Dear Santa, thank you for the dolls and pencils and the fish. It's Easter now, so I hope I didn't wake you but... honest, it is an emergency. There's a crack in my wall. Aunt Sharon says it's just an ordinary crack, but I know its not cause at night there's voices so... please please can you send someone to fix it? Or a policeman, or...
Back in a moment.
Thank you Santa.

Friday, March 31


Attack Of The Ninja Highlighters

Two more lunatics dot their T's and cross their I's for us: Charlie Sheen and Mark Morford.

Wonderfully to-the-point article in the Guardian (of all places):

Pay attention, civilians. Actor Charlie Sheen has been focusing his mind on the official explanation for 9/11. And you know what? He’s not buying it. “It just didn’t look like any commercial jetliner I’ve flown on any time in my life,” the Hotshots Part Deux star told a US radio station this week, “and then when the buildings came down later on that day, I said to my brother ‘call me insane’, but did it sorta look like those buildings came down in a controlled demolition?"

You’re insane. Next.

(via Tim Blair and J. F. Beck.)

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Tim Blair and Brian Tiemann have commented on Robert Fisk's remarks suggesting that the collapse of the World Trade Centre was due to a conspiracy.

Well, of course it was, but that's not the conspiracy that Fisk and a small army of other deeply confused individuals are thinking of. No; planes full of jet fuel could not do it; it had to be controlled demolition involving explosive charges

Never mind that this is completely impossible for a thousand reasons, such as, for example, the fact that there weren't any such charges. Logic and fact mean nothing to these people; if you explain all the reasons why explosives could not have been put in place without it becoming open knowledge, they will suggest (this is a real example) that the explosives were mixed in with the concrete when the towers were first built.


What we are dealing with here is people who are blindingly stupid and wilfully ignorant, to the point where they are in effect functionally insane. That is, they are unable to apprehend or deal with the world as it is, and instead attempt to deal with the world as the imagine it to be. I mean, we knew that already; Fisk's conspiracy ramblings are really just a case of running an orange highlighter over a significant paragraph.

Given that Robert Fisk is quite obviously crazy, his broad popularity with the left is yet another indication of the deep and growing separation from reality on that side of the divide. I have no particular insight on what to do about this. Making fun of them seems to offer the best return on one's effort, though it is of course lost on the targets themselves. I'm open to suggestions.

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Tuesday, March 21


Reflections On The Tiny Lizard That Scurried Out Of My Way As I Was Heading To The Shops Yesterday Afternoon

Or, On Being The Wrong Size

So here's me, 175cm tall and eighty kilograms, and here's my fellow vertebrate, all of two inches long and weighing maybe a gram.

Which led me to musing. With all the problems of the world becoming overcrowded and resources running out, wouldn't things be better if we were smaller? What really counts is our brains, right?

So, we replace our brains with self-assembling nanotech (or possibly quantum) systems that are a thousand times more computationally efficient. That means that for the same level of intelligence, we only need one thousandth the amount of brain - and one thousandth the body mass to support it. Which means a thousand times less impact on the environment.

Since we'd be ten times smaller (lengthwise), we'd each want one hundredth the living area we currently do. That means that with current crowding levels we could increase our world population to 660 billion while consuming just one tenth our current resources.

This has obvious advantages: With 12 billion Japanese, the amount of anime produced would be huge. Blockbuster movies like The Lord of the Rings would be a dime a dozen, thanks to the massive new audience available.

There's other, less obvious rewards. Ever fallen and hurt yourself? No more! It will be impossible to hurt yourself just by tripping over something - your centre of mass is only three inches off the ground. And while your bones and tendons are now a hundred times weaker, they only need to support one thousandth the weight, so they are proportionally ten times stronger.

And the downside? Well, JBS Haldane wrote about this nearly eighty years ago. One is temperature regulation; we are warm-blooded and need to eat to maintain our temperature. As much smaller creatures, we would lose body heat much more rapidly, because the ratio of surface area to volume has increased. But that's a fairly straightforward problem for an advanced civilisation; we already have reverse-cycle air conditioning. (And clothes, for that matter.)

The eye is somewhat less tractable, but not impossible. With a hundred times less retinal area, we have a hundred times fewer pixels; in linear terms our visual resolution would be ten times worse. But by extending our vision down to UVc, we can regain a factor of four right away. We'd need to adjust our colour processing and radiation-harden the retina, but that's no big deal. Fixing the existing imperfections in the eye - more to do with the lens than the retina - would apparently buy us another factor of two or three in acuity, which would bring us back to roughly current standards. And if that's not quite enough, we can always go the BESM* route, like anime girls and tarsiers.

The more I think about it, the better it sounds. I think government funding for a research program - involving large amounts of anime, tarsiers, and high-powered computers - is definitely called for.

(Read the Haldane article all the way to the end, by the way. I first read this when I was sixteen, and had long forgotten the origin of my ideas on the information-processing problems inherent in communism. This is it.)

* Big eyes, small mouth.

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They Don't Make Vacuum Cleaners Like They Used To

Advice to LeeAnn: Don't get the Cho-vac T20. I had one, and it was nothing but trouble.

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