Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mr Eugenides speaks...

... in his usual inimitable style over at Think Scotland.
It’s a classic wedge tactic, designed to inveigle the state into yet another area of our life where it has no goddamned business being, in the full knowledge that once there it will be all but impossible to dislodge, like one of those little fish in the Amazon that swim into your cock and then deploy barbs to prevent you winkling it out. That’s what Andy Burnham is like. He’s like a Brazilian cock-fish.

Nice to see the Angry Baby parlaying off one of my favourite Kitchen tags: candiru fish craziness...

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's an odd world, isn't it?

I would never, for instance, have expected to read the following headline:
Anti-gay activist lawyer guilty of child pornography after videotaping daughter

But it gets worse...
A New Hampshire lawyer who works with a virulently anti-gay Christian-right organization has been found guilty of child pornography charges after videotaping her own daughter having sex with two men on multiple occasions.

Lisa Biron, 43, of Manchester faces a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison after a jury convicted her yesterday. The jury deliberated for less than an hour.

Biron, arrested by the FBI last November, was accused of eight felony counts involving the videotaping of men having sex with a 14-year-old girl who was identified by the Associated Press as her daughter. She also allegedly made a cellphone video of herself having sex with her daughter.

Consider my mind boggled.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Techie interlude

For those readers who are of a technical bent, your humble Devil also writes about such issues over at The Devil's Repose, and I'd like to highlight a couple of articles that might be of interest.

The first, from a few months ago, is about dealing with designers, customer feedback and measuring effectiveness.

The second ties together a few comments on proposals for being able to serve optimised web resources by using bandwidth media queries.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible...

UPDATE: I am currently looking for two Web Designers / Front-end Developers to join my team. If anyone is interested, they might find my article about cultural fit entertaining...

The Administration does not support blowing up planets

Via Daring Fireball, I rather enjoyed the official White House response to a petition demanding that the US government build a Death Star.
The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn't on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:
  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets. [*]
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

Controversionally, the entire response rather suggests that not only do White House staffers have a sense of humour but, crucially, the Administration lets them demonstrate it in public.

Wouldn't it be nice if all politicians and companies issued such informative and yet fundamentally light-hearted pronouncements...?

* Only a cynic would opine at this point that, whilst planets might be beyond the ambitions of the US government, other countries are not.
Were someone to do that, of course, they would also need to concede that our own Parliamentarians are also not averse to bombing the shit out of foreigners.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Steve Baker talks more sense

When I first adopted Steve Baker MP as my blog mascot, I knew that he was a pretty sound chap. The more I hear him speak—whether in person or in the media—the more sound he seems to get.

Via Samizdata, here's an interview with Steve in which he pretty much articulates everything that I have been talking about for the last few years.



Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Designing software

Ian "Hixie" Hickson, editor of the HTML "Living Standard"* at WHATWG, is one of the most influential people on the web today. HTML5 Doctor has a very interesting interview with him, but I wanted to highlight one passage in particular.

In my day job, I usually describe myself as a web software designer. Trying to describe what that means is usually a little tricky: there are, of course, aspects of User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX)** design in there; I also bring in some Information Architecture, a degree of HTML and CSS mastery (though, alas, my Javascript is pretty basic) and a great deal of market knowledge.

However, there is one passage from Hixie's interview—in a context not entirely unrelated—which pretty much sums up the nitty-gritty of what I do.
Often when people send feedback (not just authors, pretty much anyone who hasn’t been in the process for a long time starts this way) they send feedback along the lines of “I want to add feature X” or “I want feature X to be extended in manner Y”. But when we drill down, ask them “what problem are you trying to solve”, or “what’s your use case” (same question but phrased differently), we often find that either (a) they actually don’t have a real problem, they just thought that it would be a good idea, or (b) their solution wouldn’t actually solve their problem. Often we’re able to come up with much simpler solutions (or point to already-existing solutions), which is quite satisfying.

Like Hixie, I am working within an existing framework—our Enterprise Content Management Framework—and, when a customer requires some new piece of functionality, I need to take into account what others have fed back and how to best solve their problem within our existing framework.

Luckily, we designed and developed the framework fairly recently—and in response to existing customer requirements—so often we can point the customer to an existing function that solves their issue.

However, when that isn't the case, I never rely on our salesmen or, indeed, the customer's own specification. Whenever faced with a development request, my first question is "what is the driver", i.e. what is the problem that they are trying to solve.

Being able to solve those problems in the most elegant way is what gives me the most pleasure in my job.


* Otherwise known as HTML5.

** There's a school of thought that maintains that there is no difference between the two; indeed, many hold the opinion that any way in which customers interact with your company or its products is, in fact, UX.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Amusing name...

Your humble Devil is busy doing another amateur play, this time in Twickenham.

As such, I have walked past this place a number of times, but it was only today that I noticed the hilarious juxtaposition of name and profession...

The Tory media doesn't understand UKIP

I blame Dan Hannan.

No, really.

I am sure that it was he who started this meme that the Tories should do a deal with UKIP. If it wasn't, he certainly publicised it.

And whilst said meme is not being followed by everyone, the thought seems to be entering the tiny wee brains of many Tory commentators.

And even if they are not actively contemplating a pact, there seems to be a large increase—no doubt boosted by UKIP's ever-growing poll ratings and recent by-election successes—in articles by Tories advising Cameron to at least stop dismissing UKIP as a bunch of "fruitcakes, loonies, and closet racists" (always an unwise phrase for Cameron to use, given the make-up of much of his own party).

Today, both Iain Dale and Paul Goodman have articles whose theme could be very well be adapted by Noel Coward (were he alive) into a little ditty called Don't Let's Be Beastly To The UKIP.

Urging Cameron to stop insulting UKIPpers and, instead, to "hug them close", Iain Dale lays out the basic thrust of the message:
It’s no good developing a strategy for dealing with UKIP after June 2014. It needs to start now. And being nice to UKIP might just be a start.

Paul Goodman, meanwhile, illustrates why "being nice to UKIP" is about the only start that the Tories are likely to get. After all, if one is going to have any chance of beating one's enemy, one must understand him—and Goodman doesn't seem to understand the nuances of UKIP's strategy.

First, like all journalists, he seems to think—just because Nigel Farage is the most visible UKIP spokesman—that the party leadership is Nigel Farage. It isn't.
Surveys by YouGov and Lord Ashcroft have separately established that the EU is not the top issue for Mr Farage’s voters (which is why he has astutely sought to abandon the party’s longer title and pound-symbol badge).

Back in the mists of time, when I was first a member of the party, in 2005 (I think), I had fairly constant contact with the leadership of UKIP. Not just with Nigel and the other MEPs, but I also used to hang out with the researchers and strategists who work in the background.

Dropping the pound logo and the party's longer title were discussed at around this time, so that a new image might be formed in order to support the party's emerging strategy of creating a broader, country-wide manifesto.

As it happens, it was decided that the time was not right for any kind of formal change, although the party has been known as UKIP for some time.

However, this broader manifesto was urged forward—and its thematic principles largely devised by—a group of people who were, broadly speaking, libertarian-leaning and, in many cases, bloggers. Regular readers might remember such characters as England Expects, Trixy and Vindico; Timmy, of course, is still around (and even I played a small part).

What does this have to do with Goodman's article?

The point is that there are some clever strategists in UKIP—people who are driven by principle and theory, but this group is also bolstered by people who have some idea of political strategy.

Most people cite "immigration" as one of UKIP's main bug-bears, but they fail to understand the nuances of this area—as Goodman so ably demonstrates here... [Emphasis mine.]
The Prime Minister’s best chance of squeezing Mr Farage’s support is thus to avoid being drawn too deep into the EU quagmire and keep hold of the strategic high ground – in other words, to deliver policy success. This entails George Osborne reducing the structural deficit further, Michael Gove pressing on with his schools revolution, Theresa May reducing immigration to the tens of thousands and Iain Duncan Smith introducing the universal credit and bearing down on welfare fraud and error – plus much of the programme of further reform that Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg will outline tomorrow.

It is in that highlighted section that Goodman makes a classic mistake (there are others in the article, but this one will serve amply to illustrate my point): it shows is that Goodman has not understood the UKIP strategy here and, in fact, this suggestion risks alienating UKIP voters further. Let me explain...

The UKIP leadership and strategists have, for some years, been pushing the "Anglosphere" and "our own kith and kin in the Commonwealth" as part of the trade solution on Britain removing itself from the EU.



As a result, UKIPpers tend to be well-disposed towards such nations, and their people. And the older UKIPpers (particularly, but not exclusively) revile Ted Heath for selling the Commonwealth down the river when we joined the EU.

And it is for this reason that UKIP's main focus when talking about immigration has been heavily weighted against unfettered EU immigration. And since Cameron and his merry band cannot reduce EU immigration (indeed, we are facing a new wave from Eastern Europe this year), the Conservatives cannot win this point.

As such, it doesn't matter whether Theresa May reduces immigration from outside the EU to one man and his gerbil—it will not make the blindest bit of difference to most UKIP voters.

Except, of course, in that allowing immigrants from Bulgaria but increasingly turning away, as Nigel put it, "our own kith and kin" from the Anglosphere and Commonwealth countries, she will further alienate UKIPpers.

I believe that it simply hasn't occurred to the Tories that UKIP's rallying cries might have some subtleties to them. And, largely, I lay the fault for this blindness at David Cameron's door.

After all, if the Conservative leader designates an entire party as "fruitcakes, loonies, and closet racists" then it is hardly suprsing that his planners should write off UKIP's strategists as simplistic and guileless.

Which is why I think that the Tories might be in for a shock.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Rehabilitation

No, not for your humble Devil, I'm afraid, but for his blog mascot—the excellent Steve Baker MP.
I recently took the Centre for Social Justice Inner City Challenge, spending three days in drug and alcohol rehabilitation with ex-offenders at Acorn Treatment.
You can read Steve's article about the experience; but the really interesting thing is the documentary made by Bad Kamra.

It's an hour long, but features the stories of people who got addicted to drugs and became criminals on the back of it. Many of them had had horrific childhoods—is anyone surprised when someone states that they were sexually abused whilst in "Care" these days?—and many of them had been in prison for decades (whether consistently, or on and off).

Inevitably, many of them had become crack or heroin addicts whilst in prison—where, apparently, anything drug-wise is easily available (another state failure).

The point is that the approach taken by Acorn appears to be very successful—counsellors are former drug-addicts and criminals, support is provided as a package and over time. Critically, though, the offenders are treated as individuals—not as statistics or a lumped together group—which proves, to my libertarian mind, that it is the individual approach to support that is important.

How many fewer people might become offenders in the first place if society's solution to their problems was to help individuals, rather than salving their consciences' through their tax payments to an uncaring state?

Anyway, Acorn seem to be doing good work and I highly recommend watching the documentary.

And I would like to sent a "well done" to Steve Baker for undertaking the challenge.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Hypocrites

This is the advert that I saw to the right of my last blog post. Obviously, I have no problem with it, per se.

However, this advert is served by Google.

The same Google that shut off my Google Ads revenue in 2006 because I wasn't "family-friendly enough".

I shan't deign to pass comment...

Two different approaches

Timmy reports that those who are above the Body Mass Index (BMI) that our sanctimonious medical profession deem optimum are, in fact, rather more likely to live longer than the stick insects that the scum of the public health fascists would have us emulate.
This isn’t new nor a surprise. But it does show the problem we’ve got with the BMI measure:
Dr Katherine Flegal, of the National Centre for Health Statistics in the United States, found that people who are overweight had a six per cent lower risk of death than normal weight people.

The risk for those with a BMI (body mass index) of between 30 and 35 fell by five per cent. But those grossly obese with a BMI above 35 were 29 per cent more likely to die than slim people of the same age.

Let us assume, for moment, that the aim of all of this is indeed to enable us all to live long and enjoyable lives (as opposed to the Puritans getting to impose their idea of the good life on us).

Logically we should change the advice we give people. We should be aiming for a BMI of 30-35, not the 25 we are currently told to aim for.

That this has long been known and yet the advice hasn’t been changed rather leads to the idea that it is all about the Puritans really….

Now, most of us possessing a single ounce of common sense know that the BMI is a big load of arse-wibble (at 11 stone, I am malnourished apparently. I'm sure the wife would disagree).

However, it is Chris Snowdon who points out that presentation is everything. For whilst Timmy points to the Telegraph, Chris contrasts an impartial view with the BBC's reportage...
There are two ways to report news that divides opinion. The first is to report what has happened and then include comments from those who have a view on it, including critics. The second is to lead off with disparaging comments from the critics so that the news itself becomes incidental. This latter approach amounts to poisoning the well and is mainly favoured by propagandists and media outlets which have a blatant editorial bias.

And with that in mind...
'Weight is healthy' study criticised

A study which suggests being overweight can lead to a longer life has caused controversy among obesity experts.

One labelled the findings a "pile of rubbish" while another said it was a "horrific message" to put out.

As Chris says, "Boom"!

I thoroughly recommend that you wander over to Serious Researcher Snowdon's place for a thorough filleting of our impartial broadcaster's take on this rather obvious science.

Needless to say, the... [cough]... scientists of the Beeb's journalistic arm are perplexed—and merely compliant with what their political masters would want them to report.

Remind me again: why is it that I can go to prison for refusing to pay these bastards...?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Cutting off your nose...

... to spite your face is an expression that could neatly be applied to Jo Brand's reason for not appearing on Mock The Week anymore.
In 2009 Jo Brand said that she had stopped appearing on the programme due to the lack of women on its panels...
Hmmm.

Gloria del Pierro tries to find out why people hate politicians

This bit of fatuity was highlighted to me by Tim Worstall...
I can explain this #whydopeoplehateme
MP tries to find out why voters hate politicians

Because you’re ignorant fuckwits who steal all our money.

Next question?

Quite apart from anything else, you'd think that Gloria De Piero (for it is she)—being a "working class, free-school-meal girl from Bradford"—would know already why people hate politicians.

It's because everyone assumes that they are thieves: the expenses scandal simply proved it.

It's because everyone assumes that they are liars: MPs prove it when they open their mouths.

And it's because they steal our hard-earned money and funnel it to people who they think will get them elected again.
De Piero has written a short report on her trip for the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, partly in the hope of encouraging a rethink about how parties reach out to find new candidates, and she is talking to two unions about how to use their vast member networks to get more regular contact with MPs – starting, again, in her own constituency, with a beer and sandwich evening.

"I meet people every week and I think 'you're amazing, why shouldn't you be on the council or doing my job?' When I see a parliament that looks like Britain – it means shop workers, it means police officers, it means GPs and small-business people too – that's what a democracy is."

No, no, Gloria: because, you see, when these people are in Parliament they are no longer doing useful jobs—like being shop workers, police officers*, GPs** and small-business people.

They have ceased to be productive, useful members of society and, instead, have become parasites: leaching off their former colleagues, comrades and competitors.
Each meeting started with her asking the group to list the words they associated with politician. The results were not kind: them and us, the old man, upper class, completely different, liars, selfish, self-seeking, privileged and arrogant, spiv, jargon talkers, people who did not live in the real world. When she asked whom the politicians worked for, the reply was "themselves".

You see? The people of Britain aren't completely stupid—they know a charlatan when they see one.

What these bastions of the great British public are not sharp enough to grasp, of course, is that everyone works for themselves—it is simply human nature.

As such, we should ensure that politicians should have as little power as possible—it will then matter far less who they actually work for.

And the shop workers, police officers*, GPs** and small-business people can get on with doing decent, productive work and keeping the fruits of that work.

* I include the police only because it is used in the article. They are as corrupt and politicised as the politicians: a decent police force, however, might actually be useful.

** GPs would be useful is they just shut up and got on with fixing people, rather than trying to tell them how they should live their lives. Which might happen if we abolished the NHS and opened GPs up to competition.

This is what it's all about...

Shown to me by the wife, this excellent post really sums up the difference between the individualists and the socialists.
The gun control debate, like all debates with the left, is reducible to the question of whether we are individuals who make our own decisions or a great squishy social mass that helplessly responds to stimuli. Do people kill with guns or does the availability of guns kill people? Do bad eating habits kill people or does the availability of junk food kill people?

To the left these are distinctions without a difference. If a thing is available then it is the cause of the problem. The individual cannot be held accountable for shooting someone if there are guns for sale. Individuals have no role to play because they are not moral actors, only members of a mob responding to stimuli.

You wouldn't blame a dog for overeating; you blame the owners for overfeeding him. Nor do you blame a dog for biting a neighbor. You might punish him, but the punishment is training, not a recognition of authentic responsibility on the part of the canine. And the way that you think of a dog, is the way that the left thinks of you. When you misbehave, the left looks around for your owner.

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem.

Individual behavior is a symptom of a social problem. Identify the social problem and you fix the behavior. The individual is nothing, the crowd is everything. Control the mass and you control the individual.
Do go and read the whole thing...

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