Books I’m reading.

Last night I began a small book called “Empire” by Niall Furguson, all about the rise and fall of the British Empire, and whether or not it was (to use his lingo) a Good Thing or a Bad Thing. I haven’t even gotten a quarter way through it yet, but there has been a good bit about what went wrong in America, and why Canada didn’t follow the American lead. Not to mention the subjugation of India, the Christian religious invasion of Africa, the beginning and ending of slavery in the British Empire, and the beginnings of the reign of Queen Victoria (who, I might add, is a favorite of mine).

I had trouble concentrating, but it’s a good read. Concise, alive, witty, and historically accurate.

I’ve always wondered. How can you be sure that the history books have it right? Maybe a whole lot of selective editing and memory “lapses” have ensured that we read a slightly — or even very — warped history of the world.

Interpretation.

I have learned a new bit of female parlance: “It crossed my mind,” which, when translated, means, “I’ve been seriously and extensively considering it.”

Oh joy.

NEW: The Acronym.

The acronym “NEW” stands for No Electronics Week. It stands for getting back to the things that really matter. To remembering where we came from and to find out where we’re going without the haze of LCDs and CPUs in the way. It’s about becoming old to find the NEW.

No electronics week continues.

This morning I broke out in hives. I drove to work caressing the sterio. Hugged the computer as soon as I got in to work.

Okay, I’m lying. It’s actually been quite nice so far. Some incense, some 1998 Burton Chiraz, and I bought the first three Harry Potter novels just so I can see what all the fuss is about. And if, in grand Douglas Wilson style, there is nothing wrong with them, I will personally hunt down the people making Christians look like fools and whip them with a wet noodle.

Nothing else new. Got into a discussion about biblical inspiration and how to prove it without resorting to circular reasoning. Got into a discussion (again) with the ignorami that insist on labeling music “entertainment only” and going from there. And no wonder we have generation of kids that like Kid Rock. They just don’t know any better.

Weekend recap.

Friday night I had vowed to clean up my house, and despite the fact that Mary, Gus, and Nick went out and did something that may or may not have been fun, I stayed home and bloody well cleaned the house. Exciting. And, believe it or not, it’s clean. Needs a bit more work, but we’re almost there. I even filed all my paid bills and receipts and stuff that I’ll need down the road for some reason. Makes me wish there was an alternative to filing that involved a scanner and a computer, but right now that’s not an option.

Saturday I got up late and did a load of wash. Then off to Burlington to go bike riding with Nick. We went all the way down to Lakeshore and watched a bit of jazz. I have become convinced that I need a mountain bike as well as a road bike. And some maintainance stuff for both of them. Watched the Bourne Supremacy. Pretty good movie. Better than most of the crap out there right now. Had a payphone conversation with a certain female. Went home. Finished reading a bit of “Mere Christianity”. Also working my way through “The Flying Inn” by G.K. Chesterton. Interesting, if confusing. Had a bottle of Sleeman Honey Brown. Distictive, but perhaps a bit too smooth. A bit weak perhaps? Better than generic domestic — so’s drinking toiletwater — but not by a whole lot.

Sunday I got up late again: the beauty of having church at 2:30. I haven’t been to the Presbyterian church in a long time. We out biking in the Mississauga Greenbelt, only to find that it ends at the 403. But you can bike the whole way down the thing. Lots more cement that you’d like to see, so there’s probably a lot of lime leakage and stuff like that. Still, it’s a greenbelt, and that’s better than nothing. I think. Went to bed later than I should have.

Also! This week is non-electronics week! Of course, here at work, I have to use them. But at home, with the notable exception of my alarm clock, car, and phone, there will be no electronics in use whatsoever. This includes all three computers, the PS2, the television, the Palm Pilot, and the Remote Missile Launching Station. Oh, right, the last one was fictional. This will be a very hard week. I will also only be available from 7 – 6 every day via email.

I’m already starting to sweat and shake.

The right place. The right time.

In Mississauga, there’s this gas station on the corner of Derry and Kennedy. They know me well. I stop in there and pick up a coffee every morning (and, by the way, next week I step down to large coffees in the morning), and every once in a while pop in for a cold drink of some sort. Speedpass helps.

Anyways, pretty much every Thursday this place decides to drop its gas prices to somewhere around the 68 cent mark, causing major lot congestion. It’s become the local watering hole. Or in a Pumba-esque sort of way, the local gassing hole. I topped up my tank for the mere price of $20.

I also figure that by forgoing the morning coffee, I can save myself close to $400.00 a year.

And I can even remember when gas was 50 cents per litre or less. Of course, back then you could buy a burger for a dollar, but I digress.

Marriage, round 3.

In the comment field of my last post on marriage, this was added:

hey it’s me again. your second post on this subject was an improvement. you obliterated the first 1/2 of my reply. but the following has yet to be responded to:

(1)”first of all, you wouldn’t want your kids walking innocently in the park and seeing something immoral taking place (i.e., drugging, drug-dealing, boozing, violence, bestiality, vandalism, foul language, etc.). obviously we can’t shelter them, but we work to keep our societies free of such actions taking place without consequences. your child suffers much less harm from witnessing any of the above if a cop screams into the scene and shows discipline, than if they are done and not challenged, if they are considered normal. if we allow homosexuality to be okay, same-sex couples cuddling and kissing on a park bench will not be challenged authoritatively. it will be seen as normal. THAT is harmful to your child.

(2)”secondly, don’t forget the children these same-sex couples will be adopting. how will they grow up?

(3)”we need to keep in mind the practical outcomes of such allowances.”

In answer to point (1), yes. You’re right. Children must be guarded, from your perspective. My whole point is that you have no right, in an a-moral, religiously free country, to impose your own system of morality on others, whether they be gay or straight. You can only impose on them what laws the country has, and only then by force of those entrusted to guard and make sure others are upholding those laws. If you’re telling me that an amoral state is wrong, then so be it. There are great evils in both secular and religious authority. If you’re saying a (supposedly) amoral state should be making moral judgements about behavior in its constituents bedrooms, than no. That’s just wrong. The government should only be able to make rules that it can enforce, and rules that can quantifiable be deemed societally helpful.

Now, you mention the park. This is government property, and it has the right to make up whatever restrictions it wants on that land. It can ban kissing, handholding, and baking of cakes if it really wants to. It can put blindfolds on small children who walk through. That’s the government’s business. However, their business is not to punish the behaviors of men and woman in their own houses, except in extreme cases, aberant and unnatural as those behaviors may be. Let me ask you a question: in the state’s eyes, what is worse, spaking or homosexuality? Two homosexuals perhaps love eachother and are expressing their love. On the other hand, the father is beating his child! Of course this is only a surface evaluation — you and I both know that spanking is beneficial, because history bears that out, and that homosexuality is a punishment on a country, because scripture says that. But the state has neither the means nor the option to make a judgement scrictly along scripural lines, unless it is a scripturally-based state, which lead to it’s own set of thumbs and strawberry tarts.

(2) is answered in the logic of (1). Obviously I can’t prevent a gay couple from “having” kids. Obviously a secular state, hamstrung as it is, cannot as well.

The whole point is that governments do not make and enforce moral reality. We all know this. The government could throw all gays in jail and electroshock them until they renounced their lifestyle, sure, but that would be stepping outside its purvue. Remember, the US and Canada are nations under God — but from what the framers of the Constitution and our national anthem said about it, they really meant nations under god, small “g”. That’s the sort of all-inclusive everyone’s-god’s-a-God bullshit (to quote Luther) that the Enlightenment *cough,cough* brought us. And they’ve taken it and ran with it. And in that setting, in the setting we’re in, the public morality determines the government’s morality, not the other way around.

So, who’s fault does that make it, the moral cesspool our culture is playing around in? Well it can’t be Johnny Government’s, because he’s just the mast of the ship if you know what I mean. He’s the compass that points toward the closest magnet. It’s not Bill Populace, he doesn’t know any better. He’s a Bhuddist and a Mormon and a Muslim and does transcendental meditation in the park when his toaster stops working. The fault is ours. Yours and mind. The world needs a moral revolution in the form of revival — again, not in the form of legislation — a sweeping world-changing sort of thing. Christianity is the only solution to present-day moral chaos, not Christians insinuating their moral code on the unwilling who happen to live in the same country. That creates resentment, and worse, opression.

(3) The practical implications are much more immense that I even thought at the beginning. Literally thousands of laws would need to be re-written, and concepts of spousal benefits rethought. Of course, as it is, marriage is a tax disaster. That’s one problem this idea would solve.

Thoughts?

The future.

Well, who knows what it could look like, eh? But quoting from this article about the past, here’s maybe an idea:

Predicting the future is a risky business.
Even visionaries turn conservative when facing that challenge. But the four winners of this year’s Draper Prize from the US National Academy of Engineering are as qualified for the task as anyone.
Bob Taylor, Alan Kay, Charles “Chuck” Thacker and Butler Lampson were recently honoured for their groundbreaking research at Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre in California 30 years ago. Among their accomplishments: accurately envisioning the office of the future that most of us now use daily.
The four winners shared with PC World their views on the future of computing.

Only the beginning
“The computer revolution has only just begun,” Lampson says.
The four expect that several hot areas of research and innovation will become even more important when combined: wireless technologies, ever-higher-speed communications, speech recognition, improved search engines, and management of huge volumes of related information. These segments’ total impact could be much larger than the sum of their parts.
“I think wireless will make a fundamental difference in the way people use computers … this will cause a wide variety of new devices to appear,” says Thacker, who worked with Lampson on Microsoft’s Tablet PC designs.
Tired of your PC’s messy, pesky cables? The solution may be wireless. “I think that short-range wireless will take over for nearly all connections between computers and peripherals, because it’s much more convenient,” Lampson says.

Next step: PCs fall apart

Look for the traditional PC – keyboard, screen, hard disk, network adapter — to become “disaggregated”. The pioneers expect that the components will become separated but will continue to work together. Many computer research groups at universities, and at private and corporate labs, are working on this assumption.
As wireless access becomes common and cheap, as chips and communications get faster, and as prices continue to drop, there is less reason to tie a disk to a keyboard and screen. The network will be everywhere, both wired and wireless.
A PC’s screen could also become whichever display device is closest. Current research includes such examples as flashing advertising panels in the supermarket checkout line. Or you may pause to check data on an office hallway’s video wall that displays a computer’s output using special electronic paints already in development. Another future display in the works is a laser-powered holographic system that shows text and video in the air using tiny programmable actuator chips called MEMS (micro electromechanical systems, already used in many commercial products). Or the display you use might be a piece of electronic paper that you crumple when you’re through.
Input and control could be via a wireless keyboard, a handwriting-recognition device, or an array of microphones embedded in the surface of your desk or your car’s dashboard. With voice recognition technology, such input devices are always listening for you to “wake up” the computer.

Embed and spread
Fundamentally, most computers may simply vanish from view, either through disaggregation or by becoming embedded into walls, appliances and even your clothes – or a combination.
“Although putting computers into things like toasters and refrigerators seems a little silly today, it is becoming increasingly less silly,” says Thacker. Indeed, some consumer electronics stores already sell early versions of computerised appliances.
Cars already have dozens or hundreds of computers built into them to control everything from the steering wheel’s angle to the DVD player, as well as to monitor petrol consumption or to power the wheels, brakes and suspension. Lampson wants to see that go a giant step further. He envisions cars that drive themselves, primarily for safety reasons.
Meanwhile, expect the way you get your telephone service to change, especially with the advent of voice over internet protocol (VoIP). The hold-up is the so-called last-mile problem: the expense of rewiring that last few hundred metres from the network in the street up to your door.

Qwerty talk
Also still early is speech-recognition technology. A number of products are out, but the technology is less effective when tasks are complex, such as correctly recognising and responding to voice commands. Even relatively simple speech dictation usually requires positioning a microphone near the mouth to cancel extraneous noise.
“The larger problem of speech [is that it] requires human-style commonsense reasoning to be pretty well done by machine,” Kay says. “I can’t think of any good reason why this won’t happen. It’s just a difficult problem to [deal with] outside of restricted contexts.”
Lampson concurs: “Getting the computer to understand what you say to it and behave intelligently is an entirely different matter” from speech recognition.

Self-aware computers
Even after 60 years of development, computers are still basically machines that can only crunch an endless stream of ones and zeros. Although several research projects are focusing on imbuing computers with reasoning and decision-making cognition – one has been under way for 20 years – that remains a holy grail for computer science.

I believe the children are the future
“I don’t think anything really important has happened yet,” Kay says. He predicts that changes will come as computing “co-evolves with the users, especially children, until a new kind of fluency will be able to happen. And then, those after us will see some big changes.”

Mary, you may like this.

Well, one of the cases I’ve been following lately has finally been dismissed. SCO (Caldera)’s case against DaimlerChrysler, as reported here [Groklaw.net], was thrown out today by a female judge/olympic speed champion. Which is, of course, good news for those of who use and/or care about the Linux kernel.

Also please note that the Groklaw observers are rabidly partial and pick sides with apparent alacrity, so everything they say is biased towards Linux and away from SCO. But then, at least they’re honest about it, in a sort of Slashdot way.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

It was an interesting night last night. I met up with a suburned Nick and we hung out and talked and drank Jones Soda. And watched I, Robot which, to my suprise, was a very good movie. Better than Spiderman 1, also a great movie. I need to watch Spiderman 2, just to see if it’s as good/bad as I’ve heard. As in my friends say it’s horrid, but all the critics like it. So who’s right?