Amelia Pond! You're the little girl!
I'm Amelia, and you're late.
Wednesday, June 30
Still waiting on my copy of Noam Chomsky Sleeps Furiously...
At least I'll know where to spend it all.
92" monitors? 3.8GHz desktop PCs with solid-state disks and 16GB of memory? Laptop computers with built-in RAID? Linux servers with up to 32 CPUs and 112 expansion slots?
As I mentioned before, there will be a rally held in Sydney tomorrow (June 30) to demand that Australia's troops be withdrawn from Iraq. Of course, as of yesterday our troops are there at the express request of the Iraqi government, so this demand is unlikely to gain much traction.
Thursday July 1 marks the first birthday of the Mu.Nu Forums, and your lovely hostess Renata is holding a party! All welcome as long as you behave... Unless your name begins in S, or you live in Texas or Michigan. (Registration necessary, otherwise you can't see the good bits.)
Sunday July 4 is Australia's Reserve Forces Day, with a parade through Sydney's streets featuring 90 horsies and a column of armoured vehicles! How cool is that? Also, our American friends will be celebrating their Nation Barbecue and Fireworks day.
Monday, June 28
Pixy Misa's award for Correct Use of Algebra this month goes to Pretty Cure. In the first episode (by the way, can anyone tell me what that theme song is reminding me of?) our heroine Nagisa (the sporty one) is called upon in class to solve the equation:
x - 7 = 19 + xWhile she was dithering on the screen, I was saying to myself That's not possible - it simplifies to 0 = 26! Then our other heroine, Honoka (the brainy one) stands up and says That's not possible - it simplifies to 0 = 26! Perhaps you meant to write x - 7 = 19 - x, and then x would be 13.
Apart from that the show wasn't particularly impressive..
And irritating trick of the month goes to Aishiteruze Baby... Which puts an extra minute of story after the closing credits, something I didn't discover until episode 12.
Saturday, June 26
I think we may have seen this one before, but anyway:
Sunday, June 20
Brought to you care of Serenity and SarahK.
But... Um, ladies, I knew about this. And I'm, err, well, a guy.
Friday, June 18
I'd love to read a book with that title - assuming it lived up to the title. Or even to write one, though it would take me a full year of work, because I'm not nearly well-enough informed on the subject to even consider writing it now. Either way, though, we need such a book, because the current issue of New Scientist* has a headline
Conspiracy threat to anti-nuke treatyWho? China selling secrets to Pakistan? Pakistan dealing with Iran? North Korea and Syria?
Read the sub-head:
Secret swapping between the US and UK is undermining global stabilityAnd ask yourself: What the hell kind of planet do these lunatics live on, anyway? The US-UK alliance has been the underpinning of whatever peace we've enjoyed here on Earth this past century - flawed though it has been. Remember World War I? World War II? The Cold War? The Current Unpleasantness? Hello? Mr Functioning Brain Cell? Hello?
They are allies, and more than that, they are the core of The Allies. And they both already have nuclear weapons, and they aren't sharing the information with anyone else, so it's unclear exactly how this is supposed to lead to proliferation.
The only bright point of the article is the reference to the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy. No, really, that's what it's called.
* Yeah, them again.
Thursday, June 17
From Rob of XSet this little meme:
- Bold those you’ve readmore...
- Italicise those you started but never finished
- Add three of your own
- Post to your blog
I'm not sure why I keep getting moderator points, but I guess it's because they pretty much give them away like candy. Of course, I violate the Moderation Guidelines every chance I get:
Concentrate more on promoting than on demoting. The real goal here is to find the juicy good stuff and let others read it. Do not promote personal agendas. Do not let your opinions factor in. Try to be impartial about this. Simply disagreeing with a comment is not a valid reason to mark it down. Likewise, agreeing with a comment is not a valid reason to mark it up. The goal here is to share ideas. To sift through the haystack and find needles. And to keep the children who like to spam Slashdot in check.Whenever I get mod points, my first thought is to chop down some of the idiots that plague the place. The fact that many of the idiots are also lefties simply makes the task more enjoyable.
Since the place is full of lefty idiots with mod points, lefty idiot posts tend to get moderated up to the maximum rating of 5 rather often. If you take a look at the details, though, you'll often see a post rated at 5 with +11 positive and -7 negative - so there's clearly more than just me battling the lunacy. Unfortunately, they don't have the moderation flags they really need, like +1 Right, -1 Wrong, and -∞ Stupid.
Anyway, there's something interesting coming out of this hotbed of Crypto-Communism - oops, that's Kuro5hin - this hotbed of political naïveté:
In a forum with a strongly liberal readership, just 1% are voting because they favour Kerry. (Or whoever they think the challenger is; there's at least one commenter voting Libertarian.) That's gotta hurt.
Displaying poll results.
Why Will You Vote In The Next Election? No reason, really. 1459 / 5% Hate the incumbent. 12990 / 44% Love the incumbent. 1866 / 6% Hate the challenger. 1711 / 5% Love the challenger. 378 / 1% Civic duty. 7035 / 24% Pride. 685 / 2% Just want to get 'I Voted' sticker. 2821 / 9% 28945 total votes.
Don't complain about lack of options. You've got to pick a few when you do multiple choice. Those are the breaks. Feel free to suggest poll ideas if you're feeling creative. I'd strongly suggest reading the past polls first. This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane.
(Though it just provides another datapoint for the thesis that the current Democratic Party is not for anything, only against things. As if we needed another such datapoint.)
Wednesday, June 16
When I was ten, I wanted to be a writer.
Young Pixy: You mean they pay people to make up stories?!When I was twelve, I wanted to be a teacher.
Teacher: Yes, child. It's called journalism.
Teacher: You don't want to be a teacher! You're too smart for that; it would be a waste of your talents.When I was fourteen, I knew I was going to be a computer programmer.
Young Pixy: Guk.
What I wanted to be, of course, was a wizard, but there's no money in wizarding.
And programming is the next best thing. In fact, if you think about it, it's the same thing, except that it sometimes works. You say the secret words, and if you get it right, the result is magic. If you get it wrong, of course, you get dragged off to hell by demons. (Don't try to tell me otherwise. I had sign off on a major Y2K project. I saw the contract.)
Programming allows you to work in a medium that is almost infinitely tractable. It's not like, say, sculpture, where one slip of the chisel and
Oops. That's got to hurt.If you make a mistake, you can go back and do it again. And again and again. And you can make multiple copies of your work and the touch of a button, and compare them, and make changes, and keep the good and reject the bad.
No, she's meant to have no nose. It's, like, allegorical.
It got bitten off by one, then?
The problem with that is that the results are largely limited only by your skill and your patience. More so now than fifteen or twenty years ago, when the absolute limits of the computer hardware put a clearly marked boundary around most projects. If you only have one megabyte of memory, and the feature list would require two megabytes of memory, then some of the features have to go. When you have eight gigabytes of memory, you can no longer make this argument.
Instead, today it's more a case of, Yes, you can have everything you want. If you can think of it, it can be done. Now which features did you want first?
It's a sort of a Limited Omnipotence. We can do anything, we just can't do everything. (And of course, we don't always know the consequences of what we do.)
And when it works, it's magic. Take Google, for example. If I wanted to learn about, say, magnetohydrodynamics, I can just type in the word (assuming I know how to spell it) and hit enter, and in three-tenths of a second (or to touch on something I'll come back to later, no time at all) I have the first ten of over forty-four thousand results. Bing! The demons of Jack Vance's Dying Earth books were never this helpful.
And the reason that it's magical is that we can't see how it works. Unless you already know how Google works, there's not much you can determine from using it. You can work out some of what it does, the way it ranks pages, for example, but those are the just rules that it follows, not the reason it follows those rules. It's kind of like our understanding of the atom before the discovery of subatomic particles - we can describe and predict how atoms behave, but we don't know why.
One of the most useful ways of finding out how something works is to look at a broken one - or indeed, to break one deliberately and see what happens. There's a lot of information in failure modes. That's why scientists built atom smashers, for example. And if not for a faulty connector, I would never have known that Cityrail ticket machines use EBCDIC.
And that's also why, I think, we get so mad when software doesn't work. There's no feedback on the internal operations when it does work, unlike the familiar machinery that surrounds us with its clanking and grinding and whirring. When a car is about to break down, it usually makes horrible noises first, and then makes a really horrible noise just as it fails. And even if you can't tell from the noise that the flange sprocket has worn through the fairing pin and fallen into the gearbox, you can at least tell that something has actually, physically, broken. And that replacing the broken thing will make the car work again, and that although this will cost lots of money, you can at least be reasonably assured that upon payment of said money, your car will be repaired.
But with computers...
Yesterday, when I clicked this, it retrieved my email. Today, it doesn't work. I don't get any errors, it just doesn't do anything. (My crystal ball doesn't work!)The problem is, we are wizards, near enough. We're just not good at it.
Have you tried rebooting? (Did you start again from page one in the Codex Emailulorum?)
Yes, that's the first thing I tried. (Yes, that's the first thing I tried!)
Did it help? (Did it help.)
No. (No. And can you do anything about these sales pitches for time-shares in Hell I keep getting?)
(End of Part 1)
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