2016 — 6 January: Wednesday

Hello, pension. Say "Hi" to my bank account on your way in...

My relationship...

... with Morpheus can be a fraught one.1 It's a jolly Good Unjob I'm retired, as I'm currently re(ally)-tired! So I've just been jotting a few notes about listing my "video collection" by means of some clever Python snake-charming. Performed by my chum Brian, I hasten to add.

I completely fail...

... to understand how training wild monitor lizards to avoid cane toads is a way of controlling the toads. But that's how the BBC Radio 3 newsreader has pitched the story twice so far this morning. (Link.)

This Black Hole "burp" story is easier on my befuddled morning "lizard" brain. (Link.)


... is eating the world, is it? Source and snippets from an interesting review:

Software is hungry because computer intermediation is now the most economically prominent fact in the recent history of technology. There is a significant minority of investors and authors who have noted that innovation outside of the computer industry has been stagnant for decades. Peter Thiel expressed this view succinctly: "We were promised flying cars and we got 140 characters."
So, computers are getting smarter and more ubiquitous at an exponential rate. That's an important fact, and a scary one, when paired with an obvious truth: there is no Moore's Law for human intelligence. Cue apocalyptic scenarios.

Samuel Loncar, reviewing Geoff Colvin's book in LARB

Amusingly, I read that shares in Twitter slumped on news (rumours? who cares?) of an increase in text length to 10,000 characters.

Having read...

... five of these ten "popular" (their description) Grauniad stories I suspect I would lose the will to live before finishing the remaining five:

Grauniad Top 10

"What a wonderful world." :-)

Uncle ERNIE's obfuscatory masterpiece...

... exemplifies lousy website programming. It allows you five minutes (with a countdown timer!) to login by entering two strings, a process made trickier by the need to deduce which of two equally plausible numeric strings is the user number. It's the one with a "/" character in it, but don't enter that! Next? Find and enter the two random characters they want from what (you hope) is the "correct" password string.

I'm in! Now they want valid start and end dates to show my "Prize history". This history (a), goes back six months, yet ambiguously (b), claims to hold data back to 2011. Do they display it in six-month chunks? I'll never know. Entering "2014" tripped me up, and I didn't stick around to work out how and where you were supposed to enter "month" in the same pair of data entry fields. Just ask me the five security questions to which I know the answers2...

I need lunch.

Just bumped into...

... Sue D, a lady I last saw seven (or possibly eight) years ago when I delivered a card to her from another lady, Cathy G, also once of IBM Hursley. The latter is dining this very evening with the former. Sue regularly beat me at badminton when I was playing twice a week. Two decades ago! I didn't immediately recognise her — I was running on mindless autopilot in Gurdjieff's sleepwalker mode, using a window of fine weather to pick up a few bits and bobs in Waitrose. But her name popped onto the stack when she greeted me. How does that work?

Speaking of how things work, I foolishly loaded a new theme into Firefox, decided I hated it, and ended up lazily resetting the browser to default state to expunge it. Which meant re-acquiring NoScript, AdBlockPlus, Google as my search tool, and Firefox not as my home page. I only object to programmers second-guessing me when they get it wrong. I haven't bothered to re-instate Ghostery. It only fuels my paranoia.

Mr Amazon...

... paddled downstream to drop off this odd couple:

Book plus Bridge #3 BD

Our video "censors" granted an age "15" certificate despite "strong violence, gore, threat, sex, strong language, drug use, suicide". It's far from my usual fare, but Sofia Helin is very beguiling. The little book is a corker, too.

I'm still savouring...

... my copy of "Frontiers of Modern Physics" in relatively byte-sized chunks to minimise the risk of my head exploding. When Tipler published his "Rotating Cylinders..." paper in 1974, an article appeared a few years later in "Omni" by Robert Forward; he clearly was keen on the idea of actual time travel:

[Forward] dismisses the positive energy requirement as an engineering detail, pointing out that such things as transistors did not exist one century ago. There is a substantial difference, however, between purifying silicon — a process that obeys every law known to physics — and postulating the existence of a substance that may in fact violate every known law of physics. We expect that it will be somewhat longer than a century before an engineer produces a sample of negative mass.

Date: May 1980

One hesitates to weigh in on such a debate! Plus it's tricky keeping such a sample around to weigh it :-)



1  That's how I interpret "lying awake all night" if and when it happens. It's just happened.
2  Why set those up if they can't be bothered to use them? Ridiculous!