Thursday, 29 September 2011

16th Note Shuffle

Members of the Xorg Collective are already familiar with the walking funkyness that is Mr Bernard Purdie. He appears on many recordings hearabouts: Steely Dan, Aretha and many more. This little video is excellent - I like the way he pretends to surprise himself with the hi-hat. As an erstwhile bass player, when I listen to this it just makes want to, erm, git dowwwn and engage with those good old dropped thirds, maaan. Hit me.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Well, there you go. You blinked and you missed it. The week before last was National Cupcake Week. Another marketing initiative, as most of these 'Weeks' are, this one being organised by the self-appointed media organ of the baking industry British Baker. It was given some social legitimacy by also including fund-raising for the childrens' cancer charity CLIC Sargent. Any road up, this year's champion cupcake maker is Jennifer Buls who runs the online cupcake shop Absolute Treats.
Cupcake is, of course, the American name for this confection which was hitherto known in England as a  'fairy cake'. Please yourself. Whilst some people . . . some people like cupcakes exclusively, I myself say there is naught, nor ought there be, nothing so exalted on the face of God's grey earth as that Prince of Foods . . . The Muffin!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Johnny Depp Goes Up In The World

Here we see the erstwhile Cap'n Sparrow pretending to be a rock star and, ermm, jamming with Alice Cooper - who looks a little beyond his 'Best Before' date. Mr Depp, however, seems quite spritely, wearing clothes which purport to make him look like someone not famous but which, in fact, make him look like someone trying not to look like someone famous. At least Mr Alice looks consistently wretched, with or without make up.
Be that as it may, the semi-dynamic duo are performing at the 100 Club on the very stage previously trodden by none other than our Phil with his hotter-than-hot jazz/rock/pop combo Hanzo. Mr Depp is reported to have exclaimed "Wow! Hanzo played here? Jeez! That's so cool! I'm on the same stage as Hanzo! Wow!"
Alice's post-jamming remarks were, sadly, stifled by his oxygen mask.
(See post for 2 March 2010)

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The UARS Who Fell To Earth

NASA have announced that their "decommissioned Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) fell back to Earth between 11:23 p.m. EDT Friday, Sept. 23 and 1:09 a.m. Sept. 24...The precise re-entry time and location of debris impacts have not been determined. During the re-entry period, the satellite passed from the east coast of Africa over the Indian Ocean, then the Pacific Ocean, then across northern Canada, then across the northern Atlantic Ocean, to a point over West Africa." NASA don't know exactly how many bits of the satellite eventually survived re-entry - they estimate 26 components could have survived - or where they are but they would like anyone who finds a bit to let them know, via a 'local law enforcement official." Stand by for all manner of loonies to report having found old tin cans, kettles and bottle tops that fell from space. PC Plod will have his work cut out with this little episode.
I find this a bit mystifying. Somehow or other, the Powers That Be can read my car number plate from space but they can't track their own satellite. The military can use other satellites to guide a cruise missile into Gaddafi's back garden but not to track this piece of junk that they've known for years would be falling to Earth. If I wasn't so level-headed I might suspect this whole thing has been a decoy to cover up something else.

Friday, 23 September 2011

We Have Nothing To Fear But The Sky Falling On Our Heads

According to NASA's current prediction, their redundant Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere sometime tonight or tomorrow morning. About half a tonne of the six tonne satellite is expected to survive re-entry and it could land, in bits, anywhere between 57 degrees north and 57 degreees south. That's just about everywhere that's populated, apart from western Canada, northern Siberia and Alaska. So I guess it's Goodnight Vienna, or Scunthorpe, or Macclesfield, or Paris Texas, or wherever you are. Should be good to look at as it falls to Earth.

Downrange Spread of Surviving Debris:

There's a .pdf of the NASA risk assessment here.

The Doubt Grenade

An entry for the Eagle Awards, an advertising competition in South Africa. (Click on the picture to enbiggificate.)

E=MC2 or Maybe Not

Here's a quote from a research paper produced by the Brainy Boffins conducting the OPERA (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus) experiment at their Gran Sasso laboratory:
An early arrival time of CNGS muon neutrinos with respect to the one computed assuming the speed of light in vacuum of (60.7 ± 6.9 (stat.) ± 7.4 (sys.)) ns was measured. This anomaly corresponds to a relative difference of the muon neutrino velocity with respect to the speed of light (v-c)/c = (2.48 ± 0.28 (stat.) ± 0.30 (sys.)) ×10-5.
What this apparently means is the the Eggheads have managed to get some neutrinos to travel faster than the speed of light by about 6,000 metres per second. Using the CERN particle accelorator in Switzerland, they fired some neutrinos over the 730 km distance to Gran Sasso in Italy and calculated that the neutrinos had arrived there before a beam of light would have, i.e. 60 billionths of a second earlier. This is counter-intuitive and, moreover, messes up Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity. The Guardian reports Subir Sarkar, head of particle theory at Oxford University as saying:
"The constancy of the speed of light essentially underpins our understanding of space and time and causality, which is the fact that cause comes before effect. Cause cannot come after effect and that is absolutely fundamental to our construction of the physical universe. If we do not have causality, we are buggered."
Of course, this research has to be tested and verified by others. As eny fule kno, time, distance and speed are relative so if you get the measurement of time and distance wrong then the calculation of speed will be wrong. No doubt the Russians and Americans are cranking up their accelerators, checking their tape measures and winding up their clocks at this very moment. Or maybe they did next week and they've already got their results tomorrow. We here at Xorg Inter-Galactic suggest that perhaps the neutrinos didn't travel directly from Switzerland to Italy but perhaps went via another dimension, arriving back in Gran Sasso slightly out of synch with the Boffins.
Addendum: If you were to travel by road (quite a scenic route across the Alps) from CERN to Gran Sasso it would take you 8 hours and 44 minutes to cover the 930 km. Approximately. Unless, of course, you were to encounter a trans-dimensional anomaly along the way.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Revenge of the Entanglification Demons

Once again the wires have taken over and been inevitably entanglificated. They have apparently begun to replicate themselves, leading to misery and disaster. I'm pretty sure that there was only one extension plug there yesterday and that it only had two thingies plugged into it. One of these wires managed to wrap itself around the leg of the computer table with the result that when I moved the table a Macbook fell to the floor, incurring a couple of dents and a bent lid. Fortunately there was no functional damage, so full marks to Mr Apple and his designers. A reward is on offer for the successful capture of said demons.


 At this time of year there is a surfeit of apples. It seems that everyone one you know has an apple tree (or several) and they've got some apples for you. Before you know it, there's an apple mountain festering in the larder. But Fabmary has the solution and has perfected the classic approach for apple disposal strategy - a pie. Note the snazzy design on the top.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Another Reason to Move to Belgium

This is a chart based on research done by UNICEF in 2000 measuring relative child poverty as a proportion of population in the OECD countries. The data is a bit old and note that it is a relative measure i.e. of households with children where the income is less than 50% of the national median. So a 'poor' child in America is still a lot better off than a child in many other countries in the world. And a poor child in 2000 is better off than his or her counterpart was in 1959, for example. Nevertheless, one thing it does indicate is that in those countries where economic and social policies are geared towards the redistribution of wealth, there is less child poverty. For example, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Belgium have scores of around 4% or less whereas in America the figure is around 22%. So it would seem that if your aim is to reduce child poverty then you should reduce taxes on the low paid and increase taxes on the high paid. Rather than thinking about doing away with the 50% tax rate, therefore, George Osborne should be increasing it to 60% and increasing the threshold above which tax becomes payable thus taking low paid households out of tax altogether.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

How To Save A Billion

An extract from the debate in the House of Lords on the Welfare Reform Bill, 13 September:

Lord Low of Dalston: Tony Blair is reputed to have asked what you had to do to save £1 billion on welfare and been told that a million people had to lose a thousand pounds. The Government’s welfare reforms are aimed at saving £18 billion. That is an awful lot of people who have to lose a thousand pounds—or rather more if you want to reduce the number of losers. Many of these losers are disabled people, the most vulnerable in our society, whom the Government have pledged to protect.
[House of Lords, Official Report, (Hansard), Vol. 730, No. 194, Col. 668]

Assuming the Government is not going to have a go at pensioners - always politically a no-go area - then the 5.8 million working age benefit claimants (of one sort or another) had better watch out. Note: Only 2.5 million are off sick or unemployed, the others are claiming Housing and/or Council Tax Benefit and could be working or retired, and there are 0.6 million 'lone parents' i.e. widows, single mothers/fathers. See DWP website.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Album of the Day: Bill Frisell - Unspeakable

Nifty guitar, laid back, jazzy, funky, added sounds.
"'Unspeakable' is the rare jazz project that confronts dance grooves and electronica without surrendering to them. Frisell reacts to the beats and samples but never imitates them; he always seems to be proposing alternative methods for divvying up the same pulse or evoking the same mood. Thus we get the best of both worlds -- the power of electronica and the personality of an idiosyncratic musician." Geoffrey Himes, The Washington Post
See Bill Frisell website for more info. Probably not in stock at your local supermarket but you can get it on t'internet.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Anarchy is the Best Policy

From the latest issue of the London Review of Books
Quarterly GDP data don’t, on the whole, tend to make the person studying them laugh out loud. The most recent set, however, are an exception, despite the fact that the general picture is of unrelieved and spreading economic gloom. Instead of the surge of rebounding growth which historically accompanies successful exit from a recession, we have the UK’s disappointing 0.2 per cent growth, the US’s anaemic 0.3 per cent and the glum eurozone average figure of 0.2 per cent. That number includes the surprising and alarming German 0.1 per cent, the desperately poor French 0 per cent and then, wait for it, the agreeably frisky Belgian 0.7 per cent. Why is that, if you’ve been following the story, laugh-aloud funny? Because Belgium doesn’t have a government. Thanks to political stalemate in Brussels, it hasn’t had one for 15 months. No government means none of the stuff all the other governments are doing: no cuts and no ‘austerity’ packages. In the absence of anyone with a mandate to slash and burn, Belgian public sector spending is puttering along much as it always was; hence the continuing growth of their economy. It turns out that from the economic point of view, in the current crisis, no government is better than any government – any existing government.
Belgium does, of course, have a lot of social and economic legislation already in place (Keynesian rather than neo-liberalist)  but I always suspected that if only the blighters would leave us alone to get on with it and desist from forever changing, reforming and restructuring then things might just tick along nicely!

Orford Ness: Atom Bomb Test Site & Nature Reserve

It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good.
There's a shingle spit to the east of Woodbridge, Suffolk. Pretty much uninhabitable but Lord Braybrooke built a lighthouse there in 1792 and a martello tower was erected as a defence against potential invasion by Napoleon and his French hordes. In 1913, however, the Ministry of Defence realised its potential as a weapons testing site and began dropping bombs, firing bullets, throwing hand grenades and generally having a smashing time. They built an airfield, radar stations, and various military quarters there. At one point German prisoners of war were held there (although not for target practice, I hope).
With the invention of the atom bomb it became necessary to develop effective ways of ensuring accurate delivery of said weaponry to its target. This was in the days before reliable missiles and computer modelling, so the atom bomb was actually dropped and they had to be sure that the impact would not damage the detonation system, and that the bomb would pierce it's target. So the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment did loads of tests at Orford Ness, dropping bombs from planes and monitoring how they fell, with or without parachute retardation, so that bomber crews could be properly trained in aiming the bombs. Don't worry though; the bombs were unarmed so there's no nuclear residue. I wonder how relevant this was, given that an atom bomb is designed to cause massive destruction over a wide area so it wouldn't matter if you missed Stalin's bunker by a hundred yards or so. But there you go. It kept them off the streets.There's a small exhibition in which you can see an actual atom bomb, the WE-177.
All this became unnecessary with the development of guided missiles so eventually the MOD abandoned the site and handed it over to The National Trust. Any unexploded ordnance has been removed from the site (fingers crossed) and The National Trust have just left it alone to allow nature to come back and re-take possession. Paths, buildings and lumps of concrete remain but otherwise, apart from the (new) lighthouse there's nothing there except birds, flowers and a few sheep. Of course, being flat, cold, barren and windy it's not very hospitable so the birds keep a low profile and the plants are extremely small and hardy.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Sky Broadband

Older readers may recall how slow t'internet used to be when it was first invented. These days we've got used to things happening in the blink of an eye but out here in the wilds of Suffolk, life remains slower than an arthritic tortoise. On my home planet we have fibre-optic cables so there's not much loss of signal - entropy laws decree there must be some, and there are metal connectors - but hereabouts the signal travels along a telephone line several hundred miles long until it arrives at the house completely out of puff, if it gets here at all. To make matters worse, the wireless hub is somewhat under-powered. This whizzo technology is provided by Rupert Murdoch's estimable organisation 'Sky'. Suffice it to say that it does not live up to it's billing. Speeds of up to 20Mb, my arse. More like 11 Kb. And the signal repeatedly justs drops out altogether, requiring a chap to reconnect all over again. And again. And again.
We suffered some inconvenience in the 29th Dimension when fibre-optic cables were installed fifteen years ago, what with the roads and pavements being dug up, but we rarely have connection problems and these are usually the result of external factors such as some cretin at the controls of a JCB digger not looking what he's doing. Moreover, Mr Branson's people at Virginmedia actually upgrade the service frequently without even being asked. You're lagging behind, Murdoch.