which might be fronted by others better qualified in the subjects e.g. the Wonders Of Life TV series, might have been better presented by a biologist?

His latest TV offering that we at PC Towers watched was Human Universe, a programme which kind of proves that letting a physicist loose on every science can have its pitfalls .... its questions or answers strayed into the area of metaphysics, and perhaps the estimable Dr Cox should have not been the man to answer these.

When faced with the question of whether we are alone in the universe, he asserted categorically that we are indeed the lone intelligence in the cosmos. His exact quote was "There is only one advanced civilisation in the cosmos and there has only ever been one. That's us, we are unique."

Of course if true, this has very profound implications for the human race, its place, and possibly its creation .... in fact it also appears to open up creationism as a 'theory' for one, and it also suggests an awful lot of redundancy in the universe for another.  

Now given all the exo-planets being discovered almost daily, and the obvious conclusion that if there are an estimated 70 thousand million million million (70 sextillion or 7 × 1022) stars in the Universe, and that the Universe probably contains more than 100 thousand million (100 billion or 1011) galaxies, and all those stars seem to have at least a couple of planets (at least that's what current discoveries suggests) ... then that's a lot of planets that have produced no 'advanced civilisations'

Its also seemingly a strange definition of  'advanced civilisations' ... being apparently only those civilisations that produce lasers, radio waves, and are close enough to us in space and time to have made their presence known to us during the lifetime of one keyboard playing physicist! Were for example the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Chinese civilisations not 'advanced' merely because they lacked a radio mast?

But most of all, it just looks like bad science to me, or perhaps more correctly I should say just bad odds given all those billions upon billions of planets that have no intelligent life ... Its also odd given on what is this statement based i.e the fact that our radio waves will only have travelled about 100 light years (and incredibly weakly ... the signal from our radio and TV broadcasts is so attenuated by that 100-light-year boundary, that they as good as to be undetectable ... its because of the *inverse square law), from Earth in all directions since we became 'advanced' i.e a 200 light year diameter.

Human Radio Noise ~ Not Much Of A Splash Is It?

The Trouble With Girls

Once again a white male scientist, this time Nobel laureate Dr Tim Hunt, has been hounded by the 'Guardianista' feministas into an apology for something he said or did, and in this latest case also into losing his job. His crime? Daring to suggest that in some circumstances, women co-workers can be distracting for male colleagues, and that some women take criticism too personally and start crying.

Dr Tim Hunt's Laboratory?

Friday, 12 June 2015

Fangs For The Memory

I was very sorry to hear of the death of the fine British actor Christopher Lee yesterday ....  He was always the definitive vampire Count Dracula, and his performances in that role formed part of the mosaic of music, and films that were the backdrop of my teens and early manhood.

Christopher Lee is 'Dracula'

Blurred Lines

We live in an increasingly harsh world, with much of the globe subject to an almost arbitrary threat of violence and death from Terrorists, Jihadist state builders, or even the State, and things are often much the same in the worlds of the web. Many of the best selling games involve killing monsters, game constructs, and or other players in combat of some sort.

But in a move that may have crossed some sort of virtual reality Rubicon, the web has witnessed its first 'state' organised execution. It occurred in the world of 'Guild Wars 2', a game of which I have no playing knowledge, but which professes to be an immersive role playing world, in which combat is just one of the possibilities, although admittedly its the most likely of them. 

However mayhem was brought to this land of combat, when a rather successful character turned out to be controlled by a hacker. The character, called 'DarkSide' was made virtually invincible, and over the course of three weeks in April and May 2015, used a series of 'code exploits', in which the  character was able to teleport, deal out massive damage, and survive either co-ordinated attacks by other players, or win all player-versus-player single combats. 

Needless to say, this caused chaos, as people who really should get out more, found that their own characters, often with skills and powers carefully honed over hours of game play, were wiped from the world map. These disgruntled players gathered evidence about the trouble this hacker had caused and many posted videos of DarkSide's antics on YouTube. Finally the games creators, ArenaNet, were forced to react, and this is where a geeky tale turns creepy, they organised the rogue characters 'execution'.

RIP Darkside ... Justice Will Be Served

Getting To The Land of Milk and Honey

I work with a few people from the Indian sub continent these days. One of the surprising things about them is that they have mostly already worked in the US, or plan to do so at some time. When I asked what about getting a 'green card', I was surprised at the fact that they considered obtaining one of these to be a foregone conclusion.

I questioned this, as in the UK getting a US 'green card' is often very difficult, and you usually need work sponsors, and a high level of work qualifications (unless you are an entertainer, comedian or artist .... in which case qualification requirements seem to dip alarmingly .... See Russell Brand as an example).

USA. Land of Milk and Honey for some .....

Strictly Sunni

I have been reading on the news websites, the tales coming out from the residents of Mosul in Iraq, who now live under the tender mercies of the ISIL (IS) regime .... these are of course the reports of a few brave souls, who were probably already resistant to the idea of killing their Christian or Shia neighbours in the first place, so perhaps are not unsurprisingly, unhappy at what has happened now.

They may not actually represent the majority view, or maybe they do, who knows, but even so, the full depressing horror of living in a land run by the religious extremists comes to light.

Mosul under IS barbarians ... Saddam Hussein would laugh

Friday, 5 June 2015

Hooray for Hollinwood!

In August 2009, a sign appeared by the side of the M60 between junctions 21 and 22 ..... it said 'Hollinwood' and was in the style of the famous Hollywood sign to promote the town of Oldham.

The Appearance Of The Sign Was A Talking Point Of The Daily Commute

Decorating The Battlefield

Blast-proof wallpaper ... whatever next.

Apparently the US Army has developed a Kevlar lined sticky wallpaper which can be put up on buildings and tent walls, by ordinary soldiers in minutes. The idea being that if there is a blast nearby the wallpaper blocks the amount of loose debris fired through the walls and thus reduces the chances of injury to occupants of those buildings.

Kevlar Wallpaper ... Snazzy!

Greedy Guts

When the big boy tackles the small boy, who says that the 'David' always wins ... he doesn't ..... the 'Goliath' normally triumphs.

Anyone in the UK who has tried American milk chocolate, has usually been scraping the vile confection off their tongues within seconds. The worst by far in my personal opinion is the foul 'Hershey's Bar', but we don't stop US ex-pats importing it here (for their own consumption) ... so imagine my surprise to find that in the US, the Hershey Inc corporation, has successfully blocked the import of many British 'sweets' because, it says, it creates "brand confusion" with Hershey's products.

I Wouldn't Even Call This Chocolate ...

Railroaded By Unions

Under UK Employment legislation you can’t sue a trade union if they go out on strike .... a hangover from the terrible 1970's. 

Strikes Can Soon Get Of Hand


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