Thursday, 31 January 2008

Sweeney Todd: Shiny happy killers holding hands

Deb and I saw Sweeney Todd over the weekend, and apparently the fact that it is a musical took some other patrons completely by surprise. That doesn't come across so well in the trailers and previews. I only have a couple of notes. One is that I'm not sure it was totally necessary to see the bodies crunch into the ground every single time, but I guess everyone on set was pretty pleased with the effect. The other thing is that a movie like this does not get a happy ending. That's just the way things are, and you could deduce this from the subject matter before going to see it. That said, it was worth the time.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I tend to forget by the end that I'm watching a musical if it's good.
PPS - That's more the result of a good movie than the music, though.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Mistaken identity

Imagine someone emails you out of the blue thinking you are someone else. You try to explain, but as the story pans out, it seems that these two people - your correspondent and his absent friend - have a history where she pretends to be someone else to avoid him. How do you convince this person that you are not who he thinks you are?

You'd have to act in some way that contradicts his assumption somehow, but everything I can imagine can also be explained by the liar scenario. I'm afraid I don't have an answer.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This has never happened to me.
PPS - But it could.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Safe flight

I read a story about what air travel would be like if it were made "truly safe". Everyone had to submit to background checks for permission to fly, all luggage was sent separately, your clothes had to be changed for a disposable flight outfit and everyone was gassed into unconsciousness before take-off. In addition, the check-in building was some distance from the secret location of the runways. It sounds horrible, but besides that (and the impracticality) it's still not "safe".

Transporting passengers asleep like cargo only guards airlines against passenger threats, not crew or ground to air threats. It also leaves passengers vulnerable to the crew. In the unlikely event of an evacuation of the plane, it seems the passengers would pretty much all be lost.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I think "truly safe flight" is a pipe dream.
PPS - The author was not in favour of the measures he outlined.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Further electronic breakdowns

In addition to last week's two computer breakdowns, my mobile phone has now started playing up, fortunately still in the warranty period. The DVD remote has also been playing up, though it works more frequently for Deb than me. That annoys me mostly because it has no logical reason for happening. Neither does the phone. In any case, I'm growing concerned that more electronic things might start breaking down before long, though that doesn't make me hesitate to use the laptop for web surfing at home.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I need my news.
PPS - Though "news" can sometimes mean "amusing videos".

Friday, 25 January 2008

GPS-enabled internet

A GPS-enabled internet, accessible everywhere, means spatially relevant information on the run, like train timetables, shopping centre locations and opening hours, movie times, petrol prices and so on. It would also mean you don't need to search much, because there's only so much information that's relevant to the place where you're standing. You might need to widen the field of inquiry to a larger definition of "local" sometimes, though, like when you're looking for the nearest service of some kind.

I say there's only limited information relevant to your current position, but I guess that's not entirely true. It depends on your focus. If you're doing a geological survey, the constellations currently visible from your location is of no help at all. If you're waiting for a bus, the rare insect species known to live nearby will probably not interest you. Still, you won't need to search for a result that matches your location because the reference locations of all pieces of information are known and can be matched automatically.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - People have been talking about this for a while.
PPS - It only made more sense to me recently.

Friday Zombie Blogging - A Minority

Glenn, an average Zombie-American living a regular life as if he's part of a persecuted minority group rather than a shambling monster.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - To his credit, he does come across as quite agreeable.
PPS - I only watched the first episode.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

DRM as cryptography

I just saw a thread on Slashdot about DRM where it was described as "Alice/Bob/Eve cryptography where Bob and Eve are the same person". That's quite an enlightened statement. With Digital Rights Management, the goal is to show content to a person only one way and to keep it a secret how it got there while also preventing certain uses after it is shown. In cryptographic story-telling, it would go like this:
Alice wants to send Bob a music file but keep it a secret from Eve. She encrypts the file in a certain way that Eve can't decrypt and sends it to Bob, who opens it and listens at his leisure.

The two problems with DRM are expressed as follows:
  1. In the typical DRM scenario, replace "Eve" with "Bob" to express the fact that the content is to be protected from the end users. The statement becomes an impossible dream.
  2. The other is a condition to add at the end: "After Bob has decrypted the file, he can only do with it what Alice decides to allow him". Bob has a decrypted file now, and there's nothing Alice can do about it.
The only way to make sure a user doesn't use a decrypted file in a way you don't like is to avoid handing it over at all in the first place or to destroy the user. The closest solution DRM has on that front is to make copying annoying, not impossible.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - You could also destroy the user's equipment.
PPS - Or publish a sub-par media format and hope it catches on.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Management structures

Most company management structures are based on feudalism while the rest of the world has moved on to representative democracy.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And on the internet we've got some weird "government" with no word to sum it up.
PPS - It would depend on who you ask to describe it.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda

When I hear someone say "coulda, shoulda, woulda" in response to someone stating that they should have done something, I think it's a bit too quick a brush-off. If you make a mistake, you should try to discern what preventative action can prevent that mistake in the future. Sometimes the preventative action will be too costly, so will not be undertaken, but to *always* respond with "coulda, shoulda, woulda" to the suggestion is stubborn and unhelpful. Someone who refuses to change any actions to avoid future mistakes has decided never to learn again, or at least never to learn anything practical.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - They're really saying "can't, shan't, won't".
PPS - And that gives a whole new feel to the exchange.

Monday, 21 January 2008

All the computers are broken

It's a sad and strange time in my life at the moment when all of the computers with which I have regular contact are broken in some way. At home I seem to have either a dodgy power supply or a motherboard with a short circuit. At work I have network problems that literally prevent me from doing work but don't stop web browsing. The only option left is the laptop at home, bought more as a luggable storage device for digital photos while travelling. That one still works well enough, but it has to be shared and you have to be patient.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I've considered bringing my hard drive from home to copy at work.
PPS - But since I couldn't make much use of that copy, it's kind of pointless.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Computers buying houses

Could a computer ever have a sense of what is a good space for humans to live in? Is there a calculation for how complex a maze is? Does it work for irregular shapes and three dimensions too? If so, it is probably a good starting point for figuring this problem out. Armed with that information plus a few more factors, we could start to build a computer program that locates desirable properties online and purchases them automatically if they are available.

As a "low-resolution" option, you could always replicate the houses in The Sims and see if artificial people like it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It might be best to keep the details of your approach from your investors, though.
PPS - I doubt many people would accept property decisions made with game simulations.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Survival after the apocalypse

Here's a movie-themed guide to surviving in a post-apocalyptic world, including videos. It paints the worldwide disaster in broader terms than a zombie outbreak, but the theme is certainly familiar.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I almost apologised for being late with this post.
PPS - But I understand it's not that big a deal if it does go up.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

When it happens, you'll know

"You'll know it when it happens" is a very low value situation because it doesn't screen out false alarms. If you're in love, you "just know it", but if you're not, you might mistake anything as mundane as motion sickness for love.

In fact, from that point of view, it can be said that being able to recognise something only by subjective measures when it happens to you is worthless. I imagine there are some criteria by which we judge these things, but they're layered thick so that it's difficult to articulate them.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Also, for a subjective effect, it's difficult to get an objective viewpoint.
PPS - Probably impossible.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Public transport failure

I've decided to shift my working day to work better with the failing Brisbane public transport system. Many times I get off work at 5pm, but I don't get on a bus until 6:15 because they are full or simply missing in action. Last night, for instance, my trip home took 2 full hours rather than the usual 30 minutes.

So now I'm going to try getting in to work by 7:30 and leaving at 4:30 to beat the rush home. That's the plan, at least. It may not turn out any better, but I can hope.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Why would I have trouble only on the way home?
PPS - My guess is that people have staggered start times but everyone finishes at 5.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Video conference music lessons

In this Internet age, it might be possible for, say, a music teacher to give live lessons to students all over the world via video conference. It could also be a very frustrating way to learn, though.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Some people called "FLaT" seem to have proposed a study on the subject.
PPS - However, their entire schedule has passed without apparent action.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Perspective vs control

According to David Allen, I am a micro-manager. That means I may be in control of some things, but I lack perspective on what requires my attention. For instance, I have an ever-growing list of news items to read "later" in Google Reader but I make bad decisions about what is going in there. I don't need to watch a video of a Super Mario level re-created with the Doom engine, or unusually musical armpit noises, but there they are waiting to take up my time. So I've recently started on a ruthless campaign to get some perspective into my reading stack, culling anything that I don't really need or want. The micro-management part of my brain gets upset as I do this, because that link to a book I'll never get to read might come in handy some day. However, I really do need to get this in perspective so that I'm in control of the right things at the right level, not just in control.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There is always more to learn.
PPS - The linked video contains good info on personal organisation in general.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Friday Zombie Blogging - Zombie food pyramid

The zombie food pyramid recommends basing your undead diet on brains, and steering clear of bones and gristle. Good advice, I suppose.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Link sent by Linda.
PPS - I'm not sure where it came from originally.

Robot lawnmower name

If I were to make a robotic lawnmower (as opposed to merely aspiring to own one) I would name it the Electric Sheep. That's part Philip K Dick reference and part very accurate description of its function on my property: graze autonomously to keep the lawn in check. It would not have to look like a sheep, but I may include some sheep sounds for kicks.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It might be a bit strained to come up with an appropriate S.H.E.E.P. acronym.
PPS - Special ... Hedging? ... [something] Electronic Prototype. See?

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Pronged chopsticks

Has anyone ever created pronged chopsticks? That's chopsticks with little pronged ends like forks. I think it would be a decent fusion between forks and chopsticks, offering the best of both worlds. It might turn out to be more difficult than either to use, and maybe it's an insult to a whole culture, but I still would like to give it a go.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I found a few links online, but no pictures of an invention like this.
PPS - It's apparently not a totally original idea, but I can't find any.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Non-verbal restaurant reviews

Someone with a bit more time on their hands than me (and a decent video camera) might like to take a shot at creating non-verbal restaurant reviews on YouTube. I imagine shots of the restaurant from outside, shots of the menu, the staff (suitably anonymised if required), the food and a thumbs up or down at the end. It would be an interesting gimmick.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It might not last long, though.
PPS - Still, even one or two would be cool.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Relating to the world on behalf of Hollywood

Big Hollywood stars need a liaison for the real world. This is the conclusion I came to when watching America's Sweethearts. Some people rise so far above the day-to-day world (where the rest of us live) that they need someone else to translate between the their world and the ground-level reality. I suppose the same thing happens to a lesser extent with the heads of companies. It's a weird feeling. It's like they're aliens now, and the world of closed shops, bills and traffic is foreign territory. Instead they've got personal service with a smile wherever they go, helicopters and a fairy godmother that grants wishes. They speak a different language.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Such a life is clearly troubled, though.
PPS - It's just troubled in different and alien ways to the real world.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Reasons to be in your job

The way I see it, people can be in a job for the money, the work or the power. Those in it for the work are the ones you want to hire, in the ideal case. If they're in it for the money will at least get the job done, but they won't stay around and they won't have as good an attitude as those in it for the work. If anyone is in a job for the power, they'll pretty much make things worse for everyone.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's a bit of a shock coming back to work.
PPS - The biggest shock being the inability to sleep in.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

A computer in the car

An idea I've toyed with now and then is replacing my car stereo with a computer. The benefits are many and varied. It would be able to store a large music collection for listening on the go and wouldn't need any portable player dock or cables. It could still be made to pick up radio signals, but could also play (or rip) CDs, DVDs and TV. Playing video would, of course, be for passengers only. It could connect to the home network over a wireless link and provide internet access when in range. I'd also incorporate a GPS receiver and navigation software.

It would have to operate via a touch screen on the front, because a keyboard and mouse are ridiculous in this context. It would also have to be very power efficient to run off the car battery. Sound output would be through the existing car speakers, of course.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Any other ideas may be left in the comments.
PPS - This is, of course, just a dream so far.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Happy New Year!

Mokalus is currently unavailable at the moment, as are probably most of you. Sleeping in, see? We will resume regularly scheduled blogging tomorrow.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm sure I had a good night.
PPS - This post was prepared in advance.