Five for Friday

A normal five day week back at work was quite a pleasant change, if somewhat hectic. But the weekend is here, and it is time to get ready for Shabbat. Noah awaits. Meantime, here are a selection of links I have chosen for you.

And by way of a wee bonus, book review of the week is surely here. including this thumper:

“Oddly, the person I feel sorriest for isn’t Brand himself – although he certainly comes across as a rather pitiable figure, projecting his own brokenness on to the world around him – but Johann Hari. Drummed out of Fleet Street for plagiarism, the former Independent columnist has washed up as “my mate Johann, who’s been doing research for this book”. For a genuinely talented polemicist, it would have been a humbling experience to have to treat this sub-undergraduate dross as the scintillating wisdom of a philosopher-king.”

Thanks to Guido Fawkes for the tip.

Shabbat Shalom!

You can never have too much vigilance

From a Times of Israel story (here) about the indictment of French Jewish leader and Holocaust survivor Roger Cukierman, for denouncing Dieudonne – the comedian who popularized the quenelle gesture – ‘a professional anti-Semite,’ the type of typo that makes me smile:


It’s more than a touch ironic alongside the, er, over-vigilant (not to say wrong) attitude of the police mentioned in the article. Though it is also suggested that there is some kind of automatic process after a complaint – presumably by a Dieudonne supporter – that is precisely when it is time to be vigilant against vigilance. In other words, somebody should have stopped and said that this was a situation where there should not be any automatic action.

Anyway, from a light-hearted perspective, it’s good to know somebody is going to be vigilant against vigilance…

Where are you Noah?

This Shabbat in shul, congregations throughout the world will read the portion Noah. That was at the back of my mind when I saw the following cartoon in a colleague’s cube. It was too good not to share:


Comics laureate

Photograph: DC Comics

Photograph: DC Comics

From The Bookseller:

Graphic novelist Dave Gibbons is to become the UK’s first comics laureate.

Gibbons was appointed at the launch of new charity Comics Literacy Awareness (CLAw) at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival on Friday 17th October, by graphic novelist Scott McCloud.

The title of comics laureate will be appointed biennially to a distinguished comics writer or artist in recognition of their outstanding achievement in the field. Their role is to champion children’s literacy through school visits, training events for school staff and education conferences.

Gibbons has won praise for his comics and graphic novel work for Marvel and DC Comics, including Watchmen (with Alan Moore), 2000AD and Doctor Who.

He said: “It’s a great honour for me to be nominated as the first comics laureate. I intend to do all that I can to promote the acceptance of comics in schools. It’s vitally important not only for the pupils but for the industry too.”

Gibbons will take up his two-year position from February 2015.

And by way of follow up, the Guardian has a curious piece by David Barnett entitled:

Five must-read graphic novels that prove comics are worthy of a laureate

My immediate reaction was to query the number? Why only five? If anything, it sets off the cynic in me to suggest that the writer couldn’t find five more decent comics to make up a top ten. This is not to say there is a shortage of quality comics (aka graphic novels) – there isn’t – but even a dabbler in the field like me could come up with a chunky list that would challenge several of those on that list of five.

Check out the piece here, noting that the comments give a decent spread of contenders for the list as well. So, you may pick up recommendations for a life’s worth of reading.

Song and dance routine

You may have heard about the storm over the New York Metropolitan Opera’s decision to stage “The Death of Klinghoffer,” a work based on the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking by the PLO and their murder of Leon Klinghoffer.

The Times of Israel has a review of the performance and protests (see here) from which this entertaining extract comes:

But to protesters truly worried that this is dangerous anti-Semitic propaganda ready to sow seeds of hate, I can tell you as someone who watched it, it is not. And even if it were, I can’t think of a less effective way to spread propaganda than with a difficult, boring and (mostly) tuneless opera.

I’m against censorship, so I am OK with the fact the show went on.

(I wish it were a commercial flop – and given the review, you might think it should be a disaster – but the suspicion is that the whole shooting match is being sponsored by a trouble making faction. So all the publicity is its own reward.)

I’m not saying the motives of the promoters were as pure as the driven artistic ideal they pretend, but that’s impossible to know for sure. I understand the protests, and have every sympathy for the poor Klinghoffer family. As some of the protesters said, it will be a long time – if ever – before we see an opera about the ISIS murders. Funny that.

Wonders of suburbia


To get back into the swing of regular gaming sessions was a great feeling. And it was a good session with one old and one new game on the table.

The old favorite – well, for everyone except Peleg – was 7 Wonders. The other players were Yehuda, Saarya, and Sheer.

Peleg was easily the best with the blue victory points, but he had not very much anywhere else and wasn’t surprised to avoid being in contention. Saarya did well with his military points, but again needed something from one of the other VP areas. Sheer and Yehuda were competing for the green victory points and both did well, with Yehuda slightly ahead there. Sheer’s military power was better, though. To my delight, I had managed to build up a nice spread of victory points across various color groups, and that was enough to give me the win.

Yehuda and Sheer stayed for our first game of Suburbia. The theme is city building (it is a tile laying game) and essentially you are trying to use the interactive features of each tile to create an economic engine that generates income, reputation, and a growing population. You need money to buy tiles to add to your borough. Your reputation determines how quickly your population grows. The player with the highest population at the end wins.


You track each player’s population on a scoring track that has a series of red lines. Each time you cross a red line – going in the right direction, upwards – your income and reputation go down by one. So you are constantly having to regenerate income and reputation.

Each player has a secret goal. For example, to have the most blue tiles in the borough, or the least green tiles. (There are 20 on the game and each player receives 2 at the start, choosing one to keep.) Yehuda did not like the “fewest” goals, but I thought they added a tactical twist. There are also public goals. Each goal, if solely attained, generates 10-20 extra population and so these are crucial.

It all makes for a challenging game.

Yehuda is excellent at these engine type games and he shot off to an early lead, concentrating on income, then switching to a concentration on growing the population.


I cottoned on too late, and although I managed to eventually overhaul Yehuda’s population figure, the various bonuses at the end of the game gave him the win. Sheer seemed more intent on trying things out than maximizing his score. I think he was enjoying the combinations, but not the scoring. He made a late run, but it was not enough.

I enjoyed the game, as did the others, and expect we will play it again.

Taming the Jag

From The Register:

Want a more fuel efficient car? Then redesign it – here’s how

Crawling from the Wreckage

Cars are mass-produced consumer products sold to users who mostly know very little about them. They are optimised to make a profit for the manufacturer, so low build cost is paramount for most manufacturers – which automatically excludes many design and engineering ideas that would raise efficiency. John Watkinson has been busy in the garage and applied those concepts to his own vehicle and found that they work.

It’s the introduction to a piece by John Watkinson that starts as follows:

Like many others, my greatest problems are, or at least were, energy costs. I’ve solved my household energy problems, but that’s another story. Here I’m talking about solving vehicle efficiency problems – basically reducing the cost and the environmental impact of running a car.

As a designer, one of the problems I find is that consumer products are, almost by definition, sub-optimal and the more cut-throat the market, the more sub-optimal they will be. Cars fall into that category. Under that nice paint job can be some very questionable engineering. Accept that and the process of ceasing to be a consumer has begun.

It’s a terrific article – though of practical use for a very limited subset of motoring and technology enthusiasts – well worth your time to read. Well done that man!

Read it all, here.



Whiplash is a movie about music, ambition, dedication, persistence, and power. The central story is that of a would be drummer at a top musical school, egged on by a dangerously manipulative teacher, who will go well beyond the normal boundaries of encouragement to get the best out of his students.

Miles Teller plays the part of the drummer Andrew and is perfect. He’s a real drummer, which is a big advantage. But do not let that detract from his actual acting performance. He can play the drums, but he can also act.

Jonathan Kimble Simmons is the abusive teacher (and conductor and band leader) called Fletcher and his performance is equally good. It’s a great role, and he delivers it with gusto. I expect he really enjoyed the part, and that comes across in his very natural poise and presence through a variety of key scenes.

Beyond that, there is a plot that has a bit of padding and couple of well done nasty twists, and the music.

First, the plot. There’s a bit of padding with some love interest between Andrew and a young girl, and there’s also Andrew’s family situation featuring a single parent father.

Oh, the music. The focus here is on jazz music. I don’t like jazz music. There were times when I could have done with less of the music, but I expect my opinion to be a minority one. Further, it may be taken as greater praise that I liked the film despite the music!

Go see it. It’s a smart film with a bit more depth than the ‘boy out to make his way in the world’ story might sound like. And if you like jazz, you would be mad to miss it.