Category Archives: General

When 140 characters would be considered a luxury

My cousin found this among my late aunt’s effects recently… it’s the telegram she received in Sussex from the small town in Kenya where I was born. Phone calls were, of course, basically impossible.


How communications have changed in one lifetime!

My next electric vehicle?

I missed this when it came out nearly a year ago…

More information on their Indiegogo page and at

Hillary Blofeld?

Wow! I thought Hillary Clinton was just an American politician. But according to Donald Trump last night, she’s some kind of global potentate: a villain that would be rejected by Bond film producers as far too implausible:

After four years of Hillary Clinton, what do we have?

ISIS has spread across the region, and the world.

Libya is in ruins, and our Ambassador and his staff were left helpless to die at the hands of savage killers.

Iraq is in chaos.

Iran is on the path to nuclear weapons.

Syria is engulfed in a civil war and a refugee crisis that now threatens the West.

After fifteen years of wars in the Middle East, after trillions of dollars spent and thousands of lives lost, the situation is worse than it has ever been before.

This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism and weakness.

What’s really shocking is that, on top of doing all that, she also used the wrong SMTP server!

You don’t need just one Mount Olympus

The London 2012 Olympics was, in my opinion, the biggest waste of taxpayers’ money to have occurred in my lifetime. For the amount it cost, we could have employed 500 teachers for nearly 1000 years. I’m not saying that the games shouldn’t have happened — there seem to be lots of people who enjoy watching other people jump into piles of sand — I simply think that it should have been funded entirely from the ticket prices and TV advertising.

It is, of course, entirely predictable — the Olympics is a financial disaster for almost every country that hosts it — but it’s less of a disaster for countries like the UK who have enough cash that they can take it in their stride. But when countries like Brazil, who have much more trouble funding their health services than we do, take it on, it probably moves from being stupid to being downright immoral.

So Paul Christesen’s article, Making the case for a new Olympic model, makes a lot of sense to me, and should not only dramatically cut costs, but should also reduce the large number of (essentially abandoned) stadia — I’ve visited quite a few of them — still standing around the world as monuments to the folly of politicians past. Actually, follies is a good word for them! Understandable follies, perhaps — Panem et circenses and all that, if you’ll excuse my mixing of classical references — but follies nonetheless.

It would be good for the Olympics to continue to exist, but for heaven’s sake, let’s do it in a way that makes sense in the modern world.

Free speech

Free speech

From xkcd

Things you thought you knew

Neil deGrasse Tyson is just superb. This video has (a) some ads that pop up that you’ll want to dismiss and (b) a microphone glitch early on so you’ll need to wait until he swaps mics. But trust me, it’s worth the effort.


Well, having failed to stick to my earlier promise to spend less time on Facebook, I’m having another go. I don’t want to abandon my account completely but this time I’ve changed my password to something I don’t know. We’ll see if that helps!

I think the credentials that I use for cross-posting from my blog will still work. This will be a test!

The problem is that many of my friends (the European ones, anyway) are talking about nothing but Brexit, and I find it hard not to join in. (I’m also more moderate on it than some, and this distresses some of my friends who hold strong views in either direction!)

There’s a very good reason why polite society has always discouraged sex, politics, or religion as topics for the dinner table. Few people appear to great advantage when discussing them, and it’s very easy to alienate accidentally those with whom you would otherwise have no disagreement. I think it’s wise to absent myself from the table until other topics return to the fore. God knows there’s no shortage of Brexit news everywhere else!

Since Facebook uses clever systems to order and filter the posts it presents to you, it would be nice if you could tweak it to promote or demote particular topics. “Show me more/fewer posts like this.” I remember a few years back a friend complained that too much of my output concerned Lord of the Rings, for example. But I don’t think such a filter system exists, so if you want to stay on the system you’re left only with the option of un-friending people: something I don’t want to do. I just don’t care, for example, about discussions about Icelandic football teams and can’t contribute anything useful, even if I may value the participants’ views on everything else. They probably feel the same about my views on Peter Jackson’s movies.

Now you might say that coping with this is just part of normal social interactions at the pub. But Facebook is like a large pub where you have to hear everybody’s conversations at the same volume without the normal subtle clues that give hints about the hearers’ enthusiasm. And since it only offers you the option of chucking people out of your pub, I think, I’ll take the alternative of stepping outside for a bit until things are a bit less smoky! I’ll be back soon, I’m sure. Have fun while I’m away!

Using nginx as a load-balancing proxy with the Docker service-scaling facilities

There’s a geeky title for you! But it might help anyone Googling for those keywords…

Recent versions of Docker have many nice new facilities. Here’s a demo of how you can use the service-scaling to run multiple instances of your app back-end, and Nginx as a front-end proxy, while keeping track of them using the round-robin DNS facility built in to the Docker engine.

All demonstrated in a few lines of code on my laptop, using the new Docker for Mac.

Also available on YouTube.

With thanks to Jeppe Toustrup for some helpful hints. Have a look at his page for more detailed information. Also see the Docker channel on YouTube for lots of talks from the recent DockerCon.

Don’t believe everything you see on the commercials…

Obvious, right?

Well, some things are even less obvious than you might suppose. Take a look at this vehicle, for example. What do you think it might be used for?

Click and watch the video to find out.


“So here is how this could go…”

My pal Owen Barder has an interesting post on Facebook:

So here is how this could go.

We invoke Article 50 in October.

We negotiate a new deal which is roughly Norway / European Economic
Area. The UK has to accept Free Movement of Labour, and a net
financial contribution. But we lose the rebate and don’t participate
in Single Market rule setting.

There is a general election before the actual exit. A progressive
centre left coalition runs on a platform of remaining in the EU.

The public realises that staying in is a far better deal than they are
getting from exit (which is now an explicitly-defined alternative)
and, satisfied they have give the political class a bloody nose, votes
for the remain coalition.

The new government withdraws the notification of Article 50. There is
no procedure for this, but it is in everyone’s interest to invent one.

Post-Brexit business opportunities

While shares are cheap, I’m going to invest in Northumbrian construction companies.

I’ll make a killing in a few years’ time when we have to rebuild Hadrian’s Wall.

Always look on the bright side…

For those who are, like me, disappointed with the results of the referendum, let me offer some mitigating thoughts to try and cheer you up over the next few days!

  • As the old saying goes, “Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” But if you believe in it, then a referendum with a clear question and two choices is the purest form of democracy. In it, the British people voted across party lines for greater and more locally-accountable democracy. And huge numbers turned out to do it. Never in recent years has democracy been so much of a talking-point. Never has it had such a turnout.

  • I don’t believe that the clear tendency of older voters towards leaving can be put down purely to xenophobia. I think those of us old enough to remember life before the EU are less scared of being without it. For younger voters it’s been portrayed as a terrifying leap into the unknown.

  • Remember that the majority of our trade is not with the EU. Yes, the EU is a very big part of it, but it’s less than half, and that proportion has been falling since 1999. Remember too that the EU imposes extra friction on much of our current trade with countries outside its boundaries – the majority of our trade. We should do what we can to further reduce friction and tariffs on all our other trading partners in the next few years. It may not compensate for the new frictions imposed as we leave, but it should offset it. Also, a large proportion of our trade is with other non-EU European countries, which bodes well for us when we’re on the outside.

  • Remember that 90% of the world’s countries are not in the EU. Globally, we are rejoining the majority. I don’t think that is a retrograde step.

  • Thank God we didn’t join the Euro – look at what’s been happening to it. In fact, until the referendum came along, the poor prospects for the Euro economy were a regular feature of the news. There will be some benefits to decoupling ourselves from it a bit.

  • You shouldn’t assume that those who voted leave did so for the same reasons as the more extreme spokespeople, who are naturally beloved of the media. I have many friends who indicated they would vote that way and they are all nice, very intelligent, well-travelled, foreigner-loving people. Don’t believe the stereotypes. Britain hasn’t changed.

  • This was a vote for an issue, not for people. Not even for a political party. I don’t for a minute think Nigel Farage is going to be PM. In fact, I think this may rebound. If Labour manage to get an electable leader I think they’ll win the next general election as a result of this.

  • We soon won’t have to see those annoying cookie messages at the top of every web page!

You may not find all of these comforting. But I hope some of them will help a bit. 🙂 Enjoy the sunshine!

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser