Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Inner/outer circumstances and happiness

I just saw a post with great emphasis on the importance of ‘getting wealthy’.

I did not like being poor. I wouldn’t want to be again, for sure.
But the funny thing is: getting rich (or what many would consider rich) did *not* actually make the worry about money or anything else go away. You think it will, but it doesn’t.
And at the same time you have people who have nothing, who are happy and don’t worry.

All your feelings, happiness or fear, all comes from inside you. You can change your outer circumstance from here til doomsday, it doesn’t change anything important. Only your thinking and inner conditions (inner conflicts etc) really influence your life.

To some this may sound hippy-dippy, but it’s a very clear experience, and fits with what countless wise people have said over the ages.

Family and importance

How come everybody, from mafiosos to celebrities, say “there’s nothing more important than family”?

 For one thing, of course there is. If you are successfully working on a cure for cancer, say, is that not more important than whether you show up to your son’s softball game every time?

 T Pratchett said it slightly inelegantly: “Personal is not the same as important.”

 Or, emotional importance is not the same as rational importance.

 For another thing, family ties is the one thing built into us. If those have been superseded, I doubt that somebody saying that family is important will change very much.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Old satirical article

[I just rescued this fun old piece from the Web Archive site. It was indeed written in 1999.]

02 December 1999
by Del Miller and Eolake Stobblehouse
Contributing Columnist and Guest

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This astonishing document fell through a wormhole in space, arced through the space-time continuum and took a hard left turn at a temporal discontinuity. The postmark indicated an origin in the year 2015 and careful study showed it to be the transcript of an interview with Steve Jobs. The unknown interviewer has given us a remarkable glimpse of the future of Apple and a look at things to come. Here is an excerpt:



Interviewer: I just caught the latest HyperQuickTime broadcast of MacWorld Expo. Quite a spectacle. Whose idea was it to rent Hawaii for the keynote?

Jobs: Well, it was either that or Manhattan, and the evacuation was much simpler... How did you like the G10 demo?

Interviewer: Well it was pretty impressive, generating a DNA enhancement right there on stage that cured Malaria was certainly impressive, and having a reluctant Phil Schiller test it in that mosquito chamber was pure brilliance.

Jobs: Yeah, Phil's a real sport, he's always saying that "Apple loves games." I just hope he's back in time for San Francisco.

Interviewer: On a sadder note, we've heard about the fate of the once-great Bill Gates. I know you knew him back when. Have you visited him lately in... in... in the place?"

Jobs: "Yes, poor Bill, he never was the same after his C:-ectomy...it really took it out of him. He never did get the hang of the Graphical User Interface, now he sits and stares at at that same old blue screen, looking for that long, lost command line ....It's sad, really sad. It's a good thing he invested in Apple all those years ago or else the poor guy would be penniless.

Interviewer: So what are Apple's plans for the new Microsoft Division?

Jobs: Well, Microsoft is only a shadow of its former self, of course, but we have great respect for what they used to do, and for the character they have shown through the takeover. In short we don't really know what we'll use them for, but I am sure they'll be good for something.

Interviewer: Was there any bad blood about the move?

Jobs: Maybe a little at first, but they've all settled rather nicely into Bill's old house - although we call it the Macintosh Porting Facility now.

Interviewer: Are you concerned about the United Nation's move to file anti-trust charges against Apple?

Jobs: [Visibly reddens] Absolutely not!

Interviewer: But how can Apple claim it isn't anti-competitive when its almost the only computer company around?

Jobs: What! Anti-competitive!? Why, Apple is behind all the innovation in the computer business--just look at all the pretty colored mice, printers and modems, just look at the transparent power cords. If that isn't innovation I don't know what is! [sulks]

Interviewer: Well sure, but when nearly all the software in the world has to run on a Macintosh, doesn't that eliminate consumer choice?

Jobs: There's lots of choice out there and plenty of opportunity for alternative solutions--take BeOS and Linux for example.

Interviewer: BeOS? Linux? But Gasse and Torvalds are living out of the same cardboard box on the Embarcadero. They sure don't seem to be much of a threat.

Jobs: Hey, they're just keeping their costs down to be even more competitive. I'd just say that they're "Thinking Different."

Interviewer: Speaking of that, what prompted Apple to drop the aging "Think Different" motto and replace it with the new "Apple Everywhere" slogan?

Jobs: Well you know, "Think Different" is the kind of marketing you'd apply to a young struggling company. Now that Apple market has matured we just thought that we needed something a bit more, er uh, mature, yeah that's it, mature.

Interviewer: Some people think that maybe you don't want people thinking different now that Apple owns ninety-five percent of the computer market.

Jobs: Certainly not! We want the whole world to Think Different - and we only have another five percent to go.

Interviewer: I must say, you certainly have a fine tan, you must be getting into the great outdoors more often these days.

Jobs: No, I just forgot the SPF 30 the last time I demoed one of our new G10 processors. The clock rate on those babies puts the RF into the low ultraviolent range, its like computing with a sunlamp.

Interviewer: That doesn't sound so environmentally benign, is that what the crowds in the parking lot are protesting?

Jobs: Oh no, they're all concerned with polycarbonate outgassing and the greenhouse effect. They claim that all the Macs out there might cause global warming.

Interviewer: That sounds serious.

Jobs: Nah, we've just completed a very serious study that shows that as soon as we saturate the market with our planned G11 "El Nino" processor, the cumulative heat output will warm the Humbolt current enough that resulting increased rainfall will cool everything down just fine. Don't worry about a thing. And believe me, a hundred million AirPorts won't melt the icecaps either--that's nothing but idle conjecture.

Interviewer: I see. Well, moving on, what about the rumors of the new MacOS release, code-named "Kubrick?"

Jobs: Damn, it seems that public floggings won't even keep a lid on things around here. Oh well, it was bound to get out anyway. I suppose everyone knows about the "artifact" they found on the moon.

Interviewer: Oh that big, black monolith thingy? What's a monument from an ancient, alien species got to do with Apple?

Jobs: Well it appears that the aliens have been listening in to Earthly broadcasts for a long time and they seem to have developed a bit of an obsession with computer commercials. Seems they thought that Earth was some sort of computer paradise and they spared no pains getting here. When they arrived, though, they were plenty miffed with what they referred to as violations of the Galactic truth-in-advertising laws.

Interviewer: Uh, what exactly were they expecting?

Jobs: As nearly as we can figure out, "Where do you want to go to today" translates as a rather racy proposition and they think that behind some "blue door" it's possible to "fall in love with a computer." I don't know where they came up with all that stuff, but since Apple is practically the only computer company on the planet these days, they sort of expected us to fill a pretty tall order.

Interviewer: So what did you do?

Jobs: Well, portablility seems to be pretty important to any spacegoing species so we gave them a bunch of iBooks and they just loved them; which is the problem.

Interviewer: I don't understand, how could it be a problem that they loved the iBooks.

Jobs: [pause] Ask a blow-up doll.

Interviewer: Sputter.

Jobs: Voids the hell out of the warranty.

Interviewer: So that's what's behind the mysterious "Moon" project, eh? I heard that Jonathan Ive just went on "vacation" there...

Jobs: Johathan who?

Interviewer: Errr.... Your, uh, chief designer?...

Jobs: Oh him. Yes. Well, he seems to get along well with our "customers," mainly because he's so stuck on that tired-old, candy-colored look. We're trying to transition our styling to a new look and we decided that Jonathan could help out the most if he took care of the legacy styling in a more, say, remote location. You know, somewhere a bit more isolated... like the moon.

Interviewer: Aha... OK. Well, looking at the artwork around your office I see a definite "Alien-noir" look--right out of the 1980's. Is that a portent of things to come?

Jobs: Yes, the alien look is going to be the next big thing. The public can only take so much cutesy and we have some *really* nasty designs coming up.

Interviewer: Nasty? What do you mean by "Nasty."

Jobs: [in a whispered voice] Now this is entirely off the record, but did you see that pretty little thingamabob that my aide rushed out with as you came in?

Interviewer: You mean that thing that looked like somebody's spleen?

Jobs: That is the upcoming new Mac, the implantable "iMac GI"

Interviewer: Oooh! Er, "GI"?

Jobs: Yeah, it stands for "gastro-intestinal" You just swallow the little bugger and it swells up like a sea sponge somewhere in the vicinity of your duodenum. It sends the I/O out your bile duct directly into your sacral ganglia and from there to your central nervous system. We call it "Invasive Computing.

Interviewer: [coughing, turning a light Bondi green] I see... wonderful. So, er... does it do mail?

Jobs: [wriggles uncomfortably] Well... yes, of course. We still have some work to do on the interface though. The cable needs a bit of... refinement. And the reset switch needs to be rethought. That paper clip is a tad problematic.

Interviewer: I hope... that that does not have anything to do with the ambulance that pulled away as I arrived?

Jobs: No, that was probably just another case of heartburn we've been having down in the cafeteria. [muttering to himself] Pesky Lithium batteries... So! Are we about finished!?

Interviewer: I guess so... Say, you wouldn't have a mail appliance lying around I can borrow? Mine seems to have gotten a case of "the windows".

Jobs: Here, take this [throws a ballpoint-pen-like device over]. It's the new prototype iBall. Stick it in your ear, and you can surf the web in 3D. Oh, and please report any problems. The alpha version sometimes messes with the brainwaves.


===
This was written in a single chat session between the two authors, and expanded by Del. Based on an idea by Eolake Stobblehouse.


Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Dishonest sales techniques by big companies

Dammit, and I knew it too. I had already ordered the upcoming phone from Apple UK, but it was unclear when it would arrive. (I had not gotten any order confirmation, oddly.)

Then Carphone Warehouse (owned by Currys, owned by Dixons...) sent an email claiming to have it. I got curious, and since I live within spitting distance of a store, I walked in. A very enthusiastic salesman started to convince me that I should buy from them, since Apple would not send it in the near future, but it was Totally Certain that their store would have it on the 17th. He even showed me a document, saying “I’m not even supposed to show you this,” which showed that Apple and all the other stores did not have stock of the phone, but CW did...
So I ordered it. I did not cancel the Apple order though.

And what do you know, today, a couple of days later, I just got a mail from Apple, they have shipped the phone!
I even knew it. That “I’m not even supposed to show you this...” That page he showed me was very strange, in retrospect. For one thing it was oddly clear and graphical for something which only the staff was supposed to read... For another thing, how can one store *know* if Apple or the other stores have stock? For a third, how can they claim “in stock” when they did not have the phone in store?

I know about such fake documents because when I bought new carpet for my flat a dozen years ago, I was with my pal Laurie J. The salesman showed me a document which showed that the price had already gone up, but he would sell it to me for the old price... Afterwards, Laurie told me that he had filmed training videos for such companies, and this was a common sales technique, and the document was not real, and it was certainly not for staff only.

Such things really should be illegal.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Go to space?

I think the problem with space exploration is simply that we are primitive, we only understand things which give us economic benefits within a decade. Going to space is just something we have to do on a longer scale, hundreds of years. Not doing it is equivalent of a tribe staying within a few miles of their village generation after generation. In the long run, they won’t survive and they certainly won’t prosper and be great.

Update:
By the way, I’m reading the “Bobiverse” series by Dennis E. Taylor. It’s excellent hard SF about robotised human minds colonizing other systems. Funny too.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Dear reader

I really appreciate that despite this blog being less active recently, it still has thousands of readers. That’s great. As some know, I’ve had health issues, like a heart attack last year, and I’m not fully recovered yet, but I’ve made progress and I will strive to post more here. Thanks guys.
“I realized that so far most of my movies I’d had a gun in my hand, and I thought ‘what is the value of that really?’.”
 - Clint Eastwood

 (On The Actors’ Studio, about why his movies changed to more peaceful ones.)

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Stewie and the women

I gotta tell this one. One time, I was in the hospital, and next to me was a man, let’s call him Steward, who was eighty years old if he was a day. Stewie had something that women liked, I don’t know what it was, he seemed ordinary to me (if quite pleasant), not tall or anything. But he shaved and washed every day, carefully combed his hair, and I’ve never seen anybody more popular with women. Eighty years old, and he was the only man I’ve ever seen nurses actually flirt with.

Stewie’s family, including his wife, visited him all the time. But he also got another visitor: a woman approaching ‘a certain age’, but still clearly a man’s woman. She was dark and exotic, long black curly hair, sexy and stylish dress... When she came in, she sort of posed by his bed for a minute, not saying anything, just smiling. It was somehow clear those two had a long history.

Now... how to tell this... at one point, during her visit, she got closer to him. She did not even close the curtains around the bed, but she got very close to him and... took him in hand, so to speak. Ahem. It took only a couple of minutes, and Stewie never got loud, but I think he got quite satisfied.
After, she pulled up his covers again, and threw out a paper towel and washed her hands.
Soon after, she left, with a little smile at me.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Net use and mood

Hmmm... I seem to be having some experiences which may be confirming what some studies have hinted at: that too much Net use, perhaps particularly social media, has an unfortunate effect on mood.

I'm pretty sure there is *something* there, the problem is just that logically it does not make sense to me. Just because it's on a screen, why should it be different from letters, or books, or films, or telephone? I would think it's all just different ways of communications, no?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Highly Sensitive Persons

She is quite wise. 
I read the book years ago, and it helped me. 
And already back in the early nineties I was aware that I was a Highly Sensitive Person, though the term had not been invented yet, so I called it hyper-sensitive. 

It's a dog's life, but even a dog can get a nice bone. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Wall, tree, light

Light.
Click for big pic.



Rental time limits are dumb

I've had some considerable success with online content selling, and I think that one really stupid thing the movie owners are doing with online rentals is limiting the time you have to watch the movie to thirty days. I don't see anything they gain from this, but I do see one important thing they lose: it makes the buyer be more reluctant to rent more movies at a time, because of fear of not getting around to them before they expire. 

If instead they would set the limit to five years, or why not just forever, then, like I do with my Kindle book library, I would rent many more movies (especially at a three-dollar price), in the comfortable knowledge that they will sit there waiting for me until the day I have the time to watch them. I have at least a hundred books in my Kindle library I have not read yet, and I would not have bought them if there had been a time limit. 


(I think with digital content the difference between owning and renting is largely academic, there are few books I read more than once. (And by the way, why don't they rent out ebooks, at half the selling price? They'd go like fresh cakes.))

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The iPhone: a saviour, a disaster, or both?


"To those of us who fondly recall a more analog adolescence, this may seem foreign and troubling. The aim of generational study, however, is not to succumb to nostalgia for the way things used to be; it’s to understand how they are now. Some generational changes are positive, some are negative, and many are both. More comfortable in their bedrooms than in a car or at a party, today’s teens are physically safer than teens have ever been. They’re markedly less likely to get into a car accident and, having less of a taste for alcohol than their predecessors, are less susceptible to drinking’s attendant ills.
Psychologically, however, they are more vulnerable than Millennials were: Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones."

Friday, August 11, 2017

Be a gentleman (or a lady)

Can you live with people who speak harshly to you? 

I have virtually never spoken (much less shouted) harshly or angrily to anybody. I consider it uncivilized, uncool, ungentlemanlike, primitive, and counter-productive. 

And I don't tolerate if people do it to me. (That is very rare, fortunately.) Correction: if they change their mind and apologizes, I can forgive them. But I neither will or can live with anybody who treats me like a dog. (Actually even dogs shouldn't be treated like that.) 

===

It's the thing I find very disappointing about a person like the late Steve Jobs (and he was far from unique). He clearly found it to be an acceptable way of dealing with people. I simply don't understand that. How can you be an educated person of sophisticated taste and a high post, and yet regularly treat other people in ways that are on the level of mindless animals, generating fear and intimidated or offended people around you? How can an educated person live with himself not being a gentleman? 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

RIP Bert

R.I.P. Bert
 My friend Bert of Canada is dead, alas. Heart attack. He was 56.

Some of you may remember him from this blog, where he could often give amazing explanations to anything technical. He was a great friend, and a support for me when I was the most sick last year. (And I helped him a couple times.) But he was not well, it got worse, and in his last mail he sounded resigned. And recently I was contacted by his landlord, somebody who had been a help to him in hard times also. I called him today and got confirmation. Bert was one of the most brilliant men I knew, he read everything and remembered it all.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Are pretty women happy

I wonder if pretty women generally consider that it's an advantage in life to be one?

 On the one hand, we poor schmucks that men are, are always falling over our own feet to be nice to them, in the hope of even a nice smile. On the other hand there are issues such as envy, and unwanted attention... (Though it's also said that the prettiest women *don't* get asked out a lot because everybody figures he has no chance.?)

I hope you'll chime in. And don't hesitate to consider yourself a Pretty Woman, a healthy ego is no sin on my page.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Crowdfunding: buyer beware

My opinion on crowdfunding (Kickstarter, Indiegogo): It's better for the makers than for the buyers.

 I've bought like two dozen products by crowdfunding. My results:
 - a couple of products I like (but could have bought later.)
 - A few products which turned out to be no good for me.
 - Several products which I've just never used.
 - many products which took over a year to arrive.
 - A couple of products which did not work.
- And the most expensive product of all of them, a serious investment (a mid-market 3D printer), turned out to be an elaborate hoax, and I lost a hunk of money. (And I was not being stupid, the smartest tech guy I know bought into it too.)

 I guess the point is that the savings is not worth the great risk, usually. If a product turns out to be good, you can get this fact confirmed by reviews after it's on the market, and the price difference usually is not big.

 And by the way, I don't think I've been unusually unlucky. I don't tend to be. For example I've bought *many* things on eBay, and almost never have I felt cheated. Just one real example comes to mind, and Paypal got me my money back pronto, something which does not happen with crowdfunding.

Update:

Anonymous said... I don't think buying and saving money are the objectives of crowdfunding.

Anon, good point. There is often a social aspect of crowdfunding and so on, it's complex. I think crowdfunding basically is a great thing, it has enabled many good things to become real. 

 But there are also tons of projects which are simply commercial products. There's often no particularly socially interesting aspect, it may just be a new drone or whatever. And just like a normal investor needs a reasonable chance that he will get more back than he puts in, a crowdfunder needs a reason to buy now and to take the risk, and usually that reason is "get it cheaper now" or similar.
 And I was aware of that risk, but I had no concept of how real and how high that risk was, and I think many others are in that boat too.

Friday, July 14, 2017

You can buy too cheaply

It is said that you can pay too much even for gold; but you can also pay too little, even for plastic.

 The people I bought my apartment from had clearly bought the very cheapest rods and rings for hanging their curtains. Flimsy crap which was tricky to make slide, and which simple started falling down in recent times. So now we are re-hanging the curtains with new stuff which is much better in every way, slides easily, metal rods, won't fall down.

 Somebody once said something like: "you can always make something a little cheaper and worse. And the person for whom price is all he sees, he is this maker's legal victim." And the thing is, these much better materials weren't even expensive at all. So to save five or ten bucks and then to suffer cheap crap for years on end is just silly.