US British Bashing over Deep Horizon Disaster

Disclosure: I’m a BP shareholder.

I’ve been watching the Oil leak
since it started and I’m alarmed at what has happened; not because
I’m a shareholder but because of the damage caused. BP needs to pay
for the cleanup, I know this and it has cost me money in lost
capital, BP knows this and so does half the world so why are we
seeing ever increasing British bashing from the United States over
this event.

For instance: Barack Obama is on record
for using the old name of BP, “British Petroleum”, why would he
do this? I’m sure his advisers know when the name changed and the
implications of using it even if he doesn’t. Fox news are quick to
say things like “BP, formerly known as British Petroleum”, why
are they saying that? BP is BP and has not been calling itself
British Petroleum for some time. The level of bashing is getting out
of hand and the papers in the UK are seeing this as an outright
attack on the British. The news this morning was about three things,
the World Cup, David Cameroon in Afghanistan and the US bashing the
British over the oil slick.

The facts are that BP is a
multinational company and the US own a large chunk of it:


The rig that exploded was owned by an
American company and it was American people operating it. Bashing the
British achieves nothing and will only harm relationships between the
two states. The UK and the US have been staunch allies for years and
we’ve spent many more billions together than what it will take to
clean up the mess in the Gulf of Mexico. My fear is that some cretins
will be allowed to deflate what is a solid relationship that will
take much longer to repair that the oil slick. John Napier, CEO of
Royal and Sun Alliance has put it much better than me in the
following letter.


Barack Obama and the US public are
right to ask BP to withhold the dividend until we know the extent of
what has been done. I know the implications of this for the pension
funds and other investors but hey, we bought BP shares, it’s a bit
late to complain now. We took the risk so we’ll pay the price, that’s
how this stuff works and Barack Obama has a duty to
make sure that BP can pay for the damage. However, the anti British
rhetoric needs to stop because it achieves nothing and will only damage what is a fantastic relationship.

Oil sticks but grudges and ill feeling
sticks much longer and will cost us all far more than the billions it
takes to clean up the Gulf.

Patent Nonsense

As an owner of shares in both Merck and Glaxosmithkline the following is very depressing reading.

Patent Nonsense (Henry Mintzberg)

Surely any rewards system should be encouraging cures to diseases not relief of symptoms. The appendix of the article is very depressing, are they truly this corrupt? I wonder if any of these people actually go to prison for their actions. The Limited Company encourages people to take risks they would not otherwise take in case of financial failure etc but surely when they start blurring the lines, especially when it’s peoples lives on the line, there must be some rule of law.

In 2008 Merck, Glaxo and Pfizer had a combined turnover of over $100 billion, a fine of a few million is like shooting an elephant with a pop gun, mild irritation but little cause for concern. The elephant continues on its merry way and soon forgets the sting on its ass. If you check out the first page of first page of Pfizers 2008 Annual Summary, they have a cute kid on the first page but do they give a damn about that kid or any other or is shareholder value the main driver. I know the company answer would of course being wrapped up in cotton wool and they would wax lyrical about how important people are but then why all the apparent corruption, the government fines. They cannot wash their hands of setting the wrong rewards system or crap managment, and I don’t mean crap management ie they got caught.

One of the reasons I bought shares in Merck was the story in Tom Collins Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies about them helping with River Blindness, that’s a company I want to own a stake in. Don’t get me wrong their financials are also a factor but every company has a social responsibility and Merck’s actions in the River Blindess case was good evidence to me that they take that responsibility seriously.

Pfizer talk about putting trust back on the agenda in their 2008 report but then they all talk about Corporate Responsibility but is this just lip service ie we were naughty and we are cleaning up shop but really nothing changes. Do any of them realise that Corporate Responsibility is missing a word, “Social”, it should be Corporate Social Responsibility. I personally hope that the big pharmaceuticals stop talking about Corporate Responsibility and start living it. There are few other companies that can have a bigger impact on our total well being than the big pharmaceuticals and if we let them get away with this sort of nonsense we will continues to have countries with an average lifespan under 50 for years to come.

Glaxo 2008 Annual Report

Merck 2008 Annual Report

Gaming Performance and Hardware

After my Gaming Hardware post I decided to have a look at what the gaming field is up to i.e. do ping times still dominate the conversation. Is everyone still as infatuated with performance as they were several years ago. I used to do some gaming and I would still like to
but I get too sucked into it and lose weeks of my life so I made
a conscious decision to stop. I backslide every once in a while when a killer game comes out or if I play something somewhere and get hooked.

chp_chess_game.jpgCaveat: I am not addressing game enjoyment in this post its game performance i.e. do you want to be the last man standing. High performance hardware does lead to more “fun” etc but not necessarily better gaming performance. When I say mid-range hardware I am also not talking about moms word processor or 3 year old hardware. It needs to be reasonably decent hardware to run the game properly.

From a casual glance around the net it would appear that hardware performance and hardware issues seem to dominate the message boards. I always found the perpetual hardware performance chasing and worrying about hardware to be a distraction.

I remember playing games on mid range hardware, for the time, and dealing out my fair share of mayhem. In general the people who were trouncing everyone were also running mid range hardware. Don’t get me wrong I’m not talking PC world hardware, that’s what I would call bottom of the range. The machines were mostly hand built based on bang for buck at computer fairs on Tottenham Court Road. The biggest factor I found in action games was ping times not hardware. Above a certain level of performance it seemed to matter very little what hardware you were running.

I’m not sure if this still holds but I believe ping times and player performance still dominate overall gaming performance. Slight digression… It annoys me to see how much emphasis there is on the hardware performance but it’s in the interests of the manufacturers to make sure that performance is seen as a big advantage in gaming or anything. The following is a question I have heard more than once.

My PC is slow on the internet, what sort of PC would you recommend to speed it up?

The PC is most likely not the problem in this case, its the connection. You can browse the quite happily on 5 year old hardware if the connection is good. Shop owners are also selling PC’s that people don’t need its a bit like going looking for a Mondeo and coming out with a Ferrari.

Anyway, back to the main point. Lets assume all ping times are equal. If this is the case then player performance really matters. To get good at something involves practice and lots of it so it pays to watch how sports teams or the military train, its drill, drill, drill. The military make you go through the motions so often you are sick of it but can do it blindfolded. There’s not a huge amount of fun in this and it involves a lot of effort and mental stamina, it’s also why not everyone is cut out for the military or sport. My brother played Super Mario Bros to the point where he would reset it if he lost a life and was able to easily complete the entire game with one life. It was when I seen him do this that I knew I would never be a great gamer. To be great at any sport involves this level of dedication and yes I consider gaming to be a sport.

So if you’re serious about gaming stop focusing on hardware etc and start focusing on yourself. Are you fit, well rested? Do you respond faster to sound than light? Do you drink alcohol, take too much caffeine, how much caffeine is too much? What time of day are you at your best? What’s your resting heart rate? How often do you practice, are your opponents as good or better than you? Drill Drill Drill….

My personal opinion is that most of us don’t need to focus on hardware that much. Ping times possibly but I don’t believe hardware would give me that much of an edge. It may make the game more fun or a better overall experience but this does not necessarily mean I would perform better.

High Performance PC for Gaming

I need a fast desktop for development and was at the dell website when I came across the following link.
alienware.jpg These guys do “high performance PC’s”. I clicked on the fastest looking offering they had and the total price for the basic package is £3008 (I kid you not). For that price I get an odd looking case (see pic on right). The case looks like it was designed as a bottle for mens aftershave (pimp my pc). You also get the following.

Alien Case (see pic on right)
Intel® Core™ i7-940 Performance 2.93GHz 8MB Cache
1GB NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 280
1000 Watt Alienware® Approved Multi-GPU Power Supply
3GB DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz – 3 x 1024MB
Alienware® Approved Intel® X-58 Chipset Motherboard- Socket 1366 Core i7 Ready, Triple Channel DDR3 Memory
Windows Vista® Home Premium 64-bit with Service Pack 1
1.0 TB SATA 3Gb/s 7200 RPM (2 x 500GB)
20X Dual Layer DVD±RW/CD-RW Writer
High-Definition 7.1 Performance Audio – Standard
Logitech® Classic Keyboard UK – Space Black
Standard Optical 3-Button Mouse with Scroll Wheel

To say I am woefully unimpressed with the above is a bit of an understatement. I have not looked overly hard at the rest of the details but those are the main parts.

I decided to put my old hat on and go shopping to see how much it would cost me if I was prepared to build it and this is what I was able to ruffle up in a few minutes.

Case 100
Intel® Coreâ„¢ i7-940 Performance 2.93GHz 8MB Cache  440
1GB NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 280 300
1000 Watt Power Supply (multi GPU) 150
3GB DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz – 3 x 1024MB (Corsair) 91
Intel® X-58 Chipset Motherboard- Socket 1366 Core i7 Ready, Triple Channel DDR3 Memory  270
Windows Vista® Home Premium 64-bit with Service Pack 1   100
1.0 TB SATA 3Gb/s 7200 RPM (2 x 500GB)  100
20X Dual Layer DVD±RW/CD-RW Writer  50
High-Definition 7.1 Performance Audio 85
Classic Keyboard UK 12
Standard Optical 3-Button Mouse with Scroll Wheel  12

I’ll add another £400 in case I have missed something or made an obvious mistake. So we can save £1000, I don”t know about you but thats a lot of money. I probably get some warranty with the Alien machine and it comes packaged etc but it’s not worth £1000. Seasoned Gamers can knock a machine up in a morning so I’d be surprised if many seasoned gamers are using these machines. I bet I could build a significantly faster machine for £3000 than the one above. It might look like shit but it’d be fast as hell.

The following paragraph is most likely way off the mark on what would constitute a good gaming machine. There are various reasons for this, for instance, ensuring the graphics cards work with server hardware, could the game take advantage of 4 CPU’s with a total of 16 Cores, does the vista license allow us to have 4 sockets.

I could fit a rack in the attic or if I was close enough to the garage I could run a monitor cable etc through the roof, floor or wall to the PC. Add a power switch and a mini itx server with shared peripherals and then you can start looking at 4/5U machines with multiple CPU’s with multiple cores. You can pick up some serious hardware on ebay with SCSI and hardware raid built in. Have a look on for v40z or Add some decent graphics cards and things would be looking quite fast.

If I was gaming in the states from the UK I would also look at tunneling my traffic to the states from the UK over a compressed line. You can get dedicated servers in the states very cheaply that would make excellent end points for the tunnel. The closer you can get to the server in the states that you are playing your games on the better.

I’m off to look at desktops now.

Don’t publish with IEEE!

Please see DJB’s article on this topic.
IEEE large.jpg
Quite often while searching on Google I find something that looks interesting and I am led to the IEEE where I am presented with a short synopsis and a link to a pdf. To get access to the pdf I have to join IEEE or pay a fee.

There are numerous organizations that do this and they’re making good money at it. What I’m worried about is that for the less fortunate that don’t have group access or who can’t afford membership then we will never be able to access this knowledge. If we want to increase our body of knowledge globally then closing access to papers stands in the way of this.

The IEEE are asking people to sign away their copyright. The only reason for doing this is so they can profiteer from it by denying access to the papers. Because they’re big and have thousands of papers means they can get away with  it.

I took a look at their home page and their logo has the following sound bite.

The world’s leading professional association
for the advancement of technology

I think this needs to be changed to

The world’s leading professional association
for the advancement of technology among the wealthy

To be published somewhere like the IEEE can impact your career. Signing away copyright to the IEEE to get a paper published may mean a budding scientist gets noticed and this is the problem. Until either the IEEE carries less weight or there is another way for people to get their work noticed then people will continue to sign their copyright over to the IEEE. Of course the IEEE could also decided to accept public domain papers and publish them for free.

I believe in free access to knowledge for everyone and this is why I am opposed to these kind of tactics. Google has the right idea! (the first line)

Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

I just wish they’d hurry up 😉

Lockhart’s Lament

spiral.jpgI have to thank Philip Wadler for spotting the Lockharts Lament article!

If you are worried about how mathematics is being taught today then read the following article Lockharts Lament. The first few pages describe the problem perfectly. Our education system is being designed by people who have little or no understanding of the task at hand.

Perhaps mathematicians are being arrogant and calling what they do an art. I personally think it’s as much an art as painting, sculpture or poetry. Its quite sad that Wikipedia doesn’t have mathematics listed as an art. Surely there is nothing more expressive than mathematics. Have a look at some of the images here. Anyone with a little mathematics and a lot of people with no mathematics will find these images beautiful.

If art has anything to do with expression then for some there can be nothing more expressive than an equation. Mathematics is fundamentally about describing the world around us and more besides. Physicists use mathematics to as a tool to understand the world around us. This practical applications does not mean that it’s not an art. Ask a physicists if they consider mathematics to be an art and I would bet that most think it is. The E=mc2.jpgmost famous equation today is E=MC^2. The beauty in this is astonishing but its not the most beautiful equations to some, F=MA may be more beautiful depending on your point of view. The fact that these equations are of huge practical importance seems to make some think that mathematics is not an art but merely a tool. Mr Lockhart’s article puts it well

“Music can lead armies into battle, but that’s not why people     write symphonies.”

The sooner we start treating mathematics more like an art and making it interesting the better, until that day almost every student being churned through our education system will hate the watered down shadow of a system our educators deem to call mathematics.

DMOZ Corruption

Having tried for several years to get into DMOZ and getting rejected every time I always wondered why. There are literally dozens of sites doing exactly the same thing as me,, etc and they are listed. These site have a lot of clout and a lot of money whereas I am a one man band with little cash.

Imagine my surprise when I came across Corrupt DMOZ Editor. I may just have been a bit naive when I assumed that DMOZ was the real deal but this blog has given me food for thought.

Google and various other large sites use DMOZ for seeding their search or for their own directories etc. So If there is any truth in this and DMOZ is rife with corruption then anyone using the data is perpetuating the problem. Putting on my cynical head I can see how DMOZ could be easily corrupted. What I would like to know is if there is any truth in it or not. If so I can forget about DMOZ.

I actually admire what DMOZ is trying to do. I am not sure if it as relevant as it was but I do believe that there is a place online for a human edited directory. DMOZ needs to change though. It is becoming less relevant as time goes by and it would be a shame to see it all go to waste.

The more I dig into this topic on Google the more I feel dismayed. It looks like a lot of the top editors are corrupt and are disabling account of the lower editors that are not. To paraphrase Charles Adams “Bad Editors drive out the Good”,

Here are a few more interesting entries on the topic of DMOZ.

This guys site got banned after he refused to pay a bribe!

Removed from DMOZ for not paying Bribe

The following DMOZ editor’s account was disabled when he tried to do something about the guys website above.

Editor Banned for doing the right thing

Time for ODP to Close (Danny Sullivan)

ODP Founder Coments (Danny Sullivan)

Lords of ODP

Unison Strike

It makes me sick!

I walk past the Unison building every morning and for the last few days there have been several beggars stood outside asking me for more money.

It galls me to think that the beggars posing as workers think they deserve more money. Damn few of the rest of us are getting anything. In fact we are all TAKING A PAY CUT. Thats what it means when times are tough. But Oh No, if you’re in a union, in particular if you are in the public services you can bend us all over a barrel. Didn’t anyone teach these people economics 101.

1. You force the government to give you a pay rise.
2. The government still needs to pay for hospitals, police, roads etc
3. They raise taxes and print a few billion notes to cover costs.

We’re all feeling the pinch. Petrol is up, food is up, gas is going up and the private sector is suffering. What makes these unions think they deserve the money more than anyone else. They don’t!

I sincerely hope I am not alone in thinking that Gordon Brown should tell them all to grow up. I’m sick of pampered public sector workers thinking they’re having a harder time than anyone else in the country. Their two day strike has cost some families two days more childcare. Did they think about this, I would imagine that the ones organizing the strike have and the more pain they can inflict to get what they want the better.

My personal opinion is that anyone striking for more pay in the current climate should be positively encouraged to find alternative employment elsewhere (fired).

It’s time society and government stood up to unions, that are nothing more than self interest groups and lobbyists, shafting the rest of society. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against an honest gripe and workers putting down tools, but this is taking the piss.


First Capital Connect

I use First Capital Connect (FCC) to go to work every morning and have started to notice a sickening trend. The trend is: in order to meet their performance targets passengers are being left on the platform. This trend did no start with First Capital Connect but with Thameslink who were the previous operators of the Bedford to Brighton line. The problem I am noticing though is worse now that FCC are running the line.
First Capital Connect measure their overall performance on the following:

% of planned train service that was less than 5 minutes late at final destination

This sounds like a great way to measure performance but for anyone who has read The Fifth Discipline they will immediately see the problem.

The immediate problem with the above performance measurement is that there is no mention of the customer. Taken to the extreme there is no requirements for passengers to be on the train at all for them to meet their performance targets. I know this sounds daft but think about the people under pressure to meet those targets. When a train pulls into a station 30 seconds late with a normal allocated 60 seconds allowed to get the passengers on the train then cutting the time the train actually stays at the platform by 10 seconds means the passengers have 20 seconds to get on the train. This is not too bad but during rush hour it can be a problem, especially at the likes of St. Albans where the train is particularly full.

The problem I have in Luton is that the problem becomes extreme because the train I catch can come in on any of two platforms. The platform is indicated on the board but if any of the trains are falling behind at all the platform might change.This would be no problem but to get to the other platform you need to go up a flight of stairs and across a walkway and down another set of stairs. I have had to do this three times in the past because the platform number has change three times before the train comes in. Originally I thought it might be the controllers working on the nations obesity problem but since some of them were in as bad a shape as me I decided that could not be it.

I then witnessed, one November morning, over sixty passengers changing platform due to a board change. Off they went leaving the platform to get to the other side. I waited on the original platform. I watched as the people got to the other side only to see the board change again. I felt glad I hadn’t changed. They all came back to my platform. I could see the train and I noticed that it did not look like it was coming into my platform but I decided not to go to the other side. Anyway, there was an announcement and the sixty potential passengers trudged off with a lot of swearing about how crap First Capital Connect are. I watched the train pull into the opposite platform and open its doors. I have never seen doors on any train in my four years using Luton station open and close so fast. I would not be surprised if people actually got stuck on the train. Anyway the people who had moved to the platform the train was leaving from arrived to the tune of the beeps indicating the doors were about to close. A couple of people (ie the young and fit) got on the train but the vast majority where left standing like lemons on the platform. Having been in the Navy I was convinced no civilian would ever teach me a new swear word, I was wrong.

This was when I realised just what was going on. In pursuit of the set performance targets First Capital Connect had not thought through the impact on their customers. Or if they had they had decided that performance targets are more important than customer service.

I have no idea what would be worse, late trains or being unable to catch the train you want and I imagine Luton is a particularly bad case because of the way the platforms have been laid out. All I can suggest to people in Luton is don’t trust the board and wait at the top of th stairs until just before the train arrives. This introduces its own problems but I have found it works reasonable well for me.

Political Bias swayed by Moon

The subject heading of this entry sounds a bit mad dosn’t it. I mean, who the hell would believe that the position of the moon could possibly affect the outcome of an election. It dosn’t, but there are those characters who are basing their election decision on the design of Mr Kerry and Mr Bush’s website. Now isn’t that fscked up. For those that don’t believe me take yourself over to slashdot and have a look around……
Does this mean we are seeing the entrance of the designer website. I can see it now
1. Websites by Gucci
2. Menu’s by Prada
3. Footers by Nike
Or, as a dialogue!
“Ohhh, love your hit counter”
“Yeah! we got Armani in to do it, worth every penny!”
Who the hell could possibly be that shallow?
Wait, we have Hello magazine, Cosmopolitan ( feminist trash ), FHM and Eurotrash that answers that question, the brain dead.