Sunday, March 30, 2008

New Gadget

As previously stated I recently got my money from Japan. I had previously decided that when this happened I'd shell out and get a digital camera, so yesterday I went to the big electronics store and went looking. After an hour of looking at cameras, I decided upon a Kodak m853. I had narrowed it down between the Kodak or a Nikon that was $100 more expensive. The Kodak can also do some sort of neat panorama effect, but I haven't worked out how to do it properly yet (I get the same building appearing twice in the pictures). The Kodak guy also threw in a bunch of extras, a case, spare battery, a 2 gigabyte memory card, and a tripod (when he said it came with a tripod, I pictured a tiny little thing that would fit on a desk. It's actually a little over a meter tall).

I'm reasonably happy with what I got (although if I'd got anything much better I'd now be thinking about how much it cost. There is no way to win.) and it will be good to not rely on my cell phone as a camera, which was not as good as my Japanese cell phone at taking photos, and had an awkward naming convention that was not easily amenable to automatic renaming. The Kodak's naming convention is 100_xxxx.jpg where xxxx is a four digit number. The only downside is that xxxx appears to be the number of photos ever taken, which will alter the names I use but want affect the general scheme where photos are sorted by date and then by a chronologically increasing number. I wonder if there are any cameras where you can choose the filename convention yourself (are there other people as nit picky about this as I am?)

I am kind of annoyed that the camera does not show up on my computer as a USB storage device. I'm considering getting an SD card reader to compensate for this. I was initially using the special software that came with the camera to transfer the photos, but have since found out that there's a program from apple already on my computer that can do the same thing and also perform follow up tasks (such as run a bash script to rename the pictures) so I'm going to use that from now on I think.

Anyway, that's enough rambling about my new camera. Here's a picture of the new camera.

Edit: After looking at the online manual, I've got the panorama bit working. Here's my room as a panorama.

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Writing time: 36 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: Pleasantville

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Profile Update

I have just updated my profile on the right since I noticed part of it is no longer accurate. Where it once read "regularly shaved" it now reads "irregularly shaved". This is actually a return to the previous version. I changed it to regularly shaved while I was in Japan because while I was working in Japan I would usually shave every day that I worked. Here, I usually only shave once or twice a week. This is mainly because the dress code here is more lax than the dress code in Japan. I wear almost the same clothes as I did in Japan, with the exception that I don't wear a tie here (One day I did wear a tie because they were taking photos for a brochure and I felt like I'd missed wearing it, which is weird because I would usually take it off as soon as I left work in Japan, but that also did change with time). In black trousers and a long sleeve collared shirt, I'm usually the most formally dressed guy. Others range from collared shirts to t-shirts, with the dress code requiring a collar. As in Japan, the women get kind of a free ride, with pretty much anything that looks reasonably respectable passing muster.

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Writing time: 12 minutes
Time since last post: 75 minutes
Current media: Same as last post


A forum I lurk on and occasionally pipe up on recently had a thread of making mock CD covers using the following rules

1) Go to Wikipedia's random article page.1 The first article you get is the name of your band.
2) Go to the Random Quotations page. The last four words of the last quote is the album title.
3) Go to Flickr's Interesting photo page. Third picture, no matter what it is, is your album cover. (I cheated on this one. I used the first one I found on that page with a suitable Creative Commons license)
4) Put it all together.

The picture I put together following these rules is below.

Legal Notes: The original photo was by some guy called fedewild. The original and my picture are under an Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

1) I could type in the address for Wikipedia's random article page from memory. I'm not sure if this is a good thing.

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Writing time: 10 minutes
Time since last post: 3 days
Current media: Battlestar Galactica 1x08 (7 days until season 4, oh yeah)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Oh Glorious Day

From my online banking statement

Oh yeah. It's finally here.

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Writing time: 5 minutes
Time since last post: 10 minutes
Current media: Money by Monty Python

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sick as a dog

Yesterday was not a good day. At around 11am while I was having my shower, my guts clenched up and I started feeling nauseous. This didn't go away but I decided to endure it. I managed to get to work but the classes were killing me. I could barely stand up and walk around, and at times just sitting up was a struggle. After three lessons I surrendered and left work sick (I think this may be the first time I've missed work because I'm sick. The last sick day I recall was during second year at university). I went to a nearby doctor that spoke English and was informed I probably had gastroenteritis. The doctor gave me a prescription for some pills that were given to me in a set of sachets for each dose, which is good because there's six different pills, as well as a needle to help out. I had to get the needle in my but, which was a little embarrassing and a first (why can't all injections go into the arm?). After that I struggled home and lay in bed miserable for the rest of the day. I didn't get much sleep and still felt terrible this morning. However about 24 hours after the sordid affair began, my guts gave a giant heave and I puked up most of the water and ice cream I'd managed to consume in the previous 24 hours, which had a surprising positive effect on how I felt. Today I managed to get through work with nothing much more than a headache, but I wasn't able to finish the burger I got at McDonald's for breakfast/lunch/dinner (it was the first meal of the day but I ate it at around 6pm, and after this I'm going to eat another meal).

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Writing time: 10 minutes
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: None, although the music from my DS is playing in the background.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A New Address

Look up at the URL for this blog. You might notice it's different. For a start, there's no Now it's I've been pondering getting my own domain for a while (back in the day I considered getting, but that never happened) and finally did so. This is mostly because I've been messing around with mysql and php again and wanted to be able to put the stuff I've done online so that people can make what they will of them.

So far there isn't much at the site. There's a web interface to a history database I'm building. The data is currently very incomplete, but I'm working on that. And I may resurrect the forum system I started to build, but that's something I'd do more for the sake of doing than the sake of getting anyone to use it.

Anyway, just remember that there's a new address, but don't worry because the old blogspot one will still work (I may make a move to wordpress eventually mainly because I'd like to get rid of the bar at the top of the blog, but that won't happen for a while. Plus I like blogger).

And if anyone really, really, really wants an email address, I might be able to sort something out (but I might make you jump through some hoops for my own amusement).

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Writing time: 10 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: None

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Freedom of Religion vs Equal Rights

A rather interesting ruling has come out of a federal court in Dallas today. The case was a Southern Baptist seminary vs a former female professor. The seminary had fired (technically not renewing the contract, but that is mostly semantics (how else do you interpret "You're doing a good job, you know what to do and how to do it, but we're not going to keep employing you.")) because she was a woman.

So, an easy open and shut case. Clear discrimination on the basis of gender, scorn and misery heaped upon the seminary and life goes on for all.

Nope. The seminary claimed that its religious beliefs forbid women to teach a man. Their basis for this claim is the First Epistle to Timothy, chapter 2 verse 12 "I permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man." (Heaven help them if Hilary wins the election.) And so, to insure their freedom to practise their religion, they have the right to not employ a woman to teach a man (The article notes that the seminary does employ ten women as teachers (out of 116) but only one teaches theology and she teaches only women's classes).

This the court bought, and decided in favour of the seminary.

This situation is an interesting case. Here we have two groups claiming two different rights and trying to decide which takes precedence. On the one hand, we have the woman, clearly discriminated against because of her gender, wanting to be treated fairly on her merits as a teacher, without consideration of her gender. On the other side is a religious group whose beliefs require that men and women are not treated equally, and that to deny them their ability to treat men and women differently is to deny them their right to profess their faith.

This is a tricky one. Actually, no it isn't. Using religion to justify sexist actions doesn't stop it being sexist any more than using religion to justify racist actions makes that any less racist. The quote from Timothy is 2000 years old and from a society very different to the one we live in now. To use the bible literally as a set of rules for modern life is ridiculous. We don't stone people for adultery, and we criticise those who do (I'm looking at you, Iran). We've decided that that part of the bible doesn't work for us any more. And I have to say, neither does the quote from Timothy. It doesn't fit the modern world, so it's going to have to go. To put it bluntly, we're better than that now.

And what if I were to say my religious beliefs required I receive a 10% pay rise each year. No employer would accept that, and would not be liable for infringing my rights to religion.

Now that I've decided that the seminary is indeed in the wrong (my initial reaction was the same, but I wanted to work out why exactly. I'm embarrassed to say that the simple argument I give took me a while to realise.), just like a court should do we need to work out how to resolve the situation. There should definitely be some financial compensation. They should continue to pay her salary until she finds a new job (backdated to when they actually fired her, and only up to say three years), plus some extra as a lump sum (a few years pay at most. I'm not proposing a massive punitive sum, just enough to fix the mess they made). They should also be made to publicise what they did. I'm thinking a full page spread in several major news papers, plus any internal or student news publications. Such public notices should be prominently displayed and should stick to the facts, without trying to weasel out of the blame.

Case adjourned.

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Writing time: 43 minutes
Time since last post: 12 hours
Current media: None

This is why we have a space program

The International Space Station was intended as a giant laboratory in space, and despite numerous delays and screw-ups in getting it up there, it is producing interesting and important scientific research. I'd like to highlight one of the most recent discoveries to come down to Earth from the ISS.

Boomerangs work in zero G. When thrown inside the ISS, the boomerang flew the same way it does on Earth.

This is cool. For a start, I didn't think the ISS was big enough to get a decent throw of a boomerang without hitting the walls. I'd like to see this research extended to see how boomerangs fly in zero g without an atmosphere. I think it would be different, but I'm not sure how much of the motion is purely from the rotational motion, and how much is the interaction between the rotational motion and an atmosphere.

There should be more of this sort of stuff going on up in space.

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Writing time: 17 minutes
Time since last post: half an hour or so
Current media: jPod

A Fun(damentalist) Read

I had this site pointed out to me today. Fundies Say The Darndest Things. It's a collection of quotes from Christian fundamentalists presented in a format. To whet your appetite I'll quote one of the quotes that created the most violent reaction.

One of the most basic laws in the universe is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This states that as time goes by, entropy in an environment will increase. Evolution argues differently against a law that is accepted EVERYWHERE BY EVERYONE. Evolution says that we started out simple, and over time became more complex. That just isn't possible: UNLESS there is a giant outside source of energy supplying the Earth with huge amounts of energy. If there were such a source, scientists would certainly know about it.

To which I want to say: It's the fucking Sun you retard. What do you think that giant ball of light up in the sky is doing?

So if you like to laugh and be outraged, check it out

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Writing time: 11 minutes
Time since last post: 23 hours
Current media: The Daily Show

Friday, March 21, 2008

Those Wacky Jews

To round out my trifecta of crazy adherents of Abrahamic religions I now present "Those Wacky Jews". A high ranking Rabbi has come out and said that Jewish law forbids employing or renting homes to Arabs (I'm not sure if this is meant to be Arabs or Muslims. The article say Arabs but I wonder what would happen in the case of an Arabic Jew.).

This sort of thing does not help Israel. It's bound to piss off all the Arab countries that surround Israel, and they're already angry as it is. It's going to incite more hatred among the Israelis who follow this wack-job, and make life harder for those trying to sort out some sort of peace deal.

This isn't the first time this Rabbi has spouted dangerous nonsense. He supported calls from some of his fellow rabbis back in 2005 for soldiers to ignore orders to withdraw from the Gaza strip. Inciting mutiny in the armed forces is bad. Inciting mutiny to keep the fighting going is very bad.

He has also said that Jewish law requires the shooting of civilians in areas from which attacks on Israel come from. This is not just bad or stupid, it is suicidal. The only way forward for Israel is to claim the moral high ground. That means they should be generous and conciliatory at the negotiation, ruthless on defense, but under no circumstances should they ever engage someone who is not immediately engaged in hostilities against them. They should under no circumstances attack civilians. In fact, no one in any military should attack civilians.

Just like the christians need to tell people like those at Jesus Camp and muslims need to tell Al Qaeda to "shut the fuck up and stop ruining things for the rest of us" the jews need to shut this guy up. He's just making things worse for everyone.

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Writing time: 17 minutes
Time since last post: 14 hours
Current media: None

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Improving the odds

According to two recent news stories, if you want to get lucky, your best chances would be to find a depressed woman from New Zealand.

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Writing time: 3 minutes
Time since last post: about 10 hours
Current media: None

Those Wacky Muslims

So, after The Satanic Verses, the Danish Muhammad,PBUH1, cartoons2, and others I can't quite recall at this moment, you might be wondering what will be next to rile up those who follow follow the prophet Muhammad, PBUH3.


Some smart person decided it might be a good idea to make a shoe with the word "Allah" written on the bottom. Perhaps he was trying to make a holy shoe. And much like it's illegal to step on Thai money because it has a picture of the king upon it, it is not done to walk upon the name of God. Well, it's not really the name of God, it's just the word "the god". It's not his actual name. I mean if it had Zeus written on it, then it's the name of a god, but just writing "the god" doesn't seem that specific.

Anyway, the authorities in the UAE didn't wast any time. The shoes have been destroyed, the shoe seller fined, and made to promise not to "display products that hurt the sentiments of Muslims".

This is one4 of the rather frustrating aspects of Muslims as a group.5 They are extraordinarily thin-skinned. Take the Danish cartoons. There have been many worse cartoons involving Jesus. I can't find any off the top of my head, but I'm sure they're out there.6 The worst a christian group might do is picket the paper or put out a press release or two. The don't burn flags of the country the paper is in, attack embassies, people from completely different countries and generally carry on like a mob.

And the whole Salman Rushdie thing. He wrote a book that's kind of based on the life of Muhammed, PBUH7, and he got threatened with death from the outraged Muslims. Compare this to the reaction to The Da Vinci Code, which while not featuring Jesus himself, is based on a rather novel interpretation of the Jesus story.

My advice to Muslims is don't take things so seriously. Take a chill pill, relax, and don't let things get to them so much.

1 Peanut Butter Underneath Helicopters
2 I now present my smiley art picture of Muhammed smiling :-)
3 Pretty Butterflies Unite Homewreckers
4 There are a number of them.
5 Like most groups, any individual I've met is nice and rational and easy to get along with, but as a group they do the most ridiculous things.
6 Please let me know where they are. I want to see them and laugh.
7 Please Buy Unferth Hay

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Writing time: 35 minutes
Time since last post: 56 minutes
Current media: Jpod

Those Wacky Christians

As has recently been brought to my attention, it seems that Easter is this weekend.1 And hot off the presses is a safety note from Phillipine health officials. Apparently, if you plan to take part in the ritual re-enaction of the crucifixion then you should get a tetanus shot beforehand and sterilise the nails.

Well, of course you should. Because after hours of pain and agony hanging from some pieces of wood which you are attached to by nails, tetanus is a little too much too bear. What next, a clean spear?

And for those who are only into a little flagellation instead of the full crucifixion, then make sure your whip is clean. You don't want to get an infection.

I am also amazed that people are actually willing to do this. The only way I'd end up attached to a cross with nails through my hands and feet is if a rather large unhappy mob put me there.2 You'd have to be a serious nut job to consider doing this. Surely if Jesus3 were to look down at these people preparing for this he'd say to them "Look, you really don't want to do that. It's not good for you. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about."

Can any one give me an example of an atheist doing this sort of messed up shit. I'm willing to accept as a counter that sometimes atheists kill other people, but I don't know of any atheists willingly torturing themselves in such a way.4

1 Assuming, of course, that you follow the western tradition. Orthodox Christians have to wait another month.
2 Please don't take this as an invitation to do this.
3 Hypothetically speaking of course.
4 We usually make our self-inflicted torture mental5
5 sed s/We/I/ 4 > sed s/our/my/ > 46
6 I think this footnote is superfluous and the footnote it is a footnote to is intentionally obtuse and the footnote that the footnote this is a footnote to is a footnote to is really just an excuse to get in some emotional wallowing into an otherwise easy anti-religious tract and it was also a footnote to the main text so I can do no more convoluted footnote to footnote type phrases7 that may or may not be difficult to parse.
7 Or can I?8
8 I won't since this is now getting old and the footnotes are approaching the size of the main text.

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Writing time: 27 minutes (damn footnotes)
Time since last post: 5 days
Current media: None

Saturday, March 15, 2008

An Interesting Read

Via slashdot I came across an economics paper entitled The Theory of Interstellar Trade. It's nothing too complicated, just a look at a few factors affecting interstellar trade between two planets. I wish to point it out mainly for the fact that the guy who wrote knows more than just economics. His choice of Trantor as the Earth's notional trading partner speaks for his sci-fi cred. And his diagram of a rotation about an imaginary axis is quite novel (you'll have to see for yourself).

I highly recommend it.

Edit: It has been pointed out that the link provided no longer works. To facilitate the dissemination of this fine work, I have taken the liberty of creating an alternate source. The link has been updated.

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Writing time: 17 minuts
Time since last post: 6 days
Current media: Star Trek Voyager season 2

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The "Idea of EsonLinji"

I have an idea in my head. It is an idea of who I am. It is an idea built up during my youth and it probably crystalised somewhere around the end of high school and the start of university.

More and more though I think that the "Idea of EsonLinji" is both limited and incorrect. The "Idea of EsonLinji" is an individual who has a very limited range of social activities, mainly things stereotypically nerdish. An individual whose sole interest was his work, almost to the point of obsession. An individual who would not stop to smell the roses. An individual who had absolutely no interest in romance. An individual who barely lives.

The "Idea of EsonLinji" is also not who I am. The "Idea of EsonLinji" does not care about the clothes he wears. I do take some care with what I wear. I want to be more sociable. I occasionally stop and smell the roses. Work is not the be all end all of life, it is a means to enable me to do the other things in life I want to do. Romance, while I'm somewhat behind what might be considered a normal rate of progress, is something that is slowly becoming part of my life.

So the "Idea of EsonLinji" is a bad idea and an incorrect idea. And yet it continues to stick around in my mind. It is a big part of who I think I am. When put into a new situation, the first reactions that come into my mind are usually those of the "Idea of EsonLinji". One of the things that sometimes stops me from trying new things is that I think "I don't do that sort of thing". And it's usually the "Idea of EsonLinji" who says that. Most of the time when I try something new I have fun. But I still have this voice that holds me back.

So what I need to do is to update this "Idea of EsonLinji". But this seems to be a difficult thing to do. I can't just download a patch for my brain like I can for a computer. Rebooting people doesn't work.

I am however reluctant to change the "Idea of EsonLinji". When I think about who I am I think of the "Idea of EsonLinji". While limited and incorrect, it is a big part of how I see myself, and from there, the world. I feel like if I change the "Idea of EsonLinji" I'll lose who I am. I'm afraid I'll change into something I don't want to be. I want to make sure that any change is an incremental point release, not a whole new version. I want EsonLinji 1.1, not EsonLinji 2.0.

Another reason I am reluctant to change is that over time I have convinced myself that I don't really want those things I don't have. That social butterflies are just people who are vain and shallow. That people who go out drinking every night are idiots. That people who watch reality TV are uncultured barbarians. That people who have a strong belief or passion in anything are misguided or delusional. That romance was a perilous minefield in which the dangers and costs far outweighed the potential gains.

I know that these are over exaggerated generalizations. But these are part of the "Idea of EsonLinji"'s "Idea of the world". But now I'm in the awkward mental position of looking down on these things and wanting some of these things at the same time. I'd like to have a passion in life, something that made me want to get out of bed in the morning other than that I've been lying in bed for longer than any sensible person should. The fairer sex really do have a lot going for them. Drinking with friends cane be fun (but there are still some idiots who drink, but they tend to also be idiots when they don't drink). Reality TV is still the realm of the uncultured swine though.

Trying to incorporate these things is a challenge. I can see the need to incorporate some of these things into my self. But I am resistant to the idea of doing so. Indeed, I put roadblocks in the way of making progress in the matter. Man is perhaps the only creature that can sabotage it's own efforts.

So that is the problem. The solution is yet to come.

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Writing time: A few hours. It was originally written in "the deeply unfortunate doings of an ill-fated life"
Time since last post: 5 days
Current media: Stephen Fry's Podgrams

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Once again, I despair for humanity

When I saw a headline reading "Uncle Beheads Toddler in Supermarket" my mind conjured ideas of horrendous accidents involving shopping trolleys or checkout conveyor belts. And so it was with a sense of morbid curiosity that I clicked and read on.

I was somewhat shocked by what I read. This was no accident. No, the uncle picked up a knife and cut off the boy's head in front of his mother because he was having a fight with her and her husband.

This guy is scum. I mean really, if you're having a fight with someone, you don't bring others into it. You settle things civilly. You don't hurt someone else. You don't hurt the bloody person you're fighting with. You don't bloody well cut off their kid's head in front of them out of spite.

Jesus Christ, mother of god.

Naturally, since this reprehensible act was performed in a public space, police were rapidly notified and the man has been arrested. And there is a sense of poetic justice when I note that the penalty for murder in his country is death by beheading.

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Writing time: 13 minutes
Time since last post: 3 days
Current media: Season one of Star Trek Voyager