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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Oh, look..... More rain.....
Very few girls took computing A-level.

By Jane Wakefield, Technology reporter for BBC News

17 August 2017

A worrying statistic for the tech industry was revealed in freshly-released A-level data - only 9.8% of those completing a computing course were girls. It comes amid a storm in Silicon Valley over the number of women employed in the tech industry. Experts agree that the world faces a digital skills shortage and that a more even gender balance is crucial. One industry body worried that too few boys were also choosing the subject.

"Today's announcement that nearly 7,600 students in England took A-level computing means it's not going to be party time in the IT world for a long time to come," said Bill Mitchell, director of education at the IT Chartered Institute, BCS. He said that it fell well short of the 40,000 level that "we should be seeing". But he added that the fact so few girls were taking the subject was particularly worrying. "At less than 10%, the numbers of girls taking computing A-level are seriously low. We know that this a problem starting at primary school and it's something that we need to address at all levels throughout education. As a society, we need to make sure that our young women are leaving education with the digital skills they need to secure a worthwhile job, an apprenticeship or go on to further study." The figures, from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), are not all bad news. They reveal that there has been a 34% rise in the number of female students sitting the computer science exam, up to 816 from 609 in 2016.

Google engineer James Damore caused controversy this month when he penned a memo suggesting that there were fewer women at Google because of biological differences. The search giant sacked him over the remarks, saying they were "offensive". A recent survey of 1,000 university students conducted by audit firm KPMG suggested that only 37% of young women were confident they had the tech skills needed by today's employers. A total of 73% said that they had not considered a graduate job in technology. Aidan Brennan, KPMG's head of digital transformation, said: "The issue here isn't around competency - far from it - but rather how businesses understand the underlying capability of an individual and how to unlock it. I think this research highlights the work that needs to be done to show the next generation that when it comes to a career in tech, gender isn't part of the equation. Competition for jobs is tough and we know that female job seekers can be less likely to apply for a role than their male counterparts if they don't feel they already possess every prerequisite the job demands."

Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, who founded the charity Stemettes to persuade more girls to pursue careers in Science, Technology Engineering and Maths has her own view about the low number of girls taking A-level computing. "Girls often don't want to be the only one in the class so they tend not to pick the subject when it is an option," she said. "Also, it's often not even an option in a lot of schools so it's an uphill battle but fortunately, a lot of computer science courses take A-level maths students, so there is a very viable route for girls into the course itself and related courses."

[Considering how IT heavy the world is increasingly becoming and how the young seem to swim so easily in those waters you would think that more of them would be interested in pursuing it as a potential career. Plus there’s plenty of money to be made in the High Tech clouds so why the reluctance to get involved? A perception that it’s a difficult subject area? An assumption that tech is getting easier to use every year so why bother to learn anything that will be obsolete by the time they graduate? But it would seem that, at least for the foreseeable future, those with IT skills will live in a sellers market.]

Thursday, August 17, 2017

...and at the back of the property.....

Just Finished Reading: The War of the Flea – A Study of Guerrilla Warfare Theory & Practice by Robert Taber (FP: 1965/1969)

After reading this rich and well-argued little book (a mere 160 pages in my 1970 Paladin edition) I was no longer surprised that the entire first edition printed in the US was purchased by various branches of the military then engaged in a deadly guerrilla war in Vietnam. Not that it helped them win because, as the author himself cogently argued, it was probably already too late in 1965 never mind in 19775 when the war officially ended.

The author, neither a military man nor an academic, was a journalist and, by all accounts a damned good one. From reading this impressive analysis of the weak fighting against the strong (and sometimes seemingly the impossibly strong) I became more and more impressed as to the remarkable diagnostic focus he gave to modern conflicts were apparently weak enemies consistently beat much stronger ones – the classic example (still on-going at the time of publication) being that of Vietnam. But, as everyone should know, what we know as the Vietnam war was in fact the second such conflict in that region and, arguably, simply a continuation of the first complete with the same mistakes. Where the French failed after WW2 the Americans failed in the 1960’s and 1970’s. But although the two Vietnam conflicts garnered a substantial proportion of this book the authors analysis went much broader using examples from Malaya, Cyprus, Algeria, Ireland (from the Easter Rising in 1916 onwards), Greece (after WW2), Cuba and, of course, the Chinese Revolution/Civil War masterminded by Mao – the godfather of countless revolutions afterwards.

It was a lot of ground to cover and the author did so with little wasted effort and, more often than not, with pin-point accuracy not unlike his subjects the guerrilla fighters themselves. Most of the successful case studies followed the same progression through various stages from the founding of the guerrilla group up until final victory years or even decades later. Most rebellions, or wars of National Liberation, worked because the underlying conditions made them practically inevitable. His case studies of guerrilla wars that failed – most notably the Communist insurgency in Greece and the failed uprising in British Malaya – illustrated his points all the more starkly as each failed to follow Mao’s recommendations and sometimes actively worked against them.

This is an area of study of particular interest to me – how the weak can fight and even defeat a much stronger opponent (at least on paper). Fleas, it seems, can debilitate a much bigger and stronger dog one small bite at a time. But when the dog retaliates it strikes at nothing and slowly bleeds into inactivity and finally death. We still see it today – when Superpowers, no matter what they do short of genocide, seem helpless in the face of opponents with little more than the AK-47 they carry. Afghanistan is rightly renowned as being the grave site of empires and imperial ambitions. Alexander the Great couldn’t subdue it, neither could the British Empire, the Soviet Union or the USA. It is an example of the war of the flea – par excellence! Not only has this excellent little book rekindled my interest in this type of warfare it has also altered and sharpened my focus of my approach to the R4 label. In future there will be somewhat less revolution and somewhat more guerrilla activity in the bush. Much more to come.

Speaking of Bond.... James Bond......

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

They did this a lot where my Mum lives (and I lived for 10+ years). Most of the area was new build so they put in the minimum of paved walkways and then left it. About 6-12 months later they came back and paved the bits where people had produced their own paths. What a very bright idea I thought!

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Costs are Becoming Apparent…… (Catching Up…!)

Boris Johnson: UK should reject 'Brexit cash bill'.

Boris Johnson has told the BBC that Britain should reject any EU demands for a £50bn "exit bill" and follow the example of former PM Margaret Thatcher. It has been reported that EU negotiator Michel Barnier has said the UK must continue to pay into the EU until 2020. Mr Johnson said it was "not reasonable" for the UK to "continue to make vast budget payments" once it left the EU. He cited Mrs Thatcher's success at the 1984 Fontainebleau Summit, when she threatened to halt payments to the EU. "I think we have illustrious precedent in this matter, and you will doubtless recall the 1984 Fontainebleau Summit in which Mrs Thatcher said she wanted her money back, and I think that is exactly what we will get," he told BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg in BBC Two's Brexit: Britain's Biggest Deal. "It is not reasonable, I don't think, for the UK having left the EU to continue to make vast budget payments, I think everybody understands that and that's the reality." The UK won the rebate in 1984, after then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher threatened to halt payments to the EU budget. At the time the UK was then the third poorest member of the Community but was on course to become the biggest net contributor to the EU budget.

Government still paying Brexit appeal cost.

The government has not yet finished paying the legal costs of its Supreme Court challenge over Brexit. In January, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court ruling that Parliament had to be consulted before Article 50 could be triggered. Labour MP Gloria de Piero tabled a written question asking when the cost of the appeal would be published. Brexit Minister Robin Walker replied: "The department has not been billed for all costs related to the case." He continued: "Details of the total costs associated with the case, including the costs of the Supreme Court appeal, will be published in due course after they have been settled." The government has rejected Freedom of Information requests for the cost to be revealed, saying it will be made public at a future date.

Brexit: Early financial settlement won't be 'forced on UK'.

The UK has been told it will not have to agree the exact sum of its financial exit settlement in the early stages after Article 50 has been triggered, BBC Newsnight has learned. A message has been passed through informal channels from EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to top figures in David Davis's department. The UK would first have to agree the broad principles of the payment. The principles for EU citizens in the UK would then have to be agreed. Once these two principles have been agreed - on the financial settlement payment and EU citizens - Mr Barnier is prepared to open up the negotiations to cover all areas and the nature of the UK's future relations with the EU. This would meet the UK demand for the negotiations on the UK's future trade deal with the EU to be discussed in parallel with the Article 50 talks. Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 - which have to be concluded within two years - in the final week of March. The exact sum of the divorce settlement would be agreed later in the negotiations. Amid reports that the UK could face a bill of between €34bn (£30bn) to €60bn (£52bn), Mr Barnier is saying the exact sum will be determined on the EU side by the EU's Court of Auditors towards the end of the two year negotiations. The ballpark in Brussels is that the EU has liabilities of around €600bn (£520bn). The UK would be responsible for around 12% of that, producing a rough figure of €60bn (£52bn).

Housebuilder Berkeley shrugs off Brexit vote to hit profit targets.

Housebuilder Berkeley Group has said it expects profits at be at the top end of forecasts this year, as it signalled the housing market in London and the South East had "stabilised". In the seven months since the Brexit referendum result, Berkeley said new home sales had fallen by 16%. But in the last two months reservations were higher than a year earlier. The London-focused developer also said inquiry levels remained "robust" and pricing continued to be "resilient". It said the market had been adversely affected by a number of factors apart from Brexit uncertainty, including changes to stamp duty, the challenges of securing planning permission and the demands to provide affordable housing. As a result, new housing starts have fallen by 30% in the capital. However, the company said: "Berkeley is uniquely placed to maintain its high levels of production in London and the South East and we are onsite in production on 58 sites." It added that there were a further 22 sites in the pipeline.

Schaeuble calls for 'strong' City post Brexit.

Germany's finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said it is in the EU's interest to have a strong financial centre in London. Speaking ahead of Friday's G20 meeting, Mr Schaeuble said he would want to negotiate a Brexit deal in which the City of London remains a global financial force. He said it was not feasible to move all of the City's operations abroad. To do so would involve a huge upheaval, Mr Schaeuble pointed out. In a keynote address to the IIF Conference in Frankfurt, he said: "I am convinced that for Europe as a whole - and I'm not sure this will be very beloved in Paris - it's in our own interests to have strong financial centre in London." Although he did promote Frankfurt as an alternative EU base for international banks in the wake of Brexit, Mr Schaeuble said he would want to negotiate a deal in which the City of London kept a key role. However, he cautioned, it had not been easy to "brainstorm" with his British counterparts. Mr Schaeuble's comments, made in conversation with UBS chair Axel Weber, come after Mr Weber confirmed that his bank would not wait for the outcome of Brexit negotiations to move up to 1,500 staff from London to an EU base.

All details above from BBC News website.

[Well, the Government are finally starting to get their act together and are beginning to speak with a single voice. I give that maybe 48-72 hours before the infighting and back-biting starts again amongst the usual leaks and ‘sources close to the Prime Minister’ headlines in both the pro and anti-Brexit papers. Apparently we’re now back to ‘Brexit means Brexit’ with none of this weak-assed ‘transitionary period’ nonsense. I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry some days….]