Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"Bless you"

You know, like when someone sneezes and you say "Bless you" as a virtually automatic response, because your mom drilled into you when you were knee-high to a grasshopper that that was the correct thing to say.

It's something that's bothered me of late.

I've always taken it to be short for "God bless you". Since I've recently taken to a more naturalistic and secular world-view that excludes the existence of a personal god, continuing to say that to people has seemed hypocritical. Why would I wish upon anyone the blessings of a creature I don't believe to exist?

I've considered alternatives. The Americans use the German "gezundheit"... an alternative that was also suggested by the Brights website. But after trying it a few times it didn't sit right. Perhaps the extra syllable made it seem cumbersome. Plus, the fact that it came from the Brights made it feel uncomfortable, since I can't seem to get past the perception of arrogance they engender.

I even tried the Klingon "DapIv" (be healthy), but for some reason I just couldn't get into the knee-jerk reflex of saying that instead of "Bless you".

But then it dawned on me... perhaps it doesn't have to be short for "God bless you" at all. Indeed, a quick glance at confirmed that it can be used "To confer well-being or prosperity". No imaginary sky-buddies need be invoked at all!

Perfect! Crisis averted. Once again I can, in good conscience, continue to wish people well when they sneeze.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


I don't understand some humans.

With the advent of increasingly complex mobile devices finding their way into the pockets of average plebs, one would tend to think that this would be indicative of an encouraging trend: a trend of consciousness-raising, in which people in general are starting to embrace new forms of communication and novel ways of reaching out to one another across the formerly gaping chasm of the digital divide.

But that doesn't seem to be the case. Watching no more than a few minutes of prime-time TV (something I try to avoid) it appears that everyone in the world is using these devices for one thing: paying through the nose to download ridiculously idiotic video clips and annoying jingles.

I don't know why I'm suprised. I've met humans before.

Yet another reminder that our species is doomed. But then I'm fairly certain that when the end comes, most of them will be too preoccupied with the new Justin Timberlake polyphonic ringtone to notice.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Scientists Are Not Created Equal

Scientists Are Not Created Equal

This is one argument that sometimes trips me up: "But Dr So-and-so, a noted scientist says..."

My usual response is that either the person I'm arguing with is lying, or that the person who claims to be a scientist is lying about being one.

I tend to give special dispensation to people who really are scientists, and I often forget that scientists are just as prone to crazy or stupid as anyone else.

Take a read (or a listen)... this guy articulates that very well.

Goddam global warming

I don’t care whose fault it is, I just need someone to do something about it!

February is usually rain month on the highveld. We’re supposed to be dealing flood damage. But instead we’re in the middle of a fracking heat-wave!

Give me torrential downpours any day. I’d rather have to drive carefully because of reduced visibility than have to stress that my car’s engine will seize from being unable to vent its heat.

I can’t sleep, so I can’t concentrate, so I get behind on my work, so I stress, so I can’t sleep… and so it goes.

When are we going to get to the nuclear winter part of this whole “climate change” thing? Come on!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Chicken Little

Asteroid threat demands response, experts warn - space - 17 February 2007 - New Scientist Space

Man, we rock so hard it scares me. I love the way he puts it: "We can't prevent a hurricane, but we can prevent an asteroid impact by slightly reshaping the solar system to ensure the survival of life on Earth."

I didn't know we could do that! Did you? Sweet.

Mankind is the MAN!

An army of robot ninjas?

With a view to the fact that we’ll be moving into our own home soon, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about home maintenance and stuff.

Since Hide and I both have pretty hectic jobs and relatively long working days, it’s pretty difficult for us to perform home maintenance tasks and still retain some semblance of sanity.

One option is that we can hire people to perform basic, time-consuming functions so as to minimise our workload: a maid to clean the house and do the ironing, a gardener to mow the lawn and weed the garden.

This option is somewhat problematic. From a security point of view, it’s unwise to allow strangers access to your property. Although I’m sure there are many trustworthy service providers around, it’s virtually impossible to know which are the good ones. And even the good ones are sometimes prone to temptation when required to work in the homes of people who make a lot more money than they do.

It’s also problematic for the dogs. Our dogs don’t get along well with strangers, which is usually a good thing. However when we have to provide access for a stranger, we have to manage the dogs accordingly which will require limiting their movements. That’s undesirable both for the mental health of the dogs, and the reduced security of confining them to the back yard.

The third problem is competence, or the lack thereof. We currently have a domestic who comes in once a week and does a really dodgy job: she routinely ruins our clothes by ironing them incorrectly and she spends the rest of her time moving things around so as to give the illusion that she cleaned them. We also have a garden service employed by our landlord: they only operate within working hours, which means one of us has to stay at home late in the morning to manage the dogs while they mow our lawn; and even then they seldom arrive.

So, what’s option 2?

One word: Robots.

That’s right, we’re in the 21st century. Why the hell can’t we use robots to perform our chores? The answer is we can!

The most obvious robot to use is the washing machine. No surprises there, it’s probably the most pervasive robot in the world. We already have two of them!

Next is the dishwasher. It’s been around for some time, and reduces the amount of time spent washing dishes substantially. You can buy a nice one these days for under R4 000.00.

Next on the list is the dryer. The tumble dryer is a pretty good one. If used correctly it can eliminate a large portion of the ironing that needs to happen. The down-side is that manual intervention is required at just the right moment so as to derive maximum benefit from it. If left to its own devices you end up having to iron all the stuff anyway. A possible alternative is the “Dribuddi”. Although I have yet to investigate it fully, it seems to have the same benefits of a tumble dryer, but without the need for human supervision.

What about cleaning the house itself? The iRobot Roomba, that’s what. A robot vacuum cleaner can be activated and left alone. It will navigate itself around your house without damaging any furniture and will politely inform you when it needs to be recharged. R 4 000.00 is a good price for an expensive vacuum cleaner... and one that pushes itself, it's a steal.

Okay, and the garden? The Robomow! A robot lawnmower in a variety of models. The top of the line can be configured to mow your lawn according to a predetermined schedule. Just lay down the border wire once, and activate the Robomow. It’ll mow your lawn while you’re at work and recharge itself when it’s done. You come home to a lawn mowed better than any push-mower. And there’s no need to dispose of the cuttings either: the Robomow automatically mulches and redistributes the cuttings as fertiliser for the grass. At R18 000.00, the big fella is not cheap… but can you really put a price on not having to mow the lawn yourself?

Okay, so there are still a few chores outstanding: weeding, tough-garment ironing, dusting and picking up the dogshit… but with all the rest of it out of the way there’s time for all that and some R&R between 3 and 4 in the morning! Science guys: I’m counting in you to hook us up with robots for the rest of that stuff too!

Monday, February 12, 2007 · Hosted by SPEAKEASY.NET

Haha... going through webcomic archives is cool. And to think, when this one came out I probably wouldn't have got the joke. Man I used to be stupid!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Wired 14.06: The Rise of Crowdsourcing

Wired 14.06: The Rise of Crowdsourcing

This is an idea I've been turning over in the back of my mind for a few weeks now. I firmly believe that this will become a viable career alternative for an increasingly large number of people.

In my mind I had a different name for it: "Google Work". I pictured myself ten years from now getting up in the morning, sitting down in front of the PC and asking myself "What do I want to do today?". Just think of something that you're interested in doing, run a search and find someone who would like to pay you to do it.

In order to work, it must be feasible to do enough pieces of work each month to replace a full-time salary. If that was the case, it could be a major boost to both individuals who don't like the idea of a "nine-to-five" and corporations who don't see the benefit in hiring a full-time employee or an expensive consultancy to cover one-off or infrequent tasks.

I'll be watching this closely.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Anti-atheist sentiment

I don't consider myself an Atheist. Not far from it, but far enough to be unwilling to self-apply that label.

But when I read about crap like this going on, I feel like I should start calling myself an Atheist anyway, just for the sake of solidarity.

Goddam theists.

That's news to me

I've recently started listening to Podcasts. Since I don't have a decent MP3 player yet, I've got a system of downloading the podcasts at work, then writing them to CD so I can listen to them on my car stereo.

It's a pretty good system, and it works so well that I'm able to enjoy most of my daily commuting without being subjected to the mind-numbing prattle that is South African radio.

The down-side of this is that I no longer catch the news anymore. Although the radio news is poor to say the least, they do sometimes cover the salient issues that have everyone talking.

In order to mitigate this gap in my information stream, I used Google Reader to subscribe to a Google News feed that delivers headlines from the major local news websites. A good idea, right?
The problem is that local news websites are apparently crap. They seem to completely miss the big stories.

The closest I get to the real news is reading about the opinions of arbitrary politicians and celebrities, sometimes days after the fact, while the actual event is mentioned only in passing!

If anyone knows a good website I can subscribe to that actually reports the NEWS please give me a heads-up.

Much appreciated.