Monday, 31 August 2015

Genius of the week: Hans Zimmer

The man below is a genius! So many massive films have his music. 150 films. Unbelievable.

"Hans Florian Zimmer (born 12 September 1957) is a German composer and music producer. Since the 1980s, he has composed music for over 150 films. His works include The Lion King, for which he won Academy Award for Best Original Score in 1994, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Thin Red Line, Gladiator, The Last Samurai, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, and Interstellar.

Zimmer spent the early part of his career in the United Kingdom before moving to the United States. He is the head of the film music division at DreamWorks studios and works with other composers through the company that he founded, Remote Control Productions.

Zimmer's works are notable for integrating electronic music sounds with traditional orchestral arrangements. He has received four Grammy Awards, three Classical BRIT Awards, two Golden Globes, and an Academy Award. He was also named on the list of Top 100 Living Geniuses, published by The Daily Telegraph."

Source: Wikipedia


Recap: Robbing the poor of Justice

Summary by The Week: "It’s the dirty secret of the American criminal justice system," says David Usborne. Although every citizen has the right to be tried by jury, very few defendants ever exercise it even if they’re innocent. Instead they feel pressure to take "a plea bargain" – to accept a lesser sentence by pleading guilty to a reduced charge rather than risk being defended badly by an overworked public defender and convicted at trial. All this relieves pressure on the justice system, but doesn’t say much for justice. And now something similar is happening over here. Earlier this year, ministers introduced a criminal courts charge in England and Wales. Fixed at £150 for those pleading guilty to summary offences, it can reach £1,000 if a person is found guilty. As critics point out, £150 is a fortune for an unemployed or homeless person charged, say, with petty theft; and fear of being hit by higher charges makes it more than likely that such people will plead guilty even if they aren’t. Some magistrates are resigning over the issue. No wonder. It could prove "a step along the road to America’s iniquitous system".


Full story here



Sunday, 30 August 2015

The future of the EU as predicted by its President

Jean-Claude Juncker (born 9 December 1954) is the 12th and current President of the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union (EU).

On the current trajectory he is right.

So already no military might, then no economic weight. The future of the EU is bright.


San Salvador - Murder Capital and holiday heaven

An amazing level of violence continues there. Surely it's got to peak soon. Such a waste:

Midway through a year scarred by gang violence – and the brutal police response to it – El Salvador suffered its bloodiest day of the century on Sunday, when 40 murders were committed. But that record was then overtaken on Monday, and again on Tuesday, when 42 and 43 people were killed. Most of the murders were committed by two gangs, MS-13 and Barrio 18, which each have about 50,000 members. The gangs were formed in Los Angeles, but took root in El Salvador when the country’s civil war ended in 1992, and the US sent thousands of Salvadoran migrants home. The murder rate nearly halved in 2012/13, when the gangs agreed a truce, but it has since skyrocketed; it is likely soon to exceed 90 per 100,000 people, giving El Salvador the highest rate in the world (a record currently held by Honduras).

Source: The Week


Saturday, 29 August 2015

Rome - Mafia Funeral Upsets the Locals

Italians have been outraged by the granting of a lavish funeral to a notorious Rome crime boss, involving an ornate hearse pulled by six black horses, and a helicopter that scattered rose petals over a crowd of 500 mourners. Vittorio Casamonica’s send-off last Thursday – which included posters that read: “You conquered Rome, now you’ll conquer paradise” (pictured) – was seen as a direct challenge to the rule of law in a city already rocked by a Mafia corruption probe, which has seen dozens of politicans arrested. The government is now demanding an explanation from the city officials who gave out the relevant permits.

Source: The Week


Wałbrzych - Nazi “Gold Train” Found?

Two men claimed last week to have solved a famous Polish mystery – the riddle of the Nazi “Gold Train”. The train, carrying a fortune in Nazi gold, is said to have disappeared in the country’s southern mountains as the Red Army advanced in April 1945. There have been previous – false – claims to have found the loot, but this one could be genuine: the anonymous treasure hunters have filed papers with the local government, claiming their entitlement to 10% of the find’s value should they be proved correct. Locals suggest that the train might be hidden in the vast, disused “Project Riese” tunnel complex built for unknown reasons by the Nazis near the city of Wałbrzych.

Source: The Week

According to sources quoted by the BBC the train definitely exists. They know where it is too. It would be an incredible find and just imagine if the gold was still there.

Project Riese was absolutely vast and not a great detail is known about it. I have never heard of it. Amazing stuff.


Friday, 28 August 2015

Windows 10 records every keystroke and command you make

Article from the NY Times on 26th August. Microsoft don't want to spy on us all they will use the information to improve the performance of their software and programs. But it will enable "others" like US Government agencies to watch us all if they wish.

Q. Is it true that Windows 10 records what I type on the computer? If so, why?

A. By default, Microsoft collects data from your interaction with Windows 10. This includes typing on the keyboard, using spoken commands or writing with a stylus on a tablet or touch-screen computer. As for recording your keystrokes, the company says it does "collect your typed and handwritten words to improve character recognition and provide you with a personalized user dictionary and text completion suggestions." Some of this collected data is stored on your PC, but some of it is uploaded to Microsoft to help improve those tools.

Along with your typed, scrawled or spoken input, Windows 10 uses information from your Contacts and Calendar programs to "help personalize your experience," particularly in interacting with the voice-activated Cortana software. Other virtual assistant apps, like Google Now and Apple’s Siri, also need access to your personal information for similar reasons, so Microsoft is not alone. Most apps these days also want to get the location information from your computer or device, for mapping and marketing reasons, so you see geographically relevant ads.

If you chose the "Get going fast" Express settings route over the more hands-on Custom option when you originally set up Windows 10, most of the data-sharing permissions are on by default. However, you can always go back into the system and change things. Keep in mind that by doing so, you may not be able to use some of the Windows 10 apps and services that need access to your information.

To adjust your privacy controls, go to the Start menu and select Settings; you can also press the Windows and I keys to open the Settings box. On the Settings screen, choose Privacy and go through the several categories of listed permissions until you feel more at ease.


Facebook: one billion users in a single day

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says that “one in seven people on Earth” used the social networking site on Monday, when the site for the first time had more than a billion users in a single day. Zuckerberg, who invented the site at college in 2004, predicted that this was “only the beginning” as Facebook’s reach continues to grow

An incredible achievement and for me a bit scary really. That's a lot of data about all our lives one company and one Government has.


Thursday, 27 August 2015

2015 Good Food Guide top 50

The 2015 edition of the Good Food Guide has been published. It remains a list that leans towards the "classical" ie French style but there are some interesting picks lower down. This year they have also published a top 50 pub guide here.

Topping the list as the UK's top eatery for the third year in a row is Simon Rogan's L'Enclume, located in Cumbria. Never been but seems like the place to go. As ever La Gavroche is around and about.

The Top 10

1. L’Enclume, Cumbria (10)

2. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London (10)

3. Pollen Street Social, London (9)

4. Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Cornwall (9)

5. Hibiscus, London (9)

6. Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottinghamshire (9)

7. Midsummer House, Cambridgeshire (8)

8. The Ledbury, London (8)

9. Fraiche, Merseyside (8)

10. Le Champignon Sauvage, Glos (8)

The Top 50

11. The Square, London (8)

12. Fera at Claridges, London (8)

13. Le Gavroche, London (8)

14. Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Tayside (8)

15. Marcus, London (8)

16. Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Oxfordshire (8)

17. The French, Manchester (8)

18. André Garrett at Cliveden, Berkshire (8)

19. Whatley Manor, The Dining Room, Wiltshire (8)

20. The Kitchin, Edinburgh (7)

21. Bohemia, Jersey (7)

22. The Waterside Inn, Berkshire (7)

23. Artichoke, Buckinghamshire (7)

24. Restaurant James Sommerin, Glamorgan (7)

25. Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, London (7)

26. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London (7)

27. Paul Ainsworth at No. 6, Cornwall (7)

28. Casamia, Bristol (7)

29. Adam’s, Birmingham (7)

30. Restaurant Martin Wishart, Edinburgh (7)

31. Pied à Terre, London (7)

32. Restaurant Story, London (7)

33. Murano, London (7)

34. Ynyshir Hall, Powys (7)

35. Sketch, London (7)

36. Llangoed Hall, Powys (7)

37. Hedone, London (7)

38. Hambleton Hall, Rutland (7)

39. The Peat Inn, Fife (7)

40. Gidleigh Park, Devon (7)

41. Fischer’s Baslow Hall, Derbyshire (7)

42. Freemasons at Wiswell, Lancashire (7)

43. The Hand & Flowers, Buckinghamshire (6)

44. Yorke Arms, Ramsgill, Yorkshire (6)

45. The Dairy, London (6)

46. OX, Belfast (6)

47. The Raby Hunt, Durham (6)

48. Lake Road Kitchen, Cumbria (6)

49. The Sportsman, Kent (6)

50. Northcote, Lancashire (6)

The Chilcott delay. Why?

The Chilcot delay great letter To The Times:

"When I chaired the Cleveland child-abuse inquiry in 1987, my report was critical of a number of witnesses. I sent each a copy of the relevant chapter and asked for comments. I also gave a deadline within which the replies were to be returned to me. I completed my report on more than 120 children removed from their homes on unsatisfactory medical evidence of serious sexual abuse within 11 months of starting hearing evidence. I assume the evidence in the Chilcot inquiry is enormous and the task of writing the report a daunting one, but I fail to understand why the passages critical of witnesses could not be sent to them with a deadline for the replies – if that is, indeed, the main reason for what appears to be an inordinate delay in completing the report."

Baroness Butler-Sloss, House of Lords

The letter says it all really. Why is there a delay? It's ridiculous but has helped Chilcotts pension enormously and yet further diminished "the establishment".


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Has globalisation peaked? Global trade contracts.

Has globalisation peaked? That is the question being asked after it was revealed that world trade recorded its biggest contraction since 2008 in the first half of this year. The volume of global trade dropped 0.5% in the three months to June compared with the first quarter, the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, keepers of the World Trade Monitor, said yesterday.

Source: The Week

Answer - No obviously not given tech change, transport costs and population growth. But we are not having a great time at present.


Top Emerging Tech 6/10: Emergent artificial intelligence

What happens when a computer can learn on the job?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is, in simple terms, the science of doing by computer the things that people can do. Over recent years AI has advanced significantly: Most of us now use smartphones that can recognize human speech or have traveled through an airport immigration queue using image-recognition technology. Self-driving cars and automated flying drones are now in the testing stage before anticipated widespread use, and for certain learning and memory tasks, machines now outperform humans. Watson, an artificially intelligent computer system, beat the best human candidates at the quiz game Jeopardy!.

Artificial intelligence, in contrast to normal hardware and software, enables a machine to perceive and respond to its changing environment. Emergent AI takes this a step further, with progress arising from machines that learn automatically by assimilating large volumes of information. An example is NELL, the Never-Ending Language Learning project from Carnegie Mellon University, a computer system that not only reads facts by crawling through hundreds of millions of Web pages but attempts to improve its reading and understanding competence in the process in order to perform better in the future.

Like next-generation robotics, improved AI will lead to significant productivity advances as machines take over—and even perform better—certain human tasks. Substantial evidence suggests that self-driving cars will reduce the frequency of collisions and avert deaths and injuries from road transport, because machines avoid human errors, lapses in concentration and defects in sight, among other shortcomings. Intelligent machines, having faster access to a much larger store of information and the ability to respond without human emotional biases, might also perform better than medical professionals in diagnosing diseases. The Watson system is now being deployed in oncology to assist in diagnosis and personalized, evidence-based treatment options for cancer patients.

Long the stuff of dystopian sci-fi nightmares, AI clearly comes with risks—the most obvious being that superintelligent machines might one day overcome and enslave humans. This risk, although still decades away, is taken increasingly seriously by experts, many of whom signed an open letter coordinated by the Future of Life Institute in January 2015 to direct the future of AI away from potential pitfalls. More prosaically, economic changes prompted by intelligent computers replacing human workers may exacerbate social inequalities and threaten existing jobs. For example, automated drones may replace most human delivery drivers and self-driven short-hire vehicles could make taxis increasingly redundant.

On the other hand, emergent AI may make attributes that are still exclusively human—creativity, emotions, interpersonal relationships—more clearly valued. As machines grow in human intelligence, this technology will increasingly challenge our view of what it means to be human as well as the risks and benefits posed by the rapidly closing gap between man and machine.

Source: Scientific American

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Quote of the Geek from Nick Robinson

Below is a quote from Nick Robinsons' (BBC political Journo) "Election Notebook" that I entirely agree with:

"The great untold story of the past few years is Britains' diminishing significance on the world stage. Many would argue that it was a statement of post-imperial arrogance and extravagance to claim, as Douglas Hurd did when he was foreign secretary, that we should "punch above our weight" in international affairs. Others would say that to do anything else is to abdicate our historic and moral responsibilities.

What stuns me is that we are watching this happen with barely a word being said about it"

Times change, power ebbs and flows. I think that you can't sit at the big boys table and protect your interests and those of others if you don't have a decent military presence. Soft power only works with hard power backing.


Friday, 21 August 2015

Global Heatwave: Hottest Ever Recorded July

July was the hottest month on record worldwide, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Thursday. NOAA also said that 2015 so far is the hottest year since the agency began keeping records in 1880. The average global temperature for July was 16.6 degrees Celsius, up 0.09 degrees Celsius from the previous record, set in 1998. Nine of the 10 warmest months on record have occurred in the last 10 years.

Source: The Week/Voice of America

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Legal Aid Strike Cont: GCN Chambers puts Bolton CC Judge back in box


HHJ Claysons Practice Note is here.

Sad that a Judge is taking this approach. I would have thought the dire situation of the criminal justice system would be obvious to all involved in it.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

War is boring: Aircraft Carriers

The United States operates 10 nuclear carriers — each with an air wing of 60 or more planes — plus 10 smaller, non-nuclear amphibious assault ships that can launch small numbers of vertical-landing Harrier attack planes.

The UK - 0 aircraft carriers.

The French have four. But they aren't great. The Chinese and the Indians Have few and have vast plans.

But the USA well they still rule the waves.

The UK does have 2 carriers under construction. One due for completion in 2016 and one for 2018. They will carry 40 planes each (although we have no planes for them yet!). There have been lots of arguments over design but they will be big and well equipped.

Combined with the current lack of Radar planes the fact we have no carriers is a massive hole in our military hardware and severely limits our ability to project power and protect our sphere of influence. In other words on the world stage no one currently has to listen to us as much anymore. Soft power only comes with hard power.

You tube of our new carrier here.

Queen Elizabeth classEdit

Main article: Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier

Laid downCommissionedFate
HMS Queen Elizabeth40
65,000 long tons (66,043 t)
2 x Rolls-Royce MT30 Gas Turbines
7 July 2009Expected 2016
HMS Prince of Wales40
65,000 long tons (66,043 t)
2 x Rolls-Royce MT30 Gas Turbines
26 May 2011Expected 2018