All in the Mind

On The Laws of Probability

Every day we experience hundreds of near misses, accidents waiting to happen unless we take the right precautions and pay constant attention to all potential dangers. Yet the human brain can only actively focus on one event at a time, switching our attention to monitor the progress of other concomitant events. Some of us can switch between events better than others, but then some key tasks require much more intense concentration. The slightest momentary distraction can have unplanned consequences, like forgetting to close upstairs windows before leaving the house, leaving a frying pan on a stove unattended or as happened to me the other failing to check my rucksack still lay neatly between my feet in a crowded pub in central London during a recent Drupal meetup. Not only was my rucksack discretely lifted, but it contained my trusty laptop and my passport, renewed only last October. CCTV footage was unavailable as cameras had been turned off the previous day, Easter Monday. As I don't own a car or a house, this was pretty much my most valuable possession, without which I can't work as a Web software developer. Little did the thief know how important this object was to me personally and while others can tactfully express their commiseration, the pain remains. I had to bite the bullet, metaphorically speaking, and enact plan B. Get a new laptop and restore it from scratch. Luckily Apple's OS X's Time Machine came to the rescue. I was minded to buy a cheaper alternative, but to get up and running and avoid missing another day's work, I had to choose the more expensive route using funds I had set aside for something else. I hope someday soon, we can do all our work from a tablet with mission-critical data backed up remotely as envisaged by Google's up and coming Chrome OS, but alas network coverage cannot be guaranteed. On many other occasions, I had left my laptop temporarily vulnerable to smart thieves, in offices and even in bars while someone else kept a watchful eye, yet it had never happened. I had assumed among colleagues and friends, I would be safe. The conclusion is simple. If something can go wrong in theory, sooner or later it will go wrong. That's the lesson Japanese nuclear engineers had to learn in Fukushima. The chances of getting my MacBook back are exceedingly remote. Lies, damned lies and crime statistics. While the occurrence of burglaries has decreased mainly due to better surveillance technology, thieves have simply adopted new techniques. Smartphones and laptops are easy to carry away and sell. Many thefts simply go unreported, because victims know there is little the police can do. How can anyone seriously believe the oft-repeated claims about declining crime rates? In just 5 years in London, I've witnessed one murder and two burglaries first-hand.

Power Dynamics War Crimes

Let’s Disown Tony

Has anyone actually read Tony Blair's much publicised memoirs. Well within 3 months of the book's release and despite all the media, half-price copies were on display on Waterstones. Don't get too angry with this guy, for he has only ever been a politician in the sense of a polite public relations guy. He liberated Kosovo from Serb nationalists only to put in place a bunch of Kosovar Albanian gangsters, still supervised by NATO troops. Then in the wake of 9/11 he supported the liberation of Afghani women and the hunting down of Osama Bin Laden. Nearly ten years later Osama Bin Laden is still at large, Afghani women are still subject to Sharia law and Afghanistan is still plagued by civil war. But our multinationals gained privileged access to the world's largest supply of lithium. Tony went on to campaign for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein evil regime. Over one million deaths and $3 trillion later, Iraq is still quagmire, but our multinationals gained easy access to the world's cheapest oil supply. Libya has oil too ( see Libya, All About Oil), but only a small malleable population and a leadership willing to do business with the West. So in 2008 Tony flew out to cut a deal with Muamar Gaddafi. Three years later his successor, David Cameron, decides to support military action to overthrow Tony's friend and let in another bunch of gangsters willing to do business with BP Amoco.

I just couldn't resist reproducing this gem from Ken Silverstein:

Is there any way this country can officially disown Anthony Blair? Those of us who were never fooled by him now have to watch as he cashes in on his time as Prime Minister in ways which are actually shaming. His dishonesty, his lack of embarrassment and his greed are all so great that it is now possible to imagine him ending up munching gonads on I'm A Celebrity, perhaps trying to restore his fortunes after yet another failed property speculation.

I had to watch the ludicrous transformation of this man, who to my personal knowledge did not know in 1997 that they spoke Portuguese in Brazil, into a supposed World Statesman, the victor of Kosovo and the scourge of Saddam. These two wars, one dubious, the other indefensible, were conducted on the basis that Mr Blair is a dedicated foe of tyranny. Quite a lot of people still believe this piffle. But how can they now, after Mr Blair's trip to Azerbaijan, there to open a formaldehyde factory?