Tuesday, 9 January 2007


Thursday, November 27, 2003

What my parents said about the festive season...
Thirty years ago, I first heard my parents say "Christmas is so commercialised these days!" and, being only a little tacker in those days, I just couldn't see how such a magical time could be thought of as commercialised.
Now I'm older and wiser, and I know where all those presents under the tree come from, and hell if I don't believe my parents finally... I saw an ad for a women's magazine on the TV the other evening, and it included ' your five free gold stars' and an article about ' how to use your free gold stars to add a personal touch to your Christmas ' inside it. And I started thinking about all that, and opened a whole can of worms in the process...
For example - gold stars. Cost next to nothing, just gold covered card cut on a press, and honestly, even as a kid I would have been offended to be offered such crap, even for free that's just plain snake-oil salesmanship... Sort of like a handful of blue glass beads only cheaper...
And having insulted their entire readership (who, come to think of it, probably deserve the insult, because they're obviously still buying that patronising, cheap drivel rag) they then use that gift as a way to fill up a couple of extra pages. I mean, what can you do to 'personalise' your Christmas with five gold stars which are as depersonalised as you can get? Stick them to something, same as the other 800,000 readers of the magazine who after all got the same gift and the same article? Argh, give us a break!
That's the commercialism part covered. Now for the obligatory 'back in de good old days' whinge:
My mother was probably a halfway houseproud woman, but she didn't go to extraordinary lengths to 'personalise Christmas' either, we used off the shelf streamers garlands and tinsel and decorations. Even back then, the only people who had the time or resources to 'personalise' their Christmas were bored affluent wives of high-income earners, and they added the personal touch because it was missing in their lives. Nowadays, even less people have the time and resources to go to any great lengths to add personal touches.
Most people will use their off the shelf bits just as they've been doing for thirty years, and have the same 'commercial' trees as everyone else, the same 'commercial' decorations, and (probably) sigh and complain bitterly about how commercial Christmas has become...
Categories - ::/:: Edited on: Sunday, January 18, 2004 10:10 AMposted at 10:28 PM Ted
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Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Smart phones dumb bunnies
Here's a cute story. Smart phones fox frustrated users - go ahead, go read it, it's a hoot - that has me thinking again.
The story claims that smart phones are too hard for their owners to work out. Awwww, poor dumb bunnies... One of the quotes I love most:
Intuwave points out that configuring the e-mail function on the SonyEricsson P800 involves 12 separate parameters. A mistake in just one of these can scupper any chance of using the device to send and receive mail.
Setting up an ordinary email program involves around the same or even more parameters. How do these jerks get their email anyway? Oh, I see - AOL...
'There is a huge gap here,' he said, 'and it's high time we saw a mobile care revolution.'
Gee I wonder where precisely that gap is?
Categories - ::/:: Edited on: Sunday, January 18, 2004 10:08 AMposted at 7:46 PM Ted
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Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Now this I REALLY hate!
Scientific American, take a walk of shame for this piece of crap reportage - fancy going through an entire article whose entire raison d'etre is to let us know that scientists now know the temperature of formation of DNA - AND THEN DON'T FUCKING REPORT WHAT THOSE TEMPERATURES ACTUALLY ARE!
Do yourselves a favour SciAm, and fire Sarah Graham who 'reported' (if that term can be applied to such a lightweight piece of crap) this item...
Categories - ::/:: Edited on: Sunday, January 18, 2004 10:08 AMposted at 5:48 PM Ted
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Hmmm. Just saw this on Science Daily - Discovery Could Lead To New Ways To Create Nano-fibers And Wires - and now I'm thinking:
Do spiders spin their silk like this? Multiple strands of ultrathin strands solidified together? Go read the article then come bacl.
Okay? They form a droplet inside a viscous liquid and then solidify it using light, then snap it off. A bit like:
=- --------------------------------------------------------------- --<)
Nozzle, breaks off here, then a loooong thin thread, then a break and the droplet. Scuse the bad artwork...
Now suppose that spiders generate a lot of such threads inside their mysterious spinnerets. Suppose that instead of using light to solidify their threads, the 'viscous liquid' turns out to have the exact right properties to solidify the thin threads, provided they are extruded at the right speed. Getting a picture? If you did this continuously, you'd end up with microfilaments with 'bumps' every so often along their length, which would be the droplets. If the spinnerets jets work together, you could produce a fibre which is 'locked' together by those bumps, which consists of many microfibres, and if the viscous fluid is also adhesive, it sticks the strands together with surface tension.
I'll collect my prize when they discover that this is precisely how spiders do it. I'm confident.
Categories - ::/:: Edited on: Sunday, January 18, 2004 10:08 AMposted at 9:21 AM Ted
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Friday, November 14, 2003

Yet another thing to hate about mikrosloth
Use Hotmail? Use Messenger?
Here's what I hate about that:
Type www.hotmail.com into the browser and, because I've got it set up to remember my details, I get straight into my Hotmail account, no login required.
Click on the email links in Messenger, and it takes me to some page that requires me to log in. Every time.
Is that someone's half-assed idea of security? Just in case someone sees my Messenger open and clicks the email link? It's not as if they'd just type the URL into the browser if the really wanted to read my email is it?
Categories - ::/:: Edited on: Sunday, January 18, 2004 10:07 AMposted at 7:34 PM Ted
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Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Why are brains in the head?
Another biological mystery. Among hundreds...
Many animals, and all known plants, get along without a brain at all. That's a known fact, we have animals like earthworms which don't have centralised hearts and certainly no brains, yet they live. Their hearts are a bunch of nodes along their bodies which just massage their internal juices around, and their nervous systems connect in such a way that there's no 'control centre' anywhere, it's just distributed among the nerve junctions.
Similarly, all the plants we know of have no intelligence that we're aware of, and don't have anything we could call a nervous system as we understand that term. Yet they too live, and we're now not quite so sure anymore that they aren't as aware as, say, an earthworm - they certainly react to their environment, and it's been shown that they react to threats and somehow communicate this to others of their species nearby. Hence, my unwillingness to state categorically that plants don't have brains or at least primitive distributed complexes...
Insects, invertebrates, and plants - they form the vast majority of the biomass on this planet, and most of them seem to do that without needing a brain. In many ways, life gets along far better if it just has no brains, just little biological machines chugging away. Brains just seem to disturb the balance...
So okay, let's get that framed a bit better. Have you ever wondered why we find nature so beautiful? We're born into a whole world full of nature, and then we wonder why we find the only thing we know, the thing that sustains us and nurtures us and provides our only impressions of beauty, beautiful? There's a name for this phenomenon but it just escapes me for the moment. Sort of "QED, now let's test for it and - surprise! - QED!" What it means for the purposes of my discussion is that we rate the success of lifeforms on a profoundly different scale than, say, that earthworm.
To us, intelligence and adaptability are indicators of success. Our brains are what makes us the successful, world-dominating, all niche exploiting, most successful lifeform we've ever known. A large part of what we perceive to be our evolutionary success, is due to those largish lumps of gray matter in our heads, our brains. Without that brain, we'd actually be wiped out by any suitably hungry colony of cave bats or field mice. Minus that pound of not-quite-flesh, we would not survive even if the mice and bats and every damn thing kept their distance as a mark of respect for the late kings. We would starve to death in our idiot bodies.
Hang on - we keep our single most mission-critical organ on an external, sticky-outy fragile bone box? Isn't that a bit silly? Shouldn't we be keeping it right next to our hearts, in a bony box deep in the middle of our bodies? Where the most layers separate it from damage by the big wide external world we supposedly rule? So what went wrong here? Why did this retrograde step happen?
Yep, if you're a four-legged prone animal with a Large Brain, then that's the part which is furthest away from whatever is chasing you. And if you're a four-limbed bipedal animal then it places the Large Brain way above (one would hope) harm's way from attack by ground provided the crittur attacking us is A) on the ground and B) not another four-limbed bipedal animal with a Large Brain intent on bashiing our Large Brain out with the Tool which it's Large Brain just invented...
And similarly, when our prone friend attacks a foe, their large Brain is now at the forefront and most prone to Retaliatory Attack By Other. So I don't get it... Why did Large Brains In Bone Boxes On The End Of Spindly Sticks become the flavour of the aeon? I imagine that the distance from the Bulging Eyes and Large Flappy Ears to the Large Wobbly Brain had to be kept as short as possible to allow us to process input more quickly, because that's an admirable survival trait, to be able to size up a situation quicker than the opposition and then act on it.
But - here's the kicker - now that we've assessed the situation, we realise the Other is much bigger and fiercer than we are - and we now have a problem. Yes, we saw the outcome much quicker than the hypothetical Other With A Large Brain further from their sense organs, but - ... dammit, now we have to wait for the signal to travel from our brain to our legs, and start Evasive Running-Away Manoeuvres 101... Almost as far as if the brain had been in that superbly protected position in the middle of our bodies. We might have lost a few nanaseconds of time for the brain to react, but we gained those nanoseconds in the reduced time it would take for our RUN!!! reaction to reach our legs...
Just like I'm not convinced by men's nipples and other things, the Large Brains In Bone Boxes On The End Of Spindly Sticks doesn't quite convince me either. We're a whole evolutionary system gone wrong, we are, not just one branch of the tree...
So - given that we seem to be built entirely wrong, that we destroy more ecosystem than we contribute, and that 95% of the world's biomass would consider us (if they had Large Brains) a Bad Aberration in the evolutionary course, what precisely are we?
I assume we're a lucky guess, a system that came about by accident and which worked, albeit always to the detriment of the overall system, but it did work. We're now fulfilling our mission, which is to rid the world of all troublesome 'others' and we're succeeding quite well at that, what with the species extinction rate. 'Bang on target, old man, good work!" and all that. We will probably eventually succumb to an Amoebic Entity With No Reasoning Power Whatsoever, and then Life will resume it's pleasant plodding course.
I'd still like to see a lifeform designed by Something With A Smart Brain though...
Categories - ::/:: Edited on: Sunday, January 18, 2004 10:07 AMposted at 10:25 PM Ted
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