Happy Christmas Everybody

December 25th, 2008

Usual pile of old Christmas card pup at http://www.johncarling.com/web/play/xmas08. Bah humbug and all that. But I hope both people who read this post have a happy Christmas along with everyone else.

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Financial trouble

September 24th, 2008

It looks to me like President FD Roosevelt created the New Deal to help the US out of severe economic trouble. He gave paid work to poor people, thereby improving the environment and, more importantly, putting money in the pockets of the poor. This eventually worked and a few years later the US became the world’s richest nation by far.

Rabid journalists are claiming the present economic crisis is as bad as the Great Depression. I don’t know if they are correct but personally suspect and hope not.

President Bush confronted with this downturn, however bad it turns out to be, seems to be giving vast amounts of money to the incredibly rich bankers and financiers who caused the problem in the first place.

Am I correct in this assumption or am I missing something?

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Ooops

August 22nd, 2008

Ooops. I’ve not bothered to write anything on this blog for ages. Wonder how many blogs end up like fallow fields in the middle of nowhere? I must have been busy.

Also notice that, at the time of writing, there is something a little wrong with the encoding.

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Budget

March 13th, 2008

Am I alone in thinking the shadow chancellor’s response to the latest budget sounded entirely like something from the mouth of Rik Mayall’s Alan B’stard’s Piers Fletcher-Dervish? Is the Opposition trying to be serious or are they laughing at us?

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Adobe Shockwave

January 17th, 2008

Adobe has finally produced a version of its Shockwave player that works on 64 bit windows machines! Until very recently this company which is worth many hundreds of millions of US dollars apparently thought that 64 bit computing wasn’t worth investing in. It looks to me like this giant software company though making software for new computers was too expensive.
However this version of the Shockwave player (10.3) doesn’t quite work the same way as the 32 bit version. 3d models do not always light the same way for example. The new 64bit-compatible version seems to bleach out anything with a direct white light falling on it unless the light is specifically given a darker hue. Still we must be grateful for small mercies and at least Adobe now thinks the growing number of users with up to date hardware should be able to see Director Shockwave interactions.

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Conveniently saving paper

January 14th, 2008

We could save huge amounts of paper, ship and box electrical items more cheaply and make our lives a whole lot more convenient if we used a portable electronic screen to display instructions for individual devices. The screen could be in another device such as a mobile phone or could be slightly larger and stand alone. The display screen/ chip reader doesn’t need to be clever; it only needs a navigation buttons to enable choice of and movement through documents.

If we agree a standard then we only need one cheap screen for every electronic item we own. Each item could contain a small extremely cheap chip not a lot unlike a pet chip. Instructions could be swiped into the display screen by proximity swiping or input via Bluetooth.

If you lose the paper based instructions for some device you can usually download them from the web, but this is inconvenient and relies on you having Internet access, probably via a computer and you have to go find them. Swiping your reader near the item sounds a whole lot easier to me.

Even better, we could put paperless brochures and contact details in organisers at conventions and trade exhibitions by Bluetooth or swipe technology. There must be somewhere that is doing this already. It would not only save a fortune, be a far more efficient way of gathering and maintaining contact details but also save enormous amounts of expensive waste. Again this year I was dismayed by the huge amount of expensive and unnecessary brochures as well as the inordinate weight of paper material being handed out at an educational trade show I recently attended.

If the reader was easy enough to use and book sized and probably with simple touch screen navigation we could swipe electronic books when we buy them in a book shop saving paper, energy, time and money. It would also make it possible to publish a more diverse range of books in mainstream high street book shops. If the standards allowed the readers to be sophisticated enough we could have cool multimedia too.

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John Carling Art

November 17th, 2007

From time to time people ask me why I am not producing art anymore.

I am. Continuously. And no matter how much I try to convince them of this, people like to ignore all the evidence to the contrary. Along with the art world in general most seem unwilling to grasp the idea that serious art can be made without oil paint or some equally well regarded media.

Art doesn’t need to be in an gallery. It doesn’t need to be in a frame or on a pedestal. These last two do seem to help people understand that they are to look at something in a different more reverential way whispering if they speak near it. Does that make something Art?

If an image is in a posh gold frame in an impressive gallery the inference is it must be among the best of its type and be worth real money. Maybe that makes it good art?

Personally my oil and water colour paintings were all about the interaction between light and form and atmosphere among other things. My etchings were more personal in nature, but also explored light. The few sculptures I could afford to create years ago were explorations of beautiful soft strong forms seen in the light.

It seems to me that the computer screen issues light and as such is more interesting than a painting which absorbs it. We can use technology with software to create the illusion of light, form, texture, atmosphere, colour and animation. The technology could be paint, ink, watercolour or 3D software such as 3ds Max, Maya, XSI, Lightwave and the like which permit the artist to create limitless environments with emotive lighting and let you walk round them. We can explore these environments as well as produce images from them. The standard 2d packages permit the creation of some stunning images and animations too.

I’m always baffled by the idea that computer art which is transient and uses technology which we know will soon be succeeded by something more impressive is less important in artistic terms than something framed in a gallery. It is certainly harder to sell a virtual image than a physical one as ‘art’. But this challenge to the monetary ‘value’ of something creative is surely one that validates the unsellable rather than reduces its worth to society.

A Van Gogh is now worth a fortune. When he painted them they were mostly worth nothing. Would he rather have had enough to live on and a little human respect and have his work classed as ‘worthy but minor’ or lived the difficult, hungry life he was forced into and years after his death find that the immensely rich are using his work as a monetary exchange (until his work becomes untrendy) while the public gawp in awe at something they were laughing at a few years ago.

Ironically the value of transient art and virtual images in the entertainment sector is immense. Films with beautiful soundtracks cost huge amounts to make and frequently produce a massive return at the box office. It is a shame that we spend so much more on entertainment than on things that matter like ending poverty.

But life is wonderful. We are living in a time of great opportunities. The very same technology that is used to create entertainment will soon be used to save lives and bring people from round the world closer together. That is one of the things art is about.

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Tv for the masses

October 31st, 2007

I might be remembering things incorrectly but I saw the Punch and Judy show on UK Channel 4 at 7pm tonight and it reminded me that they used to have a news bulletin at that time. The schedule claims that they still do.

As far as I could tell the stars of this contest felt their job was to humiliate the other contestants. The main showman, Jon Snow, did grovel obsequiously to some neatly suited Tory who still managed to look uncomfortable. Caroline Flint did well considering the main aim is to have Mr Snow ask a question and then interrupt the answer as often as possible. After this some chap rather ironically ranted slightly rabidly about radical Islamists while someone else tried to get a reasonable word in edgeways. I’m left thinking that they are trying hard to do something to up the ratings. Perhaps they can give the fighting parties some weapons or show a car crash. Oh. I forgot they did do the car crash in immense and gory detail.

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News or entertainment?

September 10th, 2007

I’m slightly fazed by the news today. For the most part it seems to consist of a media scrum round some terrible family tragedy and news reports about new green proposals from the Tory Party. At the end of the reports they then tell us that these are just internal proposals which the leadership may agree with or not. Based on that sort of reporting your standard political party can propose absolutely everything everyone wants then if it isn’t met with immediate applause the leadership can deny it ever agreed with it and get even more positive coverage. I’ve noticed that there has been quite a lot of this type of ‘news’ article recently. The alternative to reporting fantasy policies is to report real ones but that isn’t so interesting.

The other bit of news is that the government is going to give all pregnant women £200 so they can buy decent food. I think this is a good thing but assume most of the mums needing the money will spend it on baby clothes and the like. It will help some others but they probably eat well anyway. That is not to say that the government should not give this cash, it is just that a payment for decent food after seven months of pregnancy is not necessarily going to go to any kind of food in the households that need it the most.

It may be the timing or the way this has been announced but it has been met with an extremely negative reaction. The BBC website (I won’t put the URL as it will only encourage them) has a huge number of rabid remarks like:
“The benefit scroungers are getting a great deal as it is. Now you want to give them another ipod? Brilliant.

If a woman is stupid enough to get pregnant while not having any money to feed herself then i hasten to guess these are not the type of women to be switched on about healthy eating.”

Interestingly this last statement about getting pregnant while not having enough money or food could apply to most of the 3rd world, large parts of the developed world and most of our forebears throughout history.

The comments on the BBC website were apparently close to 100% against this payment. Luckily when push comes to shove people from all economic backgrounds always have had children. Given this irrefutable fact, I’m a little baffled by the apparent lack of comments in support of this move.

It is also worth remembering that we already support pregnant women with maternity leave among other ways. As a society we do this because for our society to continue we need the population to continue and maybe to grow. I might be missing something, but the people who made the negative comments are the same people who may receive the payment. I wonder how many will turn it down along with maternity or paternity leave.

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Daily chess problem

August 3rd, 2007

I’ve put a daily chess problem on my site. I found it on the excellent www.shredderchess.com and they got it from chess.emrald.net where there is even more.

The problems are not hard to solve. I think they are meant to be solved in a couple of seconds. See how you do.

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Wirefusion

June 16th, 2007

Because of Adobe plugin problems with 64 bit machines it looks like I’m going to be moving over to Wirefusion which as a product has a version for half the price and relies on Java. There is an example of a ‘Bayleaf’ style house structure here. Other solutions are available. Write here if you have a favourite solution, or strong opinion on which is the best way to put 3d on the web.

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Excellent colour vision example

June 16th, 2007

There is an excellent colour vision example here at http://www.iamcal.com/toys/colors/ which web designers should be aware of. A well known site about colour vision is http://colorvisiontesting.com/

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Vista 64 bit and Adobe plugins

June 11th, 2007

Looks like there are some problems with Adobe/Macromedia Flash and Shockwave Director plugins for people using 64 bit machines with Vista. Am yet to find out if it is the 64 bit or the Vista at fault. That is, did the same problems happen with XP 64 bit? And when are these problems going to be fixed? In one article I read Adobe just said they are working as fast as possible to fix the Flash problem but that it did work in the ie32 bit browser.

There is a little more here

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Reading

June 1st, 2007

Have just managed to get a little more time so have been able to read a book that isn’t entirely technical. It is a bit of an old classic best seller called ‘The Joy of Work’ by Scott Adams. I’d recommend it to anyone working in an office with a slighly cynical outlook.
Imagine most people will have read it already but in case not h2g2 has this about the book.

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Questions about medieval life

April 28th, 2007

I recently was lucky enough to spend a day with some professional historians at a course run at the Weald and Downland Museum on the social and economic context and early inhabitants of a few of the Museum’s houses. This was a fascinating day and I learnt a huge amount.

It also raised lots of interesting questions. (There are many!) One question I’m eager to find the answer to is the relative cost of building a brick or stone chimney against that of a smoke bay. I’d always assumed that smoke bays were much cheaper but died out quite quickly because they were dangerous. – After all a smoke bay is only a timber framed chimney with a brick fire back which may well help sparks fly up towards a roof that is often made of flammable material.

One of the things I didn’t know (and still don’t quite believe) is that the average size of medieval families was about the same as it is today. The course leader said people did have more children but as infant mortality was much higher it averaged out at about the same size as today. This person is an expert quoting other experts and I guess this does make sense as there wasn’t a huge explosion in global population, and I shouldn’t be sceptical in the face of such enormous knowledge but I think the picture was not as simple as all that.

A far larger percentage of medieval men and women entered monasteries, abbeys and nunneries than happen today. There was no effective fertility treatment for infertile couples. Women died in childbirth far more frequently than today. So I’d argue that, irrespective of the average, families with children were frequently larger than we have today, but that there were fewer of them. Whereas nowadays in the UK it seems to me that most couples have between 0 and 5 children with 2 or 3 being the most common, about 100 years ago families with 7, 10 or 15 children were fairly common, but so were families with no children. Families where the mother died in childbirth were quite common too. To back up my thinking, large families are also still quite common in those parts of the world where people still live in timber famed houses without electricity and poor access to health care.

So if you have any particular expertise or strong opinions or know anything about this at all I’d be delighted if you wrote in letting me know your thoughts.

Below are a few relevant quotes from the web.

Family planning programs and birth control in the third world

The population explosion has been abating since the 2nd half of the 1960s. The birth rate of the 3rd World dropped from 45/1000 during 1950-55 to 31/1000 during 1985-90. From the 1st half of the 1960s to the 1st half of the 1980s the total fertility of such countries dropped from 6.1 to 4.2 children/woman

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=12343122&dopt=Abstract

A book rags snippet says

Marriage and the Family

Within the village community, the basic social and economic unit was the family. The family was nuclear, meaning it generally consisted of the two parents and their children. The size of the household tended to reflect the economic status of the household: The higher a family’s income, the more children it was likely to have. Medieval historians share the opinion based on tax and court records that the number of people living under the typical cottage roof was rarely more than five or six.

However, the nuclear family sometimes expanded to take in extended family members. Size fluctuated as children died, aging grandparents moved in and stayed until they passed away, and cousins occasionally moved in as renters. Regardless of size or composition, all family members shared in all of the family’s intimate details and participated in all ceremonies and rites of passage.

The most honored and celebrated of family traditions was marriage. More than simply an expression of love between a young man and woman, marriage represented the binding of two families, which everyone hoped would bring financial well-being to all involved. For this reason, marriages between adolescents in their late teens were not left to chance meetings.

Arranged Marriages

Most marriages during the Middle Ages were arranged by the family. This was true throughout Europe , regardless of a person’s wealth or social position, and tended to be truer among the upper class. The arranged marriage grew out of the need for families living in times of great economic uncertainty to conserve and consolidate wealth rather than to see it dissipate in a marriage to someone of a lower rank. This need motivated parents to seek spouses for their children with parents of a similar financial position and social status. Such arrangements did not mean that the two people who would marry did not know each other—they always did in a small village—it simply meant that they had little choice in the matter.

The negotiations between two families hoping to marry their children centered on the size of the dowry that the bride’s family would present to the groom. The dowry was awarded to the groom as a marriage gift, but it functioned more subtly as an inducement to the groom’s family to enter into the arrangement in the first place. Negotiations over the size and value of the dowry undermined some marriages and placed great strain on others. Yet dowries were the most important step in arranging the actual marriage.

The complexity of marriage negotiations was determined by the families’ general wealth. A simple peasant dowry might be nonexistent in cases of severe poverty, but usually a prized ceramic mixing bowl or wooden chair was considered sufficient to satisfy the custom. The dowry for a villager who owned land and livestock required a more intricate dowry, which might include both land and livestock

http://www.bookrags.com/history/medieval-village/06.html

And there is some of my interactions about medieval life at http://johncarling.com/joomla/content/blogcategory/15/34/

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