Monday, 30 July 2012

Fixing finder

Although it is superior to Microsoft Windows in almost every way, there are some very annoying things about OSX that Apple have been slow to fix.

For over a decade, it was only possible to resize windows using the bottom right hand corner. This was finally fixed last year with 10.7 ("Lion").

Another long-standing weak point is Finder, the OSX file browser. It was unspeakably bad in 10.3 (my first version of OSX), and it has progressed only gradually.

Today I discovered that one of its most annoying features can now be fixed through a preference:

"When performing a search ... Search the Current Folder"

You'd think it would be obvious. Instead, OSX defaults to searching your entire computer!

Now if they'd just prevent windows from stealing focus, and force them to have a maximise option that really does maximise, I'll be a happy man.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Mencken on government

Two quotes from H.L. Mencken featured in the latest issue of Edelweiss Journal:
All government, in its essence, is a conspiracy against the superior man: its one permanent object is to oppress him and cripple him. If it be aristocratic in organization, then it seeks to protect the man who is superior only in law against the man who is superior in fact; if it be democratic, then it seeks to protect the man who is inferior in every way against both. One of its primary functions is to regiment men by force, to make them as much alike as possible and as dependent upon one another as possible, to search out and combat originality among them. All it can see in an original idea is potential change, and hence an invasion of its prerogatives. The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.
Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

The most "leftie" opening ceremony ever?

As my tweets and retweets show, last night's opening ceremony was a mixed bag, with a number of high points and some shocking lows. You can find it without the inane commentary on iPlayer.

The treatment of our industrial past was ambivalent, but that's not entirely unfair. It was great to see Brunel feature, and one of the most impressive scenes was the shower of sparks from the glowing Olympic rings.

The cauldron was also a thing of beauty:

In other parts, the the ceremony was less impressive. The medley of British pop music could have been brilliant, but it was spoiled by a desperate attempt to appeal to the yoof of today.

As with the Jubilee concert, I was left feeling very sorry for the Queen.

Even the national anthem was given a politically correct treatment, performed as it was by the Kaos Signing Choir for Deaf and Hearing Children.

I'll hand over to Christopher Snowdon:

You may well have seen the Olympics opening ceremony. Insofar as these things are about whipping up patriotic hysteria and selling Great Britain to the world, I think Danny Boyle did a pretty good job. Certainly he ticked all the boxes, and with £27 million to spend he damn well should have done.

Yesterday I predicted that it would be a "politically correct propaganda-fest" and it did indeed turn out to be something like that at times. If all you knew about Britain came from watching the opening ceremony, you would imagine that at least 40% of the British population were ethnic minorities and another 10% were in wheelchairs. A tribute was paid to CND. Perhaps the most politically contentious part involved the National Health Service which was portrayed—as per liberal left orthodoxy—as the envy of the world. The audience was treated to the sight of dozens of happy children being treated in lovely, clean, MRSA-free hospital beds by attentive and caring nurses. Suddenly, apropos very little, sinister figures in black appeared and attacked the children. (Something to do with Harry Potter. I don't know what they're called. I haven't seen the films or read the books. I'm not ten years old). A hoard of Mary Poppins saved them from the evil intruders. It was that kind of show.

It has been suggested that this was a none-too-subtle allegory for the NHS reforms which the evil Tories are trying to introduce. Within minutes, the following graphic was circulating on Twitter (the words 'NHS' which were beamed up from the stadium during the ceremony—to the bemusement of most of the world, presumably)...

Do read his whole post.


Tom Paine was more tolerant of the political correctness, but he too was angered by the NHS bit:

The only real tragedy is that Britain's greatest mistake - the NHS - was given massive prominence. Its hospitals an archipelago of filth, generating new diseases. Its staff forming a producer cooperative on Soviet lines, above all criticism and routinely killing patients without fear of disciplinary action or even much by way of rebuke. Yet, it is a sacred cow. It is supported by all parties, including those that should know better. So it was sort of inevitable. Having lived in other countries where people are mystified by Britain's attachment to so obviously deficient a model of health care, I guess they just smiled at our eccentricity.

All in all I was relieved that we did not disgrace ourselves. My French/Swiss hosts in Mauritius congratulated me and told me to be proud, so I guess we pulled it off.

Friday, 27 July 2012

The arbitrary games

If you were to describe the Olympics in one word, what would it be?

Corrupt? Wasteful? Overblown? Corporatist? Jingoistic?

The Olympics is all of these things, but for me the word that always comes to mind is 'arbitrary'.

Consider triple-jump, a contrived sport if ever there was one. Would it be any less ridiculous to have a 100m hopping race. Too far? 42m would be just right, I'm sure.

Racewalking, on the other hand, is clearly a 50km affair. It would be one thing to choose an arbitrary long distance and leave the style of motion to the atheletes, but this bizarre sport specifies that "the athlete's back toe cannot leave the ground until the heel of the front foot has touched" and that "the supporting leg must straighten from the point of contact with the ground and remain straightened until the body passes directly over it". Perhaps one day David Beckham can hope to captain the British Olympic walking football team.

Or take boxing. As early as 1904 the competitors have been divided into several weight categories. The range is staggering:
  • Light-Flyweight -48 kg
  • Flyweight 48-51 kg
  • Bantamweight 51-54 kg
  • Featherweight 54-57 kg
  • Lightweight 57-60 kg
  • Light-Welterweight 60-64 kg
  • Welterweight 64-69 kg
  • Middleweight 69-75 kg
  • Light-Heavyweight 75-81 kg
  • Heavyweight 81-91 kg
  • Super-Heavyweight +91 kg
How can these divisions possibly be justified? Why does the best 90kg boxer get a gold medal while a superior fighter who weighs 2kg more goes home empty-handed? We may as well replace the names with numbers, and have categories for each kilogram increment from 1 to 634. Or maybe that's not granular enough. Perhaps we should expand the number of medal winners further by using 100g increments.

If it's reasonable to divide boxers by weight, should we divide high-jumpers by height and swimmers by lung capacity?

This year we'll be treated to women's boxing.  Which sports deserve separate categories for women, and why? If women don't need protected status in the equestrian events, why do they need it for shooting and trampoline? According to the BBC, "London 2012 will be the first Summer Olympics with no sports exclusively for men", but "there are two disciplines which are still women only - rhythmic gymnastics and synchronised swimming".  Then there's the case of transsexuals - read those rules and weep.

If women deserve separate categories, why not old people. There's a problem of how many categories to have, and where to draw the boundaries, but this is no worse than the boxing situation.

And what of the terrible injustice in the 'main event', the 100m meter sprint? According to Wikipedia:

Nearly all the sprinters who have beaten the 10-second barrier are of West African descent. Namibian (formerly South-West Africa) Frankie Fredericks became the first man of non-West African heritage to achieve the feat in 1991 and in 2003 Australia's Patrick Johnson (who has Irish and Indigenous Australian heritage) became the first sub-10-second runner without an African background. Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre became the first white European under ten seconds in 2010 (although Poland's Marian Woronin had unofficially surpassed the barrier with a time of 9.992 seconds in 1984). In 2011, Zimbabwean Ngonidzashe Makusha became the 76th man to break the barrier, yet only the fourth man not of West African descent. No sprinter of predominantly Asian or East African descent has officially achieved this feat.

Surely we need a separate category, or several, to give the non-West-Africans a chance!

Amateurism is another great source of arbitrariness. It was supposedly introduced to stop gentlemen from being upstaged by the plebs. According to Wikipedia, "the 1912 Olympic pentathlon and decathlon champion Jim Thorpe was stripped of his medals when it was discovered that he had played semi-professional baseball before the Olympics", though "his medals were posthumously restored by the IOC in 1983 on compassionate grounds".

Different sports relaxed their prohibitions at different times. In basketball, professionals were notably allowed for the first time in 1992, when the American 'Dream Team' dominated.

In football, "only three professional players over the age of 23 are eligible to participate per team in the Olympic tournament". And of course boxing remains an officially amateur Olympic sport, though this may change after 2012.

There are plenty of other examples of arbitrariness, from the choice of sports to the rules on drugs.

I'm sure I'll watch some of the events - it'll be hard to avoid over the next 16 days - but I can't say I'm excited about any of them (except the beach volleyball, of course).

Enjoy the arbitrary games if you can. I'm switching over to ESPN 8 to catch some dodgeball.

Weimar beckons?

Things are bad, and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reckons they're about to get a lot worse:
As Britain tanks by 0.7pc in the second quarter (much worse than Spain at 0.4pc), it is worth keeping a close eye on the very ominous turn of events in the US.

The Richmond Fed's twin indices of manufacturing and services – a very good indicator at the onset of the Great Recession – collapsed this month.

They are now falling at a steeper pace than in early 2008. Current activity in manufacturing fell 16 points from -1 to -17. That is a major shock.

Westminster's most promising MP recently published an illuminating blog post on Britain's 'surprise' bad news:

On 24 May 2011, I intervened in a debate on the economy to say:
I would say gently to my hon. Friend that only a few years ago the banking crisis was not foreseen, and the same people who did not foresee that are still giving us advice. We are probably in far worse trouble than is generally accepted.
I’m optimistic about humanity’s potential to make progress but, as I have said, I think economists and politicians have taken us down the wrong path.

In an article for The Jewish Chronicle back in June, he set the lack of recovery in a rather disturbing context:

In their April 2012 Economic Review, the Office for National Statistics showed us that the recovery now compares badly with the Great Depression. In newsrooms and the corridors of power, commentators are beginning to wonder what they have been missing. There are three things:

Firstly, we based our economy on reckless consumption funded by deliberately cheap debt. It was a phenomenon which could never last. After a tripling of the money supply through new lending, there can be no return to those days without accelerating inflation.

Secondly, in their July 2011 report “Thinking the Unthinkable”, inter-dealer broker Tullet Prebon highlighted that six of the eight largest sectors of the UK economy were dependent on private borrowing or public spending.

Finally, when production is directed by the choices of politicians and officials, we cannot know how the public values it. Only the language of price determined by families’ free choices, individuals and firms can convey the relative value of things. With government spending at about 45 per cent of GDP, GDP itself is fictional.

Some businesses are doing well but the problem of the GDP figures runs deeper than is commonly understood. Ours is a great country founded on that essential element for prosperity, the rule of law, but its hope lies in little short of a revolutionary commitment to entrepreneurship. Our society must be based on private production, saving and investment. That requires sound money and a commitment to lower spending, lower taxes, flexible labour legislation and an end to economic interventionism. There’s no other way out.
AEP, by contrast, recommends a fresh flow of newly-minted cash:
Needless to say, I will be advocating 1933 monetary stimulus à l'outrance, or trillions of asset purchases through old fashioned open-market operations through the quantity of money effect (NOT INTEREST RATE 'CREDITISM') to avert deflation – and continue doing so until nominal GDP is restored to its trend line, at which point the stimulus can be withdrawn again.
But if he's a little bit mad, he is at least self-aware:
And the Austro-liquidationists (whom I love during bubbles, and hate during busts) can all hurl shoes at me. 

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Fit to drive?

The Telegraph reports:
Drivers will have to declare every 10 years whether they are medically able to get behind the wheel, according to proposals to be set out early in the new year.

For the first time, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will issue a series of minimum physical and mental requirements motorists must fulfil including eyesight performance and reaction times.

Tests, costing up to £80, will be offered to drivers to check whether they are fit to drive.

Anyone who chooses not to take the tests but declares themselves able to take to the roads will be committing a criminal offence if they fail to meet the established standards.

Pass your test at 17. Waste money and time at 27, 37, 47, and probably 57. Fail to comply, and you risk a criminal record, even if nobody has been harmed.

I'm all for ensuring people are fit to drive, and as long as the roads are public, it is natural for this responsibility to fall to government.

But I can't help but think that the imposition on younger drivers is calculated to avoid charges of "age discrimination". And though it's not mentioned anywhere in the article, I wonder if there's an EU angle to this.

EU-inspired or not, there does seem to be something sinister about it, as Tom Paine explains:

I have absolutely no desire to survive my driving licence. Life without driving a car is unthinkable to me. It's bad enough that the government claims the right to decide who may operate this particular type of machine at all, but imagine the scope this will give the nanny statists given their constant redefinition of the word "health".

Do you drink more than their made-up safe limit per week? Do you smoke? Are you (like most of the England rugby team) in excess of their stupid BMI ratio? Do you believe the British state your greatest foe? You are clearly unhealthy in body, mind or both.

Of course, just because life for Tom is unthinkable without driving, it doesn't follow that he should be allowed to drive, regardless of circumstances. But proactive, preventative measures are always prone to abuse. We should be wary of victimless crimes. And we know that, in the absence of competitive pressures, the nanny statists always err on the side of caution. Just look at Oxford's ridiculous 20 limits.

Aside from the potential for inappropriate redefinition of 'health', there is the prospect of a shortened inspection interval. If checks every 10 years are a good idea, why not every 5? We are already forced to have health checks for our cars every year, so why not have a yearly 'MOT' for the driver? We can't discriminate based on age, of course, so this would apply to all of us. What a wonderfully docile people we'll be when we regularly submit ourselves for approval by government functionaries.

Recall the words of A J P Taylor:
Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman.

Do no wrong, and you will be left alone - your personal responsibility and good intentions will be assumed, until there is cause to doubt them. A country of grown-ups, getting on with their lives. How far we've come.


It turns out the Telegraph article was from 2008. I'd like to think that the idea died with New Labour, but I'm sure it's sitting in a drawer somewhere, waiting to be resurrected by our Glorious Coalition (aka Continuity NuLab).

As for the EU connection, a bit of googling turned up this from 2003:
The European Commission has put forward a proposal to amend the existing Directive on driving licences (91/439/EC) which would mean that it would be mandatory for driving licences to be renewed every 10 years. At present the majority of countries either have no time limit (Austria, Belgium and Germany) or a set time limit (eg: up to 70 years of age in the UK).

By 2008, the 10 year renewal requirement was reported without a hint of EU involvement:
The Department for Transport hopes to use the introduction of photocard licences, which will need to be renewed every 10 years, to change the system.

Wikipedia has more about European Driving Licences:
In March 2006, the Council of Ministers adopted a Directive proposed by the European Commission to create a single European driving licence to replace the 110 different models currently in existence throughout the EU.
Some categories like C and D will be issued for five years only. After expiration, a medical check-up is necessary in order to renew the licence for another five years.
The directive stipulates that members states should adopt laws implementing the directive no later than 19 January 2011. Those laws should take effect in all EU members states on 19 January 2013. All licences issued before that date will become invalid by 2033.

It might seem reasonable for lorry and bus drivers to have health checks, but it's a slippery slope, and because the rules are handed down by the EU, there is very little we can do to stop them.

Tim Yeo

A good article from James Delingpole:
the job of the Energy and Climate Change Committee is to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and its associated public bodies.

And the man who has been appointed chairman of this committee, Tim Yeo, charges up to £555 an hour for his green side-projects, makes upwards of £100,000 a year from his green investments, and is chairman of the Renewable Energy Association.

Tim Yeo has been using his position of influence to argue vociferously for more taxpayer subsidies for the renewables industry, despite copious evidence that it is damaging the economy, blighting landscapes, destroying property values and making the lives of those unfortunate enough to live near the wind farms he so heartily endorses utter misery.

Conflict of interest, anyone?

Shocking. Except, sadly, it isn't.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Salted bread, anyone?

More fair, balanced, and completely un-sensational reporting from the BBC News health desk:

Kate Mendoza, head of health information at WCRF, said: "Stomach cancer is difficult to treat successfully because most cases are not caught until the disease is well-established.

"This places even greater emphasis on making lifestyle choices to prevent the disease occurring in the first place - such as cutting down on salt intake and eating more fruit and vegetables."
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "We already know too much salt can lead to conditions such as heart disease and stroke. That is why we are taking action through the 'Responsibility Deal' to help reduce the salt in people's diets. And we are looking at clearer... labelling on foods as part of our consultation on front-of-pack labelling.

Are more aggressive government measures justified?

Let's have a look at the data (assuming for now that we can trust the stats from Cancer Research UK) ...

Despite the salt content of our foods supposedly rocketing, stomach cancer rates have been falling:

We really don't know what level of salt consumption is best for us (it is certainly dangerous to have too little). But even if a link between excessive salt intake and stomach cancer was firmly established, the chart shows that things are getting better - falling stomach cancer rates cannot provide an excuse for ever-more stringent labelling requirements.

And as with most cancers, we find that stomach cancer mostly strikes older people:

No amount of nannying will make us immortal. We're all going to die, and if it's not from stomach cancer, it will be from something else.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now deceased

A few weeks ago I watched the first few minutes of Australia.

Tonight I caught the first few minutes of Jindabyne.

Both carried an absurdly politically correct warning to "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people" about their depiction of Dead People.

It is one of the curious features of the Left that despite their (understandable) contempt for Christianity they feel compelled to pander to such ridiculous minority superstitions.

Friday, 20 July 2012


BBC News reports:

Microsoft has swiftly fixed an embarrassing gaffe which saw a chunk of code labelled "big boobs".

The hexadecimal string 0xB16B00B5 was discovered lurking in code that helps a Microsoft program work with Linux open source software.

For the BBC this couldn't possibly be a bit of harmless fun ...

"Puerile sniggering at breasts contributes to the continuing impression that software development is a boys' club where girls aren't welcome," Dr Garrett wrote.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Saturday, 14 July 2012

How far down the slippery slope?

Chrisopher Snowdon reckons we'll see "plain packaging for alcohol in about three years".

I can't see it myself.  As I commented on his blog:
Although it was predictable that "health" campaigners would try to take us down this road, and that some hateful government ministers would go along with it, the public will only tolerate so much.

Our FPTP system makes this difficult, but people will vote for a party that calls a stop to this nonsense before we see plain packaging for alcohol.

Or so I hope. Time will tell.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Corporations versus The State

Another great article from Christopher Snowdon:

A mere five weeks after it happened, Michael Bloomberg's ban on large sodas has attracted the attention of Oliver Burkeman of the Guardian, who thinks it's all a fuss over nothing because the corporations are more powerful than the politicians, man.

The money that Coke spends on advertising and sponsorship surely shape that architecture far more powerfully than anything Bloomberg could ever do.

Er, no. Bloomberg can have the police bust a place and arrest its owner for selling a drink, just like he has the police arrest bar-owners who allow their patrons to smoke. Coca-Cola, by contrast, can put up adverts trying to persuade people to drink their drink. Corporate advertising and state power are in no way commensurate. As big a corporation as Coca-Cola is, its executives do not have the power to caution, fine, arrest and jail citizens on a whim. Bloomberg does, and by God does he use it.

As usual, the whole article is well worth reading.