Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Reducing Prison Numbers

From The Guardian:-
He will say that just locking people up without actively seeking to change them is "what you would expect of Victorian England" and notes that reoffending rates among the 60,000 prisoners given short sentences has reached 60% and rising.
"This does not surprise me. It is virtually impossible to do anything productive with offenders on short sentences. And many of them end up losing their jobs, their homes and their families during their short time inside," Clarke will say.
The reason why it's as high as 60% is because we have a criminal justice system that filters out most of the easy cases. A lot of people never re-offend having been caught once. It's over half of all people. Some others get the message during community service orders. By the time it gets to jailing people, they've had 3 or 4 chances, so odds are that they're living a criminal lifestyle.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

From the Northern Echo:-

Trimdon Labour Club, where Tony Blair celebrated his three General Election victories, will shut next month, although the owners of the building will continue as a pub. 
The smoking ban and the decline in the pulling power of live football as people install satellite TV in their own homes are other factors. 

Yeah. Go to bed with a whore, you wake up with a whore...

h/t Guido

This World Cup Problem... Just Numbers?

I know that every man and his dog has an opinion about why England, but here's one that I think everyone should seriously consider:
We're a (relatively) small country, and we play lots of other sports
The population of England is around 50,000,000. The population of Germany is around 80,000,000. Even without the fact that it's bigger, consider all the sports where we do as well as Germany (or better). Germany are nowhere to be seen in rugby or cricket.

But if you actually look at England's overall performance since 1966, this is certainly not a freakishly bad performance. There's 3 world cups that we didn't qualify for. We didn't get past the 2nd group stage in 1982.

And if you were there in 1990, England really got quite lucky to get where they got. They were unimpressive against Belgium and it looked like penalties until a last-minute goal by Platt. Against Cameroon, my memory was Cameroon played a load of really sloppy fouls and gave the game away.

What I'm trying to say is blame the manager all you like. The fact is that 1966 or 1990 might happen again, but chances are that it was a blip, and assuming we'll do much better than quarter-final is kidding yourself.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Those High Standards of Journalism

From the Daily Mail:-
The much-vaunted new iPhone 4 may be recalled, Apple boss Steve Jobs revealed last night.

Posting a message on the social networking site Twitter, the tycoon said: ‘We may have to recall the new iPhone. This I did not expect.’

Now, what spiked my interest is that I wasn't aware that Steve Jobs actually used Twitter. But I did wonder where they got it from, and so checked @ceoSteveJobs, who posted:-

The problem is that ceoSteveJobs isn't Steve Jobs, and tweets like:-
Just FaceTimed my wife. If you know what I mean.
To prevent signal problems with the new iPhone, avoid touching the phone at all times.
 should have given them a clue. Or maybe the profile which says:-


Thursday, 24 June 2010

Buying New Technology

Unlike my normal rants about politics, I'd like to change the tone slightly and offer some advice on buying new technology, and especially computer technology, based on the following article:-
Early reports from the US by users of Apple's new iPhone 4 suggest that a design fault means its reception worsens when held with the hand wrapped around the phone.
Dozens of videos posted to YouTube, along with comments from people whose phones were delivered early yesterday - ahead of today's official launch - show that reception appears to wane if people hold it with their hand touching the metal rim around the phone that forms its two wireless antennae.
My simple advice is as follows:-

  1. Never buy anything new on day 1 or as a pre-order. Ever. There's a big difference between someone standing on a stage going through a rehearsed demo and what happens when it reaches someone's hands. I don't blame Apple or any other tech company for this. It's just a fact of life. I've built huge, complicated software systems, tested them to death and once the users start using it, stuff that we didn't think of started to appear.
  2. If you can, wait for version 3 of the product, or in the case of Windows releases, wait for 2 major service packs (bug releases) to happen. I'm not sure quite why it's always version 3/2 major service packs, but my feeling is that v1 is often a bit ropy, and so v2 is a huge improvement, ironing out the big bugs. Then v3 irons out the lesser, but often still quite important bugs, and you have a mature, useable technology.
The other thing is that buying v3 of some technology, or waiting a while means that other people pay for the bulk of the R&D costs while also suffering all the bugs and design problems. You get to enjoy a mature, stable product.

Now, you might say "but someone has to be an early adopter". Well, yes. Rich idiots, mostly. They do it, you benefit.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Should we close down Libraries?

In amongst all the various chancellor's cuts in the budget, I've been reading around and came across something from the Good Library Blog about library lending costs:-

The average cost of borrowing a book in the central London boroughs in 2005/6 was
Camden £11.50
Greenwich £7.14
Hackney £10.07
Hammersmith £6.63
Islington £10.46
Kensington £8.54
Lambeth £10.29
Lewisham £5.77
Southwark £6.89
Tower Hamlets £9.90
Wandsworth £3.64
Westminster £5.91
When it's costing £10/lend, it makes no sense at all. You can buy a hardback edition of the 1st Harry Potter for less than that. Even at £3.64, you can buy a paperback of a Jules Verne novel.

And bear in mind, that's a BUY, not a lend. My last book, Harry Markopolous' book about Madoff was about £17, but I'll lend that to someone who will read it, meaning it cost no more than £8.50/read.

So, give people the money, let them buy books and lend to each other, or resell or give to charity. It's now a more efficient model than public libraries.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Ah Polly

From today's Graun:
Labour appears to have done well. When Jacqui Smith boasted there was less risk of becoming a victim of crime at any time since records began, she was not far out. On Labour's watch, crime fell by about 40%; property crime was halved. Last year violent crime fell 6%, marking a 20-year low in homicide.
Thing is that it had almost nothing to do with Labour. If you want to credit anyone with the falling rate of property crime, it's the Chinese. When DVD players and freeview boxes are £20 retail, how much are you going to get down the pub for a stolen one?

Monday, 21 June 2010

Times Paywall

I was tempted to log on to the Times Paywall to read something of Caitlin Moran's (about Paywalls). I wouldn't waste your time.

In a nutshell, it was a general whine about how great things were in the 20th century, how she had bills to pay, how no-one expects to get solid products for free like they do creative products. The irony is that no-one said "what are these typesetters going to do about getting fed". The Times just booted them out as a result of technology.

Let me restate this point: The reason that journalism is struggling to pay the bills is that they ask too much for too little. If you're not stunningly good at it (and 90%+ of opinion columnists aren't), then you're competing with the rest of the blogs who are doing it for little more than AdSense revenues.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

The Times Paywall Business Model in Full

  1. Charge people to read the same stories that they can read elsewhere and some opinion columnists that are hardly better than the best bloggers
  2. ?
  3. Profit!

Danny Boyle to Direct Olympic Ceremony

Well, he's previously directed a movie about young people taking illegal drugs in a run down part of a British city, so he seems like the perfect candidate.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Little Billionaire Bastard

From the Telegraph:-

Tory MP and environment campaigner Zac Goldsmith told the programme: "If you lump gardens and wasteland in the same category, developers will always go for gardens because it's easier and cheaper.
"We are not saying there shouldn't be development, there are other alternatives. There are a lot of empty homes.
"We want to protect gardens so that instead of being top of the list for developers, they are at the bottom."

  1. No, the fact is that we have just about run out of wasteland. Labour (to their credit) did a lot to ease building on wasteland in their time in power and builders responded. As a result, we have a map like this: No, don't look at the pinkish bits. It's the brown specs on that map which show derelict land/buildings. See them? Good luck with that. In London, there just isn't any. The builders have used it up. 
  2. No, there aren't lots of empty homes. In the South of England, less than 2.5% of homes are empty.The Empty Homes Agency estimate that if all Britain's empty houses were brought back into use, it would meet 2 years of the government's growth needs. In the South of England, less than 2.5% of homes are empty.
  3. The problem is that there is little derelict land, the government have taken away local building targets and so there will not be much land made available.
We are going to enter into a housing crisis after 5 or 10 years because of these stupid, NIMBY policies

Monday, 7 June 2010

Man Utd Debt

Manchester United's owners are £1.1bn in debt - £400m more than previously known - after borrowing extensively against their shopping mall business.

BBC Panorama has found evidence that the Glazer family's debt levels may threaten their hold on the club.

What's Panorama doing being involved in a private business matter? I mean, if the Glazers go titsup, someone else will buy Man Utd at some sort of price.

City analyst Andy Green, 37, is the disgruntled Manchester United supporter who first uncovered the extent of the Glazers' debts.

Mr Green said: "They borrowed more money at inflated valuations right at the top of the cycle.

"These are people who tell us not to worry about Manchester United debt because they are great businessmen. In their core business in the US they got it absolutely wrong."

So what? Just take your support elsewhere. That's what you do with computers, tins of beans and movies, isn't it? Kevin Costner made a bunch of stinkers and everyone stopped going to see Kevin Costner movies for a while.

If you don't own a share in Manchester United, what do you care? This isn't like the works team where you know the players and support them out of camaraderie. You're supporting a PLC owned by Americans, living somewhere other than where you live, with a manager north of the border and players from at least 3 continents. You don't have a personal connection to Manchester United any more than you do to Dell or Tesco.

If they quit entertaining you at a price you like then go and spend your money elsewhere.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Hitchens Tries to Explain The Cumbria Killings

From The Daily Mail:-
But I’d also like to urge another line of investigation.
Was Bird taking the anti-depressant pills that are now prescribed so readily by NHS doctors to so many people whose lives – like Bird’s – have gone down the drain?
Look carefully at the reports of many of the big US shootings – for example Eric Harris at Columbine in 1999 – and you will find that the shooter is described as having been ‘depressed’ and ‘on medication’.
Here is a partial list of other incidents (there are several more, including some where it is likely, but not proven, anti-depressants were involved) which must surely suggest that this possible link badly needs investigating.
Patrick Purdy, culprit of the 1989 Cleveland School massacre in Stockton, California, had been on anti-depressants. Jeff Weise, perpetrator of the March 2005 Red Lake High School massacre, was on anti-depressants.
Anti-depressants were found in the cabin of the ‘Unabomber’ Ted Kaczynski. Michael McDermott, culprit of the 2000 ‘Wakefield massacre’ in Massachusetts, was on anti-depressants.
Kip Kinkel, culprit of a 1998 murder spree in Oregon, was on anti-depressants.
John Hinckley, who tried to kill Ronald Reagan in 1981, was on anti-depressants.
This is pretty irresponsible stuff.

Let's start from the top.

  1. Eric Harris was diagnosed with Luvox, an anti-depressant of the SSRI variety. It was launched in late 1994, and by the end of 1995, was being used by 10 million patients worldwide. After the mass murder at Columbine, sales fell and the company withdrew it in 1999. In 1995, there was 1 "spree killing" globally, or as many as there were in 1994. So, across what could be called a pretty large field trial of a drug, there was no recordable difference.
  2. There are 2 things I can find about Purdy. Firstly, from a Christian anti-antidepressant site which says: During the two years prior to the murders of the Stockton children, Purdy had been treated by psychiatrists who put him on the mind altering drugs Thorazine and Amitriptyline.". Sounds like a link? Well, except that that would suggest he was on anti-depressants from around 1987-1989. Which I'm sure also explained his arrest in 1983 for possession of an illegal weapon and receiving stolen property and in 1984 for being an accomplice in an armed robbery. Oh, and Amitriptyline and Thorazine have been used across the globe since before the Beatles, and we didn't see much of a rise in spree killings in the 1970s or 1980s.
  3. I can't find much on Jeff Weise except that "Weise expressed frustration with being forced back to the Red Lake region and was considered an outsider by many there. Troublesome behavior eventually led to his expulsion of public schooling, and was placed in a home schooling program in 2004. He was diagnosed with clinical depression when he was 16 and began taking anti-depressants.". The fact that he was troublesome before the anti-depressants doesn't seem to be noticed by Hitchens.
  4. The Unabomber's cabin contained a bottle of Trazodone, a drug approved in the US in the early 1980s. Unfortunately for Hitchens, his first bomb was made in the late 1970s.
  5. Michael McDermott was a man who suffered from severe depression, paranoia and schizophrenia. He took Paxil, Prozac and Desyrel. Paxil can cause mania as the result of withdrawl, but again, millions of people take these drugs and we've hardly seen phenomenal rise in mass murder.
  6. Kip Kinkel, like McDermott, was on Prozac. That's a drug with 700,000+ prescriptions per year. You'd think we'd have an epidemic of violence if that was the cause.
  7. John Hinckley was on anti-depressants, but of course, they would have been the old tricyclics, used by millions of people for decades.
There's 4 things I'd like to add of my own:
  • Using the term "anti-depressant" shows just how ignorant Hitchens is. There are at least 9 different types of anti-depressant, with the likes of Paxil and Prozac in the SSRI group and drugs like nortryptaline and amitryptiline in the tricyclic groups. These are quite different drugs with quite different side-effects.
  • Just because someone was prescribed with anti-depressants doesn't mean that someone was taking them.
  • Even if someone is taking them, there's no guarantee that it will keep them safe.
And finally:-
  • according to NHS Cumbria there was no record of Bird attending the hospital or his GP in the last six months.
So, Bird wasn't even on them. Neither was Thomas Hamilton or Michael Ryan. Or the French murderers Eric Dorel or Christian Dornier. Or the Colombian Campo Elias Delgado. So, the idea that there's some sort of causal link is ridiculous. There isn't.

Unfortunately, there will be people out there reading Hitchen's piece of crap who I hope will stumble across this post before they get scared of what they or their children are taking. We saw the impact of newspapers on MMR where parents chose not to give their children a drug that had been shown repeatedly to have no autistic side-effects.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

If you like Star Wars...

I'm not even going to tell you what's in this, as it would give too much away. Just watch...

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Those Handgun Bans Fucking Worked, Didn't They?

From the Telegraph

Armed with two weapons - a .22 rifle and a shotgun - Bird drove down the coast from Whitehaven where the first attacks took place, leaving a trail of carnage in his wake.

So, we criminalised the activity of pistol shooting to stop nutters from going crazy with guns. The nutters just replaces a pistol with a .22 and a shotgun.

Well done you fucking cocks.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Typical BBC

Today's headline on the BBC Website:-

Witnesses cast doubt on Israel's convoy raid account

What witnesses might those be?

Eyewitness accounts from ships raided by Israeli commandos have cast doubt on Israel's version of events that led to the deaths of at least 10 people.

German pro-Palestinian activist Norman Paech said he had only seen wooden sticks being brandished as troops abseiled on to the deck of the ship.

I see. So, not so much "witness" as "participant".

Complaint will be in the post...


From The Phillipine Star

Air Force pounds MILF lairs with rockets

With rockets?

The Best Thing You'll Read All Day

I'm not even going to quote from it, but if you want the most insightful thing about the Israel blockade situation, go read the Daily Mash here.