Back from holiday. What have I missed?

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Discussion (30)¬

  1. Rrr says:

    That is a beautifully veiled comment on self-identification of … other traits, let’s say.

    Meanwhile, suppose self-identified legally blind persons took a shot at competing in Free Pistol, Biathlon or Bowery in the Paralympics, for example — would they have an unfair advantage? (Hypothetically of course!) Or a self-identified paraplegic in the 400 m hurdle dash (if there is such a thing)?

  2. John Wegner says:

    I think the 3rd cell is the perfect place to have Ol’ Mo’ do his infamous “blink”.

  3. Solo Hands says:

    So, Author, what have you missed? Well, in the UK, some politicians were reported as being corrupt, which lead to some of their pals trying to excuse it while changing the rules to make their corruption retroactively “legal”, again. In the USofA, some politicians are desperately trying – still – to hide documents from the Law so they don’t get jailed for thievery, bribery, mopery, dopery and malfeasance among other nastiness, sleaze and general oozing. Some vastly wealthy companies have been buying up houses in lots of countries to profiteer even more from squeezing in through the cracks in the rules while the little people suffer from inability to even think of buying a home, or, in some places, renting one. Prices, rents and the cost of medicines have soared, while wages have generally stagnated for years. Some corrupt and evil scunners have raised the price of life-extending drugs such as insulin beyond the reach of people who are dying because they can’t afford them. A couple of stupid, shallow, vain and greedy arses paid millions for a ten-minute fair-ground ride into the medium atmosphere instead of helping Lebanon re-build their power infrastructure or any other good deed. A politician blathered meaningless inanities and promises he would never keep at a Climate Change Conference to which he drove in fifty tons of armoured cars after flying to the country in a fleet of aircraft, including one carrying his own helicopter. And masses of stupid, selfish, ignorant yokels, chavs and ignoramuses are still killing us over the “right” not to put “poisons” into their bodies while they drink, smoke, drive polluting vehicles and consume the chemical sludges sold as “food”.

    Oh, and in England, someone’s ineptly-trained machismo symbol partially ate a child, again so there will be yet another poorly-written, hastily published and utterly useless rushed Dogs Act in a couple of days.

    In short, you haven’t missed much. Just business as usual. So, how was the holiday? Did you see the sea? Eat any cockles? Ride any real, physical, non-metaphorical, non-emotional roller-coasters? Manage to finish that novel that’s been sitting on your hard-drive since 1957? Manage to take the little Authorlings and Mrs. Author to anywhere exciting such as Luton, Newton Pagnall or Milton Keynes?

    No, sorry, don’t answer those. Loose lips could attract nitwits.

    I just hope it was nice and relaxing.

  4. Stonewall is not amused.

  5. Rrr says:

    Yes we know you jest — but “Manage to finish that novel that’s been sitting on your hard-drive since 1957?” No, that’s simply too far out there. About a whole decade later, let’s call it 1967, I personally saw people carrying big stacks of punch cards — like a bunch of bricks — to process dairy invoices and such. Hardly open to pastime novelists so much earlier. Unless you were lucky to access one of these (not many!) (Trying to make a link)
    This is a hard drive from 1956. It had a capacity of 5 megabytes…
    <a href="This is a hard drive from 1956. It had a capacity of 5 megabytes… “>

  6. Rrr says:

    … and failing. Oh well.

  7. Donn says:

    href is the URL – http reference or something. The text goes in the title attribute. Though I guess it may appear the “a” tag may no longer work anyway.

    I had a hard disk souvenir for a while, big orange thing a couple feet across that loaded into a big washing machine drive. A big card deck gave me a formative experience in FORTRAN programming, when I spilled it on the road and put it back together using some introductory knowledge and the reference manual in the computer center; that was about 1980, admittedly very near the end of the card deck era.

  8. Donn says:

    I beg your pardon, I guess it did work after a fashion – the link is associated with the text, it’s just sort of messed up with the tag partially displayed. No idea why.

  9. postdoggerel says:

    Donn, those card decks were typed by a specialist who would come through the office asking for “work!” Of course, if you dropped one of those packets it was entirely up to you to fix the problem. I will not get into what it was like when the printer broke down. Paperless processing probably saved a forest or two, if not the entire planet.

  10. Rrr says:

    Yes, I must have missed a slash-a or more to butcher the linkery. But the link itself seems to work, and if you squint and look beyond the garbage characters the info is there. I would have edited, but, you know.

  11. Laripu says:

    Here’s a promotion video from IBM for the 305 RAMAC from the 1950s:

    That video is also incorporated in this web page, on hard drive history:

    That page also contains the picture that Rrr linked and others.

    When I started in computing, while still a math student, the company for which I worked used VAX 11-780 computers, running programs in Fortran, which used to be written as FORTRAN. The 250MB hard drives were placed in devices the size of small washing machines. Today I use O-O C++, and the software for which in responsible wouldn’t fit on one of those ancient drives.

    In the Wikipedia page on Fortran, I read this joke: “In FORTRAN, GOD is REAL (unless declared INTEGER).” 🙂

    Has anyone here every had to use 128-bit double-double floating point numbers?
    In the mean time, we’ve strayed from the idea that people who believe in the contents of the Bible and Koran would call someone gullible. But is it actually being gullible to espouse belief in a religion?

    I’m going to claim that belief in a religion is different in kind than belief that (for example) your keys are in a drawer. You can always check about the keys, and if they’re not there, you just look elsewhere. Your life doesn’t change if you don’t believe it.

    Espousing a religion involves a lifestyle. Perhaps you go someplace weekly, and also on holidays. You speak to the same people and speak using ritual phrases, like “and also with you”. You engage in multiple ritual events that give your life predictability, and we like predictability; it’s why we always put our keys in the same place. If you stop being involved in that religion, you lose much of your social life, and maybe even your family.

    The personal cost of separating yourself from religion is much greater than the cost of not believing that your keys are in a drawer.

    So maybe it’s not being gullible. Maybe it’s not wanting to lose the culture around which you life is built. That’s how they get you; that’s how people are taught not to question the fundamentals. From childhood, their lives are made to intertwine with the cultural aspects of religion.

    Can there be religion without those cultural aspects? Suppose someone said they (merely) believed in god, but never did anything with that belief. Never prayed, never went to church, never proselytized, never thought about it, never had it influence their behavior. The only difference between them and an atheist is that if you asked them “do you believe in god?”, the answer would be “yes”. Is that even religion?

  12. Walterwalcarpit says:

    Good return to the subject, Laripu.
    I think it is precisely that cultural connection that keeps people in religions. Most especially the community that it bestows; I think humans have a yearning for community and for much more than the simplistic belonging. I further think that it is the lack of such ready-made communities that non believers have a more difficult life and another reason why a belief in god is actually easier.
    We can find such alternative communities if we try or are ‘lucky’ and this very space is one of mine.
    As to your last paragraph, I find that quite fascinating. I think it applies to an awful lot of people, in spite of everything that I just wrote above. Again I suspect that it is simply the easiest way to not deal with the implications of last week’s thread. That god created the universe removes any need interrogate it.

  13. Donn says:

    First, my complaint again: “god” is too ill defined, outside the domain of a particular religion, to make “do you believe in god” a meaningful question. Maybe I worship the sun, maybe you consider mathematics to be god. Bleah. If I worship the sun but don’t beileve I have a soul that persists after death, I’m not likely really religious. I’d welcome any counter examples.

    What about hermits? I guess we don’t do that much any more, but it used to be kind of a thing, right? Religion practiced to excess, alone?

  14. Donn says:

    OK, I can’t help myself – I didn’t mind VAX/VMS at all. As for large precision floating point – don’t recall needing that level of numerical stuff, and anyway I have the impression that if you’re that serious about numbers, floating point is going to lead to sorrow anyway.

  15. Deimos says:

    Donn : our mini computer ran out of numbers in 1986 whilst trying to manage a huge public sector pension scheme in the days before evil ate them all. Luckily I was friends with a truly genius mathematician who wrote us a whole new text based maths system.
    We also managed to have a ten human programming team with so many different religions / viewpoints / cultural origins that our team name was the “UN”.
    After many serious chemically enhanced discussion nights we formed one absolute indisputable mantra “Animals are good”. Never could agree on anything else.

  16. M27Holts says:

    Animals are good? Guess you never had a wasp sting your tongue because you didn’t notice it floating in your beer. Evil yellow and black fookers need to hunted down and squashed…and don’t get me started on Hornets…

  17. Rrr says:

    a) your beer is too sweet;
    b) drink it through a sieve or fine-gauge straw;
    c) change libation habits — always drink sober <– ERROR

  18. Solo Hands says:

    M27holts, yes, animals are good, even wasps and spiders. Venisons are delicious and bacons are the food the Ancient Gods used to eat, which is why it is banned in so many religions – the selfish grunts wanted it all to themselves.

    Dogs are the coolest beast Man ever invented and just about the best deal we ever made with Life. Cats are funny.

    And things like horses and donkeys are useful for when the oil runs out, and as emergency MRE’s [or, rather, M-not-quite-RE’s].

    Wasps and spiders eat other bugs and so do us a great favour.

    A few tips for keeping them out of your beer:

    Cover the glass with a coaster

    Watch the beer assiduously

    Drink faster. 🙂

    Merry Christmas, everyone and may 2022 be a very happy new year.

    Oh, and no, no beast has ever stung me. I think wasps like me.

  19. M27Holts says:

    I like spiders. Even though they are all venomous, I have never been bitten by one, and I have handled tarantulas when I was younger. But I have been stung dozens of times by wasps and hornets even a hibernating queen wasp when I picked up the tea towel it was hiding in, that was quite a sharp pain…i’m not frightened of them, since I don’t have anna felatio shock or whatever its called but seemingly seem targeted by the sneaky flying fookers…

  20. Troubleshooter says:

    Poor babies! Their widdle feewings get all hurt and they want the big, bad, barmaid to quit telling them the truth about their beliefs … and they are SO gullible themselves that when she says, “Oh … okay,” they think she’s serious.

    Projection, anyone?

  21. Jesus F Iscariot says:

    M27Holtz. Anaphylactic shock is a life-threatening allergic reaction. Fellatio shock is when you are abruptly awakened by a woman you met the night before but were too intoxicated to remember that she didn’t leave.

  22. Deimos says:

    Yes animals are good but learning to always cover your pint with a beermat is essential.
    It should be on the generic “rules for life” list between “never eat anything bigger than your head” and “when in doubt DUCK”.

  23. M27Holts says:

    Nope. The biological, evolutionary niche wasps have is to ruin homo sapiens picnics and barbecues. If we wiped them out would the eco system collapse or would the nice bees inherit their earth so to speak….

  24. Donn says:

    Note that “wasp” is a broad category comprising many species that aren’t closely related, and more importantly have very different habits. Some of them look more similar to each other than they are.

    The picnic pest wasp around these parts is called “yellowjacket”. While the entomologists give it credit for being a predator, its behavior is very obviously adapted for scavenging – for example, if you see a wasp flying in a side to side pattern, it’s quartering the air for scent, while like any predatory insect, the similar looking paper wasp will turn in the air, using its eyes to spot edible bugs. The paper wasp will steer clear of your picnic and rarely sting anyone, while the yellowjackets will be all over you.

  25. M27Holts says:

    Doing a bit of reading on the common wasp. Apparently the American “yellowjacket” is in fact (vespula alascensis) different species from the european common wasp (vespula vulgaris)…

  26. Donn says:

    To confuse the issue, there are a couple of invasive species that are common in North America, including Vespula germanica, which I think is the most likely culprit in most situations. Nests underground, in walls etc.; in the UK climate, the count in a nest in late spring would be 7000-8000, if wikipedia is to be believed.

    Polistes dominula is the invasive paper wasp from Europe. Much smaller colonies, but lots of interesting social behaviors. They may be the only invertebrate that can manage “transitive inference” –
    P. dominula were trained on five pairs in a series one of which (marked s) shocked the insect while the other did not. The series of shocks ran thus: As—B, Bs—C, Cs—D, Ds—E. When tested against a pair they were not trained on, Bs—D, the P. dominula wasps chose D more often than chance, indicating that they had used transitive inference to organize the four pairs into a series, and used that to choose when faced with a pair not seen before.

    I don’t claim to entirely follow that plot, but the researchers seemed to be satisfied with it.

  27. Rrr says:

    Did the test correct for anomalies such as the Paper Wasp having read up on the subject pre-experiment?

  28. M27Holts says:

    I see our argument on the last strip has been discussed on Patheos by Jonathan Pearce….

  29. Solo Hands says:

    Donn, did the researchers ever consider that maybe wasps just like meeting new pals? Even asocial, hermitic, basement-dwelling fat-guys in the human species like the occasional novel persona to come to talk to them. For a few minutes, until their tolerate-the-human fuel get expended.

    Perhaps “As” just got bored with all the “B’s” and wanted new and exciting gossip?

    This seems very much like the dolphin-and-mirror experiment to test their self-awareness. Dolphins may not react to their mirror images because they tap things with their sonar to see if they are real, not because they don’t recognise them. They do, after all, frequently see, optically, an unreal mirror overhead as they swim. Other critters may not react to their images because they just don’t care, I know I don’t most of the time; I see a peripheral reflection, identify it as a non-threat and ignore it.

    Researchers sometimes seem to have limited vision and to be very shallow, narrowly focussed thinkers at times.

    Most especially those working with living creatures.

    It is almost as though the beasts are far too complicated to fit into their simple, simplistic, simple-minded paradigms.

    As though the animals are smarter than the scientists. 🙂

    Merry Christmas, happy many-holiday-times and may the new year be, for all, far better than the latest couple.

  30. Donn says:

    I’m sorry to say I didn’t follow any of that. I didn’t completely puzzle out the wasp experiment, but I’m pretty sure it’s individual – a single wasp is presented with these pairs of (I suppose) baited alternatives.

    The dolphin + mirror experiment that pops up on a web search shows an apparent awareness of the mirror’s function, like humans. Mirror self-recognition in the bottlenose dolphin: A case of cognitive convergence But I can imagine there are lots of things that can go wrong when devising and running an experiment like this, beyond just the presumed inferiority of the researchers themselves.


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