A question has arisen.

Image

I started to think about this.

There has to be at least 8. This is not in dispute. But one cannot rule out additional unviewable holes in the back of the shirt. Making the question relatively difficult to answer.

Further, we must consider the definition of “hole”. If “hole” can be interpreted to mean “gap in the cloth”, then at a small but still marginally macroscopic scale, then the answer is asymptotically close to infinity. In addition, at the quantum level, the sudden departure of an electron from one place and arrival in another without appearing to travel through the intervening space must unarguably involve a hole of some kind. Given the relative liveliness of the average electron, and the cumulative mass of the shirt, the number of these holes must also by asymptotically close to infinity.

This presents us with a problem. We have two simultaneous instances of almost-infinity within the one garment. Since there cannot mathematically or physically be even one infinity, and here we seem to have 1.99999999-recurring infinities, we have a paradox, and, therefore, technically the shirt cannot exist at all.

Which is the correct answer, because it’s just a jpeg.

QED.

Disparate Thoughts.

Posted: 31/07/2013 in General

Just a few random thoughts, pent up this last year or so.

1. Technical people can be wrong, no matter how many letters they have after their name. Don’t afford people credibility just because they use big words and tell you they’re right. Make them prove it to you. No matter who they are.

2. Cosmetics companies deliberately set out to confuse and lie to women. Mercilessly. Things having been “Lab Tested” and “Scientifically Studied” are not recommendations – so has the Ebola virus.

3. You do not get to tell people in other countries how to live no matter how much you don’t like it, any more than they get to tell us how to live. Don’t be so damnĀ arrogant.

4. Disliking a particular woman or even group of women is not automatically misogyny.

5. Anyone who thinks protecting someone’s right to own a gun takes absolute precedence over protecting the lives of people does not deserve to own a gun. This is merely a specific example of the general axiom “Zealots should not be given power”.

6. Theoretical physicists are idiots who make it up as they go along. God will enjoy kicking them in the nuts most of all come judgement day, I can’t help feeling.

7. “Consensus” in no way equates to “Accuracy”.

8. Companies should not buy retail computer equipment on which to run their businesses for the very same reasons you should not commute between cities in an ultralight.

9. Physics is always right. So, find out what physics is going to do in any given situation, and you too will always be right. And potentially a lot less dead.

10. The main problem with skydiving is not the possibility of dying. It is that once you discover your ‘chute will not open and you’re going to die, you have all that time on the way down to contemplate the inescapable fact that just a short time before your feet were safely on the ground and you voluntarily got into an aircraft and jumped out you idiot.

11. The road toll is high because of driver incompetence and nothing else. Saving mechanical failure and medical problems, all other causes tie back to this.

12. I find it incongruous and unacceptable that trama doctors fight until the last second to save the lives of people horribly smashed to bits in accidents and wars and yet we tell cancer patients that nothing can be done for them literally months away from their deaths. The saving of every human life should be an emergency right up until the last minute.

13. Marketing is there to manipulate you. That is what it is for. Bear that in mind from now on every time you see advertising of any kind.

14. The dividing line between education and indoctrination is where the majority of the benefit lies. If the majority of the benefit from the process goes to the “educator”, it is indoctrination.

15. There are an increasing number of people in the world who think that there is no such thing as “Wrong” and that everyone should be able to do whatever they like and get whatever they like just because they want it.

16. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation DO matter. Without a uniform way of communicating, communication begins to break down. Apostrophes in plurals are the thin end of the wedge and the wedge should be shoved right up the clacker of anyone who uses apostrophes in plurals. Also, they’re there their your you’re yaw yore it’s not that bloody hard.

17. Once you realise that politicians do pretty much everything purely to retain power, the world swims into focus.

18. People who abdicate their personal responsibility for their own safety and instead demand their right to be safe irrespective of what they do should have their error reinforced to them when they come to grief instead of being allowed to think they are the victim.

19. People might be entitled to their opinions, but that in fact does not say anything about the quality of those opinions.

20. There should be a very clear (legislated) and overt delineation between factual reporting and interpretation or opinion in the media, and any media organisation getting their facts wrong should be penalised.

21. Literacy, numeracy, geography, history, and science should be at the forefront of education. There’s no point churning out generation after generation of people who can’t think for themselves and communicate properly.

/rant
I feel better now.

ANZAC Day

Posted: 25/04/2013 in General, Quick Thoughts

I do worry about the dignity of Anzac Day.

I see young hoards descending upon Gallipoli, a killing field and a cemetery, in bright T-shirts whooping & cheering, I see breakfast TV presenters and their OB crews switching back and forth between locations, interviewing each other keenly, commentating upon proceedings, and rabbitting on about the “celebrations”. I see the whole thing becoming something of a spectacle. The tone of the day is, in places, less about respect than it ought to be.

When I was a kid, they told us about the wars and how so many, many men had gone off and not come home, many ending up simply buried and left to rot under the battlefields upon which they fell in their tens of thousands. I sat there and thanked God that it wasn’t my generation that had had to endure it, and then wondered if ever the same may come to pass for us one day. I truly came to understand the phrase “there but for the grace of God go I”, which to me has always been a central tenet of Anzac Day.

I understand that I was born a mere 26 years after the end of World War Two, and that it, and to some extent even the First World War, were still strong in living memory, and that as the generations roll over the perspective and the understanding of Anzac Day will need to evolve to survive and stay relevant, especially in view of the service and sacrifice of new generations of diggers, fighting some other incompetent diplomat’s pointless wars.

But I really feel that at its core, Anzac Day needs to be a day of quiet reflection, and, yes, profound regret, that, no matter how long ago it was now, ordinary people had to go off and be slaughtered so appallingly at the hands of forces they had no real idea about. And that it is still happening.

The only thought I have on Anzac Day is: Those Poor Bastards.

Lest We Forget.

 

Margaret Thatcher’s Wake

Posted: 10/04/2013 in General

Reactions to Margaret Thatcher’s passing have ranged from the usual careful official public words, to each extreme end of the commemoration spectrum, from those partisan parties both for and against this woman with a most singular legacy.
As a result, side-discussion has arisen about the appropriate way to discuss so public and so divisive a figure so recently passed. Some feel that it is open season immediately on Mrs Thatcher, in open and deliberate defiance of the usual social mores in her specific case.

I for one revile, albeit understand, the dancing-on-her-grave approach taken by those who were her bitter opponents, or those who see themselves still as the victims of her politics.
The issue here though is basic decency. To assert that someone is undeserving of the basic dignity and respect generally afforded to people who have recently passed just because they have been a controversial public figure is morally bankrupt and intellectually fraudulent.

What we say about people upon their passing, particularly, I think, after a long and somewhat ignominious decline, says a lot more about us than it does about them. We need to make sure that we maintain standards about ourselves that we are happy to live with, because one day we are going to expect the benefit of the same decency. To attack viciously the recently passed is to throw out a little bit of our humanity with the bathwater.

“Don’t speak ill of the dead” does not preclude an honest and open discussion about a person’s life and legacy. Far from it. But it does caution against careless slander and ridicule. It dictates that when someone has passed, they are entitled to fair treatment and honest discourse. It does not mean that we have to universally laud them and their time among us, although some people erroneously or perhaps generously interpret it that way.

And so to Margaret Thatcher. I was too young to really understand anything about her politics; I just remember her as many will – a strong leader who shaped her corner of the world inexorably, and strode the world like a colossus (collossusess…?). One of the triumvirate of world leaders along with Reagan & Gorbachev who steered the world through the 1980s and to the blessed end of the Cold War.

A wise man (to whom I did not concede the appropriate level of credibility at the time) once told me that if one needed to hate a politician, one should hate their politics, not hate the person. At the time I was unable to make that separation. I am seeing half a world full of people with the same problem at the moment. They would all do well to remember themselves and to return to aspiring to be decent people first, and put all other considerations second.

Let us consign Baroness Thatcher to history in a way that will have our society remembered as one that it was worth her time & effort to serve, and one whose legacy it is worth the time & effort of future historians to recall.

Not that I strive to be topical, quite the opposite, but the Alan Jones thing has certainly flooded the media today.

What Jones said was inexcusable. I never had any time for the man or his ilk beforehand anyway; they carry no credibility with me whatsoever, being professionally opinionated bigmouths. But that was bad. Bad by simple community standards of decency, leaving aside considerations of specific personalities or political juxtapositions.

That said, his myriad vocal critics then went on to dismantle their own credibility. On Twitter and elsewhere the wild vitriol was palpable, and meshed in perfectly with our burgeoning culture of outrage-as-a-passtime. One silly old bugger making one off-the-cuff comment at a private function shouldn’t be enough to cause national outrage. In any case, Jones manufactured the ammunition, but it was the reporting journalist that loaded and fired the gun, for his own selfish motives.

Increasingly, it seems that the real-time public feedback loop engendered by chiefly Twitter but other lines of communication also has fostered an atmosphere in which people go looking for things to be utterly outraged at as an exercise, where once a disapproving shake of the head would have sufficed. There seems to be evolving an open-source thought-police model whereby anyone who speaks a heresy, whose definition is broadening daily, is subject to public vitriol and alienation at the whim of what is essentially an instant bandwagon culture. This happens largely in the absence of any collective introspection. This is the most dangerous aspect of it.

Alan Jones’ critics did nothing for their own credibility during the firestorm on Twitter that erupted after the news broke, and it only got worse during the live broadcast of the press conference during which Jones apologised. The jeering masses blotted their own copybook by

- carrying on about a rambling press conference which was i) completely unedited, a genuine Tasmanian-Tiger-level rarity, so of course it looked long & ineloquent, and ii) fuelled and egged on by journalists continually angling for a killer quote/further gaffe.
- resolutely refusing to listen to anything that he actually said, and wilfully & serially misquoting him in real time.
So there was idiocy aplenty on both sides.

Social ostracism is nothing new, and snooty fools from all walks of life have been using it since time immemorial to mete out punishment to those who have transgressed society’s precious mores. But the bandwagon-full-of-dynamite-rolling-down-a-hill potential of the net in terms of its speed and sheer reach beg some new consideration along the lines of making sure that the facts are served. It’s probably a plaintive cry amidst the mob, but the fact that the mob is so big and loud, and so very very instantly and iteratively self-reinforcing of its own views, make that cry all the more important.

In short, for critics of any kind to maintain the moral and intellectual high ground, and to therefore continue to deserve any kind of audience, cold reason and adherence to the rules of fairness need to prevail at all times. As soon as the usual human mob mentality takes over and emotive garbage starts overwhelming the real conversation that should be taking place, nobody is saying anything useful, and the whole thing descends into a horrible waste of electrons.

So for future reference, all you fun-loving mob revellers out there, put away your pitchforks, listen properly, think carefully, then react rationally. By all means kick the guilty. But make damn sure that when you’re asked about it afterwards you can still defend all of your words with joined-up-reason & confidence. Otherwise you’re just noise.

For the attention of my Service Providers. Those to whom I subscribe for various modern facilities. The financial institutions, the power company, the insurance company, the water authority, and those various govt agencies that fit into the same category, et al.

I am quite sick to death of receiving and accumulating paper-based accostments from you.
Statements. Newsletters. Notifications. Advertising.
Week on week, year on year, this paper conveyor belt arrives in my letter box, to be largely summarily disregarded and discarded.

We are well and truly into the 21st Century here, people. And since well before it started we have had the gift of electronic communication, which has now been refined to the point where it can be used to obviate the vast majority of this archaic influx of paper.

I completely understand that for legal and practical reasons that perhaps invoices, bills, and the like may need to be delivered in hard copy. Until society’s legal framework can have equal confidence in the efficacy of electronic communication perhaps this practice may need to continue. But bills are but a very small proportion of, and do not by association excuse, the bulk of the paper that I pull from my letterbox year on year.

Whist individually these communiques are annoying, superfluous, largely unread, and somewhat wasteful; cumulatively, when everything that gets mailed out to everyone in the country is considered collectively, they are massively costly, contributing in no small part to operating costs and therefore directly to the fees that I am compelled to pay you year on year, they are also massively, hideously wasteful of resources, from the production of the paper through to the energy required for delivery. In this day and age of taking reasonable steps to reduce waste of resources, this bad corporate habit is nothing short of culpable. If this accursed Carbon Tax is to become a reality, then I advocate that you be charged $1 per piece of paper you send to us. Including the envelope.

The electronic option is entirely practical and achievable, and would save you buckets of money on raw materials and postage. You already have the technology available within your walls to convert all of this guff to PDF and to send it to us electronically, so that we can, in the same manner we manage all other communication these days, access it wherever we go, read it, print it if we really need to, and file it in searchable repository which takes up no physical space at all. The convenience value to your increasingly tech-savvy, and, i assume, valuable, customer base should not be underestimated.

I currently and will continue to favour where possible organisations that follow this strategy.

For your consideration.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every runaway success there is an equal and opposite backlash.

So it is with iTunes. Despite being the structural hub of a suite of products that has, without any exaggeration, revolutionized media distribution, telecommunications, home computing, and skateboarding with headphones, there are those that revile it. Most of the complaints are quite vague, some are specific. The chief complaint I hear is that you have to have iTunes to update your Apple devices, and to copy data to and from them. This is too controlling, too restrictive. How dare they tell us how we can copy data to and from our own devices?
The same basic rhetoric spews forth from app developers complaining about the restrictions placed upon their app development.

I am not an Apple fanboy – I lost the love after Sculley ousted Jobs back in ’85. I still love everything they built prior to that – a small part of me still thinks of the Apple ][e as the most advanced thing I’ve ever seen. I look at their later creations objectively and critically. And it is in this spirit that I felt I had to step in to put a few words forward in defense of iTunes and the iDevice ecosystem.

It is quite empirically true that the Apple ecosystem is a fairly prescriptive – that is not to say restrictive – one. But to accuse Apple of maintaining tight control for the sake of that control is quite incorrect.

As anyone who has ever worked in IT support, and in particular in support of corporate desktop fleets, knows, if you don’t design well and then maintain some level of control over the fleet you’re charged with supporting, it will go to hell in a hat box in about five minutes, and then it is All Your Fault, and you are expected to fix it in half the time it took the users to wreck it.
The answer is the Standard Operating Environment, or SOE. Everything is built to a tight specification, which hopefully meets the company’s requirements, and things are locked down to maintain the standard. Support and maintenance structures are built into the background to keep things running. There is a standard way of doing most things, and if it has been built correctly, it just works. At least, that is the utopian ideal. To go into why many SOE implementations fall short would take me the lifecycles of at least a couple of laptops, and despite my accustomed in-print peregrinations, even I will not deign to digress that far.

The point is, Apple are merely doing the same thing. They have set themselves the task of producing products that Just Work(tm), that are very easy for non-technical people to use, and which are easy for them to support successfully across the world. Ultimately this benefits their customers just as much as it does Apple; it’s not some conspiracy designed to rob people of their freedom of choice. It’s this symbiosis that has made the Apple product suite a commercial leviathan and the envy of every other tech company that ever existed.

So the next time you feel like complaining about how Apple does things, you need to remember that there would be no enormous upside to the Apple product in front of you without the extremely well-thought-out supporting infrastructure, of which iTunes is a huge part, that you take completely for granted and in fact complain about. They know what they’re doing and they make it so that you don’t have to. Be grateful someone has gone to all that trouble.