* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

3222 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

Voyager 2's closest Saturn swoop was 35 years ago today

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Wonderful achievement

I remember the excitement well. I followed all the Mariner, Pioneer, Viking, and Voyager programmes avidly, mainly in the National Geographic magazine. Really inspiring. The images sent back by these probes were so stunningly detailed.

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False Northern Lights alert issued to entire UK because of a lawnmower

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I thought the alert was odd, as I have been watching the sun closely, and had seen little activity to suggest a coronal mass ejection of any size. In fact, many solar observers had been bemoaning the lack of activity (although a few spots have bubbled up in the last few days). I am surprised, however, that a single station reporting weird values isn't trapped automatically. It would seem easy to detect this as an outlier and ignore it (or flag it to let somebody inspect it before issuing an alert.

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NASA tried turning lost spacecraft STEREO-B off and on again... but it didn't work. True story

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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You have to admire the tenacity with which the NASA engineers continue to create work arounds for problems with spacecraft.

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Radio astronomy pioneer dies at 92

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Sorry to hear of his death, but he has had a very good innings. I will raise a glass this evening

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Beauty site lets anyone read customers' personal information

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Facepalm

Mind-bogglingly stupid

Not only do they have this "feature", they then tweet about it so everyone knows they have this security leak you could drive a herd of overweight mastodons through. If their users really prefer this feature over security, they apparently have room-temperature IQ (centigrade scale, that is)

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My headset is reading my mind and talking behind my back

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Besides, wearables are harmless, right?

I think the term "mostly harmless" should be used

Doffs hat (Panama today, it is sunny!!) to the late, great Douglas Adams

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The calm before the storm: AMD's Zen bears down on Intel CPUs

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Interesting development

But it is not in the nature of Zen to get excited by the hype around a chip, is it, Grasshopper?

Sorry, couldn't resist. Now where is that motorcycle manual?

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UK gov says new Home Sec will have powers to ban end-to-end encryption

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: A legal work around?

I have said it before, and will say it again, but politicians never listen: One-time pads are fundamentally unbreakable, and really not hard to make. The argument that CSPs are making a "safe haven for terrorists" is flawed, because it is rather easy to roll your own

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By Juno! NASA delivers first new snaps from Jupiter

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Underwhelmed?

@Wilkinson

Your pictures are obviously a hoax. There are no stars in the background. Clearly you made that in your garage to fool the world.

Joking aside, that is a kick ass photo!

Darn, you guessed it. I also did the lunar landings in the same garage (when I was 7)

Where has that tinfoil hat of mine gone

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Re: Underwhelmed?

Yes, I did shoot that myself. My 20 year old scope still delivers the goods. Cheers

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Underwhelmed?

Depends on the scope. My 8" shows more.

Still, very good to see things working well, and really looking forward to the August results

Great work from NASA

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Pokemon Go oh no no no, we're not reading your email, says gamemaker

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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The only version of Pokemon I would be interested in

is Pokemon Go AWAY

But then I am the kind of old-fashioned person who uses his computer to, well, compute things.

Weird, I know, but there it is

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Linus Torvalds in sweary rant about punctuation in kernel comments

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

I tend to see a lot of "scientific" code, and I am typically too far over the moon if there are comments in there AT ALL that I am quite tolerant about the format, especially if the comments actually make sense.

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Drowning Dalek commands Siri in voice-rec hack attack

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Drowning Dalek?

Apparently I can also understand drowning Dalek. Odd that. I never felt like exterminating the doctor. I was always quite fond of him (certainly as played by Tom Baker, the only version I remember seeing on Dutch TV).

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You can’t sit there, my IoT desk tells me

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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There may be worse to come: IoT desks with the GPP feature!

To paraphrase Marvin: "Here's another of those self-satisfied desks. I can tell it is going to want me to stand up shortly by the intolerable air of smugness it suddenly generates."

Doffs hat (roo leather Barmah today, it's pissing down again) to the late, great Douglas Adams

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Behold the ROBOT RECTUM... medics' relief

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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So is this a true SmartArse (tm)?

This must be a candidate for the Ig Nobel prize in medicine. After all, it is certainly research to first make you laugh, and then make you think. Good work!

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Space prang of cosmic proportions blamed for giving Mars its moons

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Interesting stuff. Speculative on the one hand, but if they make first testable predictions we can certainly make progress. It would be absolutely great if JAXA pulled this mission off.

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ZTE Axon 7: A surprise flagship contender

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Thumb Up

Re: Optional

Handy link, thanks

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Down to Earth: NASA's kilo-kitty balloon lands after 46 days

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: balloon develops fear of heights

Or it got cold feet?

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Mozilla emits nightly builds of heir-to-Firefox browser engine Servo

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Rust vs Shooting yourself in the foot?

They need to add a line for Rust here.

Maybe just copy the one from Pascal:

The compiler won't let you shoot yourself in the foot.

by the sound of things. I might give this language a spin at some time.

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Prominent Brit law firm instructed to block Brexit Article 50 trigger

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Bollocks

I can only assume that mr. Slant would say: "That is an interesting grey area" which is legalese for: "That will be expensive". Legalese has many phrases that boil down to that.

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Microsoft's Windows 10 nagware goes FULL SCREEN in final push

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Advantages to Windows 10

The only reason this laptop still runs a windows version (8.1 + GWX Control Panel to keep Win 10 out) is that FireCapture (astro-imaging software) and AutoStakkert! 2.0 are windows only. The latter runs with varying degrees of success under WINE, but doing capture from planetary cameras under WINE seems risky. The Linux alternative oaCapture is not quite as mature, so I will work with windows until I find a Linux software suite that lets me mae these kinds of images

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A trip to the Twilight Zone with a support guy called Iron Maiden

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Dimensions

An orthogonal dimension?

Hmm...

Yes, that would do, the UK is at right angles to reality

Doffs hat (roo leather Barmah today, its been pissing down) to to Douglas Adams, one of the very few authors who got the mathematical meaning of beings occupying higher dimensions

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Jupiter's throwing a firework party for Juno – and Hubble's peeking in

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Fascinating stuff!

I do however note that Juno will descend into the magnetosphere of Jupiter on July 4, not into Jupiter itself. Nice to see lots of activity as it is about to arrive.

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Visiting America? US border agents want your Twitter, Facebook URLs

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Would I be accused of lying if I said I didn't have any?

The onus of proof is wherever they feel like putting it.

So guess .....

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: What a load of cobblers

Simply use the "cunning plan" (doffs hat to Baldric) of opening an account with next to nothing on it.

The proposal is really, really stupid, the usual practice of adding more hay in order to find more needles, instead of getting a bigger magnet.

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Florida man sues Apple for $10bn, claims iPod, iPhone was his idea

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Newsflash: Nebuchadnezzar cliams prior art on rounded corners!!

I am really baffled why anyone would want to bang on about the rounded corners bit. Functionality and general form-factor (easily hand-held/pocketable) make sense, but the rounded corners bit is already ancient. Clay tablets could be used to record things (OK, cuneiform rather than mp3), and certainly had rounded corners. Playback is a little cumbersome, granted, but the rounded corners bit is not the bit I would personally focus on when claiming novelty.

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Those Xbox Fitness vids you 'bought'? Look up the meaning of the word 'rent'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Refund? ... as a service?

If they don't refund, disappointed customers might want to use this service

I particularly like the

/shakespeare/:name/:from

entry

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Hillary Clinton: My promises to America's tech industry

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Pfffttt!!!!!

I always prefer a trebuchet, for that extra kick.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

...or what OS the IRS should run when they try to modernize their operations.

I thought everybody knew they were upgrading to CP/M 2.0

Sorry, couldn't resist

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You know how that data breach happened? Three words: eBay, hard drives

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Mushroom

Re: Has it been six months already?

Nuke'em from space, it's the only way to be sure!

Sorry, couldn't resist.

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The best way to find oxygen on Mars? Friggin LASERS, of course

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Nice work by the Curiosity team!

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Countdown to Jupiter: Juno just seven days from orbit

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Very interesting project

Will follow this with interest, as Jupiter is receding from view in my 8" scope. No doubt a lot will be learned. A pint to all the engineers and scientists who have made this possible

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Holy Crap! Bloke finishes hand-built CPU project!

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Hydraulic valves, I trust?

Not thermionic. The world needs a CPU that doesn't rely on this new fangled electricity.

Real valves? Just ask Hubert.

And Igor, of course

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Utah sheriffs blow $10,000 on smut-sniffing Labrador

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Bag of chips?

So would the dog be able to tell the difference between a bag full of assorted logic chips, cpus etc, and a working USB drive?

Did they train the dog on legacy storage devices (for "vintage porn"?) such as the old 8" floppy disk still somewhere in my office (granted, not much you can store in the way of smut on 128 kB and still store CP/M 2.0 on it).

Can it detect bubble memory? Magnetic tapes? Punched cards?

Enquiring minds need to know

As an aside, my estimate is that you would need 228 metric tonnes of punched cards to store a DVD (smut-filled or otherwise) full of data, so that might be a tad inefficient.

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Happy Mappiversary, Ordnance Survey

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Re: Happy days

Great fan of OS maps too. Whenever I am on holidays in a part of Britain I haven't been before, the first course of action is to get a good set of local OS maps (Exlporer or Landranger, as a rule).Wouldn't go hiking without one

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Late night smartphone use makes women go blind

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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This sounds very similar to what astronomers experience when they look at the moon. One eye is exposed to a sunlit moonscape, the other is in relative darkness. When you turn away from the eyepiece, the eye that was just exposed to moonlight seems practically blind. The effect is especially strong when using large telescopes at relatively low magnification. It wears off, of course.

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Supermassive black hole devours star and becomes X-ray flashlight

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Very interesting

One minor point: tidal disruption (objects being ripped apart by a black hole) also occurs outside the event horizon (which is why we can observe it), due to the huge differential in gravitational pull between parts of an object closest to, and furthest from the black hole. It may well occur inside the event horizon, but we have no way of knowing it.

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Astroboffins find first 'wind nebula' around rare 'magnetar' star

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Fascinating stuff!

Given we only know 29 magnetars, I am not too surprised one of them behaves oddly. That doesn't mean we shouldn't find out why, of course.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Turtle

As long as you don't claim to see four elephants as well, I am not too worried

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Air-gapping SCADA systems won't help you, says man who knows

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Air gapping won't help you because.....a non airgapped system is insecure

So how do you control a complex power network fully automatically, without connecting SCADA systems to the internet, at least indirectly? This is near impossible, especially considering there will be rapidly varying demand, wildly fluctuating supply from solar panels in various homes, wind turbines on various hills, and a host of power stations needing to adapt their output on the fly, and loads of smart meters trying to get the best deal on that energy market. Do you have people furiously tapping in commands and SCADA control stations all day and all night? However much you wish to isolate critical systems, these critical systems must get data from the real world to control their behaviour. Entering the data in real time can really only be done through some network connection.

I have no easy answer on the security side (security is hard, so pay for it), but a layered approach of some sort seems a likely way to go. I get that Lakhani is a salesman, but that in itself does not mean he is wrong.

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Pressure mounts against Rule 41 – the FBI's power to hack Tor, VPN users on sight

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Or Rule One, for that matter

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Fedora 24 is here. Go ahead – dive in

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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May well give this a spin

Sounds like a distro worth looking into. Ubuntu had a sad tendency to lock my older laptop so frequently that I reverted to OpenSUSE, but Fedora's astro spin in particular seems interesting

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Not smiling for the camera? Adobe's Creative Cloud suite can fix that

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Still in the cloud only?

Then count me out. I would have happily paid for a good piece of software (which PS certainly is) to own (OK, own the license), and upgrade when I feel the need. I do not like walking around, somewhere out of internet reach (try quite large bits of Uganda), and have my software tell me:

"Sorry, I can't do that for you Dave."

Because it cannot reach the Adobe servers to verify I have paid my subscription

...

And I am not even called Dave.

...

Mine is the one with the developer stains in it

Mutters retreating to the proper dark room to develop some proper prints

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Cats understand the laws of physics, researchers claim

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Hmm...

'I think the real answer where food in tins and cats are concerned, is that cats are telepathic and this is what they should have been testing, rather than whether gravity is affected by electromagnets. Our cat can be sound asleep in the most distant part of the house, and you only have to have the passing thought of "should I open the beef terrine or the fish in jelly for his next meal" and you find he has instantly teleported himself to his bowl and is making the special meow that means "give me my food now, and don't make those puny excuses about having to open the tin first"'

Alternatively, this is a quantum effect (all cats are Schrödinger cats, after all), and the cat tunnels to a convenient location, often right under your feet (convenient as in convenient for the cat), once the wave-function describing its brain has picked up the wave-function of the contents of the tin/whatever container the food is in. Maybe I could get some ERC funding for that

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Kremlin wants to shoot the Messenger, and WhatsApp to boot

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Just a few thoughts

suppose I encrypt some message with a one-time pad, or just as a form of "conceptual art" pack a load of noise bits into a PNG file (probably more aesthetically pleasing than some things I have seen being passed of as art). I then send this through an end-to-end encrypted messenger app. If the FSB wants the author of the app to encrypt it, and noise comes out, wouldn't that land the author in a load of hot water?

Alternatively, I would expect Putin has the power to veto a law he doesn't like (cannot imagine him NOT having that power). He sets up some people with porridge for brains to put in an unreasonable amendment, so he can veto it and appear as at least one of the more reasonable people in Russia, with which we can do business.

OK, where is that tinfoil hat

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Astroboffins discover rapid 'electric winds' blowing on Venus

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

So is Venus

the ultimate BOFH planet? After all, its atmosphere is acidic enough and hot enough to dispose of bodies, and it seems like a planetary cattle prod: >KZZEERRT<

More seriously, excellent astro-boffinry!

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Watch as SpaceX's latest Falcon rocket burns then crashes

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Engines and SSTO

Basically the more people we can get up in the upper reaches of the atmosphere, the closer we get to sending a FlatEarther up sufficiently high that they go 'Shit, there isn't a domelike firmament' and 'I can see a curve' and we quash those conspiracy nuts and literal scripture types back into to a tiny part of the internet where even birthers and 9/11 truthers laugh at them.

The problem is that flat-earthers simply won't believe their eyes, and claim it is just an optical illusion caused by the spherical nature of the lenses in their eyes. I have literally heard them use that argument. I was tempted to explain the difference between illusions and delusions, but ultimately found it a waste of time. None are so deaf as those who do not want to hear.

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YouTube sharecroppers start world’s most useless trade union

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

But ...

Has this guild been recognized by Lord Vetinari?

Inquiring minds need to know

We need a Discworld icon, we really do...

Mine is the one with "The Fifth Elephant" in the pocket

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BOFH: Follow the paper trail

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Reminds me of some "academic leadership" courses ...

foisted upon some (senior) staff members here. These guys also want us to use "SMART" goals in our agreements with PhD students, as if you can design a conveyor belt for production of scientific papers. I swear I will come up with a backronym for DUMB one day. They also insist on a good PDCA cycle. They did not like my version:

Procrastinate

Dither

Clash

Abscond

Can't think why

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