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Month: March 2004

Rant, rant, and thrice rant

Rant, rant, and thrice rant

With a title like that I can just feel your mice sliding up to the back button, but it’s ok – I’ll keep it short.

First – taxi drivers. Now, a good friend of mine used to be a taxi driver, so I know all about the trials and tribulations of their job (maybe a topic for a blog entry, Mike?). However… I have issues with those individuals who drive for a living, yet surely go to bed every night thanking the lord above that they didn’t crash today. On Saturday night, we encountered two such individuals. One who didn’t know how big his huge taxi was, and another who was in such a rush to get back into Canterbury that he broke the speed limit by some considerable margin all the way home. And took the racing line round every corner. And overtook anything doing less than 10mph over the limit. Now if he’d have taken his time he would have got a bit of a tip, as I know he won’t get another fare until he’s back in Canterbury. He drove like a loon, so he didn’t get a tip. And yes I did see his face as the hand stayed out for the tip as I simply pocketed the change and got out of the car. Muppet.

ch.gifOn the subject of ‘outstretched hand, waiting for money’, how about, or ‘money grabbing lowlifes‘ as I like to call them. There used to be a time when you could browse through the wonderful Calvin and Hobbes comicstrip at your leisure, and you still can… for a price. You have to pay a yearly subscription for anything more than the past two weeks strips now. Gits. I think this move coincides with their successful efforts to close down a site which would let you search for your favourite C&H strip. Even bigger gits.

And I did have a third. I’m sure I did. But it has escaped my ‘fragile little mind’. It’ll return for another entry, no doubt.

Liars, or fools?

Liars, or fools?

When someone is staring you in the face and telling you something that is blatantly untrue, how do you figure out whether they’re lying to you on purpose, or merely not able to grasp the reality behind what they’re saying? How do you decide whether they’re liars or fools?

This article of lies from the Kent And Medway Safety Camera Partnership caught my eye recently. In it they make the remarkable claim that since the partnership’s inception, they have saved 37 people from death or serious injury. That’s a lot of people. I found myself wondering “how did they work that out, then?”, and sure enough, they’re more than willing to explain:

“Figures relate to the Partnership’s first 15 months of operation from July 2002 to September 2003 inclusive. In the 3 years prior to July 2002 there were 189 KSI’s (killed or seriously injured) at all fixed and mobile sites, which equates to 79 in a fifteen-month period. In the last 15 months that the Partnership has been operating there have been 42 people killed or seriously injured which means 37 lives have been saved.”

So… how many flaws can you spot in their reasoning? I can see 3, but I’m willing to listen to any comments about any I’ve missed.

Firstly, 2 samples?! By taking just two samples, the number of KSIs in the 3 years leading up to July 2002, and the number of KSIs in the 15 months prior to July 2002, they have reached this conclusion? I wonder if the person behind that logic uses it in everyday life… I’d hate to see their bank balance…

Secondly… 3 years… 189 KSIs in total, therefore 79 KSIs every 15 months, right? Not necessarily. That’s not what the figures say, no matter how much you’d like to believe it. How do we know there wasn’t a trend in those three years anyway? What if those 189 were made up of 90-odd in the first year, 60-odd in the second, and 30-odd in the third. If the trend continued (we assume all trends continue forever, no matter how small our range of samples… see above), then in year 4 there should have been NO KSIs AT ALL. Doesn’t that mean the cameras have KILLED OR SERIOUSLY INJURED 39 42 PEOPLE? Well, no. Not really. The figures don’t say there was a trend like that. But the point is they don’t say there wasn’t one either.

Thirdly, ‘regression to the mean’. Basically a geeky statistical term which means ‘things getting back to normal’. The problem with the logic here, is that the cameras are necessarily placed at sites which have had more accidents than average (something like 4 KSIs in 3 years I believe). So that’s a high point in the site’s history. In the year’s following, the accident rate goes back down to the site’s average rate. The important thing to see here is that the reduction would have happened whether the camera was installed or not. The statistics used to justify the installation of the cameras in the first place are dodgy at best, but to use the fact that the rates decrease after installation as proof that they work is ridiculous, or just plain lies.

Various people are getting bored of me ranting about this, I know. I’m sorry, but for some reason it really gets my goat. I’m not thrilled at being lied to by a public body. I don’t like the way that they make wild claims in big simple sounding press releases that, to be fair, most of the population will swallow without a second thought. Oh and don’t get me started on why they’re suddenly called safety cameras… they’re SPEED cameras, dammit…

Update: Yes, I can make mistakes too… their stats don’t say that the cameras have killed 42 people, not 39 as I originally said.

Interesting Blog

Interesting Blog

The Old New Thing is a blog I’ve been reading a bit recently. It’s quite techy most of the time, and the interesting bits are usually in the comment threads. It’s interesting to see the views of Microsofties and *nix advocates together, without the usual zealotry as seen on Slashdot and the like. Things even stay sensible when the topics wander into “religious” grounds.

Completing the triangle…

Completing the triangle…

I host my mate Ian’s blog on my beaten up old Linux server. He linked to a similarly named blog the other day. I guess something to do with the way the MT backend stuff sits on a fretnoise name made it look like I was linking too. But hey, I’m linking now… on purpose and everything… Hi Adam 🙂

Oh no – another entry about my referrer logs… Anyone would think I’m a 20-something geek…

(By the way… googling for ‘fretnoise’ gets this site quite a bit, and the odd page about local gigs… Not many blogs though… ner)

Scary face

Scary face

Had a most pleasant evening out with the boys (Garry, Anthony and Matthew) on Monday. On the way back to the car, we spotted a big metal sculpture outside the theatre, and Ant arranged us for photos… It amused us, anyway…

Other comments… I am disappointed by the actions of the new Spanish government. Whichever way you slice it, it looks like it’s a reaction to the bombing, and that’s a bad thing.

Oh and I did some actual, honest, techie coding at work today. It was fun. Oh the subtle difference between <xsl:if test=’foo’>, <xsl:if test=’foo = true’> and <xsl:if test=’foo = “true”‘>. Yes it seems obvious now… yes it took about 2 hours for the penny to drop 🙂

Oh and I almost forgot to talk about the wonder that is the Raven at Tilgate Park. He’s been watching too much Father Ted, I reckon. The little plaque thingie romises that he says ‘Hello Terry’ and ‘Come on’. Strangely enough it says nothing about the repeated ‘Arrrrse’ which is all that was coming out of his beak on Saturday 🙂 Tilgate Park is nice, by the way, if you can find it – relaxing, calm – a nice place to be. Maybe I’m biased…

Referrer logs, aren’t they great?

Referrer logs, aren’t they great?

I’ve recently installed Webalizer on this server so I can look at pretty pictures about who comes here and when, and from where, and all that funky stuff. Thanks to everyone who has me as one of their startup tabs, btw, you’re really helping the figures 🙂

Anyhoo, I got a tremendous amount of hits from a new referrer today, so I’d just like to say a quick ‘hi’ to anyone with a .ru TLD – Hi There! 🙂

Most of the venom about SCO that I hinted at last time has dissipated, but the comment I was going to make was about the case they have started against one of their ex-customers – AutoZone. SCO allege that AutoZone illegally used some of SCO’s libraries when they migrated from SCO’s OpenServer unix to Linux. The quote that got me was:

“The basis for SCO’s belief is the precision and efficiency with which the migration to Linux occurred…” from Groklaw.

So software projects never go to plan, then? Even when you have a HUGE company, with a consultancy arm the size of Nevada and more experience than god himself helping you out? Riiiight – ok. At best it’s a misplaced belief. At worst it’s a cynical attempt to tie yet another company up in legal fees with a wooly, indistinct claim. But hey… that does seem to be SCO’s business model now…

All together now… “DON’T BUY SCO”

Oh, and don’t you just hate it when you type out a blog entry, and then accidentally close the browser window it was in? This is ‘Referrer logs, aren’t they great?’ version 2.0…



I was watching a flock of birds flying around at dusk the other day. I kept my eye on two birds who seemed to always be at each other’s side. Sometimes they were leading the flock, sometimes they were right at the back, and sometimes they were mixed up in the middle. But they were always with each other. Just like many inquiring minds before me, the way the flock moved interested me – almost like an entity of its own, the individual birds making their own decisions, but something about their ‘birdness’ made them keep the flock together.

Today, I noticed human flocking. Now everyone knows humans are like bandwagon-hopping sheep, but this was stranger, and not something I’ve particularly noticed before. I had something to eat in a motorway service station (a culinary delight, and no mistake). I paid for my food, and chose a seat in the otherwise empty seating area. After a while some more people came in, got their food, and sat down. The thing is, I was suddenly surrounded by people. Despite there being a huge range of possible seats, they chose the ones near me. Even the smokers chose those tables on the edge of the smoking area so’s to be as close as possible. None of these people knew each other. They just didn’t want to sit on their own.

Me? When I’m driving somewhere I am generally disgusted, outraged, or just bemused by most other people’s behaviour, so I would sooner have been on my own, thanks 😉

Ian has credited me with the phrase ‘custard filled head’. I feel I should point out that it was actually Anthony‘s term. I think I may have added something about the colour, and expanded on the consistency a little… GPL ailment descriptions – don’t ya love ’em? 🙂

I have comments to make about SCO’s latest antics and tomfoolery but they can wait…