Deja vu?

Ever have the feeling you’ve met someone before? ("Have we not met before?" – see movie Top Secret!)

Perhaps it is just the future leaking into the present:

You can tell a lot about a subject by who its muses and mascots are. Neuroscience has philosophers who wax profound about the mind, geology has intrepid explorers and subatomic physics has … Alice in Wonderland. "Curiouser and curiouser," as Alice said, also describes the subatomic, or quantum, world. With age, this centenarian (quantum physics is 107 years old) has gotten more bizarre. "The surprises keep coming," says physicist David Albert of Columbia University. None is greater than finding loopholes in the hallowed uncertainty principle—and, even more outlandishly, seeing hints that the future may leak into the present.


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Support Our Troops.

Lately the city in which I live, along with others, have considered the issue of having city vehicles display "Support Our Troops" stickers. Locally they are ok with it.

Several people though have suggested that "Support Our Troops" actually means "Support The War":

Recent history suggests then, that "Support Our Troops" means support the war effort.

Another question raised by the use of this slogan is, what are the implications of its use regarding public policy?

Again, one needs only to look at recent uses of the slogan, by governments, as a tool for propaganda. In the U.S., the slogan has been a rallying cry for the support-the-war-movement and has stifled any opposition to the policy of aggression. People who might stand up and question the rationality of a military solution are easily silenced by being labelled "undemocratic" or "unpatriotic" for not getting behind the banner.

Does anyone other than defence contractors actually support war? I believe that any rational person would rather have peace than war, though there may be instances in which war is the only way to accomplish a stated goal such as fighting terrorism.

Canada fought in World War I and World War II because they thought it was the right thing to do. That seems also to be the case with the NATO-led war in Afghanistan. I’m sure that everybody would like to reach the fastest and safest possible conclusion to that war.

When I hear "Support Our Troops" I think of supporting the work and the safe return of troops from that war. I certainly don’t think of "supporting the war". As I’m sure most people do.


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The problem with banning handguns.

An 11-year old boy was killed in the crossfire of gang violence in Toronto, Canada, this past weekend. Predictably, this has led to yet more calls for a handgun ban:

Ontario announced Monday it’s increasing the number of prosecutors and police officers devoted to gun crimes and gang violence.

Attorney General Michael Bryant, who made the announcement, also called on Ottawa to do their part to prevent gun crime by banning handguns, or at least taking action to close loopholes in gun regulations.

"There’s a lot we can do on gun crime, but make no mistake about it — if there’s no gun, then there is no funeral," Bryant told CTV Newsnet.

An effective handgun ban depends on people obeying it. Unfortunately, as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation notes, criminals have a nasty habit of ignoring the law, given that they are criminals and all:

We could ban hand guns, all blunt objects, and anything that could be used as a weapon and guess what? The only guns that would be left would be the ones "owned" by criminals…

Violence like this is horrible, but there is no point in pretending that a law banning handguns will be any more effective than the existing laws banning using them, or any other weapon, to kill each other.


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Remote control.

Mark Evans asks, among other things, why remote controls have become so painfully complex:

Since the first remote control probably appeared in the 1950s, they have become increasingly more complicated as opposed to easier to use. These days, you need an engineering degree just to figure out how to power up the TV, let alone control the DVD, digital box, Slingbox, etc.

The funny thing is the remote control industry believes the solution is simply adding more technology! The way they see it, it’s a matter of giving you a remote control that, in theory, can automatically connect with all your devices (assuming they aren’t a decade old). Of course, you then have to read through the entire manual to figure out how to control your devices once the remote control does its set-up thing. Sometimes, I yearn for the days when the remote control was just a box with about 20 buttons on it and a shifter that gave you ability to browse through 60 channels in no time at all.

I bought one of the very first remote control devices, a Sony receiver, in 1984. Twenty four years later there are absolutely no standards for remote controls. Every device and manufacturer uses a different set of codes, meaning that universal remote controls must know all of the possible combinations, and the user is forced to tell it what specific devices they are using it with.

Why is there no standard signal for functions like Play or Stop, or any of the other functions? There aren’t that many choices really. Why must every manufacturer use a different set?

When I want to play a DVD I have to turn on my TV, home theater receiver, and DVD player. They I need to set the TV and the receiver to the correct input. Then I have to press Play on the DVD player. Of course my TiVo remote does not talk to my receiver and DVD player. And my Panasonic home theater is not supported by most universal remotes. So it currently required three separate remote controls to accomplish this task. It is honestly faster to walk tup to the TV and do it, given that I am there inserting the DVD anyway.

A standardized set of codes would let me work with any device. How long can it possibly take to standardize this sort of thing?

I can’t imagine that different codes provide any kind of competitive benefit for the manufacturers of these devices. So why not make life easier for the customer?

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Defending the iPhone.

Not that it really needs defending, but Om Malik notes that even if the iPhone sales didn’t meet analyst projections for June, it is still pretty impressive:

Not be Apple’s defense team, which product (not particularly a great one) that carries a $2000 price tag (over two years) sold 146,000 units in 1.25 days (mind you Friday sales started at 6 pm) bringing in a total of around$292 million. Over a period of 30 hours (including night time) equates to 4867 iPhone activations per hour or 82 activations per second.

And Steve Ballmer said it wouldn’t sell:

Steve Ballmer says, "There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance."

Perhaps he meant to say Zune.


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As time goes by.

I’m sitting on my front porch as I compose this. Summer, my favorite time of the year, is as usual speeding by. But it is peaceful tonight. Just the sound of an air conditioner running, the odd dog barking, and some kids riding by on their bikes. If only it could always be this pleasant.

For some time now I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with my life. I’ve been writing some software, but I’ve also just been writing. I just can’t figure out what it is that I enjoy the most. And they say that you should do what you love, don’t they?

When you’re a kid the world seems so full of promise. Then time goes by and it seems that there are so few options. I have never felt that way though. There I so many things that I could do, and would enjoy doing. I’m just trying to decide which would be the most fun.

But for tonight I’m just going to enjoy the onset of evening on such a still night.


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I have a friend I’ve know for a while. She lives around the corner from me and I see her occasionally at the coffee shop I frequent in the morning. A couple of months ago I met her husband when they were sitting down the bar from me at a nearby restaurant.

Since then I see these people everywhere. If my wife and I go out to breakfast or dinner, they’re there. I go to the liquor store and there they are. We bump into them frequently. Is this just some strange coincidence?

Now she tells me that her daughters see me all the time, even though I don’t notice them.

I’ve long knownabout the reticular activating system that limits what you are conscious of so that you aren’t overwhelmed. For example, once you buy a Toyota, you might start to notice more Toyotas on the road because you are now aware of them.

I wonder if that works for people too. Perhaps I’ve been bumping into these people all the time and just didn’t notice, but now that I know them I am aware of it.

Now I wonder what else I’ve been missing.


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When there is no choice.

The use of Microsoft Vista is apparently growing, while Mac OS X is staying flat:

Windows Vista’s share of online users has increased every month this year, while rival Mac OS X — to which Vista has often been compared — has shown little, if any, growth, a metrics company reports.

According to Net Applications, in June Windows Vista accounted for 4.52% of all systems that browsed the Web, up from January’s 0.18%. Vista has grown its usage share each month since its release to consumers Jan. 30, hitting 0.93% in February, 2.04% in March, 3.02% in April and 3.74% in May. Apple Inc.’s Mac OS X, meanwhile, accounted for 6.22% in January and hit its high point of 6.46% in May, but it slipped back to 6% in June.

Now who couldn’t see that one coming?

About 95% of all computers are Windows-based, and about 5% are Mac-based. So for every Mac sold there are about 19 PCs sold. And if you are buying a Windows-based computer your have no choice but to buy Vista. So if you are buying a new PC you will get Vista whether you like it or not. In fact, you might even buy Vista to run on your Intel-based Mac.

So Vista has nowhere to go but up.


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What are you waiting for?

Perfect timing doesn’t exist. Stop waiting for it:

Most often, they’re just making excuses — creating obstacles that aren’t actually there, placing the blame on some outside force they can’t control, and choosing to let day after day of inaction turn into many years of waiting for their cosmos to align.

In other words, they stay where they’re comfortable until it’s the perfect time to move on.

Read the whole thing.


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I need to upgrade.

I just tried to download a Microsoft Word template from Microsoft’s web site. Using both Camino and Firefox on my Macbook I was told that I would have to enable cookies. They are, but that didn’t seem to matter. When I tried to go ahead I received this warning:

To automatically download templates, you need to upgrade your operating system:

Run Microsoft Windows® 2000 (Service Pack 3) or any later version of Microsoft Windows. Please note that Microsoft Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows ME do not meet the requirements for downloading Office Online templates.

And at the bottom of the page I saw this:

Warning: The Templates Web site and its contents have been tested with Microsoft Windows operating systems, specifically with Microsoft Windows 2000 and Microsoft Windows XP. If you are using another operating system, you may get unexpected results.

Now there is a suggestion below for Mac users, but what about that other Microsoft OS? Vista, remember? Or don’t they support that?


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