Wilkommen, Bienvenu, Welcome... Sziasztok!

Welcome to The Lotus Position, an intermittent collection of extempore navel gazings, ponderings, whinges, whines, pontifications and diatribes.

Everything is based on a Sample of One: these are my views, my experiences... caveat lector... read the Disclaimer

The Budapest Office - Castro Bisztro, Madach ter

The Budapest Office - Castro Bisztro, Madach ter
Ponder, Scribble, Ponder (Photo Erdotahi Aron)

Guest Nutter/Kindred Soul: Bill Bailey

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Thursday, 29 November 2007

Shall I Give Thee An Order-of-Magnitude Estimation?

IT - the book.

What's it like to write IT?

It's like trying to write 4 or more sonnets a day - day in, day out, week in, week out, etcetera etcetera etcetera. [the additional complications of inter and intra-sonnet connectivity - I wonder whether anyone else has ever spoken of "intra-sonnet connectivity"? - wholistic integrity, etc. etc. etc. we shall temporarily ignore...]

Compared to which, writing a sonnet would be easy.

As would writing just a book.

But as someone once said "If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing badly."

We can but try.

Not Pat Garret but Chilly (a bit)

Just so you know, when I looked at the temperature gadget this morning (at what was not by any means an ungodly hour - 8:30 ish I suppose) it was -6C here in Budapest. That's quite cold - though possibly not quite as cold as the bus stop at Luton Airport in November.

Now it's only -1C, but though I may not be huddled over a candle in a creaky attic, struggling to hold the quill in my benumbed fingers in order to scratch out whatever words of wisdom the Muses may confide, it's not all wine and roses...

OK, there is mulled wine available now that winter's here but, allow me to list for you some of the trials and tribulations I must overcome each day.

Firstly, it gets a tad nippy here in the corner (see pic for precise location within Castro Bisztro). Apparently the wall behind me is a plasterboarded window and it can get a bit draughty through the hole they cut to the electrical socket, though whether its a mere sough or howling arctic gale does depend a bit on the wind direction it seems.

The whole temperature situation is exacerbated by the fact that the place is - as is common here - centrally heated, but not in the English sense of "central" to one's own place, central to the whole building... so it turns off when everyone goes to work, i.e. when I get to work.

And yesterday, someone must have mistaken Oil of Cloves for some couture perfume or aftershave and then over-egged the pudding. Ye gods! It made my eyes water. [Actually, now I think about it, it could have been the foralt bor (mulled wine) coming to the boil... whatever it was it was mighty powerful.]

And I have to periodically reset the cable modem and linux system that runs Castro's wifi . Yes Linux may be very attractive and easy to understand if you have the personality of Linoleum with Asperger's but trying to work out what it's up to actually makes me appreciate Windows. Sometimes I just sit in front of the screen, rocking and banging my head on the keyboard - but to be fair Windows has that effect too sometimes.

And my coffee gets too cold too quickly.

But, I keep at IT... it wouldn't be art without a bit of suffering, would it?

Always Scribble, Scribble, Scribble, eh?

Maybe I could ask for another lump of coal?

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Pieces of String

Just how long is a piece of string?

a) Twice as long as a piece of string half its length?
b) Just long enough to join its ends?
c) 10e-35 metres
d) As long as my current Mathematica calculation?
e) Shorter than when you last measured it

In the case of d), this calculation has now been running for 17h15m (that's 62,100 seconds), consuming on average about 50% of the power of my Core Duo T7200 processor (and only 400MB of memory), which clocks up about 11 billion instructions per second.

So... thus far the laptop has executed about 310 trillion (that's 310,000,000,000,000) instructions.

Now, for idle comparison - assume the engine of your car runs on average at say, 2,500 RPM while doing 70mph and that it lasts say 200,000 miles

By the time the engine wears out in 2857 driving hours it will have done 428 million revs. If the CPU lasted 428 million cycles it would have worn out in only 42 milliseconds, I would be getting through CPU's at the rate of about 24 per second and would already have got through 1.5 million of them.

Or, looking at it the other way, if your car was only as reliable as the CPU has been for the past 17h15m it would go about ten trillion miles, which is about half way to Alpha Centauri (though at 70mph it would take you about 39 million years)

That's LONG string.

BTW - all the above calculations are highly dubious: I've corrected them twice already. Can't rhyme, can't add. What to do?

Friday, 23 November 2007

Portrait of the Artist in Centillion Years

  ...Poof! My word it's dark!
Not a lot of stuff round here.
     I wonder why? Foop!...

A Short Course in Philosophy

Two well known philosophical limericks
A toper, who spies in the distance
Striped tigers, will get some assistance
From reading Descartes,
Who holds that it's part
Of his duty to doubt their existence.
But if he's a student of Berkeley,
One thing will emerge rather starkly:
That he ought to believe,
What his senses perceive,
No matter how dimly or darkly.
Some additions to complete the course courtesy of yours truly...
A Kantian might run away,
Or he might take a chance, and then stay
To see if it's real,
Or just an ideal,
And a noumenal blot on his day.
But if he heard Heidegger calling
And warning the toper was falling,
He'd know that his fear
Depends on how near,
He is to an authentic mauling.
A Taoist however, might say,
That if he partakes of the te,
What matters is knowing,
Just where he is going,
...the tiger is just in the Way.
And since his awareness is heightened
A Master of Zen isn't frightened -
Though he might give a kick,
If he hasn't a stick,
In the hope that the tiger's enlightened.
Though a Lockean might be more worried,
And beat a retreat rather hurried,
Having heard the effect,
To be had on his neck,
By something thus fanged and thus furried.
A Humean caught in this way,
Exploits naturalistic delay
While the Tiger's still caught
'Twixt the Is and the Ought,
His lunch can be getting away.
The poor toper besotted with meaning,
Unaware of the beast's natural leanings
Might be left by his friend
'Cos he can't comprehend
What he meant when he said he was leaving.
For the limerick writer, it's worse
If he's struggling with unfinished verse.
Should he stand wasting time,
While attempting to rhyme
The word "tiger", he'll leave in a hearse.
In general, the question is Being,
(The toper's, and that which he's seeing),
But I'm for eschewing,
The Being for Doing,
And eager to Be, so I'm fleeing.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Hoist with Zeno's Petard

[Metaphor Warning: this posting exists in a superposition of metaphorically analogous similes, or analogous metaphorical similes, or... and?]

So - Zeno's Petard? Well, he could have described a shock wave instead of an arrow... if he'd known about explosives... allow me to allow myself a little creative licence.

Anyway, a new problem has arisen, and the problem is that instead of preventing you from being hoist into the air (because the shock wave can never arrive) the Quantum Zeno Effect turns out to have a sting in its tail (though the venom may turn out to be its own antidote - as we shall see later).

Lawrence Krauss has just put up a rather large "Oops?" sign in his latest paper - where he raises the concern that whereas the universe was ticking along nicely, even if it was potentially in a metastable false vacuum, we may have just buggered it up by noticing the fact. All bets are off - our nice little temporarily stable universe may now be a teensy-weensy bit wobblier.

It's like this... The Quantum Zeno Effect tells us that for small t, the probability of decay is proportional to t squared and if we can't quite bring decay (radioactive, quality of TV programming, moral, etc.) to a complete halt, we can at least slow it down by Obsessive Observation (TM) [Tools: Geiger counter, The Ghost of Mary Whitehouse, and, er, The Ghost of Mary Whitehouse]

Normally decay processes are exponential. Example: a while back a Northern Rock share was worth £12, then it became £6, then £3 - anything that halves at regular intervals is undergoing exponential decay. (I can't bear to provide a link.)

But - and here's the fly in the quantum cosmic ointment - for large t, the decay becomes slow again (a Power Law) - meaning apparently that if the decay hasn't happened by then it's really not likely to decay at all.

But, I hear you cry, that's a good thing! It is indeed - if we are living in a wobbly universe. Or it was, until some idiot went and observed the universe before it has reached the transition point (actually I'm not sure that the timing was that important) from Exponential to Power Law because at that point his observation reset everything (trust a bloke to start fiddling with (qu)bits of fundamental existence) - and we are back on the slippery slope of Exponential decay again.

Oh dear, as I seem to find myself exclaiming more and more these days (as in, "Oh dear. Where are my slippers," or "Oh dear, I've snagged my nice new cardigan,", or even "Oh Dear!The Windows Vista Update - KB938797 if you want to know - that Microsoft recommended for my PC is not, in fact, valid for my PC", etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.)

It may not all end in tears, but (oops - didn't plan this one, honestly) it could all end in tears, rips, splits and general cosmic hyperactivity disorder as the false vacuum (have I explained that one yet? No? Ah.) collapses to a new all time low of vacuity (c.f. UK government data protection assurances (random but relevant link), Northern Rock share valuation, usw.) and Life the Universe and Everything goes "Poof!".

Now I'm in a bit of a quandary as to what to recommend. Live long and prosper but get overrun in the end, or accept that everyone dies young (good or bad - remember to tell the kids "Only the good die young" at the same time you tell them Santa keeps a list of Naughty and Nice) cosmologically speaking.

However, getting back in the saddle of my tame French ovine, if we have indeed put an observational spanner in the cosmic works, we have the answer in hand: the Quantum Zeno Effect, the cause of the problem in the first place.

Whoever made that ill-advised observation of some remote supernova and noticed that the universe is accelerating "outwards" - thereby effecting the observation of a false vacuum - should be glued to his telescope and forced to keep watching... and his children... and his children's children... and his children's children's children (etcetera, etcetera, etcetera ad infinitum - if we want there to be one) to make sure that it doesn't decay. Seems fair to me.

However, two other considerations to take into account.

a) Death of Universe = No Invasion of the Boltzmann Brains (not a bad thing, IYAM)

and (more fundamentally)

b) How in the name of Dick Emery can one part of a quantum system "observe" another part of a quantum system in such a way as to affect the decay probability of the system as a whole?

Answer that if you can! Personally - Oh dear, I really should stop thinking about such things - I'm now more concerned about The Boltzmann Brains From Another Universe observing ours (universe that is) - that really could upset the cosmo-quantum apple-cart and dump several unattractively large flies in our collective soup (ah... you are wondering now, "Did he say ointment or soup earlier?"). The BBFAU may already have observed us - or done so long ago - and it's all over bar the shouting.

Or just perhaps, the plethora of BB's in the multiverse ensures that we are always observed, and thus safe for the foreseeable future.

What was that old Chinese curse? May you live in interesting times.

Here's hoping we live through these interesting times... personally I'm planning to stick around.

Watch me.

[PS A False Vacuum - one which talks about you behind your back]
[PPS If the Quantum Zeno Effect is both doom and salvation doesn't it just cancel itself out, or does it mean it's all kindofuncertain in a satisfyingly-quantum-sort-of-way? Over to you Nicey]

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

White Rabbit

It's all coming together now.

Remember the sage advice (if no else is going to blow my trumpet, I'll do it myself) on how to ensure that things are not in the last place you look?

Good. Now, have you read about the Quantum Zeno Effect? No? Consider it part of the required reading list.

What about the Stuff on Boltzmann Brains (I and II)? Really! Do you think I am doing all this for my benefit? Come back when you have...

OK... I can now reveal that I have

a) An explanation for things (previously) being in the last place you looked
b) A viable defence against the Invasion of the Boltzmann Brains (and one that doesn't involve destroying the whole universe, which is handy)
c) An explanation for the complete failure of my previous quantum teleportation experiment.

Choosing, at random, to begin with (c) ... once upon a time, I was sitting in the bath pondering the inconvenience of the "teleportation booths" in the film The Fly, i.e. how annoying it was that one had to pre-position a receiving booth in order to be able to travel somewhere. What if one wants to go to e.g. Alpha Centauri? With current technology it would take thousands of years to get the receiver in place, and I for one don't want to wait ("current technology" obviously now including quantum teleportation but excluding other Faster Than Light travel...)

Anyway, there I was, in the bath and I thought I'd try an experiment to see if there was a way around this problem - you can try it too, maybe you'll have better luck?
Sit in bath (water temperature irrelevant, but science doesn't have to be a pain in the arse, make yourself comfy)

Place a bar of soap/bottle of shampoo/rubber duck (I rather like the idea that the first macroscopic object to be teleported should be a rubber duck)/other convenient object in your outstretched left hand

Now, hold out out your right hand and observe very, very carefully... can you see the soap/shampoo/duck? No? Keep trying...
The idea was that since everything has a finite, but tiny probability of being everywhere else, if you looked often enough in a particular place you could raise that probability to as close to unity as you wanted.

No, I never succeeded either - I thought the problem was that I didn't know how to quantum mechanically observe a macroscopic object, but now I am beginning to suspect that the Quantum Zeno Paradox is a better explanation. Because I was looking in my right hand continuously, that was the one place the soap was never going to appear.

Which also possibly explains why things are always in the last place you look(ed)

But! Aha! Here comes the clever bit. So, we can't observe and teleport in this way. However, we can proceed by elimination. Wherever an object is, it is also actually spread out, so all we need to to is to exclude the destination from our observations i.e. observe absolutely everything else and so prevent the object from going there.

Believe it or not, this would actually work - but probably only for tiny things like photons at the moment - and we can teleport those anyway.

[Side note - however... I can see how one could apply the principles to create dynamic "photonic crystals", i.e with switched apertures... hope I got the right license type.. that could be worth something!]

On the other hand, it could turn out Quantum Mechanically to be the equivalent of not thinking about a White Rabbit.

No - not the one in The Matrix.

Or Harvey.

Or the Jefferson Airplane song.

Or The White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland

Any White Rabbit at all. (this link gives a helpful list of some major associations of White Rabbit to avoid)

Let me know when you haven't thought about one for a couple of minutes...

Oh - I nearly forgot. Boltzmann Brains: they appear from fluctuations in the vacuum - if you keep watching you can suppress them. So, if we all dedicate ourselves to observing the (increasingly) empty universe from now until eternity we can stave off the invasion... what would Camus have made of that?

Aaah! I think I've done my bit for the blogosphere today.

I think Algernon's a bit thick...

Not exactly a useful or interesting phrase, but why?
Algernon has thrust his head far out between the rungs of his chair-back (1873 R. Broughton Nancy I. 20)
Nope. No Idea.

Niblike and Spooky!

Georgina Mitcham's "Microsoft Technet Newsletter" of 7 Nov begins with the words:
I hope you are adjusting to the early dark evenings now.
Unfortuntately, those weren't the first words I read: thanks to the artful use of language and the formatting of a hyperlink, what I saw and read first - in complete isolation - was:
carve my spooky pumpkins
which, suffering as I do from a slightly dislocated brain, caused - and still causes - bewilderment and a strange anti-gravity eyebrow effect. Of course, if you followed the hyperlink (here) you would see that it means exactly what it says it means. Nicely done Georgina!

However, hot on the heels of that random cogntitive dissonance comes this lovely quotation from the OED (my daily wordsmithing tool), spotted entirely in passing (I wasn't actively hunting, though I shall certainly keep my eyes peeled now).
All my togs were so niblike and splash
which was of course by that famous author H. Ainsworth (in Rookwood iii. v, 1834).

Now there's a phrase I'd love to see back (?) in circulation...
[Gentleman A] Yo! How's it hangin' bro'?
[Gentleman B] Chillin! All niblike and splash!
[Gentleman A] Cool/Wicked/Rad/...

(or whatever argot is now current within modern beat combos and their afficionados...)
Henceforward, under the label Carve My Spooky Pumpkins (to celebrate Georgina's creative genius) will be other bizarre yet potentially wizard words and phrases for your delectation...

Linguistic Stuff - just rolls off the tongue...

Monday, 12 November 2007

Doh! The Quantum Zeno Effect

"Doh!" as in, beaten to it again!

A long time ago (though I doubt as far back as 1977) I humorously proposed what is apparently called the Quantum Zeno Effect - a way of inhibiting state changes by obsessive observation.

I say humorously because I was proposing it as a way of handling nuclear waste - and one that is not as far as I can see at all practical (Worried about radioactive decay? Just keep an eye on it - and it won't! How one could appropriately "observe" a large mass of diverse composition I wasn't - and still amn't - sure).

And, as this is the way of things, I find out today (thanks of course to the New Scientist article here - subscription required to read the whole article online) that George Sudarshan and Baidyanaith Misra of the University of Texas apparently described this phenomenon way back when I was 16. It's since been established experimentally too.

The reason it works is that for small t, the probability of a transition is proportional to t squared...

I found a nice demonstration of the idea here (a pdf of a presentation by Wayne Itano of NIST) but, for those of you impatient for the Technical Stuff the maths bit looks like this...

So, there you have it: a watched superposition never decays.

(Of course in practice you can't make the absolutely necessary infinite number of observations to completely stop decay, but you ought to be able to slow things right down)

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Free Rice... Not for you, idiot! For those who need it!

Edible Stuff! Excellent.

Go here and as it says, advertising generates 10 grains of rice for each correct answer you give.

It does get tougher around level 46+, and just so you know "lakvar" is used in Hungarian - so I got that one for free from Noemi.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Hackney Centraal

In my recent remarks on Mornington Crescent, I referred in the posting to "Hackney Central".

That should of course have been Hackney Centraal - a little known stop on the Amsterdam metro system - and an entirely legitimate move if van Hoegstraat's Deviation is in effect, which in hindsight it must have been.

Apologies for the confusion

A Poke in the Eye/The Pain of Prawns?

[Irony On] Another triumph of experimental science: living things respond to stimuli.

This is the truly staggering insight I glean from this report in New Scientist. The fact that living things respond to stimuli I find to be a substantial development on the basic ideas of cause and effect. [Irony Off]

(Just to be fair, the original paper - enticingly entitled "Nociception or pain in a decapod crustacean?" - might well be more intelligent... but I have my doubts.)

I quote...
Robert Elwood at Queen's University Belfast in the UK and his colleagues claim they have found convincing evidence that prawns do feel pain. When they dabbed an irritant - acetic acid - onto one of 144 prawns' two antennae, the creatures reacted by grooming and rubbing the affected antenna for up to 5 minutes. This focused reaction is similar to that seen in mammals exposed to a noxious stimulant...
(NB "one of 144 prawns' two antennae"? Poor prawns! How do they share them? Perhaps they meant "one of the two antennae of each of 144 prawns"?)

Anyway, according to New Scientist he (Elwood) then goes on to say:
The prolonged, specifically directed rubbing and grooming is consistent with an interpretation of pain experience.

Which is not, by any stretch of the imagination - and mine stretches quite a lot - "convincing evidence that prawns do feel pain".

By this reasoning I would have to conclude that some modern cars with "smart" wipers also feel pain as evidenced by the "prolonged, specifically directed" wiping the windscreen receives when it gets wet.

And now I think about it, I have personally observed mud washing down hills when it rains - clearly even hills must suffer mightily from the elements so "specifically" do they endeavour to rid themselves of all that water by sloughing their skin.

At least Lynne Sneddon (University of Liverpool) has some common-sense, "You could argue the shrimp is simply trying to clean the antenna rather than showing a pain response, " she is reported as saying.

However, in response to this - and other alternative explanations - "Elwood insists such comparisons are flawed":
Using the same analogy, one could argue crabs do not have vision because they lack the visual centres of humans.
which is such an aggravatingly stupid remark that I just had to write this damn posting to express the pain of my cognitive dissonance!

No, no, no, no no! Pain is an instance of the sort of thing that drives Philosophers and Artificial Intelligence workers round the bend - the problem of qualia. In a philosophical nutshell, what we sense and what we feel about our sensory experiences (what we perceive perhaps) are two different things. If we were to (correctly!) use the same meta-analogy one could argue perhaps that crabs don't recognise their friends - not that they don't see or respond to light.

If I poke you in the eye with a sharp stick you will probably say "Ow!", and I grant that you experience pain, though I could - philosophically - perfectly reasonably doubt it: I feel pain, you make strange noises when poked - how and why should I connect behaviour with feelings?

Rub a cat's fur the wrong way and it will groom it back into place; is the cat in pain, is it perhaps mildly irritated, is it vain? Even once we solve the problem with respect to other "people" it remains to be seen how we extend the concept of pain to other organisms.

And of course there is pain and there is suffering. If I experience brief - but possibly intense pain - it is, by definition all over quickly; if I know it is going to happen again I will anticipate - and suffer. If I endure prolonged pain I have long enough to wish it would end, and so suffer when it does not - particularly if I don't know when it might end (I might suppose it is going to go on forever).

Obviously if you avoid inflicting pain you avoid inflicting pain-related suffering; but what if pain can be inflicted without suffering?

Discuss.

Nuff said.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Thiotimoline.dll

Some years ago (back in 1999 apparently - whatever happened to Moonbase Alpha?) I sent an email to Xircom's technical support service and received the surprising response that my message was received "tomorrow" (I sent it to New Scientist's Feedback column- the original item is here)

Eight years on and I am (partially) delighted to announce that whatever the underlying technology was/is/will be it has been/is being/will be developed to undreamed of heights of sophistication by none other than Microsoft and has been implemented as some sort of precognition extension to Windows Explorer.

Last night, I thought I was editing some photos - but I suspect now that this was merely paramnesia: when I looked at my photo folder I found this...


Not only did Vista know that I would be editing these images, it knew precisely how I would edit them - and most helpfully actually provided the resulting files, which could have saved me considerable effort if I had only known about this feature beforehand.

Unless of course, now that I have seen these files I do in fact modify them myself and Vista didn't do the work for me and is merely telling me that I am going to do some more editing...

Suddenly I realise that I can now test one of the good-old-fashioned paradoxes of time-travel (without the aid of a black-hole): now that I know I am going to edit these files today, what will happen if I don't?

Apologies if, as some fear, this results in the complete collapse of space and time as we know it and the banishment of the entire universe into neverness.

Actually, this is now a "very real" (as opposed to merely slightly real) fear: using the Windows "Start"button search I typed "modified: today" and, as expected, received a list of all the files I have worked on today... but searching instead for "modified: tomorrow" there is... nothing.

Oops!

Woah! The two files that were, yesterday, to be modified "tomorrow" are listed as modified "today" even though I haven't touched them - so there's no fiddling with time after all! I am truly impressed! Vista was right all along!

And on the further-up-side, if Vista seems not to keep your files where you think they are, let it search more widely - it may tell you where they will be, and then of course you can look them up there.

PS You can read more about Thiotimoline here. It makes a very good screen cleaner in solution - effectively removing tomorrow's grubby finger marks today! (Reapply every 24 hours for optimum results)

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Hyperdimensional Resonator

Ah, yes - we've all had trouble with our Hyperdimensional Resonators at some time, haven't we?

But now our collective worries are over (or will be, or were, or shwas - my knowledge of time travel grammar is a bit hazy... yet another educational gap to be filled...) thanks to this site which
"Shows you how to construct a Cosmic Diode for use with the Hyperdimensional Resonator."

But if you are lazy, or - heaven forfend! - don't know how to actually use your Cosmic Diode even if you have successfully constructed it, it you can always buy a "ready to use" Hyperdimensional Resonator at the bottom of the page. Neat.

Actually I was trying to find the old "Kits & plans" website (now defunct, but maybe with the help of the Wayback machine...?) that included a weapon design with the caution "Warning! Activating this device may destroy the earth!" (or words to that effect...).

Now that's what I call a real warning. Never mind "Not guaranteed Nut Free".

Ah yes! Thw wayback machine does remember that old site... (see here) where I find that information of use to terrorists is still available...
SadM...Small Atomic Demolition Munition

STEP BY STEP INFORMATION OBTAINED THROUGH SPECIAL SOURCES. TEACHES YOU HOW TO MAKE A 6 INCH DIAMETER ATOMIC MUNITION DEVICE. DESIGN USES LESS THAN A COUPLE GRAMS OF PLUTONIUM OR URANIUM 238. USES ONLY A COUPLE POUNDS OF EXPLOSIVES TO INITIATE. VERY DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS. PLANS COST $3.00
See what I mean? It needs only a couple of grams of Plutonium... or Uranium 238 (?)... hmmm... maybe somebody should check for typos - or re-read their nuclear physics lecture notes!

Feel free to join in with any other minor difficulties you might see with the SadM instructions!

David Icke Needs Your Help

Yes he does! Just wandering the web for weirdness I thought I'd go to the horse's mouth, where I find to my horror...

UPDATED MAY 2007

icke1

CLICK HERE

This is real serious and David's work is in imminent danger of ceasing without your help. Donate system now working.


What next? Is he in danger of going the same was as wossisname - Mr Veritarse? Oh deary me.

By the way... that link should work, and when you have read or heard what Mr Icke has to say I am sure you will agree that he does indeed need all the help he can get.

[Obviously this is not a great writing day... I have a problem with the word 'chimneys' at the moment - call it a touch of the flue if you will...]

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Mornington Crescent

I was trying to explain Mornington Crescent to Noemi this evening, and not having a copy of N. F. Stovold’s "Mornington Crescent: Rules and Origins" to hand it's proven rather tricky.

I thought that a simple example "Baker St - Oxford Circus - Grange Hill (I didn't want to get into Central line quartering too soon, so I thought that G.H would be the least confusing stop there) - Hackney Central - Neasden - Dollis Hill - Marble Arch - Dollis Hill - Victoria - Chalk Farm - Morning Crescent" would do nicely, but - and I'm sure you appreciate the dilemma! - how can one explain to a beginner the need to avoid lateralisation in a Northern elliptical approach?

Yes, I could have chosen an even simpler example, but surely the understanding comes from seeing how it all works in practice rather than just theory?

If anyone could give a neat illustration of a bisected conical inversion around Paddington I'd love to hear.

Thanks...

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Vista Missing Icons in Systray aka the Notification Area

Ouch...

1st November 2007... no recent updates

Wifi connection disappeared, and for some reason I couldn't re-enable it (the lights are on, but no one's home, i.e. the Rock laptop's indicator lights said the devices were on but Vista wasn't buying it), so reluctantly I rebooted and...

Certain important icons in the Notification Area (the area previously known as the "systray") gone... to whit, battery status and network (and possibly sound volume).

Under Taskbar properties (Notification Area) I eventually find controls to display certain "System Icons" all the time... but apart from the clock they are all disabled (greyed out)... hmmm...

Tried letting Vista "hide" inactive icons to see what it thought was there, and the missing icons aren't in the current or past list... stranger and stranger...

Google... newsgroups... fixes!

a) Log off and back on again - Nope.
b) Regedit and clear the keys "Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\TrayNotify...
"PastIconsStream"" and "IconsStream" - then log off and on again.

No good... but! Aha! The "System Icon" display controls are re-enabled! Click them on and they are all back - battery, network and sound volume!

But for how long?

That's the fun of it, isn't it? Everyone surely needs more such Stuff from Microsoft to keep them occupied. How else would I have wasted the last hour if not for this teeny-weeny little bug...

[Rock Xtreme CTXPro, Dual Core, Vista "Home Premium" (sic)]