Saturday, October 25, 2003


I have a piece on what is wrong with the format of the rugby World Cup over at ubersportingpundit.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Making research easier

This new Amazon feature where you can search the entire text of a huge number of books they have online is extremely cool, in my opinion. One thing that annoys me is that I cannot grep printed books as I read them. If I remember something that happened on an earlier page and want to go back to it, I can't always find it. This is annoying. Now though, I can search for it on Amazon, find out the page number and quickly find it in the book. This is great, and gets rid of one of the major advantages electronic documents have over printed books, which is that they are easy to search.

Of course, many of my books are British editions with slightly different page numbers. This leads to an interesting search tree approach, where you go to approximately where you think what you are looking for will be, type in a few words of the British edition from that page of the book, find out the American page number from Amazon and thus the approximate offset between the two editions that far through the book, then type in the phrase you are looking for, find where it is in the American edition, subtract the offset, and bingo, you have found it in the British edition. Not perfect, but workable. Still, some better system of indexing than page numbers needs to be found or invented.

I have lots more to say on the new Amazon feature, but for now I am going drinking with some bloggers.

Update: Virginia Postrel describes the new features as "a great advance for civilization". Steven Johnson (who mainly talks about the same use I was discussing - using the tool to search within books you own already) calls it "The best search idea since Google". I shall at some point be commenting on it in more detail, but I won't have time at least until the weekend, and I shall be flying to Australia between now and then. Ultimately, I want a single database containing all human knowledge that can be searched from essentially any computer terminal in the world. (In many cases I will be happy to then pay to use the knowledge, but I want the serach itself to be free). In the long run, I don't think this is out of the question. Just think how much closer to this we are now than we were ten years ago. This development is a major step forward towards that ultimate goal.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Depressing stories

Jay Manifold is right that there are few possible headlines that are scarier than this.

There is almost no imaginable action I would not support to prevent Saudi Arabia from obtaining nuclear weapons, if it really came to that.

I have some cricket writing at ubersportingpundit, mainly on Bangladesh's fight back in the first test against England.

(I'm not sure whether to keep linking to all my sporting stuff over there, now that I have stopped writing about cricket here. I think I will because there is no harm in it, but if anyone is finding it annoying, let me know).
Photographic thoughts

Okay, I took both the digital compact and the good old SLR to Cornwall with me, and I discovered something very important, which is that if you are taking a digital camera with you anywhere for a few days, 16 Mbytes of memory is utterly woeful. I ended up taking far fewer photos than I might have liked, and some of them were taken on too low a resolution. So, I am going to have to buy one of those memory card thingies. The camera takes cards up to 128 Mbytes, and I suspect a smart move is to go the whole hog and buy a 128 Mbyte card. Of course, if I buy a smaller one this may still be useful later, but I think I may just go the whole way. And then I suppose a should get a card reader, although this is optional, as the camera itself can perform this function.

Now let's see. The camera cost £95. I spent £10 on rechargeable batteries, and I could now spend another £40 on a memory card and £20 on a card reader, meaning that the total cost would be up to £165. And the purpose of all this was at least partly to stop spending money (on film and processing). Such is modern life. (£165 is still good value, actually).

And of course, using an SLR and a little digital compact side by side is quite enlightening. The SLR feels like a quality piece of equipment - a real camera. The digital compact still feels like something of a toy. It takes quite good pictures, but it still seems quite insubstantial. I actually do want a digital SLR, but I cannot afford one for now. Sad.

Here's me at Land's End. Obviously, taking a photo with the sun in it is quite tricky, although the person I asked to take the photo wanted to give it a try. It's much easier with an SLR where you have more control over the light levels.

Update: Looking at it some more, the light really does have a certain J M W Turner quality about it. Certainly the Cornish light has been popular with British artists for a very long time, and Turner certainly did visit.

Different Update: A little shopping around on the internet got me a 128Mbyte MMC format memory card and a universal card reader for £42 in total, including delivery and (overpriced but mandatory - this presumably partly makes up for the low prices) insurance. This compares with £70, which was the best price I could find on the high street. The British high street retail cartel is indeed appalling. Anyway, for £147 I have managed to get a four megapixel camera, rechargeable batteries plus spare set and charger, 128Mbyte memory card and card reader, which isn't bad. I am not sure if my readership are interested in my digital photography experience, but I am having fun.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003


I have a piece on the Boeing 757, of which Boeing has announced that production will cease, over at Transport Blog.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003


I have a piece on recent events in non-Australian cricket at ubersportingpundit.

Update: I now have a piece on recent events in Australian cricket as well.

Hosting Matters is apparently receiving a big attack from a hacker, and as a consequence much of the blogosphere that I normally read (and write for) is not available, including Samizdata, Brian and Alice. The almighty Glenn's regular site is down, but he is posting on blogspot. The Volokhs are still up, too.

Update: The blogosphere is again alive. It is striking just how centralised the blogosphere's infrastructure seems to be, even though a fair bit of it is using a supposednly decentralised tool like Moveable Type.
American insularity

Randy Barnett will probably be entirely uninterested to learn that it is also perfectly okay for tweedy intellectuals to admit that they are interested in (or indeed obsessed by) the game of cricket. And as an added positive, cricket matches go for much longer than baseball games.
That was fun

I spent yesterday in St Ives, location of one of the branches of the Tate Gallery and also one of the few places in England that can be described as a "surfing town". It's an absolutely lovely place, too. I also did another long walk around the cliffs from St Ives to Hayle. This led to my missing the 1730 train back to London that I had intended to catch. This meant that I spent three hours in a pub in Penzance before catching the overnight train at 2200, but caused me no other harm. (I would have made the train if there had been some signs pointing out the location or Lelant railway station, but for some reason there weren't Still, though, it was well worth it. And an advantage of aiming for the second last train is that missing it is not nearly as traumatic as missing the last train). I will post some more on this later, when I am at my own PC and can post some photographs as well.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Looking out over the ocean, with nothing between me and New York, except a few lighthouses

Well, I went to Porthcurno and Land's End yesterday, and the museum was fascinating although there is not all that much else to see with respect to cable landings (I was hoping to see 150 of technical detritus, but the evidence for the importance of the place is very subtle. The cables were for fairly obvious reasons always buried. As for the fact that Porthcurno is still today a major landing point for fibre optic cables, well there is essentially no evidence at all. The cables presumably come in under the beach buried and then connect underground to a buried landline.

I also had a lovely walk along some magnificent and extremely rugged Cornish coastline (mostly) between Porthcurno and Land's End. You sort of think of England as a gently undulating place, but not this.

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