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Sticky: Becoming mobile-friendly

There's currently a lot of excitement among web designers about Google's announcement that they will penalise sites that don't work well on mobile devices. I've decided I need to comply with this although with less than total enthusiasm. Nearly all my pages now meet Google's new criteria (the only exception is my cycling pictures.)

The disadvantage of the change is that if you read my pages on a desktop or laptop the lines will be long (unless you adjust the width of your browser, of course). Perhaps I should have alternatives for people who are using those devices, though that would mean more complication and difficulty in maintaining both alternatives. And the variety of ways that web pages can be viewed has increased enormously, so it isn't possible to cater for all of them. Probably it's no longer a good idea to specify the width of one's lines as I did previously.

I'd be grateful for feedback on this.
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Last modified on 2015-08-15 16:13

Sticky: Changes to the blog

There has recently been a major update of the software I use for this blog (Serendipity). In the process of upgrading I had problems with the (pretty old) frontend theme I was using previously, hence this new one. It's plain and functional, which I like.

More important, it will now, I hope, be easier to search and navigate the blog. I'm particularly pleased to have the list of tags in the right-hand margin; relevant tags are listed at the end of each entry. I tend to come back to certain topics over the months and years but up to now I didn't have any easy way of linking posts on the same theme together.
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Last modified on 2015-11-25 14:55

Annoying email from Crucial

A couple of weeks ago I bought a memory upgrade for my Thinkpad Z61m from Crucial UK. It arrived the day after I ordered it and installed and worked perfectly so thank you Crucial. Today they sent me an email asking me to review the product: "it's easy - just click on the link." Oh yes? I couldn't see the link either in my standard email program (mutt) or in Firefox. I also tried viewing it as text with an editor but it was so incredibly complex that I could make nothing of it.

I really would have liked to give them a good review but I can't. So Crucial get full marks for me for their product and service but zero for their post-sales communication skills. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

Book review: Identically Independent, by Tim Spector

The idea that practically everything about us - our appearance, personality, tastes, health - is determined by our genes is widespread today. One could almost say that genetic determinism is the scientific equivalent of astrological determinism. One reason we tend to believe this is evidence from twin studies. Comparison of pairs of 'identical' (monozygotic) twins with non-identical (dizygotic) twins allows us to estimate the contribution of genetic factors, since identical twins have the same genome whereas non-identical twins do not. This research has shown a strong hereditary element in many characteristics.

What has attracted even more attention in the media is cases of identical twins who were separated at birth and brought up in different families. When reunited the twins often seemed to be uncannily similar, even down to trivial matters such as the kind of dog they have or the names they give to their children. [More]

Book review: The Commodore, by C.S. Forester

This book follows Flying Colours, at the end of which we saw Hornblower welcomed back to England as a hero after his escape from France. Knighted and newly wealthy, he was reunited with Barbara Wellesley, the woman he loves, who had been widowed during his absence; she had taken care of his young son Richard following the death of Hornblower's wife.

At the start of this story Hornblower has been married to Barbara for several months and is the squire of the village of Smallbridge, a position that he doesn't enjoy. He is therefore delighted when he is summoned to the Admiralty and offered the appointment of Commodore to take a squadron of ships to the Baltic. His new command comprises the seventy-four-gun Nonsuch, two sloops, two bomb ketches, and a cutter. [More]

Book review: The Making of Modern Chinese Medicine 1850-1960, by Bridie Andrews

Most Westerners today probably think of Chinese medicine largely in the context of acupuncture, but that was never the only or even the main form of treatment in China. In this book it receives attention in only one chapter (Chapter 8). The main theme is the complex relations between traditional Chinese medicine and modern "Western" medicine. Andrews finds that the differences between the two have been considerably exaggerated. [More]

Book review: The King of Athelney, by Alfred Duggan

Alfred, later known as Alfred the Great, was the youngest of three brothers, sons of Ethelwulf, King of Wessex. He did not expect to be anything more than a princeling (atheling) for the rest of his life, but all his brothers were in poor health and the first two lived for only short periods after coming to the throne. The third brother was Ethelred, whom Alfred loved best. During his reign the great Danish army, which had been fighting in France, came to England with the aim of conquering the whole country. Alfred proved an able warrior and leader and when Ethelred died in 871 Alfred succeeded him as King of Wessex. [More]

Book review: A Hole in the Head, by Charles G. Gross

Gross is a neuroscientist with a long-standing interest in the history of his subject. He has previously published Brain, Vision, Memory, to which the present book is a sequel, although it repeats quite a lot of what was in the previous volume. All the chapters are reprints of articles that have earlier appeared in journals but most contain postscripts that bring them up to date. The book has three sections: early neuroscience and its reverberations today, neuroscience and art, and scientists who were "before their time". [More]

Book review: Flying Colours, by C.S. Forester

This is the concluding novel of a trilogy in which it is preceded by The Happy Return and A Ship of the Line. At the conclusion of the second book Hornblower had become a prisoner of war after surrendering in Rosas bay, following a fierce and ultimately catastrophic battle with four French warships. Shortly after his capture the British squadron under Admiral Leighton enters the harbour and destroys the surviving French ships; Hornblower watches the action from the ramparts of the citadel in which he is being held. [More]

Book review: A Ship of the Line, by C.S. Forester

This is a sequel to The Happy Return. It begins at a fairly slow pace which quickens progressively as the story goes on, to reach a highly dramatic and disastrous climax.

When the book opens Hornblower has just been given a commission as Captain of the seventy-four gun ship Sutherland. He thinks this may be thanks to Lady Barbara Wellesley, with whom he is in love. They had almost become lovers at the end of the voyage in the Lydia, as described in the previous book, but that had ended badly and Barbara has now married Admiral Sir Gilbert Leighton, under whom Hornblower is going to serve. [More]

Book review: Count Bohemond, by Alfred Duggan

Bohemond was the nickname that Robert Guiscard gave to his eldest son, Mark, because of his size. (Bohemond was a legendary giant.) Like his namesake, Bohemond grew up to be of huge stature and strength and a famous warrior. He was one of the principal leaders of the First Crusade and that is the centrepiece of this novel. [More]

Thought for the Day, with Catherine Pepinster

In her Thought for the Day last week, Catherine Pepinster, Editor of The Tablet, was talking about the recent financial scandals at the Vatican. She mentioned the business of canonisation and said that there might be a case for abandoning the process of declaring people to be saints, which has led to allegations of bribery. But one reason to retain the practice, she thought, was that knowing of the lives of saintly individuals may help people when they "struggle to believe".

Surely the idea of struggling to believe is an odd one. It at once reminds me of the White Queen in Through the Looking Glass, who boasted that she had believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. Belief seems to be particularly valued in Western Christianity, where there is a centuries-old history, going back to Constantine, of the defining of doctrine and the denunciation of heresies.

Note added 25 November 2015: The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has admitted that the recent terrorist attacks in Paris made him doubt the presence of God. His predecessor, Rowan Williams, said in an interview with John Humphrys that he could only "just" maintain belief in the face of human suffering.






Book review: Jung: A Biography, by Deirdre Bair

There have been many biographies of C.G. Jung, written from different viewpoints. Some, notably Richard Noll's The Jung Cult: Origins of a Charismatic Movement, have been strongly hostile, while others written by Jungian analysts have naturally taken a diametrically opposite position. Some less committed psychiatrists, such as Anthony Storr, have been broadly sympathetic although not unreservedly enthusiastic.

Bair differs from many of her predecessors in not being a psychiatrist or psychoanalyst. As far as I know she has not undergone a Jungian analysis either; she is a professional biographer and writes about Jung without having adopted a prior position either for or against. While she does not shirk describing Jung's ideas her main focus is on events and personalities. She gives us the fullest account I have seen of his life and relationships. She has had access to a large amount of material, much of it unpublished, and has had many conversations with members of Jung's family and others who knew him, although some of these spoke only on condition of anonymity. [More]