Monday, March 31, 2008

Somewhat Surprising

H/t to the Fat Nurse, via Dr Crippen, for this mildly entertaining waste of a few minutes:

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?

A brief look around the block gave me some surprising results:

Devil's Kitchen hardly lives up to his hard won reputation for profane vitriol with a mere:

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?

TerryWatch is really quite polite, despite the endless provocation:

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?

al-Beeb maintains the Reithian tradition in at least one (tiny) aspect of its modern incarnation:

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?

Mr E is surprisingly mild mannered:

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?

Shotgun, on the other hand, appears to have confused the widget:

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Reality Check for Sgt McHenry.

Crime? ✓

Dangerous? ✓

Reasonably punished by a jail sentence? Probably.

Terrorism, cyber or otherwise? No, please, no!

"It didn't take a lot of technical hacking skills," said McHenry. "All
it required was knowledge of certain services that he used for the wrong purpose. I hope this deters other people emulating Mr. Ellis. I would hope they think twice before engaging in cyber terrorism."


Ed notes: For those using IE7 - those blocks you can see on the first two lines are rendered as 'ticks' in real browsers.

Myth & Reality

Heathrow Terminal 5.

In my email, from BA:

Dear Mr S-E,

Five and a half years ago the building of our new home began in our most visionary project to date. Today we opened the doors. There is no more waiting... Terminal 5 welcomes you.

At Terminal 5 everything has been streamlined and designed to make your journey through the terminal calm and relaxed. And this morning we saw all the planning fall into place.

Check-in and Security have been designed to speed you through to Departures in just 10 minutes*. And with a shopping concourse to rival London's West End, our premium flagship lounge complex, Galleries, and the state-of-the-art baggage system, you'll discover nothing has been overlooked to ensure your time at Terminal 5 is spent in a most relaxing and enjoyable way.


In reality, once both BA and BAA have got their hands in up to the elbows:

Further disruption is expected at Heathrow's new Terminal 5, with more flights cancelled and long passenger queues building by the early hours.

So far on Friday, 10 British Airways flights have been cancelled.

Passengers have missed flights, with some blaming incorrect information and a lack of desks open to cope with the number of people.

British Airways says it plans to operate 80% of flights, on the day after the £4.3bn facility opened.


Oh and,

Plans to fingerprint passengers travelling from Heathrow's new Terminal 5 have been suspended, less than 24 hours before it is due to open.

Airport operator BAA claims the measure is needed to distinguish domestic passengers from international ones.

But the data protection watchdog said the plan may breach British law.


You probably need to be aware of this (note the bit at the bottom that doesn't mention a £100 maximum as per al-Beeb):
2. Compensation

(The airline is not obliged to pay compensation if it can prove that the cancellation was caused by "extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken". Such extraordinary circumstances might occur "in cases of political instability, meteorological conditions incompatible with the operation of the flight concerned, security risks, unexpected flight safety shortcomings and strikes that affect the operation of an operating air carrier".)

Length of journeyDelay to destinationCompensation
Up to 1500kmUp to 2 hours€125
Up to 1500kmMore than 2 hours€200
1500km to 3500kmUp to 3 hours€250
1500km to 3500kmMore than 3 hours€300
More than 3500kmUp to 4 hours€400
More than 3500kmMore than 4 hours€600


3. Assistance at the airport
  • Meals and refreshments in reasonable relation to waiting time

  • Two free telephone calls, emails, telexes or faxes

  • Overnight hotel accommodation and transfers

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Far, Far Too Slow

On the face of it, this might be considered to be good news:

Some 2,000 Iraqis may be flown to Britain from next month to start a new life under a £25m government programme.

Interpreters and other staff who have worked for the UK government are being offered a one-off payment or the chance to settle in the UK with their family.

About 50 Iraqis, many of whom fear for their lives in their homeland, are due to arrive on the first flight in April.

The Home Office said they would spend two days in Slough, Berkshire, before being resettled outside the south-east.

However, this shows the real state of affairs:

A Home Office spokesman said it was still at the very early stages of assessing eligibility but suggested the number of Iraqis given indefinite leave to stay in the UK could be up to 2,000.

So far, of the 46 cases that have been fully processed, nine expressed an interest in applying for indefinite leave to remain, while 37 opted for the financial package, he added.

Forty-six cases processed. While people are dying. No wonder 80% of them don't trust our government enough to come to stay here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Crisis? What crisis?

I thought Belgium seemed to be operating perfectly ably without their masters intervention but, according to the BBC, the crisis is over:

Yves Leterme has been appointed Belgium's new prime minister, ending nine months of political deadlock which threatened the unity of the country.

Ah, buried at the bottom of the nu-Beeb verbiage:

In December, thousands of trade unionists took to the streets in Brussels, complaining about the political stalemate and rising food and fuel prices.

The European Commission had warned that the political paralysis was beginning to affect Belgium's economy.

There we have it. If the trade unions say it is a crisis (and, of course, high oil and food prices are something a Belgian government is ideally situated to fix - and the country seems not to have descended into Chaos in the last three months) and the eurocrats agree, then it must be true.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Economic Ignoramus

Well, Scotland's senior MEP (apparently*) is a moron. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr David Martin in today's Scotsman:

Market forces are the best way to stop cruelty of seal clubbing.

Heh? How is that ignorant or moronic? Sounds perfectly reasonable does it - liberal even? Nobody wants to buy the goods and there is no reason to prepare or sell seal-based products. (Ed notes: of course, it doesn't mean there is no reason to cull the seals - maintaining fish stocks pops up as just one reason - the best part of 1/4 million additional seals each year would eat quite a lot over their lifetimes.)

Ah, no. You see it's this bit - "Market forces". His idea of a 'market force' is an EU-wide ban.

Indeed, if Europe was to no longer permit producers of seal products to trade within our borders


Statist cunt.

Just for the record, my dress sporran is chinchilla, not the more common seal-skin, my day sporran is plain leather (probably cow-hide).


* - Is "senior MEP in the European Parliament" a simple tautology, or is he making a subtle point about the commitment of our elected reprehensibles in Brussels? The former, you say? I thought stupidity was the most likely answer.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Two snippets

Ashley Dupré - cute but not that* cute:

Ashley Dupré aka Kirsten
Actually, I think Mrs Spitzer is hardly a moose:

Silda Spitzer


German Army training doesn't quite get the point:
The hoods were briefly removed and the recruits had to lie down with a sergeant on their backs while a waterpipe was stuffed into their noses.

During a second exercise the recruits were sprayed with water as they stood with electrical cables from a field telephone attached to their necks, thighs and calves.


Now, we all know that going to war on the same side as the Americans may lead to 'friendly fire' but, really, it is unlikely to lead to 'friendly waterboarding'.

* $5k per hour, or whatever is being reported now.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Populist Fool or Statist Cunt?

The question is being asked of Kenny MacAskill today, who has demanded that the UK government, in the form of Ruth Kelly, never a body corporate nor a person slow to shit all over the liberties of us mere peons, reduce the legal blood alcohol level for drivers from 80mg/100ml* to 50.

It has to be said that this is not a new SNP policy - so they are, at least, consistent in their shit-headery.

"What's your problem?" you may be asking. Do I really want more deaths on the road? After all:
Drink driving remains a constant thorn in the side of efforts to make our roads and communities safer. The fact that 1 in 9 road deaths in Scotland were alcohol-related shows we need to do more.


Aaaargh. You utter fucking imbecile. If you want to educate people that drink driving is bad, then educate them - you're in charge of the entire Scottish education system for fuck's sake. You have an enormous PR and media budget. Prioritise the spend. But no, you are trying to change the law. You need (well, okay, you don't, you should have) a reason. A simple change of question for you.

It is not "How many road deaths are alcohol-related?", it is "How many deaths were attributable to the legal alcohol limit being 0.8g/l not 0.5g/l?"

Just one hint. Don't believe the BMA's figure of 65 UK-wide. They, just like our politicians, are another bunch of "Do as we say, not as we do", hypocrites.

* Science pedant here - what, exactly, is wrong with properly labelling this 0.8g/l? Maybe because that seems really small? Cunts.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"Black Swan"

I picked up a copy of Nassim Taleb's 'Black Swan' at the airport on Friday. Interesting book with some basic and difficult to argue with premises:
  • The 'normal' or 'Gaussian' probability distribution curve is only ever, at best, an approximation to reality.
  • Although there are some aspects of reality for which it is a reasonably good approximation (human height and weight are both examples mentioned), there are many things out there for which it is a terrible approximation.
  • Where it is a terrible approximation, it is normally underestimating the probabilities of "tail" events - unlikely disasters or triumphs.
  • Where a terrible probability approximation is used to mechanistically calculate for outcomes with high impacts, 'bad things' ™ may happen.
Although the example he regularly uses for a variable which has a long and significant tail is human earnings or wealth, where he considers that some version of a power law distribution is in force, his money has been made from using this understanding to predict high risk events in the financial markets.

How can you make money from this? By taking it from others through insurance or hedging. If you know (or can place a damn good guess of) the real likelihood and impact of one of his 'Black Swan' events, and everybody else grossly underestimates them, you are not going to need to spend as much as you would if their actuaries were up to speed (this doesn't apply to high-ish probability events where the actuaries just look up the number of events and the assessed costs). You can then take the upside of the event happening or not and transfer the risk of the downside to somebody who understands it less well.

Overall - I would recommend this book for anybody interested in the financial markets and how people manage to get paid quite so much for doing quite so badly. I would note, as a mild warning, that it will be a bit too mathematical for many - although he does try to flag this and allow you to skip those bits. Personally, I will try his "Fooled by Randomness" when I see a copy although I would recommend Tim Harford's "Logic of Life" for an even more sideways look at 'homo economicus'.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

That 'Crosby Report'

So Sir James Crosby, ex-head of HBOS and now quango-ing it up as Deputy Chairman of the FSA, has finally published the report into "Challenges and opportunities in identity assurance". He had been appointed by the monocular control freak in July 2006 to lead the "Public Private Forum on Identity Management", some four months after the detailed legislation for the National ID Card and National Identity Register was enacted. So, actually, it is pretty pointless.

In law, we already know what is going to be in the Register, we know how, if not exactly what, we are going to be forced to fund this statist atrocity? So why a detailed report now and why did it take 21 months to produce? I'm sure Sir James isn't saying.

But despite all the time it has taken to produce this, there are a number of problems.  Firstly, it doesn't describe the UK ID Card and Register.  Sir James is describing a system that is free (or, at least, cheap) - para 5.38, efficient - para 5.4, and allows for the inevitable failures - paras 4.7 & 5.37.  Most of all, it stores just the data necessary for the validation of ID - summary and paras 5.20 & 5.21.

He also makes a couple of mistakes - an over-reliance on the capabilities of biometrics in para 1.17 (although para 1.19 does show some, albeit insufficient, scepticism) and a general ignoring of the 'birthday attack', particularly in para 1.18.  Although he is technically correct, the approach in para 1.26 and Ch1, footnote 1 is unfortunate for its stress - it skirts the core issue that the assurance system will not have independent failure rates - they will rely on the same ID Card enrolment, issuance and validation system, for a start.

He doesn't mention terrorism - although 'national security' does get a couple of plugs, and 'border control' is mentioned.

Heathrow currently takes about 160,000 passengers per day.  If you have a 1 in a million false-identification rate (which causes you to be arrested) and a 1 in 250,000 system failure rate (which causes a significant delay or being denied boarding) and there are 20 known terrorists per year going through the airport, 68 people will be falsely arrested, system errors in 271 cases will cause significant delays and no terrorists will be caught.  Why?  Because the terrorists will have correctly (if illegally) issued ID cards for completely 'innocent' identities.

Friday, March 07, 2008

"RAF may be in military" Horror

Cutting through ninety years of bullshit, waffle and wearing civvies, the citizens of Peterborough seem to have finally realised that the Royal Air Force are part of the British military.

Note to MOD: When you left wearing uniform up to the discretion of the local commander, it shouldn't have surprised you (having spent so much time at Staff College) that they used this discretion and, even more shocking, 'discretion' sometimes means instructing personnel not to wear uniform. Pillocks.

Note to Politicians: This is not America. This may be a surprise to you but unpopular wars make for unpopular warriors.

Note to Army and Royal Navy: Not that you need the reminder but, laugh now, please.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Bollocks on the News, Part II

  1. Dog shows. I frankly don't care whether "traditional Crufts breeders" think that dancing dogs are bringing the show into disrepute. I think that dog shows bring the country into disrepute.

  2. From today's Indefensible, as part of an otherwise reasonable article suggesting that possibly deporting gay people to Iran might offend the British sense of fair play and justice and breach the bit in the Human Rights Act which says that the death penalty isn't quite right nowadays:
    Unlike gay websites, their email network cannot be shut down because it does not have a home page.

    Regardless of the near ubiquity of web-mail interfaces nowadays, let me contribute to the world-wide fascist state by introducing the Iranians to the DNS 'MX' query. Err, which tells you what the FQDNs (Fully Qualified Domain Name) or IP addresses of the email servers are for an internet domain or subdomain.

    Like, for example, independent.co.uk*:

    DomainTypeClassTTLAnswer
    independent.co.uk.MXIN3600cluster5a.eu. messagelabs.com. [Preference = 20]
    independent.co.uk.MXIN3600cluster5.eu. messagelabs.com. [Preference = 10]

  3. Also from the Independent, referring to new public sculpture:
    Anthony Gormley says "There is an awful lot of crap out there"

    Now, as much as I like the iconic "Angel of the North", I must agree with Andrew. "Firmament", on show at the White Cube gallery and available to your local council for the waste of a mere £850k, shows just how right he is. Except, that's his.

    For pompous art snobs 'naive' and 'representational' ≠ 'crap'. Particularly for Marjorie Trusted, neither does 'old-fashioned' equal bad.



* Here are some of the relevant IP addresses:

DomainTypeClassTTLAnswer
cluster5a.eu. messagelabs.com.AIN900193.109.255.19
cluster5a.eu.messagelabs.com.AIN900193.109.254.3
cluster5a.eu.messagelabs.com.AIN900193.109.254.115
cluster5a.eu.messagelabs.com.AIN900195.245.230.51
cluster5a.eu.messagelabs.com.AIN90085.158.136.83
cluster5a.eu.messagelabs.com.AIN90085.158.140.179


PS. Yes, I know that the tables display in a manner best described as "crap". If you can help as opposed to moan, please let me know. Update: I may have corrected bodged this.

Bollocks on the News, Part I

So, there I am harmlessly slowly waking up and the unattractive figure of Jacqui Smith appears on the television.  We know that she shines an inefficient and low-wattage light even amongst the dim bulbs that are the current Cabinet but she was appalling this morning.  On ID Cards, of course.

So we are starting with compulsory issue - first to evil furriners (except EU furriners who, according to the Brussels collective, cannot be evil), then to airport workers, students (who, as we all know are smelly wasters, spending all their time drinking at the Union while skipping lectures) in 2010 and finally, once we have been immunised against it, all of us when we go and get our passports from 2011.  She did try to say that the latter two would be voluntary but, as it is the register not the card that is important, I don't believe here.  And nobody, not even airport workers, will need to carry it.

Unless, and I was taking notes by this point, you want to:
  • Travel
  • Get a bank account
  • Get a loan
  • Prove who we are to the police (Wat is going to be in real trouble)
  • or buy property
And it will protect us against fraud.  Will it?  Only if we have checks against the NIR, using the biometric data on our ID cards, at every opportunity to commit fraud1. Which is a problem, because every time our identity is checked against the NIR, the circumstances of that check will ne recorded on the NIR. This is going to make the NIR much larger and much, much busier, therefore, almost axiomatically, much more likely to contain incorrect information and much more likely to fall over.

And the vaunted biometrics, in a different database to the NIR2 you know, is now just a digitised photograph and your fingerprints.  Ho, hum.   That will prevent terrorism, I know, Jacqui said so.

Not so - let's take an example.  The completely hypothetical Abdul al Innocent comes to the UK to go to University3. After 4 years of exposure to pictures of Jade Goody, walking around piles of chav vomit / vomiting chavs, and encouraged by sermons from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Abdul decides that Britain is doomed unless we are brought under Sharia law. He goes home to get a job (having entered as a student, he has difficulty converting his visa to a work one and he is law-abiding and not going to go on the run.)

Once home, he meets up with some radical Islamists after Friday prayers and he is, over a period of a few months, convinced by them that the best way to convince us of the right(eous)ness of Sharia law is a series of terrorist atrocities4. So, he applies for a work visa which is granted5. And he comes to the UK. He has, of course, already got an ID card and an entry on the NIR. His controllers provide him with a forged or fraudulent passport, let's make it French, for Jean le Terroriste. All of his dodgy activity; training, meeting with fellow activists, purchasing parts for his explosive waistcoat, are done by Jean - and on Jean's ID Card and recorded on Jean's NIR record. Before the final terrorist activity, Jean's ID card is shredded and the earnestly innocent Abdul goes to meet his raisins.  Game set match - all sorts of things could have caught Abdul but not ID Cards.

1. And as the banks found out with Chip & Pin, all that will do is drive the commission of fraud abroad.

2. Yes, the biometrics shouldn't be on any database, they only need to be on the card. But that would be the sensible way of doing things.

3. Why, I am not entirely sure. Even if Abdul was from a country we or the Yanks had bombed back to the Stone Age, he is likely to get a much better education, even in the English language, anywhere but here.

4. Adbul is not too bright. Let's say he was a "David Beckham Studies" graduate.

5. I did imagine a lot in here about his arrest under Section 132 of SOCPA and subsequent brutalisation at the hands of a militant lesbian Met Police Officer "because he looked at me funny, m'lud." But it was irrelevant so I left it out.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Double Take

My insufficiently caffeinated brain was reading somebody else's Metro on the Tube this morning and I thought "What? Is he out of hospital already?"

Then I realised - it wasn't "Gazza fighting stops" but "Gaza".

Oh well.

Monday, March 03, 2008

More Honours Stupidity

This guy is not just "trying it on", he is also completely wrong.
When asked by Ms LaTorre how he would like to be introduced, Mr Irvine said he would like be known as "Sir Robert Irvine, Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order."

She told the St Petersburg Times: "He said there were five levels of knights, and KCVO is the highest level of knight you could be. The Queen handpicks you."

Actually, of course, there are 7 active orders of Knighthood* in Britain: Knights Bachelor, the Order of the British Empire, the Royal Victorian Order, the Order of St Michael and St George, the Order of the Bath, the Order of the Thistle and the Order of the Garter. These all have either one (Garter, Thistle & Bachelor) or two divisions of knighthood - in the latter case you are either a Knight Commander or the more senior "Knight Grand Cross".

And, there are 6 grades within the Royal Victorian Order - from the Royal Victorian Medal to Knight Grand Cross.  (Ed notes: It does have to be admitted, however, that membership in the RVO is one of the honours actually in the direct gift of the Queen rather than her being advised on appointment by her Government.)

So far from being the highest level of Knight, KCVO (the Star is shown here) is actually 9th of 11* with only KBE and Knight Batchelor as junior (the Garter is the most senior order).

'Tis a pity that although his time on the Royal Yacht appears to have done wonders for his cooking, it appears not to have done much for his appreciation of the (admittedly of limited importance) matters of precedence or, you have to say, mere counting.


* I don't believe that either the Order of Merit or the Order of Companions of Honour are actually knightly orders. If they are then there are 9 orders and KCVO is 11th of 13!

A Couple of Updates

With regard to the "George Medal" post below, I think it also deserves pointing out that St Andrew is hardly quintessentially Scottish.  As a Patron Saint, we share him with Russia, Romania and Greece, as well as Byzantium / Constantinople / Istanbul1 - places where, unlike Scotland, he may have actually had an evangelical connection. Whether as a Jewish fisherman in Roman-occupied Galilee or as the First Apostle, his connection with our lovely country is, at best, post mortem2 and, as it seems to be based on the dubious authenticity of medieval church relics, probably entirely hypothetical. 

Also, Mrs S-E wishes her loyal public to note that she has decreed that from times henceforth, minature bottles of alcohol, those being 5cl of spirits, 18.75cl of wine or 20cl of champagne3,4, shall be known as "sheridans", in honour of Gail of that name.


1. And Prussia, keeping my prior habit of citing regions.

2. Although the myths of St Andrew indicate he is supposed to have preached in Scythia and the
Declaration of Arbroath does claim the Scots came via "Greater Scythia", so he might just have run across us.

3. Although anybody approaching her presence with champagne in volume less than a normal bottle
* will be hung, drawn and quartered, just to make the point.

4. Or similar sizes. She's not a Eurocrat.

* And to be full (at least until you pour her glass), and to be left in an appropriate cooling bucket within easy reach. Thank you.
 
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