Feb 162023

One of the things that keep cropping up whenever vegan food crops up in social media, is why does it always resemble meat? Or “faux meat” as I call it.

It doesn’t.

As a vegetarian of over 30 years (and thus aligned with vegans; even if I’m not a “good vegan”), I very rarely eat faux meat; and when I do it’s out of curiosity. Not to see how closely they resemble meat, but to see if they were a viable choice.

V* (meaning vegetarian and vegan) food doesn’t need a meat substitute. There’s plenty of fine choices out there that don’t miss the rotting corpses a bit.

So where does this belief come from? There’s three possible reasons why faux meat choices exist :-

  1. New v*s miss certain meat dishes and seek faux meat to fill the gap in their diet. Fair enough.
  2. Meat eaters who for one reason or another seek to swap out meat for a meat-free alternative. Fair enough.
  3. Companies who market these products as being what v*s actually want. Whether they’re right or not kind of depends on how large groups 1&2 are.
Ducks swimming on water in a line.
Ducks In A Row
Feb 132023

(‘bad’ language ahead)


Reducing the speed limit from 30mph to 20mph reduces the fatality of hitting a pedestrian or cyclist from 40% to 5%. Slower speeds are fundamentally safer on crowded urban roads, and small country lanes – everyone has more time to react and even in the worst case where a collision occurs, the accident is more survivable.

There are those who claim the lower speeds will slow them down – tough! That continually looking at the speedometer is more dangerous – get used to lower speeds. All of the excuses I have seen amount to selfishness.

And similarly the opposition to prioritising vulnerable road users – letting pedestrians cross at junctions, giving cyclists at least 1.5m of space when overtaking, etc. all amount to motorists’ entitlement. You aren’t more important, you don’t pay for the roads, and the safety of cyclists and pedestrians takes priority to your convenience.

Who Are You Looking At?
Feb 092023


There is something that certain entitled motorists keep banging on about – “road tax”. There hasn’t been a road tax since 1937; it’s currently called vehicle excise duty and the income (£8 billion) goes into the general taxation fund. It sounds like a lot, but is just a drop in the overall public spending budget. And it isn’t reserved for spending on roads.

And local roads are mostly paid for out of council tax – in other words the roads that cyclists and pedestrians actually use are paid for out of local taxes.

Which has an interesting side effect – a motorist on a local road is likely to be a local road user, but a significant proportion will be visitors. Meaning that they haven’t paid for the road. Whereas a cyclist or a pedestrian is more likely to be a local.

Meaning that on any road that isn’t a motorway, the cyclists and pedestrians pay more for that road than the motorist.

Posts leading out to the sea.
Into The Water; Stillness and Motion
Feb 092023

Sometimes, computers seem to suck at maths :-

>>> 1.2 - 1.0

To be fair, that’s a raw Python interface; an application intended for use as a calculator works a bit better :-

» qalc 
> 1.2 - 1.0

  1.2 − 1 = 0.2

The problem is related to low-level numeric types. Computers store numbers in a variety of different formats (called types by developers). Whole numbers (integers) are easy – just allocate a certain number of 8-bit bytes (more means you can store bigger numbers; but it takes more memory for each number) and you would have something that would store whole numbers with perfect accuracy.

Floating point (i.e. numbers with a ‘decimal’ point) on the other hand are much more a compromise between size and accuracy. Floating point in effect uses scientific notation for numbers – 1.23E23. So a number is split into two – the mantissa (effectively the bit before the “E”) and the exponent. Storing two numbers in 32-bits (single precision) limits the precision in which numbers are stored but is usually sufficient and allows a far larger range of numbers :-

>>> print("{:10.4f}".format(1.2 - 1.0)) 

In other words if you are using a low-level interface as a calculator, you can produce sensible output merely by writing your code properly. Or use a proper calculator program like qalc(ulator).

This is of course an over simplification and the Wikipedia article on single precision floating point goes into far more detail than I want to understand. Amongst other things I’ve glossed over is the problem of performing calculations in base 2 (binary) rather than base 10 (decimal).

Plus there are a whole bunch of other numeric types such as larger floating point types, decimal floating point, bignums (which use whatever memory is necessary to store a number), fixed point, etc.

Computers aren’t bad at maths; it is just you can trick them into making themselves look bad.

Untitled Seascape
Jul 232022

A certain bunch of … let’s call them idiots to be relatively polite … have been spewing forth idiocy in the online comments of various places labelling the heatwave warnings as “scare-mongering”. Mentioning the summer of 1976 and saying we all coped.

The heatwave of 1976 although it went on for longer, didn’t get as hot (36C was nearly reached). That’s 4C below this year’s heatwave peak. And people died during that heatwave too – there was a 20% increase in “excess deaths”.

So no we didn’t cope in the 1976 heatwave; at least not those of us who died.

A lot of criticism was aimed at the Met Office for the heat warnings, and mainstream media channels for repeating the warnings so endlessly. “Oh! We see such temperatures every year on holiday” the numb-brained drawl. No, you don’t; at least not often.

And when you do, it’s when you’re sleeping in air-conditioned hotel rooms beside a pool, with plenty of shade around. You aren’t stuck in offices with no air-conditioning, even hotter work-places (such as kitchens), or outside in the sun (nailing tiles to a roof). You’re not sleeping in a bedroom with the choice of leaving the windows shut (and building up heat), or opening them to let hot air (and noise) in.

When experts issue warnings, it is wise to pay attention to them. Whilst I understand an instinctive distrust of authority (I share it), subject specialists should be trusted – not blindly but (for example) when the Met Office issues heat warnings, it isn’t just one expert thinking it. If you want to question an expert, get as much education as they’ve had.

In short :-

  1. That heatwave was dangerously high and justified the number of warnings issued.
  2. It isn’t natural and was made more severe by climate change.
  3. Being that guy who claims that we’re all snowflakes for being concerned about it just shows that you’re an idiot.
Two Posts in the Sea