Password managers (new hosting site)

Password managers give me the willies.

Knowing all the big names in online hosting have been hacked or have lost passwords, why trust a password manager?  What makes them any more trustworthy than a multi-billion corporation?

But, everyone insists you should use them.  So I did – encryptr.  But they shut that down.  So I switched to BitWarden.  And now I want to get a password from it…

BitWarden not working

BitWarden just sitting there, spinning.

So, how’s that for security?  I can’t get into anything where I do not have another copy of the password.


Posts I never made

There is a useful function called ‘Google Alerts’ whereby Google will email you any new results for a given search.

I used this to set up a number of searches relating to ‘no new wars’ and the centenary of the Great War.

  • 21/12/2014 to 17/06/2021, “11-11-2018”, 1,117 results.  Returned anything that looked like a date of 11th November and 2018.
  • 21/12/2014 to 17/06/2021, “11/11/2018”, 1,113 results.  Returned anything that looked like a date of 11th November and 2018.
  • 09/06/2013 to 20/06/2021, “”Great War” 100 years”, 1,890 results.  Was just about memorials being done up.
  • 31/05/2013 to 20/06/2021, “”Great War” centenary”, 1,371 results.  All sorts of results, very few potentially interesting.
  • 17/06/2013 to 17/06/2021 (just by chance), “”war to end all wars” 100 years”, 1,042 results.  All sorts of results, very few potentially interesting.  Mostly about memorials.
  • 09/06/2013 to 29/05/2021, “”war to end all wars” centenary”, 348 results.  Some of these are very interesting, discussing the rights and wrongs and truths of war.  For about half of those, the article is no longer online.
  • 17/06/2013 to 13/06/2021, “”No New Wars””, 186 results.
  • 17/06/2013 to 21/01/2021, “NoNewWars”, 18 results.
  • “”NoNewWars””, 0 results.

I had been full of good intentions to read and consider each of those results.  Many of them contain multiple results themselves, up to about 6.  So there’s about 10,000 to 15,000 actual links there.  I was being waaaaay too optimistic.

I did glance at those messages, frequently.  Almost all were about heroes, celebrating sacrifice, celebrating the start of the war, how we need to remember what a great thing it was.  So much pro-war, pro-death, pro-suffering in the media.  It is very depressing.

As a consequence, no posts resulted.

But an awful lot of people saw pro-war messages.



A practical toolkit for peacebuilding

“This course aims to provide peacebuilders and everyone working in unstable and conflict-prone situations with a practical toolkit for peacebuilding.”

And that is what needs to be available to anyone on the planet.

Conflict Transformation: your practical toolkit for peacebuilding – a short course provided by Peace Direct. Link.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to sign up early and be allowed to do it for free.

The value of stickers

I know, I know. I’m supposed to be a grown up and grateful and not need nominal tokens to recognise my compliance. But I didn’t want it done and I did comply against my will and I think I deserve something to say “Good citizen”. Whoever made the decision to save pennies by not acknowledging civil compliance in a national programme that is costing over £300 billion has missed a key component in the psychology of stakeholder management. I now totally resent having been subjected to the experience and having chosen to demonstrate civil obedience.

The change management purpose of such stickers (like charity wristbands and badges and poppies) is to demonstrate a social norm: make those without one feel they are not part of the crowd, are missing out, are being abnormal. It’s a positive, fun way to build a social standard of vaccination as the right thing to do because everyone else is doing it. (That was the view of Public Health England in December 2020 who provided the leaflets, cards, stickers and social media content as a combined package to promote compliance.)

I know it sounds pathetic, but not getting the sticker creates the reaction of “Oh, I’ve done as ordered, but don’t even get a thanks. Wish I hadn’t bothered. I won’t, next time.” and I can even feel it in myself.

Branding is extremely important in our society: the label on your clothes, bags, shoes, car says who you are and what you align with. Corporates give out pens and mousemats with the logo on as they are aspirational items, despite being of nominal value. A Ferrari keyfob for your old runabout is still a status item down the pub.

But my accepting an injection into my body that I did not want – in a programme that has made some people very rich – does not even warrant a sticker. I feel abused. And I don’t know who to tell but I need to let it out. And I probably need to be told I am totally over-reacting. But I won’t be alone.

I’ll get embarrassed and delete this later when I’ve calmed down.

Digital Human, novelty, boredom

Yesterday’s broadcast of the Digital Human on Radio 4 was about ‘Novelty’. If you have 30 minutes + thinking time to spare, you might find it interesting. It might have given me an idea.

They talked about how random interruptions / incidents / interactions through the day result in interest and creativity. They used academics from around the world to explain the related phenomena, so it’s not just people moaning about lockdown, it is proper consideration of the psychological effects of what is going on at the moment.

One of them was that a lack of interaction with others – simply chatting to random people about random things in the office kitchen – results in a reduction in creativity because there are no inspirational triggers occurring. It means you cannot clarify your thoughts as you are not regularly sharing them. It results in boredom.

I am currently struggling to write a particular document because of this. I am accustomed to answering “So, what are you working on?” many times a week and getting feedback, which really helps me crystallise my thoughts as I use it as an opportunity to check my arguments, logic and reasoning. Without that, my head is full of mush. My work – despite being a techie – is analytical and creative: understanding and then solving problems. Without others to test my thinking, I’m grinding to a halt. And one chat won’t fix that – it needs to be an occasional but ongoing activity. And I certainly do not mean the regular “Are you getting on with it? Will it be on time? Do not let me down” of a 1-to-1.

In my moaning, I am getting toward a solution, but I still haven’t put my finger on it. You have been right all along – those random conversations in visits to the kitchen and bumping into people in the corridor really do matter. The challenge is how to replace them in a convenient, non-judgemental and safe way – i.e. not just yet another explain-to-your-management-what-you’ve-done progress meeting, but random sharing with a loosely-connected colleague but at a time when you are both stepping away from the desk to have a 2 minute think.

The problem is, when we step away from the desk to think, we step away from our colleagues who are doing the same thing. We distance ourselves from others who in that moment are also subconsciously looking for someone to talk to.

A few decades ago, when the telecottage association was formed, it was in recognition that people who were working from home needed other people to talk to. So they created communities of people who were geographically co-located but had no employment relationship at all. Shared office space, basically. Interestingly, in the three days I have spent in Canary Wharf, I had some really interesting and useful chats with other non-GC Cabinet Office people who were in. Talking to people who have no preconceptions about one’s work and a different set of experiences creates energy and ideas while allowing non-judgemental validation of reasoning. That has stopped totally, of course, courtesy of lockdown – there is no way to interact with anyone at the moment in this way.

Sorry for the long ramble, and I have not got anywhere with it that you had not raised a long time back.

So, the problem becomes: when we get up to stretch our legs and have a think, where can we go to meet others doing the same that does not involve staring at the laptop screen? The best I can think of is some sort of app for the phone, but I don’t think it would work either.

A fairly large group chat where one can say “Anyone up for a chat?” is not great either as it results in constant interruptions. Perhaps a huge, department-wide chat lobby, where, as you connect, you are joined up with another one or two people and automatically put in a room together – that might work. It would need a lot of people to work well – probably the size of the Cabinet Office.

Dammit, the communal kitchen / camp fire / totem pole / bench / smoking area seems to be an essential component of human society, and lockdown denies us that. And I cannot see a technology solution that properly replaces it.

No wonder we use prison as punishment; I was kidding at the start when I called this ‘house arrest’, but that’s exactly what it is. And I’ve done my year and I want time off for good behaviour. It is doing my head in and seriously hindering my ability to work now.

Now is a good time to take up training in counselling – either mental or relationship – as there’ll be a good few years work to fix this mess.

A few words on governance and mission statements

This needs expanding, and could be expanded into a number of degree level courses.

There are a number of legal structure options. The most popular are:

  • unincorporated organisation – a bunch of people doing stuff. How most campaigning groups start out. Members are totally liable for debts and for the crimes of each other. Campaign Against the Arms Trade is one of these. So is War Resisters International (although it comprises not people but organisations).
  • company limited by guarantee. Like Conscience. Protects the founders to a large extent should someone do a Bad Thing. Means you can’t break the law.
  • Community Interest Company. Created for the good of a community and not suitable for campaigning. Meant for allotment associations or a village school run by the residents.
  • Charity. Very heavily regulated and controlled. Cannot get involved in political campaigning (in theory – the rich ones do it all the time).

The above are listed on which has really good information on the options.

Regarding the purpose, vision and mission statement, you need to look inside your heart for those. They must be expressed in a way that is understandable by others and are goals that could be achieved. It might be one thing, such as COMT (like Conscience) or wider ranging such as campaigning for people being harmed by their government (similar to Amnesty International). It can be hugely wide, like the World Wildlife Fund, or as narrow as the Faslane Peace Camp.

When someone says “Who are you?”, “What are you campaigning for?”, “Why does it matter?”, “Why should I care?”, “What do you expect me to do about it?” those answers should be there already. (We ought to have a page of those on the Conscience web site.) It is worth coming up with a list of those questions and keeping them somewhere to hand and as answers occur to you, write them down. If you can’t answer them, you can’t get others to follow. It might mean changing the purpose, narrowing it down, until you can come up with questions and answers that work.

The technical and other technicalities of a new organisation

What have I learned from my volunteering?

A friend expressed a desire to create a peace organisation and the first things that sprang to mind were:

  • the need for a name. It must be meaningful, appropriate, memorable, decent, SEO-friendly.
  • the means to raise funds
  • sufficient independence to get on with what the founders want to achieve
  • it needs publicity
  • it could do with high profile supporters
  • a blog can be helpful for giving less formal, more human, messages
  • a web site is essential
  • a web site requires people to keep writing content
  • a web site requires maintenance, applying updates, security controls, interfaces with social media, checking backups are working, detecting having been hacked
  • at least one domain name (needed for the web site and, ideally, email addresses)
  • something controversial to gain media coverage and attention
  • an understanding of its target audiences and how to communicate with them
  • knowledge of similar organisations with which to collaborate
  • the means, time and knowledge to create and drive collaboration with other organisations
  • a purpose
  • a plan
  • an idea of what “finished” or “success” will look like
  • specific responsibilities and authorities for individuals involved so they know what they should, can and cannot do
  • email addresses for the organisation and its individuals
  • a governance model with a committee or leadership and defined rules for managing it to prevent infighting
  • a legal structure (unincorporated, ltd co by guarantee, community interest company, charity, etc.)
  • a social media policy: which web sites and internet facilities to use, when, how with defined messages with defined purposes
  • a mailing list and the means to manage it
  • an online discussion forum with the supporting active moderation
  • an online shop with the necessary legal processes to protect people’s payment details and the staff and processes to deliver what is sold
  • equipment such as computers, mobile phones with cameras, franking machine, printer(s)
  • staff with the necessary recruitment, supervision, retention, development and appraisal processes
  • volunteers with the necessary recruitment, supervision, retention, development and appraisal processes
  • financial management, ideally with open reporting
  • an ethical policy regarding the law, environment, procurement, staff and anything else appropriate, with the supporting monitoring and reporting processes
  • the means of sharing information between staff and volunteers with appropriate backup, recovery, anti-virus and security controls
  • accounts with suppliers (e.g. stationery), technical services (e.g. Zoom) and so on, with the means of securely keeping passwords

Lanchester’s Laws

While playing an online multi-player wargame, someone attacked 10 units with 19 units of the same type.  How many attackers survived?  Contrary to what some might assume, it was not nine units.  They were equally matched and 16 units survived of the attacking force.

This is a very simplified version of reality, but essentially there are, initially, nearly twice as many attackers as defenders shooting, so a defender will be killed in half the time of an attacker.  Then the ratio of attackers to defenders is even greater: 19 to 9.  Now the likelihood of a defender being killed before an attacker is even greater than before.  Eventually, only a few defenders are being outnumbered 4:1 or 5:1 and so they are eliminated very quickly, with few if any losses to the attackers.

This is described in Lanchester’s Laws which say that when you have people shooting at one another at range, and each can fire on any other opponent (as opposed to one-on-one melee combat), the effectiveness of the forces are in proportion to the squares of their numbers meaning the attrition over time is far greater for the lesser force.  That is, the smaller force, will lose members faster and faster and the greater force lose them slower and slower.

One can imagine how ten people shooting at two people may manage to shoot both before any of the ten are themselves shot, contrary to what is usually represented in Wild West and action movies.

As examples, assuming a 1% chance of killing with any given shot, a battle between 100 attackers and 50 defenders will – statistically – end in victory after 55 rounds with 86 attackers surviving.  Some more analysis:

Attackers Defenders %likelihood Rounds Survivors
100 99 1% 265 13
100 90 1% 148 43
100 50 1% 55 86
100 14 1% 15 98
100 10 1% 11 99
100 99 50% 5 6
100 90 50% 3 28
100 50 50% 2 65
100 10 50% 1 95
100 99 90% 2 2
100 90 90% 2 19
100 50 90% 1 55
100 10 90% 1 91

The lower the likelihood of killing with one shot, the greater the Lanchester Law effect: the larger number of attackers will whittle away the defenders before the defenders can respond in a significant way.  At the other extreme, 100% likelihood of killing in one shot, it resembles melee combat and the number of survivors is simply the number of attackers minus the number of defenders.

What is the point of this?

  1. When playing tabletop wargaming, always attack with overwhelming numbers to maximise enemy losses while minimising your own.
  2. The Generals of the Great War were indeed incompetent buffoons, believing attrition would win them the war, by sending in wave after wave of small numbers of their own troops in short lines on the front to be massacred.

The second point is particularly so since the infantry were walking into defensive machine gun fire, where the likelihood of killing per unit of time was far greater than for the attackers.  Attacking in that way maximised the losses for the attacker.  And this would have been apparent for any player of wargames or mathematically minded person at the front.  The defence for the the donkeys running the war was that they knew no better – then they were idiots.

The Prussians had been playing wargames as a military training tool for over a century by the time of the Great War.

Why do I as a pacifist play wargames?  Partly recreation, partly research.  It helps one to understand the true horror of mechanised, organised, warfare.

Student Loan

Had an email from the Student Loan Company saying they’ve listened to my feedback (no, not mine, they did not ask me) and decided I don’t want paper statements any more.  One has to log in.  Finally managed to log in and, bearing in mind I earn slightly more than the UK national average salary and I’m working full-time:

2020-21 summary

This summary shows any repayments you’ve made along with any interest added to your account since 6 April 2020.

Salary repayments

Any repayments made through PAYE/Self
Assessment within the UK

Interest added +£721.02

I think we can safely say this debt will never get paid off, merely continue to grow.

On looking at how the payments are divvied up, the undergrad loan has an interest rate of 2.6% and the payment rate is set to be a bit less than the interest rate.  The postgrad loan has an interest rate of 5.6% and again the payment rate is set to be a bit less than the interest rate.  This is a shyster arrangement, specifically designed to maximise the interest and minimise the chance of reducing the debt.

No wonder they don’t want to send out annual paper statements, highlighting this egregious arrangement.