Seamus K - Irish tech industry expat living in Sweden.

Of statues and aero-nauts

Richard CrosbiePublic statuary in Ireland is a mixed bag. But I would like to nominate this statute of Richard Crosbie (the first man to fly in Ireland when he made a baloon ascent) located in Ranelagh gardens as the most god awful piece of crap commissioned in the country.
Now Rory Breslin is a well regarded sculptor, but this piece, put up to commemorate Crosbie’s flight, is junk. I don’t know was the design imposed on him, but…
It is supposed to represent Crosbie’s youthful curiosity, and interest in flight. But he flew in 1785. So no one would have known what a paper air plane was. And propellers would not make their first appearance (on ships) for another 40 years. And as for putting one on a peaked cap?
The whole thing is twee, affected, and artificial. I cringe whenever I see it.
Far better to remember Crosbie’s literal rise and fall by reading about his life here. 

This counts as work too though.

Making Progress


Blame the god(s)

Still one of my favourite stories on Ministerial Responsibility:

Over the last five years, there had been at least two instances of goods trains travelling about 30 km in northern India without an engine driver, who had either fallen out or had jumped out en route. Fortunately neither train was involved in an accident as they ran out of steam. 

Mr Yadav [The Railway minister at the time] has blamed Vishwakarma, the Hindu god of machines, for the spiralling rate of rail accidents.

“Indian Railways are the responsibility of Lord Vishwakarma,” said Mr Prasad, “so is the safety of passengers. It is his duty [to ensure safety\], not mine,” he said earlier this year.


Old maps

I am researching old maps of the world from the 1920s and 1930 for a project I am working on.

Two great resources I have found are:

http://www.hipkiss.org/data/maps.html – some maps here

http://www.oldmapsonline.org/ – map scans. But not as good quality, or as comprehensive (or well indexed) as this one

https://www.davidrumsey.com – excellent very high quality scans of maps through history that you can download.


Trump the laughing stock

Trump is openly mocked by other world leaders. He is referred to as a child by senior members of his own party. And within his own cabinet he is called a moron.

This is staggering really when you stop to think about it. Has any world leader every been thought so poorly of? And certainly not one in charge of a super power.


Did I say Plano was boring? I apologise.

Be careful what you put in print. Your words may come back to haunt you.

Seven dead in Dallas home shooting

Seven dead in Dallas home shooting

A gunman kills seven people at a house in Dallas, Texas, before being shot dead by police.

Source: www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41224531



What do you call a person who…

Let me get this straight.

You have someone who refuses to condemn traitors who attempted to break up the country and triggered a war that cost 1.6m dead before they could be suppressed. And he is happy to see monuments to those traitors left up.

This person refuses to condemn supporters of a fascist regime, which 400,000 of his country men died to defeat

He is surrounded by people, including his own family members, who actively solicited the support of a hostile foreign power to enable him to take control of the country. And he publicly said he would like to have that support well.

I am a big fan of the duck test (If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck). It gives a pretty unambiguous outcome here.

The only caveat of course is when  the majority in a country says that something is acceptable. Except, that is not the case here.


Self driving – is it ready for Europe (and the rest of the world)?

This is an interesting (but long) read on the Atlantic about Google’s facility for self driving cars. To supplement simulations they build physical replicas of real infrastructure to test the cards. This caught my eye:

We pull up to a large, two-lane roundabout. In the center, there is a circle of white fencing. “This roundabout was specifically installed after we experienced a multilane roundabout in Austin, Texas,” Villegas says. “We initially had a single-lane roundabout and were like, ‘Oh, we’ve got it. We’ve got it covered.’ And then we encountered a multi-lane and were like, ‘Horse of a different color! Thanks, Texas.’ So, we installed this bad boy.”

 If Google’s tech is only at the level of handling US infrastructure then we are a very long way from widespread adoption. Anyone who has driven in the US knows how benign their roads are. If they think a 2 lane roundabout is a challenge, wait until they get to Europe! I will know the technology works when it can drive into and out of someplace like Rome at rush hour!

Still, read for your self what goes on here: 

Waymo Built a Secret World for Self-Driving Cars

An exclusive look at how Alphabet understands its most ambitious artificial intelligence project

Source: www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/08/inside-waymos-secret-testing-and-simulation-facilities/537648/


Should everyone have a personal body cam

Should we be recording everyone and everything around us all the time? Put it like that I definitely say no. Its was obnoxious when Google suggested it with Google glass, and it is no better an idea a now.

The only thing I would say is that as an approach to deter a mugger, I’d rather have a camera streaming to the web than carry a weapon. The latter would always make me feel less safe.



Dunkirk – Good, but…

I got to see Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk last week, in an IMAX theatre. It was my first time in one since the days of the Sheridan IMAX in Dublin before 2000. Back then there were few IMAX films, mostly just indifferent documentaries. I hadn’t been impressed, and it wasn’t a surprise when the Sheridan IMAX closed after only 2 years.

After this trip I have to say that as a cinema experience, with a decent film, IMAX is very impressive. I’d consider paying the premium again for the right type of film.

Was Dunkirk such a film? I would say so. I felt it was very dramatic. At times tense and terrifying, despite leaving out the things that have become standard from modern war films since Saving Private Ryan – rapid cut editing, epic CGI, and buckets of gore. I am not sure how much to credit the film or IMAX, but I was really drawn in. The opening scene with the soldiers walking down the street and then coming under fire from unseen Germans was a good example. The scene was set, you were shocked, and you felt the panic of the characters even though you knew nothing about them.

For the most part the film sustained this through the three separate, but interlocking story lines. But as it got closer to the end it seemed to lose its grip.

*** SPOILERS ***

There were repeated clangers that broke the immersion. I was left going – “hey hang on”. And it didn’t feel like I was watching a master film maker at the top of his game. Nolan began to take serious liberties with time and space that I struggled to overlook.

The crash landing Spitfire is seen from above to come down beside the small motor boat. But when you see the pilot’s view from inside the cockpit it over flies the motor launch and then flies on for several hundred meters. The Dornier bombs the minesweeper, is shot down, and then circles all the way back to the sinking boat to crash right into the oil slick?

The scene with the soldiers in the trawler just was ridiculous. They debate losing weight by throwing one person overboard while tons of water are sloshing around inside. And then somehow though no one is shown running the engines (or bailing the boat) it is out in the middle of the channel when it sinks. The whole scene where a Spitfire with a stopped engine shooting down a Stuka was beyond silly.

There were a load of minor gaffes as well (e.g. the burning Spitfire at the end was obviously a model). I have seen a list of historical quibbles as well, which you can read up on here. The gist of them was that – the real Dunkirk was more crowded with soldiers and boats, it was smoky all the time (the painting above is from someone who was there), but the weather was dead calm. And despite the impression given in the film, the small craft only picked up about 5% of the soldiers.


The crux here seems to be that Nolan has an aversion to using CGI. As a result much of the beach scenes looked under populated, and cheap. We got the tension and chaos of Dunkirk. But we didn’t get a feel for the scale of the event. Game of Thrones episodes have done “epic” far better on more limited budgets.

There is a degree of nit picking to this. It still is an excellent film. But I think it could have been more with some relatively small changes.

Overall – I would rate it as worth seeing. I’d give it 4/5. But I still think the Dark Knight is Nolan’s best film 🙂

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