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Grumpy Old Man

Great teaching

Here’s a story, A Teacher on the Front Line as Faith and Science Clash, from the New York Times about a teacher David Campbell doing a first rate job for his students. One of the interesting features of the story for me is how he had to work out how to get students committed to diametrically opposing views to open up to other possibilities, a direct challenge would just have alienated them. I’m not sure I have his skill or patience (actually, I’m sure I don’t).

Reading the background to the story reminds me of a line attributed (I think) to Romani Prodi that a nation can’t stay ignorant and rich for more than a generation.

via Andrew McAfee

Bootstrap problem

Today I found on the way to work that I’d forgotten my glasses so, rather than waste the day, I popped into a pharmacy to pick up some cheap reading glasses. The instructions for the viewer machine that figured out which strength to buy were in small print. Hmmmm.


We went to see Wall-e last week, the tale of a humble garbage-collecting robot that finds love and a bigger purpose. It’s very good: good story, great jokes and animation, and the most amazing CG-rendered images—with some minor subliminal promotion for Apple. I especially recommend seeing it if you’re near a cinema with digital projection.

So, am I only the person who is disoriented that a film against consumerist waste and dumbed-down resort culture was produced by the Disney corporation? And that I’m watching it surrounded by empty popcorn buckets?

This sounds like what the Situationist International called “Recuperation”

To survive, the spectacle must have social control. It can recuperate a potentially threatening situation by shifting ground, creating dazzling alternatives–or by embracing the threat, making it safe and then selling it back to us. — Larry Law, The Spectacle—The Skeleton Keys

Still worth seeing, though

The scariest headline?

Is it just me, or is this the scariest possible news story?

“[…] we were profoundly shocked to read that zooplankton abundance has declined by about 73% since 1960 and about 50% since 1990. This is a biodiversity disaster of enormous proportions.”

The comment is based on data from DEFRA’s Marine Programme Plan, see the graph on page 9.

It puts a 20% drop in the markets into perspective…

Comedy is close to tragedy

The BBC is broadcasting Harrison Birtwistle’s new opera “The Minotaur” this weekend. Personally, I’m very pleased they’re doing this since it’s a tremendous work and the production was first rate. On the other hand, look at the schedule.

7:35 pm The Minotaur Part One: World premiere of Harrison Birtwistle’s new opera from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. A ship bound for the island of Crete carries the innocents to their slaughter.
9:00 pm Have I Got a Bit More News for You A bit more of the satirical news quiz with Ian Hislop and Paul Merton, panellists Ian McMillan and Kate Silverton, and guest host Jeremy Clarkson.
9:40 pm The Minotaur Part Two: World premiere of Harrison Birtwistle’s new opera from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Theseus confirms to Ariadne that he is determined to face the Minotaur.

The end of Part One is one of the most dramatic (and scary) scenes I’ve seen on stage in a while. So, either this is a brilliant piece of scheduling intended to play with tension and relief in drama or, um, it isn’t.

Grumbling aside, I’m just glad that there’s still some good public service broadcasting in this country.

Do you know where your iPhone is?

Scary security story about personal data not being flushed on iPhones at

A few days ago, I posted a discovery in that personal data remains intact (in deleted portions of the file system) following a full iPhone restore. As it turns out, Apple themselves may not have been aware of this. Thank goodness, otherwise identity theft might actually be, like, hard. A detective from the Oregon State Police, whom I’ve verified, notified me this afterrnoon that an out-of-the-box refurbished iPhone he purchased directly from Apple contained recoverable personal data. This included email, personal photos, and even financial information that he was able to recover using my forensic toolkit. Needless to say, the original owner was quite surprised. He informed me that the device had been returned to Apple under a warranty exchange only a few months ago, suggesting that Apple has been using an insecure refurbishing process for the past year. Here are some blurred screenshots of just some of the data recovered:

"Officers 'to use own judgement'"

Can we hope this is the first sign of rolling back Whitehall’s government by targets?

Four police forces are to abandon government targets and allow officers to decide whether to make arrests.

From BBC news

I could do with some co-location

From a note I just wrote to a mailing list:

I could do with some co-location. These days, much of the interesting stuff is happening in small specialised events that are scattered around the calendar and around the world. I, my family, and my body clock (and the troposphere) can’t hack it any more.

I’ve been looking ahead at the calendar and there are just too many small interesting events that I’d really like to get to: Google LTAC, Simple Design and Testing, several European XpDays and AgileOpen, CITCON, Consultant Camps, various “Gatherings”—plus the more established events. And, if I go to all these events, I spend all my time rattling around similar communities and don’t get to see anything radically new (to me). It might be that the full-time road warriors can just take it in their stride, but I’m out of shape.

If someone (else) could arrange to bunch just a couple of these events together, somewhere near a hub, not during school holidays, I’d be so grateful.

Maybe Pair Programming isn't such a good idea

“Keyboads dirtier than a toilet” (BBC)

It justifies my view that eating lunch at the desk is uncivilised, and that pairing stations should have two keyboards.

Now that everything is USB, maybe we should just carry our own input devices and just plug in when wherever we’re working. Hmmm. Sounds like my dissertation, maybe I should have stuck with it…

Suddenly I've become more sympathetic to non-technical management

My son has discovered Pokemon cards and now all I hear about is “Look, this one’s got a Damage of 7 and an Energy of 10.”

“Really? You don’t say.”

I have no idea what he’s talking about and it all seems overpriced.

That said, there’s one important difference, which is that my professional effectiveness doesn’t depend on what he’s doing with his cards (unless I’m really confused), so I have a slightly better excuse.

Here’s an example from the official Pokemon site:

Put Dialga LV.X (Great Encounters, 105/106) onto your Active Dialga and hold onto your seat as the Temporal Pokémon wreaks havoc on the game. The Time Skip Poké-Power on Dialga LV.X gives you the option to have your opponent flip two coins. If both are heads, your turn ends. If both are tails, your opponent’s next turn will end after he or she draws a card. Before using Time Skip, perform all other actions except attacking just in case you lose the coin flips. In addition to this time-altering Poké-Power, Dialga LV.X can dish out 80 damage with its Metal Flash attack. Dialga LV.X can’t use Metal Flash two turns in a row, but don’t forget that on your next turn you can use any attack, Poké-Power, or Poké-Body from its previous level!