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Mar 082018
 

It sounds silly doesn’t it? Two people are crossing a pedestrian crossing; one walks straight across and the other walks a bit faster in a diagonal because they are turning left (or right) after they’re over the crossing. And the later crosses the path of the former, interrupting their crossing.

Dangerous? That’s going a bit too far.

Annoying as hell? Sure is.

The Window

Feb 272018
 

In days past the current spell of somewhat chilly weather would be called a “cold snap” rather than the intentionally scary “beast from the east”. When did we start having to make the weather scary?

Now don’t get me wrong – the cold weather is not entirely pleasant, but there is not much we can do about it other than turn the heating on, work from home if we have that option, and take care when out and about.

But what purpose is served by making the weather scary? What is the purpose behind getting a bit wimpy about the weather?

It’s nasty out there. Get over it already.

Pentland Hills

Feb 262018
 

So quite a while ago now, another mass shooting took place in a school in the USA; it’s gotten to the point where it is easy to get confused about which mass shooting is being talked about. Thus the “Film at 11” comment (which is hacker slang, for same old stuff).

The world is in a poor state when someone can get confused about which mass shooting is being discussed, or that implying that school children being killed is somehow boring.

US politicians did their usual thing – offering thoughts and prayers whilst assuring their NRA “supporters” (owners) that nothing would be done.

The difference this time, is that the victims have decided that they are not going to accept the status quo that nothing will be done about the rampant gun violence in the USA. They have set up a campaign organisation (NeverAgainMSD), and are actively campaigning for gun control.

Much to the consternation of the senile old farts in power.

It seems that these young people are not going to accept the status quo, or kow-tow to the inane stupidity of the US political elite when it comes to any “action” on gun control. Today gun control in the USA seems impossible; tomorrow it seems to be inevitable (much as us old farts hate it, the young will inherit the earth).

I have a certain level of sympathy with those who like playing with guns in a sensible way – and that is probably a majority of those who own guns. I would personally find it quite fun – I certainly enjoy putting arrows into a target. But a slim majority of people in the US want stronger gun control, and that level is increasing over time.

Rather than simply deny any possibility of gun control, it would probably make the most sense to look at forms of gun control that would leave the maximum amount of freedom (and perhaps even get additional freedom) whilst satisfying those who want to prevent mass shootings.

Obviously looking at mental health here is a good idea. Hell, it’s a good idea even ignoring the whole gun issue – people with untreated mental illnesses are likely to be more problematic to society that people with treated mental illnesses.

But in terms of gun control, what is wanted is a means to control the usage of guns; you want to make it difficult for a lone gun nut to take a gun into a crowded environment to carry out a mass shooting. One obvious way to do this is to make guns more difficult to obtain; and that’s a valid method.

Another way is to make it difficult to use guns without supervision. Imagine if you will that the only way to use a semi-automatic rifle is to go to a gun range, check it out of a locker, and use it at the gun range. Or if you want to take a high-powered rifle out hunting, you have to check it out of a community gun safe as part of a group (i.e. no hunting alone).

Sounds horrendous? It might just be better than not being able to play with your toys at all.

And yes I said toys. You could make a reasonable argument that reasonable hand-guns or reasonable shotguns can be used for self-defence in the home, but semi-automatic weapons are either toys or aimed at mass-shootings. And hunting is an entertainment too.

Crooked Church

Dec 072017
 

Roy Moore is a despicable piece of rancid scum from the surface of a putrid pool, and almost certainly a child sex offender too. There are those who say that he is the victim of some sort of conspiracy and that these accusations are false.

Bullshit! Not only are there the accusers but a considerable amount of supporting evidence that he’s a sexual predator of young girls. And let’s be honest here, Moore is a self-proclaimed politician so of course he’s lying – it’s a surprise when any politician tells the truth. The claims are so credible that his own political party (Republicans) are deserting him; at least the Republicans with more than a gram of self-respect. One has even donated money to his opponent’s campaign!

Yet it appears that people in Alabama are still keen on voting for him. Given the number of available choices – vote for the Democratic candidate (probably something a Republican supporter would find hard), vote for an independent, or not vote at all – it is inexcusable for anyone to vote for Roy Moore.

In fact anyone who does so, has an unusually high toleration of child sex abuse. Enough that they should be suspected of supporting child sex abuse and perhaps should be investigated for it. Or added to the child sex offenders list (in the “supports child sex abuse category”).

Of course it isn’t possible to identify Moore voters (except perhaps from the scrapes on the knuckles), so we’ll simply have to lump everyone from Alabama together and treat them all as suspected supporters of child sex abuse.

Alabama’s new state motto: “Home of the Child Sex Abuser”.

Unless of course sanity returns and the voters in Alabama vote for anybody other than Moore.

Through The Doorway

Nov 262017
 

Just seen something daft on the idiot-box (also known as “television”) where a character claims to not be an atheist because she believes in good and evil.

Which is weird if you think about it. We atheists pride ourselves on paying attention to the evidence, and there is plenty of evidence for the existence of good and evil deeds. What there is not evidence for is the existence of some cartoonish personification of good and evil; those characters sometimes called “god” and “the devil”.

It isn’t necessary for good and evil deeds to require some mysterious actor who lives in the clouds; people are quite capable of both good and evil deeds without help.

Evil deeds are carried out by broken people, and personifying evil as a mysterious actor is a way of absolving us from finding the broken people and fixing them.

Light’s Shadow

Nov 252017
 

The scariest predictions of robotics and artificial intelligence reveals a desolate future where almost everyone is unemployed because machines can do it better and faster than people. That will not happen simply because the economy would break down if that were the case – if people are unemployed they are too poor to be efficient consumers.

Of course the most rabid Tories will try to cling to the outdated economic model of capitalism beyond the point of sanity so they will try to bring a great deal of pain.

To give you a flavour of what Artificial Intelligence might bring, they are talking about machines replacing lawyers, solicitors, and barristers; which is not all bad. Legal fees are high enough that most people cannot bring civil suits beyond a point where only the simplest decisions can be made. Imagine a future where a civil suit can be automatically handled by machines battling it out at all levels from the County Court all the say up to the European Court in minutes and at a cost that almost anyone can access.

Of course if you work in the legal system, you might well disagree!

The most obvious way of dealing with a future where nearly everyone is ‘unemployed’ but still needs to be an efficient consumer is to use the basic income idea where everyone gets a reasonable income. The most immediate reaction to this is of course the belief that it is too expensive. Except that some basic maths shows that it is possible: the UK population today is around 65 million, and the UK economy is worth £2 trillion; a simple division shows that we could give everyone £30,000 per year.

Of course that would mean a few less amenities – the NHS, defence spending, etc. So in reality the basic income would be a great deal lower than this, but it is broadly feasible given some rather radical changes.

Does everyone deserve a basic income like this? No, of course not. But this is not about what the worst people in our society deserve, but making sure they function as efficient consumers. And as a bonus, by ensuring everyone has a basic income, you can be sure that nobody slips through the net.

This does not mean the end of jobs and industry, but it will radically change it. Imagine for instance that you do not get a salary, but a share of the profits – instantly the cost of labour is removed allowing a company to compete with low labour cost countries. But if that share is too low, people are likely to sit at home.

And of course work will have to be made worthwhile without (or at least minimising) the annoyances we find at work today. Get in the way of what people work to do, and they will disappear in the direction of somewhere else.

Essentially this is almost returning to pure capitalism – companies are free to get rid of workers at whim, and workers are free to leave at any time. That has always been one of the biggest problems with capitalism – workers are not free to leave work with many things keeping them at a potentially abusive work-place.

Those with more than half a brain will realise that housing costs are a big issue here; and a solution needs to be found or all of the above will only apply to those who get their housing costs for free (i.e. almost nobody). Any potential solution comes in two halves – what to do about those with mortgages and what to do with those who rent.

In the former case, the government can simply pick up mortgage payments when the house ‘owner’ cannot afford them. In return, the government gets a proportionate share of the freehold, so when the house is sold, they get their share back.

For those who rent, the government can also pick up the rent payments for those who cannot afford those payment and can decide what a reasonable rent is. Plus no landlord can kick out a resident for non-payment.

The Bench

Nov 022017
 

Autocorrect can be annoying when it happens to you, or amusing if it happens to someone else. But one thing that appears when you look at amusing autocorrects on the Internet is that you often find someone saying “it’s the phone” or “the phone is doing it”.

No it isn’t. It’s your fault.

Way back in the mists of time when we didn’t have smartphones and keyboards were big clunky mechanical things (some of us still use them), one of the first bits of IT security advice I ever gave was to read though the emails you are about to send. Whatever means you use to compose a message, there are chances of making a mistake. So what you get in the message you composed may not be what you intended to write.

As a bonus, you get a second chance to review your message to check for “thinkos” (like typos but where your brain comes out with something you didn’t intend).

If you choose to send messages (of whatever kind) without checking they say what you intended, you are responsible for the mistakes.

The Bench

Sep 162017
 

My Facebook news feed came up with a post with this embedded within it :-

Now I’m not in the business of telling someone they should own a smartphone, but taking some of the objections in turn …

Firstly if you are letting your smartphone boss you around and letting it overwhelm you, you’re using it wrong. You decide when to use your smartphone as a communications tool; most of those messages and emails that your phone is constantly pinging and burbling to you about can wait until it is convenient for you to answer.

Do any of your friends get annoyed when you don’t respond to their messages within seconds? Tell them to grow up and get a life.

To give you an idea of how I use my smartphone, here’s a typical day :-

  1. The phone is charging downstairs in the front room where it has been since the evening. If it is ringing, bleeping, throbbing, burbling madly, I won’t know until I’ve finished getting up.
  2. If I am curious about the reaction to some photos I posted the previous night I might pick it up and take a quick look at the notifications, or I might not.
  3. As I head out the door for work, I’ll pick it up and put it straight into my pocket. On the way into work I might hear phone calls, or I might not.
  4. may as I approach work, pull out the phone and take a quick look at the agenda screen (particularly if I recall an early meeting).
  5. If I remember, I’ll switch the phone to silent before I sit down to work. If not, and the notifications get annoying, I’ll remember then.
  6. If I get a phonecall whilst I’m working, I’ll pull out the phone, check who is calling, and slide to red (to reject the phonecall) if I don’t recognise the caller.
  7. When I take a break from work, and I’m not chatting to anyone, I’ll pull out the phone and have a quick look at Facebook, home email, etc.
  8. When I head home from work. the phone stays in my pocket. I’ll check the phone on getting home to see if I missed anything.

You might be wondering why I have a smartphone given I use it so little. Well first of all I do use it more than is implied here – particularly whilst travelling (having train timetables and maps in your pocket is really handy).

In terms of ethical production, not all smartphones are the same. There are even places which score phones based on the ethics of their production; there is even a smartphone whose whole purpose in existence is to be an ethically produced phone – the Fairphone.

So giving up your smartphone is the lazy way of ensuring you have an ethically produced phone that you don’t get bossed around by. No harm in being lazy here of course!

Sep 072017
 

Well of course it is.

To give a bit of context, this came up in reaction to an article on Hollywood picking a director for a Star Wars film, and the possibility of the chosen director being someone other than a white male. Of course the comments kept bouncing back and forth between declaring the comment above to be racist and sexist, and claiming that it wasn’t.

Highlighting that Hollywood seems to have an exclusive club of candidates to direct big budget films which exclude anyone who isn’t white and male, is perfectly reasonable. Or at the very least, turning a blind eye (as far as “industry recognition” (like the Oscars)) to female directors when they do get to direct (and there are plenty of talented female film directors). In fact there are also plenty of talented non-white film directors too.

Which is a bit of a surprise – you would expect the famously liberal Hollywood to be gender and ethnic background blind when it came to picking talent. You might have assumed (as I did) that the career path for film directors favours rich white dudes – perhaps with “internships” (slavery for rich youngsters) amongst other things.

So it would appear that Hollywood is actually being sexist and racist in selecting film directors for major films. And it needs to fix this.

In other words the sentiment of the statement was anti-racist and anti-sexist.

But the way that comment was expressed was racist.

Any time you say something like “must choose ${ethnic group}” or “must not pick ${gender}” you are being racist and sexist. Even if it is in a good cause.

It is better to come up with a better way of saying the same thing: “It would be a surprise to see Hollywood select a director from any background rather than it’s usual pool of directors that give the impression that Hollywood is racist and sexist.”

Apart from anything else, the comments following such an article might be a bit more interesting.

Contemplating The Sea

Aug 132017
 

It wouldn’t surprise me if I have ranted about this before, but I just don’t understand how people decide how some animals are food, and others are “cute” and shouldn’t be harmed. In the later case, there are all sorts of stories on Facebook (and presumably similar places elsewhere) about some sort of animal cruelty to “cute” animals.

Yet most of us ignore the cruelty to food animals, and indeed wild animals. Admittedly most of that cruelty happens behind closed doors with only the occasional peek behind the curtain.

But what really determines whether one species is looked upon as food and another is looked upon as a pet? It cannot be as simple as being cute is the deciding factor, or those of us seen as ugly would also be considered to be a food source.

You could argue that pet animals were formerly work animals of one kind or another, and that certainly applies to dogs and horses, but there are plenty of pet animals it doesn’t apply to – cats (admittedly cats were sometimes tolerated as pest control animals), hamsters, birds, tortoises, reptiles, etc. So that isn’t a good argument.

It is possible to argue that some animals – in particular dogs and horses – have a special place because our partnership with the animal is inherently linked to our survival. But even that doesn’t work – both horses and dogs are eaten all over the world (including Europe).

I have hunted the Internet for possible reasons why we should not eat pets, and whilst there are plenty of pages out there trying to rationalise why we should not, there is nothing that really makes sense. So it might as well be that pets are cute and food animals are not.

Essentially we have a non-rational position on eating pets which is fine. But the rational position is to eat any animal you like the taste of, or to eat none.

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