Tuesday, 22 December 2009

CO2 Control Knob?

Just saying - but maybe the increase in carbon dioxide is another reason I feel short of breath?

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Monday, 21 December 2009

Me: Power Guzzler

This is hardly fair, but neither are any of the alternatives: "Power guzzlers face higher electricity tariff."  As the article reports and Kate Doust points out, it's not necessarily the high-income households that will be classed as "power guzzlers."  What sort of a fucked up term is that, anyway?

I'm a low income household.  I'm on a disability pension because I have emphysema.  Let's examine my household for a minute shall we?

I live in a "second house," a cottage on a large block south of Perth.  That was for various reasons, one it's cheaper than being in a caravan park by about $20 / week, two it's a fixed home so I can kind of qualify for things that a person in a caravan or motorhome paradoxically can't, three it's away from the city and the pollution so I can breathe a lot easier.

The cottage is nowhere near a gas main so it's all electric, the hot water system, the oven, the stove, the fridge, and an air conditioner so that I can at least drop the temperature and reduce the humidity inside so I can breathe without distress.  There is no insulation as it's an original beach shack of a cottage, meant only for holiday use originally I suppose.  I know there are government insulation rebates but they are for the landlord to apply for, not me.  And in this type of construction would be difficult to install anyway, and be of limited effect.  That means the a/c (when it's working - right now I need to get it repaired and can't afford to do so.) is pushing shit uphill all day and half the average night, sucking down electricity like I have a bottomless wallet.

And I get a pension, remember?  Lowest income in Australia bar none, still officially below the poverty line.

My fridge was a hand-me-down I was given because it "makes our meter jump off the wall" when it's operating.  I can't afford a new one no matter what.

I like to cook but I have the choice of using up several units per hour cooking, or else spring for a gas regulator and small gas cooker off my own bat - again, not gonna happen unless I win Lotto.

So I'm in just one possible situation where I'd be consider "power-guzzling" but in reality if I didn't, I might as well go back to living in a tent.

Just one more way that the government is here to serve me....

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Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Gardens, Cliche, Inner Peace

Do you garden?  Even if you have just a pot plant on a window ledge, I guess, you can call yourself a gardener.  Me, I've always found that growing something makes me feel so much better about life.  Look, there's this thing that I nursed and cared for, now large and happy, be it a flower, a vegetable, or a kitten I've looked after since it was less than a handful.

The sentiments expressed in this article prompted this blog post, because I've seen how much a garden can do for making one feel at peace.  I did go through a stage where I was inclined to think that real life was a messy dirty thing that's better avoided, but somehow, it prevailed.  I've had the best experience the last two weeks, of having a visitor from interstate, and it was even better because I had growing things to show and to use in meals, there was the rabbit shed, the ducks, and some lovely local scenery.  Safe to say that had I been living in the city itself, we'd have been sat indoors and bored solid.

Okay, brainfart over, go back to LOLcats.

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Monday, 14 December 2009

Burning iMam 2009

"We're alright with images of us guys burning effigies of you guys, but this has got to stop!".

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Wednesday, 25 November 2009

I'll Take My (Political) Football And Go Home...

This amounts to Reynolds using the entire CFMEU as a weapon in what appears to be a personal fight between his wife and himself, versus Labor.

Just saying - if I was a CFMEU member I don't think I'd like my membership dues being used as a bargaining chip by some asshole who thinks his wife is above the sanctions imposed on every other politician who had contact with Burke.  Just saying...

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Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Simple Pleasures

Today is one of our warmer days this spring/summer, at around 29C outside.  I still managed to get a lift out of it.  My friend in the UK skyped and we talked for an hour, easily.  I ate some home baked bread for a late breakfast/early lunch, started a new batch of bread.  Sister came to pick up some fish for her dog (he loves it, I generally have heaps left over) and have a coffee with me.

We wandered around the rabbit shed for an hour talking to and about the bunnies, had a coffee and snacks, and I gave her a tub of salt-preserved olives I'd made earlier in the year.  Showed off the latest bits of the vege garden, and after she went home I planted some "mystery seeds" I'd collected someplace, a bunch of rocket and cress, and whatever else I thought would benefit from the upcoming heat and sunlight.

And I found out something that makes me even happier - my compost piles are now healthy enough to support worms!  (In the heat here, compost piles often dry out and lose their bacteria, and worms generally go into the dry sand and die.)  But I have a thriving colony in the compost now, so as long as I keep it watered and feed new material in I'll have the BEST soil conditioner aside from the bunny wastes.

I sat there just watching the worms dig their way into the planter tub I'd put the rocket and cress into, and got one of those euphoric moments. Despite the sweltering humidity and heat, despite all the digging and the mulching and feeding, despite this being the sort of day where in Perth I'd have been sulking in airconditioned comfort, I felt totally blissed out.

Don't think I'd EVER trade this back for a stressful harried city life...

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Sunday, 22 November 2009

Bunny Serenity

She couldn't have known, last Christmas, what she was starting.  By giving me a single dwarf lop rabbit at Christmas, my partner gave me start into something which is fast becoming my number one occupation, hobby, and amusement.

Once I had Peta and started to learn about rabbits, I became the "expert" on lagomorphs apparently, and a friend gave me a rabbit they'd been given for Christmas before finding out that they really aren't rabbit people.  And Peta and Eddie begat about three litters of little dwarf lop bunny kittens, and they went to new homes as they got older, and Moccha stayed behind, extending my family to three.  Then Moccha had to be found a girlfriend, so Lola has just arrived.  And I got a squeaky and very large white rabbit named Fluffy, and two little white does named Mel'n'Norma.

I've joined the OzWest rabbit club and built a mozzie-proof rabbit shed and more hutches for everyone so that the rabbit kind of uncontrolled breeding can be controlled. And I've decided that it's the best hobby - ever.

One girl that I got was very nervous about being touched or picked up and would grunt and squeak and try and box hands away.  Now, not even a week later, she's running around lounge watching TV and working out why the cat isn't the least bit interested in eating her.  I can pick her up, cuddle her, and hand feed her like my other bys and girls.  That's a beautiful sense right there.  

The other girl is cute as a button and lively as a coil spring - and inclined to nip without warning...  The twins are teenage girls right now and starting to show an interest in Moccha, who's one of the most intelligent and human-oriented rabbits I've ever seen.  He has eyes only for Lola, and she's more interested in exploring the world than playing house with him.  Eddie just wants anything that's female - but given the choice, he sits outside Peta's hutch and makes big soulful eyes at her all day if I'd let him.  

I spend time each day letting the rabbits have turns at running in the front yard, it gives me a chance to sit in the shade, read books, and keep an eye on them and - most of the time - I feel terribly relaxed watching rabbits browse and scrabble and jump and play.  People say alpacas are very relaxing to watch, they should try a morning or afternoon spent watching bunnies...

I'm also grateful that someone had the good sense to think to herself "Hmm, what can I get Ted for Christmas that will fill his life for years to come?" and came up with that certain little black and white bunny...

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Saturday, 21 November 2009

We Can ALWAYS See You

Why does this story surface every year? "Delete Your Browser Cookies!  Evvviiillll!!  Evil!"

What a load.  While you're at it, go to your doctor and ask them for all your medical records and insist they wipe every trace of you off their computers, then get frustrated that they actually have to have you name on invoices and go to the Taxation department and ask them to cancel your tax file number and remove all your details except - oh yeah, the ones at the Register of Births, Deaths & Marriages...

When did anyone get the idea that they were anonymous and mysterious?  What exactly is it that you're doing online that all traces have to be meticulously removed, shredded, and the space filled with binary snow?   Our entire lives are filled with physical cookies that record where you last used your credit card, when the last time really was that you used the bus to go to work instead of the car, and a lot of other detail that it only takes a bit of determined searching to find out.  Just like, you know, browser cookies.  

Also, some cookies in your life as pointed out above (such as medical records) are damn useful if you happen to be struck down by a serious illness and don't have the time or capacity anymore to rush home and get all your medical records from the shoebox under your bed...

But for me, the best part of the story was that it has tracking code embedded in the URL I was given, to let Wired know I got there via Feedburner:


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Monday, 16 November 2009

Age Of Irrelevance. We Haz It.

Age of Irrelevance. We haz it.   I was watching 2012 - and the books the good doctor Helmsely was reading on his desk - and it occurred to me:  He was reading Steinbeck? Obviously someone chose the books on the desk with a bit of care, to set the scene and give cues as to the character of the man.

But we're at this point in the timeline of human knowledge where books lose their relevance to us pretty much immediately. Where even material published online dates in months rather than years as material in printed form did last century, and certainly nowhere near the centuries that printed material retained it's impact in times before that.

The Mars rovers launched towards mars in mid 2003.  For the best part of the next 12 months, they were the talk of the town as they outlived expectations.  Then they were the talk of the town for a week or two each time something went wrong and was recovered by a combination of engineering, mental agility, and the seemingly dogged determination of the little robots to hang in there.

Today I read that they are finally going to move the bogged rover after six months of scenarios and tests - and I barely registered it. People I mentioned it to, had to stop and remember what Spirit and Opportunity were, and then wondered why I was even mentioning something as trivial as that.  After all, we have robots that can walk, run, play soccer or ken-do, fly, launch missiles, and dive to the ocean depths.

So I wonder what 2010 will bring us? And when it happens, will anyone actually devote attention to it?

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Sunday, 15 November 2009

Rabbit Talk Is A Load Of Shit.

What my rabbits have been teaching me lately:

I've discovered why commercial rabbit farmers are failing so badly at getting one of the world's most fecund species to reproduce.  Should I tell them?  "Pssssst!  Guess what farmers?  Rabbits figured out how to do it millenia ago...  And they're willing to tell you, if only you'd look and listen!"

This is actually also what my rabbits taught me about feeding.  I've read horror story after horror story about rabbits starving to death rather than adapting to a new feed, or developing the runs and scouring to death.  And I've fed my rabbits whatever green feed is to hand, three different types of baled hay, pellets from three different manufacturers, and fruit and vegetable scraps from the local Local Fruit & Veg markets, and bread, crackers, and leaves flowers and branches of a range of trees and shrubs.

Guess what?  Rabbits fed themselves for a long long long time and they obviously managed to get it right.  I watched mine, and let them teach me.  What's the secret to these happy panavore rabbits?  Well, for a starters, it's the way I saw them approach a new plant or feed when I let them wander around the garden.  They will check a new plant out, sniff it, then wander off for a while.  If the sniff didn't make them ill, they go back and take a few mouthfuls, and wander off again.

The seemingly random behaviour, isn't.  If they still aren't sick after a while, they go back and eat a bit more.  Then they leave it alone again for a while, and I believe that they spend the time trying to figure out if this plant had any beneficial effect on them.  The thing is, after that it becomes part of a whole rabbit conversation.  That too I've noticed, that rabbits teach each other, as well.  And the way the do it seemed a bit alien to me at first, but now I think about it, it makes perfect sense.  A lot of rabbit dialogue occurs in the form of fecal pellets.

The little balls of dry poo that rabbits drop serve a few purposes.  And in this case, they "inoculate" the other rabbits in th herd into tolerating the new plant, in effect teaching the others in the herd about this new food source.

See, with rabbits, (some of you may know part of this - please bear with me - there's a bit more) there are two types of poo.  The most important one is the cecal pellet, which is a mucus-covered "bunch of grapes" which you'll rarely see, because the rabbit re-ingests it right away.  The reason is at least twofold.  One, the rabbit has no second stomach like cows and ruminants, so this is a way of re-digesting the cud, as it were.  Two, the bacteria in a rabbit's gut need to be "topped up" regularly.  And these bacteria are also somewhat tailored to the type of feed the rabbit is eating.  Third use for these cecal pellets is to inoculate the young kittens with the right bacteria to be able to digest and absorb solid feed.

Rabbit kittens are not born with these gut bacteria, the doe drops cecal pellets outside the burrow so that when the kittens are old enough to venture outside and nibble at the world out there, they will find these pellets.  "Hmmm" says the kitten, "These things smell like mum.  Mum's been a food source for me before."  In effect, the doe is indoctrinating the kittens with "local knowledge" and equipping them to cope with local food.

The dry pellets are true manure, but if you watch your rabbit you'll see it re-ingest some of these dry balls.  In fact, you'll see rabbits seemingly randomly pick up anyone's fecal pellet and eat it.  And apparently that's another conversation in itself.  Because, that seems to be how they find out about new foods and plants in their range.

And I believe that's why my rabbits are such panavores, able to tolerate such a wide range of foods.  Because even though I don't have them all in a common hutch, I do let them out for runs in a large common area.  And when Peta is running around, she's dropping pellets carrying her food tolerances.  When Eddie goes for his run, he picks up on that and then his gut is inoculated for that food, too.  Then the kittens get a run, and they get both parents' bacteria.  And the next day, I might start the day with the kittens and then Eddie and then Peta.

And you know what?  I wish I could take credit for this, but a damn rabbit taught it to me...

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Friday, 6 November 2009

Short, Sharp, Suicide

Love some studies, they point out such interesting factoids.  Like this one, reported at Treehugger, where they pin down the number of ways cyclists meet their doom.  There appear to be lots of creative ways to total cyclists at intersetcions, and some neat codenames they've developed amongst themselves.  A true subculture, and I think I mean that in the truest meaning of the prefix.

The most interesting factoid to come out of it is that 30% of the fatal collisions seem to involve cyclists riding against the flow of traffic.  Fully one third of cyclists aren't actually being deliberately cruelly and coolly killed by mean nasty car drivers, they are just being subject to Darwinian selection kicking in.

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Some charities - just make me question things...  I started donating to a fund that was supposedly taking my $20/mth and using it to provide living condition improvements to some country in Africa.  Why am I not clear on the aims of this fund?  Because I paid them for a few months, and then started idly looking for anything they'd actually done, and found doodly-squat.

I used their email address and sent them my details and asked them to stop debiting my account.  They didn't.  I sent a second email, six weeks later, and told them that if I had to pay my bank a fee for stopping their debits, I would be billing them for those fees plus my time, and that I would also begin legal action against them for theft.

That got a result, and email from someone at their office promising that the debits would be stopped by my request.  I said a nice thank you, and asked them to also remove my name, details, and email address from their databases.  I (wow, this is good response!) received a reply to that too, saying this too had been done.

Until about six weeks later, when I got an email from them asking me if I wouldn't like to renew my debit arrangement...  So I emailed again and said, very bluntly, that I had their written promise to remove my details from their database.  I actually got a phone call from someone, who said that the email must have been obtained by one of their other recruiting efforts.  So I politely asked him how the recruiter would have known I'd been a previous subscriber, and then said that if I got one more spam email or request from them they would definitely see inside a court room.

And that worked.  Finally.  Until...  I got one of their "please renew" letters in the snail mail some three months later...  No I haven't bothered to sue them but if I get any more mail from them, I'll name them here.  (And I'll make sure they get to see this article, too...)

So charities are NOT my favourite people in the world, you understand?  And that made today even more galling.  I came inside after a stretch of gardening and saw I'd missed a phone call.  Since they were kind enough not to hide their number, I called them back.  After establishing that they were a charity I sometimes bought raffle tickets from, the Indian woman on the other end asked me for my phone number to see why I'd been called.  Not finding anything, she launched into a potted history of the charity, and finally asked me for a donation.

That is all on my mobile phone call, on my dollar, thank you very much.  I pointed this out and she didn't seem to care a lot, asked me again if I would donate to them.  I explained that I was on a disability pension and couldn't afford it, and she asked if anyone in my family would like to donate.  I think it was about at that point that i said something along the lines of "goodbye" and hung up.  Or maybe it was "fuck you..."

Anyway - that's why if you come to me and ask me to support your "blue fuzzy karaoke shave-a-thon for save the orphans" I'll probably say something along the lines of "goodbye."  Or whatever...

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Thursday, 5 November 2009

Schroedinger's Hadron Collider.

I've been collecting links to stories about the theory that Higgs particles are preventing themselves from being formed in the LHC.

The theory basically says that the Higgs boson can't be created, therefore if we have a machine that's capable of creating one at some point in the future, then effects from the future will flow back to - well, to now, really - to ensure that the LHC isn't capable of producing a Higgs boson.

Physicists are divided on this - but do remember that things like quarks and the Uncertainty principle would have been considered total whack only a century ago.  And then just as they start cranking up the eV levels on LHC again - this.  I presume it isn't a belated April Fool's joke, but I wish it were.  Oh how I wish it were...

Because after Schroedinger's Cat and Schroedinger's Kittens, how much more bizarre an occurrence does there have to be before the message gets across?  A fricken bird dropping a bread roll, it doesn't get any more bizarre than that.

(For anyone that wants to know about Schroedinger's Kittens I do suggest getting Gribbins' excellent book out of the library.)

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Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Failed Prediction - Hey! Hang on!

Amazingly enough, one of these failed predictions IS true.

"God's Church Ministry, Fall 2008
According to God's Church minister Ronald Weinland, the end times are upon us-- again. His 2006 book "2008: God's Final Witness" states that hundreds of millions of people will die, and by the end of 2006, "there will be a maximum time of two years remaining before the world will be plunged into the worst time of all human history. By the fall of 2008, the United States will have collapsed as a world power, and no longer exist as an independent nation." As the book notes, "Ronald Weinland places his reputation on the line as the end-time prophet of God.""

Because the Financial collapse did happen around then, and it did reduce America's standing in international finances.

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Wednesday, 28 October 2009

SCOTD: 0001

Spooky Coincidence Of The Day: Was mainly thinking of two things today. One: Absolute mosquito plague here in South Yunderup. Being right beside the Murray river (The WA one) and there being tidal overflow lakes all over the place, it's always thick with mosquitoes around here. According to locals, last year was a particularly bad year for the bitey buggers, and so far this year has trumped last year in aces, spades, and bucketsful. I swear I was brushing off clumps of them the last few days while venturing outside at dusk, and that's despite spray repellant, full length clothing, and moving around most of that time.

Full length clothing? The bloody mozzies laughedat that, they can bite right through a chambray cotton business shirt. Repellent? They bloody well threw themselvesagainst me in the hope (I guess) that they'd stick for a second and get just one little suck in before the chemical drove them away again. These are desperate mosquitoes, people!

So I thought about what I could plant that mozzies totally HATE, and that made me remember I had the fine book "Companion Gardening" by Judith Collins out of the local library. I've read about 2/3 of the book, not from cover to cover but a cherry-picking approach - what do I plant next to corn? And what helps tomatoes to grow better? You know, the kind of reading for snippets that we refer to as "Googling" if we're doing it online. I hadn't seen anything under a heading "mosquitoes" or anything, though.

But I remembered something Dad said, way back when. He said "if you have a problem, or something on your mind, open a book - any book - at any random page, pick a random paragraph, and tyr and see how it might relate to your issue." I've tried this quite a few times, and it has always worked in some indirect or loosely-connected way. So I figured what the hell, I have a mozzie problem, I have a book of garden solutions - what have I got to lose?

And here's the very spooky result: I riffled the pages and opened the book, (as it happened, at page 85,) and looked at the first complete paragraph on the page.

FLEABANE (Erigeron)

This plant is an excellent mosquito repellent. In my garden fleabane is planted close to the edible water gardens and the swimming pool. It grows well with yarrow, vegetables, marjoram, and feverfew.

Silently sending a thank-you to Dad there on the other side for his wisdom and for guiding my choice to that exact paragraph... Now all I have to worry about is where to find fleabane...

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How To Be Facebook: Be An Asshole.

The now chewed-to-death Facebook revamp of the timeline has been done to death, mostly by journal and magazine writers who've basically said "most people say they just don't like it!" and leave it at that.  Oh, they do go on about alienating one's users, not fixing what ain't broke, and so forth.  But none of them really give any solid information about what the front end now does wrong, aside from be "not liked."

I opened my facebook page that day and noticed that the unread count was now in a little inverse balloon.  (Yep, for some reason I finished up opening the News Feed rather than Live Feed.)  I noticed right away that stories were out of chronological order, and stories I expected to find in my feed weren't there at all.  "Must be part of that unread count" I hypothesised and clicked the balloon.  After all, that was what would reload the timeline before, wasn't it?

For a moment I was flabberghasted because now I was apparently viewing another feed, the "Live Feed" and that wasn't how things had behaved before.  I also noticed that many events weren't in the Live Feed, that I'd become used to having in my old timeline feed.  And a heap that I'd hidden had suddenly come out again.

I decided I could let the Live Feed stay for the moment, and browsed another few sites, then came back to Facebook.  Again, what was showing in the Live Feed wasn't what I'd painstakingly crafted for myself by selective hiding - and some of it appeared to be out of chronological order again, which is definitely NOT expected behaviour for something labelled as a "live" feed.

Then came the last straw.  My pages suddenly all went to the landing page for my mobile broadband provider, and I discovered that a few hundred megabytes had just flashed past in the course of a day.  I pay $50 for 3Gb of data on my mobile broadband connection, which I have because A) the landline service where I am is sub-optimal to say the least, and B) I like travelling around and that means being independent of wall sockets.

I paid for my next prepaid block of data and then studied the network traffic graph.  Not a lot of "grass" at the bottom of the graph there - but there had been NO traffic in between page loads before.  I established that this traffic could easily account for about 100Mb of my traffic that day, i.e. it had cost me as much bandwidth as an average 8 hours' of browsing and blogging on any other day. Multiple "I don't fucking believe this shit!" reloads of Facebook had accounted for another extra chunk of my precious bandwidth that I wouldn't normally have used, and with that, I went back to Facebook Lite (http://lite.facebook.com/)  and haven't really bothered with the full feed.


Some things such as applications and posting links are really only easily available from the full feed homepage.  So I am still having to open that bandwidth-intensive page to play the games I enjoy, post link-based paragraphs, and so forth.

So to me the main problems associated with the change are:
  • I can't afford it.  Surprising as it is in this day and age, bandwidth still isn't free or even cheap.  Having an auto-refresh on a page without an option to turn it off should almost be a criminal offense as far as I'm concerned.  And no - I don't want to switch to the News Feed as it is now because it is not what I want.  I want the Live Feed data structure because it is closest to what I had before and which was precisely what I wanted, with the option of manually reloading it as I was able to before.
  • I did not appreciate there being no warning whatsoever that a live feed had been instituted, this ended up costing me a day's bandwidth that I on a pension can ill afford.  
  • I did not appreciate there being no way to go back to the previous version of the timeline feed without having to go to a totally different feed, the Lite feed.  You need to provide an option for both the old and the new, and let people come to it of their own accord.
  • I thought that the "Top News" method of culling through the timeline is stupid, because it raises significantly raises the noise inherent in the timeline already.  Total crap floats to the top, the things that I really want to follow are buried down several pages back.  This also increases the chance that a total piece of spam can be raised to the top of your feed just because every one of your friends has written "fuck off spammer!" in a comment.  More activity by my network, surrounding a piece of trivia that someone else who's a friend of a friend of someone in my network, doesn't mean I'll automatically love it and enjoy it.  You can't polish a turd, and a lot of the stuff I'd so carefully hidden from my feed were - let's face it - just shit.
So - had they pre-announced it, given people a way to test it and get used to it beforehand, and listened to feedback during the testing and evaluation phase, they would now have a whole lot of satisfied users, and almost all of them would be using the new feed by choice, but customised to each person's liking.

Instead, they've ended up with another red face, another round of people wondering where the fucking Soup Nazi is, and another page in the history books of the Internet and Social Networking where they're shown to be a backward, awkward, fumbling, and totally anti-social organisation.

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Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Are You THE ONE, I Asked In A Hushed Voice

I'm amazed by this sort of story.  It illustrates what I find most wrong with religious zeal.  See, for that one boy, in that one situation, the almighty saved a piece of chalk.  For roughly 2 billion people on the door of famine and starvation, not so much...  Before anyone asks me what religion those unfortunate people are - IT SHOULDN'T MATTER.  If we are to believe, they are all His creations and therefore should warrant the same amount of assistance as some Christian boy in a lecture hall.

Another little tale that illustrates the difference between religion and fanaticism:  In the 70's I was working in Papua New Guinea.  PNG had more missions from more religions than any other place I can think of.  (Outside the USA...)  And a lot of my friends were children of missionaries. On the weekend I particularly remember, we were discussing prayer and churches.  I asked why my prayers don't get answered and was told that "you have to pray in church."

I said that since there were about six people in the lounge room, we could declare it a church, and then would my prayers be answered?  The answer apparently was that there wasn't an authority figure presiding.  (I specifically asked if a father or a monsignor or a pastor was needed and that was how the "authority figure" was hastily pulled out of the hat.)

Fine, I said.  I have demonstrated that I am leading this congregation, there are six of us here, and this is a church.  Will you join me in prayers?  You could almost see them each evaluating if that would perhaps be heretical, then they all declined.  So as we were walking out to their motorbikes, I asked if my prayers would be answered any more if I went to one of their churches.

"No," was the general opinion, because to respond to a prayer was a bit like a miracle, and "He doesn't work like that any more." I asked if that could perhaps mean that God had left us to our devices, and got the kind of frosty silence normally reserved for outcasts.

At that point I decided to give it a try anyway.  "I can see the sky" I said, "and no matter what you think, we have a church right here and right now.  And my prayer will be answered."  I pointed to the guy that had been giving me the most formulaic and constant opposition and said "God?  Please zap him!"

The guy hopped on his motorbike along with the others, and they all started looking at him.  Because his bike wasn't starting for him.  he kicked and kicked that lever, but not even one cough of life.  At that point I walked up to the bike, put my hands on the handlebars and said "Okay you can let him go now."  And the damn bike started right away after the very next kick.... [See Note 1]

The following morning I was discussing that event with a couple of them as had come back to town, and asked if that wasn't a miracle.  And do you know, not one of them would agree that it was.  That's the sort of dedicated one-eyed fanaticism that causes people to get killed "for a cause..."

The best part?  They said they had to get going to take some rugs out to their mission, and as they went to leave I said "God?  Please zap them so they know it was a miracle?"

And they took off, only to return 20 minutes later to strap the rugs on their luggage carriers...

In light of it all, what are we supposed to think?  There must be 40,000 religions and variants and schisms out there, and the Christian church one of the most splintered and divided of those.  Of the religions that most loudly claim to be peaceful, it's always true that they have committed more murder, genocide, and atrocities in the name of whatever god they claim to serve than any number of corrupt military regimes.

So what events caused that conflagration which the Middle East still is?  What is it that has shed more blood in the last two millennia than anything else?  And why is every religion "the one" and only?  Are we really so naive as to kill one another over something that, by its own admission, can never be anything but imaginary?

The guy was flustered.  He had flicked the "chicken switch" (an engine kill switch) to "Off" when he arrived, but because he was too engrossed in the argument he failed to turn it back "On."  I saw that, and when I "blessed" him and his bike, I palmed the switch to the right direction.  Oh come on!  Him forgetting is as much a "miracle" as a piece of chalk finding a softer way to the ground by bouncing off a shoe.  If you want to call one a miracle, you have to allow the other too! 

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Sunday, 25 October 2009

We Have Been Warned, Will We?

Okay.  So there's this thing we call an economy, right?  And the damn thing all collapses on itself and - well, it's still happening as we speak.  But what the hell is it all about, really?  And why?

There's a chap who, back in the '70s, wrote a book about the purpose of money.  (And with it, the economy.)  There's a more concise and shortened summary by Lomas here, you may want to read that as a grounder.

And much as I like to pull the piss out of conspiracy theories, something about this resonates with me.  For example, the problem of national debts plagues me.  As an exercise, try this thought experiment:

Australia has a foreign debt.  We owe money to a lot of countries.  The USA has a foreign debt, and owes a lot of money to a lot of countries.  Japan has a huge foreign debt, China has one, India has one.  I don't actually know any country that has a positive balance.  So where does all that money end up?

It's also a perfect mechanism to describe a way to bring about an economic meltdown.  Because if every country is decreasing in wealth due to foreign debt, those economies had to have been propped up by something else.  Like perhaps inflation and Ponzi schemes and guaranteed financial instruments that are based on worthless financial instruments which are based on supposedly solid loan repayments which in turn are...  Well, you get the idea.

It's all a bit like the Arabian story of the beggar who waved his bread through the steam from some food a merchant was cooking in order to flavour the bread a bit.  The merchant collared the poor guy and took him to the Sheikh to ask that he be paid two coins for the steam the beggar had "used" to flavour his bread, and the Sheikh said "Certainly, we shall provide you with fair value" and jingled two coins so the merchant could hear them.  I get the feeling that our economic giants have been trading steam and jingles for a while now, and perhaps it's all evaporated.  We've based all our sense of worth on one mineral, being gold.  And there's only so much gold in the ground, yet we need to use it to purchase all the other things we extract from the Earth like iron and food and lumber and so forth.  And we're very good at exploiting the Earth...  So of course the number of things we can have increases, while the amount of gold-based wealth perforce isn't growing anywhere near as much.

Oh and I have another theory.  I believe that some very intelligent and possibly rational people have been theorising about the Large Hadron Collider's excessive downtime.  Their theory goes that at some time in the future, the LHC produces some kind of result which leads to time travel and to some kind of ill effect.  And now, people from the future have sent someone back in time to sabotage the LHC and prevent this from happening.

I'm open to such theories, because I've NEVER believed that there are limits, so I'm quite happy to accept that a person from the future could go back in time, and destroy the thing that would make time travel possible, thereby making him(or her) self an incorporeal artifact that never could have existed anymore.

But what if there was also a realisation that because we'd invented this notion of wealth based on gold we were also causing a planet-wide catastrophe due to the exploitation of the resources?  And they sent a party through before the party that was supposed to take out the LHC, to destabilise the economies of the major countries?  Because of course, that would kill two birds, one, slow down the planetary destruction, and also make it harder for the LHC to attract the funding it needs to make all the repairs.

And hey - it's every bit as good as any economic theory you can come up with!  %)

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Monday, 19 October 2009


"That's one striking looking.. ummm - is that a bloke or a chick?"
"Geez, hard to tell. Must be one of them African athletes."

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Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Email Is Dead? Long Live Email Then, Cos I Still Use It Daily.

A very much beat up and overdone topic these days is the death of email.  Oh really? Tell some smart-ass spammer that.  Tell my collaborators and colleagues and friends.  Really.  Of course, there are caveats and maybes to that.  I still send fifty to a few hundred emails every month, and receive almost a thousand in that time span.

One of the maybes is that I used to receive a thousand emails a week at one stage, most of them from server management systems, mail filtering systems, and automated processes in the server room. It took months after I stopped working, before the uneasy feeling went away when I checked my emails and found less than a hundred a day...  So there's some wriggle room, but I seem to be finding that people still use email to about 50% of what I recall four years ago.

Then too there's the number of nasty people who are leaving spam behind and turning to other delivery methods for their malware.  Rats may be filthy and disgusting and disease-carrying, but they do know when to abandon that ship.  Maybe email isn't in its peak years any more.

But go to log into any new web application and what do they ask you?  "email address here please" is the first and foremost means of identifying yourself to a website, and the place where they'll send your reset password link to...  Yes, some sites let you use the hodge-podge that is OpenID - but most OID providers ask you for - yep, you guessed it - your email address...  
So email is NOT about to shuffle off and leave us anytime soon, and anyone that says so is overlooking the fact that it's the Internet's major identification device.

But that's not the worst thing about those "email is dead, long live *insert favourite new app here*" articles.  It's that they DO all tout one or other message delivery systems, or combinations of them.  None of them are game to state the awful truth:  There are just too many ways to keep in touch these days.  The problem isn't that email isn't suitable for our purposes (for most, it still is) but that we only have a certain amount to say, and too many places to say it...

I know I've shifted a great deal of my communication to things like facebook and friendfeed and plurk and plaxo and picasa and flickr and youtube and ...  well, you get the idea.  But I need to upload every video or image or status update several times if I want to update all of them.  So after a while, you find that you're not updating ALL your videos to youtube any more.  And when that Flickr Pro membership lapses...  Ah, just leave it.  I can get my pics up to facebook and picasa and photobucket...

So it's not a result of one application or other being a clear winner - it's that my output is limited to updating two video sites at the most (so goodbye vimeo and the rest, most of the time) or put my status update in one text box only.

Similarly with blogging - I've noticed a lot of people doing what I do, which is to use the relevant "horses for courses" and post stuff to the relevant site.  Since facebook is such a phenomenon, I use that for interesting links and short snippets that may also be suitable to post on friendfeed and twitter, and I use automation to get those short messages out there. I use the blogs for longer articles that have some more meat to them.  And I use photo sites to put photos that I want to reference in blog posts and status updates, or nowadays also facebook, because it allows me to link photos externally now.

So the fact that I'm not updating you by an email list server is simple - I don't actually have the time, the energy, nor the inclination to do that.

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Thursday, 24 September 2009

How To Get Hidden

I said in my last post that i feel it's important to use each social medium for what it's meant for,. and to use crossposting to get your material seen as widely as possible.  I also said that it's important to avoid crossposting loops where the same piece of information appears three or more times in a row, and this is why:

The same piece of information, three times in a row, reposted by various crossposting mechanisms so it finally ends up filling my Facebook stream with what ends up being just spam.

This is the quickest way to get on my facebook "hide" list, and no doubt on many others' hide lists too.  And that's counterproductive, because now you're not getting seen by those people on that social network.

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Monday, 21 September 2009

S*cial St*ff

Have you been noticing the shift in social media and networking?  I've watched as (90's) the personal web page flourished and was replaced with blogs and content management system backed sites.  I watched as ICQ and MSN Messenger converged on blogs and suddenly became systems like Jaiku and Pownce and Twitter.

Blogs are still popular today, I skim over literally hundreds of articles every day.  But I'm seeing the popularity of blogs waning, and I can see why.  So why am I writing this in a blog article?  It's a slightly long story.  And that's part of the reason.

I've been noticing people whose status updates read something like "I really need to give [Twitter|Flickr|my blog] some attention."

And I've resisted the urge to say anything to those people, and just watched...  Some work it out, some don't.  For instance, I watch that person and see them tweet twice, then go silent on Twitter, their picture updates dry up on Flickr. And with that, their social network loses an arm or a leg.

The problem is that microblogging, photoblogging, videoblogging, podcasting, and lifestream apps are each just one facet of one's network.  And sites like Facebook are alluring because of their integrated approach, so many people end up on there, or on whatever the latest and greatest aggregated SN site is, and stop using the others, other than on a sporadic basis.  Now, I figure across all my social networks I might know 2,000 - 5,000 people.  Many of them are in multiple networks, because I (like the majority of us) look up the people we already know when we first join a new medium.  But quite a few - not so.   They are on my Twitter and my Flickr, but not on Facebook or Friendfeed or Plurk.

I find that I'm shunning the blogs I write, because a short paragraph and a link on FB is so much easier, and reaches about the same audience.  Most of the time that paragraph is too short to becoem a decent article, and too long to fit in Twitter's 140 character limit. Yet I want my friends on all the networks to see it.  What to do?

Disambiguate.  Long word, means don't let people guess who you are.  I'm "teddlesruss" across all my networks.  People can see my name and my avatar picture and they become familiar with that, no matter what site they find it on.  It's a bit like brand recognition.  If you can't get the exact same userID on every social networking site, consider either getting as close as you can to the same across all sites, or else perhaps re-branding yourself with a tag that you can use uniformly across all the sites.

If you're "ace@venturapetdetective.com" on one SN site and "JimboC" on another and "VenturaAce" on another, then I'm not likely to connect the dots without a great deal of help.

Integrate. I find that by letting my different updates on different sites also update the other sites, that informs a lot more of the people in my contacts lists.  There are mechanisms that let you rebroadcast your updates from one medium to the other.  You may need to look for them and figure them out, but it's worth it because your message will go out to more of the people you know. (Or are trying to reach - so there's your lead, Big Company Wanting To Use Social Networking To Our Advantage...)

I use a variety of inbuilt and third party tools to make sure my status updates propagate nicely.  Something to look out for is to avoid "loops" where a service (say, for example) tweets a status message, then posts a status update to facebook, which promptly publishes another tweet containing the exact same text.

Discriminate.  In the sense to discriminate between the purposes that different social networking tools are designed for.  Hence (finally!) the reason for this blog article.  Blogs are suited for longer articles where there's a lot of ground to cover.  My blog posts get picked up on facebook and posted as Notes.  People get the first few hundred characters, and can either read it as a note on Facebook, or follow the link here to the blog. Meanwhile, a third party app announces the blog post on Twitter, with as many characters as will fit.

And Friendfeed and so forth each have their own mechanisms to pick up the new blog article and publish it to my stream.  And so forth.

That leaves just one thing. Obviously I can't make a blog article shrink enough to fit in one tweet, and I don't want to publish the whole lot as a 140 character serialisation.  Luckily, the answer here is just plain good news writing.

Intrigue.  In the first 140 characters, you have to plant the hook you want, the one that will pull people into following the link in there. Good newspaper practice was to make the first paragraph the "hook," but now thanks to modern technology, we have considerably less space than that to make our pitch for attention...

- - -

And that's about it. Don't abandon Twitter or Flickr just because facebook has status updates and a photo album, don't forget that your videos should still end up on YouTube and Vimeo, that your Friendfeed friends who aren't on Twitter would still like to know if you published a blog article.  And try and work in each medium live and exclusively at least several times a week.

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Monday, 14 September 2009

Rabbit Romances

Funny how little things can take over your life.  Like li'l rabbits.  Just waved goodbye to the last of a litter of seven, and realise how big a hole they are going to leave after just ten weeks...  For instance, I've spent most of those ten weeks learning new things about rabbits.  Deep, meaningful stuff like how they'd cluster together on the lawn until they saw that I was sitting with them, then they'd relax and scatter around and play.

And less meaningful but way more important stuff, like - did you know that a pair of rabbits will mate as soon as the doe has given birth?  And by the time you find the second litter hidden among the hay and bedding in a totally different part of the run, they've already done it again?  So yeah, I won't really have a chance to miss the first litter before the second one has already started developing personalities and acting cute and adorable.

And that third lot were born Sunday morning 13 September sometime, so I really won't have time to miss the middle litter.  And no, there aren't going to be any other litters for a while because I physically separated Eddie from Peta with a crowbar and a huge bribe of carrots as soon as I realised he'd done the dirty dancing thing for a third time...

Apropos of which:  I also learned from the WA rabbit club that females are hyperfertile as soon as they give birth.  Which explains why Eddie was running up and down his hutch beside the night hutch, poking his nose and front paws through the netting and with this really cute soppy expression on his face.  You could almost hear him saying it "Oh you're so... so fertile baby!  OMG I want you!"

He's such a pushover for a hyperfertile female...

But to save his pain we took him for a run on the lawn to burn off the feelings, and moved him to a run where he's not quite so assaulted by the scents and sounds of hypersex.  I learned something else from rabbits today.  Two things.  Carpe diem, seize the day.  Because one day someone's gonna put a run of netting between you and the object of your desire.  And also, I learned that love is a chemical.  A bunch of VOCs drifting on the air, a scent of pheromones, one hankie dropped and a flash of lace, and you're poking your nose through the bars and singing love songs...

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Saturday, 5 September 2009

Don't Post It? Whyever Not?

The Yahoo article is right - we have ever more ways to disseminate and post information.  About us, or our business.  Or for others to post that information, whether sanctioned or not.  But I'm not sure the article goes far enough into the matter. I've got news for the people who say that these social networks are such a ruin for normal social etiquette.

They ARE the new social etiquette.  

See, there are all these people out there stuck in the past.  Did they learn from history?  Not likely...  To them, it's new and they haven't found their footing in the new society, so it's automatically "bad" and "disruptive."  Once again, I seem to find myself one of the few in my age bracket that gets it, and in fact from that article it seems that many younger people don't get it, either.

It all revolves around that elusive concept of privacy, and the lengths some people will go to, to get it.  But think back - in early times as far as humans go, it was quite normal for 10 - 40 humans to live together in a cave.  Privacy was non-existent under those conditions.  Even later on, the head of the village was quite entitled to walk in and tell you you were doing it all wrong.  As it was, pretty much everyone knew everything about everyone else, and whatever you did, was public knowledge in as little time as it took to whisper it in the marketplace.  People built their own private caves, but developed new ways to figure out what the neighbours were up to, and better ways to disseminate it.

Now the older school of social interaction says that news carried by physical letters is quaint and old-fashioned, and email is the bomb.  But Twitter or Facebook updates are just not right, not kosher, not "real social communications" because they don't have "control" of information about themselves.  They never had it before, either, but they are prepared to overlook that because this new stuff is just so evil and invasive...

I have a very much larger circle of friends now than I ever could have had in the late 70's.  Despite working on a large mining site, living in a mining town, working as an announcer volunteer on community radio, joining a local music club, and starting a computer hobby club with about 30 members, I imagine that the number of people I regularly interacted with in a year would have been about 100.

Today, I have four times that many people I regularly interact with on Facebook alone.  Twitter adds about 200 more and includes many friends off FB, and then Friendfeed, Plurk, Flickr, Tumblr, and various other such sites probably take the number of individuals I interestedly follow and chat with to close to a thousand.

If one of those friends is having a baby and someone else posts the sex of the baby, that's fine with me.  When they send me the email with the picture on the tummy, I'll be as effusive and congratulatory as if I'd just that moment found out.  More, in fact, because I'd have had a little time to prepare for it.

If someone else lets slip that the friend is getting engaged I'll send them a congratulatory private message, I won't post it on their Wall for all to see - because I understand how to use the two for their relevant purposes.  Once they post the announcement publically, I'll issue a public congratulation too.  The private message says "I know about this because I am interested in you and your life, but I see you haven't made it public so I'll maintain silence for you" while the public acknowledgement later on lets everyone that I indeed am a friend of them and support them.

The problem with all these new means of communication aren't the technologies themselves, it's the fact that most people don't think before they type.  Everyone has a couple of friends whose Wall posts to one another are even embarassing (or coma-inducingly boring and irrelevant) to third parties.  Instead of taking such sensitive matters to a private mail or a direct tweet, they are using the public forum as though they were the only ones in it. Often to great detriment, as those people who lose jobs because of it will attest.

If there's one piece of advice I'd like to offer the friends of mine who discuss little Billy's ingrown penis wart (or whatever other insipid drivel they are airing in public) it's to imagine themselves looking at their public profile from the outside.  THINK before hitting the send button.  

That's honestly all it takes to avoid becoming the subject of a Yahoo article...

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Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Free Speech - Well, That Didn't Last Long

If you're interested in freedom of speech, (a relatively new political innovation and quite valuable to us,) then you need to be interested in the e-book reader war. Note that so far every e-book reader includes a way to delete books, either (as Amazon proved) remotely deleted without warning, or with the Sony, by expiring content after a specific time.  Whether they tell you that time or not.

Neither inspires confidence in me for my freedom of speech, because at least when one published a book in the past, one could be sure that the person buying it would still have that book, barring gross mishandling, fire, or rising damp, for the next decade or even century.  Now, one can't even be sure someone who pays money for one's book will still have it the following day.

No help if one wrote a self-extracting e-book for an iPhone - there's every chance it won't even make it into the App Store.  And don't even get started on the stumbling-blocks thrown up if one was writing a text-to-speech application for the book or producing it as an audiobook...

Freedom of speech is a powerful thing, a power we should not lightly let slip away.  Support the most open e-book readers where possible, and hopefully that gesture will be seen as what it is, a protest against censorship.  Only a government that doesn't trust its people removes their defenses and tightly controls the information it allows that people access to.  In this case, the word "government" can also be replaced by "multinational" and the word "people" with the word "customers."

Remember to keep the bastards honest!

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Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Just Caught Up

... with some friends from way back and long ago, thanks to the power of Facebook.  Now looking forward to catching up for a coffee and a long long long conversation because it turns out that these people have been within a few miles of me for years.  If only one knew hey?

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Monday, 17 August 2009

Amusing Thought Of The Day.

If there's one thing I'm sure of, it's that truly inventive and creative people are ultimately stupid.  They invent and create things that would be of inestimable value - and then give it to stupid people...

"What's that?"

"The geek wiz built it and gave it to me.  He said it was a solar powered mobile powered food production unit that can feed a small village.  Here - you use this laptop to direct where it goes."

"Ah okay.  So what are you doing with it?"

"Oh, I use it to chase the cat."

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Thursday, 13 August 2009

THE Ultimate Gadget?

Having been in high tech industries for most of my working life, I've always had a bit of a grasp of what's possible with technology, and what sorts of advances are most likely to occur in technology given the existing state of play.  I love my techie stuff, and I have for years (since the 90's) held a view that what we were using back then (and are still using in one form or another, highly developed as it is) is an interim technology. There will soon be devices and gadgets that will raise the bar by orders of magnitude.  (If Global Warming doesn't put paid to technology beforehand, that is.)

I'm thinking about converged devices, in a way.  And about (paradoxically enough) about single-purpose devices.  We're seeing, over and over, that nothing in isolation is really Ultimate Gadget-worthy. Your mobile phone, with camera, streaming video, Internet access, and GPS? Is a lovely converged gadget but would quickly become a picture-taking brick without some serious horsepower in the form of fixed-purpose devices backing it.

GPS is useless without satellites. Wi-Fi triangulation is useless without wireless access points, and access to servers that have geospatial information available. All the video streaming in the world is useless unless you have servers somewhere and infrastructure servers routers and networks to stream it along.  The phone itself becomes a glorified walkie-talkie without the cellphone towers, data routers, and miles of fibre and copper in the ground.  Oh?  You can still take pictures?  That's great, but somewhere there will have to be a photo frame, a PC, or a printer to actually do something with those photos unless you're happy showing off your 512 favourite photos (or whatever capacity the phone has) on a 2" screen.

Almost two decades ago now, I was introduced to the idea that technology wouldn't be useful until it was so universal and ubiquitous as to be invisible like pencil and paper was.  In other words, you picked up a pencil and a piece of paper without thinking, without worrying about how to use it, where it came from, or how it worked.  it was just - there.  Like picking up a rock to throw at something.  It's there, never mind geological forces and aeons of shaping.

And we're at this point now.  Gen X and Y don't consciously worry about assigning an IP address, subnet mask, and broadcast address to their netbook, they just turn it on and use it.  Boomers and some Gen X'ers with a penchant for how things work might poke around under the hood a bit and manually set packet and window sizes, but generally this stuff just works.

You don't worry about where to save your pictures, many apps already just send them to your Flickr or Picasa account, and your mobile phone photos can be sent to your bit.ly or blip just like any other message.  Your GPS seamlessly downloads relevant maps and points of interest as you move around, and when you switch to movie mode and sit down in front of your favourite restaurant and give a vox pop review of the place, you don't have to worry where it's streaming to, it just happens.

About ten years ago I realised that there'd never be one Ultimate Gadget.  There'd be unobtrusive single purpose devices that you'd never see, gadgets that you carried with you or used without thinking about much, and which would do the hard work of interconnecting and interoperating for you.

So I'm thinking that your next gadgets will be things you don't think about, that you pick up and use in the same way you pick up your keys to drive or open the door, and that, like keys and paper, perform specific actions - maybe more than one specific action, maybe a whole gamut.  But you wouldn't be thinking about that specific function or how to make the gadget perform that action.

Oh and very small and very ubiquitous.  We're at the stage where circuits are being embedded in plastics and paper.  We're at the stage where the gadget becomes foldable, bendable, rollable, where research is ongoing to make devices that can change their shape depending on the function they're performing, and the flipside of that, where the gadget changes function depending on how you fold bend roll or twist it, which way you orient it in space, how fast you move it.

Back when I was forming these opinions, the average PC was an AT class 286 PC and it too all its brainpower to recognise a handful of words after days of training to recognise a single voice.  Nowadays, it's common to speak to an AVR program over a telephone and speak menu choices in a wide range of accents and be recognised, even with background noise and telephony-quality audio.

Back then, I predicted that enough computing power and memory could be put into a device the size of a packet of cigarettes and recognise it's one user's voice with 99% accuracy, when in fact it's turned out that those electronics can be packed into something the size of an inline earphone dongle for an iPod Shuffle and recognise any user's voice with that much accuracy...

So I'm predicting that when the next revolution in converged, multipurpose, highly miniaturised and highly powerful gadgets comes along - you won't even realise it...

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Spied: Your Pre Has Just Violated You

Amusing T.o.t.D:

Over the last few months of Pre hype, I think I'd prefer some other phone.  No, really.  Aside from not being The Answer for me, I don't think any mobile phone will ever be the answer.  In a future article I'll put down some thoughts on what will be.

Sad that Palm are lawyering up over Pre skins for other phones, because while they mightn't be a real one, they probably wouldn't trample on your privacy like the real Pre.

This puts Palm firmly into Amazon Kindle territory now, on a par with where the Evil Empire Microsoft was a few years back with their "call home" reporting spyware running in the Windows OS.  Actually, it's worse.  Because these hooks exist, you just know they will get abused by some form of malware.

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Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Cumulus Granitus

Having worked in PNG in the same airline that has just crashed, and in fact on those exact aircraft, I can say that yeah flying up there is scary seat of the pants stuff... What most of the "pilot commenters" on various TV programs aren't explaining properly is the relationship that mountains, clouds, and airplanes share up there.

Aircraft are generally VFR (Visual Flight Regs) and limited to remaining in sight of the ground. In most places, that means you stay beneath the clouds because the ground stays underneath the clouds..

In PNG though, the base of the cloud and the terrain intersect a lot, so you can often be above the clouds and still in sight of the ground, thus technically flying VFR. The problem arises when you're flying along following the ground, and suddenly find yourself above a blanket of rapidly-moving cloud.

Well, actually, the problem arises when you look for a hole in the cloud to get back in sight of the ground, drill down into it, and you suddenly find that the cloud has terrain in it. The pilots that flew our aircraft in the 70's had a word they coined, "cumulus granitus" which you can loosely translate for yourself...

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Thursday, 6 August 2009

Random Brainphart

I remember when a Twitter outage didn't affect all the world, and as this author reports, it was in fact de rigeur to find Twitter down.  Now I'm seeing a large chunk of the population chewing their nails and nerves all a-jangle because Twitter, Facebook, Gawker, and possibly LiveJournal are all down. Unimaginable...  Well, today it is...

I remember...

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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Apple Diplomacy

I know - it's not good to tar all of a particular group with the same brush.  And I'm certainly not going to be visiting any Somali in my neighbourhood and chalking swastikas on the footpath or anything, either, because logically and reasonably, I know that terrorists are terrorists and know no racial boundary, they can be everywhere.

The problem is that we humans are a visceral species, our gut feelings (whether we admit to it or not) rule our logic and reason, putting that split-second hesitation into our voices before we reply to someone else, makes our eyes narrow slightly.  We do that because we're still primates underneath it all.  We know that if we have one barrel of apples from Somalia and another one from Tasmania, and we find ten bad apples in one barrel but none in the other, well, we'll stick with the "safer" apples.  Even if we later find a rotten apple or more, at the beginning, the ape in us all will pick what it considers the healthier barrel.

The problem with that is that there are a lot of perfectly good apples sitting there in the barrel and currently needing to find acceptance with us, saying "pick me! give me a chance!" and meanwhile the rest of us are slightly averting our eyes, slightly standing closer to the apples in the "good" barrel.  Tensions will be elevated in this way, and the best thing we can all do is to fight the reflex, realise that it exists for an old, long-past-useful survival reason.

I don't know about you, but I'm going to work hard to meet everyone's eye, not just a select few people I consider to be "good apples..."

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Not Going To Do This

Testing ping.fm - this should seriously be annoying %)

And it was - no subject/title, and no more than SMS length messages. Will post these snippets to a private blog instead, and then collect them in the evening I think.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Bastard Marketing Inc #2722

Today's "special offer" designed to precisely and exactly be as oxymoronic as possible and sell sell! SELL! their product, while not caring one whit whether it makes them look like total dinkwits or not:

"Get your Sleep Number mattress for a great night's sleep, and for a limited time, get a free 21" LCD TV so that you won't ... actually ... you know ... sleep ... because you'll use this TV in your bedroom won't you?"

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Bastard Marketing Inc #2721

I can imagine the scene.  The air in the boardroom is tense and thick with flop sweat.  The product has tanked badly in the last year, the CEO's not pleased, the CFO's wringing her hands, and the shareholders have sent sharply worded letters saying that they want their dividends.

"It's the economy! I swear, this downturn has caught us all by surprise!"
"Don't be stupid man! The economic downturn is still in our future, this is 2007!  Don't fall apart on us now!"
"But people wear closed shoes much more now, and that means our product is less in demand.  And that is a factor right now."
"... the problem is how do we create a demand for the cream?"

"Hey!  I've got it!  We package our cracked heel cream with a free pair of thongs!"

Sometimes, I swear that's the entire thinking process behind a product promotional offer.

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Winning Lotto, The Easy Way.

Noises.  In the kitchen.  So I'm only half listening to the TV, while some dimbulb reporter is facing the camera and trying to impress with wiggling eyebrows and wide open eyes that they are a goddamn statistical specialist dammit and - hang on.  Did she just really say that?  Replay that in my mind, and yes she did.  "The odds of winning Lotto are 54 million to one."

We are a nation of some 22 million people.  Of those, you can discount at least a third, either they are kids or in nursing homes, or they live out beyond Black Stump, or their religion doesn't permit gambling, or they're just skeptical of games of "luck and chance" in general.  The point is that the most number of people that will be playing any particular Lotto game will be 15 million.  Or less, maybe down to 10 million.

So if the statisticians are right, that means that the Lotto should by rights jackpot for four weeks at a time.  because if only one in 54,000,000 people wins Lotto, and 15,000,000 people in total are playing, that means the chance of one or several winners each week is1 in 3.6 at the very best rate of people playing.  If there are fewer players than my back of the napkin guesses indicate, then the winner rate should drop to as rare as 1 in 6.

Does Lotto in fact jackpot for 4 to 6 weeks every time?  I don't have figures to hand but I am guessing not.  Say ten million people play, that's one hundred million dollars worth of tickets, a one in six chance that the prize will go off, so at the end of six weeks of minor prizes only there will have been six hundred million dollars paid into Lotto.

But in fact I think the prize goes off more often than that statistic would indicate it should, so that brings me to another interesting observation:

One in twenty million people wins a major prize in Lotto.  There.  In one fell swoop, I've doubled your chances of winning.  And now that I've put you in there with a chance, I'll go out on a limb and say that I can probably improve your chances of winning Lotto even more - by an amazingly huge factor.

See, there are only two outcomes - either you win a prize or you don't.  So in fact your chances of winning a prize in Lotto are one in two, 50/50.  Now go out there and when you win, remember me and my Paypal link! %)

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Thursday, 30 July 2009

Twitter Home Redesign!

And it's so naff!  Well actually, I can't see a difference between what i've been used to seeing for months now, same everything, same lame timepstamping with "xx minutes ago' instead of a nice fixed time like "22:30WAST" which would make so much more sense.  Oh wait - the disintegrating page, where some elements drop out and the rest of the page loads as blocks of text and bits of images placed wherever they decide they want to be, that's new! Isn't it?  Oh no, you're right, it's just the same formatting and CSS crap that Twitter had a year or so ago...

Yeah, move along, nothing to see here

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Monday, 27 July 2009

Wherein Certain Theories Of Mine Prove To Be Workable...

Feeling quite vindicated, a long-held hypothesis of mine looks like it has been supported by some research that has been done..  Wish the person I'd initially sent this idea to for evaluation had not decided to busy out.  Oh well...

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Thursday, 23 July 2009

Because We Care WHO Invades Your Privacy!

Is it ironic that a place that has more invasive security cameras per capita than any other place yet allows its citizens less freedom to take pictures should get so wound up over this?

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Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Why We Need Citizen Vigilance

Cos not all police are there to uphold the law...

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Speared BC

It probably figures that this happened in Iraq - seems to have been a place of violence for a while...  I find it interesting that they state "given who had those and who didn't" speaking of weapons, which implies that neanderthals had very little weaponry while modern humans did.  We haven't really backed off that habit, either, and you have to wonder if the best species actually won... %)

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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Card.ly VCard


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Robots Aren't Going To Harvest Our Flesh

Really.  Cos a government department, and a contractor hired by a government department, say so.  Honest.

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Sunday, 19 July 2009

Retail Recall

So apparently a scientist(?) has done a spot of research to assign a monetary value to memories.  The article is here, and there's a spreadsheet here that can calculate the value of a memory in UK pounds.

According to the spreadsheet, the average value of one of my memories is about 7400 pound, about $15,000AUD.  That's a lot of money and of course there's no way to turn the memory into actual cash, it seems a bit optimistic to believe that someone will shove money at you for remembering stuff.  No, this seems like the kind of research that belongs in "Total Recall" or a similar sci-fi flick.  Someone harvests the memories from you, applies the formula, and out comes the amount they need to pay you for that particular memory.

Being the cynic I am, I can see two snags with that, of course: scenario one, you wake up and think to yourself "wtf is all this money from?" or scenario two is you wake up...

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Thursday, 16 July 2009

Fun For An Advanced One

And, a bit tongue in cheek, here's the definitive style guide for homo virtualis the next step in human evolution..

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First Bunnies Litter

The latest news from the cottage, more affectionately known as Possum Hollow - Peta Bunny and Eddie Rabbit have managed to produce what looks like around six very cute pink and wriggly little kittens.

I've resisted the urge to picke them up and check them out and count them, there's about six, and at least one will be black and white like Peta.

Interestingly enough, Peta picked the day after Bunday to deliver these little ones.  Maybe our pets hate 'Caturday" and "Bunday..."

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Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Wild West Intarnets!

Around three decades ago, a new world opened up. It was the wild west, but no-one realised it.  Starting with computers and on to computer based communications systems (CBCSs) like bulletin boards, a whole ecosystem was born, modified by the inhabitants, and still evolves to this day.  Look, this gets all complicated and meta, so either bear with me or click another link for a few minutes, okay?

Nothing evolves by itself, it evolves with its environment.  And the environment is affected and changed by the organism.  Which causes further evolution of the organism.  In the case of humans, it has been said that our information and communication forms part of our evolution.  (Please note that there is also tacit acknowledgement of that organism/environment interaction evident, they even title it " . . . the planet has entered a new phase of evolution . . . ") I'll add "technology" to those evolution indicators.

Remember that all our technology is obtained from our environment.  The ideas may have come from our brains, but the material to make those ideas concrete was obtained from the environment.  So far, this follows pretty closely to my scenario - we evolve, get ideas, turn parts of our environment into the manifestation of our ideas, and those manifestations (and the lacunae created in the "natural" environment) become part of our new environment.  We evolve to be more fit to survive in the new environment.

So, the CBCSs and now the Internet have become a new part of our environment.  And we've already evolved tools to deal with this new environment, made changes to it, and to ourselves.  We've also brought with us a large dollop of the opportunism which got us to this point in the first place, the people who swindle and con and cheat and steal are now firmly ensconced in cyberspace and making their livings as they have always done, by taking it from the rest of us.

Now we come to the really tricky bit.  (And you thought we'd gotten past that hey?)

Let's say I work at writing for a living, articles and copy and so forth.  What I'm doing is not rocket science, and I sometimes feel like I'm taking money under false pretenses for something I enjoy doing and can't imagine being difficult for anyone.  So am I a con-artist or working for an honest wage?  It's a job in the online ecosystem, after all.

Now let's ratchet that up a notch.  Suppose I write a really lousy piece, but convince my patron to pay me an ultra-premium rate for it. Now am I a thief, or just a person who writes really well and gets along well in the ecosystem?  What about if the person I sell my article to for a pittance, on-sells that article to a large organisation for millions of dollars?  Are they a con, exploiting me, exploiting the large organisation, or just good businessmen?  And suppose someone helps themselves to the text, sitting there on my hard drive, and then on-sells it to that large organisation?  What are they?  Suppose they get their million dollars for my article, and anonymously pay me twenty dollars, which is twice what the agent might have paid me?

See?  the only difference between a thief and a businessman is the office.  Only now, online, there's even less of a difference between the thief and the businessman.  It kind of begs a question or two about this new online environment, doesn't it?

Well, firstly, crime as a business has pretty much evolved at the same rate as business has, no matter if that was robber barons vis a vis dukes, pirates as contrasted to merchant shipping, terrorists vs military, Mafia vs business, bikies and police.  Being surprised that online criminals have business training and do risk analyses is a bit of a comic relief, really.  I'd venture to say that at the head of any cyber crime outfit you care to trace, there will be a business-suited person at the head somewhere.

We're stuck, because actually, either side is a valid means of surviving, either side of the equation equals staying alive.  One way is a bit less sociopathic, it's true, but survival is a tricky thing, do you consider yourself successful if you perish but your two offspring survive, or is success measured by personally staying alive to generate lot of offspring, but maybe conning some of them out of their living?

Online, is it reasonable to expect "someone" to pursue and prosecute "criminals" much as has been happening in the real world?  And how much good has that prosecution done in the real world?  Are police effective?  Or is it true, as some wit once said something like "a police force is an army that you turn on your own population?"  (And no, I don't remember the precise quote or whose it is.)

My point is that we've already evolved to adapt to the new environment; we have people to whom the question "what's on the TV?" will trigger reaching for their 3G cellphone rather than look for a paper or TV guide.  When someone asks me what he weather will be, I go to www.wunderground.com and open my favourites.  If someone asks me a question, my first thought isn't "library!" - it's "google it!"

Invite people over for an impromptu dinner and movie?  SMS them, or post on their wall.  These are the evolved.  How are they affecting this online environment?  Well, they create new killer sites, introduce other people to those sites, and then move on when the environment is full of newbies and oldies...

The equation is - 200-300 years ago, a family would move into an environment, and alter a chunk of it to provide them with sustenance.  Built that log cabin from the trees in the environment, levelled some of the land and grew crops and ran livestock.  In time, the environment changed to include people who'd adapted to the next stage of this evolution, large farms with controlled environments, to provide for the towns and cities.

Now we've created computers from natural resources, then connected those together using energy from natural resources, then created internets and LANs from that.  At each stage, we're using one form of resources and converting them to another form.

Even on today's quite stringently managed farms, the original occupiers of that environment keep popping up, from bacteria and fungi to large animals.  What worries me and will keep me looking over my virtual shoulder for a long time yet, is the native wildlife online - who knows what business-suited native critters will appear on the Internet when it evolves a bit more?

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