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The Templars: The Rise and Fall of God's Holy Warriors

The Templars: The Rise and Fall of God's Holy Warriors

Dan Jones


A narrative history of the Order of the Poor Knights of the Temple (to give them their full name). In less than a century the Templars went from nothing, to the most powerful military and commercial order in Europe, and then back to nothing, being destroyed for their money.

That they could disappear so completely is, as Jones points out, one of the reasons why they've given rise to so much fanciful speculation in the eight centuries since: how could an order of warrior knights allow themselves to be rounded up and (in some cases) burned? Wouldn't they have fought, or at least gone underground? Jones makes a convincing case for the fact that the Western half of the Order were mainly farmers and administrators rather than knights per se, and may never have expected to be so thoroughly and ruthlessly persecuted as they in fact were. He supports his case by the fact that the Knights Hospitaller, a contemporary and equally powerful Order, were left unmolested largely because they had a secure military base on Rhodes from which they could have resisted attempts to suppress them (and indeed have survived as a sovereign nation recognised by international law ever since).

The truth is a lot more compelling than any pseudo-history, and illuminates the shifting alliances and power politics of thirteenth century Europe very clearly. It also shows how fragile the whole crusader expedition to the Holy Land (Outremer) was in reality, being constantly in need or reinforcement from a distance and at a constant disadvantage to the Muslim armies fighting closer to home, albeit often with the same degree of internal politics and variable levels of support.

4/5. Finished 25 March 2018.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

Research fellow in verifiable sensor systems

The Science of Sensor Systems Software (S4) programme grant (of which I'm a PI) has a vacancy for a research fellow based at the University of Glasgow.

Research Assistant / Associate / Fellow

University of Glasgow - College of Science and Engineering - School of Computing Science

Salary: Grade 6/7/8; £28,098 - £31,604 / £34,520 - £38,833 / £42,418 - £49,149 per annum. The School of Computing Science at the University of Glasgow invites applications for a Post Doctoral Research Associate or Fellow position in the leading-edge research project Science of Sensor System Software (S4) Research is focused on delivering new principles and techniques for the development and deployment of verifiable, reliable, autonomous sensor-based systems that operate in uncertain, multiple and multi-scale environments. The S4 programme grant is a collaboration between four universities and you will be expected to work closely with researchers across the four universities. This position offers an exciting opportunity to gain first-hand insights into the development of sensor-based systems and to develop and apply novel modelling and reasoning techniques that contribute to the goals of verifying reliability, robustness, security, etc. Depending on your experience, the role offers considerable intellectual freedom and opportunities for you to take significant initiative, leadership, and responsibility. The job requires expert knowledge in one or more of: formal modelling and specification, stochastic and temporal logics, automated reasoning, sensor networks, run-time verification, real-world applications. Experience of bigraphs and model checking would be an advantage. You must have started to build up a strong publication record, have excellent programming and modelling skills, and be able to quickly integrate software, e.g. for model-checking, simulation, and verification. You should be competent to undertake hands-on work related to modelling and verification of chosen, real-life case-studies. You hold, or expect to hold, a PhD in Computer Science or in a closely related field; alternatively, you have a first degree in one of the above-mentioned subjects and substantial experience in a research role in industry. Fresh PhD graduates are also encouraged to apply. For appointment at Grade 8 you will need to meet the additional criteria as per the Job Description. This post is offered as open-ended contract with funding available for up to 30 months. It is anticipated that interviews will be held in March or April 2018. For further information and to discuss details please contact the Principal Investigator, Professor Muffy Calder (email:

CfP: SASO 2018

Come and join us in Trento for SASO 2018.

12th IEEE International Conference on Self-Adaptive and Self-Organizing Systems (SASO 2018) 3-7 September 2018, Trento, Italy

Aims and Motivation

The aim of the Self-Adaptive and Self-Organizing Systems conference series (SASO) is to provide a forum for the presentation and discussion of research on the foundations of engineered systems that self-adapt and self-organize. The complexity of current and emerging networks, software, and services can be characterized by issues such as scale, heterogeneity, openness, and dynamics in the environment. This has led the software engineering, distributed systems, and management communities to look for inspiration in diverse fields (e.g., complex systems, control theory, artificial intelligence, chemistry, psychology, sociology, and biology) to find new ways of designing and managing such computing systems in a principled way. In this endeavor, self-organization and self-adaptation have emerged as two promising interrelated approaches. They form the basis of many other so-called self-* properties, such as self-configuration, self-healing, or self-optimization. SASO aims to be an interdisciplinary meeting, where contributions from participants with different backgrounds leads to the fostering of a cross-pollination of ideas, and where innovative theories, frameworks, methodologies, tools, and applications can emerge.


The twelfth edition of the SASO conference embraces this interdisciplinary nature, and welcomes novel contributions to both the foundational and application-focused dimensions of self-adaptive and self-organizing systems research. We are looking for contributions that present new fundamental understanding of self-adaptive and self-organizing systems and how they can be engineered and used. The topics of interest include, but are not limited to:
  • Self-* Systems theory: nature-inspired and socially-inspired paradigms and heuristics; inter-operation of self-* mechanisms; theoretical frameworks and models; control theory;
  • Self-* System properties: robustness; resilience; stability; anti-fragility; diversity; self-reference and reflection; emergent behavior; computational awareness and self-awareness;
  • Self-* Systems engineering: reusable mechanisms and algorithms; design patterns; architectures; methodologies; software and middleware development frameworks and methods; platforms and toolkits; multi-agent systems;
  • Theory and practice of self-organization: self-governance, change management, electronic institutions, distributed consensus, commons, knowledge management, and the general use of rules, policies, etc. in self-* systems;
  • Theory and practice of self-adaptation: mechanisms for adaptation, including evolution, logic, learning; adaptability, plasticity, flexibility;
  • Socio-technical self-* systems: human and social factors; visualization; crowdsourcing and collective awareness; humans-in-the-loop; ethics and humanities in self-* systems;
  • Data-driven approaches to self-* systems: data mining; machine learning; data science and other statistical techniques to analyze, understand, and manage the behavior of complex systems;
  • Self-adaptive and self-organizing hardware: self-* materials; self-construction; reconfigurable hardware;
  • Self-* Systems Education: experience reports; curricula; innovative course concepts; methodological aspects of self-* systems education;
  • Applications and experiences with self-* systems: smart grid, smart cities, smart homes, adaptive industrial plants, cyber-physical systems; autonomous vehicles and robotics; traffic management; self-adaptive cyber-security; Internet of Things; fog/edge computing; etc.

Important Dates

Abstract submission April 16, 2018
Paper submission April 23, 2018
Notification June 4, 2018
Camera ready copy due July 2, 2018
Conference September 3-7, 2018

Submission Instructions

Submissions can have up to 10 pages formatted according to the standard IEEE Computer Society Press proceedings style guide (see templates here). Please submit your papers electronically in PDF format using the SASO 2018 conference management system: The proceedings will be published by IEEE Computer Society Press, and made available as a part of the IEEE Digital Library. Note that a separate Call for Poster and Demo Submissions will also be issued. As per the standard IEEE policies, all submissions should be original, i.e., they should not have been previously published in any conference proceedings, book, or journal and should not currently be under review for another archival conference. We would like to also highlight IEEE’s policies regarding plagiarism and self-plagiarism ( Where relevant and appropriate, accepted papers will also be encouraged to participate in the Demo or Poster Sessions.

Review Criteria

Papers should present novel ideas in the cross-disciplinary research context described in this call, motivated by problems from current practice or applied research. Both theoretical and empirical contributions should be highlighted, substantiated by formal analysis, simulation, experimental evaluations, or comparative studies, etc. Appropriate references must be made to related work. Due to the cross-disciplinary nature of the SASO conference, we encourage papers to be intelligible and relevant to researchers who are not members of the same specialized sub-field. Authors are also encouraged to submit papers describing applications. Application papers should provide an indication of the real-world relevance of the problem that is solved, including a description of the domain, and an evaluation of performance, usability, or comparison to alternative approaches. Experience papers are also welcome, especially if they highlight insights into any aspect of design, implementation or management of self-* systems that would be of benefit to practitioners and the SASO community. All submissions will be rigorously peer reviewed and evaluated based on the quality of their technical contribution, originality, soundness, significance, presentation, understanding of the state of the art, and overall quality.

Contact Information

Conference General Chairs
Antonio Bucchiarone, Fondazione Bruno Kessler, IT Alberto Montresor, University of Trento, IT
Programme Chairs
Jake Beal, Raytheon BBN Technologies, USA Nelly Bencomo, Aston University, UK Jean Botev, University of Luxembourg, LU

Venice: A Literary Guide for Travellers

Venice: A Literary Guide for Travellers

Marie-Jose Gransard


A book full of anecdotes and charm, describing how a huge cast of characters have interacted with La Serenissima over the centuries. On the way, Gransard highlights the unique characteristics of Venice: its loose morals and easygoing charm, but also its mystery and romance, its associations with love and lust and death. Best read in conjunction with a visit, I think (as I read it), when one an follow in some character's footsteps to visit places perhaps not highlighted in the modern guidebooks.

4/5. Finished 03 March 2018.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House

Michael Wolff


What can one say about a journey to the centre of the most disruptive and controversial White House of modern times? That is happened at all is amazing: that this book gives such a clear and (I would say) generally reasonably balanced view makes it a major contribution to political literature.

Wolff describes an administration at war with itself, a medieval court in which factions form and dissipate while seeking the attention of the monarch – and truly there's no other way to describe Donald Trump, who sits at the centre of the book while remaining curiously absent as an individual. Trump comes across as a bundle of contradictions: an outsider who took on the system and won, but someone pathologically requiring attention and submission from all around him while simultaneously hating those who engage in this behaviour; someone unable to control his attention of impulses at the most basic level; someone who personalises everything, seeing every interaction as a zero-sum game in another's gain must be his loss; and who is managing the presidency through, and for the benefit of, his own family.

It's clear that Wolff thinks Trump is uniquely unsuited to the role of president, and is surrounded by staff who's main task is to offer protection in both directions: protecting Trump from the world, but equally protecting the world from Trump. It's also clear, I think, that Wolff's Trump is suffering from dementia.

The book is marred by its writing style. There are rambling and often too-detailed sub-clauses – usually within hyphens – that often make sentences appalling difficult to read. And there are some jarring word uses ("hortatory"? really?) that add nothing and give the impression of someone trying too hard in places. Still, it's a compelling read, both as history and warning.

4/5. Finished 03 March 2018.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)