Thursday, 23 October 2014

Identification by implant

I would like to see a supercut of all instances on Bones where a medical implant serial number has provided the identity of a victim. It's not all the time, and it's not even more than half, but it pops up a lot. I remember breast implants, artificial testicles, pacemakers and even a prosthetic stapes (eardrum bone). There have been more. Putting them all together into a supercut would point it out pretty well. It feels, sometimes, like this is a shortcut the writers take when establishing the identity of the victim is not a central plot point, or they don't have time for that as part of the main story.

It also makes me think that having such an implant, even cosmetically, might not be such a bad idea. Quick and easy identification of my remains, in the unlikely and hopefully-only-theoretical event of my grisly murder, could save a lot of time for the investigation. Or I could wear dog tags, but those are much easier to remove or lose.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I wonder if any doctor would perform a surgical implant just for posthumous ID.
PPS - Probably not. In most cases, it wouldn't be worth it.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Can't text. Driving.

I've seen a couple of ads trying to get people to stop texting while driving by responding with "#X". It's meant to be a shorthand to let people know you're driving and so won't be responding to texts for a while. However, there are a few problems.

First, unless you know what "#X" means, if you get a text like that, it's not going to make sense, and the problem persists. In the ads, a person receives "#X", pronounces the person responsible and proceeds with their day in a good mood. The person who doesn't receive the "#X", however, keeps texting, being ignored and growing more furious. If you don't understand it, however, the "#X" won't solve that problem. It needs to be something you discuss with people.
Second, why "#X" at all? The ads all show people about to start driving, receiving a text and responding with the tag. But if you're not driving *yet*, why do we need a code? Just text "Driving. Can't respond." or something similar. Same effect. The only reason to make "#X" a standard is to be a quick response you can dash off *WHILE DRIVING* which defeats the whole purpose.

Third, if you really want this to be a thing, what you need is for the phone OS to change. Monitor the phone's physical speed via GPS. If it's over a certain speed, there will be no text alerts and, optionally, you can have it respond automatically with "Driving. Can't respond." No need for an ad campaign or a special tag, just a more considerate phone OS or a Don't-Text-And-Drive app.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm fairly sure I'm not the only one who's had that idea.
PPS - In fact, here's one you can use now.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

One format for digital publishing

People want there to be one choice for buying ebooks, I think, because they're sick of the incompatibility between platforms. I want to be able to buy books from anywhere I want and read them anywhere I want, too. Right now, because the big ebook publishers/retailers are locking down their wares to a single device and platform (a dedicated app per retailer is lock-in, regardless of how many operating systems it runs on), the simplicity of a compatible format is just a dream and the only way to get what we want is to choose one retailer over the others.

The retailers, of course, are all on board with that plan, despite it being terrible for their customers. We as consumers need options. We need competition, and that means compatibility. We need the retailers to stop their monkey-feces-flinging fights, their indiscriminate use of padlocks nobody asked for, and start serving their customers out of necessity. We need them to drop DRM. On everything, right now. The fact that we as consumers, so far, are going along with the DRM lock-in, even defending our chosen retailers, means that we are not understanding the stakes of the game. If Amazon "wins" the ebook publishing "war", everyone loses, including the authors who publish with them and the readers who chose Kindle. And of course everyone else loses, too.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - If you don't stand to personally gain from Amazon being the only winner, you shouldn't defend them.
PPS - And definitely don't fight for them.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Getting better or worse

Is the world getting better or worse or is it possible that more good and bad things are all being brought to our attention, and we pay mind to what we think the world is already like?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It kind of makes a mockery of both pessimism and optimism.
PPS - And it leaves me wondering what I should make of humanity in general.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Facing anxiety

I want to face my fears so I can learn to stand up to them, but the problem is that most of my fears are social anxieties. I fear having nothing to say. I fear being perceived as boring. I fear making small talk with strangers. I fear being judged and lauged at. I fear being inadequate at my job and letting people down. Facing those types of fears doesn't make for a great story. You can't jump out of a plane and say it's done, because it's an ongoing battle. It's something you just have to deal with, every day, and it never goes away.

Imagine you live up in the clouds, like on The Jetsons, and the only way out is by parachute. Every day you have to strap on that chute and jump, and every night you come back home, up in the clouds. Now imagine that, somehow, you never get used to it. Every day you worry that, today, maybe your chute won't open, or the cross-winds will blow you into the ocean, or the straps will break, and the fear just grabs you every morning. Maybe today is the day you fail so badly you can't get up again. What would you do? If that fear stays with you, all the time, you never even get to enjoy success, because what if it's tomorrow you fail, or the next day? It becomes less a question of facing fear and more of wondering when you're going to fail.

And it's exhausting.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I wish it was like jumping out of a plane.
PPS - Then I'd probably get sick of it every day.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Why I can't be a professional artist

Sometimes I think I would enjoy being an artist of some sort - an actor or a writer - to make my living. It just seems like the work would be more rewarding in and of itself than software tends to be. However, it's the peripheral stuff that would really get to me. In software, you learn someone's business, write or fix their software, move on and repeat (sticking around for anywhere from months to years at a time). Deal with a few people, network a bit, but mostly it's the programming you have to worry about. Making a living as an artist is maybe 10% about the art. The remaining 90% is about networking, politics, publicity, advertising - all the most exhausting and sleazy things I can imagine. I don't think that would suit me. Even if an agent did most of it for me, it's not their job to allow me to avoid any public appearances. Quite the opposite. I don't feel like I would do well.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I know I'm making excuses.
PPS - Mostly that's because risk is terrifying and the potential downfall is catastrophic.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Stagnant standards

One of the awkward things about technology is that we get the best use out of it when we have standards, such as common network protocols, but the most useful standards come out of ad-hoc solutions to emergent problems. So you need a way to send human-readable messages from one person to another, and we get email, but at first we get lots of different ways of sending email, which are incompatible with each other. Eventually we settle on one interoperable standard, and the world is good. Well, until Microsoft "embraces and extends" it, rendering themselves the keeper of the new ad-hoc standard. Ahem.

The other difficulty is that the standards we developed 10 years ago are now inextricably tied into absolutely everything, so even if they are no longer ideal or even vaguely appropriate, we have to keep using them because the status quo isn't going to stop or join you in a pre-emptive upgrade. HTTP 1.1 is probably the last version of that standard that will ever be produced, and the last of its kind as well. JavaScript may get some teeny-tiny upgrades, but it must maintain backwards compatibility with the websites of the 90s that it was designed to serve. Those had vastly different needs than today's interactive web applications.

So we get stuck in old standards, doing new things, and we will never be rid of them until the entire system collapses or someone tries something so fundamentally different that it demands a new ad-hoc solution.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's an odd pattern for advanced technology to take.
PPS - Or maybe it's a human pattern.