2016 — 12 October: Wednesday

Paranoia-raising comments1 helped prompt me to make a more determined effort last night on cleaning up my data file act (and numerous nested duplication[s] [of duplication{s}]) hereabouts. My somewhat inchoate plan (some might say "vague intent") is to free up a couple of the 480GB SSDs currently languishing idle in BlackBeast2 and put them to much better use in Skylark. In fact, I may even free up all three of the things, and simply pop in a new drive with Mint 18 on it.

It's the sort of exercise that (a) demands close attention, and (b) can be a sometimes-amusing voyage of data rediscovery...

Of the many things...

... in the set of "known unknowns" that I can find it tricky to wrap my head around, probability theory remains alarmingly high on the list. So this was oddly reassuring:

I have often been struck by the extent to which most textbooks, on the flimsiest of evidence, will dismiss the substitution of assumptions for real knowledge as unimportant if it happens to be mathematically convenient to do so. Very few books seem to be frank about, or perhaps even aware of, how little the experimenter actually knows about the distribution of errors of his observations, and about facts that are assumed to be known for the purposes of making statistical calculations.

Date: 1971

It's from the Preface of Colquhoun's "Lectures on Biostatistics" which he refers back to in the course of a fascinating essay in "Aeon". However, my roving eye was caught — as it so easily can be — by a glorious section buried in the lectures themselves on "The black magical assay of purity in heart as an example of binomial sampling"...

In what Colquhoun describes as a "sadly neglected" paper, Oakley — (1943), He-goats into young men: first steps in statistics. University College Hospital Magazine, 28, 16—21. — points out that "lack of statistical knowledge may vitiate a worth-while experiment the apparent failure of which may deter others from repeating it".

'The legend of the Brocken' (the famous peak in the Harz Mountains noted for its "spectre" and as the haunt of witches on Walpurgis Night), according to which a "virgin he-goat" can be converted into a "youth of surpassing beauty" by spells performed in a magic circle at midnight, was tested on June 17th by British and German scientists and investigators, including Professor Joad and Mr Harry Price of the National Institute of Psychical Research. The object was to expose the fallacy of Black Magic and also to pay a tribute to Goethe, who used the legend in "Faust". Some wore evening dress. The goat was anointed with the prescribed compound of scrappings (sic) from church bells, bats' blood, soot and honey. The necessary "maiden pure in heart" who removed the white sheet from the goat at the critical moment, was Fraülein Urta Bohn, daughter of one of the German professors taking part in the test. Her mother was a Scotswoman (formerly Miss Gordon). The scene was floodlit and filmed. As our photographs show, the goat remained a goat, and the legend of the Brocken was dispelled!'

Date: 1932

How else could one possibly set about assessing the purity in heart?

The conclusion...

... of a review of a new biography of Evelyn Waugh quotes a nice extract from one of his letters from 1942 describing an ill-fated attempt to blow up an old tree stump:

Then they all went out to see the explosion and Col. D.S. D.S.O. said you will see the tree fall flat at just that angle where it will hurt no young trees and Lord Glasgow said goodness you are clever.
So soon they lit the fuse and waited for the explosion and presently the tree, instead of falling quietly sideways, rose 50 feet in the air taking with it half acre of soil and the whole of the young plantation.
And the subaltern said Sir I made a mistake, it should have been 7 and a half lbs not 75.

Lord Glasgow was so upset he walked in dead silence back to his castle and when they came to the turn in the drive in sight of his castle what should they find but that every piece of glass in the building was broken.
So Lord Glasgow gave a little cry & ran to hide his emotion in the lavatory and there when he pulled the plug the entire ceiling, loosed by the explosion, fell on his head.

Evelyn Waugh in B&N

I can't say...

... I endorse this view:

In 2014, the British critic Jonathan Meades produced a 
combative reconsideration of Brutalism in a two-part 
television documentary for the BBC, putting the style 
back into the mainstream of welfare-cutting Britain.

I dodged...

... the subtle "colour stripe" problem I had with the scanner section of my HP LaserJet Pro M125a on certain colour printed material...

banishing the rainbow

... by bringing my venerable3 Epson 1660 PhotoPerfection flatbed A4 scanner back into use. But now Mr Venerable has developed a full-length vertical "streak" on scanned images. So, having inspected an Epson VPS 550 — and confirmed its support under Linux — I have one en route. It will be my 65th birthday present to myself.

I wonder if I'll regain access to any 35mm slide-scanning capability under Linux? You never can tell!

Here's a neat picture...

... showing how AWS hosts 'molehole' for me:

How AWS hosts molehole

I'm sure Mr Bezos won't mind me borrowing it. After all, I've been an Amazon customer since 1999. And I'm delighted by how well the system works.

While I wouldn't say...

... I'd become any twitchier than "normal" since last Saturday's unwanted wasp sting on the back of my neck, I admit the Buddhist chant you can see, paused, here...

How AWS hosts molehole

... was sounding too much like the hum from a nearby nest of the things! Mint 18's Xplayer is a perfectly satisfactory audio player despite being called "Videos".


1  During yesterday's walk.
2  The Grand Plan is for BlackBeast to lounge around, powered off (except for a once-a-week or so tad of maintenance), but still be ready to lurch into action in the event of disaster.
3  I say "venerable" because I'd long ago removed it (from what was then my Windows XP system) and earmarked it for Christa's use on her sadly never-to-be-realised "Meisenheim book" project.