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So. This Scottish thing, then.

It’s a month from now, so I suppose as the resident Jock I should say something about it. Okay, here’s the thing. I realised recently exactly why I’ll be voting “No”, and it comes down to this: Sure, the UK sometimes screws things up – Cameron is currently busy making an almighty hash of dealing with ISIS, for example, and the economic situation’s an unholy mess – but it’s my country, dammit. I’m British. My father’s family were Ulster Protestants (and you don’t get much more British than that), ultimately from Yorkshire, while my mother’s descended from border reivers who didn’t give a flying crap what country there were in at any given time. She has a cousin who moved to Yorkshire, coincidentally enough, and brought up a family there. I like cricket (as much as I like any sport), and support England, for whom Scots are eligible to play, and have. Friends I grew up with live and work in England and Wales (and therefore, incidentally, have no say in this). We don’t have much of a military history on either side of the family (both my grandfathers neatly managed to be too young for WWI and work in reserved occupations during WWII), but my great-grandfather died at Gallipoli under the Union Jack. Buggered if I’m about to vote for taking the blue bits off it.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

… as someone once said.

But moreover, leaving aside all the emotional aspects that we’re told are irrelevant by a bunch of people swanning around in painted faces and tribal dress, harking back to battles fought seven centuries ago – and this is the epiphany that struck me the other day when I realised that it’s what’s been in the back of my head all along – I have absolutely no confidence whatever, not a scrap, that a Scottish state would be the slightest bit better. Not least because, as we all know, all states are a bit crap in the end, but mainly because of Holyrood itself. Great Things were promised by the “Yes” campaign back in 1997. Almost exactly the same Great Things as are promised by the “Yes” campaign right now. Everything was going to be absolutely wonderful in the New Scotland, brought to us by an Era of Consensual Politics™. The parliament would get everything right, be all things to all men, we’d all be happier, healthier, and wealthier, neighbours would smile benignly at one another of a morning, and everyone would get off with the all the people they fancied. Or something.

And you know what? It’s no different. If anything, it’s worse: more centralization of power, more irresponsible profligacy with the taxpayers’ money, more pinch-faced governmental busybodying, and less individual liberty. Which might have happened anyway, but still. No better. Just last week Holyrood announced an attempt to scale back Westminster’s relaxation of gambling laws because “there are too many betting shops”. Who says? They do, our Betters. And if the Edinburgh Tramway isn’t the Springfield Monorail come to hideous, eye wateringly-expensive, life, I don’t know what is. (“What about us braindead slobs?” “You’ll all be given cushy jobs!” Was that the Simpsons, or the referendum debate the other week? It’s getting hard to tell.)

I didn’t buy the “Yes” hucksters’ flim-flam in ’97 and I don’t buy it now.

But why is it no different? Because they don’t want it to be. The entire raison d’etre of the seperatist movement – in which I include the paradoxically centralizing “devolution” – is to resist the perceived liberalising trend of Westminster. The writers of the words I quoted above recognised that the logical response to abuses of the power of a state is to create one less able to exert that power (and they still, arguably, failed) but the Scottish political class is absolutely fine with it as long as The Right People are in charge. It’s painfully obvious from everything they say that the advocates of a seperate Scotland want to use it to its fullest. From what little we know of their constitutional plans – we are again, as we were in 1997, being asked to sign a blank cheque – they intend a litany of “positive rights”, making classical liberalism effectively illegal.

But then, that’s nationalism for you. They always think they speak for all of us. No, worse than that, they think they – or somebody – can speak for all of us. People like that have no concept of the dangers of the state’s monopoly of force. If the state is “us”, then misuse of its power is an impossibility; how can we oppress ourselves? And this really seems to be the thinking: Westminster’s failures are due to “them”, “the English”, but if “we” had the power, all would be rosy. I can’t help recalling that old joke about the Lone Ranger: “What’s all this ‘we’ stuff, Kemosabe?” A nation is not one big happy family making consensual decisions around the kitchen table of its government. State power is at best a necessary evil that must be handled with the utmost care. Scotland’s nationalists – of all political colours, because they only differ on the matter of degree – are far too in love with it to be trusted.

If it ain’t broke

I recently caved in and bought a Kindle, the ‘paper white’ if you must know.  I’d resisted it for years and for the life of me, I don’t know why.  Of the many benefits, the instant access to literature is great, but the access to non-publisher e-books is a revelation.  This is probably the end of traditional publishers as we know them via disintermediation.  We now get to ask the question which is an absolute death knell for any business “What are you for?”    More importantly, the internet enlightenment is unleashing a new generation of Pamphleteers in the mould of Tom Paine, wholly unshackled from the analogue publisher-industrial complex.

And it is with this in mind, I came across an Amazon suggestion called “If it ain’t broke, the case against constitutional reform in the UK” which is an examination of British constitutional change since 1997.  Now this may not strike you as the most interesting read.  As an anarchist, any constitution is by definition, invalid.  And this could have turned into just another dreary anti-Blair polemic.  But it’s much, much more.

The author engages in a forensic examination of the pre-1997 UK constitution and its relationship to democracy, monarchy, the sovereignty of the crown in parliament, various voting methods, the judiciary and UK culture and social cohesion.  He goes on to look at post 97 changes and assesses their impact.

He notes some of the spectacular failures such as the devolved assemblies and the obvious instability of the current settlements* along with some of the more damnable creations such as the “supreme court” the ill-judged rush to get rid of the lord chancellor’s office along with the problems inherent in direct democracy.  He attributes California’s record deficit with the impact of the various voter initiatives.  There is a section on federalism which is brilliantly insightful where the author points out the two great threats of power siphoning away to higher European and lower regional structures which confuse accountability.  He quite correctly argues accountability should be with the office holder, not the office.  There is a very interesting section on the problems of partisan, activist judges, how else can we explain the banning of handguns in Washington DC despite the crystal clear second amendment?

There is much to disagree with, I’m not a monarchist and whilst I am sure he realises there are more than two options, the confines of the study mean he looks at only the hereditary head of state vs elected President, the oft quoted Queen vs President Blair argument.  Similarly, I think he gives too much credence to the role of Christianity as a cultural (rather than a religious) force in the UK; if anything, I think it’s on a long-tail residue rather than a live force.

The book is clearly well researched and well referenced, often citing the great Victorian constitutional expert A V Dicey amongst others.  For me, it’s greatest strength is the recognition that the UK has traditionally been a country where if it is not specifically banned, it is permitted, whereas written constitutions suggest if it is not specifically permitted it is banned.

A good argument may not entirely change your mind, but it will engage you and leave you perhaps slightly different after you have processed it, and that’s what this book did to me. Interestingly, I downloaded it less than 48 hours ago and have just finished it.  The best £1.83 I spent over the weekend.  If you have digital access to books, read it.  You’ll be glad you did and almost certainly better informed.


*The West Lothian question can’t be ignored for too much longer

That’s it boys, just keep on digging…

ISIS Black Flag Brigade

The American invasion presented Mr. Baghdadi and his allies with a ready-made enemy and recruiting draw. And the American ouster of Saddam Hussein, whose brutal dictatorship had kept a lid on extremist Islamist movements, gave Mr. Baghdadi the freedom for his radical views to flourish.

U.S. Actions in Iraq Fueled Rise of a Rebel

I must admit that I nearly gave out the cockney rebel cry of “Go on my son” when I saw the West continuing to fail in it’s opposition to ISIS on the one hand and its support of the puppet-masters of Palestine on the other. Surely, hypocrisy hath no bounds…

Don’t get me wrong, I support neither one, nor the other – but the fact that the likes of Barrack Obama and David Cameron think that they can split hairs over Islam just demonstrates that they are so mired in their own hypocrisy that they can’t see it even when it is pointed out to them. The emperors new clothes and then some…

For those who have no veil over their eyes, we recognize that there is no such thing as fundamentalist Islam or liberal Islam, there is only subservience to the teachings of the prophet and that is lock, stock and barrel – from the 5-a-day kowtowing to butchering babies and Jihad. Anyone who tries telling you different is either an apologist or deluded and most liberals are both.

So I am fully supportive of the horrors of ISIS, because if Cameron, Obama and the rest of the Western elite continue to evade reality in the pursuit of votes and liberal support, they will quite quickly find that reality gives them a big, fat kick up the arse and if that happens to be from the new Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, then all the better.

There is a simple rule in life, either learn the easy way or be taught the hard way, I suspect the new Caliph has a pretty good idea which way that is going to be.

Fruity Girls

Today the A-level results came out. I never knew they were friends of Dorothy. Anyway the Daily Mail celebrates with this…

That is better than their earlier piccie which showed no lads at all. It would appear only sexually attractive girls pass the exams. I had to wear a wig (itched like Hell) and shave my legs (itched like Hell) but I got four A-levels.

And it isn’t just the Daily Mail. They all do it. The BBC do it, the Telegraph does it, even The Guardian does it. As to educated fleas… Who knows or indeed cares?

One hundred years from now my scholastic achievement shall be forgotten and it will be concluded by historians that in the late C20th-early C21st only sexually attractive women won this (by then) obscure qualification and that on the basis of four of ‘em in a row jumping in unison. For they shall have access to the digital archives that clearly show that only A-levels were only for fruity girls.

Golf and Morality.

Golf… is the infallible test. The man who can go into a patch of rough alone, with the knowledge that only God is watching him, and play his ball where it lies, is the man who will serve you faithfully and well.
- P. G. Wodehouse

This is why I never cheated at exams. Well, 2nd year secondary school history and I didn’t give a fuck about Horse Hoeing Husbandry. The Agrarian Revolution – give me strength! That was many years ago. RAB said a bit back (much more recent) that a golfer plays the field (I have to disagree with his chess analogy because if you are playing the course not the man or woman then it isn’t like Chess). It isn’t tactical in that sense but it is hellishly skillfull. And I’ve only played pitch and put and stuff with windmills. But in a real sense RAB is right as is Plum. Playing the course is playing yourself. In a real sense it is testing yourself and therefore in a way cheating is cheating yourself or God or whoever. I don’t believe in God but I think I know why folks do. We all have a deep need for an eternal and omniscient umpire. We have all done questionable things which we knew nobody saw and felt bad about it. Well, all of us who aren’t sociopaths.

Ultimately, for me anyway, morality is doing the right thing when nobody is watching*. Not even the Pope. And I think that is what Wodehouse was getting at. I didn’t learn it from Sunday School – Godless heathen that I am. Learned it from 8-bit computer games. There was no way to cheat because this was the days before the internet so like golf you play yourself (oh er… missus). Sorry couldn’t resist.

When I got my second (or third?) PC I played a lot of Hardwar. I’ll tell ya something… Flying a Tiger from Central Industrial to Downtown 05 with a Narcotron in your cargo pod is not an amusement. You pause the game, make a tea, plan your route, make sure you have enough flares and chaff and then wrench the throttle off the stick because you have to run like the fucking clappers. A Narcotron is worth a lot. My point is that whilst there were download cheats I never used them. You play the course.

It’s a great game -in a real sense (despite insane physics) it is the spiritual successor to “Elite”. “Home of the Underdogs” (which I’m not sure is still going) had it as it’s highest rated. Well that is where I got it from for it it was abandonware. It was never really finished and should have been updated. For shame. Now we have Babs Windsor cackling about playing bingo on phones.

Give me a Swallow Moth with a laser and a plasma kannon (yes, it is a “k”), a fusion cell, a drone (for the salvaging of stuff you offed) and a pod (to put it in) and Downtown 05 (and a narcotron, natch) and I’m happy as a sandboy. Add a couple of beers and 4am comes round very early.

The family expands

I just thought I would share this with you.

Back in June, 2013, I met an attractive lady in a coffee shop in Brisbane. We got along kinda well, met a few times, and, as these things can lead to, yesterday, at noon, in a beachside park at Burleigh Heads here on Queenslands Sunny Gold Coast, we married – at my age as well.


Anyway, meet the new, freshly minted, Mrs Cats.



“In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.

The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor — by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things.

He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks — that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.

The story is the man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in. ”
― Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder

It is a brilliant essay – the whole thing I mean – highly recommended to anyone who likes detectives and despises the “literary” types who despise “genre” fiction. Just go read Chandler. He was an awesome prose stylist and Phil Marlowe is an epic character. I can think of few people I’d rather have at my back in a tight spot.


Dead Gazans from the latest fracas: c.1800.

Dead “Guest Workers” in Quatar for the building of the 2022 Football Worldcup: 1200.

(Dead workers for the London 2012 Olympics build: 0).

Guess who is a major sponsor Hamas?

Now obviously, the Gaza toll will rise (not everyone dies of their wounds straight-off) but I think it is a safe bet that, seeing as it is only 2014, the Qataris have plenty of time to play catch-up. I wonder how many of the imported er… do I dare use the word “slave” are fellow Muslims? No, let’s stick with calling them “expendables”. People cared about slaves. They were a perverse capital asset. People cared about them in much the same way a farmer might care for his sheep or cattle. But these “migrants” are replaceable parts in the absurd machine that is Qatar. You wanna get angry about something happening in the Middle-East then try this.

I am a football fan. I love the World Cup (though for obvious reasons I have given-up on England – how many years of hurt is it now Mr Baddiel?). The epic corruption that got Qatar (a nation with no significant footballing heritage) the World Cup in the first place was bad enough but the conditions under which it is being built are terrible.

I hope Mr Slack Bladder of FIFA can live with himself although I suppose sitting in front of raging fire of $100 bills in his unicorn skin romper-suit whilst getting a blow-job from a ten-grand an hour hooker and sipping the finest wines known to humanity is some conciliation to a conscience that would worry a Sith Lord.

For he also did it for 2018 (for “A few Roubles More”) didn’t he. He has killed the World Cup. He has killed many people and many more to come. I may not be living high on the hog like him but I don’t get the night terrors I sincerely hope that evil little man does.

Now here is a modest proposal… Why not Britain for the World Cup? We have brilliant club stadia such as Old Trafford and St James Park, Glasgow has Hampden Park, Cardiff boasts the very impressive Millenium Stadium and of course there is the new Wembley in London. We have a track record of making a reasonable fist of such things and nothing much would have to be scratch built by slaves (yes, I will call ‘em that). Transport is OK (it will be a nightmare in Russia), the weather is suitable (it certainly ain’t in Qatar), you can have a beer (you’re on a very sticky wicket in Qatar on that score). Now, in case I sound like a “Little Britain”, I am not because I know Germany or France or Italy or a few other places could put on a similarly good show.

I’m really not sure which annoys me more. Is it the corruption or the enslavement? I guess that is because they can’t be separated.

There is another thing. Qatar is the richest per capita country on the planet and is therefore a playground for the rich including, obviously footballers and their WAGs. I don’t care how luxurious parts of it are there is no way I’d even change planes there. And I think less of those footballers etc who chose to holiday there in the “bubble”. A lot less. I wouldn’t bung moolah the way of North Korea for similar reasons. I wouldn’t go there for all the tea in China or all the gas in the Arabian Gulf. A truly decadent and obscene state. No wonder they got on so well with Slack Bladder.

Inspired by an article in “Private Eye” (where I got the stats) and I have to say I was shocked when I read the wikipedia article on Qatar.

The Trouble and Strife finally makes it to YouTube.

In 1982, I am working for the Crown Court by day and slinging hot metal for Sounds Magazine at night. I’d been doing this for 6 years, so I knew nearly every musician of note in the whole Wales and South West region. And as our hospitality is legendary, quite a few have passed through our portals, to sample our fine food and wine (and those little rock n roll extras), and to find that the lady of the house is a pretty damn fine musician herself, on keyboards and vocals.

So I got this call from a Sax playing friend, Tony Wrafter, saying he’s blagged his way onto a Compilation album but he hasn’t got a band, just the name for one… Vital Excursions. He has to get his track recorded in the next 24 hours, or he loses the contract. Can he borrow Vanessa (Ness) ?

Well Ness, in those days, was painfully shy, so when I put the proposition to her, she was scared shitless; not because of her uncertainty of her own talent (she knows how good she is) but for being a bit bland or not living up to expectations. But she finally agreed.

We picked up a bloke in the car who was going to play Bass, but in fact what he played was a cello, and headed for some dark dank basement Studio in a Georgian House in City Road, it may have been Mushroom studios, I don’t remember. What I do remember is getting the beers and the Takeaway in.

All improvised, well except for Tony’s overdubs, and frankly there are a lot. The intro for instance… Nobody starts out with a riff like that in his pocket, he listened to Ness and layered over it, then picked up on her every mood and tempo change. No harm in that mind, except Ness never saw a red cent in royalties or even got a writing credit, and 80% of the heavy lifting is down to her.

Wrafter was a complete shit, who still owes me money and married a friend of mine, Gabby. Everybody at the wedding were taking bets as to how long it would last… 3,6,9 months?  Because we knew our Wrafters from our beams of sunshine, didn’t we? It lasted 9 months actually. But he is a bloody good Sax player!


All the King’s Horses and…

…not too many tanks.

From Breitbart a couple of days back…

The Times reports that thousands will gather in Wiltshire today to mark the merger of Britain’s two remaining tank regiments amid concerns that the move could be misguided as tensions with Russia increase.

After a decade fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan with just light infantry, heavy armour became seen as outdated. However, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its continuing actions on eastern Ukraine, there are now calls to change priorities.
Lieutenant-General Sir Andrew Ridgway, a long-serving tank officer who is now Colonel of the Royal Tank Regiment, said: “Going down to the small number [of tanks] that we are going to have in future is taking a risk. But defence capability is like insurance: You don’t have the insurance you want. You have the insurance you can afford. The crucial thing is to get your priorities right, to make sure the things you really need are what you have.”

Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon* added: “Recent conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria appear to signal the demise of the tank but activities in Ukraine especially and Gaza might suggest this is a little premature.”

No. It is worse than that. It is the perennial military error of always preparing for the previous war. And given the decades lead time (why?) for mil-tech to hit the ramp we could easily be caught flat-footed.

This weekend’s merger is especially ironic as it takes place as Britain prepares to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of its entry into First World War. It was during that war that Britain pioneered modern heavy armour, introducing the first ever tank into active service in 1916.

By the end of the First World War, Britain had 25 tank regiments, rising to 44 after World War II.

And then there was one..

However, from today there will only be one Royal Tank Regiment, which will have 56 Challenger 2 tanks. Two other regiments – The King’s Royal Hussars and the Queen’s Royal Hussars – will also each have 56, bringing to total number of tanks in the army to 168.
This means tanks the modern British Army now has fewer tanks than horses, and also puts the UK behind many smaller countries, including neutral Switzerland.

168 tanks. That is piss-poor and not being able to take mighty Switzerland on is dismal.

General Ridgway said he did not want the number of tanks to fall any further: “We really have reduced to a very low level,” he said.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “The Army has been redesigned so that it is more adaptable, agile and can continue to respond to future threats. The amalgamation of 1 and 2 RTR is part of these plans and will not affect our ability to deal with modern threats including the use of a wide range of armoured vehicles and tanks.

“Alongside our allies, we take recent events in Ukraine extremely seriously. That is why we have taken measures aimed at reassuring our Nato allies in Eastern Europe such as UK participation in a major land exercise in Poland involving 1,300 troops and more than 300 military vehicles as announced by the Defence Secretary earlier this week.”

That’ll put the wind up Pooty Poot.

Gaza – The Warsaw Ghetto

How often have we seen it now?

Gaza/Warsaw, is there a comparison? A similarity?

Of course there is. It would be absurd to deny it.

In each city it is a case of Jews fighting an existential battle, in a war they didn’t start, against a hatemongering, genocidal and fascist enemy, who has the declared intention of wiping out every last Jew on the planet.

Of course there is a similarity.

This time though, the Jews have not been disarmed and half fully starved beforehand. That makes a difference.

Racial Discrimination Act

Prior to the last Australian election the opposition promised to abolish Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act, the section which suppressed debate on public policy so long as some whiney thin skinned whinger individual felt themselves insulted, humiliated, offended or intimidated on the basis of ethnicity or race.

However, as a result of the level of objection, by people who would never vote for this government anyway, the Prime Minister yesterday announced that this promise would be dropped.

Last night I sent the following email to my local Liberal Party MP:


4/8/1914 – 4/8/2014

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the start of the most titanic conflict the World had yet seen. It was a tragedy of unprecedented scale (Apart from maybe the Mongols…) It is a tragedy the sequels of which are still happening like bad movies. The current war in the Near East is a result as was the Second World War as was the rise of Fascism, Communism and Nazism. All three are in one form or another still with us like Japanese knotweed.

When I was a potless student I developed a love of Victorian and early Edwardian literature. Well, it was out of copyright so cheap. Something that shone through to me was the general sense of optimism. Do you know the origin of the phrase, “How the other half live”? At the start of Victoria’s reign half of Britain lived in abject poverty and I mean abject poverty. I don’t mean they had an iPhone 4 not a 5S. By her death it was one in ten. And think of the technology over this rough period of time! Anaesthetics, anti-septics, pasteurisation, sanitation, automobiles, powered flight, telephones, radio, steam turbines, AC power, electric light… The optimism is palpable. I bought and read these books because they were cheap but I fell for them because of that sheer optimism and it seamed hardly ill-construed. In 1900 the country with the fastest rate of GDP growth per capita was Russia. A sensible person might have seen Russia turning into some sort of constitutional monarchy and something like a bigger Canada. It could have happened and imagine that…

It didn’t happen.

Europe was wrecked. Russia is still stuck in a quasi-Tsarist rut, the remains of the Ottoman Empire are largely in a situation of utter chaos and the blood and treasure expended by all over the last hundred years is incalculable. The loss of young European men – especially of the officer class – the potential movers and shakers in the arts, sciences, business, engineering and such was so calamitous that Europe permanently lost the lead to the USA after the Great War. That is not an anti-US statement but what could we (and I mean all of us) have achieved had those millions not died? And it is not just the statement of a middle-class white European male. It is a statement of fact reflecting the social conditions of the time. The emancipation of, say, women was arguably advanced by the war but surely this could have been done in a different manner?

Here is just one example of our loss

Karl Schwarzschild (October 9, 1873 – May 11, 1916) was a German physicist and astronomer. He is also the father of astrophysicist Martin Schwarzschild.

He provided the first exact solution to the Einstein field equations of general relativity, for the limited case of a single spherical non-rotating mass, which he accomplished in 1915, the same year that Einstein first introduced general relativity. The Schwarzschild solution, which makes use of Schwarzschild coordinates and the Schwarzschild metric, leads to a derivation of the Schwarzschild radius, which is the size of the event horizon of a non-rotating black hole.

Schwarzschild accomplished this triumph while serving in the German army during World War I. He died the following year from the autoimmune disease pemphigus, which he developed while at the Russian front.

Asteroid 837 Schwarzschilda is named in his honor.

The Schwarzchild metric is not just the first but remains the most important solution of the Einstein field equations. Trust me. I know this stuff. But don’t take it from me…

I have read your paper with the utmost interest. I had not expected that one could formulate the exact solution of the problem in such a simple way. I liked very much your mathematical treatment of the subject. Next Thursday I shall present the work to the Academy with a few words of explanation.

— Albert Einstein

How many other greats and potential greats were lost? We shall never know. And how many other ordinary folk who would have lived normal productive lives for they matter as much.

OK, I’ll tell you. I live in a parish of roughly 4300 souls. This is probably more than the population in 1914 (it’s prime commuter belt for Manchester and Buxton and such places).

This is the roll-call on this parish’s war memorial for WWI…

To the Everlasting Honour
of the Men of Disley Parish
who gave their lives
in the Great War
1914 – 1919.
This Cross is placed here in Greatful Remembrance.

Reginald C ARNOLD
Harry BAND
Oliver BELL
Harry N BOLD
Herbert BOWDEN
Charles BRYAN
Harry EDGE
Arthur FORD
Samuel FORD
Richard GARLEY
William HAGAN
Ernest HILL
Harvey JONES
Ernest LEECH
George A MILES
Ernest PIKE
Frederick POTTS
Charles RHODES
Robert ROXBY
Benjamin SHIRT
Stanley SHIRT
Samuel SHIRT
Albert SMITH
Joseph SMITH
William TURNER
Everett WILD
William WILD
Samuel WOOD
Walter WOOD
Charles WYATT
Frederick YATES
Leonard G B YOUNG
Reginald NIELD

We remember them.

I Say It’s Spinach

So this is dedicated to Nick (and the first part of it is meant in the spirit of friendly teasing; no serious criticism intended). It was brought on by his response to the discussion on “Bibi to Obama,” but somehow it got so long and was so far O/T that I thought I really shouldn’t entirely derail that discussion. Hence the new posting. It happened like this….

Nick ended his passionate defense of the Israelis’ contributions to the Global Good by referring to their improvements in computer technology thus:

August 4, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Write a program once and… I have more computing power on my lap in this Lenovo S440 Thinkpad than probably existed in 1960 on the planet. The CPU was designed in Israel.

Never one to keep to the subject, I interjected the question,

Nick, one can actually program that sucker?

meaning the Lenovo Thinkpad, that is.

Nick responded to that:

August 5, 2014 at 8:12 pm

You don’t program a computer, you program a language. I know BASIC (I love BASIC – it’s great for five minute calculations and “sketching ideas”), Pascal, Fortran(!!!) and a few scripting type stuff like Javascript. And of course HTML and CSS but that’s not quite the same thing. I’m quite good in a limited sense – basically mathematics is my thing. I’ve been considering learning to write Android apps. I never could hack Machine Code and whilst I can write basic C, C++ defeated me. I just didn’t get the object-orientated paradigm. Part of the problem with learning C (and it’s descendants such as C++ and C# is the flexibility of syntax which means other folks programs can be unbelievably cryptic).

I adored that response, because I too am a HUGE fan of Fortran. Besides, it offered me an opportunity to issue a correction, a hobby of mine which, surprisingly, some people seem to find tiresome. Ah well, their loss…. :)

So I commenced, and the thing grew, and, well, here we are. Or here I am anyway. You, dear reader, may have gone on to washing your hair, or cleaning the groove in the patio door….

* * *
Nonsense, Mr. Mc[I-forget-the-rest] *g*. You program a computer IN a language. You USE a language to program a computer (in any given particular case). More correctly still, you write a program FOR (or to be RUN ON) a computer IN a language. I trust this clarifies the matter. *haughty sniff*

By the way, one does not write “machine code.” At least, not unless you mean writing in actual hex, or octal, or, to really get right down to it, binary. And it is insulting and fake elitism to talk about “writing code*” or saying something gaggingly sophomoric like “do they ship code on time.” Yes, I’m looking at you, Eric Raymond.

*Toward the end of my “career,” there developed a custom where System Engineers designed the layout of programs, including writing the specs; these were handed off to the “programmers,” who (I guess) drew up flow-charts and indicated where blocks of instructions (i.e. “code,” f’rgod’ssakes) would go, and passed those on to mere “coders,” who wrote out the actual instructions comprising the program. Division of labor, don’tcha see.

The upshot of that was that real programmers, now called “coders,” got a bad name as being the less-than-bright grunts of the data-processing hierarchy. I hope this dreadful faux-efficiency-system dropped dead long ago. Complete modularity in creative endeavors does not work.

But as to the main point. Basic rocks. No it is NOT a “toy”; it comes within hailing distance of Fortran. And Fortran IV-G or IV-H, awesome !!! is the only high-level language worth using professionally. Ahem. At the lower level, Assembler (for the S/360-370) and its cousins in the Assembly Language level, Autocoder for the 1401 and 7070 series, Map for the 7090-7094, so forth are the best of the best.

I LOVED Fortran and Assembly Languages, specifically Fortran IV and Assembler. You could get at the machine! You could tell it step by step exactly what to do, you could make it change its instructions, you could tell it to stop using valuable space for instructions and stick some data in there instead, and vice-versa. You could probably have told it to unplug itself, and then plug itself back in!

You sure couldn’t do that with COBOL. COBOL was for people who couldn’t be trusted to go messing about with the machine’s insides. Such things as “peek” and “poke,” even, could not be allowed to Business Types who probaby needed help tying their shoelaces.

I used to try to write COBOL in Fortran, just because of the whole logorrhea business. Thankfully I subsequently worked for an outfit that actually had programmers. Assembler, YUM.

Nick, do not feel like the Lone Ranger. I have messed about a bit with C and follow-ons, and as far as I can tell, the object of so-called OOP languages is to complify, complify, complify. The syntax would seem to defy any vaguely-human logic. Ostensibly these languages were developed so that any fool could read and understand at once any other fool’s program. Tchah! In any case, I was trying to correct an information deficit, as is my Nature, but not trying to put biscuits on the table, so lacking that incentive, in the end I treated the Book as the Koran was not treated by the boorish wardens at Guantánamo, and never looked back. :>))

. . .

Really, there’s nothing mysterious about the basic idea. In assembly languages and the next level of languages, Fortran, COBOL, whatever else qualifies, you have “routines,” which — and this is all as it was denominated in my day, back before the Silurian Epoch — meant the entirety of a program. Some portions of the program were dedicated to particular tasks and were distinct enough from other portions to be little mini-programs — “subroutines” — in their own right.

Somewhere along the way some bright language-designer or programmer (they once upon a time occupied the same physical body, can you imagine!) figured out that some of those subroutines were used often enough that it would be convenient to plunk them down, pre-fabricated, into his program. So he dreamed up a way to “call” the subroutine from within the main program. This little block of instructions that executed the “subroutine call” was incorporated into the main program with a special name or mock op-code of its own. IIRC, which I might not, in Fortran you just wrote “Call so-and-so” and then wrote a list of parameters the called subroutine would use.

Of course, you could get the exact same result by branching to the subroutine in the normal way, provided you knew where everything was (Assembly languages, Fortran). But the Subroutine Call was more elegant in a way, and when it was properly written at the assembly-language level (or IN Fortran FOR Fortran programs) you could use it pre-fab in any program into which it could be compiled. (Assembler subroutines for Assembler programs, Fortran subroutines for Fortran programs, even COBOL subroutines for COBOL programs, etc., though the subroutine itself might not be in the same language.)

Thus were developed Subroutine Libraries, which when you licensed whatever language and its compiler from whomever (by which I imagine I mean, chiefly, IBM) you could get the subroutine library as well, with all its useful pre-fab routines.

Then, some dingbat had the idea of obfuscating the basic logic of the pre-fabbed subroutines system by calling these subroutines “macros.” So now instead of having a subroutine call in a program, you used a “macro,” which as far as I could tell was just the same old thing under a new name.

Macros were used in Assembly languages, like Map and Assembler. I can’t remember if Autocoder had any macros or not. When we got our first Mac, a Mac Plus, it still had macros. In that case at least (and in Excel) one could write one’s own macros. But they were still just subroutines.

Now we have Object-Oriented Programming languages, OOPs. Indeed! In which, I gathered, the idea was to write programs by assembling blocks or “modules” of “code” (read, putting together various sets of subroutines) to accomplish the program’s results.

The syntax would appear to be a nightmare. Why go through all that when you can just haul out the ol’ Fortran, or the appropriate assembly language for the machine-cum-OS.

I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.

Israel Confirms Acceptance of 72-Hour Ceasefire

Story in full, from Israel National News.

Hamas has broken the last two ceasefires, shortly after they began. Hard to believe, I know, but there it is.

Utterly beside the point, but I can’t help noticing the sheer artistry of the photo.

Israel Confirms Acceptance of 72-Hour Ceasefire

Cabinet votes to accept 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza, beginning Tuesday at 8:00 a.m. local time.

By Elad Benari

First Publish: 8/4/2014, 11:45 PM

Ground offensive in Gaza.img521832
Ground offensive in Gaza
Flash 90

Israel confirmed on Monday night that it has agreed to Egypt’s proposal for a 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza, to begin Tuesday morning at 8:00 a.m. local time.

The confirmation came after the ministers in the Security-Diplomacy Cabinet held a telephone discussion during which they voted to agree to the ceasefire.

According to Channel 10 News, the ministers also decided that an Israeli delegation, headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molho, would make its way to Cairo for talks on a permanent ceasefire.

Earlier Monday, a senior Egyptian official said that both sides had agreed to the ceasefire.

“Egypt’s contacts with relevant parties have achieved a commitment for a 72-hour truce in Gaza starting from 0500 GMT tomorrow morning, and an agreement for the rest of the relevant delegations to come to Cairo to conduct further negotiations,” the official told AFP.

Hamas has taken advantage of past temporary ceasefires to continue to fire rockets at Israeli citizens.

On Friday, the group violated a 72-hour ceasefire shortly after it went into effect, killing two IDF soldiers and kidnapping a third, Hadar Goldin, who was declared dead by the IDF on Saturday night.

On Monday, Israel announced a seven-hour humanitarian ceasefire. Hamas took advantage of this ceasefire as well, firing rockets at southern Israel just two hours after it began.

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