De Tour van Bauke: English subs

If you’re into bicycle racing, you might enjoy the “De Tour van Bauke” (“Bauke’s Tour”), a behind the scenes look at Team Belkin’s 2013 Tour de France campaign, by Kees Jongkind of the dutch NOS public service broadcaster.

It has a few fascinating insights, such as into the echelon stage where Saxo, OPQS and Belkin managed to split the field; managing egos within a team with several top riders; and generally some of the dynamics within a top WorldTour team. The film doesn’t spend much time on explaining the background, and does sort of assume you’re fairly familiar with how the TdF ’13 played out, and perhaps how the team had had to scramble over the winter before to find a new sponsor after Rabobank pulled out, succeeding in finding Belkin as title sponsor. If those assumptions are met, the documentary is very enjoyable.

I obviously can’t remove the original dutch sub-titles that are embedded in the video. So I’ve had to position the sub titles above, which means I’ve had to use the “Alpha Sub-Station” format, rather than the more common SRT format, as SRT does not support positioning. Ideally, NOS would prepare an English subtitle version, with the subtitles professionally rendered. I did contact someone at NOS to see if they’d be interested – they apparently have their own plans for further releases to non-Netherlands markets, but I didn’t get any specifics. I’d be more than glad to licence the subs back to NOS for web use for free, to say thanks for making “De Tour van Bauke” available on the web.

As some of the Belkin DSes have strong regional accents, I’ve sometimes used regional english words. E.g. in my mind, the english subtitles for Nico should be read with a strong Irish accent – think Sean Kelly 🙂 crossed with Mrs Doyle from Father Ted (“Go on, go on..”). I’ve also snuck in one or two Liggettisms for the TV commentary subtitles!

In order to use these subtitles you need a video player that supports “Alpha Sub-Station” format subtitles, such as VLC 

To watch it with VLC:

  1. Download the documentary from NOS. You have to save one of the following links to your computer, so you can watch it in VLC – watching in your browser probably wont work:
  2. Rename the downloaded video file to, e.g., tour_van_bauke.mp4
  3. Download the subtitles file from OpenSubtitles, and save it as, e.g., tour_van_bauke.ass to the same folder as the video.
  4. Open the video in VLC.

VLC should then automatically play the sub-titles. If it doesn’t go to the “Video” menu, then “Subtitles track”, then choose “Open file…” and manually locate and open the sub-titles file.

Feedback/corrections would be appreciated!


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My email to the NSA / GCHQ

My email to the NSA and GCHQ, inspired by Richard M. Stallman:

Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2013 22:07:11 +0100 (BST)
From: Paul Jakma <>
Subject: the enemy within

Blow up Obama, mustard gas attack whitehall, sarin gas army barracks,
procure ammonia for fertilizer bomb, samurai sword attack policeman. Glasgow
truck bomb.

Hallo dear GCHQ or NSA analyst, if you’re reading this perhaps you should
consider what is the greatest danger to our democratic, civil society: is it
the odd terrorist attack, or is it the Orwellian surveillance state you’re
helping to build and maintain? Is reading people’s email to be the legacy of
your life? Is it worth pondering for yourself the decision Snowden made?


Paul Jakma @pjakma Key ID: 64A2FF6A
Savage’s Law of Expediency:
You want it bad, you’ll get it bad.

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You’re an amazing bag of bio-chemical reactions.

You have something in the order of a 1000 trillion cells. Of these, only a small fraction, 1/10th – or about 100 trillion – are actual human cells. The other 1000 trillion are mostly various kinds of bacteria, but also some micro-scopic, primitive eukaryotic”animals” like protozoa, and fungi such as yeasts. Many of these play a critical, symbiotic role in the functioning of your body, particularly in helping you digest your food. Others may not appear directly beneficial, but still their presence helps control the growth of less benign microbes, by out-competing them for food. These microbial cells make up 1 to 3% of your mass!

At some point early on in the evolution of life, some larger, single-celled organism managed to evolve that included some smaller, archaic bacteria and “farming” them for energy, possibly by the larger cell having “swallowed” the smaller cells. These archaic-bacteria components are called  mitochondria, and they can turn sugar into energy. They contain a number of tiny molecules , the ATP synthases, which spins around like a little motor, driven by protons, to help drive the final part of the sugar→energy conversion process!

These more complex, larger and higher-powered “eukaryote” cells, with their “farms” of symbiotic mitochondria became the basis for all animal life, from the single-celled protozoa, to moulds, to plants, and all the way to you. These mitochondria have their own DNA, and replicate themselves as and when their cells do. There are some exceptions, such as human sperm cells, which do not have any mitochondria, and so the mitochondria in your human cells generally came only from your mother, which came from her mother, etc.

You posses one of the most complex objects known on earth. The human brain. A circa 1.4 to 1.5 kg gelatinous, fatty mass of about 1.3 litres in volume. Our deceased close cousins, Homo Neanderthalensis, actually had a slightly larger brain than us, at 1.5 litres in volume. Your brain consumes a significant amount of your body’s energy, 20 to 25%, about 10 times more than the proportion of its mass to your body’s total mass. The energy your brain consumes is at least equivalent to the energy needed to power a 7 to 10W CFL or LED light bulb¹, 24×7. The brain is still a lot more efficient than any computer though, for what it does.

The human brain contains on the order of 100 billion special cells called neurons. Each of which receives inputs from other neurons through junctions called synapses on spindly arms called dendrites. Additionally a neuron can have an axon, a potentially very long nerve fibre, which can reach from the neuron to muscles, glands, or to other neurons. The longest axons in your body are in the neurons of your nervous system, running the length from the base of your spine to your toes! There are estimated to be an order of 100 trillion synapses in the human brain, for an average of thousands of connections per neuron. This would likely make the network in your brain at least an order of magnitude more complex than the entire Internet!

As if that wasn’t enough, you have a second “brain” in your abdomen, by your stomach – the enteric nervous system. It’s a lot simpler than the brain in your head, having only 100 million neurons or so, but that’s still a lot of neurons – comparable to the brains of lower mammals, at least in terms of number of neurons! The enteric nervous system has a number of functions, in particular co-ordinating the muscles of your gastric system.

So your body is this giant bag of cells, most of them not human, all of them working away and, mostly, co-operating in a huge variety of, often complex, ways. If you dig into the cells that are you, you’ll find even they contain a number of primitive cells within them. Sitting on top of this super-colony of cells is a brain, directing things at a high-level and using the equivalent of a super-internet to do so! With a 2nd mini-brain helping out lower in your body! You are a mobile mini-eco-system.

As if that wasn’t amazing enough, you are related to essentially all other life on this planet.  You are the direct descendent of some of the earliest life on this planet, if not the first. As is pretty much everything else on this planet. From the cats and dogs you might see on the street, and all other mammals, to the green plants and trees, to the black mould in your shower, or even bacterial slime you might find around a tap, you share some DNA with all of these – these are your cousins, to greater and lesser degrees. We are all bound together in the massive eco-system that is Earth. This eco-system is effectively all but closed, receiving only energy from the star it orbits – relative to which we hurtle through space at an average of  about 107000 km/h, or 30 Mm/s. Life, simple bacterial forms particularly, inhabit near every nook and cranny of it that we have managed to visit. Including places where we had perhaps expected to find none, such as in the greatest ocean depths, even deep underground.

Your continued existence depends greatly on many of these cousins of yours, both animal, plant and bacterial.

Many of the species of life on earth have quite specific needs of their local environment, and are quite sensitive to even small changes to it. However life overall on this planet has proven to be quite robust. Any individual species could easily die out, indeed in catastrophic changes many species could die out, but life tends to cling on in some form – particularly in simpler forms. Life is both precarious, from the point of view of any single species, and yet also robust overall.

Do not think your species is an exception.

When the processes that keep your body-eco-system working together stop, when your own cells cease to function as such, life will continue. Your many cousins and their descendants, maybe even some closely related or even direct descendants, will go on. Some of the bacterial cells that helped maintain you almost certainly will outlive you and perhaps even help maintain another body for a while. It is almost certain that much of the DNA you contain will continue to help build further life on earth, through these many cousins. The molecules and atoms you contain will be recycled, they will become part of the air, the sea, the earth. In time, they will be taken up by other life and become part of those plants and animals, perhaps even people. Your body-eco-system is but a small, transient, component of a much more massive eco-system that has been developing for billions of years, and may well continue to be around for billions to come.

As you wonder about the magnificence of all this, you might look up to the stars. All the atoms in your body were originally forged inside stars, other than the very lightest (hydrogen, which is very common in the universe and your body, helium, and very small proportions of lithium and beryllium). You are, literally, made of star-dust. Complex organic compounds, precursors to life, seem to occur quite naturally, and we know they’re floating around on asteroids in the Solar system, and so likely they float around a great proportion of other star systems too. There are in the order of 100 billion visible galaxies, with a galaxy typically having in the order of 100 billion stars, meaning there are in the order of 100 billion × 100 billion, or 1022 = 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars out there. Even if the chance of life arising were a tiny 1 in a billion, that’d still mean that 1013 = 10,000,000,000,000 of the visible star systems had life on them. It’s very likely that the Universe is full of at least simple microbial life.

Life is amazing, and it is precious.

1. Base calorific requirement of, say, 1200 kcal / day = 58W, 20% = 11W.

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RBS and their bizarre new 3rd party credit check authentication system

Update: RBS have responded. The security issues apparently were some kind of system failure. I should have already been authenticated, using RBS specific questions, by the automated IVR you go through when you call – and I had gone through this. However, on my call, the system had lost this information somehow (there were computer issues on the day) and it wasn’t available to the  agent. Normally, the credit check based public-data questions should augment the RBS authentication procedures and provide an extra layer of identity verification. They are not normally meant to be the only form of identity verification, as appeared to happen in my call. With regard to the issue of that credit check data being completely incorrect, RBS have offered to pay any costs incurred in dealing with the credit check agencies.

RBS Card Services seem to have brought in some kind of new system to verify your identity when you phone them up. They girl said it’s provided by  3rd party credit checking agencies. They ask you questions that are based on quite public information – which is daft, as RBS hold far more personal, private data on me. Worse, in my case, it seems this information is wrong. None of the questions had any answers that had anything to do with me.

So RBS apparently don’t trust the security of the personal data they hold on me, instead trust external companies to identify me using public information. That doesn’t sound like competent or acceptable security to me.

Below is my letter to them, which will be sent tomorrow hopefully.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Distributed k-Core Algorithm talk at CoNEXT 2012

Our short paper / extended abstract was accepted for the ACM CoNEXT 2012 student workshop  in Nice, France. See also the slides for my very brief “pitch” talk (the even-numbered slides with text were my notes, and were not shown to the audience obviously). Somehow the talk was voted as 1 of the 8 best talks of the student workshop, and I got to give it again to the full conference the next day!

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Why not let the dopers dope?

A not uncommon reaction, in the wake of the Armstrong USADA revelations is to say “well, why not make doping legal? Then at least it’d be fair.”. There’s a number of arguments against this, from vague ones about sporting fairness. However, the most compelling argument, to me, is about protecting the health of athletes.

First though, it’s important to note that those who want doping to be legal can go set up their own “Doped-Cycling Federation” and setup races. There’s nothing stopping them, at least in countries like the UK and USA. E.g. Lance Armstrong can still compete in bike races and tri-athlons that don’t sign up to anti-doping, and which don’t care about the USADA ban, and he has in fact done so. Arguing that doping should be legalised therefore is a redundant argument, because it is already the case, and there are competitions for people who think this way. Body-building has doping tolerant (and intolerant) factions apparently; baseball in the US seems to tolerate doping; there are cycling races without doping controls; etc. etc. Dopers are more or less perfectly free to to dope away in those competitions!

However, many other athletes would prefer not to dope. It can have serious health risks. Both high-consequence risks, such as death (blood thickening from too much EPO; bad blood transfusions; aggressive, accelerated cancers from abusing hormones such as EPO, testosterone, etc), as well as more insidious and higher-probability health problems that can arise from continuous abuse of steroids and hormones, such as calcium-depletion in bones leading to premature osteoporosis, suppressed adrenal and immune system function leading to a wide variety of possible problems (e.g. otherwise fit people being completely floored for months by normally harmless viruses that we nearly all carry without much harm; auto-immune disorders; degeneration of connective tissue; etc).

The list goes on and on, it’s literally as long as the side-effects lists in the advice sheets that come with the substances being abused.

Many people, in and around sport, feel that we shouldn’t be forcing our young sports-people into having to dope in order to pursue their dreams and make use of their talent. They feel athletes should have the option to compete clean. That means you need to provide sports with incentives and measures to discourage unhealthy, unnecessary, risky medical intervention – so that those who want to compete clean have a venue where they can have a decent chance. This is why many sports bodies, including ALL that are affiliated with the IOC (directly or indirectly), are signed up to the WADA Code.

Maybe those measures are imperfect. Maybe they need to be improved. Maybe more needs to be done (e.g. there are credible allegations that some major sports like football and tennis are ignoring their own PED doping problems). However, protecting the health of athletes is a compelling reason as to why we should try to provide doping-free sporting venues, to give them a credible way to compete without having to use risky medical procedures and products.

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Dear geek, the BBC is not your friend

The BBC have a policy of tightly controlling access to their “iPlayer” IPTV services. Last I checked, access to the HTML video “iPlayer” front-end is restricted to devices authenticated via SSL, through a vendor private key signed by a BBC certificate authority key. General web browser access to “iPlayer” is via the now obsolescent Flash applet technology, using RTMPE streams.

BBC management appear to be under the impression that Flash RTMPE secures access to the video streams. Or rather, they appear to wish to seem to believe in that impression, because I know for certain their management are aware it does not. There is, of course, simply no way that you can deliver content to a general purpose computing device AND prevent whoever controls the device from easily copying the digital content. The BBC iPlayer Flash streams are easily recorded using non-BBC approved software. Some of which perhaps exists to aid piracy, but some of which exists because the BBC decided to shut-out certain users of iPlayer (e.g. those who prefer not to run insecure, proprietary software from Adobe). If you mention such software exists on BBC forums your comment will be deleted and you will be warned that you are violating the BBC ToS. The BBC takes a firm “head in sand” approach to the futility of trying to secure stream access, at least for the present.

To my thinking, the BBCs’ current digital/ondemand strategy is anti-competitive and hence at odds with its public service remit. To the extent my previous concerns were about the use of Flash, the BBC has answered them by (it seems) moving to HTML video interfaces for 3rd party device access. However, by requiring those devices submit to BBC type approval, and enforcing this through strong cryptographic authentication, the BBC have increased my concerns about competition. The BBC is even in the position where it is a major share-holder in “YouView”, a company that makes a cross-UK-broadcaster IPTV software platform and consumer device. Dragging the BBC even further into anti-competitive and anti-public-interest commercial interests.

The BBC tries to deflect these concerns by trumpeting there are now “an astonishing 650 connected TV devices”. Those 650 devices are from just 21 vendors however, those few blessed by the BBC. One of the criteria for receiving this blessing is that you be large enough to make it worth the BBCs’ while. I know this as the BBC refused to certify my IPTV device, on the grounds the market I would serve was not significant enough (i.e. initially just my family).

Basically, if you’re a net-neutrality geek, or an open-access geek, or a competitive-markets economics geek, then know that the BBC is not the cuddly, friendly public champion you might think it is. Rather, the BBCs’ digital wing has and continues to work hard to ensure the future of IPTV, at least in the UK, is a tightly-controlled arena, controlled by the BBC and a select few large players. The BBC are working hard to ensure you lose the right to record your TV. The BBC are working very hard for a future where, if you want to watch the BBC or any TV, you must choose a locked-down device, controlled by the BBC or organisations it approves of.

If you are such a geek, know that the BBC is not your friend.

Edits: Fixed some prepositions. Removed a redundant sentence. Changed “the” in “the major shareholder” to “a”. Changed “ondemand strategy” to “digital/ondemand strategy”. Added link to the 21 vendors.

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Delayed justice for Lance Armstrong

It’s been over 13 years since Lance Armstrong tested positive for corticosteroids in the ’99 TdF. It’s been over 7 years since L’Equipe revealed that a WADA accredited lab in ’04 had found EPO in 6 samples taken from Armstrong in the ’99 tour. It’s been over 6 years since David Walsh and Pierre Ballester published “L.A. Confidentiel” which included eye-witness testimony that Lance doped, and that his back-dated doctor’s note for the ’99 corticosteroid positive had been a sham. It’s been more than 2 years since Floyd Landis came out with detailed allegations of Land Armstrong doping, including a revelation that UCI made a ’01 EPO positive result go away – a result which the head of the lab concerned, Dr Martial Saugy, has since described as a “suspicious” result which he notified the UCI of, and an allegation corroborated by at least Tyler Hamilton. etc., etc., etc..

There’s more than a decades worth of allegations against Armstrong. None of these allegations had been properly investigated before by a body with sanctioning power. The governing body UCI instead had ignored, even dismissed allegations out of hand or, worst of all, attacked and even sued those making allegations, anti-doping crusading journalists and officials. It’s possible that this investigation came about only because Floyd Landis emailed USADA. The testimony about jurisdiction in the Federal lawsuit suggests that that email may have been key in ensuring that the allegations against Lance Armstrong could finally be investigated by a body with authority to sanction Armstrong but not run by officials cosy with him. USADA reportedly have further analytical results against Armstrong showing evidence of blood manipulation, from his ’08-’11 come-back years.

Regardless of the result of an investigation, it is right that allegations be properly investigated. Indeed, it is crucial for the integrity of the sport. USADA ultimately found against Lance Armstrong, but had he been innocent, it would have been just as important to investigate, so as to clear him. It is important to note that, as a result of Armstrong’s attempt to block USADA, we have the word of a Texan judge to believe USADAs’ processes are fair, and sufficiently robust to satisfy the requirements of due process.

Yet, according to some, the greatest injustice in all this is that USADA is taking 2 months to write up the report on this? A report on one of the longest running doping cases in sport? A case where USADA were sued by Armstrong immediately before giving a finding, then receiving nastygrammes from McQuaid effectively backing up Armstrong, in his attempts to block USADA from issuing its finding. Which likely means the report requires an extra level of legal argument added to it, and double and triple-checking, so as to ensure its reasoning is water-tight against UCIs’ jurisdiction claims. Note that should USADA deliver the report mid-October – the current ETA – then it’ll have taken just 1½ months (not quite “months”), as their finding was issued August 24th.

It is not USADA which has delayed this investigation, or delayed the results.

It is the UCI which has delayed justice. The UCI are corrupt.

Further sources: partial index of Lance Armstrong doping allegation stories.

Edits: Re-arrangement of structure of text, to better flow.

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Does Cycling Scotland promote cycling as dangerous?

Letter to cycling I sent to Cycling Scotland via their website recently, after noticing how many of the images there “dangerise” cycling. I wonder if their efforts, however well-intentioned, may actually be counter-productive.


In your “About Us” you state a number of goals for your organisation, including goal 4:

Show that cycling is a safe, effective and economical transport option that’s better for the people of Scotland, and for their environment

Every picture on your website appears to show cyclists wearing safety equipment. The section on “bikeability” training – targeted at children – has pictures of children in hi-viz vests along with helmets. Further, though I have not yet looked at your training materials, I assume from the visual message on your website that you also strongly promote safety equipment to any potential cyclists or parents.

I am curious how you reconcile goal 4 with the message you seem to have deliberately created that cycling is so dangerous that it requires safety equipment? A message which is course not grounded in reality, as cycling is little more dangerous than other normal, daily activities such as walking beside the road.

I note that in the Netherlands, which has the best cycling safety in the western world along with the highest cycling rates, there is almost no use of safety equipment. Thus, it is an undeniable fact that helmets and hi-viz are not a pre-requisite for safe cycling. Are you perhaps working against real safe cycling by helping promulgate a false sense of cycling danger, and thus perhaps turning off more people from cycling than you encourage?


Paul Jakma

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Most of your body is not protected by a bicycle helmet

This was a comment on, but they never published it and then closed comments.

First off, I’m really sorry to hear you had such a terrible accident, and I’m very glad to hear you’ve managed to recover from it. Please don’t misunderstand me on that, in what I’m about to write.

I have to say, it sounds like you suffered quite a number of very serious and potentially life-changing, even life-threatening, injuries across your body – the spinal injury in particular. The recovery time and process for several of these injuries would have made quite an impact on your life. The important thing to note is these are injuries for which a helmet gives no protection. To think that the major lesson to take away from your accident is “wear a helmet” is, I’m sorry, dangerous. The real lesson is:

Helmets are not magic and will not protect you from major injury, even death, generally. If you want to be safe, slow down!

Indeed, it is actually possible that the helmet contributed to your accident and hence your injuries, by making you over-confident and taking more risks on a fast downhill descent than you might have if not wearing helmet . A well-known effect, called “risk compensation” or “risk homœostasis“.

I often don’t wear a helmet. I’ve had other cyclists comment on this, and question why I dare to take such a risk. Then I see these same cyclists fly past on downhill descents, barrelling through corners and taking far more risk than I would. They are surely far more likely to have an accident because of this, and their skin, limbs, torso, major organs and face are no more protected than mine are! Further, there is clear evidence that helmets, while helping protect the cranium (but to a lesser extent than is often thought), increase other injuries. Particularly neck and facial injuries.

So, again, I am baffled that the life lesson you drew from your accident was that helmets are uber-important. The real lesson surely should be “Slow down! Take less risk!“. In the unfortunate event of a crash, the lower the speed, the better the outcome!

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