thinking about the world differently . . .
March 8th, 2016

It all depends on the meaning of “great”…

Nosequitur comics for today is fantastic!

So what does "great" mean?

So what does “great” mean?

The sugar industry is not far behind in the endocrinologist’s office who is trying to figure out how to save you from early death from diabetes or depression…

February 25th, 2016

Pun gallery: The Aussie local area network – the LAN down under

I happen to love puns. Always have, even when my primary languages were not English. I am even known to have made a number of cross-lingual puns… You all know that some pun can light up your day, others can make the groans emanate from nearly everyone present within earshot.

So I’ll be publishing an occasional post with a chosen pun. My classification will be “Pun gallery” or “Pun groaner”. Maybe I should even consider the terminology “Pun” and “Pan” as the British use it (as in “toilet”)

If you like a pun, please let me know by commenting below. If you not like a pun, please let me know by commenting below.

February 11th, 2016

Pun semi-groaner: A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother

I happen to love puns. Always have, even when my primary languages were not English. I am even known to have made a number of cross-lingual puns… You all know that some pun can light up your day, others can make the groans emanate from nearly everyone present within earshot.

So I’ll be publishing an occasional post with a chosen pun. My classification will be “Pun gallery” or “Pun groaner” (I added “semin-groaner” class for this one!) Maybe I should even consider the terminology “Pun” and “Pan” as the British use it (as in “toilet”)

If you like a pun, please let me know by commenting below. If you not like a pun, please let me know by commenting below.

January 28th, 2016

Pun groaner: to make holy water just boil the hell out of it

I happen to love puns. Always have, even when my primary languages were not English. I am even known to have made a number of cross-lingual puns… You all know that some pun can light up your day, others can make the groans emanate from nearly everyone present within earshot.

So I’ll be publishing an occasional post with a chosen pun. My classification will be “Pun gallery” or “Pun groaner”. Maybe I should even consider the terminology “Pun” and “Pan” as the British use it (as in “toilet”)

If you like a pun, please let me know by commenting below. If you not like a pun, please let me know by commenting below.

January 20th, 2016

Technology moves fast, even faster than the Pony Express

 

modern mailboxes

what kind of mailbox is this anyway???

Hmmm… Hard to believe, but there you have it. We are in danger of leaving the younger generation behind – they have a hard time using basic things like rotary phones, mailboxes… sheesh 🙂


[Wikipedia]

January 15th, 2016

On Quantum Computing

Many of us find computing a bit intriguing, perhaps intimidating, if it ventures into anything beyond pencil and paper or 4-function calculator. There is this mystique involved in computing because of the abstraction of numbers to something that is represented by zeros and ones, then calculating huge and complicated things at that level in tiny fractions of a second.

This mystique is augmented and magnified when the word “programming” enters the horizon. Now many of us get that queasy feeling of being overwhelmed by some geek, nerd, or worse – a 6-year old kid! 🙂

But really numbers are just abstractions of say cows you can see (and count) in the field, or piles of tomatoes in baskets. Sure you can tell someone else “I have 50 baskets of tomatoes, but you already abstract a picture of 50 baskets to a number “50”…

There are some people living in jungles who have had no need to abstract quantities in their lives beyond “one”, “two”, “three”, “many”. It is a simple culture that has no need for more detailed abstraction than that! Sure, they cannot easily calculate 20% of 40 had they lived in our culture, but we will be unable to survive more than 4 minutes after being bitten by some unusual beetle on the jungle floor if we visit their world – but they would simple reach to the nearest remedy, apply it to the bite, and we’ll be as good as new!

So much for the competitive edge of 20% of 40!

Back to the intimidation of programming: We cook things. Say an egg: Take a vessel, fill it with water. Gather some firewood and make fire – or just light up your stove. Take an egg and carefully place it in the water in the pan. Put the pan on the fire, and let it boil for 3-5 minutes, remove from the fire, add cold water – voila! A boiled egg!

You have done this many-many times. You already know several tricks to make things faster, better boiled eggs etc.

Congratulation! You have just finished a “programming job”. It consists of steps doing something in each step. Testing of certain results (say, the egg is too cold to put on a raging fire in boiling water, so you reduce the heat and wait, test again, and proceed) and taking alternative paths of action depending on the tests.

Then you process certain inputs in some steps, and eventually produce some specific, desired results – a perfectly boiled egg.

There. This really is a great model for a program running in a computer.

Let me take you to the start of this blog: The fearsome abstraction of numbers into zeros and ones.

Nearly no programmer calculates numbers in their heads using ones and zeros – except some fringe characters, which you should definitely stay away from.

But it happens to be a simple thing for a computer circuit to represent a state with these two values – “0” or “1”, “no voltage”, “voltage” – that’s it. We do not work in voltages and currents, but computer circuits do, so it is their language.

Traditional computing since Boole and Babbage – and Countess Ada! – have worked numbers in this fashion. Since the 1940s, the current/no current in a circuit became the implementation medium for computing, inside computer circuits.

We have heard so much about it the binary states in computing that we mostly have some rudimentary understanding of the two states.

Quantum computer artist renditionEnter quantums. Physics has been nice a fun for centuries, being described by rules (“Laws of Physics”) by many folks who experimented and derived the rules – Newton to Einstein to Hawking. Some experimented in their heads using mathematical tools, others used their heads to intercept falling apples (Newton!) And so our physical world was pretty well described by various laws, gravity, speed, momentum, optics, electricity-oriented laws and so on.

But this all held well with the physical world of non-atomic dimensions – big stuff, especially big as compared to atomic particles. When it comes to these little entities that are smaller than small, the laws of physics simply do not quite work the way we are used to from High School Physics classes.

Quantum computing is one such “critter” that behaves differently in the small-scale subatomic world. While computer circuits determine states by zero or one, quantum computing has these states as well, but also adds another state – the in between state, neither on, nor off.

Yes, it sounds weird to say – or read – that something can be neither on nor off, neither zero, nor one. But there you have it – while the bits that we use use to represent states in a computing device can have only these two states, qubits, the representations of state in quantum computing, can have the on state, the off state, and the in-between state.

The only way to grasp this is to accept it as an “IT IS SO!”

Imagine the total befuddlement of people in Newton’s age when he suggested gravity as a law of nature – “whoa!!! Wait a moment here, what do you mean Earth pulls stuff without even touching it?” But we we do not find gravity to be a strange notion, we know it, and have discussed it, performed experiments to measure it and so on.

Qubits are to us like gravity was to Newton’s contemporaries. The third state is also called by the lovely technical term “coherent superposition.”

But don’t get too happy yet! It gets better! So what is the point here, you may ask. Qubits when joined in large numbers, can perform mathematical computations that are quite complex. The complexity leads to new possibilities to compute things that used to take loooong time on traditional computers in mere fractions of seconds.

Here is a practical example: You were told that a good password is a long one which utilizes many all numerics, all letters – upper and lower case – and as many symbols as you can. Such passwords you were told CAN BE CRACKED by computer using trial and error, but the number of trials will be so large that it is not practical to crack passwords that way, it might take the fastest computers 15,000 years or something like that.

But what about quantum computers? Yeah, exactly! They might take a few seconds to crack a password that a traditional computer would need 15,000 years to crack.

Weird stuff.

Now, don’t panic, don’t run out to change your passwords – this is not quite ready for prime time, although who knows what the NSA is using ALREADY – maybe they have a fully functional quantum computer of significant power.

But realistically, it’ll be many many years before quantum computers are ready to crack your passwords and lay bare to the world the cat pictures you have been sending in your emails…

There is more strangeness in quanta! One interesting – and widely popularized – aspect is the introduction of the uncertainty principle into their world (and ours!) If you measure an aspect of a quantum, their other measurable aspects are no longer static and may change. You can search for a term “Schrödinger’s cat” (here on Wikipedia) and it may melt your brain, but it is a fun piece of reading. Great gymnastics for the brain…

Another interesting effect of the quantum-sized world is the remote effect – a change in a quantum in one location can convey a change in another quantum even while the distance between the quanta may be millions of miles. And the change happens instantaneously! So much for speed of light!

So you can change a qubit of info in Chicago, and that change is conveyed to some spaceship 3 billion miles away from Chicago instantly! Huh? Yep, these are the implications of the science.

Enjoy that brain melt!

January 14th, 2016

Pun gallery: I didn’t like my beard but it grew on me

I happen to love puns. Always have, even when my primary languages were not English. I am even known to have made a number of cross-lingual puns… You all know that some pun can light up your day, others can make the groans emanate from nearly everyone present within earshot.

So I’ll be publishing an occasional post with a chosen pun. My classification will be “Pun gallery” or “Pun groaner”. Maybe I should even consider the terminology “Pun” and “Pan” as the British use it (as in “toilet”)

If you like a pun, please let me know by commenting below. If you not like a pun, please let me know by commenting below.

January 6th, 2016

The Right to Bear Arms

A (deadly) serious political cartoon that says it all. Have we had enough yet? The arms race is now accelerating to the point that soon the danger will be crossfire.

Published December 11, 2015 by Aussie cartoonist Sean Leahy [Wikipedia entry] in the Brisbane Courier Mail, this commentary focuses on the total lunacy of this “right”.

The Right to Bear Arms

The Right to Bear Arms

January 5th, 2016

On the nature of Spirituality

Earlier today (29 December 2015) I heard a lovely soundbite. I am not quite sure who said it, but when I find out, I’ll update here…

Spirituality is how I behave when no one is looking

I find this to very insightful. Even if you are feeling completely comfortable to behave as you are when alone or around others, there is always a small change in behavior when others are around, perhaps just the mere interaction with other folks. What I get from this is that when all is peeled back, how we relate to ourselves and the world and reality is simply that which we call spirituality.

Ideally, there should be no difference between the two modes of bahvior. But that is ideally, not necessarily really. Recognizing that there is a distance between the modes, it may be a great first step in a wonderful growth endeavor to close the gap.

I decided to delay publishing this until 5 January 2016, my father’s 100th birthday, had he been alive.

January 1st, 2016

Scary future – Climate Change

Happy New Year 2016!!

Just when the world relaxed into the post-Paris Climate Summit sleepiness, the evidence and research begins to come out.

This one is titled “Sorry, You Can’t Have Fries With That: 10 Foods That May Disappear Thanks to Climate Change" [click] is about some foods that will begin to disappear as the climate changes and growing conditions for crops begin to shift to the detriment of these crops.

What can you do? Educate yourself in the ways that small actions can help delay the changes, in perhaps reverse (nah, probably too optimistic! Just go for delay…) climate changes.

You can shift your food habits from meat at most meals to focusing on vegetables, and use meat only as flavoring. It works, it is fun, and it is healthy to boot, not just for you, but the planet!

Michael Pollan coined a great phrase, his three rules for eating: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” [click] He has great books you can get at the library, read, study, and live by.

Did you notice the word “mostly” in his rules for food? It means that you don’t have to panic about becoming a vegetarian or vegan!

Just start shifting slowly. Instead of 3 bacon strips with breakfast, have just 2 for the next 2 weeks. Then cut another one. Etc… Instead of finishing the whole 8 oz. of burger, leave a forkful on the plate for the next 2 weeks. Then another forkful. Etc…

You won’t feel hungry doing those minor changes, but if you do, get a carrot, maybe a small tomato.

Your body (and the planet!) will thank you. Before too long, you will be following Michael Pollan’s advice – no pain, no weight gain.

But Pollan is just one of many many resources. Start reading.

December 31st, 2015

Pun gallery: Broken pencils are pointless

I happen to love puns. Always have, even when my primary languages were not English. I am even known to have made a number of cross-lingual puns… You all know that some pun can light up your day, others can make the groans emanate from nearly everyone present within earshot.

So I’ll be publishing an occasional post with a chosen pun. My classification will be “Pun gallery” or “Pun groaner”. Maybe I should even consider the terminology “Pun” and “Pan” as the British use it (as in “toilet”)

If you like a pun, please let me know by commenting below. If you not like a pun, please let me know by commenting below.

December 27th, 2015

Am I too late? Good discovery

Last night I read an interesting article about Javascript in Wired magazine online (http://www.wired.com/2015/11/i-turned-off-javascript-for-a-whole-week-and-it-was-glorious/)

It was an eye opener for me. In the last few months, the speed of my browsing on the smartphone and laptop has deteriorated, along with the life of the batteries. The clear culprit was additional ads with various bells an whistles all trying to attract my attention to the wares they advertise (99.9% of which I am totally and utterly uninterested in!). The ads are mostly powered by javascript and serve up as many ads as possible.

Javascript, in case you don’t know, is a programming language that is used primarily to direct browsers to perform various tasks. The language is quite sophisticated sophisticated and along with powerful browsers, it can do a lot!

Most browsers now run javascript by default. But most browsers also allow you to turn javascript off, so the scripts (programs) which are downloaded with the webpage content (text and images) may be sent to your browser, but your browser will not run these scripts and will not do their bidding.

Some sites will become useless. For example Youtube absolutely requires javascript to play the videos, as does Vimeo, Netflix etc. But many many sites will live just fine. Added bonus: almost no ads! In specific cases, you csn turn it on, or even let your browser know that for certain sites you allow javascript to run.

So turn OFF javascript.

Your browsing will be faster, less polluted with ad garbage, and quite possibly more secure because some ads can and will bring along viruses and other pests onto tour devices.

I may be late in discovering this. I knew the connection between ads and javascript for a long time, but the ads did not bother me much. Now they do.

Now javascript is turned off.

Ta-da…

Enjoy.

December 17th, 2015

Pun gallery: I am reading a book about gravity and can’t put it down…

I happen to love puns. Always have, even when my primary languages were not English. I am even known to have made a number of cross-lingual puns… You all know that some pun can light up your day, others can make the groans emanate from nearly everyone present within earshot.

So I’ll be publishing an occasional post with a chosen pun. My classification will be “Pun gallery” or “Pun groaner”. Maybe I should even consider the terminology “Pun” and “Pan” as the British use it (as in “toilet”)

If you like a pun, please let me know by commenting below. If you not like a pun, please let me know by commenting below.

December 3rd, 2015

Pun gallery: I tried to catch some fog. I mist.

I happen to love puns. Always have, even when my primary languages were not English. I am even known to have made a number of cross-lingual puns… You all know that some pun can light up your day, others can make the groans emanate from nearly everyone present within earshot.

So I’ll be publishing an occasional post with a chosen pun. My classification will be “Pun gallery” or “Pun groaner”. Maybe I should even consider the terminology “Pun” and “Pan” as the British use it (as in “toilet”)

If you like a pun, please let me know by commenting below. If you not like a pun, please let me know by commenting below.

November 28th, 2015

As a society, can we afford this welfare?

We hear much whining about people getting money from the government and doing nothing, just sit around and watch TV, and have more kids. You know the talk about “welfare queens”…

Here are some statistics and hard pieces of information to tuck into your belt, so next time you hear the “welfare queen” talk, you can yank out this material and whine right back…

question-who is the welfare queen

The sources for this infographic are The Tax Foundation and Citizens for Tax Justice.

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