GCU Dancer on the Midway
Paul Wright's blog
Recent Entries 
25th Aug 2020, 09:29 pm - Welcome to my blog
I'm Paul Wright, a software engineer based in Cambridge, England. You can now find my public blog on my own site: http://www.noctua.org.uk/blog/. I'll be crossposting from there to LJ but you'll only be able to comment on my site. See you over there.
The button that isn’t | Restricted Data
There’s no actual big red button to launch all the missiles. Interesting article on nuclear command and control.
(tags: nuclear icbm button war missiles)
Secular Solstice: Doing good for goodness’ sake – The Washington Post
The WaPo reports on secular solstice celebration. Sounds cool.
(tags: atheism religion solstice)
“Yer a Developer, Harry” – Programming Is Magic
How being a programmer is a bit like being a wizard. Via andrewducker.
(tags: magic programming spells software wizards)
A Poor Imitation of Alan Turing by Christian Caryl | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books
The Imitation Game is pretty bad as history. Via HD on Facebook.
(tags: biography film review turing history war world-war-II)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Ex-Communications – Recovering From Religion – You Are Not Alone
A new blog written by de-converts from various religions. Looks quite interesting so far.
(tags: ex-christian religion deconversion christianity)
Physics – Arrow of Time Emerges in a Gravitational System
“Standard approaches to the arrow of time typically require a rare statistical fluctuation, or, often, the smuggling in of assumptions about initial conditions. Their work offers evidence that ordinary gravitational dynamics may itself be enough to produce the simple “initial” point that can give time a direction.”
(tags: entropy time physics gravity)
Science AMA Series: We are a Group of Researchers Exploring Auditory Hallucinations – People Who Hear Voices. Ask us Anything! : science
Interesting comments on benign hallucinations.
(tags: hallucinations psychology reddit science)
cartesiandaemon – December Days: Dream Job
CartesianDaemon on what makes a good job. I think I agree with all of these. Where can I get one of those?
(tags: jobs dream employment software software-engineering)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.

Image by Graham Stratton
Alexei Sayle’s Marxist principles mean he doesn’t like Strictly Come Dancing, and by extension, all ballroom dancing.

Sayle doesn’t like SCD because it’s a dumbed-down popularity contest. This might be fair: the judges do have dancing knowledge, but the public get a say via a phone vote, and on the programme itself there’s lots of other bollocks which has little to do with art or skill, which is why I got bored with SCD.

Alas, Sayle seems to have falsely conflated the whole of ballroom dancing with SCD. tangokitty’s excellent comment at the Guardian points out that this neglects the large number of social dancers. One unfortunate effect of SCD is that it leaves people (including prospective and newbie ballroom dancers) with the impression that true ballroom dancing will culminate in fake tan and sequins.

Sayle likes the freedom of Northern Soul, which isn’t a partner dance, so is an odd choice for comparison with ballroom. There’s a limit to how much you can go crazy on the floor and also keep dancing with another person. (Neither was Nothern Soul “unselfconscious”, according to the Guardian’s expert commenters). Silly Sayle: improvisation and freedom is why lindyhop is better than ballroom, not why Northern Soul is. Naturally, you should also feel free to make up your own reason why ballroom is better than lindy.

Sayle goes on to say that ballroom tango is “robotic”. I say staccato, you say potato: Sayle’s free to prefer chocolate ice cream to strawberry, but it’s not clear what that has to do with our moral obligation to assist in Marxist class war. He adds that the music is terrible, but in fact, SCD’s music for tango (and paso doble) is often the wrong music for the dance, leading to horrors like this. Ballroom can in fact be sexy (previously), although Sayle’s assertion that a partner dance involving a man and a woman is always about sex is problematic and I’m tempted to set the Tumblr SJWs on him til he’s sorry.

tl;dr: Sayle’s at his best when talking about how crappy popular TV is, but knows bugger all about dance and/or is just trolling to drum up publicity for his new show.

Edit: Metafilter has some interesting discussion on the article.


Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
“The Culture represents the place we might hope to get to” | MetaFilter
Mefi’s discussion of the (previously linked) recently published interview with Iain M Banks (RIP). It’s good.
(tags: metafilter iain-m-banks culture sci-fi sf science-fiction discussion)
GCHQ’s ‘jihad on tech firms’ can only fail | Technology | The Guardian
Blaming Facebook for Lee Rigby’s murder will only lead to a breakdown in the relationship between the police and tech companies, says Ross Anderson.
(tags: gchq facebook terrorism security lee-rigby ross-anderson)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Read The Leprechauns of Software Engineering | Leanpub
Looks interesting, a few sample chapters on the “10 x” programmer and waterfall.
(tags: management software waterfall ebook)
William Gibson: ‘We always think of ourselves as the cream of creation’ | Books | The Observer
Gibson has a new book out.
(tags: william-gibson sci-fi science-fiction books review)
The Last Chance Ragtime Band by Harry & Edna on the Wireless | Mixcloud
Last Chance Ragtime Band on the radio, talking about playing for dancers. I knew them before they were famous.
(tags: music ragtime dancing lindyhop new-orleans)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Stewart Lee: The Imaginary Liberal Comedy Cabal will crush the Ukips into dust | Stage | The Guardian
There is now a cabal.
(tags: ukip stewart-lee comedy humour funny politics cabal)
The Sixth Stage of Grief Is Retro-computing
Emulation of old computers and grief over the death of a friend who used them. Via Mefi.
(tags: emulation technology grief nostalgia)
When Women Stopped Coding : Planet Money : NPR
I remember seeing a photo of an old-ish computer surrounded by its programming team in the computing museum at Bletchley Park. Most of the team were women. This blog/podcast looks at what happened in the USA.
(tags: women coding computers feminism sexism technology)
Loyalty and Layoffs | Heart, Mind and Code
The corporation is not your friend.
(tags: employment loyalty career redundancy layoffs)
Loyalty and Trust | Heart, Mind and Code
A more temperate follow up to the “don’t be loyal to the corporation” one, distinguishing loyalty, trust and vulnerability.
(tags: employment layoffs trust vulnerability work loyalty)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
I had a couple drinks and woke up with 1,000 nerds (This really touched me)
Nostalgia overload as a bloke sets up a Linux box and gives his friends (and then randoms from the Internet) accounts, like what we did with our college Internet connections in the mid 90s.Remember Pine?
(tags: unix tilde community history)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
A Parable On Obsolete Ideologies – Less Wrong
Yvain/Scott Alexander on why it might be a bad idea to continue to espouse a belief in God, the Devil and whatnot while having a sort of private understanding of what that means, even if that understanding is more palatable than the original theology.
(tags: psychology religion rationality hitler)
The Definitive History Of The West Wing
(tags: west-wing aaron-sorkin television politics)
The Fox Trot in the Jazz Age – YouTube
What they called Foxtrot in the 1920s was rather different to the modern ballroom version.
(tags: dancing foxtrot jazz)
Jazz Age Ballroom Dancing (“The Modern Dances”) | Mass Historia
A set of web pages on the Jazz Age ballroom dances.
(tags: 1930s 1920s dance jazz foxtrot ballroom)
Take The A Train
The AABA structure of “Take the A Train” illustrated in a neat little presentation which tracks the music.
(tags: jazz music)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
fabricate – The better build tool. Finds dependencies automatically for any language. – Google Project Hosting
Make replacement in Python which finds file dependencies by using strace to work out which files the compiler reads.
(tags: python tools build make programming)
Falsehoods programmers believe about build systems
Things to bear in mind before starting on your quest to replace Make, especially if you’re writing your own replacement.
(tags: make build programming tools)
Redo implementation in Python
djb’s “redo” make-replacement done in Python.
(tags: make coding development programming redo djb python)
tup | Home
Another make replacement. This one looks quite neat.
(tags: tools build development tup programming make)
This Is What It Will Be Like If Scotland Votes For Independence
Yes, it’s Buzzfeed, but it’s quite funny.
(tags: funny parody news scotland indepedence)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Jazz Dance Film Fest 2014
Bunch of fun dancing films. I like the rubber ducky.
(tags: dancing lindy lindyhop balboa film jazz)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Implementing non-recursive make
Recursive makes are considered harmful. Here’s a recipe for a non-recursive one where you can still put project files in subdirectories.
(tags: make programming nonrecursive makefiles build software)
Embedded in Academia : Proposal for a Friendly Dialect of C
John Regehr and friends note that C compilers aggressive optimising around use of constructs the spec says are “undefined” can lead to unexpected behaviour. They propose a friendly C dialect where compilers would produce unspecified values in response to use of these constructs, but would not feel free to make demons fly out of your nose.
(tags: C programming language software-engineering)
The Left must reject the relativism at the heart of the Rotherham scandal | Left Foot Forward
This, from Al Razi of Ex-Muslim Forum, seems a sensible response, although as the worlds only impartial observer, I’d say that both the class of the victims and the race of both victims and perpetrators contributed to the horrors being ignored for so long. The Guardian will only talk about the former and the Telegraph about the latter, I suspect.
(tags: rotherham abuse religion islam news multiculturalism)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Postcards From the Edge of Consciousness – Issue 16: Nothingness – Nautilus
“Sensory deprivation goes from CIA torture manuals to a yoga studio near you.” Via andrewduck.
(tags: psychology meditation floatation deprivation consciousness)
TAM2014 – Carol Tavris – Who’s Lying Who’s Self-Justifying – YouTube
“Social psychologist and author Carol Tavris on “Who’s Lying? Who’s Self-Justifying?: Origins of the He Said/She Said Gap in Sexual Communications”. Discusses sexual assault but is mainly about discussions of sexual assault and dissonance.
(tags: sex sexism psychology scepticism cognitive-bias evidence)
Russell91/pythonpy · GitHub
Clever idea: quick way of writing per line loops to process files in Python. Via HN.
(tags: python shell programming)
Barely Legal Pawn, feat. Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and Julia Louis-Dreyfus – YouTube
Spot all the Breaking Bad references.
(tags: breaking-bad comedy funny emmy parody pawn)
Pop Sonnets
“Young Thomas is a longshoreman by trade” Pop song lyrics turned into Shakespearian sonnets. Via Mefi.
(tags: funny shakespeare sonnets pop music lyrics)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
The Business of Fake Hollywood Money
When your prop money is too realistic, the authorities get interested. Via Mefi.
(tags: money counterfeiting films props)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.

1755 Lisbon earthquakeThe Problem of Evil is a pretty difficult one for Christians and other theists. One response to it is to say that atheists have a problem too, either because they also must cope in a world with so much evil and suffering in it, or because without a way to “ground” morality, they have no basis to call anything evil. As we’ll see, these are both Bad Arguments.

Bad argument: Atheists must cope psychologically with evil, and this is a problem for them

Stephen Law dealt with the response that atheists must also cope with the evil and suffering in the world (which actually came from an agnostic, not a theist, in the linked example). As Law says, this sort of response relies on shifting the problem we’re talking about to the problem of how to cope psychologically with evil and suffering (which is indeed a problem for both theists and atheists). But this is not the problem that the discussion was originally about, which is that evil and suffering make theism less likely to be true (i.e. they’re evidence against it), but are not evidence against atheism.

Bad argument: Atheists have no grounds to call anything evil and so cannot make an argument from evil

Wintery Knight and Cornelius Hunter are both Christians, and both make the second sort of argument: if there is no God, they say, there is no matter of fact about what is evil, it’s an entirely subjective judgement either of particular individuals or of human societies, and as such cannot be binding on God.

Firstly, both Knight and Hunter just assert that if there is no God, there are no moral facts1. But in fact the philosophical debate about whether there are moral facts is carried on largely without reference to God: there are atheists who say there are, and atheists who say there aren’t, and a lot of debate about just what it means for something to be an objective moral fact anyway. Apologists like to pick an atheist who says there aren’t moral facts and quote them as defining The Atheist View on Moral Facts, as if there were only one.

But suppose for the sake of argument that Knight and Hunter are right, and if there is no God, there are no moral facts. Conventional Christianity still faces a problem of evil as an internal contradiction. Here’s a little argument from evil:

1. If God exists, God is objectively morally perfect.
2. If God exists, it is objectively morally imperfect for someone to permit human suffering which it is in their power to alleviate (see the Parable of the Good Samaritan, for example).
3. There is human suffering which it would be in God’s power to alleviate, were God to exist.

Now, assume for the sake of argument that God exists. From 3, suffering which it is in God’s power to alleviate exists. From 2, God is objectively morally imperfect, but this contradicts what we get from 1. So God does not exist, proof by contradiction.

Any theist worth their salt will attack premise 2 (and probably say that there should be a “without good reason” after the “permit”, and then say that God either has good reasons or that we have no way of knowing that he doesn’t). But my purpose isn’t to present a comprehensive argument from evil, but rather, to point out the shape of the argument: notice that the argument does not rely on a claim that there are in fact objective moral values, only that if God exists, there are, something which Knight and Hunter agree with. In fact, more robust arguments from evil generally rely on putting together statements which theists should accept and showing that they lead to the conclusion that there is no God.

A couple of Knight’s commenters (1, 2) point this out to him (one even explicitly telling him that the Argument from Evil is what’s known as a reductio ad absurdem) but he just doesn’t seem to get it. I hope you do, but let me know if this could be clearer.


  1. Along with the claim that if there is a God, he’d provide a grounding for moral facts, which seems dodgy, see previous discussion 


Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
18th Jul 2014, 10:35 am - Dear Lazyweb: Chromebooks

Dear Lazyweb: do I want a Samsung Series 3 Chromebook? This’d be for taking to places where I don’t want to take my (heavy) old Macbook (e.g. on holiday). Does anyone have any experience with them?


Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
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