February 17th, 2005


Some thoughts on religion

People like meaning in their lives - the idea that the world might be just a chaotic accident of random particles interacting in ways that can be described by equations makes them feel like their lives are meaningless.  If the world is, instead, directed in some way, according to a plan, then they can feel good that their life has some kind of meaning. 

They also have a tendency towards anthropomorphism - explanations about the world are easier to understand if we ascribe intentionality to the objects we interact with.  If the answer to "Why is it raining?" is "The Sky God is angry" then that's a 5 word explanation that (if you don't know better) has the feeling of plausability to it.

In addition, if people feel that they will be rewarded for good things (and bad people will be punished for bad things) then they will generally feel better about all the bad things that happen.  People like a certain level of justice in the world, and the idea that there is overarching inescapable justice makes them feel better about things.

On top of all that is the heirarchical pack attitude common amongst mammals - if you're already looking up at several levels of heirarchy and wondering why it's there then, if you apply the anthropomorphic assumption that the whole universe works in a similar way to your own world, it seems obvious that the heirarchy continues upwards.  This would tend to lead to ancestor worship, a heavenly bureaucracy or a heirarchy of angels topped by the divine creator from which all else stems (depending on your worldview).
  • Current Music
    The Raveonettes

Some thoughts on computing

1) What I've been up to
At some point in the last couple of weeks I was handed a copy of Lotus Notes Developer and told to make it forward email depending on the contents of the email, using a webservice (or two) to look up the necessary information.  In Java.  Having never coded anything for Lotus Notes, used Java or done anything similar before, this has kept me stuck in that fantastic limbo between fascinated and confused that is a steep learning curve.

2) An unlikely conclusion
I've also come to the conclusion that if someone I know wants a recommendation for a computer for checking their email and surfing the web on I'm going to tell them to buy a Mac Mini.  Now, I don't have a Mac Mini, I've never used one, and frankly I didn't care much for OS X when I used it, but with the current state of adware, spyware, malware, viruses and miscellanious other evilness there is no way on God's earth that I'd recommend a PC to anyone who didn't need software that only ran on it.  Personally, I'm happy to have one, I like the software options, the flexibility and the general ability to all sorts of fucking horrible things to it, but frankly it's not suitable for ordinary people who just want to do things without having to worry about the consequences. 

It's like the difference between a Tivo, MCE and Sky+ ; Tivo's have a gorgeous interface and do one think exceptionally well, MCE is a general purpouse PC that does media things well and allows you to mess around with the results to a large degree, and Sky+ is a piece of shit that nevertheless keeps many, many customers happy enough to not actually go looking elsewhere.  I'd never recommend Sky+ to people, but if they've already got it and aren't annoyed to death by it, then that's fine.  I'd recommend a Tivo to anyone, but if you want the maximum amount of tweakability then you'll have bought MCE and be willing to face the idea that your video recorder can now get viruses.

You may notice that I haven't mentioned Linux (or any other unix-a-like) at all there.  That's because frankly if you're a Linux person then you already know what you want, won't be asking for my advice and probably like recompiling kernels more than actually using the computer to do anything.

So, in conclusion - if you want to just check email I'm sure there's some kind of simple device that allows you to do so (personally I'm a fan of the Palm Tungsten series), if you want web, mail etc. in a usable computer-shaped box, get a Mac, and only buy a PC if there's actually a need for you to do so.

When Andy talks about computers I

fall asleep
pay attention
am too busy tweaking my kernel to pay much attention

And there was much laughter

I first got onto the internet in 1991.  That's right, I remember when it was all text, as far as the eye could see.  I got into email, bulletin boards and usenet, where I learnt a great lesson.  When I first got access to newsgroups (via, I think, a command line app called tin) I could read, but posting access wasn't authorised.  It took me about two months to get posting access, during which I could only watch conversations going on.  This was _amazingly_ useful, because I had to pay attention, see all of the things that pissed people off, discover what the appropriate netiquette was and generall understand what the hell was going on.  Since that point I've generally come to the conclusion that people shouldn't be allowed to participate in a forum unless they sustain their interest over a few weeks of read-only access, and find what _other people_ have to say as interesting as what they have to say.

It is therefore with great pleasure that I steal this link from theferrett so that you can learn from one of the great public service broadcasts every produced by the US government: Posting and You.

(needs sound)

Jesus Christ I hate my own code

I just went into some code I swear I haven't touched in about 5 years.  I had only the vaguest idea of how it worked, but I knew I wanted to extend it.  So I carefully went through it, looking for the places where it coped with the three existing options and added in what looked like the right variant for a fourth option.  And fuck me if it didn't all work first time.  Of course, I still haven't got the faintest idea of how the code works, but it _does_ and the code is being consigned to the scrapheap in 4 months time anyway, so that's ok.