Raymond Tallis: A "philosopher" who is either ignorant or in bad faith.

I was listening to the BBC Start The Week podcast a few weeks ago. It was called "Dissecting Death", and was about death. Halfway through this bloke, introduced as a "philospher", Raymond Tallis came on. I've heard him waffle on other programs before. He just published a 700 page (yes seven hundred page) book about time and lamentation.

The other guests on the program were intelligent informative and interesting:
Mark O'Connell talked about transhumanists, Carla Valentine talked about life and death behind mortuary doors, and Laura Yunbridge spoke about late works of artists. But all Tallis could say was: "Physicists have shrunk time to little 't'. So it can be squared or used as a denominator in an equation. Well you'd never do that to an afternoon..."

Now why did a "philospher" say such stupid things? I can think of only answers:

Answer 1) He is ignorant of how time is still an important and large mystery to scientists. He is ignorant of any physics research/thought into time and space since he left school. At school he maybe he learned those few equations which deal with speed and acceleration. He thinks that since he left school (maybe because he left) all physics research into time stopped. He is a "philosopher". Hasn't heard of Wittgenstein's saying: "Whereof we know knothing thereof we must remain silent"?

Answer 2) He is in bad faith. He knows he is being flippant. He knows that the few equations he remembers from school (or has looked up) have nothing much to do with the real physics mystery of time. He is playing to an arts audience who have trouble adding 41 to 32 (and are proud of the difficulty). Maybe they'll buy his little 700 page book and feel they can grasp the the reality of time that way.

Whichever answer is true, he can't be listened to seriously. If he is ignorant and/or in bad faith how can we believe whatever else he pronounces on? Shouldn't we expect a bit more rigour in the arguments of a philosopher?

One last, er, idiocy, he said was that it was impossible to live in the moment because the moment is infinitely small. So suddenly he has gone all calculus on us? So he has never experienced the sudden and fleeting pleasure of seeing something in nature which will not repeat itseld? The swoop of a bird, or a cloud which transforms itself second by slow second into a different abstract shape?

If you want to know about the physics of relativity time and space I can recommend this book:

It shows you step by step how the equations come about. To be honest I had to write my own extra explanatory notes to myself to be able to completely understand it, but that was an education in itself. Microstep by microstep I saw the strangeness of time. Real strangeness. And remember your GPS would not work without Einsteins Theory Of Relativity. And there'd be no medical scanners without physicists.


Who was the marketing genius who got to associate SEAT with crime, death and drug dealing?

Crime dramas on ITV1 are currently sponsored by SEAT. But who was the marketing genius who persuaded SEAT to associate their good looking cars with death, crime, missing persons and drug dealing? Take Vera for example. Just before the start of an episode, and at the end of each commercial break, there is an ad which associates a SEAT car with a crime scene. All the ads are shot at nighttime. Some examples I can remember:
  1. A woman in white walking in the middle of the road picked out by the SEAT's headlights.
  2. A message to a missing mother (really? a missing mother?) on the smartphone (presumably connected to the SEAT's electronics system).
  3. A nasty looking package lying in the dark near a white SEAT car.
  4. A man who drops something as he closes the boot of his SEAT car, probably a clue after his murder in a few minutes time.
Surely they could have come up with something more reassuring. Something which suggests that SEAT cars are solidly reliable and will keep you safe even in the urban night environment. 

Every time I see a SEAT car now I think of murder, death, crime...


Since I wrote the above the other day I think I have changed my mind. I was thinking about a supermarket logo (Tigros) which annoys me...

...and I've vaguely thought I'd never go to a their shops. Then they open one directly on my route to and from work...and in I pop. 

I don't like the logo because it is aggressive and twee at the same time, with the tiger in one two tone 2D style, while the apple is colourful with a shadow to give a 3D look. But though it annoys me it does not stop me shopping there, which leads me to think that much marketing/logo design/adverts have no effect whatsoever.

So maybe I will have a look at a SEAT car the next time it is time to buy a new car. Hopefully not for years...

Marketing (apparent failures or successes) does not always beat convenience and price.


Usually the cat doesn't get to sleep in the bedroom

Usually the cat doesn't get to sleep in the bedroom, but one evening he snuck in and arranged himself on my pillow, near my head.

I could hear his purring quite loud. I like gentle sounds when I go to sleep, distant trains, planes, dogs barking, even cars. So I enjoyed listening, in the dark, to his purrs. Then slowly they faded away and all I could hear was him breathing deeply.

I'd heard him fall asleep, it was wonderful feeling.


Food: The most important thing is that I don't have to clean up much afterwards.

I don't mind other people cooking for me, as long as I don't have to clean the messy pans with sticky sauces, congealed cheese etc. Apart from the fact that I dont' eat fish or meat, the most important thing is that I don't have to do much washing up. I've developed a dish which means that I only have a single bowl and a single spoon to clean. 

Here are the ingredients:

Apart from the vegetables (which you can vary according to what you have on hand) and the beans, there's olive oil, turmeric, cumin seeds and balsamic vinegar. Chop up the vegetables, add the other ingredients and...


(My family have given up and now allow me to eat my salad with spoon.)


Orion over my roof

A few nights ago I went onto the balcony to have a look at the loverrrly sky to the east:

Then I looked behind me, over the roof, to the west. And there was my favourite constellation, Orion. His belt is made of the three stars in an almost horizontal line you can see in the center of the photo:

It is not a great photo, but you can see the real thing these days if you live in the northern hemisphere and look east. And the real thing is a real wonder. In the photo Rigel is the star, below the belt, which is almost touching the roof. And Betelgeuse is the one above the belt and in line with Rigel. When you look at the constellation for real you'll be amazed at how these two stars have definite colours, Rigel is blue and Betelgeuse is orange. 

Follow the line of the belt leftwards and you'll find Sirius, the Dog star, the brightest star in the sky. In the photo is is near the end of an antenna.

Go back to the belt and extrapolate along it to the right, you'll find another bright star, this time called Alderbaran.

If it is night-time, and you're in the northern hemisphere, and there is a clear sky, and you're just browsing the web on the sofa (with the TV on in the background) it is really really worth getting up, going outside and having a look for Orion, Sirius and Aldebaran. Use your own real naked eyes, they be receiving light direct from the stars and not from a pixel on a screen...


It's that time again (code signing certificates)

As I said in a previous, post code signing annoys me these years like as networks did many years ago. I've just had to renew my Comodo code signing certificate, and as usual K-Software (a Comodo reseller) made it as painless as possible. 

The process has not changed, but the graphical interface of Firefox has. So for my own future self and for others in my position now here's how it is done.

Once you have ordered the certificate from K-Software, and they have worked their magic in the case of any hiccups with Comodo, your'll get an email from Comodo, something like this:

Click on the link in the email and  the next thing you'll see is a web page on the Comodo site which asks you to enter your collection code. If all has worked well the collection code will appear in the web page automatically:

Click on the Collect Certificate button and the next screen you see should be like this:

The phrase about backing up the private key is a bit misleading if you intend to use the certificate to digitally sign your executable file. "Backing up" the certificate actually creates the file you'll use to do the code signing. So it is not really just a backup, it is central to the reason I bought the certificate.

You can see the certificate you have just collected by doing this (in FireFox):

And then selecting the certificate you want to view as shown below. Note that you can assure yourself that it is a SHA256 certificate by going into the details tab, also shown below.

 Remember that you save the pfx/p12 file by "backing it up" as shown below:
So if you've managed to save the file you can now use it to sign your executable programs.

And it does not guarantee anything to the person downloading your file, it only gets rid of the big red warning message when they download it. But that warning message could mean a lost sale...


Xamarin: Finally compiled a C# program and ran it on an emulator

After about 20 hours of downloading Xamarin and Android SDKs (see here) I finally got VS2015 (apparently) able to compile C# code into an Android program. Remember that the native language of Android is Java, so Xamarin cleverly converts from C# to Java. Anyway the download and install carried on apparently without errors and with a condesceding message from the programmer in the dialog box:

"Don't worry we've got this. Why not do some tutorials while you wait?"

I hate it when programmers talk to the public in that "I'm friendly but I know better than you" tone. Or even like this. Or this

Despite my cynicism the download and install completed without error. So I could start the tutorial (again).

I followed the tutorial. There were a few mis-steps, but I noticed immediately that I felt at home, I knew my way around VS2015, while Android Studio was a new beast. As I saw the fragments of C# my annoyance at the huge Xamarin download began to float away.

I got these errors as I trundled along, for example: "This project contains resources that were not compiled":

Hmm. Ah. Does it? I'd followed the tutorial, so why the message? I closed the project and re-opened it, and all was well. Ah. Hmmm.

Then: "String types not allowed (at id with value..."

I was completely baffled by this one, and only a Google search for the exact phrase could resolve the question. I'd used " @+id/TranslateButton" instead of "@+id/TranslateButton". Spot the difference. There is a leading space in my erroneous version. My fault.

Once when I tried to open the layout of the screen I got a "Incorrect parameter" message box. Ok. Tried again and it worked. It feels like lots of complex, delicate and not bug free stuff is running around behind the scenes. Nervous making.

Then, after changing target Android versions (a slightly scary nightmare in itself) I got the "For some reason we could not reload the project." message:

"For some reason..."? "For some reason..."? What does that mean? It's a bit like the "Something went wrong" message I talked about in the previous post. The programmer who wrote that message...he's found out there's an error, but can't understand what it is. Hmmm.

Luckily since I'd already tested Android Studio the Android emulator was installed.  But it crashed or my program crashed or "something else went wrong" to use the technical gergo of Xamarin. Eventually, after fiddling around with SDK versions and emulated phones I got the Phone Word app to run. It crashed in the end, I think because I tried to phone from the emulator, and the emulator can't do that.

So...so I'm not used to getting errors like this in VS2015, C++ and C# for Windows. But I found myself anyway more comfortable in this more error prone environment than in Android Studio. 

So I'll probably stick to Xamarin in VS until I can see a compelling reason to change.