CRRRaSh! 346 Refrain

By Roy Mathur, on 2020-12-02, at 23:03:29--23:51:39 GMT, for Captain Roy's Rocket Radio Show, Listen

The State of the Pod

I'm trying to get back into the rhythm of two shows a week recorded on Monday and Wednesday, edited Tuesday and Thursday, and released Wednesday and Friday.

That's a sane output don't you think? Well, I thought it was too until today. Now it seems like I'm permanently podcasting. Still, without a routine this would all go up in smoke, so let's see who it pans out.

Only Use Established News Sources

Don't rely on social media, newspapers no one ever heard of, or podcasts from people like me for news that will inform important decisions you make. Go to the BBC, ITV, CNN, NPR etc., a broadsheet (or ex-broadsheet) or their online counterparts, for actual reporting.

Also, while I try to be accurate, I am the type of journalist called a columnist, not a reporter. The difference being that I am (or rather was) paid to have an opinion. Bear in mind that the aforementioned sources also employ non-objective columnists, so even if you do visit a credible news sources, make sure you know whether you are consuming a piece of reporting or someone's opinion.

I have very probably repeated this refrain as often as I have banged on about data backups and the importance of science because I think it is important, which brings me to the next topic.

Why Should You Listen to Me?

See above. You shouldn't, not exclusively.

My tone? What do you mean my tone? How dare you sir! Oh alright, yeah... sorry about that. Despite my deep cynicism about some of our educational institutions, I used to be an academic and occasionally a lecturer too. I do try not to be a patronising a sarcastic git. Not all the time.

Covid-19 UK Update

This new post-national lockdown tier malarkey is now in force. I received an alert this morning from the government's official Covid-19 app, saying that we are now in Tier 2, as is most of England. As far as I can see, though I have not been paying close attention, that seems to means some restrictions appear to have lifted from the previous alert levels, e.g. all the shops are open.

The UK has started setting up the vaccination programme with an initial delivery of 800,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, bought from Belgium, to be delivered next week. This is quicker than other countries, but it should be as we have had the most Covid-19 deaths in Europe. Yeah, we're number one. We are number one.

udging by my own, less than efficient GP's practice (I'm being kind), I do have concerns regarding how GPs, one of the many types of dispensation outlets, will handle the administration of the mass vaccination using this delicate vaccine that has very specific cold storage requirements.

Still, it's a step in the right direction. I am glad the NHS has decided to vaccinate those most in need first.

RIP Ben Bova

The prolific science fiction author (Grand Tour series etc.), editor (Analog and Omni), and anthologist Ben Bova died on November 29.

I have read most of the excellent Grand Tour series about future human expansion throughout the Solar System. It features realistic hard sci-fi, as well as cool and believable space pirates and mad scientists. It is inconceivable that fictional universes such as Bova's Grand Tour, and other author's playgrounds like Larry Niven's Known Space, were not an influence on later works like The Expanse.

I also used to buy the science fiction magazine Omni, on a semi-regular basic, back when it was in print and I still had a disposable income.

RIP David Prowse

Darth Vader Star Wars actor and the UK's Green Cross Code Man David Prowse died on November 28. RIP the original Dark Lord of the Sith, if not the voice, David Prowse.

His Dark Materials

Despite my not so flattering description of His Dark Materials back in 2019 (268)---the uneasy pseudo-sci-fi physics doesn't sit well with me---I do like Philip Pullman's writing in general. I read Clockwork back in 2013 (9) and have been watching, on and off, the BBC adaptation of His Dark Materials. I am enjoying, in a low key way, season two; possibly moreso than the first season.

And it's starting to go a bit Devs. Did the production steal from Devs or did Devs bite a chunk out of Pullman's novel? The book's right there on my shelf, but if you can spare me the bother of flipping through the tome, then let me know.

BTW, in the latest episode (2.4), given that our world, with A and E departments and microsurgery, is only a step away, and the cut was clean, had I been Will, I would have taken a different course of action.

The witches are awesome.


Industry is a drama available on iPlayer about inductees to a financial services company's graduate trainee scheme.

It's soapy, far far raunchier than I remember any graduate training scheme, city job, or even the multiple Fresher Weeks I attended, even in the UK; you know, because we're notorious for it.

It's largely diverse, but the brown guy still dies in episode one. Thanks not a jot for that.

Electronic Voting

Why doesn't the US just settle for paper ballots like the UK and most of the world? Give up and the electronic malarkey, agree that it's an utter waste of time and money, like Sweden has just done (Source: BBC Click), and go back to paper.

Dog Training for Robots

Using positive reinforcement (in plain English; getting Scooby-Doo to do stuff in exchange for Scooby Snacks), Johns Hopkins University researchers trained a robot called Spot in days rather than a month. (Sources: BBC Click and Science Daily).

Really? Really? Or is this just BS to lure idiot VCs, research grants, or an academic pat on the back? (Chip on shoulder firmly cemented). How is this different from tweaking an algorithm? Wait, do they just mean they are modelling their algorithm on positive reinforcement? Yes. So, bugger all really to do with dogs other than a clickbait title for a research paper titled Good Robot!

Kokoon Sleep Headphones

Kokoon headphones are supposed to help your sleep (Source: BBC Click). They piqued my interest because I sleep badly.

They are comfy, pipe in white noise, have an app (because of course they do), but cost a bomb---c.GBP 333---which is too much for me. And, squishyness aside, how different are these to the similarly priced market leading nose cancelling Bose Quiet Comfort line?

On the other hand, the Amazon reviews I read are favourable.

FLAC Versus WavPack

I had thought to store my raw, unedited, podcast audio as FLAC file, which I have experience of from ripping my CDs.

However, Audacity's default settings record in the excellent, but very space consuming 32 bit float PCM WAV files, which cannot be losslessly stored in FLAC. The WavPack format does this, but is less well supported. Also, having been stung by dodgy formats in the past, I am reluctant to risk using it before I know it is safe. My preliminary experiments compressing and decompressing are promising though. WavPack impressively and losslessly compresses large files to more manageable sizes, and supports tagging. A 1 GB of WAV audio compresses to 261 MB and can be played directly in VLC and Foobar2000, though until I can be sure they are safe, I will simply save the full fat WAV file.

I favour 32 bit float for recording audio because, while my CDs rips are lower fidelity because there is a ceiling of quality for normal CDs, a 32 bit float recording has enough headroom to edit mistakes like clipping which is often fatal. If you've heard my pod, you'll appreciate anything that helps with my cock ups.

Windows 1.0

Windows 1.0 was released in November 20, 1985. For me, Windows was not generally available until Windows 3.0 and onwards. Thanks to the friend net, I didn't actually pay for Windows until an OEM install of 95 on a Tiny Computers Ltd. big, beige 100 MHz PC. After that I worked in IT, so there was the MSDN.

I'm not sure what the point of the retro celebration is though, as Windows 1.0 and 2.0 were ugly and crap. There was also a DOS GUI called DOSSHELL on MSDOS 4 onwards, but that was also crap and a memory hog.

NASDAQ to Require Diversity

The US tech focused stock exchange has proposed diversity rules to the Security and Exchanges Commission. If accepted, these will enforce diversity in terms of the minimum number of minority board members a company must have in order to be listed.

An Unproductive Year

Staying at home needn't mean everything stops for me. I could write, I could podcast, and... I have done even less of both than I would have done in a non-pandemic year.

What screwed me was lack of the ability to stick to a routine. I started with one, but over the weeks and months, due to depression and anxiety, a few minor, but aggravating, health issues, and social isolation, it degraded into almost complete apathy.

I feel guilty about that, but I am trying to get back to taping two shows per week, so please subscribe, please contribute with comments, and please help with reviews. If you can afford it, maybe tip me a few quid over at