Friday, March 30, 2007

When You Gotta Go, You Gotta Go

Even though it's Friday I actually have no specific article for you today. There have been no shortage of articles on today's topic.

I'd like to hop on the bandwagon and talk about Lisa Nowak. She's probably one of the worlds most famous astronauts right now. She found herself caught in a love triangle and decided to drive 900 miles to confront her competition. Now, most articles on this subject always feel the need to mention how she wore adult diaper[s] on her trek, presumably so she wouldn't have to stop as often.

A few things occur to me when I read about this:

  1. On a 900 mile drive she would have had to stop for gas a number of times (unless she was in a Jetta TDI) so why not go to the washroom as necessary on her fill-ups?

  2. This has to be the most embarrassing part of the story for her. Many many people have been arrested for attempted murder or kidnapping or whatever. Yet you rarely hear about how someone decided to wear adult diapers for the drive. The media seems to feel the need to mention this every time they talk about her.

    Attempted whatever maybe morally shameful, but the embarrassment factor isn't nearly as high as the embarrassment factor of the adult diaper thing.

    I feel bad for her on this count.

  3. It is supposed that the reason she wore the adult diapers was to reduce stops. But, surely someone who's smart enough to learn to be an astronaut is smart enough to figure "If I have to go, then I'll just find a place or go at the gas stations." So this leads me to think there was another reason. She was probably in a hurry and didn't want to take the extra time to bother with finding washrooms, asking to use them, wait in line, use the faculties, then wash her hands, and wait the for blow dryer to dry her hands. This would add time to her journey.

    And peeing is inefficient. When you're peeing, there's not much else you can do. It's not long enough to read, do a crossword puzzle, write your memoirs, or operate heavy machinery .

    Adult diapers solve these problems. When she has to go, she just lets go and doesn't have to worry about the upholstery in her car. She doesn't have to worry about finding a washroom, or the time it takes to wash her hands properly. It also allows her to do two things at once. She can answer nature's call whilst driving, find a new station on the radio, apply her make-up, talk on her cell phone, and review her list of things to do/say to Colleen Shipman.

    So, this very smart person, who eventually became an astronaut seemed to think that the time saving properties of adult diapers were worth the potential for embarrassment. This makes me wonder "how many managers have implemented adult diaper policies at work?" If there's a way to increase productivity of employees, someone somewhere must have tried it somewhere, sometime.

    I don't know how many man-hours of work, and therefore lost dollars in productivity, are lost each year due to bathroom breaks. It may or may not be significant, but as many of you know, just because a loss in productivity is insignificant this doesn't stop managers from trying to stop it.

    I can imagine a new employee's first day at work.

    New employee: "Where's the washroom's around here?"

    Boss: "Never mind that now. Anyway, as I was saying, about your uniform; you supply the socks and shoes. We supply the shirts, pants, ties, hats, and diapers."

And, now I will leave you with this picture of a Lisa Nowak With Failed Adult Diaper One-Of-A-Kind action figure that sold on eBay for $102.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Second Stupidest Thing I've Ever Heard

By now you've certainly heard that this archaeologist guy, Simcha Jacobovici, found the bones of Jesus, his wife Mary, and his son Judah. And he has DNA proof.

This is the second stupidest thing I've ever heard.

There is no end to articles explaining what's wrong with his conclusion, things like Joseph, Jesus, Mary, and Judah were very common names at the time, why would Matthew have been buried with Jesus' family?, why would Jesus' family have been buried in Jerusalem when that was pretty far from their home in Nazareth?, Why wasn't Jesus brother, James, buried with them?, and several other problems with his conclusion.

But they have all seemed to forgotten one big huge problem with this Simcha's conclusion.

For some reason non Christians tend to think of Jesus as a good moral teacher. But Jesus' teachings are not the main point of Christianity. Christianity is built on this succession: Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension. If one of those is missing, the story falls apart. Without the death the price for our sins has not been payed, which means we're not free from them, we still have to pay. With the death, but without the resurrection we have no way of knowing that Jesus' death made adequate atonement. ie: we wouldn't know if we were free from our sins or not. It would also have meant that death defeated him, as it defeats us. It is very important to Christianity that Jesus didn't stay dead. With the death, resurrection, but not the ascension then Jesus would have grown old and, presumably, died an old man. (Okay, it's true we don't know what would have happened had Jesus' not ascended. It's sort of implied in the Bible that if Jesus didn't ascend, then we wouldn't have received the Holy Spirit.)

So now Simcha Jacobovici says he has the bones of Jesus. This would be possible in one of the following two scenarios: 1) Jesus died on the cross, and never rose from the dead; 2) Jesus died on the cross, rose from the dead, lived for a while, hung around, did stuff, then died later on and was buried in Jerusalem.

We will now look at the flaws of each of these scenarios.

Concerning scenario #1:
After Jesus was arrested by the Romans and the Jews his disciples got scared. And rightly so. They figured that the Romans and Jews would come after them next. Now, they might get ignored if they laid low for a while and didn't bother anyone about Jesus for a while.

But then something happened. They came out of hiding, and decided to not lay low under the radar. They went around proclaiming the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. They did this fearlessly. Most of them died for this. Some were crucified. Some were burned at the steak. Some were sawed in two. Some were stoned to death. (With big stones, not with joints.) They had to really believe what they were proclaiming. Even if they thought Jesus was never raised from the dead, but they didn't want him to die in vein, and they wanted to spread a lie, some may have died for it, but surely not all. Surely there would have been a number admitting to the truth rather than dying for a lie.

People will die for what they think is right, but few will die for what they know is wrong.

Furthermore, if Jesus was dead, and the disciples were spreading the word that he had risen, the Jews and Romans could have easily refuted them by showing everyone the corpse. (BTW: The tomb was guarded by Roman soldiers who's lives would have depended on their successful guarding of the tomb.) But they knew that the tomb was empty.

The whole of the Acts of the Apostles couldn't have happened. Even if you don't believe in the miracles of the Acts, or pentecost or anything, you can't deny how Christianity took off, becoming a thorn in the Roman's side, and eventually taking over the Roman Empire to become it's official religion.

Concerning scenario #2:
Some say all these bones mean is that Jesus didn't physically ascend into Heaven, He only "Spiritually ascended". But if Jesus didn't physically ascend, and instead was just living down the street with his wife Mary, and son Judah, in Jerusalem, then again the early Christians wouldn't have had a leg to stand on. Part of Christianity is the hope of Christ returning. How could he return if he hadn't left?!

Furthermore, if Jesus was raised from the dead, and continued going around saying what he was saying then the Jews would have gone after him again, or turned and believed in him. We know they did neither. If, on the other hand, Jesus was raised from the dead but stopped doing what he had been doing and saying what he had been saying than 2 things: 1) the movement would have fizzled out. Who would go to their death for a movement who's leader and instigator was no longer interested? If Jesus was no longer claiming to be the Messiah, then why would his disciples go on proclaiming that He was, and that He was coming back? and 2) that would have been the only time in history when the death penalty would have been shown to be a crime deterrent.

Whether or not you believe in the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, you can't deny that his early followers believed in those things whole heartedly, and acted accordingly. They willingly went to their imprisonment, torture, and death for that belief.

And that's why that's the second stupidest thing I've ever heard.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Okay, Now It's Wrong To NOT Steal From Them

Today's Article is just a shame. The RIAA is suing a stroke victim who's paralyzed on one side of his body, who's only source of income is his disability cheque.

This is not the first time the RIAA has pulled such a stunt. They've sued other disabled people, grandmothers, young children, dead people, people who have never owned a computer, and college students. Their sole source of evidence is typically easily forged documents showing that a certain IP address downloaded some music.

Some of you may be thinking "People shouldn't be illegally downloading music. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time." To understand the err or that way of thinking, we need to look at a few things:

  1. Copyright infringement isn't a criminal offense in the states (or Canada). It's a civil liability. So, "illegal" isn't really the right word to use.

  2. Stealing implies one person unrightfully looses something to another. If you steal my laptop, then you have a laptop, and suddenly, I don't. If you copy my mp3 files, you have the mp3 files, and so do I. I loose nothing, so "stealing" isn't the right term either.

  3. "Ahhh, you're stealing from the artist by way of a lost sale." That assumes that if the option to download were not available, the would-be downloader would then buy the song/album. In a lot of cases it doesn't amount to that. A lot of times people download music they're not willing to buy for any price, but since they can get it for free, why not?

  4. I've never been to business school, but it seems to me that suing your customers and potential customers is just not good business sense. (Of course, these are the same people that think DRM makes good business sense.)

  5. Suing isn't for compensation of bad business sense. The recording industry's cheese has been moved and they're not happy about it. When this happens, the wise man asks "How can I make money from this?" People who do things like this just resist and slow down progress, while the more evolved find a way to make money from it. (Just ask Steve Jobs.)

    If you slip and fall in a grocery store because of negligence on the part of the store, and you're hurt because of the fall, and you can't work and make money, you sue the store. The store probably has insurance for such things. Lots of people and business pay into the insurance pot. Insurance companies have deep pockets for big budgets. You can expect some sort of settlement. Suing isn't personal. It's business, a business most (big) businesses are prepared for. Suing is to spread the loss, not taking revenge.

A company suing disabled people with limited income is just wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! The record companies need to be sent a message that this is unacceptable! I, for one, no longer buy mainstream music. I boycott, and feel good about downloading. I think it's more important to send a message than to obey the laws being beyond their original intent. Call me a conscientious objector, if you will, but this is where I stand. (Oh, yeah. Copying music for personal use in Canada does no constitute copyright infringement.) (BTW: I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV.)

Another interesting thing that's been happening lately, possibly coincidentally, possibly as a result of the actions of the RIAA is that a lot of people are listening to Indy music. The internet makes this very easy.

I predict that as Indy music grows, the major labels continue to sue instead of reforming their business model, the major labels will loose money, loose clout, have less to sue over. And, for once, music will be about the music.

For anyone else wanting to boycott the RIAA, The RIAA Radar allows you to search out artists to see if they're part of the RIAA or not. It's there that I found out that one of my favorite groups, The Proclaimers, are Indy!!

Another site is Boycott the RIAA.

Oh, yeah, and The RIAA was voted the worst company in America.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I'm An Artist Too (9)

I think this is some sort of alien wearing a funny hat. The girl is from the Valentine's Day post. Perhaps this is the alien who set them up the bomb.

Monday, March 19, 2007

How To Blog

When writing a blog you have three choices of topics, as I see it. The first option is to write a blog about something specific. This might be the option if you're a respected professional or talented writer. For example, if you're an engineer who designs cars you might blog about new car designs and features, etc. You'd be a professional, writing on your expertise. Or you may just be a very good writer who's works people like to read for the pure aesthetic pleasure of it.

If you do this then the number of readers will be important. You don't want to take time out everyday to write for seven readers. You want lots of readers. You want to be an A-List blogger.

The other option you have is to not write on a specific topic. This could be a personal blog, telling the world that your fish died today, and how you feel about that. You may write about a variety of light topics that interest you, like books you read and music you listen to. In this case, the number of readers aren't as important. You're probably writing so your friends and family all over the world can keep up with your life. In fact, you probably don't want millions of people all over the world reading your blog.

The third option is a combination of the first two options. This is if you're not a particularly talented writer, nor are you an expert in any field. You write about things in which you have an interest, but are essentially a lay person, mixed in with a few notes about your fish's untimely death. (Speaking of dead, Edgar still is.) If this is your blog you would probably like to have millions of people read your opinions, but you won't loose any sleep over it if only your friends and family read it.

This blog is mostly the third option with a small dose of the first option. At first it was about Life with the McQueens, but those stories ran short. Then I found I really enjoyed writing the blog. After reading over some of my old posts I have found writing the blog to be very therapeutic.

The problem I face is that, besides showcasing some of my "art work", I like to write about things that interest me. This is a problem on two counts. Firstly, one of the things that interests me is also my profession. I am a computer guy. I am a computer guy because it interests me. After two diplomas, a degree, and six years of industry experience I partially fit into the "expert professional" definition. (Professional: yes. Expert: not really. Long ways to go.) If I wrote solely about it I may actually gain readership (probably not), but I'd loose all but one or two of my current readers. This is pointed out by a certain commenter who recently suggested I find a girl and pretend we're married (and apparently write about that. I somehow doubt finding a girl would mitigate my interest in computer stuff, or cause a career change, so I'm not sure why I would stop writing about it.) Of course, if I went the route of making this just another technology blog then I'm competing with countless other blogs doing the exact same thing. And, besides Coffee Cup Art, I don't know what I could offer that the other blogs don't offer.

Secondly, if I write about something that interests me that I don't come close to being an expert in I risk coming off looking like a know-nothing-know-it-all. For example, one of my interests is psychology. I read Psychology Today almost every day. I've read a number of books in this area. I took Intro to Psychology 1 and 2 in university, and am currently subscribed to Berkeley's Social Psychology class. (The class is recorded and posted on iTunes as a podcast.) I also read a few psychology blogs. Okay, so I probably know more than the average person, right? Probably, but one of my readers has an Hon. B.Sc. degree in Psychology. So if I write a blog about Cognitive Dissonance, for example, he's liable to write a comment telling the world how full of baloney I am and that I should stick to writing about web browsers. Or worse, he could read my blog, think that, and not post the comment saying as much, thus allowing me to continue on in my ignorance.

(BTW: That will not deter me from writing about it. I'm just saying that I'm not a really credible source on that topic. At least not compared to someone with a degree in that area.)

The second option isn't a great one, because typically my life isn't too exciting. I go to work, I go home, I go to church, and I write my blog. Not much to write about, except when the McQueen's car breaks down. Even if my life was more exciting, I doubt too many people would be that interested anyway.

The third option would leave the blog interesting to a wider audience. That's sort of what I do now. Scott Adams has a philosophy when it comes to creating his Dilbert cartoons. He says that there are different types of senses of humor that he appeals to. Some people find things funny just because they are funny. Others need familiar things. (These people like Baby Blues. I can't for the life of me find that comic funny. My parents tell me when I become a parent I'll find it funny.) Some Dilbert readers like the office scenes. Others like the Dogbert ones, or Wally, or Ratbert. Scott Adams figures as long as he reaches each group that finds Dilbert funny at least 20% of the time then he can hold onto a wide audience. And it's hard to argue
with his success.

So, this blog will probably continue as it is for the foreseeable future.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Hmmm....Turns Out I'm Right

Today's article says something that I've suspected for years, but always assumed I was wrong about. Apparently, a child's level of activity has little to do with obesity.

I first thought of this because I hated phys-ed. (It turns out I make most of my decisions the way most people make their decisions. I decide things based on non-rational reasons, then I find the logic and evidence to back up what I've already decided. This fools me into thinking I make decisions based on rational reasons. You probably do it too. And a lot more than you may think.) I complained to my friend "Why do we have to take phys-ed?" He said "So we don't get fat."

At the time I was too young to realize how much nonsense this was. We had phys-ed two or three times a week for an hour and twenty minutes. Once you count for time to change, and stand there listening to the teacher telling you what to do, team-picking time, etc. you're down to 50 minutes to an hour of actual activity time. So, that works out to 2.5 to 3 hours per week of forced physical activity time. Not all of that time will be used to run around and be active. There will still be a lot of standing around.

Ask anyone who's tried to loose weight by purely exercising. That is not enough. Plus, there were enough fat kids in the class to refute his claim. Furthermore, I was only forced to take phys-ed until grade 9. So, from grades 10 through 12 I didn't take one phys-ed class. When I graduated from high school I weighed 120 lbs. By my friend's logic, I should have gotten fat. (BTW: In the second semester of grade 12 I ate a slice of pizza and drank a can of pop (non-diet) almost every day.)

Furthermore, my participation in phys-ed wasn't exactly stellar. When playing basketball I tried to put as many people between me and the ball as possible. I tried to stay away from the basket so I wouldn't be passed the ball. When playing badminton I would play with the kid in the wheelchair. And he would usually win. I remember being body-checked in soccer-baseball. I was a pretty small kid, so I got picked on a bit. Plus I was a really annoying nerd, so I got picked on lots. Mea culpa though.

So I didn't exactly get many rewards out of phys-ed. And my heart breaks when I hear the bureaucrats saying "We'll combat obesity by making our kids take more phys-ed." I think of all the younger versions of me. That's the sort of thing that would have made me want to drop out of high school. (For those who have known me in my post-high school time, you may think of me as being studious and keen on school. I wasn't that way in high school.) I hear this plan and know it won't fix anything! Furthermore, this seems like something parents should be taking more responsibility for.

Besides, if kids want to be active, they will be without the school making them. If kids don't want to be active, the school can't really make them. They'll do just enough to pass and get by.

So, how do we get our kids to be thin and healthy?

The article says that they found diet to be more influencing on obesity than activity.
Good diet is paramount. Genetics also help. (That's how I stay[ed] thin.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I'm An Artist Too (8)

This is a college football player who's jersey number is not 99, 01, 50, or some such rational number, but instead Pi.

UPDATE: The fact that I posted this picture on Pi Day was mere coincidence. Yes, in fact, March 14 is Pi Day. (3-14) Some folks like to celebrate at 1:59. (3-14 1:59)

Monday, March 12, 2007

My Side Of The Story

Yesterday morning in church Pastor Jack said something from the pulpit that involved me, and I didn't have a chance to explain my side of the story to the congregation. So this is my side of the story.

Saturday was the first warm day since the January thaw. RRRRRoll Up The RRRRRRim is in full swing. I'm putting away my sweaters. The days are getting longer. We just set our clocks ahead. Spring is on it's way!

Now, I was out for most of the day on Saturday. When I got back on Saturday night the McQueen's cars were parked side by side in the drive way. I had to block one of them in. Since the Toyota doesn't have the insurance sticker on it yet, it wasn't going anywhere so I decided to block it in.

The last time it snowed out and the plow went by and created a snow-bank. We never cleared it away. We just tried patting it down with the cars as we drove over it. But due to the warm weather (+2 degrees) and the humidity on Saturday the bank at the end of the driveway ended up freezing over. It's also higher at the edges of the driveway than the center.

I backed into the driveway but when my rear wheels got over the bank the car stopped and wouldn't go back anymore. The wheels just spun on the ice. So I pulled out and tried again. Same results. I tried again. Same results. I tried a fourth time, giving more juice. The problem is that if I gave too much juice I'd go crashing into the Toyota, which we just got back from the shop on Thursday night. But this attempt worked. I gave it enough juice to get all four wheels over the hump, but not enough to hit the Toyota. As soon as the car stopped, the front slid to the right putting my car at an angle.

I knew this might cause problems for the Intrepid. But I checked, and it looked like the Intrepid had more than enough room to get around me. And it would have, except for what happened on Sunday morning.

Apparently, the warm weather on Sunday morning caused the bank to melt enough to make it wet and slushy, but not enough for it to shrink and/or go away. So, when the McQueens went to leave that morning, in order to get around my car they had to drive through the bank. The wheel sunk in and got stuck. Given the amount of (wet) ice in the driveway, they wanted to be careful, otherwise they would hit my car. Then some people came walking by, one of whom was built like a truck, and helped them push the car out of the driveway.

One of the disadvantages of living with a Pastor of a church is that if you make a mistake, you may hear about it (along with everyone else) from the pulpit. However the advantage is that when he uses one of us in a sermon (by name) he owes us 25 cents. The disadvantage, as I found out yesterday, is it's a fictitious 25 cents.

So, to sum up, I blocked them into the driveway in an effort to not smoke their car. But this made it hard for them to not smoke my car. Normally my parking job wouldn't be an issue because 1) I am normally a very good backer-upper, staying well out of their way; 2) They normally could have driven over the bank except for the exact weather conditions that existed over the past 24 hours; and 3) being on two worship teams at church I end up having to leave earlier than them. In fact there's only one Sunday per month when I don't have to go in early, and, consequently, can sleep in. This happened to be that Sunday.

I'm sorry, the McQueens.

UPDATE: Apparently, Pastor Jack didn't actually say my name from the pulpit. It just felt like he did because of his tone, and he was looking right at me. There goes my fictitious 25 cents.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Emails (Part 3)

Remember my previous entries on Emails? In the second one I suggested the reason people have so many emails is that they don't read their emails fully, thus causing a chain reaction of otherwise redundant emails.

I came across these articles on emails and thought of another possible reason. (The first article lists the 12 steps to getting over an email addiction, and the second humourously explains why those 12 steps won't work.) Perhaps these people subconsciously purposely send nonsensical replies to emails in an attempt to get more emails. If that person is an email addict than it would be the same as the alcoholic who finds reasons to go past the liquor store, or the gambling addict who's wonderings seem to lead them past the casino. When you have an addiction you want to feed it. When you have an email addiction it gets satisfied when you check your inbox and see new messages in it for you.

I know I am somewhat addicted to email, but I'm getting over it. I receive email at work and at home. At work it's usually work related, so not too exciting. Nothing to get addicted to there. However, I do have a reputation for being quick with my updates. If someone tells me "The link on page X is now" I would have it fixed pretty fast. So I usually check my messages as soon as they come in. It's not an addiction; it's a reputation to maintain.

The other place I check is as home. Back in the day, a few months ago, I would get home and check my mail and I might have one message in my inbox. Even that wasn't too exciting usually. I subscribe to a few email lists, so most of my daily emails would be from that. Not too exciting. But every now and then it might be from a friend. Especially if I was expecting one. If I emailed someone, and knew they usually took 2 days to reply, on the second day I would check my mail more often. Frequency of checks would increase until either A) I got the email, or B) I gave up waiting. It's waiting for that sort of email that gets you addicted.

But then something happened. Spam. When it first started I would check my inbox and it would say "25 new messages." and I would be all like "WOW! 25 new messages! Boy, am I popular!" Then I would look and it would be all spam. After a while of this I just expect a full inbox with nothing but spam.

So at work my incoming emails aren't rewarding enough to develop an addiction, and at home I've become cynical. Email addiction: cured.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I'm An Artist Too (7)

Often times inspiration for my art comes from what I'm listening to. I started drawing this while listening to Van Morrison. Doesn't really look like him, does it?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Why I Switched

I have a confession to make. Well, it's not so much a confession as a proud proclamation. I don't ever use Microsoft Windows by choice.

In 1996 I moved away to college taking a 486 DX4 100 with me. It ran DOS 6.2 and Windows 3.1. That's what I used for a year and a half. But I started getting tired of hardware problems, configuration problems, and general usability and overall coolness problems.

I talked to my friends who had switched to Linux. They told me "Sure. You wouldn't be having these problems. Instead you would have a whole other set of problems to deal with."

At the time I didn't want to make computers my career. I was on the road to be a pilot. At the Christmas of 1997 I had enough of Windows 3.1 I went home, taking my hard drive with me. I asked my brother to upgrade me to Windows 95 and while he was at it, could he install that Linux thingy?

So he gladly did. Then he gladly showed me my way around Linux. He showed me the virtual terminals and explained how you didn't need graphics to use to operating system (sort of like DOS, but way more powerful). He showed me X Windows, including several desktop managers including Gnome, KDE, OpenStep, and a few others. At the time Gnome and KDE were more than my memory could handle, so I stayed with OpenStep. But the point was not lost on me. Unlike in Windows or Mac, I was not locked into one graphical desktop manager.

At first I had no idea how to use Linux. I would have to call my brother up, long distance and ask him "How do you get a directory listing at the command line?" But it got better. Apps became more plentiful and easier to use. At first I did all my work in Windows 95, but would go into Linux just for fun. Just to do little more than look at it and double-click random icons to see what they did.

It all changed when I learned to get the internet working under Linux. Then there was very very little reason for me to go back to Windows. I set my computer up as a web/ftp/ssh server that I could access from school.

So I was a confirmed Linux user from 1998 onward. My friends were right. A lot of my DOS 6.2/Windows 3.1 problems had disappeared. But a whole host of new problems came along. Linux does support a lot of hardware. More than what you may think. But, when you buy something, unless it's a piece of networking equipment, it almost never says it works with Linux. In my experience I have less hardware problems with Linux than Windows. But you become really cautious about buying hardware.

The worst part was software installation. With Windows when you install something the Windows Installer holds your hand through the process. In Linux not so. A lot of times you just get the source code. You have to compile and install the program yourself. It's been my experience that it will compile only half the time.

The help docs are terrible for this. They seem to be written for the programmers with 15 years of C experience or something. Not for the average person trying to get once piece of software installed.

Package managers don't make things much easier. They're always whining about "failed dependencies". That means the program you're trying to install requires another program to work, but you don't have that other program, or it can't be found. So then you go and install that program, but it has failed dependencies. It turns out to be a huge vortex and you give up before you find the solution.

But it's still a lot better than using Windows. I had no fear of virii. I had decent security. I knew there were more than one way to do each thing I needed to do. I could administer things in X Windows, or at the command line. I knew that if a program did have problems, then people were working on them. And also, 99% of what you could want to run on Linux is free as in speech, and free as in beer. I could also be one of those smug Linux users.

Then, in 2004, when I was to first move to Ottawa for four months I needed to take a computer with me. I thought I might be doing a lot of moving around so I wanted a laptop. I still wanted to avoid Windows. And I was worried that if I got a laptop with Windows pre-installed, then when I would try to install Linux it might have some piece of proprietary hardware that wouldn't work in Linux.

I knew Mac OS X was built on Unix and came with Apache web server, MySQL, and PHP, so I could do my work and install many of my favorite apps. It came with an X Server, so I could run my Linux programs, from my Linux box on my Mac! And best of all, it wasn't Microsoft! And since it was for my business, come tax time it was a business expense!!

So I bought an iBook G4 and very quickly fell in love. There were a few things at first, which I will write about later, that took this ol' Linux user some time to get used to. Installing applications was a breeze. And if hardware supported Mac, the box generally said so. The software, specifically iLife, was great!

For the non-Mac users, iLife is a suite of software including: iTunes as a music player. No. It's not just a player. It's a music management system. And now it does video, movies, and TV shows. Plus internet radio, and podcasts. iLife also has iPhoto which is a photo-management system, iDVD for making DVDs, iMovie for making movies, and GarageBand for recording music with incredible ease. Since then iWeb has been added to allow you to easily create a web site. iLife has great integration within itself and the operating system. The integration, the little things they thought of, amaze me to this day.

I still like Linux. Ideologically Linux is the best. That position is very hard to argue with. My desktop computer (which hasn't been on in months) still boots into Linux. I will probably stick with both Linux and Mac for a long time yet. Each have their place in my computational world.

Friday, March 02, 2007

What Happens To All Your Change

According to today's article older people use more change than younger people. I could have told you this years ago. I noticed this. I would notice that a line in a store would move at a rate inversely proportional to the mean age of the population of the line. The reason for this was obvious. Young people would pay in bills. Only bills. Old people would look for bills, then start searching their change purse for the exact change. Paying in bills is faster because cashiers make change all day long so they become very fast at it. A lot faster than an octogenarian searching for exact change.

It's sometimes nice to have your observations validated by science.

But you may ask "Why is this?"

Well, guess what! I have a theory about that too!

When you're young you pay in bills all the time so you usually get change back. This means you'll accumulate change, and lots of it. You put the change in your pocket (because you're not old enough to have a change purse), then that night the change makes it's way to the desk or dresser where it sits and collects dust until you get older.

Then, you look at your desk or dresser and there's several thousand dollars there in pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. You figure you have to do something with it. When you're young ,your attitude to change is that it is only money in the technical sense, not the practical sense. (If you look close, I'm making bad puns. Or am I?) It technically is legal tender, but you'd never spend it. You don't have the time to count change. You're in too much of a hurry to download the latest hip-hop song.

So, here you are, older. Your kids have moved away, you've retired, and suddenly you have time, time to count out exact change while a line of youngun's, who are in a hurry, forms behind you. And, why not? You have that dresser or desk full of loose change.

So, basically, the change that accumulates when you're younger gets spent when you get older. Suddenly, change is money in both the practical sense and the technical sense.

I think the scariest thing about this theory is that I formed it years ago, when all I had time for was bills. But now I'm getting older, and I'm stuck in a mid-point. I do use change to buy stuff, but I still rarely count exact change. Instead, if the price comes to $7.63, I'll look for a $10 bill, which I will inevitably not have. (Apparently, the Canadian mint has printed a sum total of seven $10 bills in the entire history of Canada. So the misprint of Flanders Fields isn't as big a deal as you may think.) So I'll get a $20 bill, and look for 2 quarters, a dime, and three pennies. That way the cashier can give me two $5s, a Toonie, and a Loonie. (For all you American readers, yes, that really is what we call our two dollar coins, and one dollar coins respectively. And yes, we do have one and two dollar coins instead of bills.)

I have, on occasion, payed with exact change. But it disrupts a natural process. A purchase interaction is specifically scripted.


Cashier: "Hi. How are you?"
Me: "Not bad, and yourself?"
Cashier: "Pretty good." This is followed by a question about if there's anything else, or if I was able to find everything today.
Me: "No, this is it."
Cashier: "That will be $7.63."
Me: "Here's $20."
Cashier: "Thank you. And your change and receipt..."
Me: I take the change in complete blind faith that they gave me the right change, and I put it into my pocket, because I'm still too young to have a change purse. "Thank you."
Cashier: "Thank you. Have a nice day."
Me: As I start walking away I say "You too." Then I quickly turn way in order to break eye-contact while feeling satisfied with a completely flawless interaction.

But when you give exact change that upsets the interaction and throws the rest off balance, and you can't recover. A receipt can act as change, it allows the interaction to flow. But if it's for something for which a receipt is not forthcoming, then it messes everything up.

Cashier: "That will be $7.63."
Me: "Here you go, $7.63."
Cashier: "Thanks." Then the cashier and I stand there in awkward silence for a few minutes shifting our eyes to the left and right trying to not make eye contact, and yet not be obvious about it. I'm not really sure if I should say "thanks" and it certainly isn't, according to the script, time for them to tell me to have a nice day.

I wonder how old people get used to that part? Perhaps when you turn 50 you receive a new script that handles that exact scenario?