Monthly Archives: March 2024

  • Distracted boyfriend: Tory Lite edition

    The latest variant of the Distracted boyfriend meme has just come into my social media feed (posts passim).

    Starmer distracted by Thatcher to the dismay of Clem Attlee

    This time the dramatis personae are:

    • Distracted boyfriend – ‘Sir’ Keir Rodney Starmer, allegedly leader of the democratic socialist (on paper anyway. Ed.) Labour Party;
    • Annoyed girlfriend – Clement Attlee, leader of the 1945-51 post-war Labour government, which introduced the National Health Service amongst other achievements; and
    • New love interest – one Margaret Hilda Thatcher, one of the Untied Kingdom’s worst prime ministers and figure of divine devotion to the right-wing Conservative Party, the person who inspired the addition to the English language of the noun Thatcherism and the adjective Thatcherite.

    Some would say that any similarity between Starmer and a socialist is – as Hollywood would say – purely coincidental; others would even go as far as to declare such to be non-existent.

  • Honest Bob does a racism

    Smirking Bob Jenrick, a boil on the bottom of the body politicBackbench Tory MP Robert “Honest Bob” Jenrick has proposed that details of a person’s nationality, immigration and visa status should be recorded whenever he or she is given a criminal conviction, Nation Cymru reports.

    This piece of blatant racism has been submitted an amendment to the government’s Criminal Justice Bill, with Jenrick justifying it by saying the data would help to inform deportation and visa policies.

    Under Jenrick’s plan, there would be an annual requirement to publish the nationality, visa and asylum status of every offender convicted in English and Welsh courts in the previous year.

    In the traditional early morning media round for politicians in the last few days, Jenrick has been claiming without any citations or empirical evidence that there is “significant and growing evidence that we [the UK] were importing crime”.

    The BBC notes that Jenrick’s proposal has been backed by 25 Tory MPs, including the likes of former ministers ‘Sir’ Jacob “Happier Fish” Rees-Mogg and ‘Sir’ Robert Buckland, who presumably are also not bothered about being labelled as racists.

    Well-informed readers will be aware that Jenrick is a former immigration minister, who resigned because alleged prime minister Rishi Sunak was not being sufficiently nasty to foreigners.

    There is an old idiom in English, the fox guarding the hen house, which dates back to at least the 1580s. It denotes a set of circumstances in which someone who should not be trusted has been chosen to protect someone or oversee a situation.

    It is ideal to describe xenophobe like Jenrick being elevated to such a public office. Now he’s back on the back benches of the Commons, he’s clearly not letting opportunities to embrace his inner racist pass him by.

  • Joint release of LibreOffice versions 24.2.2 & 7.6.6

    Yesterday the blog of The Document Foundation (TDF) announced the simultaneous release of two versions – 23.2.2 and 7.6.6 respectively of the LibreOffice productivity suite. Both releases bugs and regressions to improve quality and interoperability for individual productivity.

    LibreOffice 24.2 banner

    As usual LibreOffice 7.6.6 is an update to a release not at the project’s cutting edge, but is designed for more conservative users who don’t necessarily want – or need – the suite’s latest features.

    Both versions are now available for download. All LibreOffice users are encouraged to update their current version as soon as possible to take advantage of the improvements and bug fixes in the new releases. For those using proprietary operating systems, the minimum requirements are Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 and Apple MacOS 10.15.

    For business use, TDF strongly recommends the LibreOffice Enterprise family of applications from its partners with a wide range of dedicated value-added features and other benefits such as SLAs. Details here.

    LibreOffice users, free software advocates and community members can support the work of The Document Foundation by making a donation to it.

  • Today is Document Freedom Day

    Today, 27th March is Document Freedom Day, which every year publicises and raises awareness of how open standards and open document formats enable us to read and write as we so wish.

    Document Freedom Day graphic

    Was there ever a time you were sent an important file that the software onyour computer couldn’t read properly? Do you remember having to purchase or download a new application just so you could open an attachment you needed for your work? The same thing happens tens of thousands of times every day. Can you imagine how much knowledge sharing doesn’t happen just because the sender and receiver – either intentionally or unintentionally – use different file formats? Incompatibilities like these are typically caused by secret (“closed”) and privately held (“proprietary”) file formats.

    Document Freedom Day is a chance to inform the world about open standards, which are crucial for the exchange of information, independence from software suppliers like the Beast of Redmond and to ensure long-term access to our data. LibreOffice – the office suite used and recommended by your ‘umble scribe – is a fine example of how to use open standards such as Open Document Format (ODF).

  • Greggs – EN-US written here

    Greggs logoIn recent days, pastry products purveyor Greggs suffered an IT outage that left shops unable to process certain types of payment, the BBC reported yesterday. The company has over 2,000 branches and employs 21,500 persons.

    Some shops were forced to close and posted notices saying they were closed for the day or could only accept certain payment types. Fans of hot pastry-based snacks took to social media, with some labelling it as bordering on a national emergency. One of the more interesting signs from an unidentified branch of Greggs is shown below.

    Notice reads Due to a system outage, we are CARD ONLY temporarily and our staff cant do math

    Yes, you did read that correctly: “Due to a system outage, we are CARD ONLY temporarily and our staff cant do math“.

    A system outage is not the only woe to beset this particular branch of Greggs. First of all, there’s a punctuation thief about, unless the staff cant is hypocritical and sanctimonious talk, typically of a moral, religious, or political nature from employees. Secondly, what is this math? Mathematics, the knowledge that includes the topics of numbers, formulas and related structures, shapes and the spaces in which they are contained, and quantities and their changes, is abbreviated differently by speakers of British and American English; the former with maths, the latter with math, as in the well-known US phrase, (you) do the math.

    Fears of the creeping Americanisation of British English have been doing the rounds for about a century already, but are becoming more prevalent due to the pervasiveness of US culture and a general lack of awareness of the distinctions between the two dialects. For instance, your ‘umble scribe would call something that ran his laptop a program, whilst something broadcast on the radio or TV would be a programme: some folk – quite possibly younger – would use program without distinction for both.

  • Bristol’s Roman Road

    There’s a Roman road that runs across Durdham Down in the Clifton area of Bristol.

    However, it’s not the one near the top of Blackboy Hill with the modern name plate and the posh BS9 postcode. That ‘Roman’ road is an imposter, albeit a short but straight one.

    There is a real Roman road that crosses Durdham Down, but it’s much harder to spot on the ground since it consists of just the agger, the raised bank upon which the road was laid and its two accompanying side ditches. Your ‘umble scribe actually had to lie on the ground to spot it, as the lumps and bumps on the ground can be measured in mere centimetres. The sharp-eyed may be able to discern the differences between the agger and side ditches in the photograph below.

    Agger and ditches of Roman Road on Durdham Down

    It’s somewhat easier to spot on a Lidar scan of the area. It can be seen in the 2 faint parallel lines depicting the ditches on either side of the agger, which are enclosed by the red ellipse in the photo below.

    Plot of Roman road across Durdham Down on Lidar scan enclosed by red ellipse

    This section of Roman highway is a scheduled monument. Its official listing reads as follows.

    The monument includes part of the Roman road which originally ran from Bath to Sea Mills, situated on a wide plateau known as Durdham Down. The road survives as a length of flat-topped bank measuring approximately 100m long, 10m wide and 0.6m high with a visible although largely buried ditch on the south side.

    The Sea Mills mentioned above is a modern-ish suburb of Bristol. It was, however, also home to the Romans who established a settlement called Portus Abonae there. From Portus Abonae, travellers on the road would have had to take to water to continue their onward

    In between the surviving section on the Downs and Portus Abonae, part of the original Roman road’s alignment is still in use today, its course being followed by the current Mariner’s Drive/Mariner’s Lane.

    Mariner's Drive/Lane following line of Roman Road

    The map below shows how this Roman Road, known as the Via Julia, fitted into the general system of roads in Rome’s province of Britannia.

    Major Roman roads in Britannia
    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
  • New user guides for LibreOffice Writer and Calc

    Last week The Document Foundation blog revealed that new guides have been produced for the latest 24.2 versions of Writer and Calc, LibreOffice‘s word processor and spreadsheet programs respectively.

    Graphic showing covers of new Writer and Calc guides

    The new guides are in essence updates of the guides produced for the preceding LibreOffice 7.6 guides.

    The Writer guide has been reviewed and updated by Jean Weber and has changed from being a single page document to a full-sized book. The latest Writer guide includes all these updates:

    • Comments can now use styles;
    • New features in the Navigator;
    • Save with password dialog now has a password strength meter;
    • Insert Special Characters dropdown now shows a character description;
    • Improved support for multi-page floating tables;
    • “Legal” ordered list numbering: make a given list level use Arabic numbering for all its numeric portions;
    • Miscellaneous changes in the names of some fields and buttons;
    • See the release notes for more changes.

    The Calc guide has been revised by Steve Fanning; it contains a description of the new features of Calc 24.2, the spreadsheet program of LibreOffice:

    • Live font preview when using the Font Name menus on the Properties deck of the Sidebar and on the Formatting toolbar;
    • Interactions to switch between sheets operate cyclically;
    • Option to view or hide column/row highlighting;
    • Additional metadata fields on the Description tab of the Properties dialog;
    • On Windows platforms, support for Alt+NumPad codes covering full Unicode range;
    • Text description of highlighted character on drop-down from Insert Special Characters toolbar icon;
    • Password strength meters for several dialogs;
    • Search field on Functions deck of Sidebar;
    • Support for FTP protocol removed from Hyperlink dialog;
    • Changes to auto-recovery and backup options;
    • Search function on Tools – Options dialogs;
    • Security warnings converted from dialogs to information bars;
    • Modify button renamed Assign on Customise dialog;
    • Language Settings menu of Tools – Options dialogs renamed to Languages and Locales.

    Besides those mentioned above, LibreOffice 24.2 also contains the following improvements:

    • New password-based ODF encryption that hides metadata better and is more resistant to tampering;
    • Clarification of macro security options to make it clear exactly what is allowed and what is not;
    • Accessibility improvements: and
    • Improvements in interoperability with Microsoft’s proprietary file formats.

    The Guides are available in PDF and ODF formats from the Libre Office bookshelf web page as well as print versions.

  • Food and language

    Along with water, food is one of the essentials of life.

    Another of life’s essentials is language; it’s vital for communication and communal living in a social species such as ourselves.

    One of the elements of language is the adage, generally defined as something which people often say and which expresses a general truth about some aspect of life.

    In English one well-known adage is there’s many a true word spoken in jest, a propos of which the screenshot below turned up today in my social media feed.

    Conversation reads - Is British food really that bad? If made correctly; yes.

  • Distracted boyfriend: fascist edition

    According to Wikipedia, “Distracted boyfriend is an Internet meme based on a 2015 stock photograph by Spanish photographer Antonio Guillem. Social media users started using the image as a meme at the start of 2017, and it went viral in August 2017 as a way to depict different forms of disloyalty. The meme has inspired various spin-offs and received critical acclaim.”

    Copyright on original: Antonio Guillem.
    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    The latest depiction of such portrayal has taken more than one step to the right, depicting as it does Kremlin crook Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin as the object of distraction, Adolf Hitler as the long-suffering girlfriend and one Donald John Trump, unauthorised keeper of classified documents, convicted business fraudster, convicted sexual predator, suspected Capitol insurrectionist in chief and disgraced forty-fifth president of the United States of America.

    Donald Trump, holding hands with Adolf Hitler, distracted by Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
  • Total failure for Bristol City Council campaign

    Rather than waste sending any officers out from their cosy bolt-holes in the Counts Louse, Bristol City Council – along with their colleagues in the Avon and Somerset Constabulary – favours a policy of legal enforcement by public notice.

    This has been applied in recent years to the authority’s duties under the Environmental Protection Act covering littering, fly-tipping (posts passim) and the like.

    In recent months, the fly-tipping hotspots of Easton and Lawrence Hill wards have been subjected to not one, but two rounds of public notices being added to the already cluttered and confusing street scene: the first consisting of the well-known red NO FLYTIPPING [sic] signs which long been known to be totally ineffective; and the second consisting of the newer so-called lamp post wraps as shown in the photograph below which was taken in Ducie Road in Barton Hill this morning.

    Scene showing two fly-tipping enforcement notices being ineffective at halting fly-tipping in Ducie Road, Barton Hill, Bristol
    Do two enforcement notices work better than one?
    Note also the large volume of litter between both signs.

    The lamp post wrap informs anyone who cares to read it that someone has recently been penalised fort dumping rubbish here. Between it and the traditional red sign, are a black waste sack and a catering size white plastic tub in the corner of the city council’s public car park in Ducie Road.

    A couple of conclusions may be drawn from the above picture, as follows:

    • Enforcement by signage is not effective against fly-tipping; and
    • The city’s fly-tippers are either illiterate or don’t bother reading materials meant to dissuade them; or
    • They consider their chances of being penalised by a local authority constantly pleading poverty and cutting staff numbers are so close to zero that they can be discounted.

    Just around the corner from Ducie Road, there’s another lamp post wrap on the bridge carrying the A420 over the railway line at Lawrence Hill. It too has been remarkably ineffective at preventing fly-tipping by the 1600 litre general waste bin that shares the railway bridge’s footway.

    As a footnote, your ‘umble scribe did take the time and effort to report the incident mentioned above.

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