Sunday, 24 June 2018

Random photoblogging

Idly scrolling through the snaps on my phone's camera...
Sculpture on a mound above Furzton Lake, Milton Keynes. The lake and surroundings are well-tended, but the mound has become a bit overgrown, giving this scene a faint air of those neglected Soviet-era sculptures in the former Eastern Bloc.
Although he's too young to know about Twitter, my son drew this picture of a rampaging robot flame-breathing egg in school, which sums up the state of the Twittersphere with uncanny accuracy.
Chickens. Because everything is better with chickens.
After seeing this I went home, took the vase of flowers off the mantelpiece and replaced it with a hammer drill.
Caledecotte Lake, Milton Keynes, in the evening sun.
The offspring hits peak peak in Peak District.
Snow in Newport Pagnell. Not remarkable in itself, but this was the beginning of March, for crying out loud.

Friday, 15 June 2018

"Destination community wet"

No - me neither. Sounds more like random output from AI Weirdness or Botnik than something written by an actual human. It's getting hard to tell these days, as Janelle Shane of AI Weirdness pointed out recently:

When you find yourself wondering whether what you just read was written by a bot or just by a human pretending to be a bot pretending to be a human, maybe it's time to give up and go to the pub. If so, the Dolphin's OK and no wetter than the average pub, despite what it says on the brewery's web site.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

How not to communicate with parents, part 2

A while back, I had a bit of a go at my kid's school and its use of social media.  To be fair, it does do something to do with social media at least approximately right. The school's Home School Agreement is worded fairly reasonably:
"Respect the school through the individual and joint use of social media including the posting of pictures following a school event."
"Respect" is a bit ambiguous and weaselly, but you could interpret this to mean "Use social media responsibly, don't post pictures of other people's kids, or blurt out confidential information better discussed with staff in private, or say anything defamatory - in short, we expect you to behave like a reasonable adult", in which case, fair enough.

At least it's better than the Home School Agreements some other schools try to enforce. For example:
"Parents will ... Not make reference to the school on social networking sites."
There are things a school would quite rightly want to control - I've already mentioned a few examples. But a social networking ban on mentioning the school that your child goes to, ever, under any circumstances? Is it just me, or isn't that a bit unreasonable?
Parent: "Little Topsy is loving Year Four at Sunnybrook Community School* and doing really well!"

School: "You're in breach of your Home School Agreement. Don't let this happen again!"

Parent: "So proud of young Timmy for winning the Sunnybrook Community School inter-house athletics cup!"

School: "We warned you..."

* A name I just made up - any resemblance to any actual school of that name, if one exists, is entirely coincidental.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Dilbert and Hyde

The hideous transformation of Scott Adams from rational human with a dry, mordant, deadpan sense of humour into crazed right-wing outrage monster is almost complete.

In episode 87 of his podcast, "Roseanne’s Ambien Defense", he goes full Alex Jones:

  • "Sanofi took a despicable position on the matter 
  • Sanofi blamed the likely VICTIM* of their drug"

Looks like Scott's been frying his brains with something way stronger than Ambien lately. At least, I hope that's the explanation. I'd hate to think he suffers from these disturbing fever dreams without being out of his tree on something seriously powerful.

*The screaming tabloid caps are, as Scott would say, a "tell", although I'm not 100% sure what they're a tell of. Maybe of uncontrollable inner rage, maybe of a wannabe troll trying to raise the emotional temperature in order to get a bite.

He boasts about being a master of persuasion and routinely accuses others of making "outrageist" statements while doing the same thing himself, in what looks like a deliberate attempt to create cognitive dissonance, so I assume there's at least some element of method in his madness. Not that  there's much difference between somebody who really is a frothing loon and somebody who genuinely thinks that a clever way to persuade other people is by pretending to be a frothing loon...

One of these things is not Orwellian

"Orwellian" has become one of the most over-used expressions in the English language (or Oldspeak, as we still don't call it more than three decades after 1984). To give just one ridiculous example, Tommy Robinson, former leader of the English Defence League has just been jailed for contempt of court, after he continued to make broadcasts on social media which could have prejudiced an ongoing court case, despite being told to stop it.

Cue a flurry of Tweets calling his trial and conviction "Orwellian." Which is, of course, very silly. Rules to make trials as fair and impartial as possible would have had no place in Orwell's satire of an unfair, arbitrary society where  rule by the most powerful has replaced the rule of law.

Also, Orwell went to Spain to shoot people like Tommy Robinson in the head, as somebody less silly just pointed out on Twitter.

In contrast, here's what "Orwellian" really looks like:
“Since the school has introduced these cameras, it is like there are a pair of mystery eyes constantly watching me, and I don’t dare let my mind wander.”
... said an unnamed student in a Chinese high school, which recently introduced facial recognition technology to monitor students’ attentiveness in class.
Winston turned around abruptly. He had set his features into the expression of quiet optimism which it was advisable to wear when facing the telescreen.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

The absent fathers of Brexit

So the blame-shifting begins: "Daniel Hannan has noticed that Brexit isn’t going well. And he’s blaming Remainers", while Dominic Cummings has written "a letter to Tory MPs & donors on the Brexit shambles." The headlines are new, but the failure to take resposibility is old and familiar.

After the Bay of Pigs fiasco, JFK said "victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan."

Go back a bit further, to 1941, and Count Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law was saying something which sounded equally proverbial: "As always, victory will have a hundred fathers, but defeat will never be acknowledged by anyone at all."

Even further back, at the end of the First Century AD, Tacitus said, "This is an unfair thing about war: victory is claimed by all, failure to one alone." (Agricola 27:1)

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Empire of the sun 2.0

Here's the full text of the recent extraordinary communication from Dominic Cummings, former campaign director of Vote Leave.
Dear Tory MPs and donors

After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in our empire today, We have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

We have ordered our government to communicate to the European Union that our Empire 2.0 accepts the provisions of their joint declaration.

To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by our imperial ancestors and which lies close to our heart.

Indeed, we declared war on Europe out of our sincere desire to ensure the UK's self-preservation and the stabilisation of Europe, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandisement.

Despite the best that has been done by everyone – the gallant fighting of Vote Leave, Leave.EU and Ukip, the diligence and assiduity of Her Majesty's government, and the devoted service of our seventeen million supporters – the Brexit situation has developed not necessarily to the UK's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion which may engender needless complications, or any fraternal contention and strife which may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world.

Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith in the imperishability of its sacred land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibility, and of the long road before it.

Unite your total strength, to be devoted to construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, foster nobility of spirit, and work with resolution – so that you may enhance the innate glory of the imperial state and keep pace with the progress of the world.

Best wishes

Dominic Cummings

Former God Emperor of Vote Leave
Any resemblance to the surrender broadcast made by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Hirohito is purely coincidental.