2006-10-31

 

Lights in the sky.

I have had a number of paranormal experiences in my life which spurred an interest in the paranormal when I was younger. However, in spite of all that, I am decidedly skeptical of paranormal claims.

The second paranormal experience (here for the first) I recall occurred when I was 7 or 8 (grade 2 or 3). It was a dark, gray, cold day in December. I was walking home from school with my friend Sheldon. It was probably near 16:00. We had gone up 36th avenue and had turned right on St-Antoine, when I noticed lights in the sky over the golf course (back in the early 70s, Grove Hill park was an open field and north of Provost was a golf course).

They darted about quickly. Sometimes they stopped. Through out the whole routine they would change colours from red to white to orange. I pointed it out to my friend and said I thought someone was playing on the clouds with a coloured flashlight. He replied that it was UFOs.

"What are UFOs?" I asked back.

“Unidentified Flying Objects. Spaceships from other worlds," he replied.

I had never heard of this, so he invited to his house, which was near that corner, and pulled out a number of magazines and showed me pictures. As I think back, they were probably tabloid magazines, but I don't remember.

It spurred my interest in UFO and extraterrestrials and I read all sorts of stuff about them. I read the books by Erich von Daniken (Chariots of the Gods and others similar books), J. Allen Hynek, Brad Steiger and a host of others. Of course, all this led me to reading about the Bermuda Triangle, the Sasquatch, the Yeti, psychic phenomena, auras, astrology, pyramids, and Kirlian fields, spontaneous combustion - among others. Never touched or had an interest in witchcraft though.

Image nabbed from here.

[Updated 31-October-2006 @ 16:26 to correct age and grades.]

2006-10-30

 

Desktop and icons looking a wee bit tired?

Since blogger is refusing to upload even small teaser images at the moment (the message that comes up mentions something about a firewall … blah, blah, blah).

You will have to leave my blog to go and check out some really nifty icons and desktops over here at the 2006 GUI championships.

2006-10-28

 

"I am on LSD"

At least that is the way Sofia heard the line from Bif Naked's song Choking on the Truth.

The actual line was "I am honesty".

Later I popped "The Best of the Animals" in and Sofia remarked, "This is better, you can enjoy it without having to be on drugs."

2006-10-27

 

Push or Pull?

In the building I work, we have a pair of large metal-framed glass doors in the central corridor. I presume they are fire doors. Anyhow, it is not obvious whether you push or pull on them. So, they had lettering put on the doors, near the handles, to let you know if you should push or pull.

I don't think it made much difference because I, and others, still push or pull at the wrong time. I think this falls in the category of poor user interface design. The problem is that putting the lettering near the handle is pointless, unless you have never used a door before and have to think about grabbing the handle. For most of us, this is an automatic reflex and we simply reach out for where we expect the handle to be and then push or pull. We keep our eyes pointed straight ahead, there is no need for us to lower them and look at the handle.

Image nabbed from here.

2006-10-26

 

Implicit Association Test

Discovered an interesting psychological test called the IAT (Implicit Association Test).

The claim is that even if we exercise a strong control over conscious thoughts and attitudes, the truth is that we have subconscious biases that this test is able to ferret out.

It requires you to quickly sort through a variety of items and assign them to one of two columns.

The first set might have the columns "Male" and "Female" and you will be asked to sort male and female nouns and pronouns.

The next round may have the columns "Career" and "Family". Again you will be asked to sort items.

Finally, each column will get two categories, for example, "Male or Career" and "Female or Family" and you will have to sort 4 sets of items into those two columns.

The theory is that we subconsciously associate certain concepts, say male and career or female and family. When we mix up the categories to be "Male or Family" and "Female or Career", if we have a strong association between male and career, we will end up sorting more slowly (on the order of a few hundred milliseconds).

The claim is that no matter how many times you take the test or how you prep yourself, you cannot change the results, i.e. it is consistently reproducible.

You can take a number of tests here. Go to the Demonstration page and select the test you want. I have taken two and my results are as follows:

You have completed the Asian American-European American IAT.

The line immediately below summarizes the results of your task performance.

Your data suggest little or no association between Asian American and European American with American and Foreign.


You have completed the Gender-Science IAT.

The line immediately below summarizes the results of your task performance.

Your data suggest a moderate association of Male with Science and Female with Liberal Arts compared to Female with Science and Male with Liberal Arts.


I am planning to take the Gender-Science one again, because I think the result is wrong - I was expecting little or no association. Granted, in 40 years I have met only one woman who had a love of science similar to my own and only two men. However, it tends to be easier to find males who enjoy science and technology rather than females.

I think the test is breakable and open to influence by the test subject. I will let you know how it goes.

[Update: 27-October-2006 @ 08:50]

I took three more tests last night, repeating the Gender-Science one.

You have completed the Gender-Science IAT.

The line immediately below summarizes the results of your task performance.

Your data suggest a moderate association of Female with Science and Male with Liberal Arts compared to Male with Science and Female with Liberal Arts.


This was interesting. As far as I understand, the results are not supposed to change, since the bias is supposed to be constant. It is difficult for me to analyze since I don't have a quantitative measure of my score. Perhaps it indicates that I am truly neutral, or perhaps it indicates something else.

To rule out that timing was not my problem (you are supposed to complete the test as quickly as possible), I noted the estimated time for the subsequent tests and timed myself

You have completed the GAY PEOPLE-STRAIGHT PEOPLE IAT.

The line immediately below summarizes the results of your task performance.

Your data suggest a slight automatic preference for Straight People compared to Gay People.


Estimated time 5 minutes. Actual time 3:49.

You have completed the Judaism-Other Religions IAT.

The line immediately below summarizes the results of your task performance.

Your data suggest a moderate automatic preference for Judaism compared to Other Religions.


Estimated time: 5 minutes. Actual time 3:41

I may take some more follow up tests and repeat the ones I have already taken to get more data to analyze. I will also reveal in a few days what my strategy in taking the tests is (and why I think this may bias the results).

[Update 31-October-2006 @ 09:28]

What do I do that I believe skews the test? It is pretty simple. Given 4 categories, split into 2 column, I realized that I can't really keep them all in my head. So, I only focus on one column. Given the categories male, female, science and Liberal Arts, if they are grouped female-science and male-liberal arts, I only focus on only one column - in my case, the left column.

This means I don't care what the other words and images are. If it is not a female or science term, I simply place it in the other column. I reduce the problem from 4 categories and two columns to 2 categories and 1 column – if it doesn't fit, it goes in the other column..

I suspect this skews the results because I remove from my mind the categories male and Liberal Arts.

A more accurate test, I think, would be to have 3 columns and 6 categories because I would be unable to perform this simple binary partitioning. (Actually, you could. You would first partition one column against the other two. If it doesn't go in the first column, then you would partition the next two columns in the same way.)

2006-10-25

 

Anthony! Anthony! Anthony! Always Anthony!

I have mentioned before that Anthony de Croud is the most popular search term landing people to this blog. Sometimes makes me wonder if I should delete the post and references to it.

Today, someone left an anonymous message on my blog - incongruously placed in my post Thirty Days Hath September

My best guess is that it was placed by a robot which crawls the web looking for references to Anthony de Croud and then posts this:

Anthony Le Croud: I have received a card from you saying that good luck will follow if i resend the card. (Chinese proverb) If you are a missionary, what kind of missionary are you. If you are a Christian missionary i have good news for you: Christians don't believe in luck. They trust in the Lord. Unfortunately you are placing curses on people by saying bad luck will follow if they do not do as the card says. I break the curse you place on me in the Name of Yeshua and hope that you will forgive me for my bluntness. Have a blessed day and may you find peace in the Lord.

--
Posted by Someone who cares


I guess someone is taking the e-mail too seriously and feels they need to take proactive steps to expunge the curse.

The opening is odd. Do they think I am Anthony de Croud? Or do they think they are addressing Anthony de Croud from my blog?

For those who are concerned about chain letters, they are not real. They are designed to prey upon irrational fears and hopes. You can safely ignore them and nothing will happen.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go and help out some poor Nigerian widow move some money out of her country and then go collect my Internet Lottery Sweepstakes winnings.

Note: I am neither the originator, nor author of the e-mail. I received it in my inbox just like everyone else does. While scratching for an idea, I decided to post it, along with an English translation (I received it in Spanish) and some commentary. End of story. Nothing to see. Move along and get a life.

I think it is a robot because the poster's address was crawl-66-249-66-113.googlebot.com.

2006-10-24

 

Why does it always have to be hard?

The past few months I have been reading a lot on writing - everything from how to write, how to get published, even how to do book binding.

The most recurrent theme is how hard it is to be a writer. There are always wonderful quotes like:

"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." - Walter Smith

"Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." -Gene Fowler

Holly Lisle, an author (someone I have notread), has a pretty interesting web site filled with resources for writers and inspiration and support. However, in her free ebook, Mugging the Muse, she has this to say:

"Let me define the act of writing for you. As a writer, you're going to attempt to sell the products of your mind to a world that doesn't care right now whether you breathe or not. You're going to strip your soul naked and parade it in front of editors and agents, publishers … While you are reaching out to editors, agents and publishers, you're going to fail. Over and over and over again, you are going to send things out and they are going to come back with impersonal rejection notices, with no notices at all, with the occasional signed memo that “This isn't for us.” You are going to stare at your words and sit in a darkened room and wonder, “What the hell is the matter with me?” You are going to take the rejections personally, are going to hurt, are going to bleed. Agents will turn you down, editors will turn you down, places that don't even pay for stories will turn you down."

The book reads well, but those introductory paragraphs are sure to turn away many who aspire to see their words published and shared with others (granted, blogging does remove many barriers for sharing words).

As mentioned, I have read a lot of books on writing and if you are interested here are my top choices:

The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
- Noah Lukeman

This is definitely the best book. It gives practical and readable advice on writing from an editor. Just shy of 200 pages it is a good size (sorry, but I hate thick books - computer books are the worst, frequently weighing in over 1000 pages - how in the world am I supposed to keep up with that. Just give me the information. Thanks).

Make Your Words Work: Proven Techniques for Effective Writing, for Fiction and Nonfiction - Gary Provost (the observant longtime readers will remember I quoted him a while back).

This predates "The First Five Pages" and covers a few more topics. The advice in both books is similar, but since this one weighs in at over 300 pages it is slightly less recommendable.

I haven't read any other really good books on writing. Although, there was The Writer's Mentor, filled with collected quotes and authors' experiences - which run the gamut showing that every experience is unique.

Writing is one of the things I have always wanted to do in my life. Even signed up with NaNoWriMo last year (but dropped out because it wasn't my speed).

Why is everything always hard or complicated (I am not just picking on writing in this post)? I have a background in both electronics and computer science, but I would never say that these are hard. It requires constancy and sincere effort, but hard? No. (Note: this is not to say things just sail along smoothly. Ending up niched or obsolete is frightfully easy. Getting your foot in the door can be tough. Sometimes there are long hours and mad schedules, but I would never describe programming as staring at the monitor until blood drips out of your pores).

2006-10-22

 

Childhood classics

When I was a kid growing up in Canada, Rocket Robin Hood and Spiderman were two classic cartoons put out by Canadian animation company (Krantz Films) in Toronto.

You can see the opening credits to both. I am pretty sure that Spiderman aired in the States, I am not so sure about Rocket Robin Hood though. I have a feeling that was distinctly Canadian fare.

Each Rocket Robin Hood episode was probably no more than 10 minutes long, but was stretched out to a full half hour by playing the same interlude pieces over and over again (there were maybe 8 or so interlude pieces).

Krantz had also done a cartoon version of Hercules back then, each episode was about 5 minutes long and was stretched by having on of the characters (a centaur) repeat his lines twice: "Hercules! Hercules! Look! Look! It's Daedelus! It's Daedelus!"

(they also made a number of historical vignettes featuring Max the 2000 year old mouse - "I know. I was there.")

This is the Rocket Robin Hood opening theme, unfortunately, you will need to go to YouTube to view it.




This is the classic 1967 Spiderman opening:



2006-10-19

 

No fear

I recently read Without Conscience by Robert Hare - it is about psychopaths.

There are a number of characteristics which define a psychopath, including:

- glib, easy free flowing speech
- thrill / excitement seeking
- charming
- egocentric / self centered
- low empathy

While I see these characteristics in other people, the one characteristic I found most interesting was the lack of fear.

Dr. Robert Hare performed an experiment on test subjects who were wired up to receive a painful, but non-lethal electric shock. As a countdown timer approached zero, most test subjects would become anxious – detected by measuring sweating in the fingertips. Psychopaths were the exception, they showed no response.

This has interesting consequences because it shows that psychopaths (sociopaths) do not anticipate or respond to pain or suffering. Therefore, any form of treatment which relies on some form of punishment (aversion training) will fail with a psychopath, since they don't learn or get it.

"You are dealing with someone who has no empathy, no conscience, no remorse, and no guilt." – Tim Field, anti-bullying campaigner.

2006-10-18

 

Scientists develop unbeatable DNA tic-tac-toe computer.

You can read the story here.

I always thought they were called humans.

[updated 18-October-2006 @ 17:45 to provide missing link. Thanks Rennyba]

2006-10-17

 

Dividing the hemispheres

Last night I decided to conduct an experiment using myself as a test subject (although, not quite in the Timothy Leary sort of way). I was curious what effects I would observe when reading with only one eye. Each eye sends information to the opposing brain hemisphere - information from the left eye goes to the right side of the brain, information from the right eye goes to the left side of the brain. Each hemisphere specializes in different functions and the way it interprets the world. The two hemispheres are joined by a bundle of nerves called the corpus callosum.

How would biasing which hemisphere received information affect my reading experience?

I lay down to read a short story called Dead Run. It is about a trucker who hauls souls to Hell (found in New Stories from The Twilight Zone).

I started by closing my right eye and quickly changed to simply covering my eye with my hand since it was more comfortable. Instead of propping up my head with my hand on my chin, I sort of propped up my head using my hand to cover my eye. I read three pages and then switched to cover my left eye.

I seemed to experience more emotional impact when I was reading with my left eye (sending information to the right hemisphere), which, according to research done this morning, seems to be correct. The right hemisphere is strongly associated with emotions.

Now, a few disclaimers and disclosures:

I have difficulty reading with my right eye because I have partial loss of vision in it. This is a result of a Toxoplasma Gondii infection I had in my right eye about 14 years ago. It damaged my retina near the optic nerve. I have no central vision, but I still possess peripheral vision. For the curious, what does the world look like through a damaged retina? There is nothing there. It is not dark, or light, it just isn't there.

This lack of central vision means it is a little awkward reading from the periphery of my vision. This may have affected emotional response, since I had to look at the words indirectly. Brain processing may be different for peripheral images than for centrally focused images. If I am not mistaken, peripheral vision is sensitive to motion.

Alternatively, since I had already been exposed to the story for 3 pages, my initial emotional response may have stabilized and became less noticeable for the remainder of the story. When I returned to reading with both eyes, I did not continue to have the same emotional response when I started the story.

As well, my corpus callosum is still intact. It is sometimes severed in epileptic patients, thus truly dividing the hemispheres - the way they receive and process information depends on which eye sees the information. For example, seeing a spoon with the right eye, they can name it. Seeing it with the left eye, they know what it is used for, but they cannot name it (language processing is in the left hemisphere).

A proper test would involve a number of subjects reading the story with one eye or the other and then compiling their responses.

I encourage you to try this out and tell me what your experiences are.

2006-10-14

 

Of curves and straight lines

There is something warm, inviting and elegant about spiral or winding staircases. Certainly, both Sofia and I would love to have a home with a majestic curved staircase.
For the time being, we have to make do with a simple straight stairwell.


Pictures nabbed from here and here.

2006-10-12

 

Not blind yet

Aside from finding grey hairs on my head and chest, I now have another sign of aging, increased eyestrain while reading.

I had my eyes examined a few months ago and my near vision is fine (for the curious, I am near sighted and have 20/30 vision in my right eye and 20/40 in my left, with some very mild astigmatism - this has not changed in more than 25 years).

I have noticed over the past few months that when I read, I need to have the book a little further away from me than I used to. It needs to be further than 12 inches (30cm) from me. If it is closer, I can still read, but I definitely notice increased tension on my eyes, as well, the pages and words take on an unreal flatness. This makes reading in the bathtub, with book propped on my chest, harder since I find myself having to now hold the book a little higher and a little further away - tiring my arms.

Image nabbed from here.

2006-10-11

 

Fueling around

Since I do a lot of highway commuting between home and work and Ottawa and Montreal, I am able to obtain pretty reliable information on my fuel consumption (it is between 6.9 and 7.5 L/100Km - I do a quick compute in my head every time I fill up).

Various factors will affect fuel consumption including weather, road conditions, and the type of driving I do (city versus highway).

One of the things we are constantly told is that a car burns 10% more fuel for every 10Km/h you are above 100Km/h. So if you are doing 120, you burn 20% more fuel than if you were doing 100. I can categorically state that my experience contradicts this idea.

Websites promoting this idea often display charts showing diminishing fuel efficiency over 100Km/h. The stated reason is a combination of engine efficiency and drag.

The door to door trip from my home in Ottawa to Montreal is 170Km, about 165 Km of that is straight highway. The door to door trip from My home in Ottawa to my work is 32Km - 30Km of which is straight highway.

I have done the trip from Ottawa to Montreal at speeds as high as 140Km/h (and yes, I eventually got caught and I don't do that anymore, I stay under 120Km/h).

The first time I did the round trip at 140, I was expecting to see a fairly serious drop in fuel efficiency - I didn't. Nor have I ever seen a change in fuel efficiency based on my driving speed (whether 100Km/h or 140Km/h). - it always remains around 7.0L/100Km. I would notice if my fuel efficiency went to 8.5L/100Km or 10L/100Km (projected when I was doing 140), but I don't notice if it is 7.2 one time 7.4 the next and 7.0 the next (I do notice, but it is not seriously outside my expectations for normal variance and error).

I do notice a drop in fuel efficiency if I have a wind perpendicular to the car.

I also noticed a 10-15% drop in fuel efficiency when I fill up with an ethanol blended fuel (10% ethanol). It drops to about 8.2L/100Km. This is not surprising since ethanol provides less energy per kg than gasoline. The 10/90 mix should provide about 5% less energy than 100% gas, but, my experience does not square with this.

Note: none of this is scientifically documented. It is based on my empirical observation since September 2004. However, my empirical observations do not jive with the commonly held opinions about fuel efficiency. My baseline fuel consumption is fairly consistent within about 5% - so I should notice a 10, 20, 30 or 40% increase in fuel consumption. I do not.

The only explanation I have is that those claiming a figure of 10% per 10Km/h over 100Km/h are being disingenuous about the way they are representing fuel consumption. I agree that fuel consumption increases by 10% for every 10K I travel above 100, if and only if, you are measuring fuel consumption per hour. But, you also travel 10% further in that hour. I should also note that at high speeds (I am not sure if 100Km/h counts as high speed or not), drag increases with the square of the velocity. Eventually you will reach point where the drag is pushing back against the object and you reach terminal velocity.

As far as I see, there is little or no change in fuel consumption per unit distance traveled. I know what the equations for calculating drag look like, and I have no reason to expect they do not work as expected. I simply repeat that my empirical observation does not accord with the conventional wisdom. At sea level, the speed of sound is 1225Km/h, 120Km/h is 10% of that. I have serious doubts that 10% the speed of sound counts as high velocity.

I should point out that drag is an important consideration, and I am sure that if I was travelling fast enough, it would become a problem, but modern cars are very aerodynamic. As well, there is also the issue of wind. If you were driving 100Km/h into a 20Km/h headwind, you should experience a 20% decrease in fuel efficiency (according to the oft quoted wisdom). I doubt you will because the car is engineered to be aerodynamically efficient pushing aside air at speeds above 100Km/h.

As mentioned, I do notice a decrease in fuel efficiency when I have a cross wind (mostly perpendicular to the car) from the North (I can’t recall many Southerly winds in this part of Canada).

I do not encourage or condone speeding. There are many risks associated with it. It is not simply a question of keeping your car on the road and avoiding other cars and obstacles (like deer, moose and raccoon families). Your tires are also rated for a certain speed. Above that speed, they run the risk of tearing themselves apart from centripetal forces - small nicks and abrasions increase that risk.

If someone wants to point out why my experience is at odds with conventional wisdom (and official pronouncements), please let me know. I put 46-47L into my car (a Mazda 3) every 650Km or so. I tend to use the same gas station and the same pump.

If you don't have any ideas, you might be interested in knowing that in the US, it is apparently perfectly legal for news organizations to disseminate misleading, distorted and intentionally false information. Accurate and objective information is not a requirement. I suppose that no legal requirements exist in Canada either as to the accuracy of information (so long as no one is libeled).

Long ramble, but I finally got it off my chest.

For those who have dug in and read through all this go reward yourself with some eye candy (there is NO need to install the Japanese language pack).

Image nabbed from here.

[edited on 12-October-2006 to fixed broken hyperlink.]

2006-10-10

 

How much is my life worth?

Apparently, according to this blogthing:

Your Life Is Worth...

$535,500
How Much Is Your Life Worth?


It would certainly be nice - in cash, of course. Don't know why the hands are chained up though. Seems a strange image to associate.

2006-10-09

 

Variation on a theme

I generally cook on the weekends as Sofia does it during the week (mostly because she is here and I am in Ottawa). The challenge is always trying to prepare something that will not have the kids turn up their noses.

As I rummaged through the fridge looking for what was available, I found a chicken I had boiled the previous weekend (to make the stock base for Barscz - pronounced bar-sh-ch - Polish beet soup).

Since there was a lot of meat, I decided that I would make chicken-a-la-king - however, I lacked mushrooms and, so, used chef's discretion to make a substitution or two.

Meat from 1 boiled 1.5Kg (3lb) chicken, chopped into pieces.
1/3 cup (80ml) butter
2 medium onions, chopped
1 Red bell pepper, chopped
1-1/2 cups (375ml) chicken stock
2 cups (500ml) milk or cream or similar
1 teaspoon (5ml) salt
Dash of pepper
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/3 cup (80ml) flour

Sauté the onions in the melted butter until soft and translucent (about 10 minutes).
Add the chopped bell pepper and sauté for another 10 minutes.
Blend the flour, salt, pepper and curry powder and add to the sautéed mixture. Stir under reasonably well blended and there are no lumps.
Slowly add in the stock and milk, stirring to avoid lumps. Let this come to a slow boil (about 10 minutes), stirring occasionally to avoid burning.
Add the chopped chicken and heat thoroughly.


Serves a bunch of people. Tania and Sofia had it with rice; JJ And I had it with fettuccine noodles.

I used a fortified rice beverage (Rice Dream or similar) instead of milk because JJ's eczema seems to react badly when he consumes dairy products. However, you could probably substitute Soy milk or coconut milk as well (although, if it is that thick coconut milk, I would thin it down with some water).

A good curry powder is essential. I find many of the cheaper ones have far too much clove for my taste.

I suppose you could also add some lemon grass or lemon juice to the recipe as well.

As might be imagine, this tastes nothing like chicken-a-la-king, but it is reminiscent of Butter Chicken.

2006-10-06

 

Of belonging and conformity

Everyone has a need to belong, to have connection with other people, to be part of a community. Most people belong to several different communities: ethnic, linguistic, sports, religious, etc.

However, I find that most people give in and conform to mode of speech, style of dress, or some other conformant behaviour or mode. I do not. Adapting to a group is alien to my way of thinking. I like to be with people, I like belonging, but I do not feel the need to dress the same way, to talk the same way, to think the same way. I seek people similar to me, but I do not seek to adapt to them. Of course, in some case you have to learn some of the basic rules; if you are going to play soccer, then you need to know the rules of the game (which I suppose could be argued is a form of conformity).

I have a strong distaste for wearing branded clothes and avoid it if I can. I remember, in high school, my mother asking me if I wanted clothes like the other kids were wearing -- my answer was no. She did buy me some Polo shirts and I was uncomfortable wearing them -- despite their having only a small, discrete logo on the pocket.

From my point of view, while people may claim individuality and brush of suggestions of conformity with comments such as, "I like to look nice", I can't help but see them as conformists. Of course, the worst are the guardians, who feel it is their responsibility to pursue non-conformers; whether the differences are in dress, manner, speech, gastronomic, etc -- they point fingers, harass, or worse. Even if someone is not one of the outspoken guardians, they may still do it subtly, by shunning or indiscrete remarks. Granted, we cannot be friends with everyone because we simply don't get along with everyone -- but we must be cautious at looking beyond the surface at the individual inside.

I am an individual and my loyalty is to the individual, not to any group and I refuse to be branded, labeled or owned.

Do not sacrifice truth for belonging.

If it is not right, don't do it; if it is not true, don't say it.

2006-10-04

 

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever.

When I was younger, I found the world to be a hostile environment. This was in part a result of the Cold War, in part because I was of Polish ancestry (my surname is very distinctly Polish) and experienced the prejudice and discrimination of being 'suspect' (just as Muslims are today).

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world climate seemed to change, to improve and become less hostile. There were some growing pains, but they did not seem to be ideologically driven as they were in the past. However, I find today's climate no better, and perhaps worse, than it was when I was growing up. I offer for you this passage from George Orwell's 1984:

Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress towards more pain. The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. Everything else we shall destroy -- everything. Already we are breaking down the habits of thought which have survived from before the Revolution. We have cut the links between child and parent, and between man and man, and between man and woman. No one dares trust a wife or a child or a friend any longer. But in the future there will be no wives and no friends. Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen. ... There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always -- do not forget this, Winston -- always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever.'

Image taken from here.

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2006-10-03

 

Filling the void

While investigating why my computer seems to be using more memory than usual, I zeroed in on the google toolbar which came preinstalled on my computer.

It did not seem to be taking up too much memory, nonetheless, I targeted it for uninstallation. Prior to uninstalling it, I decided to see what features and options it offered (I never used it - which was another good reason for uninstalling it). In doing so, I noticed that it offered a translation feature (disabled by default): by hovering over a word, it would translate the word into your language of choice, or you could send the whole web page for translation.

Several weeks back, I had a similar idea, I thought how great it would be to have a dictionary plugin for the browser which would allow you to (1) translate words from one language to another, (2) provide thesaurus functionality, (3) allow spell checking. I envisioned it working by either hovering the mouse over the word to get a list of translations (which is how google's feature works) or right clicking on a word or selected passage to invoke more advanced language tools.

It seemed a fairly obvious void and was surprised that I was not immediately aware of any popular tools in this regard (aside from altavista's BabelFish - which I think is the best online translation tool available. I have found Google to be more transliterative than Babelfish). I suppose I could have done some research to see if others had noticed this missing functionality, but it was not a priority.

Now I know that someone else has started to fill the void I observed a few weeks back.

2006-10-02

 

Racing to 5

Today is Jason's birthday. He s 5 years old (finally). He has been waiting for this day for months.

We had a small celebration yesterday with my parents for him. It was a good time.

I have taken the day off work today and later we will assemble a robot kit he got yesterday.

The picture was taken while we were in Peru this past summer.

Image is copyright of me.

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