Monthly Archives: April 2011

Voting reform in the UK

This is the first time I’ve ever written about politics on this blog, and I hope it will be the last.  [Edit: it wasn’t.  Three more posts on AV followed — #1, #2, #3]  Usually I don’t like to swim in such murky waters, but here in the UK we have a referendum coming up in five days’ time — Thursday 5th May — that I think is the most important vote of my lifetime, and I want to take a moment to explain why.

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A spoileriffic Doctor Who question

[A revised and improved version of this essay appears in my book The Eleventh Doctor: a critical ramble through Matt Smith’s tenure in Doctor Who.]

I want to briefly consider a question about last Saturday’s Doctor Who episode, The Impossible Astronaut.  But the question itself is so spoily that I wont ask it here above the fold.

So please read on only if you have already seen The Impossible Astronaut, and you know what happened. Continue reading

The Impossible Astronaut (Doctor Who series 6, episode 1)

[A revised and improved version of this essay appears in my book The Eleventh Doctor: a critical ramble through Matt Smith’s tenure in Doctor Who.]

Well, I certainly didn’t expect that.

I wanted to post within minutes of the end of the episode.  I was going to entitle my article “The Impossible Astronaut: First Impressions”, and the entire article would consist of the following:


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Mike’s bang-up-to-date review of A Christmas Carol

[A revised and improved version of this essay appears in my book The Eleventh Doctor: a critical ramble through Matt Smith’s tenure in Doctor Who.]

With the new Series 6 of Doctor Who kicking off in two days’ time, we’ve been watching our way through all the previous Eleventh Doctor episodes.  Having finished with Series 5 a few days ago, tonight we watched the Christmas special, A Christmas Carol.

And it really is the most extraordinary piece of television. Continue reading

The music industry finds another way to shoot itself in the foot

I am a huge Paul Simon fan, so I was delighted to find that his new album, So Beautiful or So What, is out.

… or is it?  According to, it came out just over a week ago, on 12 April; but says that it will be released in a couple of months, on 13 June. Continue reading

Semantic mapping is hard

A while back, I wrote about the MARC format that is widely used in libraries to represent bibliographic data, and the much simpler Dublin Core set of 15 data elements (creator, title, date, etc.) that can also be used to describe documents — although, as it turns out, inadequately.

There is an official MARC to Dublin Core Crosswalk — i.e. a mapping from MARC elements to correponding Dublin Core elements — developed and maintained by the Library of Congress.  Today I learned, from a CODE4LIB mailing-list message, that the crosswalk does not map any MARC tag to the DC Creator element.  “Creator” is what the Dublin Core set calls the author; so if you have a MARC record describing The Lord of the Rings, and translate it to Dublin Core using LC’s official mapping, the resulting record will not tell you that J. R. R. Tolkien is the author.

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Programming Books, part 5: Programming Pearls

To my astonishment, I see that it’s been a whole year since the last  installment in the Programming Books series (1, Coders at Work; 2, The Elements of Programming Style; 3, Programming the Commodore 64; 4, The C Programming Language).  I got distracted.  But today I want to write about what I would judge the second best book on programming I’ve ever read: Jon Bentley’s Programming Pearls []

I tried to write about this book once before, but I was distracted by what it has to say about binary search, and that ended up being a whole series of its own (part 3, part 4a, part 4b, part 4c). Continue reading

Farmers, miners and investors

A colleague (and occasional TRP commenter), Dennis Schafroth, pointed me at a rather good article on Wil Shipley’s blog entitled Success, and Farming vs. Mining.  You should read it for yourself, but in summary his point is that a software house — or anything else, really — has a choice to make, and will always make it whether consciously or unconsciously: it can set itself up either as a farmer (slow but continuous productivity) or a miner (explosive, exploitative profit).  Specifically, “You can either see founding a company as something you’re doing because you want to produce good software, or you can see it as something you do so you can sell your stock and make a killing and move on.

(Yes, there is a Danish pun in the traditional Irrelevant Sushi Photo.)

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