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Nov 292017
 

According to some trustworthy sources, Donald Trump has been caught out re-tweeting three far-right videos by those well known reprobates that make up Britain First. This either makes Trump an imbecile or a member of the far-right; quite possibly both.

For those who don’t know, Britain First is one of those vile groups that shows up on Facebook from time-to-time usually re-posted by a contact who should (at this point) know better. They were well known for producing posts that on the surface seem reasonable until you look closer; until you got to know that Britain First is a bunch of fascists.

So it’s time that the US realised that Trump is an embarrassment and kicked him to the curb.

Nov 262017
 

Just seen something daft on the idiot-box (also known as “television”) where a character claims to not be an atheist because she believes in good and evil.

Which is weird if you think about it. We atheists pride ourselves on paying attention to the evidence, and there is plenty of evidence for the existence of good and evil deeds. What there is not evidence for is the existence of some cartoonish personification of good and evil; those characters sometimes called “god” and “the devil”.

It isn’t necessary for good and evil deeds to require some mysterious actor who lives in the clouds; people are quite capable of both good and evil deeds without help.

Evil deeds are carried out by broken people, and personifying evil as a mysterious actor is a way of absolving us from finding the broken people and fixing them.

Light’s Shadow

Nov 252017
 

The last few weeks has seen an explosion in the number of sexual abuse scandals amongst US politicians, and a somewhat bizarre difference in how the two parties treat them. The most serious accusations have been made about a US politician called Roy Moore, a particularly loathsome piece of work (even before the accusations) who is accused of molesting teenagers. Of course he has denied the charges, claiming amongst other things that he has never dated any girls without the permission of the mother (as if that makes a difference).

Now some Republican politicians have reacted appropriately and suggested that Moore should withdraw, but far too many have continued to support him arguing that either the accusers are making it up, or that it doesn’t matter – a child molester is preferable to a Democrat. Donald Trump (himself probably guilty of sexual harassment) has come down in favour of Roy Moore, in effect agreeing with both positions.

Many evangelical religious leaders have also come down in favour of Roy Moore; you might think that religious leaders might demonstrate some level of moral leadership but in this case those who support Roy Moore show they are not entitled to claim any sort of moral leadership.

Other Republicans have pointed to disgraced Democrats who have recently been exposed as guilty of sexual harassment as if that is comparable with child molestation. There are two very clear distinctions; firstly the Democrats have generally resigned their position, have lacked support from within their own party, and lastly whilst sexual harassment is inexcusable, it is hardly comparable to child molestation.

To abuse an analogy, sexual harassment is comparable to holding up a service station with a toy pistol whereas child molestation is a full-on bank robbery where the robbers shoot the security guard dead just for trying to do her job.

It appears from this distance that a sizeable proportion of the Republican party is comprised of self-entitled arseholes who can do no wrong providing they support policies that support the ultra-rich; led by the buffoon Trump.

Nov 252017
 

The scariest predictions of robotics and artificial intelligence reveals a desolate future where almost everyone is unemployed because machines can do it better and faster than people. That will not happen simply because the economy would break down if that were the case – if people are unemployed they are too poor to be efficient consumers.

Of course the most rabid Tories will try to cling to the outdated economic model of capitalism beyond the point of sanity so they will try to bring a great deal of pain.

To give you a flavour of what Artificial Intelligence might bring, they are talking about machines replacing lawyers, solicitors, and barristers; which is not all bad. Legal fees are high enough that most people cannot bring civil suits beyond a point where only the simplest decisions can be made. Imagine a future where a civil suit can be automatically handled by machines battling it out at all levels from the County Court all the say up to the European Court in minutes and at a cost that almost anyone can access.

Of course if you work in the legal system, you might well disagree!

The most obvious way of dealing with a future where nearly everyone is ‘unemployed’ but still needs to be an efficient consumer is to use the basic income idea where everyone gets a reasonable income. The most immediate reaction to this is of course the belief that it is too expensive. Except that some basic maths shows that it is possible: the UK population today is around 65 million, and the UK economy is worth £2 trillion; a simple division shows that we could give everyone £30,000 per year.

Of course that would mean a few less amenities – the NHS, defence spending, etc. So in reality the basic income would be a great deal lower than this, but it is broadly feasible given some rather radical changes.

Does everyone deserve a basic income like this? No, of course not. But this is not about what the worst people in our society deserve, but making sure they function as efficient consumers. And as a bonus, by ensuring everyone has a basic income, you can be sure that nobody slips through the net.

This does not mean the end of jobs and industry, but it will radically change it. Imagine for instance that you do not get a salary, but a share of the profits – instantly the cost of labour is removed allowing a company to compete with low labour cost countries. But if that share is too low, people are likely to sit at home.

And of course work will have to be made worthwhile without (or at least minimising) the annoyances we find at work today. Get in the way of what people work to do, and they will disappear in the direction of somewhere else.

Essentially this is almost returning to pure capitalism – companies are free to get rid of workers at whim, and workers are free to leave at any time. That has always been one of the biggest problems with capitalism – workers are not free to leave work with many things keeping them at a potentially abusive work-place.

Those with more than half a brain will realise that housing costs are a big issue here; and a solution needs to be found or all of the above will only apply to those who get their housing costs for free (i.e. almost nobody). Any potential solution comes in two halves – what to do about those with mortgages and what to do with those who rent.

In the former case, the government can simply pick up mortgage payments when the house ‘owner’ cannot afford them. In return, the government gets a proportionate share of the freehold, so when the house is sold, they get their share back.

For those who rent, the government can also pick up the rent payments for those who cannot afford those payment and can decide what a reasonable rent is. Plus no landlord can kick out a resident for non-payment.

The Bench

Nov 022017
 

Autocorrect can be annoying when it happens to you, or amusing if it happens to someone else. But one thing that appears when you look at amusing autocorrects on the Internet is that you often find someone saying “it’s the phone” or “the phone is doing it”.

No it isn’t. It’s your fault.

Way back in the mists of time when we didn’t have smartphones and keyboards were big clunky mechanical things (some of us still use them), one of the first bits of IT security advice I ever gave was to read though the emails you are about to send. Whatever means you use to compose a message, there are chances of making a mistake. So what you get in the message you composed may not be what you intended to write.

As a bonus, you get a second chance to review your message to check for “thinkos” (like typos but where your brain comes out with something you didn’t intend).

If you choose to send messages (of whatever kind) without checking they say what you intended, you are responsible for the mistakes.

The Bench

Oct 092017
 

Those of you with sharp eyes may have spotted a new page linked to on the right-hand side (assuming I have not re-designed the site to look different to how it is today of course) – The Premium Gallery. This is a quick way of looking at some of the images that have been selected from my catalogue by Getty Images and Alamy for commercial sale. As of today, I have 240 images uploaded to EyeEm, 198 on the standard EyeEm market-place, and 47 selected for the “premium” collection. The gallery linked to contains around 35 images, so some are missing; this is merely laziness on my part.

Although I intend to update this gallery from time to time, it isn’t intended as an exact representation of what is available; it is more a test of the gallery function available with “Envira Gallery” (a WordPress extension) which I may make more use of.

Contemplating The Sea

Sep 202017
 

By default, the Awesome window manager sets up 9 tags and uses a rather clever method for setting keyboard shortcuts for those tags.

And that is also one of the irritations of using Awesome because I have gotten into the habit of using more virtual screens (“tags”) than this. After a dumb way of increasing the number, I have come up with a rather improved method that can be used to replace the existing method in the Awesome rc.lua file :-

local taglist = { "1", "2", "3", "4", "5", "6", "7", "8", "9", "0", "-", "=" }
-- The list of tags that I use.
…
 awful.tag( taglist, s, awful.layout.layouts[1])
…
for i = 1, #taglist do
  globalkeys = awful.util.table.join(globalkeys,
    awful.key({ modkey}, taglist[i],
                  function ()
                        local screen = awful.screen.focused()
                        local tag = screen.tags[i]
                        if tag then
                           tag:view_only()
                        end
                  end,
                  {description = "view tag", group = "tag"}),
        awful.key({ modkey, "Control" }, taglist[i],
                  function ()
                      local screen = awful.screen.focused()
                      local tag = screen.tags[i]
                      if tag then
                         awful.tag.viewtoggle(tag)
                      end
                  end,
                  {description = "toggle tag", group = "tag"}),
        awful.key({ modkey, "Shift" }, taglist[i],
                  function ()
                      if client.focus then
                          local tag = client.focus.screen.tags[i]
                          if tag then
                              client.focus:move_to_tag(tag)
                          end
                     end
                  end,
                  {description = "move focused client to tag", group = "tag"}),
        awful.key({ modkey, "Control", "Shift" }, taglist[i],
                  function ()
                      if client.focus then
                          local tag = client.focus.screen.tags[i]
                          if tag then
                              client.focus:toggle_tag(tag)
                          end
                      end
                  end,
                  {description = "toggle focused client on tag", group = "tag"})
    )
end

That’s three different parts of the code to change – a list of tags to use at the top of the file, a replacement somewhere in the middle, and a large chunk replacing existing code at the end of the keyboard configuration. I don’t claim this is better than the standard way, but it is handy for me.

The Window

Sep 162017
 

As with yesterday’s Brighton pictures, some accumulated images of Southsea that have not been processed before …

#1: Spring Sailing

Spring Sailing

#2: Rusty Anchor In The Sky

Rusty Anchor In The Sky

#3: Light’s Shadow

(Apologies for the pun)

Light’s Shadow

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