We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

“Britons have longer, nicer lives” disaster!

Alright, I wrote that quotation myself. But anyway, this is what I hate about the Guardian: it’s so damned gloomy (what I hate about the Telegraph of course, is the stair-lift adverts). Can anyone tell me exactly how the Guardian manages to publish this

Newly revised predictions from the Government’s Actuary Department (GAD) reveal that the life expectancy for men who will be born in 2031 has risen to 81 years, compared with 75.9 years for those born in 2002. For women the figure jumps to 84.9 years, compared with 80.5 years for those born last year.

And now the bad news. The figures are around one and a half years higher than the GAD had assumed as recently as its last report in 2001, and will fuel further fears about the ability of future governments to cope with the profound problems associated with an ageing population.

…on the same day as this

The full scale of the health timebomb caused by Britain’s descent into lazy lifestyles is to be exposed in a landmark report by the Government’s Chief Medical Officer.

Sir Liam Donaldson will spell out for the first time how two-thirds of Britons are now so inactive – with most people, particularly women, failing to do even the minimum recommended amount of ‘moderate’ exercise – that they are at risk of getting cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

I don’t know which is more shocking and dreadful, the fact that Brits are living longer or the fact that they take no notice of government fitness targets! Did you all get your fitness targets in the post? No? That’s strange, neither did I.
→ Continue reading: “Britons have longer, nicer lives” disaster!

Where are the Samizdatistas?

Well, the truth is that at a party someone handed out a link to this dropping ball simulator, descibed by its author as using “physics simulation of elastic masses to make a controlled metaphysical musical system with simple rules that mimic nature”. Actually, my knowledge of physics suggests that it doesn’t mimic nature all that closely, but none the less it is possible to get some nice demonstrations of chaos like things and emergent behaviour if you try.

Plus of course it is more addictive than crack. That is our dirty little secret. The Samizdatistas have spent the last three days staring at our screens watching little white balls bounce backwards and forwards and listening to beeping noises. Occasionally something really extraordinary like the sound of a French woman’s voice or perhaps a cricket match is enough to rouse us briefly, but it doesn’t last long……

(Link via Bruce Sterling).

Schengen Information System and Biometrics

It was very hard to pick the correct category for this particular (if outdated) story: European Union, Civil Liberties or Biometrics.

The Schengen system is the agreement between European Union Member States that allows individuals to cross borders without hindrance. However, in order to promote the freedom of movement, the EU set up the Schengen Information System, a database of individual’s names and details for the purpose of :

by means of an automated search procedure, to have access to reports on persons and objects for the purposes of border checks and controls and other police and customs checks carried out within the country in accordance with national law and, in the case of the single category of report referred to in Article 96, for the purposes of issuing visas, the issue of residence permits and the administration of aliens in the context of the application of the provisions of this Convention relating to the movement of persons.

The central database for this system is administered in Strasbourg by the French government.

With the accession of ten new Member States, and the inability of the Schengen Information System to be expanded beyond 18 national databases, it is envisaged that a Schengen Information System II will be established.

This new database will store biometric data and digital photographs, and will be integrated with the Visa Information system that will harmonise the issuance of such documents in Europe.

The institutions that will have access to this system include the national authorities of the Member States, Europol and Eurojust. The development of this database also gives an insight into how European policy works – decide the objective and then identify the laws which will legalise the system:

Appropriate legal bases for proposals to develop SIS II

8. It is necessary to identify the appropriate legal instruments in the treaties in order to develop the system, since the purpose of the SIS is to improve police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (covered by Title VI of the Treaty on European Union) and policy as regards visas, immigration and free movement of persons (covered by Title IV of the EC Treaty). In addition, the Council decision authorising the United Kingdom to participate partly in the SIS, like the two Belgian-Swedish initiatives (a decision and a regulation) adopted by the Council on 6 December 2001, confirmed the mixed nature of the SIS [Official Journal L 328, 13.12.2001].

Note how even the United Kingdom is not excluded and future Member States will have to accede to this part of the acquis communautaire.

12. The Schengen acquis and its developments must be accepted in full by all States applying for accession. It should be noted that participation by an applicant State in the SIS is an essential prerequisite to lifting controls at common frontiers. If a priority of the new system is to allow the future Member States to integrate, it is necessary to ensure they are appropriately involved in the implementing activities. The Commission undertakes to inform them regularly of progress and invites them to send any observations they may have.

A clash of sporting titans in Melbourne

Here on Samizdata we quite often give a mention to sport, having paid attention to the Soccer World Cup of 2002, the recently concluded Rugby World Cup, the University Boat Race, and cricket matches between England and Zimbabwe if only to keep on reminding the universe of the ghastliness of the current lunatic government of that unhappy country. Jonathan Pearce also writes here from time to time about various interesting and diverting sports. Most recently, we have featured a denunciation of the Olympic Games, only last Tuesday. We even occasionally mention Football of the American variety.

But for a true clash of the titans, you need look no further than the contest taking place right now in Melbourne between Australia and India.

The game? Cricket. Yes, cucumber sandwiches, more-tea-vicar, cricket. → Continue reading: A clash of sporting titans in Melbourne

Samizdata.net’s Christmas discontinuity

As you may have noticed, the festive season has seriously interrupted Samizdata.net’s usually inexhaustible flow of content… I expect our collective hangovers and Christmas bloat will start wearing off soon

The Listerner’s Law

A reader alerted us to an interesting vote happening on the Radio 4 today programme: vote for a law to be submitted to the House of Commons. So far there are five ‘Law Ideas’ and at No.5 is a bill to allow homeowners to defend their property with any force, by deleting “reasonable” from the phrase “reasonable force”.

You can vote by phone or online, if you are registered with BBCi.

The truth will always out

An earthquake has struck Iran causing thousands of fatalities.

But we all know who is responsible:

I’ve heard tectonic weapons tossed around but what if that evil dummy prayed for the quake???

I wouldn’t put anything past George ‘Hitler’ Bush.

Samizdata quote of the day

“France is the best country in the world.”

— Claire Sepchat (who is French).

Santa also has turtles

Tomorrow night, chez moi, Michael Jennings is giving a talk. It’s the last Friday of the month, and a talk chez moi is the rule. He’ll be offering a comparative study of Christmas around the world. Christmas is most fun in non-Christian countries he said today, because although they like it – it’s a big party/holiday after all, and who doesn’t like a big party/holiday? – they don’t always get it. Are you going to mention the Father Christmas who got crucified in a Japanese shop window? – I asked. I was saving that he said.

Not as weird as that, but a bit weird, is this picture of Santa Claus under water at the Beijing Aquarium, stroking a giant turtle. Why? Does Santa not have enough on his plate delivering toys to children everywhere? Aren’t reindeers enough of a headache without him getting involved also with underwater creatures?

Meanwhile, here is information penned in 1997 but presumably not that out of date about Christmas in Japan. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Christmas Cakes are the two big things, apparently.

The Triple Crown

While answering a comment I had a sudden realization: Scaled Composites is going to take the Triple Crown of aerospace.

There are three top records in aviation. Distance. Speed. Altitude. The Scaled Composite built Voyager already holds the distance record with their around the world flight.

SpaceShipOne is a 21st Century version of the X15, which holds the other two records. I think SpaceShipOne is going to take the altitude record off of it very soon. If it can do that, it may also be capable of taking the speed record in a different flight profile if it can avoid overheating.

This is getting very interesting.

SpaceShipOne flight eight test results

I’ve finally got my hands on the Scaled Composites flight test report from Dec 17th, 2003:

Objectives: The eighth flight of SpaceShipOne and first powered flight. 15 second burn of the rocket motor and supersonic flight. Motor light off at altitude and inflight engine performance. Vehicle handling qualities through transonics and feather performance from altitude.

Results: Launch conditions were 47,900 feet and 112 knots. Motor light off was achieved at 44,400 feet and 0.55M. Burnout occurred at 1.2M and apogee was 67,800 feet. There was no noted flight control flutter or buzz during the climb. Feather recovery exhibited a +/-30 roll initially and then settled down into the familiar falling bathtub mode. The wing was de-feathered and locked by 35,000 feet. A nominal landing pattern was flown but touchdown caused the left main gear to collapse and the vehicle rolled to a stop off the runway in the soft sand. Although the damage was not major, repairs are expected to take approximately three weeks to complete.

Now hands up for everyone who believes NASA could return an unmanned children’s kite to flight in three weeks after a gear collapse…

Christmas kills!

Nulabour MP and blogger Tom Watson, offers this inspirational Yuletide message to his readers:

Christmas is a dangerous time of the year. Tree lights send 350 of us to hospital each year. 1000 people suffer trimmings damage. 17 people died through christmas candle disaster. This, before you even get in the kitchen.

Gott in Himmel! Even during the festive season, Nulabour acolytes just cannot rein in, even temporarily, their neurotic impulse to lecture, hector and nanny. Bring back Scrooge. By comparison that crotchety old miser was a bundle of laughs.

It’s Christmas. Revel. Have fun. Go crazy. Get drunk. Eat lots. Ride a motorbike. Have sex (while riding the motorbike). Go bungee jumping, deep-sea diving, shooting, hunting, caving, mountaineering and anything else you desire to give yourself a rush of heady adrenalin. Party on down, dudes and celebrate your lives.