Ex-PM Tony Abbott Headbutted

So former Australian Prime Minister was headbutted yesterday by in Tasmanian by an anarchist DJ. http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/it-was-nothing-to-do-with-samesex-marriage-anarchist-dj-who-headbutted-tony-abbott-speaks-out-20170922-gymu2z.html

The DJ Astro Labe said:

“was just a lifelong ambition to headbutt a fascist because I’m a skinhead that likes ska music and hates fascism. He’s an evil c—, I’m an anarchist and I believe in human rights.”

Now I must say that I disagree strongly with his actions. Do not headbutt Tony Abbott. It is wrong and lowers the discourse and although he is loathsome he isn’t a fascist.

However, the right keeps telling me that I’m not respecting DIVERSITY OF THOUGHT and that the test of freedom of speech is not how we tolerate ideas we approve of but how we tolerate ideas we find obnoxious or reprehensible. I’m also told that we need to respect “both sides” of a debate even when one of those sides if offering violence, advocating genocide or treating the humanity of others as some kind of special favour.

So here’s an idea. Why not put the issue of whether headbutting Tony Abbott is OK to the Australian people? Naturally, I’d vote no – we shouldn’t headbutt Tony Abbott. The government could spend several millions of dollars on a shonky survey and put the question of whether Tony Abbott should get the same basic rights as everybody to a vote – because apparently, that’s how rights work in Australia.


McEdifice Returns: I can’t remember which Chapter Number this is


McEdifice Returns by Timothy the Talking Cat and Straw Puppy. For all rights reserved under both Common Law and Admiralty Law for ever. For the corporate shells known as TIMOTHY THE TALKING CAT and STRAW PUPPY.

Oh we should start this chapter with an excerpt from a future encyclopedia so we can do a subtle info-dump for background!

Planet Campus – the Boot Camp and Corporate Office Planet of Tau Bootes X. Straddled by a single ring-shaped continent that alternates in bands between lonely countryside fall of barracks and obstacle courses and dull looking office buildings full of out-dated office equipment.

The hyper-specialism of the galactic civilisation has inexorably led to planets that were just-one-thing: the desert planet of Sandy, the lumpy planet of Lumpus, the planet that just looks like Amsterdam all over of Damsterham, and the Sydney Opera House planet of Utzon-Jørn to name but a few. To resist the planetary monoculture creating a fundamental fragility to galactic civilisation, the ruling Galactical Confederation of Galactic Imperial Republics had instigated a controversial “Come on, Every Planet Has to Have at Least Two Things Guys” law, that mandated that every planet had to have at least a pair of signature things. The desert planet of Sandy for example also became the unfeasibly large worm planet whereas the lumpy planet of Lumpus tried to skirt the law by declaring itself also the Planet of Very Tiny Valleys planet.

Planet Campus of Tau Bootes X had already staked out a very stable niche as the planet of early 21st Century offices. In an attempt to preserve cultures of historical note and ways of life that might become extinct due to social and technological change, Planet Campus had been populated with low-rise office buildings and locked into 21st-century technology. Dealing with paperwork, and project management methodologies the planet had descended into urban warfare due to a quasi-religious conflict between traditionalist adherents to the church of Prince2 and ninja-heretics committed to Agile Methodology.  

Only after the civil war had consumed much of the planet was it revealed that the conflict had been orchestrated by histriosocioempiricists committed to Seldonism, who wished to see if 21st-century social media was the root cause of the factionalism witnessed on Earth at the equivalent time. After careful consideration of the evidence, they had absolved social-media as a root cause and had concluded in a lengthy report that the primary cause was that “people are just dicks.”

The Space Galactical Space Army landed in force as peace-keepers to end the conflict and to ensure that Planet Campus could return to its vital economic work of moving gradually towards the paperless-office by printing huge reports on the topic. After thirty years of a second civil war between the Space Galactical Space Army and the insurgents, a peace of sorts was brokered. The planet was divided into alternate bands – business zone/boot camp/business zone/boot camp etc. Thus successfully separating warring project management ideologies with military zones mainly filled with new recruits. The success of a planet with two signature things would be an inspiration for planets everywhere. – Extract from “What’s the Thing about Planet Campus of Tau Bootes X” Omnipancyclopedia Cosmosicos 3576

McEdifice stepped out of the post-orbital drop craft and looked around him. In the hazy distance he could just make out what looked like the central business district of a small town but surrounding him was green countryside, obstacle courses, barracks and a habit designed for cruel, demanding, sadistic and shouty drill-sergeants.

“Welcome to Bootcamp 17 of Planet Campus the Bootcamp Planet of Tau Bootes X.” said a particularly loud drill sergeant.

“Nooooooo!!!!!” cried McEdifice.

Tune in next time for another thrilling chapter!

I Don’t Know How to Write About BoJack Horseman

Regular readers will know that I have some fondness for dysfunctional talking animals and I like cartoons and I like binge-watching Netflix. So yes, I’ve watched all four seasons of BoJack Horseman. You’ll note that while I’ve made passing comments about it that I haven’t reviewed even a single episode.

Mainly this is because I don’t know where to start or what the point of the review would be. So I thought I’d write two different pieces. This first one avoids big spoilers, talks more in generalities and focuses on what the show is like. If you haven’t seen the show, this review might give a sense of the show.

The second review will have more spoilers – if I write it. Part of writing about the stuff you consume is to debrief yourself and help articulate what you experienced. Season 4 of the show, in particular, has a lot to process.

Let’s begin. BoJack Horseman is an animated comedy aimed at adults about a washed up former sitcom star and his dysfunctional life. Simple. He is also a horse. The world he lives in is our world but also some people are animals. Some people are fish, some people are insects. BoJack’s agent/ex-girlfriend is a cat. Some people are humans. People still eat chicken but chickens are people and essentially chickens are people enslaved and kept docile to be eaten by people in what is a deeply disturbing nightmare scenario that isn’t a metaphor it is just how the world is.

BoJack Horseman is an animated comedy aimed at adults about a washed up former sitcom star and his dysfunctional life. Simple. He is also a horse. The world he lives in is our world but also some people are animals. Some people are fish, some people are insects. BoJack’s agent/ex-girlfriend is a cat. Some people are humans. People still eat chicken but chickens are people and essentially chickens are people enslaved and kept docile to be eaten by people in what is a deeply disturbing nightmare scenario that isn’t a metaphor it is just how the world is.

The show is also very funny .

I love shows that have an inbuilt capacity to essentially do anything and BoJack Horseman is one of those shows. The core of the storyline is the life of a genuinely unlikable person. BoJack is conceited and cynical, he uses people and manipulates people. Not only is he unhappy but he takes active steps to sabotage the happiness of others. Narcissistic-yet-self-loathing and at best amoral, he operates in part as the antagonist of the show. When other characters make the move to get BoJack out of their lives, you cheer them on – it is always a smart move. When those same characters find themselves embroiled in his unpleasantness you feel sad for them.

Except…BoJack is also a sympathetic character. Which is hard and it is worth stating up front that having an emotionally abusive character at the centre of a show and also making him sympathetic is a problematic concept. Yet it works – it works because the surrounding characters are also sympathetically drawn even when some of them start just as one-note jokes. Also by making the audience feel sympathetic towards BoJack the cycle of emotional damage becomes intelligible. The ups and downs of his career, his occasional personal insights, the apparent missed opportunities for a better happier life put the viewer in the same position as those self-same characters that we think should just get FAR AWAY from the piece of shit that is BoJack. Except of course we also like those characters and want them to stay in the show and hence want them to stay involved in BoJack’s life and rationalise that maybe they are good for him… and once again the viewer ends up in the mindset of the person trying to be friends with a shitty person.

I’m not really selling this as a funny show.

It is a funny show. Talking animals is a basically funny concept. Taking that concept and then extrapolating it further makes it even funnier. Taking that concept and then occasionally delving into the implications of a world in which some people are literally animals and working out the mechanics of it, is both absurd and funny and pushes the show well into speculative fiction. If animals are people then what about sea creatures? Well, they are also people and live in giant sea cities and have a whole somewhat alien culture.

Showbiz, politics, sitcom cliches all get satirised both crudely and subtly. Sight gags and puns and wordplay keep the episodes sparkling with humour while absurd events send characters off on increasingly irrational sequences of events (e.g. the Governor of California having a hand transplant and getting lobster claws – also the Governor of California is a woodchuck called Woodchuck Couldchuck Berkowitz).

The humour is inappropriate and the events that happen to the characters are cruel but in general, what it avoids doing is making the humour pointlessly cruel. There are times when wordplay is both stupid-funny AND devastating to the character but it isn’t Seth Macfarlane or South Park nasty. There is a consistent current of humanity and sympathy throughout.

In part that is due to some amazing writing but also due to the cast. Will Arnett as BoJack is truly impressive but also in Season 4 Amy Sedaris as BoJack’s agent Princess Carolyn does some incredible and heart-wrenching acting. Alison Brie as writer/journalist/blogger Diane Nguyen is consistently good. Aaron Paul pulls off a different but similar trick that he did with Breaking Bad – taking an apparently shallow and uncomplex secondary character and turning them into the heart of the show. Paul F Tompkins as BoJack’s frenemy, the irrepressibly jolly Labrador Mr Peanutbutter also shifts a character who starts as a one-note joke (he’s a person who has the personality of a labrador) into a complex character.

I’m still processing Season 4 and that’s what I’d like to write about next because it was extraordinary and at times very upsetting. I don’t think there is a way to discuss it without spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the show but intend to, don’t read that post.

Currently Playing: Metroid – Samus Returns 3DS

Many modern women currently employed as alien bounty hunters were inspired in their youth by the example of Samus Aran who has been busy shooting insectoid aliens in weird caves for several decades. Now, once again, I can challenge my poor hand-eye coordination and weak reaction times in a very nice looking re-make of Metroid II for the 3DS.

Damn, I’m dead again and my thumb hurts.

Pythagoras Patches

More playing around with Javascript and HTML Canvas.



I was originally trying to make a kind of colour map showing visualisations about Fermat’s Last Theorem– basically, calculate x^n + y^n for each pixel, then find the nth root and then colour code the difference between that and the next integer down. For a Pythagorean triple (eg x=3, y=4 ) the difference will be zero. The picture here isn’t an example of that.

Being a complete noob, I didn’t realise that x^n in Javascript isn’t x to the power of n but instead “^” is the logical operator “xor” which then does binary stuff to the numbers.

fermat20Now, it didn’t take long to fix the issue but the original pictures were kind of nice. I added the symmetry by plotting the same quadrant in different orientations. I also added a slider which changes how the colours are assigned to the pixels.

The other “looks nice but the maths isn’t right” comes with larger versions of n. After a point, if x is a lot bigger than y or vice versa then the difference becomes so small that it is approximately zero within the range of colour coding. This picture is for n=20 and all that black space aren’t amazing integer solutions of a^20+b^20=c^20 but just cases where b is so small compared to a that a^20 is approximately c^20.

Really big values of n don’t draw anything good but have a play and make some pictures. The most varied style is called “unrounded n is xor with values” – which is complete nonsense but quite pretty and varied. Looks like a psychotic quilt. I’ve no idea what the program is actually calculating in that one. If you type in non-integer n for that one you get lines. Have a play!



Science and Le Guin Part 2

Following on from Part 1.

Yesterday, I was discussing this post on the blog of the far-right SF publisher Castalia House. I covered some of the confused criticism of Ursula Le Guin’s use of scientific ideas in her books but I singled out one claim for special treatment today.

Here’s the blogger:

“She also claims that it would take the atmosphere “several hundred years to get rid of the CO2”. While I understand Le Guin found math difficult, if humans completely stopped producing CO2, it would take 9-12 days for the atmosphere to rid itself of the amount presently there. Or, if you believe global warm…err “climate change” hysterics, it will take…several years. A few hundred years is baseless ignorance.”

The points I covered yesterday rested primarily on a misreading of the text but in this case, the situation is simpler. The quote from Le Guin is genuine and from The Lathe of Heaven published in 1970. It is also scientifically correct (more or less) whereas the criticism is scientific nonsense – indeed it is error piled on error.

I’ll deal with one minor point first. There is still a misreading/straw man there in that the story does not claim “humans completely stopped producing CO2” (i.e. from industrial/economic activity – people will still breath the stuff out). When the story opens people aren’t using internal combustion engine cars etc but it doesn’t seem to be a zero emission world. However, that is a minor issue compared with the rest.

A diversion

I’ll go off on a bit of a diversion first of all with a thought experiment.

Imagine a toy world with a toy economy [which may not be mathematically sound and is just for the purpose of illustrating an idea]. This world only uses cash and to make it even simpler all the cash is one dollar notes. Each Monday morning Bob gets his pay packet as a wad of notes. During the week he spends his money. Some of his notes go to friends, some to shopkeepers and so on. Now many of those notes find their way back to the bank (there’s only one bank because this is a wholly unrealistic scenario) but some don’t. Sunday night, Bob’s boss Gertrude withdraws money from the bank to pay her employees in the morning. Now Bob’s job is as an economist and he has worked out that on average any given note spends about 5 days out and about before finding its way back to the bank.

Now, as it happens, the previous government of this toy world has been trying to stimulate the economy (perhaps misguidedly) by printing lots of extra money. So there are more notes in circulation than normal. A new government has just been elected and they decide to stop printing extra notes.

Gertrude asks Bob to work out how long it will take for the number of notes in circulation to drop back down to previous levels. I’ve told you already the 5 days figure for notes going back to the bank so it should be easy to work out right!

No. The 5 days is not a useful figure. It tells us the time it takes for a note to get back to the bank but those notes head back out again on Sunday night/Monday morning. The time it will take the toy world’s economy to adjust to fewer notes being printed is a quite different question. For that, we need to know about notes that go missing, are destroyed or put away long-term in vaults or under a mattress. The 5-day figure isn’t wholly irrelevant but from what I’ve said the ADJUSTMENT rate could be 14 days or 20 months or 100 years.

Back to the main feature

Le Guin (back in 1970) is describing an adjustment rate for CO2 given a decline in anthropogenic emissions. The blogger is being scornful of that figure and cites a different figure which appears to be a residence time for molecules of a gas in the atmosphere – akin to the figure for a note in our toy world. The 9-12 days figure is how long a molecule of a given gas is in the atmosphere as part of a cycle before moving to a different part of the cycle.

Also, the gas for that 9-12 figure isn’t CO2.

Best guess, given the context, is the blogger is quoting a figure for WATER VAPOUR (i.e. H2O as a gas). Now water vapour is a major greenhouse gas and plays a big role in global warming but it isn’t CO2 and its role isn’t like that of CO2.

The rate for CO2 that the blogger wants is the one he mentions snidely “Or, if you believe global warm…err “climate change” hysterics, it will take…several years.” Now the mechanics of this are obviously complex but do a quick sanity check. Water vapour has a short time in the atmosphere on average because when it gets cold it falls out of the sky (if you live in Britain you will be very familiar with this phenomenon). There are many processes that lead CO2 to come out of the atmosphere of varying speeds but an obvious one is plants growing which captures carbon (on average) and then being eaten by other living things which releases carbon back into the atmosphere (on average) – which is a process that takes more than a few days. The oceans also play a substantial role in this process at multiple timescales.


  1. the figure is for the wrong gas,
  2. it is the wrong figure to use.

It is a multiple fail.

The figure needed is the rate at which carbon leaves the shorter term parts of the carbon cycle and gets locked up without returning to the atmosphere. That isn’t simple to work out but 50 years for 50% is a current estimate (https://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2010/12/common-climate-misconceptions-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide/ ) and 70% in a hundred years. It isn’t a linear relationship so for close to all (say 99%) of the additional carbon from industrialisation to go will take even longer. If Le Guin’s statement is taken to mean all of the carbon then it is an underestimate, if it is taken to mean MOST of it then it is spot on. A reminder: this is a book published in 1970.

Now Frogs versus Trolls

The alt-right seem to be suffering some set backs and now they may be losing their mascot. Matt Furie the original creator of Pepe the Frog had indicated for sometime how upset he is by his character being co-opted by krypto-fascists. He’s now taking legal action to get his frog back: