Folk Legends of the World, Untie!

Current Music: NASA -- Mars Scientific Laboratory landing

I'm currently bingeing on The Smiths because wildilocks. On Saturday I made a somewhat off-colour quip to the effect that Morrissey seemed to have been calling for a gay uprising in "Shirtlifters of the World Unite". Then, in the spirit of wasting several hours in pursuit of trivia, I plunged my head into the primordial internet abyss, the Googleungagap, and sure enough, despite the songwriter having said in interviews the year it was released that he was contrasting society's view of shoplifters and nuclear weapon-makers and that "shoplifting" referred to the re-use of cultural wealth, the internet has convinced itself that the song really is pro-gay, anti-Tory agitprop.

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Everting the Interwebs

Current Music: Headless Chickens -- Juice

As I tweeted excitedly a couple of weeks ago, Augmented Reality is about to make a big splash on our handheld devices. The confluence of video camera, gps and compass in the latest iPhone has made it the platform of the moment, with applications like acrossair—which displays information about New York subway travel—and the less geographically self-limiting (albeit unfortunately named) TwitARound—which displays nearby twitter users and their latest tweets in the virtual field of vision—attracting attention. This isn't mainstream yet, but it's a compelling indication of what's to come.

Holding a phone to one's face is going to become a common exercise, it seems. I can imagine something less bulky like a lanyard or a rectangular monocle (circular, once round LEDs are readily available; tethered or wireless) becoming a popular alternative. Some kind of screen-only video thingie which could be cabled up to a handheld would make a great prototype. Alternatively, anyone know how hard it would be to hack a second LCD screen—with, say, a 1.5m cable—onto a 3GS? :)

451 Error: Unresolved Physical Storage Requirement

Current Music: Snow Patrol -- Chasing Cars

A recent article on TechCrunch suggested to me that the ability to create a personalised library on Google Books might just allow the burden of a physical library to be lifted at last. And how much better that the library would be fully searchable?

Sadly, the product doesn't quite live up to the promise: books I've searched for aren't there; few books other than some ancient public domain material include an electronic, readable copy (fewer still with no pages missing in "preview mode"); when search works at all—I've searched "my library" in vain for phrases in my print copies—the search result text (ie. the context) is very terse, or even absent; and where this text is missing, the page numbers provided are just as likely to be from a different edition of the book. (To really rub it in, different editions of the same book have different levels of "previewable" material available.) So, not a lot of paradigm shifting there, yet.

Monkey Riding?

Current Music: Freur -- Doot Doot (12" Mix)

OK, so the mind is what the brain does. But how meaningful is it to describe what the mind does in neurological or biochemical terms? Isn't the process by which a thing works in a different domain to the thing itself?

The brain is a physical thing, an evolved bio-mechanism, part of a process, billions of years old, by which entropy generates complexity.[*] The brain is part of the universe of atoms and genes. The mind is an ephemeral thing, a lossy information storage, retrieval and recombination engine running on an operating system called "language" (and probably other levels, Wang's Carpets-like, beneath), part of a process, thousands of years old, by which society generates culture. The mind is part of the universe of patterns and memes. Just as software is not hardware and the map is not the territory, the mind is not the brain.

I'm a dualist. Why aren't you?

[* It's really the tendency of physical interactions to increase entropy—ie. to move towards equilibrium—which generates complexity, but that doesn't sound as good.]

Bursting in Air

Current Music: In the Nursery -- Bombed

Obama's defence budget request is up 1.7% on last year in real terms, much of that in wages—plus some extra, extra treasure for his Asian campaigns, which will be funded to the tune of nearly double the rest of the budget. (If it wasn't for Godwin I'd mention Russia in winter.)

I notice that even though the total missile defence allocation is down nearly 30%, this budget increases funding for the AEGIS ballistic missile defence system by 60%, and for the high tech THAAD small-to-medium missile defence system by 25% (and the latter's completion date has been brought forward from 2011 to this year).

The missile defence allocation also includes a new $119M "Israeli Cooperative" item. It strikes me that if Gazan qassams were no longer any kind of threat (and Iranian Shahab-3s seemed a little less existential), even Bibi might be brought to the table.

Heck, it's about time [*]

Current Music: Underworld -- Billy Goat

High amongst my top ten movie rants is a speech about Hell, delivered in cameo by author Tom Keneally in Fred Schepsi's semi-autobiographical The Devil's Playground. Keneally's bearded and softly-spoken Jesuit uses an extraordinary analogy to explain to his captive audience what the eternal part of "eternal punishment" really meant. Google didn't know the speech, so I torrented the film, clipped and YTed it:

(According to this Phillip Adams interview with Keneally, that speech was co-written "by everyone Catholic in the crew the night before".)

C'mon theists; give it up! Hell is a memetic nightmare; and frankly, preaching that people around you actually deserve it is a hate crime.

It's fundamentally impossible to believe in a wholly benign deity designing a system where there's a fair possibility that most most people will have some friends and family who will be die and go to Hell. And be tortured there forever, and ever, and some more ever (and they're really not liking this, though Baby Jesus doesn't seem to mind), and ever, and ever, and still the burning and the screaming! Face it, hellists: you cannot believe you will ever have your consciousness reprogrammed by angels, or overwhelmed by the heavenly opiate of the presence of God, so that you can come to terms with with that, and still be you. And really, how could you ever mistake a setup like this—even at a thousand meters, in a blizzard, at night—for love?

Basically, if you believe in Hell, you believe in something harmful to the future of civilisation, and the dangerous ideas that have caused you to go so awry needs to be swiftly detached from the memeplex which compromises your religion (no doubt there'll be a lot left to love) and flushed down the memetic garbage shute after human sacrifice, burning witches and pederasty. Religions are dynamic; you can shrug off this twisted, medieval thing and still be a viable faith with a nice god that other people don't talk about behind their hands.

Oh, and Cardinal Fang can leave off his hellist hate speech about atheists. At least we don't believe in TORTURING PEOPLE FOREVER. But then, perhaps there's an explanation for that.

[* This was written, but not published, on December 5th, 2007; forgive the dated references at the end. Because I'm paranoid, I'm going to keep it friends-locked until after I get back from the States. Update: Back now. Oh, and as per my last trip over, all Americans met were lovely people—even the LDSers in SLC.]

Practical Eumetics

Current Music: Underworld -- Beautiful Burnout

So, Sol Trujillo is getting leaving with close to $40M from Telstra to agree by agreeing to retire, and the Sue Morphett thing's being called a corporate crime (albeit by the ACTU). Yet not all corporate bigwigs are morally worthless. Perhaps what the business world needs is a highly public website which collects and commemorates exemplars of appropriate and inappropriate corporate behaviour (and supports ratings on a variety of criteria, naturally)., anyone?

[Update: I need to parse spin more carefully; that $40M is his total take-home from four years at Telstra.]

Good News from the War on Webs

Current Music: Underworld -- JAL to Tokyo

Lamer Senator and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's ever-expanding plan to cripple the country's internets (a policy supported by around 6% of Australians) has been blocked in the Senate by the independent Senator for the Murray-Darling, Nick Xenophon.

Meanwhile, British Lamer have nicked a policy from the Tories (presumably while their backs were turned) and decided to promote Open Source in the public sector.

Finally, the bumbling prosecution have had to amend the charges against those crazy kids from The Pirate Bay yet again, because they don't really understand what it is that torrents actually do.