Interview with Alan Ruddock and Henry Kono

I spent a pleasant weekend last week in Dublin at Fiona’s Dojo. It was good to see lots of people, including Aureli, who has started up a new dojo in the north west. The course was being given by Alan Ruddock and Henry Kono, and Alan heads the Aiki No Michi, the organisation to which our club belongs. It was a great course, packed since the space is quite small and lots of people showed up, and we had probably the clearest summary of particular Henry’s ideas so far, at least for me. Despite some of Alan’s comments I did feel some of that connected to what I do in Iaido, and it’s something interesting to look at.

Daithi send an email to some folks after the class, indicated that Guillaume had posted some English versions of an interview he had conducted with Henry recently, as well an older interview with Alan. Some nice articles, which show an insight into their practice.

Geany and other Development Tools

I’ve tried lots of programming editors and ides over the years, obviously in Unix and Linux this is a Holy War, particularly between the advocates of vi and emacs. It is common for both groups to suggest that the other editor is hopelessly over-complex or clumsy. I think there’s some truth in that, because essentially, they both stink.

I tend to be an emacsen user myself, but I just think emacs is slightly less awful than vi. My first action on a new install is usually to use vi to edit my sources.list in Debian, to help me install emacs. Perhaps thats strange, because I really like sed. So what’s the problem with them? They both share this kind of puritanically awkward interface that works well on a console, but sucks in a GUI. They both use ridiculously arcane sequences of key presses to do anything, and I mean even basic stuff like saving and quitting. Yes, yes, you don’t have to lecture me about old terminals and their limitations, been there done that, got the t-shirt. I tend to do all my systems maintenance in emacs, but when I’m programming, I’ve started to love the softness of a decent editor that actually makes it plain and simple to edit multiple buffers of source code, even though its a pain to use different editors for console and gui work. Continue reading Geany and other Development Tools

Battlestar Galactica near Earth

I have to say, I’ve enjoyed the “re-imagining” of Battlestar Galactica immensely so far. When it first aired, I thought it was a pretty corny idea, and didn’t watch it, but I watched an odd episode here and there, and I began to realise that this was probably the most slick, dramatic, special effects laden sci-fi show yet. It’s very addictive, and one of the very few TV shows I feel I don’t want to miss an episode of.

Tonight I just sat down to watch season 4, episode 3 (no spoilers, don’t worry!), and was very gratified to see Cylon base ships moving in a background that contained Orion, absolutely no doubt about it, a nice touch to show Earth is near. Now Orion is the easiest constellation to see, and I admit I never paid attention to the background before, but it’s just that kind of nice detail I like about the show. I’ll keep looking for more constellations now!

Wheeler goes through the last event horizon

This week, John Archibald Wheeler died, from pneumonia at the age of 96.

Wheeler was a spectacular physicist, who worked in the areas of General Relativity among other areas, he is the guy who popularised the words “black hole” and “wormhole”, and worked with Einstein in his last years. I hadn’t known that he had worked on the Manhattan project, and that unlike other scientists, didn’t regret his role in the project but merely the fact that it didn’t save his brother’s life. I also hadn’t known that he supervised one of my other great physics heros Richard Feynman, but I was impressed with his work even before that.

I met his work when I was about 15 or 16. My maths teaching at secondary school had been, well, uneven to say the least for the first few years, but I got a good teacher in 4th and 5th form, Ken Brown. I started to realise that mathematics made logical coherent sense and that if I worked a bit harder I could get on top, and then understanding the next bit took little effort. I also found that, even with this basic mathematics, I could understand a lot of Special Relativity which fascinated me, but not so much as the General theory. In our local library in Bangor I found the book Gravitation
by Misner, Thorne, and of course, Wheeler. Now, my memories of this book are old, and I don’t have a copy, but nostalgia almost prompts me to buy one. But I can remember my impression of the book.

It’s not a layman’s account, although there are many good examples of that, but it is beautiful, the illustrations, the mathematics, I enjoyed poring over all of it, and I think I did come to understand the theory better for it, even if the bulk of the material was beyond me then. It inspired me to study physics, and mathematics, and although when I reached university the mathematics itself began to captivate me more than the physics, still, two of my final year modules were Quantum Mechanics and Tensor Field Theory (the mathematical basis for General Relativity). In fact, I picked these out as modules I wanted to do when I was in first year, and planned everything around them. In the end I am more of a Pure Mathematician, and though back in school I always wanted to work on GR I guess it’s very unlikely I now ever will, it was an inspiration to me, and people like Einstein, Feynman and Wheeler showed the way.

Fixing truncated printing with Firefox

A while ago, I discovered that my current main development project OPUS had an odd problem when printing out of a gecko based browser.

It would print the first page, whether in portrait or landscape, and if there was more content, it would be abruptly truncated and the second page would contain merely the footer off the page. I’ve been meaning to try and solve the problem with a print stylesheet for a while and finally did so today. Continue reading Fixing truncated printing with Firefox

Tux droid isn’t free

Ok, so I should have checked an odd message I saw when I installed the 32 bit debs, but now I know that tux droid is not entirely free.

As some of you will know I’ve had some spectacular bad luck with failing hardware both at home and at work recently. A few weeks ago I started to see the worrying signs of impending catastrophic disk failure on imladris. I bought a new SATA disk, and figured I might as well install an amd64 system (I was previous running an amd64 kernel with a completely 32 bit userland). The process went nice and smoothly (the Debian installer is so much better than it was 3 – 4 years ago). I’m still installing bits and pieces that have been forgotten, and I still have some other problems (can’t listen to iplayer radio for example).

Today I resolved to reinstall the manager for tux, and found that the .deb files were available only for i386. Not daunted, I happily downloaded the tarballs to compile, but got lots of errors clearly stemming from a 32 bit / 64 bit mismatch. I found a forum article discussing a library that was packaged in i386 (why?) and downloaded the source and recompiled it for 64 bit. The same message persists, and then I found an unhappier thread. It looks like the whole project is using a closed source text to speech (TTS) system.

They are apparently producing a 64 bit version, but it kind of defeats the point… a poster boy product for an open source operating system, and parts of it are closed. Even if it can be compiled for i386 and amd64, what about the rest?

Sword ban comes into force

It seems that on the 6th April the long awaited ban on Japanese swords came into effect in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. I don’t know what the situation is in Scotland.

Remarkably, even in the jurisdictions that enforce the new ban, there is considerable confusion about its extent. UTV have reported, totally erroneously, that that all such swords are now illegal. The BBC reported that swords over 100 years old from Japan were exempt.

The Northern Ireland Office stated in their press release that “Following consultation, the ban incorporates exemptions for collectors of genuine Japanese swords and swords used by bona fide martial arts and historical re-enactment groups.” which is extremely welcome.

I looked on the parliament website and found a draft order, and more valuably, an extensive discussion of the issue.

I am not a lawyer, but my reading of these documents (read them for yourself) is that

  1. genuine nihonto forged under license in Japan are exempt
  2. there is an exemption for “sporting activities” requiring the use of such swords, e.g. Iaido provided appropriate public liability insurance is held.

So it seems that Iaido may continue for now. What’s not clear, having spoken to someone at Nine Circles yesterday is how such training weapons can be acquired. It may still be illegal for them to sell the weapons, even to those who might legitimately buy them. They have promised news on their front page when they work out the situation.

I think it would be a good idea to seek proper legal advice on these matters, but I think it would be very prudent for students and instructors of martial arts to

  1. be even more careful about keeping insurance and membership fees up to date;
  2. keep your license and/or insurance with your weapon at all times when you are traveling;
  3. ensure your weapon is safely stowed and not easily accessible (e.g. in a bag in a locked boot);
  4. take legal advice before purchasing an Iaito or other training weapon until the implications of the law are more clear;
  5. think twice about traveling to and form any other jurisdiction with your weapon, for example, students of ours from the Republic of Ireland should think twice and seek advice before traveling to the North with their sword, the tarrif for the importation is 7 years!