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Letters If the volume of your correspondence is a true measure of the importance of a story then the world is in serious trouble. The most pressing issue this week was clearly the tipability of cows.

Still, before we get to that, why don't we wander past a disintegrating government IT project and look at the broken bits? Which one? Well, why not the flagship NHS revamping we've all be oh-so excited about?

Do you know one of the reasons why so many projects go over budget? It's because the contractor comes back to the client and says "this won't work as you thought, it will need a change". Or "well, while we are doing this, we could change this as well". And then the customer goes "Oh, well, if you say it is a good idea, yes". Then they get hit with a charge for the change in contract and another charge for the extra work done (though no refund for the work not done...).

Then that change means they have another bite of the cherry - "because of that change, this won't work, so you ought to change this too".

And so the contract mutates and grows.

'Course government aren't all that good at saying "why did you sell me a duff idea in the first place - fix it on your own pocket!". Well, it ain't *their* money, and it could be that the CEO is a good friend of a minister...

If anything "Yes Minister" didn't go far enough.

Mark


I fail to understand how something that is little more than a jumped up hotel online booking system could cost 20 million quid to create.

Geoff


Haven't they heard of phased delivery ? In the real world, new requirements that would need large changes get kicked into release 2.0 - or so I've heard ...

Regards, Mike


Man I can so relate to this poor bugger! We are really battling to implement procedures where by we can tie clients down to a finite set of requirements, and get them to sign off a project design just once! Government departments are of course the worlds worst when it comes to scope creep!!! :-)

Hilton


Ah, naked people. How easily they offend some. And since that is the case, isn't it just a well that some clever biggers have come up with software to automatically blur all the scary parts:

Of course you can make it out. You just have to get off your seat, move back about a metre and squint a bit. However, you chopped the top of the picture off, which was a bit disappointing. And who is the mystery male hand?

What a load of twaddle this is. It's the next step in the nanny state. I'm now not allowed to video my kids in their school Christmas panto in case I use it as paedophile material. I have to admit that "Santa's Deep Throat" was a strange title for a panto but you have to go with the times, I suppose.

But I want the job of the person who all this blocked material is sent to for checking. Imagine that on your CV!

Alan


Oh, yeah, like Olympia isn't porn. I'm so sick and tired of the artsy-pansy types claiming that fine art depicts the beauty of the human female form. What bullshit. Painting naked people is exactly that. Notice noone ever paints ugly naked people. I mean Rubinesque women might not be too hot to us, but they definitely were in their time. There is no platonic philosophical beauty to the human form. There is only hotness. It's the reason people like looking at the paintings, and it's the reason they are painted. It's as simple as that. In fact, I don't really see the destinction between when hot naked women (or men, like David) are painted or when they're photographed. Except perhaps that the paintings, by virtue of being commonplace and widely accepted, don't tickle the pickle quite as much. Aside from that, the distinction is dogmatic bullshit. It's doublethink. It's a lie to make it seem like you're not making porn culturally acceptable.

Of course the general cultural taboo on nudity is bullshit too. Oh no, dogs walk around with their dicks hanging out all the time and no one cares. Even if the intent is some puritanical drive to suppress sexual desires, there's no way that is working. It's all relative. If all girls wear nothing but sweaters, i'll still be staring at the faint curves of their boobs all day anyway. Now that everyone skanks themselves out, I don't feel it makes any difference. If everyone became a nudist, the number of boners i'd pop in a day wouldn't change one bit (at least after the pleasant adjustment period). It's all relative. The only thing that does change is that with clothes, old wrinkly saggy women have a fighting chance to contort those curves in their sweaters to be on par with the young ones. That could be the only reason for clothes: evening the playing field.

And another thing while i'm at it: nude models in art class. They're not hot at all. Sure, if the goal was the beauty of the human form, hotness wouldn't matter. But like I said, you're not gonna find a single esteemed classic painting of someone naked and ugly. The fact is there is no intrinsic beauty to the human form. Painting ugly art models is totally not in line with any actual art. It's ridiculous.

Alex


"The administrator can view an encrypted copy of the image..."

But if the image is encrypted, how can he ascertain it's porn? And if it's not, being a BOFH isn't going to be a job for the faint of the heart. How can you write that Perl routine when Joe Accountant is surfing?

Bertrand


"The administrator can view an encrypted copy of the image"

I can see it now, the faithful sys admin diligently checking all those images. Just to be sure the software isn't flagging up the wrong images, of course :P

Duncan


Think of the havoc such software would wreck in the NHS or other medical establishments. Doctors and surgeons unable to view images about breast cancer, genito-urinary problems etc.

This also reminds me of my daughter and other classmates whilst studying biology GCSE were required to look up about breast cancer for their home work, but were unable to do so on school computers because of software installed on the school network which blocked the word "breast" and other derivatives like "mammary". Useful huh! I understand that it caused some problems at home too, when similar software on home computers started blocking them as well. "But its my homework Dad!! Honest!!"

Martin


That was a mean, evil, cruel, VISCIOUS prank to play on people.

And I loved it.

Richard


How dare you post a nude picture of rosie o'donnell and claim it's natalie portman!

for shame! FoR sHaMe!!!! :)

Vince


Nice picture. From here it looks like shapeless blobs, but for the people who can see my screen from the other side of the floor it looks like I'm looking at porn ..... thanks Reg!

Andy


And is there no one who will mourn the passing of the science programme aboard the International Space Station? Er, seems not:

To be quite honest, the ISS should be scrapped anyway. The orbit it occupies is too low for one thing. To be really useful it should at least have been geosynchronous. The problems with the shuttle have all but doomed it as well, just how long can thrusters on soyuz capsules keep maintaining its altitude?

Not only that, but the original reasons for building the ISS have long since gone. Space faring nations are more interested in satellites, asteroids and getting to the moon or mars these days, i.e, actual practical exercises, not political checkpoint charlies in space. There is perhaps a solution. Sell it to japan, they've always wanted a hotel in space. Or Branson, yup, he'd love it.

Carey


Gartner warns on Vista, you say "And...?"

This might seem like a fairly uncontroversial story but...

Don't Gartner recycle this stuff for every Windows release? I'm sure I remember the very insightful comment not to rush to XP and wait for the first service pack. Do Gartner get actual money for these predictable banalities?

Perhaps The Register could proffer advice on becoming a Garnet like entity. For free I could offer the following advice: don't run with scissors, don't dive into shallow water and never try to cut your own hair.

I look forward to Gartner's insights on the Pope's choice of religion and bears' lavatorial preferences...

Andrew


More feedback on Mr. Otto Stern's advice for the IT professional who wants to make it big in the corporation:

I work (or will, until this Friday, when i leave for somewhere with a training program) for a national civil service department, ostensibly in what is called IT support. I assure you it isn't even remotely what private industry would recognise as IT support, whatever the press clippings say.

For the last three years we've had an enforced dress code, whether we meet the public or not. I have never been less productive. The thing was brought in without consultation or nods to common sense and I feel so self conscious all the time having to wear bloody trousers and a shirt that I can't concentrate properly. I am spending more of my already meagre wages on laundry not to mention having to buy new clothes which we could get assistance with, but would have had to pay it back - the first installment due in the month you borrowed the money, natch - so I didn't bother.

Crawling around under desks has indeed damaged these articles of clothing, which I have had to replace from my own wallet. Now I'm wearing trousers not jeans I regularly lose things out of my pocket while I'm lying on my back trying to cable manage a desk bought from the lowest bidder and it was a large part of my decision to finally leave my current employment.

If you really belive that the clothes make the man then first off you must be one of the most shallow individuals to ever walk gods earth, but abuse aside, have you ever considered that perhaps the most suitable clothes for getting effective IT support are ones that enable much-abused staff to feel just a little more comfortable? As an executive I'm betting Otto has absolutely no conception of the sort of abuse and unreasonable demands placed on IT support staff - mostly from executives like him who should know better.

I can appreciate the view that if you meet your company's customers you should dress professionally, especially in the business world where image is so important. But I must agree with those who have suggested that since IT support personnel very rarely meet external customers, there is little point in dressing up. That's like saying you should go to dinner in your own house in a tux because if you were out at a function its what would be expected.

I'm sorry Otto, but it simply doesn't hold water, although it may well make it easier on your obviously over sensitive eyes. There is legislation to stop people making decisions based on race - in other words, what they look like - so why would you think it acceptable to judge someone based on their clothes?

Yours un-flamingly,

Jez Lawrence


You propose tapping other renewable sources of energy in the wake of a government funded report on wind power:

Sorry, but when I first read the headline "Britain's wind power could be best in Europe", I couldn't help thinking that someone had finally found a way to make use of all the hot air coming out of Charles Clarke's arse.

Just thought I needed to share that...

Simon


And from hot air to the world of the bovine displacement as we return to the most important issue of the week: cow-tipping.

Can it be done? The scientists may say NO! but some of you claim to have participated in this bizarre rural sport. Others just think the scientists are talking a load of nonsense, and an ex dairy farmer would like to add his two cents. Either way, dive in and enjoy:

Cow tipping: it takes two moderately sozzled teenagers to tip a cow. I have direct, first-hand experimental evidence of this, unlike your "boffins" in the article, who sound like they've modelled a cow after a standard army-issue vaulting horse.

There appear to be some errors in this article. Firstly, the force required to tip a cow (2910N) together with the calculation of how many people this would require (4.43), the angle, etc, all seem to be specified to a rather high degree of accuracy, typical of the seminumeracy common amongst zoologists.

Second, the description of the process (requiring a cow's centre of gravity to be pushed over its hooves) indicates a rather poor physical model of a cow: one which a later quote gives the lie to - "the biology ultimately gets in the way: a cow is simply not a rigid, unresponding body". True. In practice, a smartly tipped cow will stagger sideways - the process is more like tripping than tipping. It took two of us (neither large) to get around a 50% hit rate. Three drunken teenagers can reliably tip cows with a much higher success rate with a little practice.

In my defence, it was a long while ago and there's not much to do when you're growing up in the country.

Paul


As a former dairy farmer with about 50 cows I can tell you they do not sleep standing up. They lie down first.

However horses do sleep standing up thanks to a special bone at the back of their knee that locks it solid. I've never though of pushing one over.

Andy


BULLSH*T

Well cow pats, however the perfect recipe for cow tipping is in fact as follows.

Two or three dozen pints of lager Two or more fairly large blokes Identifying a cow which is dozing (they snore a little) Running at the cow, very quietly and pushing your arms into the cow along with your inertial force. If you get the cow near the top and push fast and heavily enough you'll tip the bovine beast.

The trick to this is simply having a combined weight larger than that of the upper part of the cow to the point you're tipping it.

Lifting from the belly for instance is impossible, but the closer to the top and the more weight (as per fly wheels) and the added force of pushing your arms into the beast as you meet with your inertial force will sucessfully tip a cow!

The problem here is in all obviousness that the scientists who debunked this FACT (not myth) are in fact weedy pencil knecked, toothpick armed jealous gits who have probably tried very hard in their younger years to tip cows, and spend the remainder of their life trying to justify exactly why they were unable to perform this sacred act of drunks.

All i can say is, get on the roids, eat beef pasta and other big man food, and once you're big and hard enough, try again... You see it DOES work!

Karl


While the physics of that study might be right (can't be bothered to redo the calculations), but I think their result is wrong. They are saying that you need a force of 2910 Newtons to tip a cow, and that 2910 Newtons equals 4.43 persons which is 657 Newtons per person. Hmm sounds quite strange...

When I was 14 years old, I could lift 140 kg for something like 30 cm, laying on my back and lifting the weight with my feet. I was always the scrawny one, so I had friends who could lift over twice that weight. As 300 kg roughly equals the force needed to tip the cow, you can see that my friends were able to produce the needed force. Add ten years of physical training to that, and you can easily imagine that it really is possible to dislocate cow's center of mass enough for it to tip over. It's not like you have to lift the cow over your head... In reality, tipping a cow might be hard to accomplish because you need to be fast so that the cow doesn't have time to run away. But I really don't think that physics makes this impossible.

(I am a graduate student in physics btw, although this is more like highschool physics.)

Valis


No, she has it all wrong. She's left one vital aspect out of her equation - human ingenuity!

There are several methods to tip a cow (not that I've ever tried as the thought of coming a cropper in a cow pat is a good enough deterrent for me to stay say at the bar):

1. Shoot the cow - gravity will take over 2. Get the cow drunk - gravity will take over 3. Tie the cows legs together then kick it’s ass - as it tries to either run away or headbutt you, it will stumble and gravity will take over 4. Saw two of the cows legs off - gravity will take over 5. Play David Hasslehoffs (sp?) new german music video to the cow - it will have a fear induced heart attack - then gravity will take over 6. Do nothing - the cow will eventually get the bovine equivalent of bird flu and die (unless we use the recently discussed Reg. approved tactics for averting an avian invasion) - then gravity will take over

As an infamous bat once said: "Ah, gravity does work >thud<". It's really that simple. Why would intoxicated "atheletes" want to go to the trouble of actually trying to push the bovine? That's too much like hard work if you ask me! I'd rather be down the pub and let gravity be my guide.

Also, I was rather hoping the report would examine whether a toppled bovine would actually explode due to it's own greenhouse gasses building up inside it's "tracts" - an urban myth I've heard many a time when the conversation inevitably gets on to cow tipping, but never believed to be true. Should this be true, we quickly need to add a bovine kulling league to our "all animals must die as they will eventually kill us" squads, sponsored by the Chinese I would assume.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to do some scientific tests on a whale burger...

Guy


The cow-tipping works fine if you get the cow drunk instead of yourself.

Mikael


Interesting reading. Or something.

I'm just curious, does the report say what happens if you move the hoof under the centre of mass, rather than moving the centre of mass over the hoof? Like if you would, lets say, lean your shoulder against the shoulder of the cow and then pull its opposite hoof towards you? Just a thought. ;-) (Initiated sources have told me that is how you do it)

The Secret Cow Tipper


"So, the key to a successful cow-tipping operation is as follows: attack before you hit the pub, go mob-handed and in stealth mode."

Perhaps you could hire Ingrid Newkirk to help?

Phil


The Times carried a letter yesterday from someone (who was prepared to give their name) who claimed that he had tipped a cow with three people by the clever method of one person pushing the cow from one side and then, when the cow responded by pushing back the other two give a big heave from the other side. Another responded that you could exert a lot more force by just taking a run up and he seemed to think that a single person could do the job.

Cheers Jon


Save us from back of the envelope approximations!

These `physicists' you mention... Oh dear. Cows are not rigid bodies. Cows are really, *really* bleedin' obviously nothing like rigid bodies. Any working out of what a cow will do under the influence of an applied force has to take this into account: cows cannot usefully be considered any kind of approximation to a rigid body for these purposes. Each cow is a living, breathing animal with a central nervous system, any number of sensors doing their jobs (including the inertial balancing gear in a cow's ears, don't forget), and the ability to keep itself balanced up on its feet. It's hard to stop a cow trying to keep itself upright and they seem quite good at it, what with them rarely just falling over.

Rigid body approximations `prove' that bees can't fly (whereupon the dinner party guests of the famous tale were told that the simple approximation just tried out was rubbish and more complex maths was needed) and cats can't land on their feet - except that bumblebees do and cats can. Any `physicist' using such approximations on animals needs their head examining if you ask me. It's a famously completely useless approach.

Admittedly, if the rigid body approach says you can't push a cow over, the non rigid reality of the situation makes it even less likely you'll be able to do the job *in the way examined*, so there is *some* faint point to the calculations. But really - the differences between the way a cow moves and the way the rigid body approximation *assumes* it'll move are so great I wonder why they bother.

But now I come to a more serious[1] flaw, just because the simply `shove it over' approach doesn't look workable doesn't mean you can't apply forces to the cow such that it'll shift sideways or stagger or something and trip over an object placed to trip it up. There's more than one way to tip a cow. You've probably seen a playground variant used by school kids - one kid kneels down, another applies a shove, victim steps backwards under influence of shove into knelt down kid, victim hits deck. They got me with that one - once as I recall, back in the 70s (I'm betting you met it a touch earlier). I learnt and not slowly, as one does. A cow might well learn just as quickly as me, but could a sleeping cow really spot someone setting it up for a fall like that if it had no experience of the trick? Even with its senses running?

I'd say regardless of the results of any rigid body approximation, applying a shove/trip combination might well do the job of getting a sleeping cow to fall over. I've seen a human being pushed from standing to a heap on the floor using a finger-tip applied in the right place - although the `biped man vs quadruped cow' business does make that comparison weak.

So anyway, I think it's a bit silly. So there. ;-)

I see that you personally seem to have spotted all this, when you say:

`So, the key to a successful cow-tipping operation is as follows: attack before you hit the pub, go mob-handed and in stealth mode. Then, clear your mind of Newtonian impediments to unhoofing your chosen target before launching a Ninja-style coordinated assault.'

To which I respond `Yep, sounds about right'. Oh dear. I even thought about exactly how to do it.

(Even when drunker than drunk I wouldn't dream of pushing over a cow, hypothetical workings-out such as the above aside. You're supposed to take care of animals - farm animals especially - not torment them. Harumph. Well, I suppose that's just a side effect of me being English and therefore more civilised than most people. Whatever happened to Cecil Rhodes. Am I sounding mad enough yet? ;-) )

[1] Well, as serious as one can get when considering something like this.

Rowland


And finally, a thought for the day, not particularly related to any story:

I was thinking about moving back to England, then tonight I downloaded and watched the first episode of Doctor Who from earlier this year. I've never seen anything so shit in my life. That alone is going to stop me coming home. Really. And the only reason I downloaded it in the first place was because I keep reading about Dr Who stuff in The Register. Funny how things work out, innit?

Kevin

Surely the whole point is that Dr. Who is supposed to be a bit rubbish around the edges...

Still, that'll do for today. ®

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