Friday, 18 May 2007

Even cooler toys! With added exclamation marks!!!!

I don't know what it is. It might be their obsession with slim and, therefore, manageably-sized phones. It may be their slate-grey colours and almost edge-design aesthetics. It may be that they really are close to my wavelength in general. But Samsung, just as I was beginning to fall out of love with them, appear to be hitting all the right buttons. This is very nearly the perfect form factor for a smartphone.


Statement of beliefs

Australian skeptic EoR, whom I have referenced before in this blog, has just been kind enough to note in his blog that he's spotted my blog, and was kind enough to refer to me as an "Australian skeptic". Which is true, but makes me sound more knowledgeable than I really am :)

I thought, however, that I would firstly say Welcome! To any of EoR's readers who dropped by to see who I was, and secondly state my beliefs.

This blog is not a skeptical blog, it is a blog which contains skepticism among other things. I doubt most things in life, and hate some of them, and this leads me to trawl a great many skeptical blogs and websites (I have six in my Google Reader registrations, most of which reference the rest of them) for my own knowledge and edification.

I believe that the processes of science are the best tools we have to understand the world and everything in it.

I believe that one day neuroscience, with the assistance of psychology and computer science, will explain and be able to (in some small way) create consciousness.

I do not believe in a creator God. I do not believe in a God that influences the world or that can be described using the language of human psychology and/or personality. I am prepared to consider the possibility of a god who does not influence the world, but I can't really see the point (I have an invisible elephant in my desk drawer...)

I believe in, and am passionately interested in, evolution as the process by which biology as we know it came to be, including consciousness.

I do not believe that there is any great difference between homo sapiens and other animals except by degree. I do not believe in causing suffering for our benefit (although I'm hypocritical enough to wear leather and eat flesh) and I believe that if it is okay to put down an animal in pain it is okay to euthanise a human in unmanageable pain.

I believe that euthanasia is acceptable, and so is abortion.

I reserve judgement on the death penalty, but I don't think I've seem it managed in an acceptable fashion yet.

I believe that the "alternative medicine" industry, no matter what label it lives under, needs to be regulated and that the laws on product labelling and advertising need to be tightened considerably with regards to proof of claims.

I don't believe that Big Pharma is any more evil or untrustworthy than any other large commercial entity in our current Western system of commerce.

I believe (a belief strengthened considerably by my own employment in the area of neurological disability) that there is an unacceptable level of ignorance of science process and science fact in the general community.

I firmly believe that journalists who have no background or knowledge in science should be barred from reporting on science or scientific issues because they only make the situation worse. EoR's recent post on dowsing is a case in point.

And I firmly believe that we don't yet know it all, never will be able to, and need to reserve a healthy dose of humility and caution when faced with life, the universe, and everything.

Cool toys that go "Aaaaaaagh!"

This is so insanely cool I didn't know whether to laugh hysterically or cheer.

Cools toys that actually exist!

Well, nearly.

Samsung may have made me interested again. Other dual-sliders I've seen have had two separate slide mechanisms. This is a considerably neater solution. Although that image doesn't make it clear, the slightly separated number/letter keys slide out to the right as a pure number pad, much easier to use than most solutions. Pity that nice shiny big touch-screen is exposed to the elements all the time.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Cool toys that go beep and fold up!

It takes a lot to excite me about new hardware designs, simply because there have been so many already. I didn't even get excited when the iMac turned into a lampshade. Although I admit to having been excited when it turned into a tablet that wasn't really a tablet. And I claim that Apple dropped an opportunity not turning it into a proper tablet.


This is really, really, cool. I could do without the bulk and the SUV-ish ruggedisation, but slim that down into something that won't yank your pants off your hips and it'd be an extremely cool design. Complete with QWERTY thumb-board. And it's a mobile phone.

Now, who's going to pick this up and run with it and make it work? Anybody? I'm waaaaaiting....

Monday, 14 May 2007

Keep the bastards honest

The following is a repeat of an old LiveJournal entry. I was clearly in a sarcastic mood when I had this idea, but it hasn't lost its appeal with time.

2004.08.23 15.46

You know what would be really cool? At the start of every session of state or federal parliament - morning, after morning tea, after lunch, after afternoon tea, after the-speaker-has-had-enough-everyone-get-
out-for-five-minutes, whatever - the parliamentarians had to look at a large, projected image of a cartoon plucked at random from the letters page of a daily newspaper. They can run it like an exam: Nobody gets out for fifteen minutes, and if you weren't there at the start you don't get to participate. Well, maybe you can get in during exams, but not here. Let's see them try and keep their plastic smiles when the nation's court jesters are punching them in the face repeatedly.

The half-arsed watchmaker

The following post was pulled from an old LiveJournal post. The rest of it is no longer relevant, but this paragraph demonstrates my opinion of a designer god so well that I felt like repeating it:

2004.09.03 12.40

I have often thought that if the complexity of the human body is evidence of the existence of God then that God, quite frankly, is not worth worshiping. I'd rather be buggered by Dante's devils than pay lip service to the idiot that produced human plumbing, immune system and knees.

I couldn't put it better if I tried.

I knew birds were long-lived, but...

Wow. That is unbelievably cool and fantastic.

Teaching vs. Education vs. Learning

Last Friday I made mention of a post in which EoR, a noted online skeptic (and if you don't know the true definition of that word you really need to research it), had made a reference to how lacking a basic scientific education is today. In my post I used fairly broad terminology and suggested that I thought that education in general was lacking.

EoR responded, posting a comment in which he raised a very interesting point:

Thanks for the mention.

EoR isn't sure it's the lack of education so much as the lack of teaching critical and analytical thinking skills. If you have those then you don't need experience (especially since there's always going to be a new quack coming along with a new magical claim)"

Having sat through what passed at the time as education in Australia, from pre-school all the way through to grade 12 and on to four years of full-time tertiary study, I agree that the lack of education per se is not the problem, but that the nature of it is. And EoR is quite right. The problem is: How would you fix that problem? What would you teach?

Spend any time around the Internet looking at a specialist topic (programming, to pick one not-random example) and you will soon realise that there will be somebody pushing a dearth of education as being a problem: The most recent example I remember is how mathematics is taught and how this handicaps potential future computer programmers. I'm sure he's right, but I'm more interested in how education might handicap potential future adults in general.

Closer to home, I frequently have discussions with my partner over what should be taught from day 1 of school, including First Aid, road safety and possibly at least one foreign language. But how to teach logic, critical and analytical thinking skills and the nature and processes (and why they're so important) of science to children who are still in the Preoperational stage of cognitive development?

I'm not a teacher and I can't answer that, but I'm tempted to say: At any cost. Douglas Adams gave an interview once in which he was asked about his firm atheism and used one sentence that made me instantly, insanely jealous: "I was taught history really rather well, and logic really rather well..." I wasn't. I suspect between DNAs education and mine, nevermind the country, there was a shift to modern theories of education which emphasised... I'm not sure what, but learning of traditional subjects probably weren't involved. And I was undoubtedly the poorer for it. I don't remember being taught logical thought processes in a classroom at all. I may have missed that lesson, or it may have been assumed, or it may have been discarded as unnecessary and in that case it was one of the biggest mistakes made.

My education was delivered by passionate people who, almost unanimously, I liked. And they were supported and they knew what they were talking about (mostly). But the curricula were, to put it mildly, lacking. And somewhere along the way whoever set the curricula forgot to include the parts that help people learn. Like analytical thinking skills.

For those who don't have a good basis in science, and wonder if you're being rippped off, may I heartily recommend that you read this over at Quackwatch. It'll help. I promise.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

When worlds collide, who will be the correspondent?

This post is a repeat of an old one I still like.

2004.08.15 16.05

Jules Verne's favourite author was Edgar Allen Poe. The father of Science Fiction, a man who has few peers and no masters in exploring the impact of technology on humanity, enjoyed above all others the father of modern horror, a man who had few peers and no masters in exploring the depths of human fear and corruption. Even more interesting, giving the modern era, a Frenchman with the literary world at his feet respected an American.

This is a situation we may never see again, and will be poorer for it.

The past is a different year

Dear god, I never expected this. Most online services - email, blogging, whatever, have a policy of deleting your account if you don't use it. Usually, it's a month. I know people who have lost Hotmail accounts because of that, and it seems to be fairly standard. So the other day, when I idly typed in what I thought would be the address of a LiveJournal account I had for all of a few months, the last thing I was expecting was to actually find it. Even more worringly, from a security point of view, I could remember the password. Because I use it for everything else. I'm almost certain this is a bad habit to get into.

I must delete that account, for my own sense of tidying up. But, before I do, I might repeat posts here if they're any good. Which will mean... Two of them, I think. Yes, two of them seems about right.

Edit: Whoops, I forgot the title.

Why does it take sex to sell even the really interesting ideas? Why is it always impossible to just say "Hey, there's a party in Belgium who have a really interesting id... HEY LOOK, BOOBIES!"

Hidden behind an attention-grabbing headline is a very interesting political experiment, which isn't so much novel as the highest profile attempt to make it work that I've yet seen. And honestly, how could you not like a political party that appears to be named after a Monty Python sketch?

Click the link, and read the bottom part of the page. Go on, I dare you. Don't get distracted, now. Although you may not want to do that at work or if anyone else in the room doesn't know why you're doing it.

And is it just me, or is choosing to receive a blowjob in Second Life a bit like winning a Porsche and then selecting the HotWheels version?

Thailand: There are far too many easy jokes here...

Thailand has an annual beauty pageant for transsexuals. In Australia, gays still only barely have legal recognition of partnership. Who's the third-world country?

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