Recipe: Chocolate crunch slice

Posted by jerry on May 8th, 2004 — Posted in Journal, Recipes

Got a chocolate party to go to? This is a quick and easy – and delicious – chocaholic’s delight!

2 bars of dark cooking chocolate
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 teaspoon of instant coffee
1 egg (optional)
half a packet of milk arrowroot or other plain biscuits

Half fill a large pan with water, bring to boil. In a second (and smaller) pot put in the chocolate and margarine and put that pot in the larger one so it works as a ‘double boiler’ – the contents of the smaller pot should be melted slowly and stirred in together.
Boil a kettle and use just enough hot water to dissolve the instant coffee (about a teaspoon) and pour the coffee into the chocolate and stir in well.
Take a bowl and break the biscuits into pea-sized chunks.
Take the chocolate mix off the heat and allow to cool. Stir in the egg (optional).
Now add the biscuit pieces and stir until well covered in chocolate.
Pour the mix into a bar-tin lined with baking (greaseproof) paper
Refrigerate until set – about 2 hours.
Turn out the bar onto a board upside down, making sure the paper is completely removed, dust with icing sugar and slice thinly to serve.

This has been adapted from the recipe of a family friend called Makiko 🙂

Variations can include half a cup of mixed dried fruit, or nuts substituted for an equivalent amount of the biscuits.



Royalties: Virtual States

Posted by jerry on May 6th, 2004 — Posted in New media, Technology, Writing

Well I’m skipping around the place – it’s that time of year again – another royalties cheque from my publisher Routledge (UK). The book is called: Virtual States: The Internet and the boundaries of the nation-state – and yes it’s about the impact of the internet on society.

But the word “royalties” is a curious word. There are of course all the prosaic definitions but I wondered about the royal connection, so I went to my trusty Compact Oxford and found a raft of references. The relevant one appears to be that of a “royal prerogative granted by the sovereign to an individual or corporation” granting jurisdiction or rights over something, such as mining rights, or rights over an invention or work of art or book. It dates back to at least 1483 where there is a reference in the Rolls of the UK Parliament to the siezing of, among other things, the royalties belonging to a hapless lordship and manor of Coverton. It seems somehow strange and anachronistic that even in the staunchly Republican US, there is so much litigation over “royalties” where there is clearly no regal sovereign to grant such rights…

And amidst all the clamour about internet piracy, there seems to be at least some evidence that piracy on the internet does not harm CD sales. According to research published in New Scientist, researchers from the Harvard business School and the University of North Carolina have found that in a statistical study tracking millions of music files downloaded over the internet, and comparing them with sales of the same music on CDs, the study found that the most heavily downloaded titles suffered no decrease in CD sales. In fact among the most popular, those that sold more than 600,000 copies over the study period appeared to sell better when downloaded more heavily.

Moreover, unless the work is selling fabulously, my own experience suggests that the authorial benefits are derived more from externalities, such as paid trips to speak at conferences and experts forums in the US and UK – that and the great people I’ve met as a consequence, than from the actual money earned by sales. I reckon we could all learn a lot from the Clue-train Manifesto philosophy. It still holds true regardless of the dot com tech wreck!


English is a five bit-depth language

Posted by jerry on May 5th, 2004 — Posted in New media, Technology, Writing

I was recently reading Rudy Rucker’s excellent book: Mind Tools and was struck in particular by his lucid explanation of why we only need five bits of information to identify any letter of the alphabet. Computers use eight bits to the byte as a minimal identification of specific characters. But using binary logic, Rucker shows that the alphabet has only FIVE degrees of separation! I have often wondered if the same applies to Akkadian cuneiform text, but haven’t had it confirmed one way or the other.

Anyhow, how can English be described as having five bit depth when there are 26 letters to the alphabet? For Rucker, it works like this:

Lay out the alphabet in a row. I am looking for the first letter of my first name, Jerry. Now, with five questions, demanding a yes or no answer locate the specific letter.

First, is it between M and Z? No. That’s level one.

Is it between G and L? Yes. That’s level two

Is it between J and L? Yes. That’s level three

Is it L? No. That’s level four

Is it K? No. That’s level five. So the answer must be J

Check out the diagram to see how this works:

Five bit-depth alphabet


The Rosetta Stone: Meta tags ca.190 BC

Posted by jerry on May 4th, 2004 — Posted in History, New media, Technology

The internet has come up with a range of standards in relation to information about information – meta data standards. The best known of these are the Dublin Core meta data standards But the issues that led to the Dublin core standards are not new. The Rosetta Stone (196 BC) – just 200 years after Plato, and during the Greek administration of Egypt revealed something really interesting – the existence of meta tags almost 2000 years before the Internet.

The two languages in three scripts on the stone revealed the difficulties of applying consistent language standards across an empire. Just as Web pages today specify a language an script to be aplied, so too, the Rosetta stone includes as part of the inscribed decree, the stipulation that it is to be set stone, in the three scripts: heiroglyphic, demotic and Greek.

What we have in fact is a meta data standard that specified the platform (a stel of hard stone), the language versions, the authority of the specification, (Ptolemy V), and its URL (each of the first,second and third rank temples). In web language these would look like this in the part of the cartouche:

In other words about half of the dublin core meta data standards are incorporated into the Rosetta Stone. This must surely provide us with an insight into something fundamental about the nature of information, and the nature of official discourse. What is needed to establish the intelligibility and authoritativeness of a piece of text when it is removed from the body (speech) and placed into a third-party medium? This is not a new question – and it is the main subject of my next book …

Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone (in the British Museum, London)


Amelie – the Motobecane moped

Posted by jerry on May 4th, 2004 — Posted in Motorcycling

Well, my historic vehicle has arrived from Perth where I’ve had it in storage – there will be more as the restoration progresses 😉

And last week I managed to get Amelie started – I’ve had this 1970 model French Motobecane moped since the mid 1970s and it’s been in storage for the last 15 years. The restoration might take a while but the main thing is knowing that the bike is basically sound 🙂 I have fitted the wheels, seat, pedals, handlebars, rack and mudguards. Bought a new spark plug, and new fuel line, poured in some two-stroke mix and squirted some ‘Aerostart”[tm] and after much grunting and furious pedalling, the engine started with a great cloud of smoke and a foul smell – but it goes! As it is older than 30 years it would now be classified as an historic vehicle.

Motobecane 40V 1970 - before restoration
The moped fresh out of the box – the “before” photo!