Saturday, March 31, 2007


I would normally do this on my own blog, but my hosting company are being untypically unresponsive to the fact that my server is down.

How hard is it to keep a server running? My day job is designing resiliant computer systems with redundancy built in at every level. When I look to design something, these are the first considerations I have, because ultimately, that is the cost factor. Unless someone cuts two cables, none of anything I have designed will fail.

The guys who I do my hosting with are good. I have been with them for nearly seven years now, but to let a server be down for over 2 hours is outrageous. What you do is arrange that the connections to the SAN are connected to two servers - a kind of crossover if you like. And then you have a virtual IP that maps to a cluster of the servers that are connected to the SAN. Not rocket science! For just doing that, you reduce your outage probability by a factor of 4. Even if your luck really bums out, it should be a matter of minutes before you can reconfigure another server to access the bits that are rendered inaccessible.

In the immortal words of my wife "Oy vey". How annoying is it that your server is down?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Stan finds Middle East hard to understand - shock !

(1) Freud, Wittgenstein, Mahler and Kafka - Jewish people are great. Their culture is rich, they bake the best bread, tell the best jokes and in the face of millenia of hatred they have kept their faith alive.

(2) Israel is a deeply flawed country - their mistreatment of the Palestinians is shameful.

Apparently by saying (2) I'm anti-semitic, even though I believe (1).

When did it become impossible to criticize Israel ?

The Jews are more than Israel, and Israel is more than the Jews. In a similar way, just because I think American foreign policy (and American beer) suck, doesn't mean I'm anti-American.

I just don't get it. Maybe if I bang my head off the desk a few times it'll become clear. Wait a minute ...

(Thud) (Ow)

(Thud) (Ow)

(Thud) (Ouch)

Nope, still a mystery.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Underground Downhill

OK so it's irresponsible and dangerous, but I had to admire the bloke who skied down the up-escalator at Angel tube station in London (the longest in Europe). Here's a bloke who has managed to extract some fun from one of the world's most depressing places.

I just hope that Stanetta doesn't fancy a go.

Footage here courtesy of You Tube (strangely relevant name).

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Most Serene Republic of Free Stan

I had a few minutes spare, so I set up a country.

Come visit The Most Serene Republic of Free Stan. It's somewhere in the Caribbean, and has stolen the flag of St.Vincent and the Grenadines (sounds like a 1950s band ...)

Should be interesting to see what happens when a blogger actually has to govern instead of just making noise.

I predict a riot.

Monday, March 26, 2007


I watched Shaun of the Dead on ITV2 tonight.

The Nick Frost character is an unlovable, shiftless, gutter-mouthed slob with zero social skills. This is perfectly communicated by making his first line in the film :-

"Can I get... any of you c*nts... a drink?

I've blanked the offending letter "u", because I'm chicken about getting my blog closed down. The "c" word is still THAT offensive to a number of people, which is why it is perfectly right to use it in this context. Artistically justified, maybe even artistically necessary.

But someone did an inexpert made-for-TV edit and dubbed the word "cocks" over the top.

I wouldn't have minded the kind of edit they do to make radio versions of gangsta rap records; just slurring the word so you can't be offended by it.

My gripe is with the substitution of the word "cocks" and the god-awful editing, which kills the whole scene dead.

Comedy (and Art in general) sometimes needs to say shocking things to work. When you mess with that you need to do it carefully.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Erase and Rewind

Born Again Virgins ? Surely this is a joke. You're a virgin or you're not. Whatever these people are doing, it doesn't annull their previous actions.

The idea of annulment and starting with a clean slate is not what life is about. You make a "mistake" , you live with it and move on. You cant just wipe it out.

For example, in answer to the question : "How many wives did Henry the Eighth have ?" any sensible person would say "6". But if you allow the idea of "annullment" to mean "it never happened", you get the following smart-alec answer:-
He had two, or four if you're a catholic.

Henry's fourth marriage to Anne of Cleves was annulled. This is very different from divorce, it means that legally, the marriage never took place. There were two grounds for the annullment, Henry and Anne never consumated the marriage, that is, they never had intercourse. In addition, Anne was already betrothed to Duke Francis of Lorraine.

That leaves five.

The pope declared Henry's second mariage to Anne Boelyn illegal, because the king was still married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

That's four now.

Henry himself, declaring himself the head of the church of england, decided his first marriage was invalid on the legal ground that a man cannot sleep with his brother's widow. He claimed this was "God's law" and it went whether the pope liked it or not.

Depending on whether you believe the pope or the king, this brings it down to four or three marriages.

Henry annulled his marriage to Catherine Howard, because it was treasonable for a queen to commit adultery.

So ladies and gentlemen. That'd be TWO marriages only. Not Six, as your history would have you believe.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Araucaria Ate My Hamster

Near the end of Day 2 of my attempt to do Araucaria's cryptic crossword in Wednesday's Guardian, I resorted to blatant internet cheating. The contents of my head were proving not to be up to the job. Not even Mrs Stan's unique lateral mind was getting any purchase.

While investigating what in the name of Godfrey Daniels "scissorer" could mean, I came across Fifteensquared a crossword blog where the full answer was given with reasoning and the comment
"A relatively easy Araucaria today. There were few uncommon words, resolved by their word play, that I had to check just to make sure. As is the case with Araucaria there were one or two small liberties taken and some strange surface readings. Very enjoyable though."
Just goes to show that no matter how big a clever-dick you think yourself to be, there are always bigger and cleverer dicks around.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Budget 2007

My rule-of-thumb is that the Chancellor has done well if I lose out from a Budget. People like me are doing fine - so I'd prefer the government looked after the less well-off. For someone to gain, someone needs to lose, and I prefer not to prosper at the expense of education, health, pensioners etc.

Usually the effect is minimal - couple of pence on fuel duty, bit of tweaking to the tax rates.

This time Gordon Brown has hit me really quite hard, and I don't feel nearly as charitable.

Let's cut a long boring story down to size. I run a business selling the contents of my head and renting my typing fingers.

To begin with I ran it as a Limited Company, only for a tax change to come that went back in time, re-wrote my previous ten year's tax returns and nearly ended with me losing my house.

To avoid this happening again, I joined an umbrella company and paid tax the same way as ordinary employees. The one difference was that I was able to claim expenses against tax. To me this is only fair - I'm not a normal employee - I spend over 100 nights a year away from home in hotels and drive 20,000 miles a year between client sites. I also have 5 or 6 "employers" in any given year. I don't get sick-pay, paid-holidays and pay my own pension.

After the new budget, I can't claim my travelling expense unless I set up my own limited company again and risk the Time-Travelling Taxman Experience happening all over again.

The 2% reduction in tax is but a rounding error compared to this.

Sorry : a moan from a comparatively well-off person about money : how tedious.

And what's he playing at taking away the 10% rate for the less well-off ??

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Absolut Madness

Of course Freddy Flintoff's pedalo imbroglio was amusing, but it isn't close to being the summit of extreme stupidity by a sportsman on tour.

Peter Beagrie was a particularly talented left winger who played for a whole bunch of clubs during a long career. It was when he was with Everton however that he got lost during a night out in Benidorm on the club's 1991 tour of Spain following a game with Real Sociedad.

He flagged down a Spanish biker, who gave him a lift back to his hotel. Once there he found that the porter was asleep (or was trying to ignore him). So, with logic that must have made perfect sense at the time, he grabbed the Kawasaki and rode it up the hotel steps through a plate glass door.

He needed 50 stitches, the state of the bike is not recorded.

Shame it was the wrong hotel ...

Monday, March 19, 2007

Hard Sums

Congratulations to the team who have mapped the outrageous mathematical object E8.

Congratulations also the to the state-of-the-art computing beast without which it wouldn't have been possible.

I studied Pure Maths at St.Andrews University in Scotland, where I was taught by some of the heavyweights in computational number theory. This was not a totally respectable area of research in the late 1980's - many old-school mathematicians thought it was cheating in some way to have computers do the heavy lifting. In fact, some had spent the previous decade moaning about the computer-based proof of the Four Colour Theorem. A typical comment was
"A good mathematical proof is like a poem — this is a telephone directory!"

Nowadays, it would seem perversely Luddite to ban mathematicians from using computers.

When Campbell and Robertson worked on slightly less complicated objects than E8 in the 1970s, they would often draw the groups/rings/semigroups on a long roll of wallpaper in coloured pens. Apparently the equivalent roll of wallpaper for E8 would have to be the size of Manhattan...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fork Off, Trident

The British Government's attraction to the Trident nuclear submarine programme escapes me.

I don't have anything funny to say about the issue at the moment. I just object to £20 billion being spent on something I would never support using under any circumstances. North Korea gets out of line - are we really going to nuke a few million of the poorest people in the world ??

The whole thing reminds me of the ghost flights from London Heathrow to Cardiff where tickets were never sold - the flights were made empty in an attempt to keep the landing rights at Heathrow open. Because if you've got something, you don't give it up because it's so much harder to get it back.

The argument is that should Britain leave the nuclear club we would never be allowed back in.

Good !

Friday, March 09, 2007

It turns out that I AM a number

I met a man yesterday who can predict with 80% certainty whether you take milk in your coffee.

Sure, he has a small army of statisticians with PhDs, a daily feed of supermarket shopping behaviour and one of the big, cool, expensive databases I specialise in. In fact he’s got the biggest database of its type in the world - but still it’s a pretty cool trick.

It’s no trick to find people who buy milk and coffee. But that doesn’t mean they put the milk in the coffee.

So what they do is they give vouchers to a few thousand people willing to fill in one of those book-length questionnaire. Only one of the questions is about your coffee/milk preference - the rest are nothing to do with coffee, milk or liquids at all. But the answers identify you like some sort of DNA sequence, to the extent that they can say that what kind of people are four times more likely than not to take milk in your coffee.

Armed with this information they know which of the 300 million Americans it’s worth trying to sell coffee-creamer to.

I’d love to think I’m an individual and rather more than the sum of my Tesco Clubcard transactions. But presumably someone mining my shopping data can say that I’m a married left-of-centre asthmatic blogger with one child and a taste for Indie music and technology. Also that I take my coffee black.

I’m going to take my coffee with orange juice from now on – nobody’s going to pigeonhole Stan.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

It's been a while

Allo everybody peeps. I feel I have been remiss in not posting here for a while.

The trouble is that Stan's site is a tad more cerebral than mine so I have to have something more weighty than my usual rantings on my site.

Completely contradicting the above sentence, I feel I need to point you all in the direction of the new love of my life. She's young, she's gorgeous and she writes like a proverbial bugger. Readers of Stan are probably not Telegraph readers so will not be au fait with the works of Bryony Gordon. She's the brightest thing I have read since my Missus stopped blogging.


I'll be back with some political comment as soon as something incenses me sufficiently. Probably in about 10 minutes.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Georges Perec

Saturday was a sad day, as on that day in 1982, a singular artist was lost to us.

I am writing of the author of "La Disparation" which was a book famous for what it did not contain.

Writing is difficult. But writing without your most common symbol - now that's hard work.

I found that writing this blog posting using his approach (known as a "lipogram") hurt my brain, and took way too long. And this is not many paragraphs at all.

How this author could fill a book without using so many important words is astounding - a major triumph.

If you think crosswords hard, you want to try writing lipograms !

Sunday, March 04, 2007


There is rejoicing in the Stan household this week, because Stanetta got a place at her first choice of secondary school.

She went to the Open Day at the local High school, loved it and didn't want to look further. As a result we missed out on all the interviewing and entrance exams at the independent schools where they all wear hats and suck money out your pockets until they hit lint.

Some of our (usually level headed) friends have been consumed by this madness and I'm glad it's all over because I'm dying for there to be another topic of conversation.

We moved down from Scotland, where mostly the local education authority assign you a school and that's where you go. The extra degree of choice in England doesn't seem to bring any more happiness.

And let's get this in perspective - should you be denied your first choice you will still receive, free gratis and for nothing, five years education. The vast majority of the world would envy that.

Also, between 8:00 and 9:00 the roads of my bit of Cheshire are jammed with skinny blonde mums in big fat cars taking their Jemina, Roderick and Porsches to three different schools. This makes no environmental sense and also makes the blonde mums very late for their anal bleaching and coffee morning appointments.

Here's the Stan solution :-

(1) You go to the nearest school. If there are two equally close then maybe you can choose, but you are not going to drive your kids 30 miles each way because the mauve uniform doesn't go with their eyes.

(2) We invest so that there isn't this crazy gap between good and bad schools in this country.