It’s 2006 here but is it 1984 in the USA?

Chancellor Bush

One of my more regular reads, more reliable in fact than any newspaper, radio or TV show, is BoingBoing. If this were my only source of news, odd opinions on world politics would come with the territory. Since I do absorb data from a few other places, it came as an enormous surprise to me to read another article about some poor schmuck being arrested for having a sense of humour, and to find that it was not news! Why? Because everything I have heard and seen about the USA in the past seven years has lead me to expect that America will eventually turn into Alan Moore’s Britain.

Now, when I hear that the American government is openly admitting that it maintains massive detention-without-trial facilities all over the world for the purpose of torturing anyone it damn well pleases, I nod in faint disgust, but somehow I am completely unsurprised.

Thus it is that I am forced to admit: I started thinking of the USA as a fascist police state some time ago. Not just in the paranoid trend-conscious sense, either. At some point in the past seven years, the vague bemused feeling that followed me to California when I travelled for work; that feeling that maybe I should have farewelled my loved ones, that I should be careful who I talked to in the USA, and what I talked about, has gone from being a joke to being a basic fact, something I take for granted.

I am no seer, no more able than the next person to forsee what is actually coming, so I won’t try. I am scared though: I see nothing to stop this juggernaut, and it is bigger than the puny little country I live in.

At least, I console myself, we don’t have any significant amount of oil.

Uranium, on the other hand… 🙁

Caffiene, Bluetooth, Time management, and Chinese food.

I can drink Caffiene again! It has been roughly twelve years since I stopped drinking caffienated beverages because they were clearly doing me harm. In that time I have checked every couple of years to see if I could handle the Sleepsbane without headaches and muscle spasms, always finding that I could not, but always wondering if the problem was really more psychosomatic these days.

HBH-35Now, with help from E, we did some rather more scientific tests, and I can confirm that it is largely psychological. I can handle at least one big cup of full-strength coffee per day without any ill effects beyond a slight tendency to talk too fast. 🙂

Speaking of E, she gave me my final birthday present yesterday: a bluetooth headset. It is most nifty. Now I can indeed walk around talking to myself and gesticularing like a wanker.

 I got my shiny new book from Amazon just a week or so ago, and I have been reading it on the train when brain-function allows: Time Management for Systems Administrators by Tom Limoncelli. It’s an advice book, with all that that entails; you will find the rules in it obvious, even if you don’t use them already, and sustained effort will be required in order to implement any of them. It’s terribly specific… he says that the book isn’t for programmers – they should have their own book. In fact, it is often so specific that one has to read between the lines to see that a specific (and inapplicable) example needs the reader to use their imagination and generalise it. Still, it has already given me a couple of answers thatI would never have reached on my own, e.g. Q: How important is it for me to get my various calendars and task lists consolidated? A: Very.

A full review will follow when I get to the end of it, along with some discussion of what impact it has had on my actual time management.

 Last night I took E to the Rock Kung restaurant in Glen Waverley and we ate gloriously: san choi bao, roast duck, roast pork and hokkien noodles among other things. It was impressively cheap, and very tasty.

Solipsism, Uniqueness and Purpose

Sitting here listening to the elaborate, baroque, beautiful madness of Jethro Tull’s “Baker Street Muse”, an epic track that is so metaphorical and cryptic as to make “Thick as a Brick” seem banal and explicit.In a solipsist world, if I go to a different school and never see you again, have I therefore deleted you from existence? Is that murder? What about meeting a new friend for the first time? Is that conception, birth?
Think of the people one meets at conventions, for example, how fleeting their lives, like clouds of unique, complex mayflies. Wow. Solipsism sucks. :-/

For the solipsist, choosing one’s friends is an evolutionary process, much more directly than for the rest of us.

The most obvious intuitive argument against solipsism, to me at any rate, is to observe that I’m just not that imaginative or creative, and neither is anyone else I can think of.

This line of reasoning is weakened however if I consider the question: how unique am I? To what extent does my life resemble a purposeful act of creation, and to what extent is it just generically random? What features have I that are so singular that my creator could not have arrived at this particular combination by simply rolling enough dice?

It makes me think that far from being demoralized and soulless, an intelligent android might find limitless joy in its mass-produced form: it knows it is a product of Design, made to fulfill a Purpose by one or more Creators. It can meet with these Creators, ask them to clarify the details of its Purpose, and be answered unambiguously. Lucky robot.

The themes in this post have come to me over several days, BTW: I was listening to Tull on Monday, thinking about the evolution of choosing your friends yesterday on my way home, and having strange broodings about purpose and uniqueness this morning on the train.

Mobile phone quandary

3120At present I am theoretically meant to be carrying two phones with me wherever I go: My original ‘3‘ phone which has my original number on it, and my new Telstra GSM el-cheapo ‘work’ phone. This is a pain… not only are two phones twice as bulky and twice as heavy, they’re also twice as easy to lose, twice as hard to locate and answer when ringing z800iand twice as hard to keep maintained in terms of configuraiton battery charge and address-book data.

This comes at a time when PDA-phones are becoming so sophisticated that I am seriously contemplating replacing my beloved Palm Pilot with a phone.

Why do I want two separate phones?

  1. I want to keep the number-spaces separate: Work calls belong with this job I’m doing now. Private calls will continue to be directed to me for as long as I live, and I want to keep the same number for as long as possible. This is both in terms of what number people call in order to reach me, and in terms of what number I appear to be calling from.
  2. Call costs are separate: Work calls can be paid for by my employer. I don’t want to have to sift them out of my phone bill by hand and then lodge a dubious and slow-moving expense claim. Nor do I want to wind up being ear-bashed over the three hour call to a friend in Zambia I made last month on my work phone. I am happy to pay for my private calls, really.
  3. Phone plan features are separate entities: My Telstra plan has excellent reception. When the phone in question is an on-call phone, this is not so much handy as vital. My Three plan enables E (on a longish Three plan herself) to call me for free, so long as the calls are less than 10 minutes long. It’s also priced better than a Telstra plan, even with my staff discount.

The question is: how do I keep these things while cutting down to only one handset? As far as I’m aware, nobody makes phones which take multiple sim-cards. I’m not sure if it’s possible to put more thn one plan on a single sim-card, but I’ll bet it would (a) void the warranty and (b) only enable the use of one plan at a time.

Call diversion is not an adequate solution. I say ‘in theory’ above because I’m only carrying one handset right now: my z800i. This yields the worst of both worlds:

  • I pay for all calls, work or otherwise
  • My work contacts are confused, and can see my private number when I call them
  • I only get Three-syle bodgy coverage
  • My phone-books collide

There has to be a better way. If anyone knows of one, or can suggest a guru who might, please tell me!

Overpowering red, Webcomic mayhem, Wastng time online

Ouch! According to Red Energy, I have somehow managed to average a houshold power consumption of roughly one kilowatt for the entire last quarter. This puzzles me somewhat, but only somewhat: I have long suspected that my ancient, Astor clothes drier, which is substantially older than I am, is consuming more than its fair share of“Astor” Drier power. It’s not that we want to burn power, but the clothes line here is one of the features of this venerable and often quaint house that is just plain unusable. We have, and use clothes-horses, but three generous clothes-horses is still nowhere near enough space to dry our weekend washing before the subsequent weekend comes along. Clearly though, I am fooling mysel if I think I can’t afford to buy an alternative.

For those who follow such things (if you don’t, and you don’t have lots of spare time, do not follow these links) Sluggy and Miracle of Science are both being nicely climactic at the moment. Regarding MoS, I think they’re about to end, which is a shame, but they also claim to have a new project in train, so I may yet be appeased. Quick summary: MoS is well-written hard SF from a couple of newcomers with scant personal time. Fabulous ideas.  Sluggy, on the other hand, is Just Silly, and bears no further description, except perhaps to call it ‘vast’… too many years of nifty darn comics. Today’s comic in particular bodes very ill indeed. Only one entity in the Sluggyverse talks like that.

Finally, just another quick plug for the foolishest Online Roleplaying Game ever: Vampires, the Dark Alleyway. It’s an online game that is guaranteed not to tax your PC or your available time. If you click here and enter a name, even if you don’t ever play agin, my pet creature of the night ‘wallace’ gets more tasty blood! Your donations are appreciated. 🙂

Blogging Under the Influence

Aparrently (so my Palm Pilot tells me) I wrote the following on Saturday night. I have only the faintest recollection of doing so. Warning: Absurd drunken pomposity follows…

This may or may not be a good time to attempt a blog post. Especially due to the defecits in technology under which I now labor, I am unable to compellingly demonstrate that as I write this I am utterly inebriated (to the extent of some two or three magnificent dozen standard drinks in the past five hours, and imbibed in excellent company) so I will write anyway and be damned if anyone believes that I did write this while aboard the nightrider bus, at 2am.

This night I have learnt what all the fuss is about Jamaican Rum, I have renewed my deep-seated belief that the trendiest and most visible restaurants are often the worst, and I have regained the confidence I once had that getting sloshed with good friends in the wee-small hours can be a profoundly relaxing and entertaining experience. As the bus I am aboard heels hard a-starboard into blackburn road and I finally begin to fall victim to the sleep regulatory chemicals in my bloodstream, The Scissor Sisters play “don’t feel like dancin'”, and I am somehow profoundly content. I wish young Joshua the best on that fair road down which he has stepped boldly so much further than I.

Good night.

Time and Perception

I have this very abstract idea. The analogy is this:

The Sun does not actually move around me, rise and set. Rather it is the
surface I am standing on which revolves.
Time does not actually pass inexorably from the future into the past.
Rather it is the present where I reside which moves.

If I can leave the surface of the earth, why can I not leave the surface
of the present?

Memory is just imagining with some inference: I can see the vague
impression that the past has left on the present. From that I infer both
the past and the future.

To leave the surface of the earth, I must overcome gravity, a force which
is accepted by my animal mind as absolute, but which is really just an
arbitrary vector of limited power and scope.

What force constrains me to the surface of the present? How do I overcome

To overcome gravity even temporarily and fly is an exhilarating experience
which provides new perspectives and greater freedom (and danger) than is
to be found on the ground. To break completely free of gravity and enter
orbit or even move off into deep space is to enter an utterly unfamiliar
world where much that we take for granted is absent or changed. Even
surviving away from the Earth is a fantastically difficult proposition.

What is it like to overcome the force which holds us in the present? Is it
dangerous? What happens if we become completely detached from the present?
Where could we then go? How limited would the perspectives of those mired
in the present then seem?

There is a lot of thought given and material written on the subject of
life on other worlds; whether it exists, what it could/would be like,
whether we can communicate with it, and why we haven’t met any yet, in a
universe which produced us and our world, why isn’t there anyone else?

What about other ‘presents’? If there is a present ‘plane’ to which we are
stuck, why can’t there be more than one? What might we find on other
presents? Should we expect to have heard from other presents?