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Thursday, May 29

SETI@Home

Yesterday, for some reason, I received an email from SETI@Home. It's a project I used to participate in, the last time I had a computer that was left on for significant amounts of idle time (which was when I last lived in Brighton), but I've not contributed for a while. I don't know why they happened to email me yesterday (it looked automated, but there must have been some reason why it picked that moment to send), but it was well timed, because once again I have always-on internet access, so once again I am leaving my computer on for significant periods of time when I'm not directly using it.

Anyway, I've installed the program, because I like the idea of contributing all that idle processor time to something useful, but I wonder if the SETI programme is the best recipient of those clock cycles. I am very interested in the SETI programme's aims, but the specific work they are using SETI@Home for is such a longshot that it's likely to run forever without finding anything really useful. There used to be an artificial life distributed computing project - Golem@home - along similar lines, which had the advantage of not only being especially cool, but also testing a controversial hypothesis (so even a failure is a useful result), but also clearly enough in my own field that I might even one day use its data or be directed by its findings in my own work, but that experiment is finished. Still, there must be other people using this sort of distributed computing to attack other problems - any suggestions?
posted @ 6:53 AM -

Wednesday, May 28

Wi-Fi, at last

I am writing this from my parents' rather lovely garden. This simple fact makes the immense amount of time I've wasted getting Wi-Fi to work over the past week worth it....
posted @ 8:16 AM -

Lost in the post, again

I was complaining recently about the sending of passports in the post, but it turns out that worse things happen. At least I've never had to send a heart in the post.
posted @ 7:26 AM -

Tuesday, May 27

Pen Hadow, who had been stranded on drifting ice near the North Pole for a week, has just been rescued.

Update at 6:21: if you are interested you can in fact inform yourself on his website.
posted @ 8:14 AM -

Monday, May 26

Alf Poier is a genius

I know I'm a few days behind, but I have only just seen the video and his website.

Of course if I wasn't such a respectable, law-abiding citizen I could probably get hold of some his other songs via a file-sharing service, but I'll just have to wait until the Eurovision-generated fuss dies down and he can make the music on his website available again.
posted @ 5:02 PM -

Lost in the post

I have always had serious concerns about sending passports in the post. Occasionally it is just unavoidable, but wherever possible I try to deliver mine in person. I had always thought this was simply paranoia, and I've even been getting less uptight about this lately. It seems I'm not so crazy after all, though, because now I see that in the UK 3,000 passports were lost in the post last year. It's bad enough that this represents 3,000 people being inconcenvienced by an excessively lax system, but it's also 3,000 easy opportunities for fraud handed to malfeasants on a plate at a time when the government is using concerns about security to justify giving unprecedented powers to the police.
posted @ 4:47 PM -
I wonder how Teens Against Tobacco Use feel about the high profile of certain Russian schoolgirl lesbians.
posted @ 7:14 AM -

Sunday, May 25

Great cities

London, Brighton & Bristol are all among the top 5 in a list of Britain's most creative cities, so clearly my endorsement counts for a lot. I also like the fact that while Manchester is the most creative, Brighton and Hove is officially the gayest.

I'm very dubious about how these statistics have been compiled though. It seems that they have mostly measured things which their theory claims ought to increase creativity, because creativity is so hard to measure directly. Of course, when one makes such theory-laden measurements, they invariably come out in support of one's theory, and here we see this survey being used to support the claim that British cities 'need hip and gay areas to prosper'.

It's a problem familiar from my time as a psychology student - it's very easy to find whatever you're looking for, just because you're looking for it.
posted @ 7:14 PM -

Assymetrical warfare

According to the token American on BBC News 24's Dateline London programme (I can't remember his name), the USA spends more money on defence than all the other countries in the world combined. In the interests of fairness I ought to point out that some of that is in effect a subsidy for the NATO members (most of them as far as I know) who underspend on defence because they know that they can rely on American protection if their territory is ever really under threat, but it's still a more extreme imbalance than I expected.
posted @ 7:05 PM -

Baseless exaggeration of the day

The EU, as proposed in the new constitution, will be no more than a revamped USSR.

Found in the discussion to a Samizdata article about something completely different (Channel 4's Zimbabwe coverage). I didn't set out to hijack the comments, but in the end I just couldn't let something like that lie.
posted @ 4:54 PM -

Radio on demand

Now that I have my computer connected to both a high bandwidth network and a reasonable amp & speakers, I can listen to radio online. For current programming that can be picked up in London this has no advantage over just using a radio (and using a radio has the advantage of not taking up a share of my finite bandwidth, plus using my has the advantage that it's a beautiful old piece of kit with a dial that glows reassuringly). However, the ability to listen to programmes from the past week of BBC scheduling allows me to listen to John Peel when I am in the mood for John Peel (which seems never to coincide with when he's actually on), and to fast forward (yes I do share his love of the Undertones, but they're far too lightweight a pop band to justify playing the same song twice), and to check the track listing of the programme when he says things like: this is a track by - frankly I've forgotten who it is, but it's going to be good.
posted @ 3:19 AM -

Saturday, May 24

The Beckham Trail

At what point does admiration for a popular hero turn into idolatry? Quite possibly when the London Borough of Waltham Forest try to jump on the bandwagon by introducing a heritage trail devoted to his youth, with such fascinating locations as where David worked as a �10 a night glass collector.
posted @ 8:05 AM -

Friday, May 23

No comment

I'm fed up and so is the rabbit - the hutch hasn't even got wheels.
posted @ 7:40 AM -

A sadly familiar story

The headline reads Violation of Building Codes Responsible for Most of Algeria�s Quake Damage. It gives me a very strong sense of déja vu.

About 5 years ago (1997 I think) Istanbul was hit by a hugely destructive earthquake. As it happens, I flew via Istanbul the day after (on the way from southern Turkey back to London), and the view from the air was very striking. While earthquake intensity must decay in a more or less even way (I'm assuming it would follow the inverse square law, as sound does) in proportion with increasing distance from the epicentre, there was no discernable pattern to the damage caused. Instead, individual buildings on the same block were either mostly intact or entirely collapsed. The determinant of whether a building would be destroyed was clearly not a systematic effect of location, but something to do with the buildings themselves.

It was no surprise at that time when stories came out shortly afterwards about how a large proportion of the collapsed buildings should never have been approved for habitation in the first place, and it is no surprise to hear the same about Algeria. While earthquakes can not be avoided, and will always have some casualties, it is deeply sad that many of the people who died this week died as a result of other peoples' negligence.
posted @ 6:05 AM -

Thursday, May 22

Raging Against the Machines

This is less an apology than an explanation.

The lightness of posting last week reflected my being very busy. Pleasantly busy - although I still haven't seen half of the people I was looking forward to seeing when I got back to London, I have managed to see a number of important people individually, which has the advantage that we can catch up much more meaningfully, but the drawback of taking a lot of time while there are still too many of people I haven't met up with at all.

This week has been different. The weekend felt a little more like normality, so I started the week with very good intentions of spending the days in some sense at work, and going out a couple of evenings but also spending some time with my parents, and making time to make some long chatty phone calls to people outside London. I haven't been very successful because a large share of my time, and an even larger share of my energy have been eaten up by trying to get a wireless network up and running in the house. It ought to be so easy....

I won't go into the technical details of what's going wrong, but there are two reasons why this is driving me much more mad than technical troubles usually do. On the one hand there is my almost boundless enthusiasm for what this technology will make possible, when it is accessible to people who don't have several days to spare getting it running and a large base of computer knowledge to draw on (more on this in a subsequent post once I have it working and can write in my room). On the other is the manner of the troubles. If I am stuck with something that simply doesn't work, but responds systematically to changes in my approach, I get frustrated but ultimately I can deal with it. In this instance, I have several times thought I had the network fixed, gone and made myself a cup of tea (not just any old tea; more on that later too), started to use the network (and it is great when the damn thing works), and then something has gone wrong. I can usually see what the trigger was - it tends to be one or other of the computers being rebooted - but I have as yet to work out what changes in this situation, and how to put it right. In practical terms it means that each time it fails I have to waste an unpredictable (and usually considerable) amount of time tinkering aimlessly until it miraculously works again. Emotionally it's how I imagine working with very young children to be like - no matter how hard I try these machines just don't respond predictably or do what I want them to.
posted @ 4:06 PM -

Tuesday, May 20

The routineness of this event is horrible

There was a bomb in Ankara a few hours ago. I know nothing more about it than the sketchy details in the linked article, but I'm sure over the course of the afternoon more will come out.

It's not yet clear who's behind this. Although it fits the pattern of attacks elsewhere in the world it's worth remembering that Turkey has had its own domestic terrorist problems in the not too distant past. At this stage I'd say it probably is al-qaeda organised, but that some doubt must be admitted.

If it is any sort of Muslim fundamentalists, then a question is begged, one which I thought was also begged by the attacks in Morroco: what the fuck do they think they're doing?. An islamist party governs Turkey. While it is very far from being a theocracy (for all his faults, the world should be much more grateful to Attaturk for that than it is), it is a muslim country in which the influence of islam over government has been growing. I really don't understand what these people could hope to acheive by attacking such a country, just as it is moving in the direction they would appear to want it to move in.
posted @ 6:28 AM -

Why I love the British

While obviously being much harder than me, Pen Haddow is also a man after my own heart. After acheiving an exceptional feat - walking unaided to the North Pole from the nearest land, 478 miles away - there was no highfalutin quotable quote about eagles landing or great steps for manking, just erm... I've done it. Conveying all the necessary information, with only one surplus word: erm, for which I think we must forgive him. After all, reception must have been terrible out there.

He is also quite unmistakably British. I say this for two reasons; firstly there is his motivation - he promised he'd do this, therefore he had to - and then there's another absolutely priceless quote: You can't just collapse when you get to the pole and put the tent up. You have responsibilities.

Thanks Pen, I'll bear that in mind when I next drop by.
posted @ 1:32 AM -

Friday, May 16

On wearing the bottoms of my trousers rolled

I'm watching Later with Jools Holland at the moment, and my musings about how much poorer the music world would be without the genius that is Jools have been interrupted by altogether less charitable musings about some of his guests. With the exception of Ladysmith Black Mambazo (for whom I have a very large soft spot), the rest of the acts fail to interest me at all (and to be fair, Ladysmith Black Mambazo aren't doing anything remotely new; it's just that I like what they've always done enough to still enjoy listening to more of the same).

A couple of the acts are just straightforwardly derivative, which is a shame, but a kind of uninteresting that I can deal with. What worries me far more is my response to the Vines. Each member looks like an imitation of Harry Enfield's Perry the Teenager character, with stagecraft about as developed as the average schoolboy rock band (for god's sake when will frontmen finally tire of throwing guitars around?), and I simply don't see what is good about their music. Everything sounds slightly off-key and off-beat, and not in a clever way like, say, dEUS, and the singing in particular is terrible. I just can't see why this band are getting any attention at all.

I would be content to write the occasional sneering paragraph about a band I don't know much about, but the problem is that I am feeling this way about an increasing number of bands. I used to discover some new band or other that I would get excited about every few weeks, yet now it's years since I discovered an up-and-coming band that I could bring myself to care about, except in the context of finding a few particularly irritating. Last year I did discover a whole load of artists of whom I was not previously aware, but none of them were new, and those that were not foreign were folk singers, most of whom have been doing their thing for longer than I've been alive. It's no longer surprising for me to watch Later and only be impressed by one band, or for that one band to be the one who have been around since the 80s.

Of course it is possible that what I'm reflecting on is a serious decline in the quality of new music over the last few years. But I have a more than slight suspicion that the truth is that I am changing - I grow old, I grow old. How depressing.

[update: Goldfrapp's closing number was actually pretty good, but it wasn't enough to stop me feeling like an old git]
posted @ 4:22 PM -

You see that

That's your personal homepage that is. [yes, I am aware of the glass house in which I dwell]
posted @ 2:45 PM -

Thursday, May 15

email troubles

My email is playing up in a particularly annoying way. Not only is mail to me taking an unpredictable amount of time to get through, but also mail I thought I had sent has apparently ended up paused in a queue somewhere in the western United States. If you've written to me in the last day or three and I seem to be rudely ignoring you, please bear in mind that I may not have seen the message yet, or my reply may be on its unusually slow way to you. If you have my hotmail address (the one I normally ask people not to use), it might be worth Ccing anything vaguely important to there.

update on Friday: it's back in working order now. It seems there was a hardware failure at Myrealbox, which means it shouldn't be the sort of problem that recurs often.
posted @ 7:19 AM -

currant bun

On the subject of Europe and europhobia, today's Sun front page is an absolute masterpiece of its tawdry genre. Love them or hate them, they are Britain's biggest selling paper because they are very, very good at what they do.
posted @ 4:56 AM -

Wednesday, May 14

Yarp Yarp Yarp

Though I do love this country (more I suspect than most people who were born here), I am not blinded to the many absurd things that characterise Britain [I love her in spite of her faults. No, I love her for her faults]. One of the most striking is the intensity of popular europhobia. A huge proportion of Brits seem genuinely terrified of what they perceive as Brussels's attempt to remove our sovereignty, without seeming to understand that this precious sovereignty counts for bugger all when we have no means of influencing our own Westminster government anyway, or seeing how much we benefit from closer European integration.

I think the benefits of the common market are pretty obvious, and since the ease of importing cars from France led to a price drop in the UK many more people have appreciated that. Much more important, at least in terms of justifying further strengthening of ties, is how much stronger half a continent are standing together than pulling in seperate directions. We exist in a world that is dominated by a single superpower, for good or for ill. Whatever you think of the recent conquest of Iraq, the ease with which America simply ignored most of the world's distaste for the venture shows how powerless we all are to stop America doing something it is determined to do. I don't think it's necessary to share my deep distaste for their current government to be worried about the lack of checks and balances should a really frightening regime take over in that country.

At the moment, the country closest to competing with America in many spheres is the Peoples' Republic of China. While their government is certainly far saner post-Deng than it was before his time, I still have no doubt that if push came to shove I'd rather look West than East. What we really need is a major power ideologically seperated from the USA by nuances rather than a yawning gulf, with common interests in many areas, but enough meaningful economic and military power to be able to influence US policy rather than simply annoying them and being punished for it. I suppose it is conceivable that China could play this role if it becomes a significantly more open society, and I do expect that sort of change in the PRC within my lifetime, but it isn't going to happen tomorrow. A larger and more unified Europe, made far stronger by Britain playing a central role rather than playing games around its fringe, could be brought about far sooner, and would be an eminently suitable candidate.

Time I feel to revive a no-longer-fashionable trade union slogan: unity is strength.
posted @ 3:04 PM -

Tuesday, May 13

sweet lord!

All hail the inflatable church.
posted @ 1:50 PM -

What AI graduates do

We're a pretty privileged bunch really. If you're me, you get to gallivant around the world before going back to study more AI. If you're Mike, you get to work for the legendary Peter Molyneux making the NPCs more engaging in cool-looking games.

Nice work if you can get it.
posted @ 7:06 AM -
Did you hear the one about monkeys and typewriters?
posted @ 6:53 AM -

Holy Tory Party policy initiative, Batman!

It is a matter of immense surprise that I find myself today praising the Conservative Party. I can't remember ever having done this before, but today Iain Duncan Smith made a speech that almost made me wish he was in power.

There were the simple facts that for the first time he actually sounds like a leader to be taken seriously, and for the first time he's actually set out some policies, rather than just saying uselessly vague things like 'whatever Labour spend on the NHS we will match'. Much more important though was one specific policy, in which the Tories have pretty much declared that they will do exactly what I want the UK government to do to the higher education sector.

Damian Green fleshes it out in more detail on the Tory website, and this, to me, is the key quote: Under the Conservatives, the university sector will be smaller, better focused, and open to all who deserve to be there. What they are suggesting is immediate removal of tuition fees, and ending the present government's setting of targets to get more and more school leavers through university. In turn, they want to increase the number and profile of non-university vocational courses for school-leavers. I'm not quite sure how they're going to go about making people take vocational qualifications seriously, but it is certainly a laudable goal.

The problem with British university education as it is organised at present is that the target for the number of places (50% of school leavers) is so over-ambitious that it is only achievable by dropping academic admissions criteria uselessly low, overcrowding classes to the extent that students can get through three years without ever having to speak in class, and pushing many people into university who should simply not be there. Though I am proudly an intellectual snob, I don't simply mean people who are too stupid. My experience of being an undergrad is that among the intelligent people on my course (there were some who just didn't deserve their place because they weren't clever enough, but I don't think they were the majority) there were many who didn't really know why they were studying psychology, and weren't remotely interested or committed. Those people were not only wasting their own time, but also reducing the quality of the course for the minority who did care.

So far so good - reducing student numbers, raising academic barriers to entry, and lowering (ideally removing, but the Tories don't seem to be proposing a comprehensive maintenance grant system) financial barriers are all things I strongly support. Where it gets tricky is the issue of vocational courses. I was actually an undergrad before the inflation of student numbers was in full swing (only about 30% of school leavers in my year went to university, which is already more than makes sense), but one of the reasons a lot of people went to university was that there didn't seem to be a viable alternative. A levels certainly don't help people get into many jobs, so anyone who aspires to do remotely skilled work needs to do something after school, and sadly a lot of people won't even consider vocational courses because in this country they are seen as for the thickies who couldn't go to university (which is only made worse by the dropping of university admissions standards, which in turn mean that to really be too thick to get in implies being quite shockingly dim).

The situation in most of Europe, and New Zealand, is very different. Vocational qualifications actually mean something, and involve the application of intelligence and hard work, just in a direction so unlike academia that they appeal to and suit a different group of people - precisely those who are ill served by our present system. They are also required to get started in many skilled manual jobs, which not only means that this type of work gets more respect and better pay, but also that the jobs are done better, because the system ensures that workers know what they are doing. Here, by contrast, I could set myself up as a plumber (or many other things, but there are certain exceptions, like gas installers, for whom safety certification is required) today, but while I may be pretty good at running experiments on computers, I assure you you wouldn't want me fixing your taps.

So for all that I am impressed with this new policy direction, I am waiting to see if the Tories can actually suggest any practical steps to improve the status of non-university qualifications in this country. If they can convince me they have something that will work, I will have to start taking them seriously as a political force again.
posted @ 4:23 AM -

Thursday, May 8

A life of leisure is about to end

As is probably obvious from the previous post, I've been spending a lot of time reading lately. Brisbane seems to have been the right place for me to end my holiday, whereas 8 days here would have been a bad use of time in the middle of the trip. See, it's a very pleasant city (well-organised, with attractive buildings, palm trees and mangroves, and very pleasant weather at this time of year), but there isn't actually that much to see or do here. I had been planning on taking lots of day trips, but local public transport is not that great, so after a couple of trips to only moderately-interesting places, I gave up on the idea. If I had more time (and less baggage, with the laptop and bike added to my usual travelling load) I could go on a longer trip inland or up North, which I'd like to do another year, but with 8 days I'm finding myself spending quite a lot of time in Brisbane's various lovely parks reading.

There are so many books I want to read that I can never, ever get bored as long as I have access to a decent library or bookshop, but a few months ago a week spent reading would have felt like a waste of time when there were (and still are) so many more places I want to see. At this point it's a nice wind down, and having read a few novels, it's good to start moving myself back towards work mode by reading popular science books (Emergence is next on the list). Once I get back to London (in 2 days, ignoring time differences) and get over jet lag & fatigue (I expect to be in a state on Sunday, due more to journey length than jet lag, but it doesn't usually take me long to recover from such things), I have to get to work pretty quickly. I need to find a paid job, of any kind, pronto because I've spent all my money on this trip, and I need to spend much of my not-earning-money time reading heavyweight academic material, so that when I get to Cleveland I can hit the ground running. None of this is a problem, but I will savour my last day of lazing tomorrow.
posted @ 2:49 AM -

Why Europeans and their descendants dominate the world

Writing about things that get wrongly taken as evidence for lower intelligence in a particular racial group reminds me of the book I'm currently reading, which I've been meaning to write something about. It's called Guns, Germs and Steel, it's by Jared Diamond, and it purports to explain why the distribution of different human groups around the world is as it is today, as opposed to (for instance) the Aztecs having sailed across the Atlantic with smallpox and superior weaponry to colonise Europe. What is particularly interesting about this book is that rather than resorting to one of the traditional 'white-people-are-inherently-superior' explanations (such as claiming that we are more intelligent, or that God was on our side, &c.), it gives a very brief (and unconvincing) argument for why hunter-gatherers should actually be more intelligent than people from settled agricultural societies, and then proceeds to ignore any possible debate about intrinsic differences between races.

It doesn't actually prove that one race is no 'better' than another, but certainly it gives a good account for why even if it were so it wouldn't much matter. The argument (dramatically simplified) is that the superiority (in terms of superior efficiency, rather than any messy debate about moral superiority) of Eurasian cultures is a necessary consequence of geography and biogeography, and not of anything intrinsic to Eurasian peoples.

Once I've finished reading it I'll go into more detail, and raise some questions that the book doesn't seem to answer (particularly, why was it Western Eurasians who went on the biggest conquests, as opposed to, say, the Chinese). For now, I'll just reccommend the book to anyone who (like me) has difficulty accepting either that the way the world is arose by pure chance or that it is due to the intrinsic superiority of some peoples over others.
posted @ 2:39 AM -

This stuff will kill you, Herbert

[warning: what follows is not for the squeamish]

When Immodium was first sold in Africa, a combination of illiterate customers, leaflets and packaging that were in too few languages, and general lack of education led to some very nasty results. People understood that it stopped diarrhoea (a major killer, especially of children, all over the tropical Third World), but didn't understood the restrictions on how it was supposed to be used. Specifically, many people were victim to the misunderstanding that if a small dose doesn't work, one should simply take more and more. This leads to a particularly horrible death, when eventually the drug entirely shuts down peristalsis through the intestines, leading the intestines to fill up beyond capacity, stretch dangerously, and eventually rupture, leading to blood poisoning from faeces, or death from internal bleeding.

I like telling this story (usually in less detail), because it illustrates the importance of following the instructions when taking medicines. Some people get the point, others get carried away in condemning the drug companies for their irresponsible marketing (it would be a fair point if they didn't respond to the problem, but through customer education they've all but stopped this from happenning, which of course is in their interests because their customers stay alive and can advertise the benefits of their products), and yet others decide that this is evidence for how stupid Africans are.

Not only is it not evidence for stupidity among Africans, but similar behaviour persists among Europeans. People in the UK tend to treat products sold as medicines with appropriate respect (though there are exceptions, some of which seem to be contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant diseases), but an awful lot of consumers of 'alternative' medicines and dietary supplements don't treat those products so. I am tempted to draw unfair conclusions about the users of such products (more so with dietary supplements, which I don't use, than with alternative medicine, which I think deserves some respect, and might get it if only it were easier to tell the quacks from the genuine trained practicioners), but I won't. What I will say is that I have always thought the advice that gets thrown at me from many quarters whenever I get flu (which pretty much reliably happens to me once or twice each winter) to take vast doses of vitamin + zinc pills is not only rubbish (the body can't absorb more than about 200mg of vitamin C in 24 hours; many over-the-counter supplements come in 1000mg doses) but dangerous. Today the UK Food Standards Agency have published a report supporting my belief.
posted @ 2:12 AM -

Monday, May 5

Going down like the West Pier

Although I haven't really paid a whole lot of attention to sports back home while I've been travelling, I must admit to being a little upset that at the last gasp Brighton just couldn't quite hang on in Division 1. Had the season just been a complete embarassment like the first few months had been, I would probably not have cared at all, because I would have just told myself that promotion two seasons running is too much to live up to, and they just didn't belong in Division 1 (with at least half of the squad being veterans of their time in Div 3), but this year things did pick up, and in the end it took until the final game for their fate to be sealed. Oh well, it's only a game and all....
posted @ 3:03 AM -

'Nam

Mike Ducker's journal has sprung back to life, with his return from a recent trip to Vietnam. His experience of the place definitely fits with how I've found other parts of Asia....
posted @ 2:44 AM -
Why is it that the media in New Zealand are so bloody timid that when their [actually very popular] leader makes some observations in support of a policy that most of their population support, all they can do is snipe at her for daring to say something that might upset New Zealand's allies?
posted @ 1:56 AM -

Time to repent

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished me to the Sixth Level of Hell - The City of Dis!
Here is how I matched up against all the levels:
LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)High
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)Very High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Moderate

Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test
Link courtesy of Michael Jennings, who is much less sinful than I am.

Actually I'm surprised at quite how sinful the test found me. I thought as I was answering it that I was going to come across as relatively virtuous, and then it tells me that I am a lustful and very violent, albeit virtuous heretic. So there you go - I am most definitely going to hell, and the different circles can fight over who gets to torture me.
posted @ 1:36 AM -

Friday, May 2

Sports science

BBC Sport is running a special on the worst football kits of all time. It's supposed to be hugely embarassing, but my reaction is to be highly impressed with David Seaman and Jorge Campos' obvious depth of psychophysics knowledge. You see, while 8 of the 9 examples are pretty ugly (I quite like the Bristol Rovers one, even if it is a bit too camp for football), only the three goalkeeper kits (Campos has the dubious honour of being listed twice) can be considered truly revolting. That their wearers chose, or at least accepted, to wear such things is a mark of their genius.

You see, a few years back I was a psychology student, and for my final year project I played a very very small part in an on-going road safety related project. My work on this was altogether less interesting, but there were two pieces of advice coming out of the body of work that are relevant to this:
  • Cyclists should use steady lights rather than flashers (which are in fact illegal in the UK), because by being too conspicuous the flashers draw drivers' eyes, and in turn make drivers unconsciously swerve towards them
  • If police forces around the UK wanted to stop the growing epidemic of their cars being crashed into while parked on motorway hard shoulders they should make the reflective paint jobs less garish, for much the same reason
I suppose it is conceivable that Seaman and Campos might not keep themselves up to date with publications emerging from the Transport and Roads Research Laboratory, but clearly they did understand that by turning themselves into revolting multicoloured beacons, they would draw strikers' fire away from the far corners of the net, and into their tender embrace (as shown in image 4).
posted @ 12:33 AM -
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