anime heated discussion uh talk

In most anime, when two characters heatedly discuss something, it goes like this:

Person 1: blah blah blah blah blah blah [long monologue]
Person 2: (interrupts Person 1) blah blah [short interruption]

Person 1: (with shocked look on face) uh? [expression of shock and utter surprise]
Person 2: blah blah blah blah [medium length monologue]

Person 1: blah [quick denial]
Person 2: blah blah blah blah [medium length monologue]

Person 1: (interrupts Person 2) blah blah [short interruption]
Person 2: (with shocked look on face) uh? [expression of shock and utter surprise]

... and so on ...

I call this "uh talk". It is a uniquely anime form of conversation where each person in the conversation is constantly surprised by what the other person says. It seems that in often in anime, no one has any idea what the other person is about to say.


ballet looks more impressive with a horrible dancers for comparison

I just saw a funny tv show where they had a great ballet dancer dancing next to an average person who really sucked at it, but who was trying to do the same dance as the great one. Ballet all by itself is just a play. But, when you see a great dancer next to a horrible one, it's more like a sport and the great dancer looks far more impressive.

I'll bet the same would be true for trapeze acts. Normally they're actually sort of humdrum. This is essential because trapeze artists need to practice huge amounts of time in order to make the show work like clockwork. However, I'll bet it would be far more impressive if, next to the great trapeze artists, you had some amateurs flying around missing throws and falling constantly into the net. If both acts were the same, but one sucked and one was perfect, then the perfect one would look vastly more impressive.


civilized conflict

When it comes to knowledge workers, the only good employee is an annoying employee. My reasoning is thus:
1. If two people disagree on anything significant, then one is likely to be annoyed at the other to some degree.
2. A good knowledge worker is one that thinks about what they are doing. You can't think about anything without developing opinions about it.
3. The person directly working on something is more likely to understand it in depth than their manager who is likely to be more familiar with it at a higher level. This is simply the nature of knowledge.
4. As a result, the opinion of the worker and the manager will sometimes differ.
5. If the knowledge worker just rolls over and does what management says, then management loses because they are not getting enough feedback to realize that they were wrong.
6. As a result, a good knowledge worker is one that voices their opinion to their manager and everyone else.
7. Given proposition #1, this means that the manager may become annoyed with the employee at times. But, this is a good thing. If a manager realizes that annoying employees are good employees then they can simply check their annoyance and work out the best solution for the company.

So, the upshot is that, when it comes to knowledge workers, the only good employee is an annoying employee. The best results come from civilized conflict. This requires mental toughness all around (for both the managers and the employees), but if everyone understands the game theory behind all of this, everyone will realize that this is the best possible situation.

The system can break down when any of the actors are incompetent or if any of them are pushovers that fail to make their opinions known. But, there is no other good system, so the only losers in all of this are those people who don't have the right personality traits to exist in this sort of system.

episode 42

Did you know that episode 42 of Star Trek the Next Generation was the episode that introduced both the Borg and Q? Those are probably the two most interesting things introduced in the entire STNG series and they did it in episode 42! Hooray! I suspect that one of the writers was a fan of Douglas Adams and decided to put these concepts into that episode. Or maybe it was just pure chance.


being an engineer is ...

Being an engineer is not about being able to accomplish complex tasks. Being an engineer is about turning complex tasks into a bunch of simple tasks and then laboriously doing all the simple tasks with sufficient precision to accomplish the complex task. Many people lack the ability to convert complex tasks into simple tasks. Many people lack the ability to do many simple tasks without getting bored. The people left over are the engineers.


useful project names are not useful

Some people like to name things with names that have meaning. The problem, is that in the future, the meaning may change but the name will not.

For instance, some organizations name their servers with meaningless names like the names Oxygen and Hydrogen for servers. Others like to name them with useful names like staging1. The problem is that this ignores observed human behavior. In the future the server may be moved and used for a different purpose, but renaming it requires nontrivial effort, so it probably won't be renamed. So now the name changes from being useful to being anti-useful. The name now implies something that is no longer true.

This is something that I have observed in people over and over. Some people try to do things that are optimal. But, such things are often the worst solutions because they ignore observed human behavior. The ultimate example of this is communism. If humanity consisted of robots that were programmed to act in a certain way, then communism might be the optimal solution. However, humanity does not consist of a bunch of robots with programmed behavior and as a result communism is actually the worst solution of all economic and political systems.

Back on the subject of naming, this means that meaningless names are better than meaningful names because observed human behavior demonstrates that meaningful names become counterproductive and, in the long run, are the worse solution.


Intelligence is a measurement of time

Intelligence is really just a measure of time. Anyone can learn any knowledge and perform any mental skill. But some will do it much faster than others. An intelligent person is someone who is able to perform some skill much faster than average.

Visiting parents is like fasting

When I visit my parents for xmas, it's like fasting. I do without all of my wonderful stuff like my ReplayTV, my table saw and all the rest of my tools, my 36" TV, my video game machines, and my computer. It's a weird experience, living for a week without all the stuff that normally occupies my time. I imagine that it's similar to what monks go through when they fast for a week. You feel somewhat cleansed while experiencing new things, you enjoy it, but you wouldn't want to do it all the time because no one wants to be that cleansed.

Batteries filled by time are the key to all skills

In Everquest, the most powerful players are the ones who, by shear brunt of time spent, have the most powerful characters. Every battle adds a little to the pile that results in a powerful character.

In Final Fantasy games, some players go farther than just finishing the game normally. To truly finish that game, you need to beat the most powerful monsters. In order to do that, you need to level your character until they are powerful enough to beat the most powerful monsters. You aren't really demonstrating ability when you truly finish the game. You are getting something for your time.

All computer programmers, regardless of ability, can write any program of any kind no matter what. However, some programmers will take literally 100 times as long (or more) to write the same program. That means that, if a bad programmer is willing to work long hours, they will appear to be a good programmer to other people (as long as no one cares what the code looks like).

The key to all skills is time. If you are not good at thinking quickly then that is not a hindrance in skills where immediacy is not critical. In sports, for instance, you need to be good right now or you are not good at all because the ball will have hit the ground if you don't catch it.

In short, being a genius is handy and gives you a leg up, but one of the two key attributes of nearly all successful people is willingness to dedicate more time to their trades and skills than other people. The other attribute is passion.


Aphorism of the day

I just thought of a good aphorism:
It's like kryptonite. It only hurts the strongest.
It's like kryptonite. It hurts the strong and leaves the weak untouched.

I don't know what "it" would be, but I'm sure that there must be some use for this aphorism.


anti-Jedi weapon

The enemies of the Jedi should develop a blaster that shoots 3 beams. A light saber can only reflect beams that are in a row. If 3 beams arrive simultaneously, there's no way a saber could be used to reflect all 3.


rain in video games

I like rain. I like rain in video games. Unfortunately, although the rain simulations in some video games are good, they're not great. When simulated, generally the sky turns dark and there's thunder and lightning. Then you see rain falling. Sometimes you see the rain hit the ground and splatter. However, you don't see puddles form that splash as you walk through them. You don't see droplets splatter in your eyes (although, as I recall, Metroid Prime did have it splash on your visor, so that was pretty good.), you don't hear splish-splosh sounds as you run through the puddles or sucking sounds when you run through newly formed mud.

Of course, the ultimate would be to add rain smell to video games. THAT would be awesome!


aluminum foil

Ok, scratch the thing about aluminum foil. It turns out that moving my coax splitter a couple inches one way or the other causes it to have interference lines or not. So, either there's something wrong with one of the cables, or there are dead zones where the electromagnetic radiation isn't affecting it significantly.


networked microwave

I'm tired of walking into my kitchen and finding that my Lean Pocket is not yet done. I want a microwave that has an Ethernet interface. Then I could connect it to my network, put another device in a different room whose entire purpose is to watch for certain messages from the microwave, and I'd be all set! The microwave would send information over the network to the other device (an alarm of some kind) and when my Lean Pocket was finished, I'd hear a BING in the room I was in.

It's so stupid that appliance makers don't have some sort of interface that would allow other devices to hook into them. When I use my toaster, I have no idea when my Pop-Tart will be done. I want it to notify me over the network and let me know!


US is a startup

The US is a startup. It's doing better than any other nation because it has the fewest restrictions. For those who worry about progress, have no fear, because every day the government adds more laws to restrict trade and restrict business and restrict individuals.

Over time, the US will petrify and become the France of the west (meaning a horrible economy that is intrinsically incapable of digging itself out of its government induced petrification).

There is nothing that can be done about this. Thankfully, there are forces that keep the process from moving too fast, but it is inevitable.

Startups are cool. The business world works best when there is a constant churn of startups. Many fail, but vast quantities of innovations would never have occurred without startups there to pressure the big guys to change. Startups are the little guys that have few restrictions and no existing vested interests to preserve at the cost of progress.

This is the real reason why we need to make space travel cheap. Forget science. People talk about NASA being a scientific organization. Perhaps that is true, but it shouldn't be true. NASA should be a venture capital firm for engineering startups. NASA should not do anything itself.

If space travel becomes cheap then we can start a colony on mars. Presumably it would start out based on tourism and transportation of raw minerals back to earth. But over time, as more companies set up shop there to do tourism and mining, a society will develop. Businesses will start locally to cater to the miners and the tourist guides. But, each new business will bring new people who will themselves need services and products.

Eventually Mars will develop a complete economy all its own which will be connected with Earth's economy in the same way that US's economy is connected to Japan's economy. They're linked, but neither side controls the other.

Mars will be the new breeding ground for country startups. Some will bring along counterproductive restrictions while others will be more easy going and hence more successful and productive.

This is the true reason for space travel. Once capitalism spreads to Mars, all the groundwork will have been built for setting up this sort of thing all over the solar system. Look forward to massive human progress during these times. The progress of the 20th century will be peanuts compared to this.

banded cell phone lines

Cell phone voice quality is about equivalent to talking to someone while you have your head stuck in a toilet. It's horrible! I've used cell phones from several providers and it makes no difference. The quality is uniformly terrible.

Why doesn't someone develop a cell phone that works with multiple providers simultaneously? Actually, a single provider could simply improve the quality of their network, but it would require more money for them to put the network in place. It would be cheaper for them to simply build a phone that used multiple networks to make a single call and use the information from both to give the user the best quality possible. Land lines do not provide high fidelity sound, but they rarely pop or echo or break up while people are talking.

I'll bet if someone provided this service and charged double for it then they would get a lot of people clamoring for it.


phasers on stun

In Star Trek V, they invaded a town and stunned people who were shooting real bullets at them. If a phaser can stun a person, regardless of distance, then it should be possible to simply stun a town. The Enterprise could shoot down a stun beam and stun everyone (essentially equivalent to throwing knockout gas into a town) and then they could have walked in at no danger to themselves.


how does memory affect intelligence?

A little while ago I heard a program on NPR about new medications coming out, within a decade, that could improve a person's memory. They're intended for use by alzheimer patients, but they could theoretically be used by anyone.

Some of the people on that program worried about abuse of this medication. What would happen if people took it because they didn't want to forget people's names or where the left their keys? Apparently they considered that it was too dangerous to allow the use of medications for something that trivial.

However, it seems to me that this would help to elucidate some issues about intelligence. No one really knows how much memory helps intelligence. Autistics apparently tend to have poor memories but high intelligence in areas like mathematics. Is it possible that having a greater memory causes people to be less intelligent in math? Perhaps having a poor memory as a child causes the brain to compensate in other ways that cause them to be better at math.

Who knows if that's true? Right now, no one does. But, what if we took an autistic adult who is known to be good at math but has a poor memory and then gave them medication to improve their memories? Would it make any real difference? Would they simple get better at memorizing things or would it actually assist their mathematical ability in significant ways? One of the problems that autistics have is language. They tend to be good at math and bad at language. Perhaps the difficulty with language stems from poor memory. If you take an autistic and improve their memory, will they suddenly have a significantly increased ability to learn new languages?

These sorts of questions could be answered if, once these medications became safe, they could be used in populations that don't strictly need them to function. Obviously, all medications have trade offs and alzheimer patients would have a much higher tolerance for problems stemming from the medication than would other people who have acceptable levels of memory ability. But, over time things will be refined and the medications will be made safer.

I think this is a hugely important step in the improvement of humans. Right now, people who are born stupid tend to stay stupid their entire lives. It's horrible that this needs to be so. Memory may not improve other areas of intelligence, but then again it might. We won't know until we try.


draining the bay

The San Francisco bay is the area of water between the San Francisco peninsula and the main continent. It impedes traffic causing huge bottlenecks at hyper expensive bridges that cross the bay.

I think we should drain the bay and then fill it with dirt. Living there would be dangerous because that sort of land is the most unstable during earthquakes. But if you just covered it with highways then that wouldn't be unsafe at all.

First, the front of the bay would need to be dammed up. That's fairly easy. Just put a dam there.

Second, the bay would need to be drained. Third the bay would need to be filled in with dirt.

The second and third problems would have a singular solution. The dam would have filters on it. It would let water out, but would filter all dirt and salt from it before sending it out. It could even be used as a source of fresh water for use as drinking water.

Over many years, erosion would wash dirt from the surrounding land into the bay. The dam would let fresh water out, but keep dirt inside. There wouldn't be any need to pump the water out. Natural cycles of evaporation and rainfall would remove water and put it back in, but due to the increasing level of dirt in the water, the depth of the bay would decrease over time. If the water gets high enough to go through the dam then that is when the dirt would be removed from the water. Over time the bay would just fill up.

The resulting land would be about as stable as a bowl of salt during an earthquake. That's why it would be just for roads. Building a road over that land would be vastly cheaper than building a bridge over the bay. And since many more roads could be built, it would vastly decrease the amount of time it takes to get across that geography.



aluminum foil works!

Who would have thought that aluminum foil really does shield electromagnetic radiation?

I have long had a problem where the video that's output from one room to another, in my apartment, gets all kinds of interference. Whenever my computer is on, the video is filled with static and/or interference lines.

I have long assumed that it was the coax splitter that was positioned near my computer that was the problem. Coax is shielded, but the splitter is not. So, on a whim I tried putting the sieve I use to make Ramen over the top of the splitter. That didn't work. I thought the sieve would act like a faraday cage, but it didn't (at least not well enough to make a visible difference).

So, I tried wrapping it in aluminum foil. I didn't think it would work, but it did! No more interference lines in my video! Hooray!


the desert around the earth

SETI searches for signs of radio waves being broadcast by intelligent beings from other parts of the universe. Obviously, no amount of searching can disprove the existence of intelligent life out there. That would be proving a negative, and proving a negative is impossible. However, it can prove to a high level of confidence that no intelligent beings are broadcasting within certain distances. If they start out by asking what it would take to detect radio waves broadcast by earth 4 light years away, then they search the records for those signs and then fail to find anything, then we can be reasonably confident that there is no intelligent life within 4 light years of earth. This proves nothing about larger distances, but with that under our belt we could safely say that no life existed within 4 light years of earth.

The farther out we test for, the harder it is to test. I wonder how big a radius around earth SETI has determined to be lifeless. (Well, intellilifeless. Presumably bacteria don't broadcast radio waves, so SETI wouldn't apply to finding that sort of life. Then again, who really cares about that sort of life. I certainly wouldn't care much about finding bacteria out there. If life exists out there that's not intelligent enough to develop the radio then I really don't care whether we find it or not (except as a curiosity).)

How big is the desert around earth? I hope it's not the size of the universe. That would suck.


roving dentist

My company used to have one of those lunch trucks that came by at around noon and served hot food to people. I think dentists should operate the same way. They could get a mobile home, put in a dentist's chair and x-ray machine, then sign up with a company like they do for blood drives. People would schedule appointments at 15 to 30 minute intervals. The dentist would give each person a quick cleaning, take x-rays, then go to the next person.

The dentist would get a whole lot more patients and people would be able to get their regular checkup without having to dedicate several hours to getting their checkup.

It's win-win!


shows are long the first time

When I see a new episode of The Simpsons or South Park, the show seems like it lasted a long time. But, if I watch the show again, it seems like it's over in no time at all. Furthermore, specific events in the shows which, on first watching seem to take forever, don't seem very long the second time around. For instance, in South Park they had a cripple fight in one of the episodes. The first time I saw it, it seemed like it went on and on and on. But, after watching it again I realized it only lasted a minute or two. The difference is pure mental attention. When I watch it the first time, I'm watching it directly, when I watch it again, I'm watching it more passively.


Status of my IF game. Currently titled AOTA.

As of this moment my game AOTA is playable from beginning to end. A total of 7 games exist in it and everything works well enough that it's possible to play the game from beginning to end.

This is a big step! I still have much to do though. I need to make the actors more interesting, I spread some of the objects around the game and lock some of the doors that currently don't require a key.

I'm sure I'll also find ways of tightening up some of the puzzles. One of the puzzles I think is probably a bit too laborious, so I may remove some of the aspects of it that could be seen as busywork.

After that comes the beta testing. I'm sure lots of strange ideas will come from the testers (assuming I find some).

That's the point at which I'll learn how long the game really is. I still have no clear idea of how long the game will take either for an experienced or inexperienced player.

But, I'm well on my way. Hooray!


tattoo eyelids?

Would it be possible to tattoo my eyelids in such a way that, externally they appeared normal, but from my perspective they would be opaque?

When I close my eyes, I shouldn't have to cover my head if I want to sleep. For instance, if I'm on an airplane or a train or sitting in a chair at the dentist's office then I should be able to close my eyes and go to sleep. If it's light out then that's generally not possible.

On the other hand, I wonder if blinking would be really disconcerting if my eyelids were opaque. I guess that's easily testable. Just use some sort of opaque makeup on the eyelids and the see what it's light. Of course, makeup is visible to others and also requires effort to put it on, so that wouldn't be practical for everyday use, but it would allow testing of the idea.


personality -> morals

Personality attributes can sometimes be transformed into moral rights and wrongs. For instance, I have a strong desire for organization. I like collections (pacman memorabilia, coins, keychains) and it actually seems wrong, almost morally wrong, to break up a non-trivial collection. It's almost as if something truly unique and important was lost. Of course, all the items are still there, they're just not part of a collection. It's like splitting one museum into a 100 little museums. It's just not the same.

I also have a very independent personality. That leads me to feel that being in debt, for almost any reason, is wrong, almost morally wrong. Dependant people (people who would never consider living by themselves) almost certainly have a much more lax attitude towards debt. They simply see it as a window to what they want. Certainly, from a certain point of view this is true. Going into debt to save time (e.g. by taking out a loan to go to college) can sometimes be a useful tradeoff. But going into debt to get a car (when they could easily just buy a cheaper car and then save for a better one in the future) is much less excusable. On a national level, people with independent streaks will see the US debt as being horrific and irresponsible. Dependant people will see the debt as an acceptable tradeoff for solving other problems and will have no qualms about going infinitely into debt.


is it ok for politicians to flip flop?

Flip flopping is bad unless they're doing it to correct a mistaken view (as determined by the voter of course).

Going against opinion polls is good because it means the politician has strong views and will follow through on those views. Of course, that's also bad because they may then be going against the will of the people.

Voters want elected officials who are strong in the face of adversity. Of course, they don't want them to be too strong if it annoys too many other countries or causes gridlock within the government in this country.

I assume most of these voters want significant others who are intelligent and independent yet who bow to their every whim when they get in arguments. It's the same sort of problem. You can't have someone who stands on their own who also does everything you say. The solution is, of course, to find someone that matches you already (this works for both dating and your choice of politicians).

Voters also want elected officials who are attractive and entertaining speakers. If they didn't then written speeches would have the same effect as verbally delivered speeches. (I almost never watch politicians give speeches in debates or anywhere else. I believe that doing so will likely sway my judgement when the issues are what matter.) There's nothing inconsistent about this, it just annoys me.

What it comes down to is that people like or dislike a politician based on emotional attachment combined with whether or not the politician has common views. They only care about flip flopping/standing strong and going for/against opinion polls when the politician is doing something they don't want them to do.

But then, this is nothing new. Most people debate to win, and it makes sense to use this sort of stuff if your goal is just to win. But, honest people don't criticize things in their opponents unless they would criticize the same trait in their allies.


There's a reason why the US is the fattest nation on earth. In many countries, the only fat people are the rich people because they are the only ones that can afford to buy a lot more food than they actually need. In the US (and other modern nations), everyone except the homeless can afford enough food to get fat. And since the homeless make up only a vanishingly small fraction of the population, that means that practically everyone in the US has enough money to buy enough food to get fat.

So, it's simply a matter of opportunity. Given the chance, most other people in the world would get fat too.

Interactive Fiction is a fusion of literature and programming

Interactive Fiction allows programmers to become writers and writers to become programmers. To an experienced programmer, the IF languages are all extremely straightforward. But, planning a plot and writing large amounts of text to describe a story is something that most programmers don't ever get a chance to do.

OTOH, experienced writers obviously know how to put a good plot together and write large amounts of text to describe a story. But they usually don't know much about programming.

That's the beauty of IF. The languages are simple enough to allow writers to learn to program them, so both programmers and writers can get into writing IF.

If you don't know anything about IF, check out this article on 1up.com.

I'm currently working on my first work of IF. I'm programming it in TADS3 and am very happy with the progress I have made. TADS3 is a wonderfully expressive language with a huge amount of stuff in it that makes creating worlds easy. For instance, let's say I want to create a room for the person to be in.

field : OutdoorRoom 'field'
"This is a beautiful wide open field that stretches as far as you can see in all directions. The grass is green,
the sky is blue, and the air smells oh so fragrant. There is a path leading north towards a white house in
the distance. "
north = outsideWhiteHouse

Hooray! Now you have a room. When the player types "look", that description will be displayed. If the player types "north" then the player will move to the outsideWhiteHouse location (which I haven't described).

Now lets say you want to add a bit more detail so that if the player types "examine grass" then they'll get a response:

+ Decoration 'grass' 'grass'
"The grass is clearly the product of obsessive lawn care. It's so green that it seems as if the grass was
actually painted green. On closer inspection, it appears that the grass really was painted green with
spray paint. Presumably that means that the grass is actually the product of extremely lazy lawn care.
Either way, it is very green. "

Now the player will see that description of the grass if they type "examine grass". Now let's add an object to the room.

+ rake : Thing 'rake' 'rake'
"This is a simple rake for sweeping leaves. "

When the player types look in the field room, they will see a list of its contents. In this case it will list the rake after it has described the room. So, now the player can do things like "get rake" to pick up the rake and "examine rake" to see the description of the rake that we wrote.

It's so simple!


eyes can't see themselves move

I was looking in the bathroom mirror and I realized that if I look at one eye and then the other, I can't detect any movement in my eyes. I tried backing up and getting really close and no matter what, I wasn't able to see my eyes move. Obviously they are moving, but it's kind of cool that I can't detect it.


discovery versus invention

What's the difference between an invention and a discovery? The answer seems simple. A discovery is something that can only exist in an axiomatic system. All mathematical theorems are discoveries because the basic axioms (of whatever mathematical system you are using) specify everything that could ever exist in that system. However, the axioms themselves are inventions unless they derive from other axioms somewhere else.

Computer software could seem like a discovery because all software is converted into opcodes and all possible opcodes are specified by the processor up front. The opcodes are like axioms and software is like the theorems derived from the axioms.

However, it's fairly difficult for me to think of computer software as a discovery. So, perhaps other attributes need to be incorporated into the definition of invention like the complexity of the system and the approaches that are used to create things in that system.


political choice is based on emotional makeup

Everyone who argues about politics seems to think that a person's political choice is somehow a matter of intelligence. Democrats will look at Republicans and call them stupid and Republicans do the same to Democrats.

But, intelligence has little to do with it. Political choice, whether it be Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Socialist, is determined by an individual's emotional makeup. The following are some of the key factors:

  • a person's willingness to feel empathy for the individual as opposed to entire groups of people. (i.e., do the rights of the one outweigh the rights of the few or the many, versus the rights of the many outweighing the rights of the few or the one). The former is Democrats, Socialists, and Libertarians. The latter is Republicans.
  • a person's willingness to accept short term pain for long term gain (as opposed to a person wanting to only ever go the route of happiness even if it means less happiness in the long term).
    The former is Libertarians. The latter is Republicans, Democrats, and Socialists.
  • a person's preference for decentralized systems versus centralized systems.
    The former is Libertarians and Republicans. The latter is Democrats, and Socialists.
  • a person's acceptance or lack of acceptance for societally imposed mores.
    The former is Republicans and Socialists. The latter is Democrats and Libertarians.
  • a person's willingness to sacrifice a small amount of someone else's happiness in order to greatly increase the the happiness of others (whether or not such attempts succeed is irrelevant). The opposite would be someone who does not believe that doing that is acceptable. The former would be Socialists and Democrats. The latter would be Republicans and Libertarians.

Of course, anyone who is unsure about any of those issues will tend to be a swing voter or even a non-voter.


alarm clocks

Alarm clocks suck. Here's the attributes I'd like to see in an alarm clock:

  • 2" high lighted red letters
  • 10 minute snooze timer which adds time. This means that if I hit snooze once it once then it'll snooze for 10 minutes. If I hit snooze 3 times then it'll snooze half an hour. Also, when I hit snooze it should display something like "+10" then "+20", etc., each time I hit it, so I know how long it'll be snoozing.
  • when setting the alarm, I want to be able to go up and down. So, if I set the alarm to 6:01am then I want to be able to hit down to go back to 6:00am.
  • the "down" button should work along with the addable snooze so that if it's at "+30" and I hit "up" or "down" then it should increase or reduce the snooze by 1.
  • The "am" and "pm" should be displayed in large letters instead of just being a dot which indicates pm.
  • standard beep-beep-beep (I've developed a Pavlovian response to it, so I prefer it.)
  • A nice addition might be to have two displays. There would be the 2" high lighted red letters of the time and then 1" high lighted green letters which show the alarm time.
  • I've thought about having the clock know the day of the week so that, if desired, it won't wake you on the weekend, but then it occurred to me that some weekends you might want to be woken up and it would be tricky to have to tell it that this weekend you really do want it to wake you up.


NASA's plans

Right now, NASA gets something like $15 billion. For 30 years we've been playing in our little pool, never going beyond low earth orbit. The shuttle costs ten times as much money to launch humans as the equivalent Russian launch systems and 100 times as much money to launch non-human cargo as our own rockets. The international space station is cool, but it means nothing. So long as launching things is expensive, there is no way we will ever accomplish the real goal of getting serious levels of private investment in space and serious numbers of humans in space settlements (on the moon or mars or wherever).

If you put me in charge of NASA, I would make some big changes. I would 0 out funding for EVERYTHING that was not related to creating cheaper launch systems. That means the space shuttle would be gone tomorrow. I'd let the international space station rot. The Hubble would be transferred into private ownership. I would put all $15 billion towards creating cheap launch vehicles.

Right now there are something like maybe 4 serious contenders for the X-prize and an additional ten or twenty possible contenders. I would take that $15 billion and hire every single rocket scientist and engineer in Russia and America and everywhere else in the world (there probably aren't that many in the world) and I would split them into 300 different projects. Some projects might get a few million dollars while other projects might get $200 million or more. The total $15 billion would be split into 15 overseer groups who would each fund projects however they wanted.

The key is to spread the money around in big chunks with the largest number of projects possible with the fewest choke points. If we put all the money under the control of one group then it's possible they'll get tunnel vision and not fund some promising projects. That's why we would need 15 different overseers. Private companies would make up some of the groups. Many private companies would be created as a result of this since this is essentially venture capital.

Some overseers might decide to not fund any group that couldn't produce something in 5 years. If they failed then they would get their funding yanked. Other groups might go for some longer term projects. Longer term projects risk becoming bureaucracies that produce little or nothing, but that's why we have lots of different groups.

And remember, that's $15 billion a year. This isn't a one time thing. The key is to make launch technologies that can get a person into space for $100,000 (or less) each launch and cargo into space for $10,000 (or less) for a few hundred pounds of cargo. At those levels, you'll see massive numbers of private space ventures spring up. There aren't many billionaires in the world, but there are many many millionaires. At $100,000, you would see a lot of people taking out loans (like they do for cars or houses) in order to spend a few weeks in space. Building another space station in low earth orbit would cost only a tiny fraction of cost of the current cash black hole that is the international space station.


But, it won't happen like that. We'll continue to put most of our money in a small number of places and it'll be another 50 or 100 years before we settle mars.


generalized software can only exist through standards bodies

There are very good reasons why most software is custom made. Most stuff out there sucks. If you need a connection pool, you will be looking a long time for a good one because they all suck. Want a good boards system, you can get one as long as you don't want it to fit your particular needs. Want a bug tracking system? Good luck finding one that has features while also being easy to use and bug free.


If software has a lot of features then that means it will be hard to use.

If a software is easy to use then that means it doesn't have many features.


If software is bug free then that means it doesn't have many features.

If software has a lot of features then it has lots of bugs.

There is only one way to have software that has features and ease of use and no bugs. The way is to have lots and lots of QA and lots and lots of users as well as a way of getting input from those users to the developers.

Don't think for a second that you can get a set of good developers who will write bug free code. Such people do not exist. In the history of the world, no developer has ever lived who wrote any significant amount of bug free code without the benefit of large amounts of user feedback. Such people will not exist until we have learned how to increase human intelligence using either genetic engineering or cyborg technology (which has been QAed thoroughly of course).


big bang origin

This isn't my thought, but I find it interesting because it provides a way out of the dark universe concept (where all the energy in the universe eventually gets converted to heat and nothing is left):

White holes...where do you think the Big Bang came from? I've always thought that the big bang is just the result of a black hole's singularity reaching some sort of critical mass and punching a hole through to another ? (time-space continuum, dimension, sector of emptiness, etc...pick one) and spilling the collected mass into that void thereby causing a "big bang".


poor memory leads to a preference for organization?

It occurs to me that having a poor memory can cause a person to become more organized. A person with a good memory may not feel as great a need to be organized. As a result, a person with a poor memory all their life may grow up with an instinctive feeling that organization is inherently good. I wonder if people who have collections (like keychain collections or coin collections) are much more likely to have poor memories than those who do not feel compelled to keep collections of any kind.

This leads to my other thought that perhaps the best software engineers are people with an inherent need to keep things organized properly. Unorganized code is crap. If a software engineer writes code that isn't well organized then they shouldn't be software engineers. So, perhaps as a result, the best software engineers have poor memories?


economics 101

What makes one purchase a bigger benefit to the economy than some other purchase that costs the same amount?

It's all about productivity and the number of hops that the money takes before it's parked in a bank account.

If I buy a tax free widget for $1 then the maker of the widget gets $1. That person can then spend $1 on something or save it. If they spend it immediately (as soon as they get it) then it'll have a bigger impact than if they wait a bit, but regardless, the total money in play here at any given time is $1.

If I buy a tax free widget for $1 and a tax free bipbop for $1 then the total money in play is $2. If the widget maker spends the money 1 day later while the bipbop maker holds onto it for two days before spending it, then the total money in play is:
DAY 1: $2 (spent by me)
DAY 2: $1 (spent by widget maker)
DAY 3: $1 (spent by bipbop maker)

That assumes that the money spent by those makers was not spent after that. So, lets assumbe that on day 2 the widget maker bought a bipbop. Then the bipbop maker buys two widgets on day 3.

DAY 1: $2 (spent by me)
DAY 2: $1 (spent by widget maker on one bipbop)
DAY 3: $2 (spent by bipbop maker on two widgets)

So, day 2 was actually a bad day for the economy. The economy was down by 50% compared to day 2 and day 3.

Every time someone buys something, they are getting something in return. The more often people buy things, the more things that people get. The faster they buy things, the quicker other people make money which can be used to buy things from the original person.

So, if everyone spends money quickly then everyone will get more things in a shorter amount of time.

Let me put it another way. At the end of the above transactions, the following objects are owned:
I have one widget and one bipbop.
The widget maker has one bipbop.
The bipbop maker has two widgets.

If the bipbop maker had spent his money on day 2 on a widget instead of holding it until day 3 to buy the widget, then the widget maker would have had another $1 on day 3 that he could have spent on a bipbop. That means that if the bipbop maker had spent on day 2 then the result at the end would be:
I have one widget and one bipbop.
The widget maker has two bipbops.
The bipbop maker has two widgets.

By keeping more money in circulation, more products exchanged hands. If, on the other hand, the widget maker waited until day 3 to spend his $1, then at the end we would have:
I have one widget and one bipbop.
The widget maker has one bipbop.
The bipbop maker has one widget.

As a result of the lower amount of circulation, fewer products exchanged hands and both makers have a worse standard of living (based on the amount of stuff you have) than they would have if they had both spent (and received) more money more quickly.

Pretty cool huh!


stock market eliminated by time travel

If time travel became easy and widespread then the stock market would stop working unless certain changes occurred. For instance, all stock market participants would have to be verified to be from the current time stream. It might be necessary to implant digital clocks (with encryption to prevent tampering) in each person's body. Then, in order to make a trade, you would have to have that clock's time matched up with the time indicated in the stock market's database of trader clocks. That way, if you travelled backward or forward in time then your clock would stop matching up with the market's clock and you would not be allowed to make trades.

Furthermore, penalties for temporal trading would have to be created in the same fashion that insider trading is penalized now. That would be necessary of course in order to prevent people from simply having friends go forward in time to find things out and then tell them. That would be ruled temporal trading and you would be fined and probably barred from the market.

Gambling in Vegas would also have to make some changes. The details and results of poker games and horse races would have to be conducted in private and then kept private forever. That would prevent people from going back in time to inform themselves of the results of races. Of course, this requires trust that the players in the games would never tell anyone the results for their entire lives. This would probably be difficult to enforce without some form of mind control, so betting on sports events of any kind would likely have to stop completely. Small scale gambling (like with roulette wheels) could still work as long as none of the participants had photographic memories because after a thousand spins there would be no way to remember all the results.


limited portable technology

Batteries and radio. Portable devices are inherently limited due to stupid physical constraints. Chemical batteries have, for decades, been a huge limitation on how portable things can be. Devices have to be designed around conserving power. Laptops are either powerful or long lived. They can't be both. Radio is another problem. It's irritating that electromagnetic radiation interferes with itself. I suspect that the spectrum will be more efficiently used once devices start using it in the same way that ethernet is used. But that means that everything needs to be redesigned for a particular part of the spectrum. But that's yet another annoying physical restriction.


slow light: bats

It occurs to me that the thought experiment I mentioned about slow light would be essentially equivalent to having bats that travelled faster than the speed of sound. Or, if you put bats in little space suits (which allowed their sonar though) and then put them into a little bat airplane. The bat wouldn't be able to see where it was going. (I'm assuming it's a really smart bat that's trained to control the airplane.) But there wouldn't be anything physically impossible about travelling faster than it could "see".

So I guess that puts a damper on the possibilities of rocket powered bat movement. Oh well.


Matrix Revolutions alternate ending

The ending to Matrix Revolutions was not as satisfying as it could have been. Mine is better. Smith and Neo were supposed to be part of the same thing. By the end, Smith had discovered all of Neo's powers, so I thought Neo would discover how to copy himself. We should have seen Neo copy himself a million times and then we could see battles between millions of Neos and millions of Smiths!!! Then at the end we would see millions of Neos standing over massive piles of dead Smiths. THAT would have been satisfying. The camera would zoom around. A neo would fly past into the wall while another Neo would hit the ground with a meteoric impact. Hundreds of Neo vs. Smith battles on screen at once!


slow light

What would happen if light travelled 1 mile per hour and Einstein's theories didn't apply?

If you entered the street you could be hit by a car before you even saw it. Cars would not be able to see cars behind them, but they could see cars ahead of them. Intersections would need to be controlled because there would be no way to ever see cars before you turned left unless all cars stopped at intersections long enough to allow other cars to see them.


that what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence

I've long known the phrase "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" which makes a lot of sense, but for some reason I never heard the phrase "that what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence". That also makes a lot of sense and I plan on using it in the future.

keyboard destruction

Did you know that if you dump water on a keyboard that it can destroy the PS2 connector on the motherboard but not the keyboard itself? This is the 2nd time in my life that this has happened. The first time there was no USB, so I just replaced the motherboard. This time I ordered a PS2 to USB adapter. I'm hoping that things work that way. Right now I have to use a different USB keyboard that I have. It's much worse than my very wonderful Kinesis keyboard, so I can't wait to get back to using it when the adapter gets here today.

If the adapter doesn't work then I'll simply have to order a USB version of my Kinesis keyboard.


a new way for browser history lists to work

Sometimes I need to reboot but I have a lot of tabs open in mozilla and windows open in explorer. The usual solution is to drag the urls from all the different windows into a new folder. However, if the history feature in mozilla and explorer was organized better then I wouldn't need to do this. The history in both browsers is organized by the date that the page is viewed or by site. But I would really just like to know all the windows that were actually open most recently. If I open a window to URL1 and another to URL2 then another to URL3 then in the history, when sorted by date, it'll show URL1, URL2, URL3. But let's say I now close URL2. The history won't change, but I'd really like to be able to see a history list which shows URL1 and URL3 as the most recent because those are the ones that were open most recently.

This would be a very useful organization for a history list because often times I have multiple windows which have related information. For instance I might be searching for a new power supply for my computer. I'll do some searches and then open a few dozen windows and then close the ones that I'm not interested in. The remaining windows will be all the power supplies I'm interested in. As it is now, the history list wouldn't help me at all if I wanted to see all the power supplies I was interested in. It'll just show all of the power supplies I looked at. If it bumped closed windows below open windows then I could just look at the most recent urls in the history and I'd see exactly which power supplies I was interested in.


Is a house an investment?

Rent an apartment or buy a house? One argument for buying a house is that you are putting money into something and as a result you are building equity. OTOH, all the money for rent just goes down the tubes. You acquire no equity.

However, what happens after you spend 30 years paying $2000 a month for a house (versus $1200 a month for an apartment). At the end of 30 years you own a house (versus at the end of 30 years you are still paying rent). However, what do you do now? Do you sell your house for lots of cash and then go live in a really tiny house so that you can use the money that you put into your "investment" (by which I mean the house)? No, you'll just continue living in the house.

So for 30 years you will have $800 less a month to spend and you will be getting a house.

So if a house makes you happier than an apartment, then you are paying $800 a month for that extra happiness. The only use for that equity is to pass it on to your heirs. You will essentially have paid $800 extra a month in order to give money to your kids.

In other words, the only reason to get a house is if you want a house. You cannot make an economic argument that it's an investment. An investment is only useful if you intend to cash in at some point. If I have stock in General Electric at $0.00001 per share, but I never sell those shares, then that money is only theoretical. If you gave me ownership of a mountain of gold in South America, but I never sell any of it or even travel there to look at it, then who cares?

So to sum up: only buy a house if owning a house makes you $X happier a month where $X is the difference between your monthly house payment and your rent.


black hole storage

Whenever I pack for a trip I always keep in mind that if a black hole can store the entire earth in a space much much smaller than a grain of sand, then it is always possible for me to put more stuff into my suitcase.


Habits of big monsters?

Why do big monsters always go and attack big cities? Lions and tigers don't search out the biggest people filled place to attack. If I was a big monster I would just want to go find a big monster community somewhere. I wonder where Godzillaville and Mothropolis are located.


socialists are worse than terrorists

Socialists are worse than terrorists because socialists can actually succeed at destroying the economy.

Socialists have caused far more misery than terrorists ever will.


taskbar ordering

FYI, I found an app that lets you reorder tasks that show up on your windows start bar. For instance, I like to keep Eudora first in the list, slickedit 2nd, etc. This app allows you to reorder that list if it gets screwed up by closing an app and opening another one.



remember computer dust covers?

I just remembered computer dust covers. *laugh* We had an Apple //e when I was a kid and my parents had a dust cover for it, so it was always covered when it was turned off. It just makes me laugh now that I realize that we were treating it like a precious museum artifact instead of as a piece of consumer electronics which couldn't possibly be harmed (except aesthetically) even if it was totally covered and filled with sawdust (as long as the sawdust is dry, it shouldn't conduct because wood is a pretty good insulator, so covering the internals of your computer with sawdust shouldn't hurt it). That's just another example of how people can be tricked into buying things that are essentially useless.


"car killed eight people, but none of them were kids, so that's not too bad then"

Here's a quote from a recent cnn.com article "An elderly man driving a mid-size car plowed through a crowded farmers market Wednesday, killing eight people, including a 3-year-old girl, authorities said.". (http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/West/07/16/farmers.market.crash/index.html)

That sort of statement really irritates me. If none had been kids would I be sitting here thinking "boy, that was a bad accident but none were kids so I don't feel nearly as bad about it".

Unless everyone killed was seconds away from death, I don't care how old they are. 8 deaths is awful no matter what their ages are.

I can only assume that there are plenty of people with big hearts and mushy heads who hear "including a 3-year-old girl" and say "oh the humanity! Won't someone think of the childeren!" For my part, I just feel bad that 8 people died. Isn't that enough?


miniature golf course construction

I have now taken an electronics course, a woodworking course, and a metalworking course. All this building is a lot of fun and I think that creating a miniature golf course would be the most enjoyable thing to do which would require all kinds of different types of construction. I wonder if they have miniature golf course construction groups or something where you can get together with other people to create miniature golf courses. You could put them in a park on weekends and then haul them away at the end of the day. The key would be to build them in a modular way which didn't make them look cheap.

That would be a lot of fun! If I lived back in the Midwest I could get a house with a big lawn and do it myself, but sadly that's just not possible here unless I'm a millionaire. (And I'm not.)


mood predictor via car driving style

For someone who is susceptible to road rage, you could put a device in their car which looks at their driving habits. During the trip (when someone else is in the car) the passenger would note the driver's mood whenever the driver gets angry. After a while it should be able to predict the driver's mood from the way they drive. It could pop up messages on the dashboard which say "calm down" or "Think of the children! Oh won't someone think of the children!" if they're driving too wrecklessly. It could turn on soothing music to calm them down.


the last mile problem with trains

One of the big reasons why trains are not practical is because they have to go to exactly where you want to go. If the distance from the train station to where you want to go is more than a couple miles then it becomes totally impractical to even bicycle to it. This is why I often drive the 45 minute drive south from where I live instead of using the train. I'd love to be able to read a book or whatever while I'm travelling, but it's just not practical.

The solution is to have train systems integrate with car rental companies. The train system would need to have 50 or 100 (or whatever) rentable cars at each train station. Individuals would rent those cars by the hour.

You could also have a whole bunch of electric golf carts there as well. Those would also be rentable by the hour.

When people were done doing what they were doing they would drive back to the train station, return the golf cart of car, and get back on the train.

That would solve what I think of as the last mile problem with trains.



In an earthquake prone area, there are going to be a lot of fires when a BIG earthquake eventually happens. This is usually because of gas lines. I personally would like to eliminate the use of gas lines in earthquake prone areas or at least figure out a way to make them safe during earthquakes, but no one else seems to care. Then again, I don't cook much and I don't need a heater, so I personally don't have much use for it anyway.

Anyway, during an earthquake there are lots of fires and roads can be blocked which makes it harder for fire engines to get there, etc. What we need is a way to get water, in large quantities, to a fire without needing a fire truck or even people there.

In the Coca Cola history museum in Las Vegas, they have a coke dispenser which allows you to stick a cup in one area and a stream of coke goes shooting through the air in a big arc and comes down in your cup. So it delivers the coke through the air, half way across the room. Very cool!

So the answer is obvious. We would just create a water shooting station right next to the ocean or bay or river or whatever body of water happens to be close at hand. It would suck water from the bay and shoot it into the air, in an arc, and land on whichever fire it was aiming at. The army has the ability to use lasers to measure wind speeds which allow it to lob an artillery shell in the air and have it hit a target a couple miles away very nearly 100% of the time. There's no reason why we couldn't use the same sort of technology to determine which direction to shoot a stream of water to have it hit the fire we're interested in hitting several miles away.

I'm imagining that the stream of water would be a meter wide or wider. That should be enough to be able to use to fight a fire. Of course, fire fighters do other things besides shoot water when it comes to stopping a fire. They use bulldozers to clear out debris. They create trenches which prevent the fire from spreading further, etc.

If necessary, those types of functions could be performed by small bombs placed at strategic points by miniature remote control helicopters. Those would of course not be resorted to unless the water is insufficient. Remote control helicopters would be more practical than large helicopters because large helicopters are extremely expensive and most areas only have a one or a few of them if they have any at all. You can get a remote control helicopter for a few hundred dollars.

Now, there are obviously lots of places that are not too near a big body of water. And I'm assuming that each additional mile would require vastly more power and vastly more water would spread out before it got to its destination because it would need to go a lot higher in the air. The solution to this is also obvious.

We would need repeater stations placed around a city every few miles. Water would be shot from the station near the body of water and would be collected by a big funnel on top of the repeater and then shot out again to wherever it needed to go. This could be repeated as many times as necessary.

In areas where there's no body of water for huge distances, we could have a system that collected water from the normal water system we already have in place. It would collect a huge pool of water in a reservoir and then shoot it into the air at fires whenever needed. This would be a problem if it ran out of water before the fire was out, but it would at least help reduce the fire while the fire engines made their way there.


quiet cacophony


If your apartment is on fire then don't bother to stop, drop, and roll. Just leave the apartment. You would look silly rolling around in a burning building when you're not actually on fire.


Would there be any way to construct a set of wings such that a runner could wear them and get an advantage over other runners who don't wear them? Perhaps some sort of hang glider arrangement where each jump would send them gliding over a longer distance. This might be useful for marathon runners.


Why isn't there such a thing as decaffeinated chocolate?

If it's possible to keep bringing Dracula back to life, wouldn't it be safer for vampire hunters to simply chain him up in a coffin filled with lead and then drop it into the middle of the ocean or (if they have a lot more money) to launch it into space on a heading out into deep space?

The same trick could be applied to Jason and any other monster that keeps coming back to life.

People risk skin cancer in order to get a tan. Wouldn't it be safer to get a full body tattoo which is a solid smooth shade of whatever shade of brown they wanted to be?

What is a smithereen?

I want a book holder with a voice activated page turner so that I can more easily read while I'm eating.

Answering machines should have headphone jacks for privacy and the ability to dub messages.

When I listen to presidents and other politicians speak, I start to like them. That's an emotional reaction that has nothing to do with their position on the real issues. So, I do my best to avoid listening to them speak. I instead prefer to read news reports about what they said afterward.

Some people think things are always better over the next hill. However, at least with regard to food, there's usually a garbage dump or a sewer over the next hill.

When did it become acceptable for men to not wear cover their chests on the beach? Women still have to do so. Is the reason because most women don't really want to uncover whereas many guys like to show off? That's my guess. If a large percentage of people really want a particular freedom then it's highly likely that they will eventually get it. It's good that freedom works that way (at least in good countries).

Why do I need to breath so much exhaust from other cars in my car? Why don't they have air filters that actually filter all carbon monoxide and other bad stuff from the air. That might require replacing the filters every now and then, but it would certainly be worth it.

On digital clocks, the pair of numbers 2 and 3, as well as the pair 8 and 9, each have the same tops. Otherwise the bottom parts of those numbers could be dropped because they don't make the digits more unique.

Here are the tops of all the numbers:

0 = _

1 =

2 = _

3 = _

4 =

5 = _

6 =

7 = _

8 = _

9 = _

It's annoying to have to dunk mops in and out of a water bucket. There should have a mop that sprays out water and sucks it back up behind it. I think that things like The Rug Doctor do that for rugs, but I don't think they have a mopping ability.

You know how some people look like they have toupees even when they don't? Well, try looking at the profile of just your own face in the mirror (you'll need a second mirror in order to do this, and I don't think it really works if you look at someone else's profile). If you have short hair or if you pull back your hair so that you see the abrupt change from face to hair then, at least to me, it looks like the face is actually a really great fake face attached to the body. Or alternatively, it looks like a fake head attached to a real face.


Why aren't there PC cases that are cooled like refrigerators? Normally that's not a problem in server environments where the entire room is air conditioned. But what about home computers which can easily get hot during hot weather because they don't have air conditioning in their homes. It should be possible to install air conditioners for the case which cool the PC exactly like a refrigerator.


How do you score a pillow fight?

You know, it would just be easier if the person with the birthday or other holiday called everyone else on that day. That way each person remembers the holidays that apply to them. It centralizes the remembering process. It would be more efficient. *smile*

As an extension of that, everyone would give presents to other people on their own birthday. That way everyone would just have to buy a bunch of presents before their own birthday instead of having to do so before everyone else's birthday.


I'm not a glass-half-empty or glass-half-full person. I look at that glass and say "Why the hell didn't you fill it up all the way?". I then proceed to fill the glass up myself. Why live with a half-full/half-empty glass when you can just go to the fridge and fill it up?

I think hiccups might help force stuck food down your esophagus.

There's a Rube Goldberg contest at Purdue University in Indiana.

In D&D, why are there half elves and half orcs, but no part dwarf part elf beings? Why are all half creatures half human?

Why is an infinity (heaven, etc.) required for existence to be worthwhile? If you could only have sex once and never again, would you say "what's the point?"? Pfft. I think not.

How would things have been different at the end of WWII if Berlin had been in West Germany?

Another quake preventative would be to haul away a bunch of the rock between the plates so that future plate movements have someplace to go. The pressure wouldn't build up.

Perhaps in the future we could have an earthquake control system. They would be gigantic devices that catch a plate slip and slowely let it release force so that all quakes are below a certain magnitude.

Did Helen Keller have kids or any relationship with any guy at all?

The pope relatively recently declared evolution as real except for the human soul. He said that sometime within the last few years I think.

What literary techniques does Douglas Adams use which make his books so unique?

When I go to sleep I find that I suck the air out of my mouth to cause my toungue to stay fixed in place against my front teeth. Presumably this is an automatic behavior which prevents me from swallowing my toungue when I sleep. I wonder if everyone does this.

Why are blankets necessary? Can't we get clothes that preserve warmth well enough?

We wouldn't choose wire-in-the-brain with our current mindsets. But we probably wouldn't voluntarily stop once the wire was in.

Perhaps the most popular cars are stolen most often because thieves need certain knowledge to steal a car, so they practice on the most popular cars.

If people hear voices in their heads, does their auditory nerve get activated or does the brain circumvent it?

Does washing your hands make them cleaner or is it the wiping on a towel afterward that does all the work unless you used soap?

If travelling speed of light goes forward in time, does that mean light itself travels forward in time at an infinite speed? Are electrons in particle accelerators aging? If so, couldn't we test proton decay by using particule accelerators?




Kuwait (pro-American people)
Saudi Arabia (pro-American government, anti-American people)
Jordan (no oil, so they can't be too bad)




We're endangering our troops by unnecessarily going into urban settings in Iraq in order to prevent people there from dying of thirst. More of our people have died and been injured and even captured there than they have anywhere else. Why? There's a simple way to get water from seawater without electricity.

You just use a large bucket, a small bucket, 4 poles (sticks that are about the same length will do), a rock, and some plastic sheeting (preferably transparent). You put the big bucket on the ground and fill it with seawater. Then you put the smaller bucket in the center of that sea water filled bucket (the smaller bucket is where the drinkable water will end up). You then attach the sticks to the outside of the large bucket so they're standing vertically. You then put the plastic over the top so that it covers the whole thing. Tuck the plastic under the big bucket so that water vapor doesn't escape. Now put the stone in the center of the plastic sheeting so that it pulls it down so that it's right over the smaller bucket.

From the side, what you'll have should look something like this:

| |

The "o" is the stone. The "u" is the smaller bucket. The "|" characters are the sticks. The "\" and "/" are the plastic sheeting. (The sheeting also goes under the stone, but I can't really represent that well in the picture.)

What will happen is that the heat from the sun will cause water to evaporate from the big pan. The water will condense on the plastic sheeting and drip down it to the lower spot where the stone is making the sheeting droop in the center. The water will drip off of that place into the smaller bucket. After the smaller bucket is full, you can pull up the plastic sheeting and drink that water!

Every person who leaves near the sea in the desert should have one of those.


I just thought of an interesting concept that could be applied in databases. You could do it with triggers, but a formalized concept of it might be interesting.

If, for instance, I'm tracking some sort of activity for each day (for instance, the number of users who are watching a particular boards thread) then I would update a record with count=count+1. If the record didn't exist for that day then I'd insert it with a count=1. If the count decreses I'd update a record with count=count-1 and if it didn't exist for that day I'd insert it with a count=-1. The implied idea here is that there's always a theoretical record with count=0 that exists for all instances of whatever it is that we're recording.

So, we could define a formalized concept of record insertion for particular tables where, if you update a record that doesn't exist then it inserts that record with all the values that you specified in the WHERE clause which indicates the key to that record. We would define default values for the columns that aren't primary keys.

Yes, we could do this with triggers, but it seems to me that there's some fertile ground for some interesting behavior that should be investigated.


One of the most important attributes of being a good programmer is being methodical. You need to be good at doing things in a very predictable and repeatable way. If your method for picking variable names or method names or class names is chaotic then it'll be harder for you (or anyone else) to navigate your code. Furthermore, doing things in a regular fashion reduces the likelyhood of bugs. Show me a programmer who writes buggy code and I'll show you an inconsistent person who doesn't do things methodically.


The reason why stereotypes (of any type) are often reasonable approximations of people is because most people don't believe things completely randomly. Given any set of basic values and circumstances, certain opinions will follow unless that person is completely irrational.


If I had a time machine and an infinitely long lifespan, I would create a company where I was every one of the software engineers. If I needed a new engineer, I'd write myself a note so that 10 years from now I would travel back in time to work in that position. Of course, that new developer would be given the most senior position because they would have 10 years more experience than the most experience developer there. And, the note would need to always be given to the most recent instance of me because all the other instances of me would already have notes. Of course, if I did it like that, the entire company (except for the most recent instance of me) would disappear after 10 years, so if I wanted it to continue I would need to give the most recent instance of me a note to travel back in time 10 years starting from 10 years after the first jump date. As an alternative, I could scatter the number of years around a bit so that some travelled from 20 years in the future at scattered intervals so that instances of me would be appearing and disappearing all the time, but everyone would not ever disappear all at once.