Thursday, August 31, 2006


The Deeside Leisure Center is a sports facility in Queensferry, North Wales. In the early 80's it used to host gigs. For concerts the ice rink was covered with mats; if you stood still too long your feet got cold. As Queensferry is not well known, these concerts were often billed as being in other places. So sometimes you see a weird dislocation, for example Bob Marley once performed in Chester, and when I saw AC/DC there on 6 Nov 1980 it was billed as being in Liverpool. At school the gigs I saw were very heavily influenced by whether someone would take me there in a car. In 1980 I was beginning to be serious about music and was concerned that AC/DC were too much of a spectacle. But the offer of a ride to a concert, any concert, was hard to resist. Of course they were great, having just recorded Back in Black their best record. Now, with the benefit of hindisght, I can see that AC/DC are a classic band. Always, simple, always the same. So the headline Schoolgirl 'stabbed for love of AC/DC' fills me with dismay.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Maths is great

This Guardian article describes how statistics beat out intelligence in WWII. This is one of those stories that seems just too good to be true, and no source is given. However a little searching finds the academic reference: Ruggles, R., and Brodie H. (1947) An empirical approach to economic intelligence in World War 2. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 42:72-91.

Alas the paper is not generally available online, but the abstract is here.

Monday, August 28, 2006

In Tapes, Receipts and a Diary, Details of the British Terror Case: Martyrdom Motive and 'Bomb Factory' Cited

This sounds like an interesting story. It is from the scanned front cover of the New York Times. But where is the story online? Did they have to pull the story for legal reasons? Or am I just incompetent at searching?

Update: the article is on the web now (it's too new to get a permanent link). So no conspiracy, but the article must have been delayed.

Update: the article is here.

Nice British touch: the bombers were doing chemical experiments with Lucozade.

Update from Cryptome: Publication of this article on has been delayed temporarily on the advice of legal counsel. It is also being omitted from the British circulation of The International Herald Tribune. This arises from British laws that prohibit publication of information that could be deemed prejudicial to defendants charged with a crime.

Update: the New York Times is using technology to block people in Britain reading the article. That'll work I'm sure.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A stressful week

Last year at Grace’s school there was an older teacher who didn’t seem to cut it anymore. Various parents observed him teach and wrote up their rather damning observations and dispatched them into the school district bureaucracy. When finally confronted by a parent the teacher said something like ‘I used to be a good teacher but I’m not now. I’m going to retire’. He then disappeared and a long term sub finished out the year.

This year Grace goes into 5th grade and she was supposed to be getting the wizard math and science teacher. Instead it seemed she was getting the older teacher mentioned above. The wizard teacher is off teaching a 4th/5th split class. No-one exactly knows what is going on. There aren’t many other activist parents with kids in the 5th grade class (often of course this translates to middle class parents) . And the class is very small (20 kids). Are these moves to avoid trouble?

We meet the new principal. He’s supportive, but can’t do anything. He says maybe even his boss can’t do anything. His boss won’t return calls. Eventually we get a meeting downtown with the boss. We get some of the parents who had experienced last years events to come too. The boss is supportive and listens but he is not allowed to say anything about our guy. It’s an HR issue. We can’t talk to HR. We redeliver the notes that last year’s parents wrote. The boss hasn’t seen them. It’s clear that the notes are great. Anything where the teacher might have broken a rule is good (like when he gave candy to the kids), but opinion, (like his quote about not being a good teacher) is useless.

Two days later and we’re invited to help hire a new 5th grade teacher. Phew. But we still don’t know what was going on and we probably never will. After the meeting downtown I looked up the guy’s teaching credentials (you can do this online) and he had let his credentials lapse. So probably he never intended to return and the school district just dropped the ball.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Charter Schools

Sometimes you see someone doing a job and you think ‘I could do that better’. For example I think I would be better at being President of the United states than Mr. Bush. Many people look at the public school system (I am using US terminology here) and they think they could do better. Sometimes they set up a trial school, with brilliant inspirational teachers and the school does well. The next step is to scale up this system. They then start charter schools. These are schools that take resources from the public school system and use them to run schools. The idea is that without the oversight of the bureaucrats things will work better. Unfortunately having brilliant teachers does not scale as there is a limited supply. And now the results are in: Fourth graders in traditional public schools did significantly better in reading and math than comparable children attending charter schools.

Cows? In Birmingham?

If you know that the Birmingham ‘Brummie’ accent is the funniest in Britain, and that Cows also 'have regional accents', then what can you deduce?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What do they do in Venezuela with their oil money?

They buy Scotch whiskey...

But Venezuela’s leaders have tried to politicize Scotch, as they have with much else in this polarized country. Benjamín Rausseo, a comedian running for president against Mr. Chávez, has jabbed the government by promising to build a “whiskyducto,” a pipeline to transport the whiskey directly from Scotland. For Mr. Chávez, however, imported whiskey is no joke. He has made it clear that there is little space for Scotch in his “Bolivarian revolution,” once describing oil executives as “living in chalets performing orgies, drinking whiskey.”

Monday, August 21, 2006

Advice for reviewers of technical documents

What the fuck do you know?
Just cos you're old you think you're wise,
But who the hell are you though,
I didn't even ask for your advice
You wanna keep your mouth shut,
You wanna take your thoughts elsewhere,
Cos you're doing in my nut,
And do you think I care?

Lily Allen, Friend of Mine

I am boring

How evil are you?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Holiday in Abkhazia, It's tough kid, but it's life

Whan Stalin went to his dacha he went to Abkhazia. Like a few other places in the Caucasus, Abkhazia is a semi-autonomous region.

What exactly are these places? The answers, always passionate, depend on who is asked. Nations? States? Ethnic statelets? Offshore investment regions, away from the eyes and reach of regulators? Lawless zones for black marketeers, fugitives and terrorists?
Some of these places seem like they would be good bases for pirates.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Man Utd 3 West Brom 5 (December 30th 1978)

Not good to see United lose but the bad karma caused by the Old Trafford crowd booing black players allows Laurie Cunningham to run wild. Great to have defenders that can score like Brian Greenhof and Gordon McQueen. It was 3:3 at halftime! Bryan Robson is on the wrong side, Gary Bailey is in good form. And we see Dave Sexton with Ron Atkinson who would eventually replace him as United manager.

I'm proud that Laurie Cunningham was the first black player to play in a competitive England match. He also played for United on loan. He was killed in a crash in Madrid at the age of 33.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Black Metal is the New Black

The transition of ideas from the underground to the mainstream:

The NYT piece bugged me, it seemed more interested in spectacle than music Gratz to Ian for beating out Copey

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

U.S. Dedicates $64 Billion To Undermining Gates Foundation Efforts

The Onion has the news:

"The fight against Gates will not be easy, will not be quick, and will not be without enormous cost," said Director Of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte of the new program, which calls for the creation of a new $20 billion counter-philanthropy unit aimed at punishing those countries that accept or use, directly or indirectly, any financial support from the Gates Foundation.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Monday, August 14, 2006

One hand taketh

On the same day I got my coupon from the Microsoft settlement with California, I got notice of a speeding ticket from our UK vacation. I should have studied more about the Truvelo and Gatso.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Last night I saw a possum (technically an opossum) in our back yard. I tried and failed to take a photo of it, so here is a photo I found on the web. It looked quite like this. Wikipedia describes these as opportunistic omnivores, but fortunately a chicken is too big for them. Amy said it looked like a giant rat, which is a good description.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Barbie Girl

I must not waste time watching YouTube
I must not waste time watching YouTube
I must not waste time watching YouTube
I must not waste time watching YouTube

I like to hear stories

It is good to hear stories about other people's lives. Here are some recent stories I liked:

Friday, August 04, 2006

James Brown

You know how it’s a waste of time when music magazines sometimes send another famous person to interview a star? You know how Rolling Stone magazine is a waste of good trees? Well sometimes it all works fabulously. Here is a Rolling Stone article by Jonathan Lethem about James Brown.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Kid's TV

One of the great things about the availability of so much old TV on DVD at Netflix is that I can make the child watch the same TV that I used to watch. My plans to enforce an artistically enlightening program of BBC classics has however been thwarted by reality. Despite the availability of a Road Runner DVD, Grace has been choosing to watch H.R. Pufnstuf instead. I did watch this a few times as a kid, but now the best thing about this show is the theme song. Everything else is pretty bad. The creators of H.R. Pufnstuf went on to produce The Bugaloos who were the subject of an entertaining feature in this week’s NYT. Phil Collins auditioned to be in the ‘band’, but was sadly rejected. Road Runner on the other hand is even better now. Its timeless classicism and simplicity make it endlessly watchable. The wikipedia entry is just as impressively detailed as one would hope, including a detailed list of all the Mock Latin names given to Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote at the start of every episode.