28 March, 2012


Batman and the evil witch

(Dream from 27/3/12)

I was working for a bland company doing something vague.

One day, everyone from my office was sent to a martial arts class on the other side of the city of alleyways we lived and worked in.  The dojo was in a little square and opposite was a house.

From the house, we heard strange noises.  The martial arts teacher and the rest of us looked through the window to see ...

(the back-story just arrived in my head at this point - years ago an evil and very powerful witch was hanged, but one of her followers stored her soul in a lump of play-dough)

... someone putting a play-dough hat on a cat.  The cat grew and turned into a woman - the most powerful and evil witch in the world!

She saw us, so we all ran back through the alleyways to our office.  The martial arts instructor came, too.

We had a sort of war council going.  Nobody was likely to believe us and we were sure the witch would want to get rid of witnesses, so we decided we were responsible for saving the world.  Except we were useless.  At this point, big birds in huge flocks started flying around the office block.  I mean really huge birds.  Pigeons as big as a man.  

The martial arts instructor, an elderly and pleasant guy, announced that he was actually Batman although he retired a long time ago.  We all cheered, because, well, BATMAN! We had Batman on our side!

Then he pointed to me and said "And he was Robin!"  I wasn't Robin.  Ever.  Turns out he was just a confused old man that had wandered into the dojo as we arrived.


Buy me a dreamcatcher!

I want to write about my dreams. Just to be clear: I don't think they predict anything, mean much that's useful or represent some alternative mode of consciousness. They've just been AWESOME lately.

This post is about the dream from two nights ago. It began with me trying to rinse my face in my bathroom basin. This was awkward because the bathroom cabinet was floating over it. Where the shadow of the cabinet fell on the basin, it left dirty black marks. This washed away leaving a message I can't quite remember. The water turned black.

A colleague of mine had stuffed a towel down the loo, too. I won't name him.

 I was in a rush because I needed to get on an aeroplane to Hong Kong and be back before my lecture in our new Faculty building.

 When I got to the lecture, Alexei Sayle was in charge of progressing the slides. The slides were painted on large glass sheets. Alexei smashed each one as it was finished with, to reveal the one behind. Just smashed them angrily with his fist. The room was like a sports hall and L shaped. People wandered through and I had to shout over the experimental jazz being played over the PA system and the people that kept singing as they walked through the middle of the class. At one point, I climbed on to a concrete art installation to try and get the attention of the class, who were scattered all around the huge room.

In spite of all of this, I was having a lot of fun.

24 February, 2012


Tabbing through fields in wanderlust

I sometimes automatically press TAB, expecting to move from the To: field to the right place on the next line (the subject: field) to start typing.  Or from there a few lines down to where my e-mail should start.  The problem is, I have TAB bound to yas/expand, which falls back to the function wl-draft-mode usually has bound to tab for other completion and possibly even inserting a tab.  I think I've written the least intrusive bit of code to sit between these two and do what I want when TAB is pressed on the field lines.

 '(lambda ()
    ;; Key bindings
    (setq yas/fallback-behavior
          '(apply jks-draft-magic-tab))


;This function came from: http://snarfed.org/emacs_lisp_for_flowed_text_email
(defun starts-with (string prefix)
  (and (>= (length string) (length prefix))
       (equal prefix (substring string 0 (length prefix)))))

(defun jks-draft-magic-tab (&optional start-pos)
  "Try do something sensible in wl-draft-mode under various
circumstances when tab is pressed"
  (let* ((orig (thing-at-point 'line))
         (typed (downcase orig)))

    (cond ((or (starts-with typed "to:") (starts-with typed "cc:") (starts-with typed "bcc:"))
           (search-forward "ect: ")) 
          ((starts-with typed "subject:")
           (search-forward "--text follows this line--\n"))
          (t (wl-complete-field-body-or-tab))))


01 November, 2011


Capturing links and tasks from a browser using Emacs/Org

20 March, 2011


Sunday playlist

flashvars="hostname=cowbell.grooveshark.com&playlistID=50637854&style=metal&p=0" allowScriptAccess="always" wmode="window" />

22 August, 2010


Prayer in school

I recently read The Slow, Whiny Death of British Christianity byJohann Hari. There are a lot of issues discussed briefly in thearticle, but the one that really shocked me was the legal requirementfor prayer in schools.

A few searches later and this is what I find: School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (c. 31)

The key section is this one:

  • 70. Requirements relating to collective worship
    1. Subject to section 71, each pupil in attendance at acommunity, foundation or voluntary school shall on each schoolday take part in an act of collective worship.
    2. Subject to section 71, in relation to any community,foundation or voluntary school
      • the local education authority and the governing bodyshall exercise their functions with a view to securing,and
      • the head teacher shall secure,that subsection (1) is complied with.
    3. Schedule 20 makes further provision with respect to thecollective worship required by this section, includingprovision relating to-
      • the arrangements which are to be made in connection withsuch worship, and
      • the nature of such worship.

Section 71 goes on to explain that to be exempt from collectiveworship, the parents of a child have to request that it happens.

This seems ridiculous. I personally feel that this is an assault onchildren - young impressionable minds being systematically given, asfact, a bunch of fairy tales by the most authoritative adults thechild has met yet. Is it any wonder they grow up playing the lottery,allowing money to be wasted on homoeopathy (Homeopathy remains on NHS)and taking advice from the likes of Mystic Meg?

It's not that clear-cut for everyone, though.

A colleague told me about Faith School Menace? (watch it on 4OD quickbefore it's gone), a program on More4 last week in which RichardDawkins presents his arguments against faith schools. This is aslightly different subject, but there was a sentiment that came upmore than once in the programme and has come up while I've beendiscussing this topic with my family. It goes something like this: ifkids don't get to experience faith, how will they make a balancedjudgement when they grow up?

And this is where I hit a barrier. I can't understand the idea thatpeople should be allowed to "choose to believe" at the expense oftheir ability to tell truth from fiction.

So I can only think about religion - not faith. I don't really knowwhat people mean by "faith". They can't mean what I think it means,because surely they'd want to get rid of it.

If there is a god, it's possibly reasonable behaviour to worship him.If you look at the world and it seems to point to the existence of agod, well OK. I don't see it myself, but go ahead and pray. Theimportant thing is that you made a decision based on the evidence youhad.

The problem is that someone who has been brought up being told,regularly, that there is a god has a big disadvantage when it comes totheir own personal calculation on the probability of the existence ofa supreme being. The mind that is doing the analysis has beenconditioned to at least consider the magical hypothesis.

This, I think, is why so many atheists need proof of the non-existenceof god - discrepancies between the bible and real evidence, forexample. Most people have some kind of religion as default and ittakes some energy to get out of it.

And we can't pretend that we're a devoutly Christian country in,either. Here's some data from an Ipsos MORI poll in 2007. Thequestion asked "If you had to choose just one of the statements whichone best matches your view?"

Scientific and other evidence provides the best way to understand the universe62
Religious beliefs are needed for a complete understanding of the universe22
Neither of these10
Don't Know6

So, most of the country pick science over religion for explaining theworld. And from the same survey, 42% of people think the governmentpays too much attention to religious groups and leaders.

Only 38% of Britons believe in God yet nearly every child is supposedto be told that they should.

I'm just thankful that schools aren't dong too well at meeting the requirement. From an Ofsted secondry schol report 2002/3

  • "138: Governing bodies are effective in fulfilling theirresponsibilities in two thirds of schools. This is reflected intheir contribution to shaping the direction of the school andtheir understanding of its strengths and weaknesses. A third ofgoverning bodies do not fulfil their statutory duties adequately,sometimes because of a failure to pursue thoroughly enough suchmatters as arranging a daily act of collective worship."
  • "141: Compliance with statutory requirements relating to thecurriculum has improved, but in over two fifths of schools thisremains unsatisfactory. Examples of non-compliance include failureto implement parts of the National Curriculum programmes of study,or provide religious education for all pupils. Four fifths ofschools do not hold a daily act of collective worship for allpupils."

So we have a rule that says we should tell kids something most of usdon't believe and don't believe is useful and we don't actually obeythe rule anyway.

Maye we should fix that?

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21 July, 2010


People aren't that mean after all

The "pay what you want" scheme sells well, but with low average price. Fixed price with charity donation has little effect. But "pay what you like" with 50% going to charity works really well: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2010/07/15/caring-with-cash-or-how-radiohead-could-have-made-more-money/

19 July, 2010


New org-mode first impression

OK, I've got my pop-up org-remember, oops, org-capture working again. I'm also using the new feature that allows me to drop items into a table. This is just perfect. I use an org file containing a table of numbered files in my cabinet. Combine that with a couple of local evals in the header that deals with magically incremental numbering and I'm a filing ninja.

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New org! Remember mode out, org-capture in.

Yup. New org. Babel is integrated, org-capture replaces remember. It can show symbols in-line nicely. Happy day!

See here. And don't forget to use org-track to make it all nice and easy.

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