Monday, December 31, 2012


Form Paul Sheehan at The Sydney Morning Herald:

We cannot slow down and it is at our peril

"The future is accelerating. It is racing towards us faster than ever in our collective lives. How can that be known, you must ask, given that the future hasn't happened yet. It hasn't happened but a long-term pattern of accelerating life-cycles of societies is established.
''This is a deep trend of history,'' writes a futurologist, Michael Lee, in a new book, Knowing Our Future. ''It would be foolish to believe this [deep trend] can be easily reversed … Civilisations have life cycles, too, and their durations are shrinking over time.
''The lifespan of socio-political empires averaged 2000 years for a period of four millennia, but then more than halved with the next 1000 years of history. This sharp decrease in the lifespan of civilisations accelerated yet again in the following 500 years of history, dropping to a little over one-tenth of their average duration in ancient times.''
Lee's study of this deep trend was in part based on the work of Robert Samet, a civil engineer and futurologist who traced the duration of societies over history. In Long-Range Futures Research (2008), he described a striking shrinkage in the longevity of empires and cultures: ''The earliest civilisations between 3500 BC and AD 500 last for an average of 2000 years … In the period from AD 500-1500, the average duration was 500 to 1000 years … since AD 1500 … the average duration has been 200 to 500 years.''
Signs of an accelerating pattern of vulnerability and decline in our own western model of society are offered by the world's most famous economic historian, Professor Niall Ferguson. This year he used the Reith Lectures to chart the elements of decay in the Western civilisation. He gave his lecture series the gloomy and arresting title, The Great Degeneration, just released as a book.
He argues that advanced Western societies are developing sclerosis, manifest in the envelopment of life in bureaucratic and legal red tape. The most advanced economies are also becoming increasingly mendicant societies, evidenced by the unsustainable growth of social welfare spending in the European Union, the United States and, in a longer-term trend, Australia.
Among the telling low-lights offered by The Great Degeneration:
  •   The advanced nations which have created public and private debt larger than their gross domestic products confront a narrow range of options. They must raise the rate of growth above the rate of interest. If they cannot, they must default on a large proportion of public debt. Or wipe out debts via currency depreciation and inflation.
  •   The real rate of structural unemployment is concealed by the mendicant state. In the three years from June 2009 to June 2012, the world's largest economy, the US, created 2.4 million jobs but 3.3 million Americans were awarded disabled worker benefits. ''Unemployment is being concealed - and rendered permanent - in ways all too familiar to Europeans.''
  •   The financial crisis in 2007 had its origins in over-complex regulations not just misguided deregulation.
  • ''All political systems are likely to succumb to sclerosis, mainly because of rent-seeking activities by organised interest groups.''
  • The rule of law is increasingly being superseded and displaced by the rule of lawyers.
If this lecture series could be summed up in a single sentence it is this: when a majority of people vote for a living rather than work for a living, democracy, freedom and living standards are all in a lock-step of decline.
Ferguson is also a noted critic of casino capitalism but even his concerns about the emerging dominance of the vast financial derivatives market pale when compared with the details provided in another book published this year, Dark Pools, by a Wall Street Journal reporter, Scott Patterson.
The accelerating cycles of capitalism's creative disruption have reached a new velocity with the basic form known as stock trading. Sixty years ago, the average stock trade involved buying and holding a stock for four years. By 2000, that average holding period had shrunk to eight months. By 2008, it was two months. By 2011, it was 22 seconds. It would be even less now.
Patterson describes the global financial market as ''a worldwide matrix of dazzlingly complex algorithms, interlinked computer hubs the size of football fields, and high-octane trading robots guided by the latest advances in artificial intelligence''.
''With electronic trading, a placeless, faceless, post-modern cyber-market in which computers communicated at warp speed, that physical sense of the market's flow had vanished … Regular investors, of course, had little idea about the massive transfer of wealth that was taking place.''
The transfer of wealth upwards over the past quarter-century is well documented as a byproduct of global capitalism.
Then there is climate change, an encompassing process of accelerating change and disruption. The ideology of manic economic growth, driven by the false wisdom that technology can conquer problems caused by technology, is clearly having a global impact on the environment caused by the reality that 7 billion people now live on the planet and the average person is consuming far more than ever before in history. That this must significantly affect not just the environment but the global climate invokes the most basic and self-evident commonsense.
The world's scientific community has presented a compelling case that the acceleration of global consumption is in turn accelerating the much deeper natural pattern of climate change.
If you feel like life around you is speeding up, especially the cycle of invention to obsolescence, it's not you, it's everyone and everything."
There are some very interesting things in this opinion article, which is why I post it here complete.
I don't agree with everything here but there are some observations that really are spot-on, for example this one:
" when a majority of people vote for a living rather than work for a living, democracy, freedom and living standards are all in a lock-step of decline."
This is something that  amazes me: people who think they deserve a free ride, who want to do nothing and sit at a desk and collect bags of money for it. This is a moral failure. Society is built on trade and exchange: the trading of services (your labour) for credit exchangeable for goods and other services.

What has happenned? I suspect the main reason for the failure here is that we see others who appear to have done nothing for their wealth and thus people say to themselves "why should I be working if they have more than me yet they don't work at all as hard as me?" . . . . . except it is all a lie.
Money for nothing is worth nothing.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Bye Gerry

Gerry Anderson, creator of Supermarionation TV shows Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and others, has died at 83.
Thunderbirds had a big impact on me as a youngster: not only were there groovy zooming ships and gadgets, they did it all to SAVE people,  and yet there was still room for explosions, monsters and secret agents.

The only thing that came close since was Team America: World Police which you could say went further  - and it was inspired by Thunderbirds.

Iron Sky

If you haven't heard of it, Iron Sky is the spoof movie made by a group of indie folks from Finland, Germany and Australia. It is a whole lot of fun too. In short, the Nazis have hidden away on the dark side if the moon since 1945, and in 2018, they return to get their vengeance.   . . but don't take my word for it, see it yourself if you like B- movie sci-fi fun.
I bought it for 14 bucks online from itunes  (look carefully, there is a button there) which is still about the same price as a ticket at my local cinema and cheaper than a new movie DVD. 

It is awesome: Nazi flying saucers attacking the earth,  mad american advertising executives, and of course, the spunky Julia Dietze as you can see on the left, who really knows what high heels are for.

(You will have to see the movie now if you want to know what I am referring to!)

Don't forget, this is not made by any of the big movie houses. that fact alone should move you to have a look at it. Oh, and did I mention it's also hilarious? I have no fear or respect for the Nazis, and this movie doesn't either. Then again, it doesn't paint the American government of 2018 or the UN nicely either.
Best fun I have had all year, worth every cent.
Oh yes, I got the soundtrack by Laibach as well. Wunderbar!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

No Mistaking

Never mind why I think I need to say this. I'm saying it here and now.
I do NOT support any illegal activity including drug use.
That goes for me as a normal person and as High priest of The Church Of Nothing too. 
The C.O.N. does NOT advocate any drug use at all.
Even legal drugs are not good for you, the only exception being when a good doctor prescribes them and follows up with proper medical help.

I drink one cup of coffee a day in the morning and I might drink a glass of alcoholic drink on Christmas or a birthday or other special occasion but I am not a drinker. I do NOT smoke. I don't even like aspirin or other pills.
Do not associate me with any of that, I have better things to do with my time. 

If you really want pleasure that is not bad for you or illegal, why not try sex? at least your body is designed for it even if the ultimate purpose is only to make more people, but then we modern folks have ways around that. 
And while I'm at it, don't get caught up in the wacky stuff. Pain is pain, pleasure is pleasure.
 Apart from sex, your body releases endorphins to ease pain because you overdid it when exercising.
In my view the human body is not that different from a machine: if you drive it hard all the time it will wear out faster. That doesn't matter with a car or appliance since you can just get another but with us humans, you only get one body. 

This is all my views, please note. If there is scientific evidence to support or discredit this let me know. I am always open to learn new things. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

A new form of magnetism, plus WHAT?

I was reading this article over at the Reg which talks about a newly confirmed magnetic state, one that is chaotic . . . . . . . . but read on . . . . .

The researchers "believe they’ve observed fractionalised quantum states.

Quantum states are generally assumed to exist only as whole numbers – after all, the basis of quantum physics is that the quantum is the smallest possible change in state that can exist."

I cracked up at this point. I love it when scientists kick a hole in their own sacred canon. It fills me with hope that we might actually solve some of the serious problems we have without dying of collective stupidity.

 Enjoy the silly season folks.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The crappy code problem

In "What Compsci textbooks don't tell you: Real world code sucks", author David Mandl at The Register talks about how badly coded software is everywhere and yet there is little being done about it: relating to his experiences in writing software for financial houses, he cites some scary problems that have caused stock market trouble and made billions "disappear".
The article targets some basic faults with software projects: first, that programmers are just not very good , or worse still make their code unnecessarily complex so that no-one else can understand it, effectively keeping themselves employed since they are the only one who knows how it all works.
Then there is the "eternal patching" problem: badly written wares are patched to fix the fault but then there is little incentive to fix the original code so it keeps getting patched and becomes unweildly.
Well, I can see that this is a modern problem that won't be going away soon.

Sometimes I think that I should just stop upgrading to escape from the new bug problem and the de-featuring problem. I'm talking about iTunes 11 here. For some reason known only to Apple, they have removed features from the previous version and changed things that I certainly didn't need or want changed.
The worst part of all?
iTunes 10 would start when I pressed the play button, but the new version can be delayed by as much as seconds after I press it. WHY? the files are the same, the computer is the same, so why a new delay? I can only call it an anti-feature. I have been warned not to try and go back to the old version too: apparently there is a real danger of losing your library and having to rebuild it.   WTF?
This is definitely the silly season folks.


A long time ago when America was young, they were putting the railroad through the middle of their huge land  - but there was a problem: settlers had already arrived and put homes, farms and even towns in the way of the railroad. Well, the Railroads had an answer: they just went ahead and put the railroad in, regardless, hence the term "railroading".

I think I have been railroaded. What stumps me is why.
I have joined dating agencies twice now and both times someone has attempted to destroy my efforts to find a suitable companion.
This not just empty speculation  iether: I have evidence from friends that it is deliberate.
I have speculated that it maybe it is because I am an atheist and the opponent is religious - or maybe they are just hung up on something they think that I did many years ago. It does not matter though: the result is the same. I did get one real date from the agency but that was it, the rest were so fake some of them did not even bother to make the photo match the profile.

I counted over thirty messages I sent, of which I had seven total contacts via email and apart from the one real person all of the others were either (a) either the other side of the country or (b) overseas despite the original profile saying they were local to me. Three of them were 419's. None of them would talk to me via Skype or  Google Hangout video chat just to prove that they were real people, therefore I can only conclude they were all fakes, with the possible exception of the lady in deepest Russia who does not even have her own PC but uses one at work to email me . . . . . assuming that she is real: there is evidence to suggest that one was fake too.

So, in short, I was being bullshirted all the way. The final episode yesterday was where the person I was supposedly talking to via email claimed that they were signing off the agency and they would be seeing me soon . . . well, I was going to sign off any way after the crap I had been experiencing, but then same person asks me about my experience o the dating site. once I explain, said person then says
"you got  alots  of  women you talk to. GOD bless you. i dont need a man with alots of  women"
Note the terrible spelling and grammar. It has varied over the conversations as if there were more than one person on the line with different grammar and spelling abilities.
 This is definitely a nutter: apparently "her" man cannot be permitted to talk to other women  - by email !!  Well, either that or it was all BS designed to get me off the site , which since it is now done, "she" can provide a BS reason why to disconnect.

What makes me so Bloody Furious is that these crims  can't be found: who are they? why bother pissing me off? I am not important, not even slightly rich or influential.  Hell, pretty much nobody reads this effing blog either!  (All two of you readers out there know that: just look at the stat down the sidebar. )

Well, to you railroader shmitheads: Fuch you very much you lying cheating stealing jerks, burn in hell and die horribly from some painful and incurable disease.You haven't even got the guts to come forward and honestly accuse or argue a point with me while I have been open and honest to everyone so you MUST be crooks. Or nutters, or most likely both.

And you think I'm gonna be going along with your little setup again? after the last few gambits? Fuch you too. Die Nazis, Die horribly.

Well, I'm off for a few drinks with my new girlfriend, then we are going back to her place to celebrate Xmas properly.  Have a fun silly season folks, and take care. And don't trust anyone on the net.

How the world's decisions are made?

Have a look at this article. It's about the World conference on Internet Communications or WCIT.
Written by an American who went there, it is an eye opener about what goes on at those high-flyer conferences we only ever see the outside of. 

What is most interesting about the whole thing is that the whole process of deciding international internet law is being done by committees, sub-commitees and "ad-hoc groups.  It does not end there either: since this is a global meeting, there are people from every government there who all have their own ideas of how the net should operate, what should and should not be permitted and who should pay for it.

Let's just boil this down for a moment: All of the big players or groups want the "game" to be played their way.  Is it any wonder then that there was very little "consensus" reached?
At one point, things get so stalled that the chair simply goes for a show of hands to get something decided, but of course it is ultimately futile: some countries won't sign the new deal. 

Here, in a concentrated form, we have the essential problem of the human world. 
Countries and nations have differing ideas about law, ethics, responsibility and rights. Who is right? depends on who you ask, which viewpoint you take on various matters related to politics and society.
I can't comment on the details since I don't know what they were arguing about but I find the whole story of the event veeerry interesting.

I am betting that this won't go away either: it will be an ongoing issue because people want the perceived freedom of net communications while governments want the right to control populations, supposedly for their own good or "national security".
As I said, I can't judge anything here.

Thanks to Ars Technica for the article.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Safety thanks to cardboard?

I am a fan of cardboard: from my early years I made many things out of it since it was cheap, easy to get and easy to work with: no fancy glues or exotic tools are needed,  I even managed some pretty spectacular results getting it to bend. See below.

Now someone has made a real bicycle helmet using cardboard cells to absorb impacts.

Here is the WIRED page.  Some people can't quite believe that something resembling corrugated cardboard can be a good impact absorber.  On the other hand, how come it is such a puzzle? Much of the world's delivery goods arrive in boxes made of corrugated cardboard , and for good reason.

The stuff the helmet is made from resembles the inside of modern doors: hexagonal cell sheet, an idea also used in aerospace although they make theirs from metal or modern composite.

I am impressed  and pleased by the gent concerned, and to top it all off the Kranium company are offering helmets shaped to your head, (they scan your cranium!)  which would be a  great safety improvement. Not sure I can afford a custom helmet but at least the potential is there. 
Kranium also make a pretty good electric bike too, seen here.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Canada cans JSF

I am always interested in military technology, partly because it is impressive stuff to watch (and usually features the leading technology too) and partly because it is such a political and economic battleground. 
Mind you, who needs to fight the enemy if you can suck them into buying  preposterously pricey military machines that are so expensive it could put the nation in the poorhouse?

The JSF (2)  sure looks like that to me anyway: just like the previous wonderplane JSF-1 (which never arrived, please note: our airforce got recycled F-111's instead) we now have JSF-2 and sure enough it is doing exactly the same thing as the previous plan: It certainly looks like Canada has decided to opt out of the plan based on realistic cost projections. Naturally, they will be in trouble with Uncle Sam for that: if too many players opt out, the whole thing will die and billions will need to be "written down". 
None of this affects the quality of the plane itself though folks: I fully expect it to go into service, probably some years and some billions overbudget as these things do . . . . . . . but I still think little countries like ours should not be stumping up zillions for this stuff when it does not even look to me to be suitable for our theoretical needs.
The F-111 was actually useful because when fitted with wing tanks it had enough range to cover a fair slice of this huge mostly empty continent. it had a big airframe that provided  plenty of room for the various local mods that we gave it over the years too.
How will this single seat high speed fighter fit with that? I have grave doubts, and I am just a normal guy, not some planning bigwig.
I sure hope they are a hell of a lot smarter than I am and can figure out what the point of all the billions of cost will give us.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Back Online

Well, I'm stumped. My wireless internet service is now back on, and I still have no idea why it didn't work before.

A brief note about the previous post (In whose interest): I do not under any circumstances support "hackers" or those who attack systems or try to cheat on the net or elsewhere. I posted it to give people a clear idea of the way these people think, and maybe even evoke comment (hah!)

Also, I am now on Google +, and it looks good to me. I never liked Facebook and although I have an ID there something about it just didn't sit right with me.  I'll see how G+ goes but already I am happier with it since I have this and two other blogs there. 
Now I only need to find Google Talk, which according to rumour is/has Video chat.

Oh yeah - I have been seeking a partner online, with somewhat mixed results. Lots of new netfreinds (Hi all! :D) but sill no lovedove. I can't count the number of people who have initially appeared to be local to me , then turned out to be the other side of the world. no offence, but that is fakery and I'm less than impressed by it. Then there is the second step from my point of view: if they meet the basics, and they are not in my home town, I want to video chat with them, and that has been an eye opener: even people who seem genuine suddenly back off . . . almost as if the site is faking me continuously, trying to keep me paying with a string of phonies . . . . . . because they can't really do anything for me. Well, that's the end, no video chat, no more emails. Video chat can't be easily faked (well, not without a lot of prep and some serious computer hardware, and I haven't seen it done yet)
so that remains my big test.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Only in Japan: Giant Mechs on sale NOW!

Yep, the Japanese really know how to impress folks: now on sale is KURATAS, a 4 ton giant mech that you can ride inside.
No, this is NOT a joke, go here to see videos of KURATAS in action. 
For a piddling 1.3 mil you get a steel monster that every Evil Genius will be queueing up to buy . . . oh hang on, the weapons are definitely not mil spec. Ah, who cares? You can crush all opposition anyway! 
Thanks to The Register for this all-important news flash.
( Get yours before the world ends on December 21 and you get a free cup holder !)
I love the Japanese,  can't wait for competing companies to come out with bigger, badder models . . . . PATLABOR in real life ! Woo-hoo!  

In whose interest . . . . .?

Reproduced here in its entirety for your permanent information:  from WIRED, a "hacker" tells all about how unsecure your systems really are and Computational Ethics . . . . .

Editor’s Note: The author of this opinion piece, aka “weev,” was found guilty last week of computer intrusion for obtaining the unprotected e-mail addresses of more than 100,000 iPad owners from AT&T’s website, and passing them to a journalist. His sentencing is set for February 25, 2013.
Right now there’s a hacker out there somewhere producing a zero-day attack. When he’s done, his “exploit” will enable whatever parties possess it to access thousands — even millions — of computer systems.
But the critical moment isn’t production — it’s distribution. What will the hacker do with his exploit? Here’s what could happen next:
The hacker decides to sell it to a third party. The hacker could sell the exploit to unscrupulous information-security vendors running a protection racket, offering their product as the “protection.” Or the hacker could sell the exploit to repressive governments who can use it to spy on activists protesting their authority. (It’s not unheard of for governments, including that of the U.S., to use exploits to gather both foreign and domestic intelligence.) 

Andrew Auernheimer
An internet troll convicted of two consecutive computer crime felonies, Andrew ‘weev’ Auernheimer has over a decade of C, asm, Perl, and obnoxious IRC curmudgeonry under his belt. He is a liberty advocate and future federal prisoner of America.

The hacker notifies the vendor, who may — or may not — patch. The vendor may patch mission-critical customers (read: those paying more money) before other users. Or, the vendor may decide not to release a patch because a cost/benefit analysis conducted by an in-house MBA determines that it’s cheaper to simply do … nothing. 
The vendor patches, but pickup is slow. It’s not uncommon for large customers to do their own extensive testing — often breaking software features that couldn’t have been anticipated by the vendor — before deploying improved patches to their employees. All of this means that vendor patches can be left undeployed for months (or even years) for the vast majority of users. 
The vendor creates an armored executable with anti-forensic methods to prevent reverse engineering. This is the right way to deploy a patch. It’s also manpower-intensive, which means it rarely happens. So discovering vulnerabilities is as easy as popping the old and new executable into an IDA Pro debugger with BinDiff to compare what’s changed in the disassembled code. Like I said: easy.
Basically, exploiting the vast unpatched masses is an easy game for attackers. Everyone has their own interests to protect, and they aren’t always the best interests of users.

Things Aren’t So Black and White

Vendors are motivated to protect their profits and their shareholders’ interests over everything else. Governments are motivated to value their own security interests over the individual rights of their citizens, let alone those of other nations. And for many information security players, it’s far more lucrative to sell incrementally improved treatments of a disease’s symptoms than it is to sell the cure.
Clearly, not all the players will act ethically, or capably. To top it all off, the original hacker rarely gets paid for his or her highly skilled application of a unique scientific discipline towards improving a vendor’s software and ultimately protecting users.
So who should you tell? The answer: nobody at all.
White hats are the hackers who decide to disclose: to the vendor or to the public. Yet the so-called whitehats of the world have been playing a role in distributing digital arms through their disclosures.
Researcher Dan Guido reverse-engineered all the major malware toolkits used for mass exploitation (such as Zeus, SpyEye, Clampi, and others). His findings about the sources of exploits, as reported through the Exploit Intelligence Project, are compelling:
The so-called whitehats of the world have been playing a role in distributing digital arms.
  • None of the exploits used for mass exploitation were developed by malware authors.
  • Instead, all of the exploits came from “Advanced Persistent Threats” (an industry term for nation states) or from whitehat disclosures.
  • Whitehat disclosures accounted for 100 percent of the logic flaws used for exploitation.
Criminals actually “prefer whitehat code,” according to Guido, because it works far more reliably than code provided from underground sources. Many malware authors actually lack the sophistication to alter even existing exploits to increase their effectiveness.

Navigating the Gray

A few farsighted hackers of the EFnet-based computer underground saw this morally conflicted security quagmire coming 14 years ago. Uninterested in acquiring personal wealth, they gave birth to the computational ethics movement known as Anti Security or “antisec.”
Antisec hackers focused on exploit development as an intellectual, almost spiritual discipline. Antisec wasn’t — isn’t — a “group” so much as a philosophy with a single core position:
An exploit is a powerful weapon that should only be disclosed to an individual whom you know (through personal experience) will act in the interest of social justice.
After all, dropping an exploit to unethical entities makes you a party to their crimes: It’s no different than giving a rifle to a man you know is going to shoot someone.
Dropping an exploit to unethical entities makes you a party to their crimes.
Though the movement is over a decade old, the term “antisec” has recently come back into the news. But now, I believe that state-sanctioned criminal acts are being branded as antisec. For example: Lulzsec’s Sabu was first arrested last year on June 7, and his criminal actions were labeled “antisec” on June 20, which means everything Sabu did under this banner was done with the full knowledge and possible condonement of the FBI. (This included the public disclosure of tables of authentication data that compromised the identities of possibly millions of private individuals.)
This version of antisec has nothing in common with the principles behind the antisec movement I’m talking about.
But the children entrapped into criminal activity — the hackers who made the morally bankrupt decision of selling exploits to governments — are beginning to publicly defend their egregious sins. This is where antisec provides a useful cultural framework, and guiding philosophy, for addressing the gray areas of hacking. For example, a core function of antisec was making it unfashionable for young hackers to cultivate a relationship with the military-industrial complex.
The only ethical place to take your zero-day is to someone who will use it in the interests of social justice.
Clearly, software exploitation brings society human rights abuses and privacy violations. And clearly, we need to do something about it. Yet I don’t believe in legislative controls on the development and sale of exploits. Those who sell exploits should not be barred from their free trade — but they should be reviled.
In an age of rampant cyber espionage and crackdowns on dissidents, the only ethical place to take your zero-day is to someone who will use it in the interests of social justice. And that’s not the vendor, the governments, or the corporations — it’s the individuals.
In a few cases, that individual might be a journalist who can facilitate the public shaming of a web application operator. However, in many cases the harm of disclosure to the un-patched masses (and the loss of the exploit’s potential as a tool against oppressive governments) greatly outweighs any benefit that comes from shaming vendors. In these cases, the antisec philosophy shines as morally superior and you shouldn’t disclose to anyone.
So it’s time for antisec to come back into the public dialogue about the ethics of disclosing hacks. This is the only way we can arm the good guys — whoever you think they are — for a change.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Have you been into a supermarket lately? Once upon a time, stores that sold food sold - well, actual food, you know : fruit, grains, veges, dairy and so on - REAL food. Now there are whole aisles in the local "supermarket" devoted to fizzy sugarwater "drinks",  "snackfoods" "breakfast cereals" and lollies. The real food component of people's diets has decreased and it's showing in their wastelines and the hospital waiting lists.  . . but nothing is being done about it - because it is generally assumed to be one's own fault, right ?  . . . .
As if that was not bad enough, now real foods are being stealthily replaced by food simulants.

Up until recently I ate a pot of fruit flavoured yoghurt for morning tea at work - then they just stopped making them in small sizes. No reason given, of course - so I went looking for a replacement, and discovered that there are a whole range of sim-yoghurts that proudly claim themselves "98% fat free": this is presented as some advantage, but the horrible truth is that this stuff is not even yoghurt any more. It's hiding in the fine print on the containers, so that you won't read it but there it is: the cheap way to get 98 percent fat free "dairy" product is to make it without milkfat, so they add plant based gums that form a sort of gel with water that resembles the milkfat in the goop. 

I am guessing here but the milkfat must be either very valuable or hard to get because there ain't none of it in these new "dairy" products - but I WANT the milkfat.
 It is important to your diet to get enough complex fats though, and  this synthetic goop is supposedly great to make you "take a dump" and lose weight - ( I know, I work with "diet" products sometimes and I looked up what the ingredients do) but not for those of us who are NOT overweight or on a "diet". 

Of course, all the above assumes that the label is accurate and correct.  I wouldn't count on it: what we are really looking at is Bu*****t from the marketing department designed to cash in on people's fear of getting fat.

Well, I found another way to get my morning tea, but the issue is only getting crazier every year: I'm guessing again, but I suspect that artificial goo like Arabica bean gum and it's gummy ilk are a whole lot cheaper than real food ingredients so we will see more and more of it pre-processed "food" in future.

There is also a whole boatload of justification for Corporations to take this route since they only need point to statistics and say "63 % of Australians are overweight or obese, so we are helping them to lose weight" - which in itself is debatable, but they have more political power than me.
I just call them all Food Simulants, or Simfood for short.
Stick with real foods folks - veges, cereals and grains, fruit and maybe even real cheese if you can find it among the simcheeses. 
 . . . . . . . . and I'm not even going to mention sugar. That's even worse.

Monday, November 12, 2012


In the second half of this video, Max Keiser talks about Bitcoin: this may be the way of money in the future - but don't take my word for it, watch the show.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Engineer's Tears

When I was a youngster I wanted to make model airplanes that actually flew. I learned from JP, big brother of a schoolfriend, how to design and build a basic airframe that would get off the ground and fly level.
It's not that hard, folks.
If you are flying faster, the rules are slightly different e.g. wing profiles for supersonic aircraft are different and the need for a smooth aerodynamic form is much more pronounced.

Anyone who takes an interest in flying things can pick up a lot of it from looking at the plentiful working examples - so why are fictional aircraft always done by people who ignore all the rules?

Here's a few examples from the DAZ site that make me throw up my hands in horror:

This baby even has a tank turret on top: weird, but take a look at the front profile of it. This thing (if it flies at all) is gonna be very slow. I'm also puzzled by the extra engines above the body that don't seem to be working. Oh wait - if they were turned on they would burn off the tailplane ! 

This one doesn't seem to have enough wing area to get off  the deck. 'nuff said.

This attempts to be the airborn equivalent of the jetski.  Ignoring the wing area issue for a moment, there is just one slight problem with that: the flyer is exposed to turbulent winds.  Provided you were flying at biplane-type speeds that could be okay - but then you would need much, much bigger wings.  Now ask yourself how the pilot is going to control this thing while standing up, buffeted by 100 mph-plus winds and no rudder pedals.
 I hope he has very strong arms !

 Ah,  I say- this one actually looks like it has enough wing area to get off  the ground, although the jet exhausts look a bit small for the size of craft.  Oh - hang on, where are all the control surfaces? where is the elevators - or any pitch control for that matter?
 . . . . . and then I saw another view . . . . .
What should be the main engine air intakes are partly closed off flat !  Add to that the louvres in the wing (so much for enough lifting surface to fly, sigh!) and once again this is just crazy.

Finally . . . . . . .
This is actually the best of the lot IMHO because it does not fall down on any of the foolishness shown above.
Aerodynamic? check.
Possibly enough thrust to get off the ground? check.
Possibly enough control to navigate? check.  (note those exhaust ducts on the tail?)

There's' just a couple of itty bitty problems.
 First, look at the front: the view from the pilot's seat is obscured forward so you won't see what's directly ahead.
Okay, maybe it has a camera and screen so the pilot sits behind armourplate. 

The other one is pretty obscure, so I don't really expect the creator of this flyer to know about it :- the man trouble with VTOL craft using jets is exhaust gas ingestion or EGI for short: when that happens, thrust drops off and the flyer comes down. Everything works fine once you are up in the air, it's those few feet above the runway that are the problem.  The Harrier jump jet uses some clever design to get away from it as much as possible but this design will get EGI in about one second -  that's why we don't have lots of VTOL flyers around using this method.

So in summary I will have to make my own SF flyers and spaceships  if I want them to pass muster.
More work, but at least I can be sure they will look like they might actually fly.
I might even be able to sell them on a website somewhere for pocket money. 

If you are interested, the place to go for some great design ideas for flying machines and spacecraft  (nearly real and real ones, that is !) is Scott Lowther's excellent Aerospace Projects Review Blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What happenned to the phone

Remember I said my iPhone was misbehaving? I took it to the local "genius" bar where I was told that the dock connector had "liquid damage" and would need to be replaced.
Cost from Apple? 180 bucks.
Well, I ain't made o' money so I decided to try something cheaper: the local  mofo repair guy. He charged 80 bucks and did it in half an hour.

The connector definitely failed: the reason the earphones kept cutting out was that the phone thought there was a dock connection going on.  okay. . . . . but $180 to replace the part?  Even repair guy appears to be getting money for jam - really, how much does the replacement part cost? and labour? I am very certain it did not take half an hour.

So, for anyone else out there, get the best protection for your mofo you can get. I have an Otter  Defender case which is pretty good ( it's about as drop- proof a case as you can get) , but my work is very messy at times and I got slack, leaving it in my uniform  where it got coated in gunk - so I cleaned it: apparently even a wipe with a wet cloth was too much for it.  . . so now I have a plastic bag with one of those airtight seals on it and the phone screen can still be used inside that (although I'm not sure what the sound is like!)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lytro hits the stores

I have mentioned the Lytro camera once before: it really is not the same as any other "camera" in  that you can adjust the focus and other things after the picture has been taken.

It's now on sale in the US so I hope it turns up here soon too - although probably it will be at a higher price (typically, not for any good reason though).
There is something of great potential here - can't quite say what it will be used for, but I know it will turn up. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Okay. I don't normally read comics . . . but this one is really, really good. The art is good - but the story is awesome - wish I could write as well as this man, and he draws it too, a page (or two!) each week.
Adventure, wit and great humor all in one comic!
Christopher Baldwin I salute you.

Here's the link to a sample. Below the toon you will find the "start" and "next" buttons.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Wherever it is, I'm not going there

The pic comes direct from Macworld's website.  'nuff said.

I have had my own trials with the iPhone recently: the main thing I use it or is playing music while I travel  - but it started cutting out on me for no apparent reason. After some fiddling I guessed that the earphone leads were dodgy (it gets plugged and unplugged at least twice every day) - so I shelled out $35 for a new pair. . . . . Except that it made no difference. The problem only happens sometimes and it comes and goes but it remains a mystery. Each time I must pull the plug, stop the music, plug back in so that it registers and then press play again. I note that this only seems to have started happening after an update to iOS. Also after the update sometimes my phone just won't connect to the internet: the one other use I have for it is as link from my laptop to the net while travelling on trains. This has never been terribly good, to be honest: in the morning it connects fine but every afternoon it's a gamble wether it will even connect.  I blame it on all those people tapping away on Twitter and facebook, both of which now come with iOS6 along with something called "passbook" which currently offers only crap from a radio station. 
Did I say I hate FB?
When I was trying to get my phone to work properly I wiped it and reinstalled everything I actually needed . . . and FB is not one of the "apps" I need.  I'm waiting for it to die but someone must be paying big to prop it up: it is "free" but the server end of things must be costing plenty, so where is the money coming from?
The only person I have contacted so far on FB appears to be dodgy. I loaned him some money as he was an old aquaintance  - but he has since disappeared and for someone who claims to be a Linux geek he really isn't on the net at all. I suspect that he lied to me about everything just to scrounge a few quid.  tragic really, I have moved on, climbed out of the hole of poverty but it seems that most of the people I knew back in the poor, crazy times have not.
'nuff said.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

It's too hard, don't bother

Read here a great little piece on space travel. The analogy is a good one.
Thanks, Discovery News.

I don't know if the 100 year project is workable but any project that gets humans looking outside their backyard has got to be an improvement on things.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

About Capitalism

This is in reference to "The Implosion of Capitalism".
I agree partly with the author: the rape of the Earth by selfish lunatics is too much and we are all  paying for it.
(Aside: Down here we are arguing over a "supertrawler" that has come down to stripmine our fish stocks. I can't see what the issue is: why should we let them? Where are our navy subs and torpedoes when we really need them? ;)

My problem with it is the glorification of "spirituality" animism and mysticism.

Yes, we do need to fix some very, very bad things in our society, but to go back to the attitudes of the tribal mind is not the answer: are we to discard the power of rational thinking and scientific analysis and replace it with old wive's tales and healing by witchdoctor? No,  and No again.  What I see as failing us all is the failure of modern man to distinguish between the primaeval urges of greed, fear, desire and envy  - and rational thought and action.

The emotional forces are still  distorting rational thought in almost all of humanity and it won't be fixed unless we overcome those stupid medieval mentalities and scrambled thoughts  - especially in those who are in positions of power.

Rational people would not make war or strip mine their own lands and oceans. A rational society would not put its failed members in little concrete boxes: it would work out how to restore or heal these members to good status. A rational society does not need repressive laws or a "Strong Leader": everyone knows what is right because they learn morality and ethics in school without any religious coloration to it.

We probably won't ever be able to remove those things from ourselves, but we can learn to overcome them: I see it every day. Walk into a shop and see a shop assistant being friendly and helpful to a person they might  not like the look of (or even despise if they knew more about them): it can be done, and is done every day by people, so why can't we train each other more in this task of being more rational regardless of emotional shite?
Maybe it is because there is a huge machinery of marketing and advertising that depends on it to sell us more crap that we really don't need.
Add to that the mound of mystic mumbo jumbo called religion and "spirituality" (whatever that means) and we are not getting better any time soon.  Sure, life is full of mysteries and things we really don't understand  - but doing stupid things you don't understand does not solve the unknowing  - nonsense is still nonsense.

It seems to me that maybe if there were enough truly rational people in a nation they might be able to move things more toward that direction, but therein is the problem: where does this growth of rationalism come from?  Furthermore, little rational thought is going to occur in people who are tired, overworked, under threat of eviction, sick or hungry: in short, the resources need to be there first, and we are globally moving toward a situation where almost everyone will be hungry and poor. I hope it doesn't get that bad, but you get my point.

Mad capitalism, the practice of usury or getting more money for nothing more than the loaning out of money, is not wise.  There is no free lunch - if you are eating a "free" lunch, someone else is actually paying for it. The big scam of this age is to spread the "lunch bill" among everyone else who isn't getting any even though they have no choice in the matter. . . . . but because pretty much no-one is looking at it and there is no specific person getting stiffed, they keep getting away with it. What is really amazing is that when Bear Stearns etc. went down and Uncle Sam had to bail them all out, there it was, clear as day: All the US tax payers were footing the bill for a handful of robbers . . . and they did NOTHING to fix it.


Something new to me: Cellulose Nanocrystals made from wood.  These are supposedly stronger and cheaper than Kevlar or carbon fibre.  Assuming they can seal it against water penetration (and I am betting they will) this stuff would become the basic construction material for vehicles, houses and airplanes . . . . and use up whole forests worth of trees as a result.
 Is this a great thing or a catastrophe ?  Probably a combination of both, right?
Also,  everyone will know by now that Apple has brought out the iPhone 5. It has a different size taller screen than the old models: round here, there seems to be an endless series of shops or stalls peddling phone covers of every size and style  - so there will be millions or probably billions of plastic and rubber phone covers heading for the dump.
Oh, don't forget that it also has a new dock plug: so all those gadgets with the old dock connectors will be junk too. Apparently there will be an adapter available from Apple (but probably not cheap!)
Finally, maybe we can make "force sheilds" so favoured of the Sci-fi writers for space travel.

Junk DNA? Really?

Here in this article at the NY Times you can read about how 440 scientists in 32 labs have been working to understand what all those mysterious bits of DNA in our chromosomes do.
They make a point of as if it were a discovery, but of course there is no "junk" DNA : all of it is useful and does things, we just didn't know what it did before.

I found it hard to understand why anyone would think DNA had lots of "unused bits".  ( It also makes me wonder what other areas of knowledge are being ignored because "nobody thought there was anything much there".  Any ideas, dear reader? )
This group of discoveries will bring big changes in future to the medical and health area. Big changes.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

More about the madness of the stock market

In this article courtesy of WIRED, you can read the detail of how computerised trading has made the stock markets essentially uncontrollable by human operators: it all happens much too fast for anyone to see what is going on apart from later forensic examination.
I could carry on about how this is all too crazy- but just read it for yourself.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Where's my Navbar?

Ah, the troubles never end. For no reason that I can discern, the Navbar atop this page has disappeared. It doesn't make a lot of sense though: I would not expect Google to botch it or allow others to hack their basic services. I can't quite believe that anyone would bother to do it deliberately without telling people so I will conclude it is a technical botch.

Off The Rails

As a follow-up to my previous posting about plans for a "fantastic" new rail line here, check out this page: it just got truly fantastic. The article points out how if the figures provided  were to be believed, this new line will basically be the fastest metro line in the world . . . only it can't be. The figures are bogus. 

More importantly, it seems to me that there is some sort of local fiddling going on in certain areas of North Shore.  . . .or am I imagining it?

 From memory, earlier there was supposed to be a fantastic new dedicated pair of bus lanes to Rouse Hill which cost a heap of dough to build - only it doesn't work because somewhere along the way the dedicated bus lanes disappear, the buses are jammed in traffic same as every other mug in his car,   and make the whole thing a very expensive joke. When it was being built, amazing fast commute times were claimed which then turned out to be fairy floss.

Now we have a railway line that will make those bus lanes look cheap - it includes 28 kilometers of tunnels! - and once again the quotes make it seem amazingly good- in fact, too good to be true.


At one time I think there were weird people imagining that maybe I was allergic to petrol or something: they just didn't get the idea that I can't afford a car and don't want the expense.

Several years ago I promised myself that when I made over $800 a week I would look at buying a car: well, that was then, now the costs have risen and I still don't see where I will gain from pouring so much of my hard earned into a gas buggy. Freedom? Are you kidding me? Have you seen the cities of the world lately?

Actually, having a car is pretty much a religion of modern western life - and I am wary of all religions. It never ceases to amaze me how people will get themselves into debt just to have a car they can impress people with. Maybe I'm the alien, but I don't care about impressing fools with things I cannot afford.

According to the NRMA website the cheapest car, a Hyundai, costs $178 per week in total running costs. I just don't have that - or to be exact, if I did buy a car and was paying out around $200 a week for something better than the worst, I would need another job or a payrise, and I am not poor either.
I have plenty of other more worthwhile things to spend that $200 bucks on. 

Sure, public transport is not so great: but it also has an important lesson for people - all those other folks on the bus or train are your neighbours and fellow natives. If you always drive around in  metal and glass box, you won't see as much of your fellow man as I do.
Do I like it? sometimes it is a trial but then it costs me a lot less and it seems to me less stressful than driving.
Eat more crow, folks, and as Joe Friday might say, "Just stick to the facts".

Saturday, August 25, 2012

What Oil Crisis? We Got Plenty ! (Plus more)

Check out this page at WIRED. 
Generally, I like Wired: they have some great stuff- but this article is pure soap and my trust in them dropped when I saw it.
Just check this graph for example:
Note how the predicted area is not even shown with dotted lines: it's all SURE to happen folks. :)

I can only conjecture that they were paid a bundle of money to publish it based in the idea that it would reassure "investors" and help jolly the US consumery  economy along.
A lie is a lie is a lie, guys.

As for "renewables can't compete": nope, they won't be able to if you destroy their chance to reach practical levels before the oil and gas run out.
To make the change you need a lot of lead time, and you need a lot of energy to manufacture the equipment, most of which will come from oil and gas products, along with investment money from wise people who are not behaving like scared sheep or greedy brats.
All that might cover our collective a**es when the price of oil starts to climb as it inescapably will. The only question is when.

 . . . . but I'm still not very hopeful: there are too many huge rigid structures in our society that cannot be easily replaced or substituted for if something went wrong with the global economy/support network.
On that subject, I am currently reading this paper from David Korowicz. You can download it as a PDF from the page: it is meaty stuff on the nature of our social structure and why it really isn't good at coping with big failures. 

"A very important feature of these primary global hubs is that they tend to have little or no redundancy. That is, they have no substitutes at scale. For example, we are all dependent on fiat currency, fractional reserve banking, and credit. We have almost no resilience to a systemic failure of the financial system, as we hold little currency, no alternative delocalised trading systems, have little to barter (as our personal productivity is dependent upon the globalised financial system), and have little capacity to maintain ourselves at even subsistence level (low personal and community resilience).
Likewise, while we might have a choice of electricity providers, they share a common grid. If the grid were to fail there is no fall-back system. Diesel generators are limited. Further if grid failure initiated banking and IT system failure, diesel may be unobtainable. 

A reason for the concentration on hubs and a lack of redundancy arises from what is known as preferential attachment. That is, the greater the number of connections to a node, the greater the likelihood that any new connections will attach to the same node. For example, as the globalising economy grows, increased population, wealth and integration opens up the possibility of greater economies of scale and more diverse productive niches. When new technologies and business models emerge, they co-adapt and co-evolve with what is already present. Their adoption and spread through wider networks depends on the efficiencies they provide in terms of lower costs and new market opportunities. One of the principal ways of gaining overall efficiency is by letting individual parts of the system share the costs of transactions by sharing common infrastructure platforms (information and transport networks, electric grid, water/sewage systems, financial systems), and integrating more. Thus there is a reinforcing trend of benefits for those who build the platform and the users of the platform, which grows as the number of users grows. In time, the scale of the system becomes a barrier to a diversity of alternative systems as the upfront cost and the embedded economies of scale become a greater barrier to new entrants, especially where there is a complex high-cost hub infrastructure. Such economies of scale come to interweave whole socio-economic systems, such as road networks and settlement patterns. Thus, there is vigorous competition between mobile phone service providers but they share common information platforms and depend on electricity networks and the monetary system, both of which have little or no system diversity."
 . . . . . . and I haven't finished reading it yet. 
I became aware of this situation as a teenager, and this sort of systems analysis knowledge is not new. 

What can one person do about it?  Do you want to be like the "preppers" I have seen on cable teevee and stockpile food and fuel in hopes that things will "recover" before your supplies run out?  I don't really see that as a sensible approach, even assuming that I had the resources lying around to try it . . . . 
Any comments?

Fame and Fortune Vs. Scientific Integrity

Neuroscientist Moran Cerf  tells in this video about how his serious work and the paper he and colleagues wrote became an overnight sensation because the reporters and news media blew the whole thing out of proportion - and it didn't end there. 

I tip my hat to Moran: I am glad that you did not drop your standards in the face of the bogus world of news media.
(Note: I tried to embed the video but for some reason Blogger just shows the spinning blobs and a list of crap that I don't want. )

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Birth of the Super-Maser !

Read it here courtesy of The Register.
I am posting this because :

1. It is a nice example of how new inventions can still be made, despite claims that "new inventions are only made by teams  in corporate labs these days".

2. He combined some obscure information from diverse sources and assembled the rig in his basement. Pure boffinry!

3. Something tells me this invention will be VERY useful in future : maybe for space travel?

Hats off to you, Mark Oxborrow!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bye, Harry

On Wednesday 15th August, Science Fiction author Harry Harrison died.
I will miss him: he wrote some of the best sci-fi stories which were both entertaining and thought provoking:
- Bill, the Galactic Hero
- The Stainless Steel Rat series of books
- The story "Make room, make room" which eventually  became the movie "Soylent Green"
and many others I don't remember.
Here's the wikipedia page 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

TIME WARS by Mark Fisher

This is all about what has happened to the dream of a world where automation was supposed to free humans from the drudgery and danger of work and give us all a better life with more leisure time.
Check it out here at Gonzo.
There is so much in it that you really need to read it yourself.
Note that not all of this apply to my own life - somehow I have avoided the worst parts, for instance I simply refuse to live in a permanent state of "precarity" - but I am an exception rather than the rule: still the big picture shown here is not pretty.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Skyscraper Index Plus

According to this theory, the world's tallest buildings have risen on the eve of economic downturns.
Get the info here at Wikipedia.
Pic courtesy of Wikimedia commons.
File:PetronasHead-IMG 0091 2000px.jpg

American politicians are speaking more childishly than ever according to one study.
American readers might be surprised to see that the Republicans rate a slightly lower age language level than the Democrats. Or they might not. :)
Is this the result of "coaching" by spin doctors?

Still catching up on a bundle of old links here folks.

What's really wrong with the Stockmarket ?

Check out this page.
John Coates, the writer of this book has the right idea: what we need for stability in the global markets is a way to disconnect the gambling, risk taking activity of stockbrokers from the survival of people.

Here again is the same issue but related to the current drought in the U.S.A.
This article tells an even more serious story: wars and mass deaths could result from the crazy speculations of wall Street.

After the recent collapse of big traders on Wall Street, one might have though that the US Government would get smart and change the way things were done: but no, it didn't.  Now we have computers doing the trading far faster than any human could - but the game itself is no different.

What we really need is a way to get all this Big Betting Shop away from the essential business of people getting food to eat, clothing and a roof over their heads. . . . .  but I suspect that won't be changing in a hurry.

You can hear similar sentiments expressed in the voiceover on this song: 

Too many people just can't seem to grasp the idea that There's no such thing as a free lunch :
by creating money out of thin air, you devalue all the real money and everyone loses out.

 . . but then that's the nature of humans I guess: the environment problem is the same sort of thing, you can't instantly see the result of driving a big V8 every day so people say "Oh, nothing is hapenning" but it adds up,  and over the years all those big V8s gradually  do the damage . . . . but by then it is much too late. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Why Star Wars sucks

Yup,  I'm with David Brin there:
"Brin is just as unsparing when it comes to Star Wars creator George Lucas, whom he accuses of peddling “romantic claptrap about how demigods and mystic warriors are better than democracy”

Link here to the Wired interview. 

I don't actually have any if his books on my bookshelves - but that does not affect my agreement with his ideas as described here. 
Mind you, I have said before that democracy will be great when it happens. But which one? whose idea of "democracy"? the Ancient Greeks? I think you better read up on their society if you want that sort of democracy!

Now with Google Everything !

Welcome! This is The Empty Header II because I did have a blog over at LiveJournal of the same name for several years - but for no apparent reason it has disappeared. Lately it has been quiet but I had a lot of content there so I can only hope that it does reappear long enough for me to transfer any good stuff over to here. Of course, this site lacks some of the features I came to enjoy over at LJ, but that's life. As always, if there's anything you want, just let me know in the comments.

Update:  On my desktop machine, the LJ page is there as usual, yet my laptop cannot access it. Well, sorry LJ, but that's just nuts: if nobody but me can read my blog and only on some computers, what the heck is the point?  I'll put links to it here but from now on this will be my main blog.
Thanks for reading.