Television makes you Paranoid

This is a rough-and-ready theory, so I’m going to express it as a series of points a-la “axioms X, Y and Z, therefore deduction Q”.

  • TV conditions us to expect certain things from the world, even if unconsciously.
  • A viable definition of paranoia might be ‘the recurring and unfounded expectation that dramatic things are happening or just about to happen’.
  • Another definition might be ‘the mistaken correlation that normal or commonplace causes will reliably lead to dramatic effects’.
  • On TV, in order to retain viewer interest, dramatic things happen all the time, even when the portrayed causal events are quite normal or commonplace.

Therefore: prolonged exposure to almost any television content predisposes us to expect dramatic things, or to mistakenly predict dramatic consequences when innocuous things happen. In short, exposure to TV induces paranoia.

A couple of things occur to me that don’t fit so cleanly into the argument, but which support it:

  • World Trade Centre Towers, NYC, 11/09/01Even TV news is a concentration of the dramatic. The word ‘newsworthy’ essentially means unusual or dramatic. Inductive reasoning based on the news will lead one to expect warfare, violence, and general mayhem all the time.
  • Good dramatic fiction of any kind, inclusive of TV drama, will typically try to obtain suspension of disbelief and try to make the viewer identify with some character or group. Both of these things focus on the intent of reducing the viewer’s ability to discriminate between fiction and reality. The less clearly a viewer distinguishes fiction from reality, the more potential there is for the fiction to influence the viewer’s expectations about reality.

If all this seems obvious to you, I’m sorry for wasting your time. It stuck me as a point that needed making, with serious, subtle, nasty ramifications all over the place.


It is quite possible that I jinxed myself with that last post.

“Dress for the slide, not for the ride” – The common motorcyclist’s exhortation is all about not dressing in thongs, shorts and a helmet, because you need to have some intact skin somewhere to take from in order to do skin-grafting.

So, I foolishly took the bike out to go meet friends at the Eureka Tower Skydeck on a day when I knew rain was possible, even likely, and took it to the city, where I has said I would not go, at night.

It should not have come as such a surprise then, to find myself parted from my bike and sliding down the very wet Princes Highway at some 40kph.

Still, I was very very lucky. The sum-total of my injuries are two bruised knees, a kevlar-graze and some stiffness, because my safety gear all worked (my helmet worked in an honorary capacity only, having not contacted anything but my head): My draggin jeans now have a tiny hole in the denim, and my house-keys managed to cut their way out of my jacket pocket. The bike needs a new brake lever, and several of the pre-existing surface damages are a little deeper or a little fresher. That, after all, is why one buys a beat-up old bomb as one’s first bike.

My chief luck, though, was in that I did not actually hit anything but the road. I’m gratified to find that my reactions, while not quick enough to retain control of the bike, were prompt and to the point:

  1. Get up.
  2. Get to a white line.
  3. Check for oncoming traffic.
  4. Locate the bike.
  5. Get myself and the bike off the road, safely.

The really surprising part, in hindsight, is that I had no difficulty lifting the bike or hauling it off the road, a feat of which I would normally be completely incapable.

Still, I don’t think I’ll be riding anywhere for a little while. 🙁 …and I may just try to never ride in the wet ever again: two wheels is little enough traction on a dry road, and helmet visors don’t come with wipers.

Update: I have gotten back on the bike, and it’s ok. I’m a little wiser and a lot more careful, and I have developed a more appropriate respect for the hazards presented to motorcyclists by wet roads. This post is not a plea for help. I’m fine, thanks.

Enjoying wheel depletion

HJC-CL14For a while there I was having real problems with getting on the bike and really going anywhere. With the recent purchase of some Draggin Jeans, however, I completed my set of minimum protective gear:

  • Helmet (Research suggests that the cheaper polycarbonate helmets are actually safer than the expensive ones)
  • Gloves (Courtesy of E, I have a loan of some light, breathable motorcross gloves and some heaver leather winter-weight ones)
  • Boots (It seemed important to me to get ankle-armor and something sturdy to meet the gear-shift with)
  • Jacket (Again a loan from E: a completely magnificent lime-green leather jacket with all the trimmings)
  • Pants (The aforementioned Draggin Jeans)

This removed my last excuse for not really riding anywhere, so I caught up with brother Heffa and got out there the Sunday before last. Since then I’ve done four decent-sized rides, and have to say: I’m enjoying the hell out of it.

The thing that was keeping me off the road was essentially fear: I’ve read a lot about riding safety, crash statistics and injuries, and was still finding the complexity of the bike a bit overwhelming. What I needed was to just get out there and do it a bit.

After a few initial rides, it is suddenly much clearer to me what all the fear is about: Most people who try to do this are doing it as their first exposure to driving on the road!!! That’s frankly insane. The skills needed to ride a motorbike are moderately demanding; it leaves less margin for error than a car and requires much more constant attention, discipline, etc. Trying to acquire those skills while also coming to terms with basic driving strategy strikes me as a fairly reliable formula for suicide.

…not that there’s an easy way to prevent that: Suppose you’re sixteen and just a born bike-nut. You probably wouldn’t take kindly to the idea that at eighteen, you’ll have to buy a vastly expensive thing called a car and drive it around  for a year or six before you’re even allowed to attempt to ride the cheap, economical vehicle you’re doing all this for in the first place. Draggin JeansThe very likely scenario is that you’ll do the minimum driving necessary to get your license and then avoid cars until you can get your bike; nothing is gained but a lot of frustration and wasted time.

Still, I don’t envy that hypothetical you, nor would I put high odds on your survival. I’m very glad I did it the long way round myself.

Under New Management

Man·age·ment, -noun:

A terribly disfiguring and potentially terminal disease of the brain. Management causes an almost total cessation of actual work through advanced procedural confusion.

The afflicted individual may initially become more productive than usual, but as the incubation period (or “promotion”) reaches its completion, most activity normally understood to constitute ‘useful work’ ceases, replaced by politicking, CRM (Compulsive, Repetitive Meeting) syndrome and distended lunching.

In cases of chronic (also referred to as “Senior” or “Upper”) Management, almost all normal forms of communication can be inhibited, leading to the individual being completely isolated from reality. Under no circumstances should the therapist attempt to make communication with the sufferer of Upper Management, as this can lead to agitation and random, violent activity. Just accept that they are unreachable, and try to avoid any unnecessary exposure to their attempts to communicate with you, typically in the form of ‘Powerpoint’ diagrams.


Although it has been suggested that some Management cases make compelling arguments in favour of voluntary euthanasia, there do exists viable treatments which can lead to a total recovery in some cases.

Short-term stabilization can typically be achieved through a Retrenchment or Redundancy, often administered as part of a broader course of Restructuring.

This is never sufficient in itself, almost always being followed by a relapse, typically to a more Senior form of the disease than before.

Suitable follow-up treatment can include a long course of parenthood, or exposure to a high-energy source of specialist technical jobs. In time, the patient may even be able to tolerate controlled doses of reality check.

In the long term, especially where the chance of relapse seems high, a methodone-like substitution program known as ‘team leadership‘ may prove effective.

Of course, if the patient is exceptionally senior and/or proves resistant to all of the above, in the end the only suitable treatment can be retirement.

…this random outburst brought to you by too much caffiene, the ‘italic’ button in the WordPress editor and a severe but non-lethal dose of Powerpoint.

Update: Note, this should not be taken as a reflection of my actual opinion of managers in general. Without adequate management, very few jobs are even remotely tenable.

A spot of idle futurism

There’s a lot of speculation on the net, all the time these days, about the Next Big Gadget. People seem to be constantly photoshopping up new fake images of the next model of iPod as they want everyone else to believe it will look.

I am not immune to this: I still occasionally sit down and try to work up a plausible design for an unobtrusive, powerful, useable wearable computer. I also ponder the profusion of technologies like the iPhone’s screen or the latest stab at stylus-based input, and think to myself: what is the ideal handheld interface, anyway?

Today though, a news article about a display that functions as an image sensor, courtesy of Slashdot, has collided with something I remember reading a long time ago, about flat, lensless 3D image-capture devices, and a real, marketed 3D display technology I’ve seen more recently.

The collision of ideas is obvious if you think about it:

  • A possible future iPhone, courtesy of the gimp, CC, and flickrThe camera on your camera phone mostly captures images for transmission and/or electronic display, even if you don’t have a videophone.
  • Transmission of images is helped by good compression. One such method of transmission (presently infeasible) would be to break a real-world image down into a 3D mesh or similar abstract vector-based model. If I understand the ScienceDaily article aright, this is precisely the kind of data that your lensless camera gives you first! Making that into a 2D image would take work, but why bother if your display is 3D anyway?
  • A common way to look at those images, especially on a videophone, is on the screen of the same, or another such phone.

The potential phone-of-the-future that this presents is really obvious: It looks just like an iPhone; a flat little tablet with a screen covering its entire surface, except that there’s no little port for a camera on this one, the screen is the camera. So long as phones continue to be used as cameras as well, there will probably be a screen/camera on both sides of your future-phone. If you like, the screen on the back can display a precise 3D rendition of your head when you hold it up to your ear, so that it looks transparent. In fact, why not do that all the time, so that the phone always looks transparent? Take that Aqua! To take a photo you just hold up your empty phone-frame, and press the button on the side…

And that’s just a nifty side-effect. The main reason for doing this would be the 3D video-phone functionality! Not to mention crazy little tricks like each surface being an image scanner. You want to show someone an article you’re reading, or save it for later? You don’t need to line up a photo of it and hope your camera resolution doesn’t give you blurry text, you just slide the phone over the page. Either way up, it doesn’t matter.

This is, of course, wild speculation, as these things always are. I can think of half a dozen reasons why this might not work as suggested just off the top of my head.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t buy one if someone were to build it. 🙂