2007-08-31

Imprimatur 010

This new release removes the element, and replaces it with a element. The element is the same as the element, but the value of the control can be put in the 'value' attribute or the element content.

The reason for the change is to deal with whitespace better. It's hard to put a script as an attribute, but if you use element content for everything, then whitespace gets changed by editors formatting the XML to make it more readable.

2007-08-27

The Fortunate Pilgrim

I've very grateful to my friend Bert for lending me the 'two books in one volume', The Godfather (see previous post) and The Fortunate Pilgrim. In Pilgrim an italian immigrant brings up her family in pre-war USA, struggling through life's vicissitudes. It's triumph is to avoid descending into sentimentality.

The Godfather is an anarchist

Many films (and some books) would be exceptionally boring if one of the characters had made a timely phone call to the police. The Godfather manages to make it plausible that the police aren't called. For one thing, the police may be controlled by another mafia family!

So as I was reading the book, I began to see it as a story of what happens when groups set up in parallel with the state. The mafia is really an alternative government, a law unto themselves. The Godfather is an anarchist.

One may ask, what's wrong with that? Why can't they go their own way? The problems come when they interact with the rest of society. They are parasites on society. They make money from protection rackets, not by making their own contribution to the economy. If anyone stands between them and their revenue stream, they use violence to get their way, whereas legitimate business has to compete on a level playing field.

2007-08-26

Gun Crime

My friend David Andrews has a plan to cut gun crime. Read his idea, then read what I think about it...


How to cut gun crime

By David Andrews

The present concern about high rates of illegal gun ownership and associated gun crime can be solved very simply in the same way that illegal whiskey distilling was stamped out in Scotland in the late 1700s, by offering huge, for the day, rewards for information leading to the discovery of illegal stills, whereas in Ireland it was merely made illegal where it persists to this day.

In the UK police could similarly offer a no questions asked hand-in fee of say £2000 pounds for any person who brings a gun into a police station. At the same time a reward could be offered of twice the hand-in fee ie £4000 for information leading to the prosecution of any person found in the possession or control of an illegal fire arm. And £4000 for each and every weapon.

One of the main purposes of holding such illegal weapons is to let others know that you have them, by behaviour and reputation spread by acolytes or fearful potential victims of tacit intimidation.

Thus a little thought will show that the illegal arms user and dealer will have little choice but to throw away, hand in, or not let anyone know they have such weapons, since any holder for the purposes of status or intimidate, will know that he is liable to be grassed up by multiple persons, who will calculate that sooner or later someone else will go to the police, and retribution is likely on all of the many people in the position of victim. May as well be the first to at least take the cash because retribution will be coming.

If the holder decides to keep the possession a secret then their main use – intimidation and status is denied. They will of course still be used for armed robbery but that is a very rare crime and what we are after is to cut street gun culture.

As soon as he tries to sell a weapon, more than a few times, he risks his customers or those who he has advertised his services to, ( the latter will always be more than the former) picking up a £4000 fee for his trouble.

It will not be the case that an industry will develop feeding guns to the police, since they will still retain all their normal investigative rights. Existing and new gun smuggling networks will be rendered extremely dangerous due to the bounty any party could obtain, and of course, whilst guns could be fed to the police by a series of low level associates, the police would simply have to home in on these peoples backgronds.



My response to Dave's idea

I think the weakness in the idea is the £2,000 paid out if a gun is handed in. It would mean that people would import / manufacture guns for £500, then sell them on to the police with a £1,500 guaranteed profit. The country would soon be awash with guns, and the police would be too poor to do anything about it!

By all means have a £4,000 reward for information leading to the successful prosecution of a criminal, but please drop the idea of the police paying out cash for illegal guns.

Car Free

Hurray! I sold my car today. £525 on the nail. Down with climate change! Plus I can get my bike and lawnmower in and out of the garage!

Actually, now I've got a bit of space in the garage, does anyone know how I can use the space to make money? It's a shame just to have a half-empty garage.

2007-08-14

Freecycle

Everyone seems to know about FreeCycle except me. It's a brilliant idea. If you want to get rid of useable stuff, don't take it to the tip, post it on FreeCycle and someone who wants it will come and collect it. I've done this with my unwanted TalkTalk modem. We'll see how it goes.

Btw, my car still hasn't sold. Maybe FreeCycle it...

2007-08-12

Holier than thou

'The God Delusion', is an enjoyable polemic against faith in god. I agree with Richard Dawkins that the best scientific explanations of the world are superior to god-based supernatural explanations. I begin to diverge from Dawkins when he makes the claim that being an atheist makes you a better person than if you have faith in God. Just because you're right, doesn't make you a better person!

I would go as far as saying that being an atheist doesn't necessarily make you any worse than anyone else, but it doesn't necessarily make you any better either.

Jehova's witnesses occassionally call at my door. I'm pleased that they do, and we have a conversation about what we believe about the world. I explain that I take religious texts in two parts, physics and morality. The physics part of all religions I've heard of is rubbish. Souls, spirits, virgin births, God etc. are really bad explanations compared to quantum mechanics, evolution etc. The morality part of religions is a mixed bag. I think 'do as you would be done by' is a pretty good idea. A lot of the other stuff is a bit grim though.

Imprimatur 009

A new version of Imprimatur has been released. The only change is with <parameter> elements. They used to look like:

<parameter name="emailAddress" value="adam.smith@localhost"/>

but now they look like:

<parameter name="emailAddress">adam.smith@localhost</parameter>

This is so that you can conveniently have parameter values with line breaks.

2007-08-05

The Hawking Fallacy

It's amazing how dated the story has become. Set around 1987 when I was at school, Clifford Stoll talks about how he single handedly tracked down a hacker in 'The Cuckoo's Egg'. The internet seemed like a new thing and there wasn't a WWW.

Stoll paints himself as a long-haired leftish alternative type, wearing an old pair of sneakers (his only pair of shoes) and a beat-up jacket. He's obviously a bit of a know-all. I've met plenty of people like this. What really annoys me is when they talk about recipies for food.

Anyway, the book is very readable. I felt that it was as much about his lifestyle as the chase. Hunting down the hacker was good too, both aspects of the book complement each other. Stoll doesn't have a car, he cycles everywhere. So do I! It doesn't make me a computer genius, that would be to fall for the Hawking fallacy (not everyone with motor neurone disease is a brilliant theoretical physicist).

Note: My friend Bill lent me this book (note to Bill: pick it up on Tuesday if you're coming round). He warned me not to look up the accompanying video clips on U-Tube, they'll destroy your illusions apparently!