Archive for the ‘Announcements’ Category

No more landline

October 31, 2010

I no longer have a landline. If you have my mobile (cell) phone, you are welcome to call me or SMS. Otherwise email. I will be using Skype more.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

The problem was that I was spending too much on landline fees and also had a pay as you go mobile which cost barely more for roaming as for local calls.

Advertisements

Back (again)

August 4, 2010

Well, I’m back.

I did manage to keep some flow on Twitter but otherwise, I guess its just you, a couple of spambots, and me.

A few words of explanation: from March until July, I was doing a job that involved irregular hours and a ban on signing into a blogging platform, email, or a social media site. The result was that this site lost out.

Sorry.

For now, I’m doing a job that I’m not allowed to discuss in detail – YET. But hopefully that will change soon as the start up project I’m working reaches a couple of targets.

In the meantime, there’s work to be done and fun to be had.

A test for the “Wisdom of Crowds”

January 10, 2010

Tomorrow (that’s Monday, 11th January 2010), I shall be giving a talk about James Surowiecki’s excellent little book, The Wisdom of Crowds, at the Institute of Education in London, at an event organised by “the other LA.”

Given the inclement weather, the fact it’s the first meeting of the year, there’s a new venue, I only told friends about it this evening, and the problem that either the speaker or the subject might not be as exciting to others as it is to me, I consider this a good test.

If no one shows up, how can I possibly argue that crowds lack wisdom? But then if I’m right, surely lots of people will want to know more about it.

I shall be talking about markets, taxes, voting, opinion polls and fairness. There will also be a little quiz.

If you cannot (or will not!) make it, I suggest Surowiecki’s book to anyone remotely interested in psychology, economics or epistemology, or to use less fancy language: how people think, work together and acquire and use knowledge.

It’s very readable, it has only one error of reasoning in my opinion [not fair to tell yet] and the only technical flaw is the lack of an index.

[UPDATE 8 Feb 2010: The flaw mentioned above is the claim that taxpayers consent to being taxed. The missing ingredient is the extent to which coercion (actual or potential) affect one’s decision to comply with taxation or not. If the various tax authorities of the world did not have the power to drag people before courts, confiscate assets and prison sentences weren’t relatively longer than say, for stealing food, I imagine that tax revenue rates would plummet.]

2009 and all that…

January 1, 2010

Every year since 1997, I have compiled a list of 100 New Year’s resolutions, spread over such areas as my debt vs savings, reminders to keep in touch with various family members, an income target, commitments on fitness, reading, study, hobbies and travel. It’s about as personal a document as I ever produce so don’t expect me to broadcast it. I look at it roughly once a month, to keep some track of how I’m doing.

Originally, I started with 56 things I wanted to do in 1995, then a few more got added in ’96, before I found myself with a list of 97 items in 1997, at which point I thought of rounding it up.

I don’t have an easy way of getting a list of all the things I did do, and some are repeated each year, but it now stands at 218, though only nine were successes in 2009.

Off the top of my head, I can think of a few definite things I wouldn’t have done without the list: flying to New York in Concorde, visiting a new country each year (Greece, Ireland, Egypt, the Netherlands, and I’m not counting years where I went to several others [e.g. Italy, the Vatican, the Czech Republic since it split from Slovakia]) and taking part in the Hastings Christmas Chess Tournament (where I won a prize).

I might never have enrolled on my MBA course in 2008 (I’d been toying with the idea for many years), would not have moved when I did in 2003 or bought a camera last May.

On the other hand, I have only once exceeded my income target, in 2003, which I hope reflects the high bar I set myself… For better or for worse, my strategic direction for the year is set with my resolutions.

Perhaps it’s me, but yesterday I found myself asking “where does the idea of New Year’s resolutions come from?” Is it modern, like Mother’s Day in France or turkey for Christmas lunch? Is it ancient, like the seven-day week?

Wikipedia was surprisingly vague on this topic, and most of the claims of antiquity are not well documented (astrologers claiming a Babylonian origin [link in French] are not entirely without an interest in talking up that culture).

The reason I doubt the ancient world as being the original source of the NY resolution custom, is that it seems too modern a preoccupation to think about “must write to mother more often” or “must go to the gym more often.”

There were Jubilee Years announced roughly four times a century by the Popes since 1300AD, which included releasing people from their debts and making pilgrimages, but the NY resolutions seem more personal, more of a form of self-development.

Fortunately, Fugitive Ink had some leads, after I’d suggested that diarists would provide a good starting point:

Possibly, though, I’d start the research slightly earlier than you would – amongst the puritan diarists of the mid-17th century, both in England and the American colonies. They were, after all, great makes of ‘resolutions’ and no slouches when it came to making self-improving promises to God.

When I first started thinking about this, I worried that such pious folk might find the secular New Year insufficiently significant to be worth much in the way of resolutions. But then I had a swift glance at Ralph Josselin’s diary. (He was an Essex clergyman, 1616-83, of broadly puritan inclination, although remaining in Anglican orders.) Look at this, from 1653:

http://linux02.lib.cam.ac.uk/earlscolne/diary/70006970.htm

Admittedly, this isn’t exactly a ‘resolution’ per se (despite the odd fact that the word ‘resolution’ occurs in the next sentence), and Josselin is always asking God to do things like that, but all the same, Josselin is evidently using the occasion to ask God to give him ‘a new holy heart’, which in some sense comes rather close to the ‘make me a better person’ end of the contemporary NYR scale, if not the ‘lose a stone’ end of it.

It strikes me therefore that there is no obvious answer to my question, but that the habit of making commitments for the coming year (whether praying for help in achieving them or not) is a reflection of the emergence of a belief in the possible redemption of Man on Earth.

If it did date from Babylonian times, and if it really had persisted through the ages, I wonder if it could be considered one of the most enduring expressions of individual self-development?

The peacock HAS landed

November 15, 2008

Not premature anymore.

The Chandrayaan moon orbiter, launched from India just over three weeks ago, has dropped off a moon impact probe. It landed at 3:01pm GMT (8:31 India Standard Time) on Friday November 14 2008.

India still receives overseas aid for supposedly being a backward, poor country. I’ve no doubt that there are people living in poverty, but the evidence is pretty strong that the world’s largest democracy is doing more than OK.

Am I surprised that Indian scientists and engineers have delivered the Chandrayaan? Not one bit. I remember in about 1983, when I was still at school near the Science Museum, in London, there was the casing of an Indian rocket displayed on the outside of the building. I think it was actually a long-range ballistic missile.

I remember thinking that India must be capable of building space rockets and wondering when we’d see lots of countries with space programs.

I am surprised the Indian government has become sufficiently unsclerotic to allow a project of this kind to succeed. Unkind people have suggested the vulture, not the peacock, would be a more apt national bird for India. Today, such cynicism can be binned.

France certainly has the technology and will (if needed) to match India’s space program. The Ariane is essentially a French rocket with other people chipping in cash, as far as I can tell. I may be knocking the U.K., but I can’t imagine this country getting a vehicle to the Moon without U.S. or European money and know-how.

Meanwhile, the private sector is finally having a go too.

“A family blog”? Some blog…some family!

October 26, 2008

[Cross-posted from here at the Libertarian Alliance blog]

I don’t read this blog, because I find it an embarrassment. I don’t write for it as much as I’d like either for the same reason.

The header only carries pictures of dead people, most of whom weren’t Libertarians.

Most of the writing on this blog would be great, if trying to talk down at teenagers badly was a good idea.

The skimpy ladies are idiotic (get a life, failing that, go to Zoo, Nuts or FHM). It reminds me of the 1980s overgrown adolescents’ game of counting female nipples in copies of Sunday Sport.

And this prose: OMG!

This fairly pleasant-looking young woman seems to have brought several hundred hits to the bolg, merely by tamely repeating “I’m saving the planet” mantras on Sky news. Astounding really, since we are just a think-tank, and we don’t even agree with her with the people who have told her what to say.

And, she’s even from Bromley. Just down the road really. Marilyn Monroe, you are nowhere, stop hanging out with the corrupt, grasping, self-centred Kennedys, and get a life.

As this is a family blog, read by women and children too, ladies don’t take off their bras in front of people they don’t know:-

Apart from the insane reference to Marilyn Monroe, the bit that gets me is the claim that “this is a family blog”. What kind of family? You would have had to beat me near death to read anything as bad as this blog when I was child. How many women read this blog?

Using Tags like this: Tagged: , , , , may get some people who search for these words on Google to accidentally land on the LA blog. But this is no more than Spam. I’d be annoyed, not happy, to search for “bra” and “girls” to find myself pointed to some of the rubbish on this blog.

I could excuse this, if there was anything of immediate relevance to Libertarian Alliance supporters. (What has the Battle of Agincourt got to do with Libertarianism? Discuss in no more than 300 words.)

What people who are unable to attend the LA Conference this weekend might like is live-blogging [here’s a demonstration from the U.S. vice presidential debate recently] from the National Liberal Club. Instead we get Milton Friedman videos that, if I’m not mistaken, are nearly 20 years old.

Last year, I asked if we could have wi-fi at the next LA Conference so bloggers could report it live. Sadly, this was not done. I can’t be the only person unable to attend the Saturday events who would have liked to see something about the conference up by now. Does anyone wonder if the leftist Daily Kos would fail to ensure bloggers could cover their events? No, I didn’t think so.

If the National Liberal Club can’t accommodate wi-fi, the LA Conference should go elsewhere.

Was there any mention of the LA Conference on Facebook? MySpace? Google News? Guido Fawkes? Samizdata? No.

Was there any serious attempt at press coverage? Not even a press release in the run-up to the event.

Any broadcast media or live podcasts [Here’s a recent one by Patrick Crozier on the financial crisis]? No.

Any use of newer communications: Twitter? Qik? No.

Looking at the old conservative men peering down from the header on either side of Chris Tame, I see very little to inspire for the future.

The Peacock Has Landed*

October 22, 2008

Anyone who remembers the Six Million Rupee Man sketch from Goodness Gracious Me, will understand why I wondered if this was a joke. In my defence, I hoped it was for real. It is.

India is now ahead of the U.K. in the space race. Ahead of Germany and France. Could be level with Japan.

*The peacock is the national bird of India. Alright, I’m premature. Sue me.

Junk mail to space

February 29, 2008

The most awesome junk email

I am a moderate, Gordon Brown is a cannibal

January 14, 2008

I wrote this.

But Gabb wrote this:

“Cannibalism: New Labour’s Next Step” Says Sean Gabb

The Libertarian Alliance, the radical free market and civil liberties
pressure group, today denounces Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s proposal
that organs for donation be taken without consent from the dead.

Libertarian Alliance Director, Sean Gabb, says:

“Whenever British politicians or their clients want to do something
particularly gross to the rest of us, they announce it in a special
‘caring’ tone. Watching Gordon Brown at work today, his voice so slow and
husky it was barely audible, was rather like being lovebombed by Fred West.

“When the law allows organs to be harvested from the bodies of the dead
without the explicit prior consent of the dead, or the explicit consent
of the next of kin, the State becomes effectively a cannibal.

The proposal may save one or two lives. But it also puts lives in danger.
Many National Health Service hospitals are chaotic infection traps. Their
unwashed wards swarm with doctors who are high on drugs to stay awake,
who think an epidural goes into the arm, and who frequently speak barely
a word of English.

“Give these people the right to harvest organs, and no one without
private insurance will be safe. Doctors will take organs from patients who are not dead. They will ‘accelerate death’ for patients whose organs they want for friends or paying clients.

“We are told that we shall have the right to opt-out of this presumed consent scheme. I do not believe NHS bureaucrats are efficient enough to draw this to the attention of medical staff. But I do believe they will eventually be efficient enough to withhold treatment from those patients whose records on the database now being constructed show a lack of consent.

“And presumed consent really is only the beginning. Let this through, and it is only a matter of time before blood donation becomes compulsory. After cannibalism, after all, vampirism is very little.”

The Libertarian Alliance believes that no organ or bodily part should be taken from any person for any purpose without the explicit prior consent of that person, or, if dead, without the explicit consent of the next of kin.

Liveblogging New Hampshire over on the Election Watch

January 8, 2008

See my election blog for more news as it comes from the Northeastern Granite State. For now, Dixville Notch gave NO VOTES to Hillary Clinton. Along with Hart’s Location, the overall score on the Democratic side at this time is Obama 16, Clinton and Edwards tied on 3, Richardson 1. For the Republicans, Ron Paul is third with 4 (yes more than Clinton!) ahead of Romney 3, Giuliani 1 and Thompson 0. McCain 10 and Huckabee 5 complete the picture.