2014 — 7 February: Friday

At least it's not raining, but I suspect the chances of finding a completely unsoggy walk later this morning are now pretty slim. We're going to try a new route in the vicinity of Upham.

It dawned on me...

... last night1 that the first time Christa and I watched "Joan of Arcadia" we didn't make it right to the end of Season #1. No matter; I'm very much enjoying the programme second time around (as it almost were). One of last night's episodes was written by Hart "Bones" Hanson.

Meanwhile, there's breakfast to be made, and a packed lunch too. But not before the vital first cuppa.

Earwiggo again

Or "the soft tyranny of the majority". Yes, I've been browsing around the depressing story of the latest UN report on what little the Catholic church appears willing to do about the sexual predators all too clearly to be found in its rank closed ranks of priests. Most of the recommendations the UN made in 1995 have yet to be fully addressed. Nor is this ghastly "cover your arse" behaviour (as it were) confined to the church. Here's a grim little factoid about the NHS:

These institutions are peculiar in all being vulnerable to a built-in authoritarianism. Not just popes and bishops but doctors, lawyers, soldiers and prison governors work in a framework of professional obedience. They defer to the discipline of their culture. When challenged for wrongdoing they instinctively close ranks and defend their calling fiercely against attack. The NHS is currently facing almost £20bn in outstanding malpractice claims from its victims. Its culture is clearly not theirs.

Simon Jenkins in Grauniad

"Jesus wept."

I successfully negotiated...

... a small deviation to our intended 6.3 mile route when it turned out that a stretch of road at the base of a valley outside Bishop's Waltham was actually not merely under water, but under flowing water. (I currently have the least waterproof footwear.)

Being a lazy so-and-so...

... I've never exerted myself to memorise the digits of pi beyond 3.141592654 — and nor have I ever felt unduly deprived as a result. I've been enjoying Simon Singh's book "The Simpsons and their mathematical secrets" and have just tripped over this amusing assertion in chapter 12:

By 1630, the Austrian astronomer Christoph Grienberger was using polygons to measure pi to 38 decimal places. From a scientific perspective, there is literally no point in identifying any more digits, because this is sufficient for completing the most titanic astronomical calculation conceivable with the most refined accuracy imaginable. This statement is not hyperbole. If astronomers had established the exact diameter of the known universe, then knowing pi to 38 decimal places would be sufficient to calculate the universe's circumference accurate to within the width of a hydrogen atom.

Date: 2013

I got into trouble back in my Polytechnic days for running a program to simulate the "Buffon Needle" method of estimating pi. I set it running with a loop size of one million, then detached from it (leaving it running as a background process) while I got on with one of my engineering projects in a foreground process. An irate member of the IT support team burst into the terminal room a few minutes later demanding that whoever was running job number such-and-such take it off "his" system right now, as it was absorbing2 every last bit of CPU time.

When I got the StrongARM upgrade to my Acorn RiscPC in 1996, not only was this RISC processor chip also fabricated by DEC, but (more amusingly) I was able to run precisely the same program entirely within the cache of the processor. Needless to say, it executed some 200 times faster than what had been, 24 years earlier, an extremely expensive mainframe, but (sadly) was no more accurate in its estimate.



1  If that isn't too much of a temporal possibility at this time of the morning (being currently just a little before dawn).
2  The DEC PDP10 mainframe I was using had a simple round-robin time-sharing system of allocating resources at that time, and my tiny little job was acting like a sponge, basically.