That Monaghan car crash in... empty

On Saturday 2006-10-21, two cars were crashed into one another in Co. Monaghan. Five people died as a direct result. This unusually-bad fatal crash provoked much comment about Irish driving standards, and the peculiar reticence of reporting of car crashes in the Irish media.

Sarah Carey wrote about it. I don't know what she wrote, because she gave in to comments (reported by fatmammycat and irisheyes) that she interpreted as personal threats.

The reporting of motor vehicle crime by Irish media is uniquely euphemistic. Drivers do not swerve off the road — instead, cars leave the road. Drivers do not crash their cars — the cars themselves become involved in a collision. In particular, drivers do not kill or cause serious injury — instead, the victims are reported to have lost their lives following an accident.

When the driver in question survives, this coyness in reporting could be put down to fear of litigation from a driver who escapes conviction. It's more baffling when the driver has killed himself or herself, and isn't around to sue. We then hear nothing but expressions of sympathy for the families (heartfelt but irrelevant to the road-safety issue) and some frustrating generalizations about young drivers, speeding, and drink-driving.

If reporting of aviation disasters was as circumspect as reporting of motoring disasters, aviation would be as dangerous as Irish roads. Aviation safety is hugely improved by the policy of openness in investigation of accidents. Conversely, road safety is damaged by the policy of reporting car crimes as if they were tragic accidents, and not crimes.

Sadly, there is no possibility that the traffic law will be enforced, because there's an election coming, and too many people want to commit car crimes in this country. They have convinced themselves through a process of cognitive dissonance that the traffic laws they break are unjust, and that their crimes are not actually wrong. In fact, they have simply become used to doing what other drivers have bullied them into doing — driving faster and everywhere. This is a battle that political parties dare not fight, when there are so many people who view driving home from the pub as a basic civil right, and Ministers of the Government are happy to drink and drive, and to drive (or be driven) at illegal speeds.

If we can't even talk about the personal, criminal responsibility of drivers who kill, how can we possibly hope to reduce dangerous driving in our country?

Sampler's Culchie Control Platform

I don't like linking to YouTube because they have a poor copyright-policing record, but this looks OK. And it's hilarious and should be seen.

Hallowe'en Horror

Foxtrot has a good and scary Hallowe'en story (well, scary if you live in the US).


Talk Like A Pirate Day

September 19 is Talk Like A Pirate Day. For help with this important language option, consult the How To Talk Pirate video.


Tom Limoncelli's Time Management for System Administrators

I saw the talk and bought the books, but it's handy to have this link available. More useful links (to the book etc.) are on the right-hand-side of the Google Video page.


Just Try Voting Here: 11 of America's Worst Places to Cast a Ballot (or Try)

A wonderfully shocking summary of the biggest things wrong with the USA's electoral system, which is right up there with Zimbabwe's. The problems are, briefly:

  1. Citizens can't vote without a special token issued by the state (normal ID is not enough)
  2. Electronic voting machines screw up all the time with huge effects on count results
  3. Citizens in poorer neighbourhoods wait hours in line to vote
  4. No training for poll workers means no voting until afternoon
  5. Good old dirty tricks are used to mislead voters and disrupt campaigning
  6. Gerrymandering is now a widespread craft
  7. Citizens convicted of felonies are not told if or when their voting rights are restored
  8. The careful selection of pessimal electoral schemes is used as a creative means of minimizing representation for minority groups.
  9. Citizens away at university are simply denied the right to vote
  10. Voter registration forms are selectively "lost"
  11. It has become acceptable for election supervisors to abuse their power to favour their party

Dónal's Stag Party

My good friend Dónal had a stag weekend recently, and people took photos of the respectable bits:

Dónal's Stag
Sep 2, 2006 - 34 Photos

Here's the video that Brian shot at the same time:

Gideon announced he'll be posting his photos of the event as soon as he JPEGizes them this week.


Click fraud

We're not supposed to discuss click fraud in public (for obvious reasons), so I was surprised to find some officially-sanctioned discussion on the AdWords blog. I'm noting it here so I can point people after it instead of simply refusing to discuss it at all.


Where I work

Dave gives his version of the St. Crispin's Day speech to the Nooglers.



My employer's new Trends service is oddly addictive. Here are some of my searches which got satisfying results:

Career Development Plan

A friend emailed me something I wrote long ago and have since completely forgotten. I think I was quite witty back then. Well, I laughed today at what I wrote ten years ago:

Michele Shaw writes:
> ** Create a career development plan

This is a concept which has always baffled me.



This document details the future as it applies to me, paying particular attention to my career preferences. In the course of this, accurate predictions will be made of technological advances, market forces, personal life developments, revelation, disillusion, and of course my future personal preferences. The result will be a wholly useful and informative opus, whose scope is not limited in any practical way, and which is neither a success placebo nor a daydreaming exercise designed to impart artificial job satisfaction.

1. Introduction

Many things affect the future career of anyone in a rapidly changing industry, but fortunately most of them are amenable to management analysis born of the fast-moving hamburger approximation and retail industry, and so the problem of the directivity of time is not, empirically, an obstacle to such analysis. Accordingly, the future is laid out in the following sections by date.

2. Year 1998

In the late part of the year, political mistakes by the heads of department will allow me to lead a coup and restructure the department, leaving me as nominal second-in-command, behind an ineffectual cannonfodder manager who knows discretion and little else.

3. Year 1999

The release of the hitherto-secret GNU automatic program-verification module for libbfd leaves the software industry stunned as it detects and flags bug after bug in binary code worldwide. Salaries fall as IT orgs and sub-orgs shed staff like woolly coats in July. I move into management of project integration at this point.

4. Year 2000

Microsoft's widespread and now GNU-debugged software runs slowly on intel machines worldwide, and they lever their monopoly for all it's worth. The collapse of the world's economy in January impels thousands of crippled businesses to switch to Microsoft products, because, ironically, they work better than the other stuff, and they're Microsoft compatible. I become a system developer at Microsoft, working on parallelising BFD so that the incredibly slow software can be stretched by throwing it at more hardware.

5. Year 2001

U.S. DoD switches its systems over to Microsoft Dimensions (the successor to Windows NT, is byte-compiled, has special instruction codes for load-low-low-longword, load-high-low-longword, load-low-high-longword, and load-high-high-longword to perform 128-bit computing). A synchronisation bug in BFD causes global eschaton.

6. Conclusions

I shall not invest stock, save money, or maintain a 401(k) plan.

7. Acknowledgements

I could not have completed this plan without the aid of Cassandra Tetragrammaton, one of HR's many talented omniscient career resolution consultants. Although she is on catatonic depression leave at the moment, I sincerely hope she will return in time to see the realisation and success of the plan she has helped me compile.

We are Chicken of Borg. You will be assimilated and... SQUAWK!


Skimming Chip'n'Pin

Mike Bond at Cambridge University reports some interesting results of experiments attempting to hack chip and pin terminals, much like the current scourge of ATM skimmers. I've wondered about the possibilities here for some time; after all, when you type your valuable PIN into equipment controlled by the vendor, you have no trusted computing base: in theory, your PIN is compromised each and every time you use it, and you're just trusting that the retailer isn't going to abuse its position. The only thing protecting you from a compromised retailer is the difficulty of implementing a skimmer or man-in-the-middle attack. The interesting thing about Bond's work is that it sets a rather low (if unclear) limit on that difficulty.


The ill wind beneath Cullen's wings

(Via ICTE) The Irish Examiner discovers that Monica Leech (who was to Martin Cullen what Karl Rove is to Dick Cheney) still carries the arrogance and bombast that characterised Cullen's responses to any criticism of his evoting plans.


Sketchpad: the first OO system

In his ACM Turing Award lecture at OOPSLA 2004, Alan Kay came up with this memorable quote about Sketchpad:

I went to ask Ivan How could you possibly in one year, in machine code, on this big but rather slow machine with no graphics display on it, have done the first graphics system, the first object-oriented software system, and the first dynamic problem-solving system?. And Ivan looked at me and said Well, I didn't know it was hard.


Touch-screen voting isn't the right answer

This article by John Schneider is a fairly clear explanation of the basic problems with unaudited voting machines, and it's probably suitable for pointing politicians at.


“Black & Tan™”-flavour Ben & Jerry's ice cream!

I'd better get some while in the US, because it sure as hell won't be stocked in Ireland.

Deception Dollars

Deception Dollar issue #8

I'd like to get these, but unfortunately I wouldn't be able to bring them back to Ireland because each note would be a counterfeit of a currency note within the meaning of subsection (2)(a) of section 32 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001. Subsection (3)(a) makes it clear that even the poster containing the fake bills is forbidden, and subsection (3)(b) of section 35 provides for five years imprisonment just for innocent possession of a counterfeit of a currency note.


A short film on despotism

I'm quite sceptical about this film — it's definitely in the style of a 1946 government propaganda film, but the content is seriously anachronistic. At one point it warns against the dangers of government progaganda; at another it warns against the influence of powerful private interests. Most suspiciously of all, it focuses exclusively on the United States even though it bears the title of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It's still interesting, and the fact that it's an entirely modern fake means that the cringeworthy prejudices of 60 years ago are absent. Enjoy.

Clinton Curtis testifies about Ohio's election shenanigans

I'd read this testimony before, but someone has a video.

Tech industry = Auto industry + 30 years

Does this sound familiar at all?

McGregor grew up in Memphis, when his dream job of firefighter was off limits to African Americans. Instead, he went to work in a handle-making factory at 18, where his take-home pay was $46 a week. Drafted into the Army, he went to Vietnam as a paratrooper and one night was comparing paychecks with buddies from Detroit. "They worked for Chrysler. I said my paycheck was $46 and they had hundreds of dollars," he said. "I said, damn, I'm going to Detroit when I get out."

He did, and when he got to the Fisher Body Fleetwood plant, he saw a sign on the bulletin board that he will never forget: "If you know anyone who needs a job, please bring them tomorrow." They put him to work that very day, welding back seats to car trunks. His first paycheck was $216, more than four times what he'd made in Memphis. To this day, it hangs framed on the wall in his den. "I didn't want to cash it. I just wanted to look at it," he said.

Overnight, he had become middle class — and has remained so. Now 59, he looks back in amazement at what feels like the rise and fall of a way of life, all under his nose. "First they were begging me to come. Now I'm holding an offer that says we'll pay you to leave!" he said. "How can things go from the top of the mountain to halfway down in so little time?"


Google humour (#1 of N)

>> I'm very pleased that Raj Reddy accepted our invitation to speak today
>> at Google. Raj is a past winner of the ACM Touring Award.

> Is this an award to recognise well-travelled computer scientists? :-)

Raj Reddy, 7-time winner of the Tour de ACM, is particularly noted for his performance involving extended handling of local maxima aka the "French Alps" problem.

What the Commission on Electronic Voting found

I just spent 10 minutes locating this in the archives, and I'm likely to want it again, so here it is.


Haskell vs. Ada vs. C++ vs. Awk vs. ... — An Experiment in Software Prototyping Productivity

Someone pointed me at this important paper, which apparently shows how Haskell won some sort of bake-off. The paper isn't trivial to find, so I point to it here for my own reference.


ACM Ubiquity: On the Realizability of Quantum Computers

I really need to understand this, but it's much too complex, and my learning I/O channel is already saturated thanks to having recently started at Google. So if I leave it here, I'll be able to find it later.

Gross Vehicular Weight

This is a small collection of photos of vehicles that have been overloaded to heroic proportions. Slightly mind-boggling.


Bill Bailey on News Theme Tunes

BBC eventually toned down its news theme after Bill Bailey sent it up in his show. It gives me a chuckle.

Hmm, there doesn't seem to be a report obvious copyright infringement button in Google Video.


Funny: The 3rd Annual Nigerian EMail Conference

I heard about this from Bruce Schneier's blog. I'm killing myself laughing at it. Don't miss the link to Spam University at the bottom!


Happy Patrick's Twin Sister Day!

[image of Peppermint Patty] For some reason, Paddy's Day is popularly malapropised as Patty's Day over here. Much as I like the idea of Patricius's twin sister bringing literacy to the North American continent, it's always Peppermint Patty who springs to mind whenever I see it.

Silly: Mmm... sheet iron

A menu from China, with great mistranslations into English.

Failure recovery

I've been categorizing distributed system designs into four groups, according to how they recover from the loss of a single critical ele...