30.8.06

Are you an Occamist?

Someone once quoted Shakespeare to the philosopher W. V. O. Quine: "There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy." The remark was meant as a put-down, a sort of "Yeah, what do you know?" To which Quine is said to have responded: "Possibly, but my concern is that there not be more things in my philosophy than are in heaven and earth." Quine was an Occamist.

On the other hand, I have heard that in an episode of The X-Files, Fox Mulder dismisses Occam's razor by renaming it Occam's Principle of Unimaginative Thinking. Let a thousand paranormal and pseudoscientific flowers bloom. Mulder is an Anti-Occamist.


Interesting post on Occam's Razor here.

28.8.06

Moderation


Like so many others I was born with an addictive personality. My long list of addictions include, but are not limited to, Imperial Mints, throat lozenges, food in general, B&H Infinite Lights, computer games, Egoli: Place of Gold. Admittedly, I am using the term ‘addiction’ rather loosely to refer to cases where one feels compelled to repeatedly engage in an activity to the detriment of one’s overall well-being. (What is the difference between an addiction and a bad habit?)

So far my most bizarre addiction has been to bran flakes. It started during the summer holidays, just after I finished high school and just before I was to go to University in order to pursue Higher Learning. My sisters, who have already spent a year at this noble institution, took it upon themselves to prepare me for the new chapter in my life (as good sisters do). So they took me to De Akker, that famous cockroach-infested pub in Stellenbosch, where I was to spend most of my free time over the next ten years. After a Tassies and Black Label-inspired performance my sisters realised that I could be a Big Hit at University. If only I would lose weight. (For some reason one has to be small to be a big.)

I have always wanted to be popular, so I decided to give it a go (I mean, imagine that, being a big hit!). They put me on The Shape Diet. You get to drink three delicious milkshakes instead of your three daily meals, plus all the bran you can eat. The Shape milkshake was a good start to the day, believe you me. Banana was my favourite. Then strawberry for lunch, and vanilla for dinner. Unfortunately, in addition I also ate some bread with Trim mayonnaise, lots of fruit (how can that be bad?), and various other secret scraps on the side. My sisters confiscated the Shape after one caught me eating Christmas cake with all the icing. There were some angry words (“The stuff’s expensive, you know”) and that was the end of it. That was the last diet I ever went on, for I realised I did not possess the virtue of moderation and was destined to be chubby.

But somehow I found myself eating more and more bran and going to University completely hooked on the stuff. Bran is the perfect food: zero calories, 100% fibre, and cheaper than chips (about R2,50 for 1,5 kg, that’s about a week’s supply if you're a heavy user). It is probably also the most innocuous substance one can possibly abuse. Some would say it is impossible to abuse bran, but I would point out to them the unpleasant digestive effects of bran overdose. Your grandmother was right when she said ‘everything in moderation’.

Mastering the art of consuming bran requires considerable skill. The spoonful of bran must enter the mouth without touching anything, and be carefully placed on the tongue, then tipped over to leave a tidy little heap on the tongue. Then the mouth is closed, leaving the bran to soak, slowly, and only then can it be chewed and swallowed. This is the only way to eat bran. Any other way leads to choking when bran flakes are accidentally inhaled into the lungs.

There was a permanent cup of bran on my green desk. There was also bran all over my desk, and on my half of the floor. It was all over my bed where I often slouched to study some ancient text. Bran can be messy because if you breathe out while transporting it to your eagerly awaiting mouth, it will fly everywhere. It seems that bran is a particularly helpful crutch when it comes to studying for tests and exams, or when you’ve missed lunch at the residence and were to cheap or lazy to buy something decent to eat.

Then, one Sunday, in the middle of the mid-year exams, I ran out of bran. This was a problem. Some might call it a disaster. I could not concentrate on my work. In those days everything was closed on Sundays. I was not hopeful, but I had to try, and so the long walk began from the ‘dames koshuise’ (lady’s residence) to every café in town. By some miracle I finally found a bag of bran at a café close to the station, a very long way from the residence. Then there was the walk back, and all the while I was looking out for a private spot, a public toilet, perhaps, or some dark alley. It was more than I could take. I ended up on a bench in the Botanical Gardens, tearing open that bag of bran and devouring it wildly, the delicate art of bran consumption all forgotten. At that moment I realised: I must never experiment with drugs.

For those of you who are concerned about my mental health, let me assure you that I have worked through my issues and am no longer the slave of bran. But the point I want to make is this: The problem with having an addictive personality is that one can get addicted to anything, so one must always watch your step. The advantage of having an addictive personality is that one can become addicted to anything, so it might as well be bran.

25.8.06

For the kids

The 20 most loathsome South Africans: Number 17: The Real Realist

The real realist is the owner of a blog called “Why South Africa is crap”. It is supposedly dedicated to “revealing the truth about the failed South African 'Rainbow' nation and monitoring its decline into a Turd World Hellhole.”

In principle there is obviously nothing wrong with trying to dig up news that is for whatever reason not properly covered by the media. However, my problem with this guy and his blog already starts to manifest itself in, and is very well summed up by, his pseudonym, the name of the blog, and the nomenclature in his blog motto.

Firstly, his carefully chosen name. He’s not just a realist. He’s not even a real realist. He is nothing less than “the real realist”. Only he knows the “real” truth, he says.

Secondly, the name of the blog. He’s not saying that he feels South Africa is less than perfect. He doesn’t even stop at saying that to him South Africa is crap. He is stating that South Africa is crap as an objective fact. If you don’t think SA is crap, he says, you are simply delusional. He explicitly or implicitly makes it clear in every second post that he has completely given up on SA, and any person that suggests that they do not agree with him 100%, is thumped into the ground by His Greatness and his cronies. I don’t need anyone with such a childish, arrogant, stupid name telling me how to feel about anything.

Thirdly, the blog motto. The fatalistic “failed” I can handle, but the “Turd World Hellhole” is too much. Because it doesn’t just stop there, oh no. Any native of a poorish country is referred to as a “Turd Worlder”, by the Almighty Realist as well as his disciples. Certain human beings are said to be human excrement. What’s more, any non-white South African is referred to as a “New South African”. This guy categorizes on a level of detail only marginally superior to a newborn who is still coming to terms with the fact the universe can be divided into more than just himself and the rest.

He’s not even a good writer: his foremost tool in his comeback armour is the exclamation mark. That really is just about all he has to offer. It’s not unusual for him to refute a perfectly good argument with something like “Now you are talking complete bollocks! That’s hilarious! Your comments are stupid!” Just that, nothing else. The frustrating thing is that it is a very effective strategy if you’re trying to convince an idiotic readership. Most of them are simply angry, stupid racists that can’t get over the fact that a white skin no longer guarantees them the American Dream. They can’t think for themselves, so they assume that the odd comment expressing anything on the sane side of the Apocalypse must be obviously stupid if there are more than three exclamation marks in the Almighty Realist’s reply.

Case in point:

His Holiness The Real Realist misquoted a few numbers (a 50% weakening of the rand becomes 100%) regarding the ZAR/USD exchange rate, and promptly proclaimed with the conviction of a four year old with a new Superman costume jumping of fa roof: “I think I’m starting to see a pattern here”. Like he's understating an obvious fact.
He claims that since 1994 things have basically been going to shit, according to the numbers. The real truth is that there isn’t a pattern by a long shot, which I’ll demonstrate below. I tried to protest, but only got a relentless bombardment of exclamation marks in return.

The graphs below show some of SA’s most important vital statistics (excuse the horrible layout, I blame www.blogger.com). I don’t pretend to be an economist, but there is no pattern of regression in these numbers. The red parts of the graphs show SA’s progress since 1994 (when the new government was inaugurated), the black parts everything that happened between 1960 and 1994. (There is nothing special about the starting date, that is simply as far back as the data at my disposal goes.)

For the more technically inclined, the scales on the vertical axes are all logarithmic (the exact numbers are irrelevant), just to make interpretation more intuitive, and the horisintal axes denote the date. The straight line shows the trend in the data pre-1994, and extrapolates it to 2006. In simple terms: the straight line determines whether SA has made better or worse progress since 1994 (than between 1960 and 1994).

As you can see below, yes, the rand has weakened at a slightly quicker pace than it did in the Apartheid days. But if there’s any pattern, it’s a very positive one: the rand stood at something like R14 per dollar a few years ago, and now it’s at about R7. A remarkable recovery.

As the other graphs show, however, SA’s GDP growth and share markets (the ALSI represents about 99% of the SA equity markets) have accelerated, and inflation has decelerated since 1994.

No-one can deny SA has a lot of problems and faces a lot of challenges, and who knows where we’ll be in 10 years’ time, but the last thing we need is some idiot giving tens of thousands of us the impression that we’ve regressed in areas that we’ve actually made some very good progress, against all the odds.







23.8.06

dead people Mensa wishes had been members

Mensa must be the dumbest smart people on the face of this earth.

Case in point:

Since 1991, Mensa America has had the arrogance to induct defenceless dead people into its so called “Hall of Fame” (I’m sure these geniuses got this from baseball or something. America must be the only country in the world where artistic and intellectual pursuits imitate sports). According to wikipedia, they have thus far claimed the scalps of 14 famous intellectuals that have crossed over to the dead side:

· Nicolas Copernicus, Inducted 1991
· Marie Sklodowska Curie, Inducted 2005
· Charles Darwin, Inducted 1991
· Leonardo Da Vinci, Inducted 1990
· Thomas Edison, Inducted 2003
· Albert Einstein, Inducted 1990
· Euclid, Inducted 2005
· Benjamin Franklin, Inducted 1990
· Galileo Galilei, Inducted 1991
· Isaac Newton, Inducted 1990
· Louis Pasteur, Inducted 2005
· William Shakespeare, Inducted 2005
· Socrates, Inducted 2004
· Nikola Tesla, Inducted 2004

None of these people were actual members of Mensa, of course.

Notice how Shakespeare only cracked the nod in 2005. He must have been the subject of heated debate (“Yes his little stories are neat, but how did he contribute to the US bottom line and its quest for world dominance people? God Bless America.”)

How funny that the “High IQ Society” makes IQ tests look stupid.

Terror in the sky

Interesting article of the terror plot recently foiled in England here

19.8.06

UN is 'not Africa's messiah'


From news24

Johannesburg - United Nations special envoy to Africa Stephen Lewis "is not Africa's Messiah" and does not understand the country's HIV/Aids programmes, according to the health department.

"We reject with contempt the statement made by Stephen Lewis with regard to response of South African government to the challenge of HIV and Aids," said department spokesperson Sibani Mngadi in a statement on Saturday.

Mngadi said Lewis' comments should not be seen as the views of the UN and its agencies, which continued to work on HIV/Aids with SA.

On Friday, Lewis told the International Aids conference in Toronto, Canada, that SA could "never achieve redemption" for its HIV/Aids policies as 600 to 800 people a day died of Aids in SA.

Lewis said what the South African government was doing was "wrong, immoral and indefensible".

He accused the government of expounding HIV/Aids theories "more worthy of a lunatic fringe than a concerned and compassionate state".

SA government has tripled the budget allocation for the HIV and Aids over the last four years from just over R1 billion in 2002 to R3.5bn in 2005. This allocation constitutes 90% of resources currently being used to implement HIV and Aids in South Africa," said Mngadi.

He said Lewis should say whether any other country had distributed, as SA did, more 340 million male condoms and close to three million female condoms each year free of charge, or had put more people on anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment than SA had.

Mngadi said what Africa needed was not an "unsubstantiated attack", but delivery on the many resolutions made by international organizations and other countries on "addressing poverty and underdevelopment which increases the vulnerability of our populations to diseases".


I can tell you now, the UN is the most non-confrontational organization in the world. If Steven Lewis is shouting at Manto, it means he must consider her beyond diplomacy... Consummate diplomats do not get enraged easily.

What the UN does not understand is that these people are not evil per se, they are just uneducated and uncouth.

And yes, it can be as simple as that.

And in a totally related story: Manto gets a new Merc

For a scathing factsheet on this dumb as dirt piece of shit, please see the DA's Fire Manto site.

17.8.06

Science podcasts

Do any of you listen to podcasts much? After listening to one on Dr. Borlaug this morning on my way to work, I have decided to check out more science related podcasts. I have found one cool website so far, The Science Show. Tomorrow morning I think I'll listen to a commentary on Not Even Wrong - a newly released book highly critical of String Theory. I read about in the UK Times, via aldaily, and it sound pretty interesting.

I will probably also check out the topics of the formation of the solar system and plate techtonics.

Any other recomended sites?

Is calling someone a racist not racist?

This story is indicative of the politically correct bullshit pervading our society. Calling someone a racist should not be an argument in itself. Even if I say I think I am better than you, so what? You have your existence to prove me wrong. If a person is going to constantly invoke the spectre racism to win an argument, I will start thinking this person is an idiot, unable to have a dialogue or argue a point.

Its like the Dark Ages, when blasphemy was invoked to settle a dispute. I thought we were over that.

I guess not

16.8.06

Search Narratives

from wikipedia:

"On August 4th, 2006, AOL released a compressed text file on one of its websites containing twenty million search keywords for over 650,000 users over a 3-month period, intended for research purposes. AOL pulled the file from public access by the 7th, but not before it had been mirrored, P2P-shared and seeded via BitTorrent. News filtered down to the blogosphere and popular tech sites such as Digg and Wired News.


Whilst none of the records on the file are personally identifiable per se, certain keywords contain personally identifiable information by means of the user typing in their own name (ego-searching), as well as their address, social security number or by other means. Each user is identified on this list by a unique sequential key, which enables the compilation of a user's search history. In fact, in a test, of whether it was possible to do so, the New York Times was able to locate several individuals from the released, and anonymized, search records alone.


AOL acknowledged it was a mistake and removed the data, although the files can still be downloaded from mirror sites. Additionally, several searchable databases of the report also exist on the internet."


You can use www.aolstalker.com to browse these logs. It's interesting to see the narratives that appear in some of these people's search histories. Here are some excerpts from the user 14162375 :

14162375 marriage counseling
14162375 spy on the wife
14162375 spy recorders
14162375 signs of cheating
14162375 tracking cell phone numbers
14162375 dealing with cheating wives
14162375 divorce lawyers
14162375 cheating wives
14162375 saving a marriege
14162375 sex products
14162375 sexual techiques
14162375 www.americagreentings.com
14162375 stop your divorce
14162375 alchool withdrawl sintoms
14162375 disfunctional erection
14162375 cheating therapy
14162375 women’s urine blood
14162375 spy from a distance
14162375 listen through walls
14162375 car sound recorder
14162375 car conversation spy
14162375 spy on wife
14162375 phico card readers
14162375 st. petersburg fl medium
14162375 psychic
14162375 psychic st.pete fl
14162375 get my wife back
14162375 i want revenge to my wife
14162375 get revenge from a wife cheater
14162375 munchies
14162375 lisbon jobs
14162375 divorce and kids
14162375 my wife wants to leave me
14162375 how do i get my wife love me again
14162375 need help getting my wife back
14162375 i want my wife bach
14162375 i need my wife to get back to me
14162375 my wife doesnt love animore
14162375 i still live whith my wife can i get her bach
14162375 i want revenge towards my wife
14162375 making my wife suffer as i do
14162375 making even with my wife
14162375 get my wife back
14162375 foxsoccerchnnel.com
14162375 get my wife back
14162375 avoid breaking up
14162375 my wife doesn’t love me anymore
14162375 stop breaking up
14162375 get even with my wife
14162375 husband revenge
14162375 how to harm my wifes lover
14162375 infidelity
14162375 catch your wife having an affair
14162375 baby monitors
14162375 my cheating wife
14162375 i want to kill myself
14162375 suicide help
14162375 helpe me with suicide
14162375 i want to make my wife suffer
14162375 kill my wifes mistress
14162375 my wifes ass
14162375 a cheating wife
14162375 recording home survellence
14162375 audio room surveillance
14162375 www.cornerspyshop.com
14162375 get rid of cheating wives
14162375 sore muscules
14162375 make the infidelity suffer
14162375 i am so italian
14162375 the portuguese mafia
14162375 www.ymca.comportuguese mafia
14162375 www.airportugal


And user 2917636:

2917636 date rape
2917636 is it normal to cook you rfriend breakfast after he rapes you
2917636 the morning after being raped
2917636 sexual assualt

I'll be spending hours on this site.

The drug league table

The UK Science and Technology Select Committee, which advises the government, commissioned an assessment of 20 legal and illegal stimulants to examine the actual social and physical harm they cause based on scientific evidence. Here is the table they developed:



More info in New Scientist

Interesting to note that alcohol and tobacco rank higher than many illegal drugs that we were told by authorities will surely fry our brain, like LSD, pot and ecstasy.

15.8.06

Moral judgement?

Hubbard against topless parade

TVNZ, Aug 15, 2006

Auckland City Mayor Dick Hubbard says a planned parade of topless porn stars on motorcycles on Queen St is inappropriate.

Next week's event, which is linked to the Erotica show, has been given the green light by the council's events and promotion staff.

But, Hubbard says it is a blatant promotion of the show and the street should not be used to endorse such a commercial event. He says he has asked the council's chief executive to look at the precedent the parade might set and whether there is a bylaw that could prevent it going ahead.

Hubbard says he is not making a moral judgement about the promotion of pornography.

14.8.06

Denial

From The Independant:

South Africa's Aids epidemic is driving a new health crisis in the country as women, fearful of appearing to be HIV positive, are becoming obese in record numbers.

Nearly one third of women in South Africa are now severely overweight, Tessa van der Merwe of the International Association for the Study of Obesity has revealed, as a combination of new fears and traditional, cultural factors encourage excessive weight gain.

"Regretfully, there is a perception that if a black woman is thin, she might have HIV/Aids," Ms Van der Merwe said.


Deep fry your fear in fat

9.8.06

Be an organ donor - get a South African driver's license

The other day when I received my renewed drivers license, I couldn't help but notice that the Organ Donor Foundation of S.A. found a perfect place to advertise:



Maybe the Organ Donor Foundation and the South African Traffic Department got some kind of deal going. Maybe they share the profits from the organs harvested from vehicular accident victims. That could at least be an explanation for the ridiculous road death toll we have in this country: almost 13,000 in 2004.

What a strange place.

7.8.06

The 20 most loathsome South Africans: Number 18: Pieter van Zyl (fat ref tackler)


What an ambassador to South Africa. Heck, to rugby in general ("Fans like me is what rugby is about... I'm not sorry that I did what I did”). He eternalized the stereotypical South African male to millions watching that fateful game of what was reportedly rugby. Till he shoved his disgusting weight around, the ugly, beergutted, hate-filled piece of Apartheid excrement masquerading in a Springbok jersey was nothing more than an abstract notion to those spectators.

Not that anybody should care what any rugby aficionado thinks, but still: that disgusting hairy beer belly and intoxicated idiotic eyes are now indelibly etched into the minds of even rugby-loathing foreigners who just innocently watched the news or read the next day’s paper.

Far be it from Mr. van Zyl to publicly apologize to his fellow South Africans (I don’t care about the ref so much, he was shit). Instead, he subsequently sues SARFU for banishing him eternally from all rugby parks. He feels hard done by this decision, did not see it coming at all. Felt it was unfair.

But did you know this: Mr. van Zyl is not some poor simple manual labourer or even the shady manager of a cash-only liquor store in Boksburg, oh no, he is a successful businessman who has reportedly made considerable dough in the mining business.

He’s a multi-millionaire. In itself a compelling argument in favour of communism.

Mr. van Zyl spends his time gallivanting the rugby world to get kommen dronk, swear, and shake his fist redfacedly at the ref and players who can’t hear him or see him, even if they wanted to, which they certainly do not. This is his life, I shit you not, I did my homework. I can only speculate that upon return to his ostentatious bad-taste-oozing "eclectic" mansion he beats up his god-help-her wife, who soon relents and performs her womanly duty.

It’s been an unfortunate few decades for white South Africans: First apartheid, now this guy. He should be taken outside and shot, or worse, he should go sit in Madiba’s corner, with The Very Best of Celine Dion (1986 - 1989) playing all the while. For at least an hour. Nonstop.

loss

What’s the saddest thing you’ve ever seen?

For me it was this dead creature I found lying in the middle of the road. I was driving back from my parents' place (since happily divorced), on my way to face another daunting week on Stellenbosch campus. This usually involved a relentless series of awkward and overwhelming events of sitcom proportions. I always spent the weekend at my parents’ in Somerset West, the idea of having a social life not yet having occurred to me. (How many people only discover and buy into the whole “going out and getting fucked” thing at 22 years of age? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.)

This was always the utter low point of the week. But driving my usual route (I fear uncharted territory), I got ready for my only respite on a post-Carte Blanche Sunday evening: a glimpse of my friends, two neighbourhood owls. They sometimes sat on this tennis fence in the yard on the corner of Buitenzorg and Oldenland, a block away from my house, other times on the higher of the two roads ten meters from where it flows into the one that meanders up the mountain.

But this time I could only see one owl, unapologetically sitting in the middle of the road with what seemed to be a smaller animal, a tender prey I presumed. As I got closer the visible owl flew away in its wide-eyed austere way, settling on the couple's favourite tennis fence. From there they have a clear view of the road and the little creatures that scurry underneath streetlights for food and shelter for the daytime, when humans come out to do their thing.

This is where my story takes a wrong turn. I drove past and stopped next to the lifeless animal. To my utter dismay, it perversely turns out to be the other owl. It was completely in tact, but must have been struck by a car, some fucker like me driving around the corner, on his way to some nowhere. I opened my door, and the car light that ingeniously automatically switches on upon breach of the perimeter, reflected on the still unsettlingly wide open, disproportionately large eyes of the bemused owl’s partner. It was alive and proud and magnificent a few minutes earlier, now it is dead, its being having irreversibly left an imprint on the neural pathways of its widow or widower, who will yearn in vain for its partner until the day it too must die.

Since then the place I grew up in has been sold to a foreign rich bastard who all but destroyed the 70-year old house called Buitenzorg (thus the street of the crime’s name). It was the the mansion of a farm-like setup, back in the day.

And so we all yearn for a previous state of things that can never be restored.

2.8.06

The 20 most loathsome South Africans: Number 19: Ferdinand Rabie (winner of first Big Brother SA)

Ferdi is the guy you hated in high school because he inexplicably managed to have a lot of sex,


but you didn’t mind it so much because you knew he would turn out to be a bald, hairy drunk who shits on his own lawn.

There’s something very wrong with a world that turns someone like Ferdi into a folk hero. He has no discernable talents, not to mention a speck of originality. If your counterexample is his trademark “Wakka wakka”, DO come on. Its utter lack of wit and the way it can be used in any situation only belies a dull, undiscriminating mind. I’m willing to bet that expression is in any case not even his creation; it reeks of the type of incestuous vernacular bred in any boys’ high school. Only he found it sufficiently amusing to choose to hang on to it for the duration of his life. Small things.

Jealousy doesn’t enter into it. If reality TV game shows have taught us anything, it’s that being unable to incite jealousy can get one a long way in your quest for 15 minutes of fame. His popularity is a direct consequence of the fact that it’s practically impossible to be jealous of him. How could one be jealous of a virtual caveman? That’s why people voted for him: give HIM the fame and fortune. That way, we’re still only jealous of n people. n+1 would be too much to bear.

Non-white or non-Afrikaans South Africans look at this anti-person and assume that this is what us white Afrikaans males are all about. That we’re a bunch of dimwitted troglodytes

that drink beer all day and can sit in a house for 40 days straight without saying one, solitary intelligent thing, intent on fucking proper English concord up the ass every half chance we get.

And that’s too much to bear. Don’t even think of telling me that I am being melodramatic. In my industry it is clear to me that those not within my demographic assume we’re simpletons until we have repeatedly and tangibly proven otherwise.

But I was wrong about Ferdi: he’s actually the kind of guy that binges and takes a dump on the most public of lawns,

one that is surrounded by 17 cameras broadcasting 24 hours on international satellite television. "What!? Ferdi just shat on the lawn!? That's so sweet! Quickly, somebody give the guy a million bucks!"