64 posts • joined Friday 6th August 2010 08:21 GMT
A wonderful life and writer
Frederick Pohl's works were some of the first I read as a new SF fan back in 1964, having been introduced to the genre by a librarian who thought I would like the stories. I did, and still, after so many years, I can return to and read any of his works with great enjoyment. I recognise him as being a very significant author in my intellectual life, because he did write thoughtful fiction, and some of his non-fiction work was equally thought-provoking.
Re: Hot Wireless Dogging.
Don't worry: I think it was a beta-test of the next generation software for Google Translate.
Re: I'm there in Beijing
Just to add: flat fare for all metro journeys is 0.20UKP
I'm there in Beijing
The problem is that sometimes I have read time-and-date-stamped reports about the bad air quality in Beijing, and not being able to see from one side of the (rather wide) roads to another, when I recall on those days that the air was very clear and you could see further than normal. The BBC had a few rather biased reporters in the past in that way, as far as I could see. However, the air quality is often as bad and sometimes worse than other major cities around the world. This latest event was by far the worst I have ever experienced in a number of years of living in Beijing. It felt as if I was smoking 100 cigarettes a day all the time, and my lungs and breathing generally was terrible, with me feeling faint and having a raw cough that doubled me up. That was with staying indoors all the time. Outside, you could not see far, and everything had a slightly yellowish-brown tinge to it. Apparently, there were not many people outdoors, and most of them who were wore face-masks that I doubt would filter out the particles of the size that people are concerned with. The Chinese government did issue warnings, but I imagine this has only come about after being embarrassed into doing it. Today (Wednesday) the air quality has improved greatly and the sun is shining. I think much more effort is required to reduce the pollution here. There are too many cars so many of the roads face almost constant delays: removing them would help, but that cannot be done easily. Many buses (with flat fare of 0.04UKP or 0.08UKP) are almost always full to bursting at the moment, and the new metro lines that opened about 3 weeks ago are already stuffed full of passengers. I think a more radical solution may be required, but that may take time, of which there may not be so much if greater disaster (like London's 1952 smogs) are to be avoided.
If no one were allowed to voice and opinion about something until they had had direct personal experience of it, then I doubt we would have many comments here on anything. The sensible option is to agree to a variation of what Pericles of Athens is reported as saying: "Although only a few may have the skills to initiate or decide upon a policy; all may comment on it."
Re: Unlikely it will change anything
I've crossed into China numerous times in the past 10 years, usually via Beijing or Shanghai. During that time, I saw one person stopped at entry into Beijing and told off for bringing in a sandwich they hadn't eaten whilst traveling. On my first visit, I was worried by the stern notices about the banning of CDs and so on at the customs posts (this was before the new terminal was opened at Beijing Capital Airport). So, I declared my 3 CDs containing music I wanted to losten to whilst there. I was told off by the customs officer for interrupting his dozing by such a small matter and waved through without anything being confiscated.
The hardest thing I have had to get used to is the fact that when I change languages on my Win7 machine, the layout of characters on my keyboard changes. I now normally just use the Chinese set up which can handle both, and accept that typing pound signs is a bit more involved.
The appeal is also not completely correct
If you read the appeal judgment, he has not escaped any punishment, but has merely had it reduced. In my view, this is also unsatisfactory: he should have been completely acquitted, because there was no intent involved in what he did. Suppose someone painted on a large roadside billboard "I want to fuck you!" If that person was found, would he be up in fron of a judge accused of attempting a sex-act with any under-age child who happened to see the graffiti? Of course not, it would be a nonsense. The same principle applies here, except that he was not guilty of either breach of the peace or of damaging other people's property with the graffiti.
Re: Not as pretty - or scary
"They do sing like hell if you annoy them"
A poorly-rendered version of Arthur Askey's Bumblebee Song, perhaps?
... it seems to me that the US Patent system is patently absurb
Dar God, No!
Not another project that, judging by previous efforts, I predict will be doomed to failure after becoming a money-pit for pricvate companies who continue to fail to deliver yet still get awarded contracts. Surely the idiots in charge of this initiative should have learned something by now!
David Cameron's administration seems to have mirrored the USA in some respects: it has gone from the beginning phase of "enthusiastic yet inexperienced amateurs" to "corrupt self-serving incompetents managing a slow-motion disaster" without the usual intervening phase of "roughly all right, could do better, but so so disasterously bad" in the middle.
... is repeating errors, time and time again after having them pointed out. "Trick cyclists" refers to psychiatrists (a branch of medicine dealinng with abnormal psychology from a medical pint of view), not to psychologists or sociologists. I and others have pinted this out a number of times before. Until the author of this "article" stops making such elementary errors of using the wrong ter]ms, how can we be sure that the other facts are in any way correct (ignoring the point about it seeming as if it contains a cut-and-paste job from Fox news)?
From what this guy did, has had happened, and was stated he was planning to do, it seems that he has gone from burger-flipping to doing time, and afterwards, even burger-flipping may no longer be an option.... As for a degree course on something to do with programming computer games, I guess it's bye bye to that. He couldn't even get the ex post facto excuse convincing, in my opinion.
Yes, Health Minister
Given past histories:
(a) It is wishful thinking and will just be another money-sink
(b) It won't work in the way they want.
(c) Nevetheless, all NHS records will be online by 2015, though it will be a result of their usual lax security, because they will appear on the version of wikileaks that operates then.
Look at China, UK citizens: it is your future unless you start trying to oppose it now! Given the current legislation proposals on snooping of all computer-based communication, it just illustrates that, generally, governments are always into the game of control and increasing their own power at the expense of the ordinary people, which they are supposed to serve.
Long ago I realised that most of the ordinary USA citizens won't give an inch on metric measurements.
Re: Haven't heard of them in over 40 years
The sequel "Return to the Islands" is also quite good. I first read both of them in the early 60s after being intrigued by a section we read during English lessons at school. I was so intrigued, in fact, that I pestered my parents to seek out and buy both books to read in full, and I've re-read them with great pleasure quite a number of times since.
already well-known and well-used
Keeping pee, and using it (suitably diluted) for fertiliser is an old trick used by generations of UK gardeners. In my experience, the most use of it is to help compost heaps get going. However, when in the UK, our family used to use it diluted to water various vegetables, and got very good results from it; our moolies (very large radishes), onions, and beans did very well on it, and the garden flowers also benefitted. It gave a whole new insight into the euphemistic phrase: "I have to water my onions".
Ludicrously late recognition of Rush Limbaugh's qualities by firms whose only concerns are not what they state, but merely whether anything affects their profits. For those of us who have known about Rush Limbaugh, he has never changed in well over 15 years of broadcasting, and, indeed, is the subject of a book ("The Bum's Rush: The Selling of Environmental Backlash. Phrases and Fallacies of Rush Limbaugh" by Don Trent Jacobs) that aims to teach people critical thinking: his contributions are the bases of many illustrations of fallacious and poor arguments in the book. The book hopes that by showing these flawed arguments up for what they are, people can better avoid them and recognise them, and it has been used as a textbook in various US universities.
The man could be humorous in what he says to those who can have fun identifying all the fallacies he uses in his acts, but because most of the public is not skilled in critical thinking, his acts have the power to corrupt further and mislead greatly.
His late apology seems disingenuous in the extreme, given that he steadfastly refused to withdraw his comments until the withdrawal of advertising began to hit his media stations wallets; so, given his previous behaviour, I think the apology is likely to be forced and does not refelvct a change of attitude at all, even though he attempts the usual trick of saying "it was meant as a joke".
It's surely a more subtle ploy
I think it's just a ploy to try to improve the national football team of Thailand, on the basis of completely misinterpreting the over-the-top antics of many western clubs' players after scoring a goal (at football), which often just looks like the preliminary foreplay moves of a group-orgy
Re: DEAR MICROSOFT...
I discovered recently that its worse than that: I had to buy a replacement Windows machine recently because my old one broke irretrievably. I had bought it in the UK, and all was fine with it. Since I am now in China, I had to quickly buy a Chinese PC. The only safe ones I could buy only had Windows 7 Basic on them, and I found that to change the language to English (any kind, I'm not fussy becauise it is a priority), I had to pay mega-bucks to first upgrade to the Windows Ultimate editon. Just another excuse to make money.
The interface is subtly different; in the Chines version, the position of some options are not the same compared with the English version (so I can't use memory to recall what meu item to choose). Also, the shortcut keys are not the same. They seem to have made it as difficult as possible to simply change languages so that they can squeeze more money out of you. Before, I was displeased with Microsoft; now I hate them. Furthermore, if I install software (freeware, shareware or licensed), it often uses as an interface language the settings it finds on the computer, so everything is set up using Chinese as well. The option to change to English is sometimes not there at all, and if it is, one needs to understand Chinese to be able to find out how easily. I used to be reasonably proficient using Windows, but because I cannot read many Chinese characters, I've sudenly become a functional 8 year old or worse when using it in Chinese.
On Linux, such language changes are done easily. The problem for me is that I must use Windows because of reasons completely outside my control. If I could, I'd ditch it tomorrow.
I agree that many people have an opinion about the classics, and I think it demonstrates that the standard of knowledge within China of their classics amongst ordinary people seems to be much greater than the knowledge ordinary people in the Uk would have of UK classics.
The historical dramas are often of high quality. I think if some enterprising person and company did the necessary work, they would prove entertaining if they could be dubbed into English and shown on UK television. For instance the Chinese version of Journey to the West, starring Liu Xiao Lin Tong (so not the most recent re-make though this has better special effects) is far far superior to the travesty that was shown on UK TV many years ago under the title of "Monkey", the most recent remake of "Outlaws of the Marsh" (with a title of "All Men are Brothers"), which was similarly ruined in the Japanese version shown on UK TV as "The Water Margin" is also of good quality. They mainatin the right amound of humour, and the way the plot is developed together with the acting is much better than the version shown on UK TV. They could easily do well, I think, if carefully dubbed into English and shown in the UK. So, it isn't all bad on Chinese TV by any means
stable door time
As a Brit living in China (don't let the name mislead you), I have the dubious pleasure of being able to experience Chinese TV every day. It is an example of what the Chinese did when they responded, under Deng Xiao Ping, to pressures from various international bodies, to begin to introduce capitalist idels into the coubtry (albeit with a Chinese twist to them). What they did, as far as I can see, is select the very worst aspects of American TV and apply them to their own TV programs. So, we have numerous advert breaks (very badly signed, so sometimes it takes a second or two to realise that we are not seeing a continuation of the program, but the start of an advert, and similarly, we have an abrupt unsignalled change back to the program at the end of the advert session); some of the advert breaks go on for 15 minutes and contain just *one* advert for something which involves lots of shouting, repetition, and false claims - examples are mattresses, weight-reduction pills or equipment, complexion improvers, and so on; and there are very many trashy talent shows (like 3rd rate X factor shows), reality discussion shows, or unreal Korean romantic series that rot your brain.
In my opinion, any change that reduces this stream of trash and high-intensity advertising would be an improvement.
It is a very strange article, which, when talking about R, omits to mention its direct-source origins in the S language (later on, the S-plus language, and now S4). R is much more like S than SAS or SPSS, and many statisticians preferred to use it, even though it cost a lot of money, than use SPSS or even SAS (I think SPSS was viewed as the most inferior one amongst those mentioned.) As I said, this was the view amongst statisticians, which are a different group to those who just use statistical packages. I think its a serious omission in this article.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S_%28programming_language%29 although wikipedia gives a short summary, not so outrageously wrong, and it refers to a useful history in the form of a pdf document about it.
I would much rather they changed things to do with the base language used in the UI.
For instance, I am British, still not knowing much about Chinese writing, but forced to but a Chinese MS machine (for work purposes) when my old machine fell over irretrievably. I could (a) only buy one with the Basic home windows 7 version, and (b) found out that this cannot have the language for the OS changed without paying extra for Windows Ultimate edition. Because MS in its wisdom have changed the order of options in its menus, don't even have the same shortcut letters, and so on, I have been reduced to being a rank newbie at using the computer.
This is compounded by much software giving you no choice about interface language for them: they use the settings they find for the entire Operating System, and, in a catch-22 situation, you usually can only find the option for altering this (if it is available at all) by first being able to read the options in the language you do not wish to be used in the first place!
Linux allows you to alter these things easily and freely. I guess, MS will never turn down an opportunity to charge money wherever they can, choosing to call them something like "optional extra features" or some such rubbish.
They would do well to address these kinds of issues than mucking around with a Start button that is usually used to Stop the computer.
don't have roofs
You can either sell roof tickets, or just have open-air carriages without roofs, I think.
... once had to do this, he wrote, when he was obliged to remain sitting at some tedious regimental dinner where no one could leave until some pompous oaf got up who was also at the meal. However, I guess this would be called "tradition" rather than feckless youth at work...
We are all bystanders thinking we are somehow relevant to these actions: they seem to me to be merely outwardly visible manouvres involving these:
(a) big business attempts to shore up failing busines models to extract enough cash from the people before they all go under for failing to adapt;
(b) the effects of money on the so-called "land of the free", its legislative bodies, and its judiciary, so that "free" means "free if you have thepower, the greenbacks and the right contacts".
(c) the desperate attempts at chicanery by third-rate politicians who are deperate to still have their grasp on power after elections that are looming.
The ordinary people here are just like some farmland crops or livestock to be harvested at will to these immoral money-raking conglmerates; we do not matter so long as we are kept in the dark and fed on manure just enough to keep the money rolling in, and that we do not try to stop their ability to wield power and influence over us. Freedom, openess, and rights mean nothing to them if they are to be applied to anyone other than themselves.
Ok - let's run with the conspiracies...
Suppose, just for fun, that there realy was a conspiracy here. How about this one:
Russia, through poor economic performance, corruption, embezzlesment, lack of competent engineers (because pay is laughably small and inadequate for a mouse to live on), cannot afford to build phobos-grunt so that it will work properly. However, it is obliged to launch it, etc or other interests will demand money back which it no longer has (see above). So, it builds a plausible-looking fake satellite. This fake satellite must not be allowed to progress far because it will be discovered to be fake. Therefore, a catastrophic launch failure is arranged. Unfortunately, this goes wrong for reasons given above, and we are left with a defunct (fake) satellite that will rain down on us sometime around 15 January 2012, which could give time for its fake status to be discovered. The Russian head of its space program suggests that the failure was a conspiracy (but he does not say whether the failure of the planned catastrophic failure was the failure he was talking about, or just the failure of the satellite mission. This achieves two aims for him: (a) following the establishment line, and (b) covering his arse by saying that he told the truth (but committing the fallacy of equivocation by so doing).
Thus we have a conspiracy about a conspiracy, all wrapped up in a conspiracy itself. This is so good, I'm sure some of the conspiracy nutters will conslude that it must therefore be absolutely true.
Aid for Insomniacs
As propaganda channels go from around the world, this one is not much different. Its greatest strength is its ability to send even the most hardened insomniac to sleep after not much more than 30 minutes viewing. I'm in China, and, being unable (despite the name) to understand much Chinese, it is one of the few English-language channels one can easily view. Many Chinese view it and its Chinese-speaking equivalent as being boring and repetitive. I agree - a perfect alternative to counting sheep!
Parallels in another country
in UK schools, they need to concentrate on the very basics: reading, writing, arithmetic, and critical thinking. Then there needs to be a streamed approach to IT teaching: For some, using software like Word and Excel (though open-source could be used more, and Powerpoint and Dreamweaver-like packages might also be considered here, though they are less obvious good choices). For some students, this will be all they can cope with. But they need to assess and stream the students so that those who might be able to cope go onto such things like ML languages, html, css, and the more formal programming languages.
One key to this is good streaming and abandoning the idea that mixed-ability classes are always the default option. The other key is to get an adequate number of well-trained teachers who know the topics well themselves. As some others stated, if IT topics are to be taken seriously in schools, then there should be a requirement to have a *properly qualified teacher* teaching the subjects they have shown they have some expertise and competence in themselves. A useful default way of determining this is to adopt what is done with other subjects: teachers must have degrees in the subjects they teach in middle and high schools, and so the micro-management of schools which drives potential teachers away must be ended.
"The Register has offered Facebook the opportunity to comment – twice – but has yet to receive a response."
Try putting the request in one of the cookies under discussion somehow and see if a response then emerges...
In which case...
If the sad thing is that the government and councils would never have done this (set up this site) themselves, then we clearly need another two sites:
we could also have
to deal with the NI scandals
and so on...
difficult to tell...
I wondered about that, but because I cannot be sure, I think I'll settle for the lazy and useless option. However, it would be a good way of cutting down on visa applications, wouldn't it?...
I also wondered about that. I thought that we should be able to see some person standing around looking important, and if we stuffed a brown envelope stuffed with 100yuan banknotes into his hands, we would be waved through. We didn't see that person. However, I am sure we were ripped off in two different ways: (a) insisting we used an in-house service (which we had to pay for) to translate some Chinese documents into English, when we had already got notarized translations for them - so we ended up paying twice for these, but, of course, one fee went to the Visa agency which wouldn't have happened if they had used our translations (b) although the applications forms said children under 16 could be handled and included with their biological mother's application, we were told this meant we still had to pay a separate fee (of around £500, if I recall correctly) and fill in a separate application form for him. I pointed out the inconsistency to them, but they were unmovable. They were surprised when we returned 15 minutes later with the completed application form for him, given that they expected we would not be in time, and a 4 day holiday was about to start.
Some more details...
1. Telling my wife and son (in Chinese) that they would not get a visa. This comment (or was it "threat") was hastily withdrawn when they became aware that I understood what they had said and was prepared to take it further with officials back in the UK.
2. Refusing to accept documents as legitimate that were necessary for my wife and son's applications, even though they were (e.g., a copy of the Land Registry entry for my house conforming I was the owner was going to be rejected on account of it "only being a copy rather than the actual entry"!)
3. Refusing to accept that I had retired early, so, although I had a statement about my private pension, etc, I did not have any details of my employer or my salary, and so the applications would be rejected as incomplete.
4. Refusing to accept that I had no mortgage (I had bought my house outright), and that if I did own it outright, where was the Local Council (???) statement that I did. (This was a bizarre reason, but it would be consistent with Chinese law, where owning land or property outright means one does have a local council statement conforming this.)
5. After complaints made to the person handling the application, we asked for the supervisor, and got a person who was not Chinese, but who might well have not been British either but Indian, who told us that they were following their protocols exactly, and we had no grounds for complaint. When I remonstrated with him about failures of basic knowledge of how the UK was run, he shrugged his shoulders and told us that if we knew better, we could insist they handed the application over in the same state as we had delivered it to them. Since I had organized the application and documents in a lofgical manner with clear labelling and an index, we said they should do that, whereupon they roughly gathered all the documents together in a heap, made no attempt to re-organize them as they had been when we submitted then, and jammed them into an envelope and said "Thank you".
I complained to my MP about this, but nothing seemed to come of it, and the application took about one month more than it should have done. However, after interviewing my wife and me at Beijing, my wife and my son were the only two out of 8 that day who were immediately given visas.
I strongly suggest that the Visa office were manifestly affecting the chance of success for people's applications, despite the protestations on the official government sources that they play no part in the decisions, and merely do an initial handling of applications.
This form of outsourcing and privatisation stinks and makes the UK a laughing stock.
recipe for idiocy
Presumably, if we have questions about the online service, we can phone up the helpline which will have been outsourced to some place in India, thus meaning that even more of the key core services get handled by people who do hold a UK passport themselves. This would just be an extension of what already happens, with visa offices around the world (certainly in Beijing for instance) being staffed by local people. The powers that be like to claim that no decisions are made by the staff in these centres, but in my experience, they way they deal with your application means they can definitely influence applications, as they claimed was the case with my wife and son's applications until I stepped in and we insisted they dealt with their applications without prejudice.
My family were on a plane (Air China) flying from Beijing to Zhangjiajie and my son had a slight stomach upset that meant he needed to go very urgently. Although the plane was landing, they allowed him into the toilet (unlocking it for him), and he stayed there from before the final approach until after it had landed. There were no problems (apart from his stomach ones) as far as I could tell.
Mind you, in China (if anyone has been there, rather than believed what media writes about the place) many rules or laws are treated by Chinese people as being somehow "optional" from time to time.