14 November 2012

The most baffling turd : Windows 8

In all my years as a geek and usability efficiendo I've seen a lot of strange stuff, kid, but the weirdest thing I've seen in a very long time is the latest release from Microsoft, their Windows 8 operating system that's, well, kind of like their latest attempt at win back market share of the future of all computers. The thing is that Apple and Google together have now more operating systems in the market than Microsoft and you probably don't even realize how many phones and tablets are out there. It's in the mega-millions, and Microsoft have no share in this market. Zero. Nothing. Zilch.

And, as the threshold between a phone / tablet operating system and a desktop / laptop computer slowly whither away - at least in the more casual "normal person" segment - Microsoft is rather desperate to to get in on the action, also demonstrated by the give-away prices they're offering up for upgrades. Of which I took one.

And it went reasonably smooth to buy online and start the upgrade. Had to free up some space and reinstall a few applications, but nothing noteworthy. And then ... then I was in. I was greeted by the now almost too common start screen.

My home computer is an ASUS all-in-one with touch-screen, and it swished and swooshed cool back and forth, however there was a problem; the screen resolution was ridiculously low and so I hampered away trying to find out how to increase it. Normally I would have gone to Control Panel for such things, but there was no such thing, at least not at first.

I had learned before installing Windows 8 that the functionality now in front of me was to swipe in from left or right to see menus and options, but, um, my computer has a frame around it, meaning that I can't swipe in as much as a flick off the frame and land on the screen far from where Windows 8 classify as a swipe. And so the first dent for me (and I suspect many thousands of people with a similar monitor frame) as a desktop user is that I can't swipe to get to menus.

Okidoki, the mouse, then. But where to swipe? The handy animation shown while installing does a right-to-left swipe motion with some fingers, but that clearly only works with a proper swipe (and fingers!) and not a mouse. After fidgeting around I learned that lower-right hold-the-mouse-there slowly fades in a half-contextual menu (presumably the application currently running in full-screen mode), and that the lower-left hold-the-mouse-there until a box appears and then you click (without moving the mouse into the little box which will remove it) it to return to the start screen. And, er, I'm still trying to work out the top-left hold-or-click-right-mouse-button brings up; it's some twisted version of a application or task switcher, but damn if I can properly work it out.

Often I get stuck in the Internet Explorer in full-screen mode. I can only assume the idea is to swipe back into some other place in order to stop using the browser, hiding the "complexity" of it all some how. However, what happens is that lots of windows gets opened in the background over time, but you don't realize what's going on because you only see the one window all the time. Where do we need to go to a) see what's going on, and b) do something about it? Why you right-click anywhere in the browser, of course. Of course. Yes, it's so obvious now that I think about it; the context menu of the past is now a contextual kindof page with some functionality. Wtf?

There is a serious mix of metaphors going on here, switching between the neato but limiting Metro full-screen look, to the wanna-be old desktop with task bar but without the Start! menu. What does a right-click mean? Depends. What does a swipe do? Depends. How do I find some application? Depends. How do I? Depends.

In fact, in removing the many pop-up windows and menus they've made it pretty and much clearer how you can't do many things you'd like to do. And, seriously, did you really need to remove the Start! menu from the desktop mode? What a turd of a decision that was. And how about this; I can't run websites which use Flash in the full-screen Metro way, no I have to run them in a window on the desktop. This doesn't even make sense in any way or form, but it's right there in the help files that this is how to do it. I can understand that technically the full-screen Metro browser might be different (or different profile, or different zone, or different ... something) in regards to plugins (especially from third parties, which Flash is) but pull my titties if somehow my decision to trust the plugin in a windowed browser should in any way or form not be honoured because it runs in a non-windowed browser. The technicalities might make geeky sense, but to normal people on Terra Firma it makes no friggin' sense at all. Another turd on your nice, green lawn.

I have to talk a little bit, too, about how all this ties to the new way of the future, the cloud. In order to properly use Windows 8 you need a Microsoft account. I didn't have one (being a Googloid), but my wife did have a Hotmail account. The installation happily accepted this account, but then it wanted us to "trust" our computer (in similar veins as you "trust" devices and computers in iTunes, I suspect). And where would they send this trusted verification? No, not the Hotmail account, but some long forgotten Yahoo account. I can't even begin to figure out where they got that email address from (we're talking about something on the Internet from more than 8 years ago), but the option to send anywhere else was no where to be seen. They hinted that in order to send elsewhere I had to delete that email from my profile, but it's not in there. Wtf? I've mucked about with this nonsense for the last two days; all I want is for my wife's Hotmail (and Microsoft) account to be the account, but I've had to rename her account (probably converting it from Hotmail to Outlook/Microsoft account?), I've tried to delete old stuff (which it have scheduled to do a week from now? Wtf?), renamed stuff, create a new one and link them, all sorts of stuff, but Microsoft won't budge; either we send info to your non-existent Yahoo account, or ... there is no other option. I'm just baffled as to how non-intuitive and turdish this part was. And there is no explanation anywhere as to what piece of information means what in what context. Nothing! I'm just guessing what things might mean. Wtf?

We've had Windows 8 now for a few days, and I'm starting to think that this is worse than I thought. I'm a power-user, a geek, software developer and a usability consultant, and I'm struggling to figure a lot of this out. My wife is telling me to un-install and get that nice Windows 7 back so she at least can do normal stuff, like not guessing what user-interface paradigm works in what context in order to read her friggin' email or write a stern letter to the editor of Windows 8 and tell them what a turd they've created.

Sure, I understand where they're going, why it's done this way, that Microsoft needs to refresh itself and push forward into new markets (as old markets are shifting), I understand why swipes are cool and needed or certain hardware platforms ... but there's something to be said about not being consistent across contexts and alienation in the light of different dichotomies that so easily could be avoided.

Currently, Windows 8 is a turd. A nice-looking, polished turd. And you're not fooling anyone in my family with this nonsense; we want consistency and some coherent logic to how to operate our machine. Even Ubuntu / Linux looks easier and just as nice at this point.

I'll report again in a week or so to see if the torture will get acceptance by habit, or if it is so bad we have to do something more drastic about it.

25 October 2012

ASUS both please and anger me

So, just over a year ago I bought an ASUS Eee pad tablet TF-101, which was both my first tablet and my first ASUS product. And it's not just a normal tablet; it comes with a keyboard dock with extra battery and USB ports. And in short; I love it!

The first thing that happened about a month in was that the cable stopped working. It's a short and flimsy USB to ASUS 40-ish-pin connector cable, asking for replacement after some wear and tear. However, you won't find it in the shops, and back then not even online. I had to send it back to ASUS support in Sydney to get back a new one, a dance that lasted just over a week and had me in tears from the lack of tablet (no other way to really charge it, except slow trickle the keyboard/battery pack through USB which gave me roughly a half battery charge worth over a 24 hour charge session), but I soon forgot my pain as the new cable came.

I was otherwise so happy with my ASUS that since the family was about to update their main computer, I chose an ASUS all-in-one delicious touchscreen-driven, which has been nothing but a delight, and which still run smooth as butter and keeps the family happy.

Then followed a blissful 3 month period until ASUS said that there were some yummy Ice Cream Sandwich update for us. This was in line with ASUS promises to be proactive, brave and good to its customers ... had only the update not been such a disaster. What followed was a 6 month nightmare of the tablet crashing, restarting, draining the battery, applications not working, on and on it went, with no option given to downgrade to the safe and solid previous version. The pain kinda ended with a "no deep sleep" widget tool and the last upgrade (which now is 3 months old) where the tablet turned ... hmm, usable? It's still the occasional reboot, but once or twice a month rather than every day or more.

And then ... then my boy played it one evening, and the cable broke again. These cables truly are a pain, but by this time the cables were easily accessible online and cheap, so instead of the stupid "send to Sydney" dance I just ordered one online, and it arrive a couple of days later.

And then ... then my backlight went. It started with a slight buzzing sound from the insides of it, which grew in volume until the backlight was completely dead. Everything with the tablet still worked (use a strong light to shine on it, and you can see the LCD graphics working fine), including using the HDMI output.

I contacted ASUS about this. I knew the tablet had just gone out of warranty (1 year) but I wanted to know if fixing it was going to so expensive I might as well sell the scraps and invest in a new model. However, I've been given nothing but canned responses that don't really answer my questions at all ("in order to fix it, you need to send it in", and yeah, I kinda got that, but that wasn't my question). I begged and pleaded to at least tell me if this is something I can deal with myself, can I get components, is there any help to get at all?

No. There's no help to get at all. Just canned responses.

So, I've scourged Google in search of answers, and interacted with other tablet users (which I hadn't done since the ICS disaster), and after some to and fro and searching on eBay, there's a few things I can do;

  • Send it to ASUS, and hope they a) can repair it, and b) that the cost isn't more than buying a new one
  • I can find spare parts on eBay (the part costs anything from 50$ to 140AUD, and I'm not sure if it's the same priced ridiculous, or small differences I need to be aware of), and do it myself

Given that ASUS is the producer of the latest Google tablets I was thinking they would be better at dealing with customers than this, because I've found them less than helpful. I can appreciate that they're a big company now and more things are happening, and I don't even have a problem with things braking - that's just the nature of sensitive hardware, but there needs to be easier ways of fixing stuff that do, better processes for us geeks to slot into in order to restore our inner turmoil. I chose ASUS because they seemed more geek friendly, but I'm suspecting I was wrong.

And despite my woes, I still love the tablet itself! I'm lost and alone without it, and I think I'll risk eBay and do it myself, unless anyone has any better advice out there.

Ah, I feel better now. Until I want my tablet again.

13 August 2012

Ponderings, Part 1

[Part 1]

I haven't posted much of late, much to the disappointment of my hoards of readers, I can only assume. Much of the reason is that my mind has been experiencing a series of subtle epiphanies, and I've found it hard to convey in writing how it sounds in my head, found it hard to write as fast as my mind race.

I had a job interview a few weeks ago for a job I kinda didn't want to get, but I had been asked to pursue it, and I did out of interest of things new and the lure of being wanted and to do good, to grow professionally and have a stab at new problems and meet new interesting people. Oh, and the pay was better, too.

But I digress. In the interview I presented myself as an ideas person, and was asked straight back, "What was some of your best ideas?"

How could I possibly answer that question? I have ideas all the time, several times a day, meaning each year I have hundreds if not thousand(s), add up with 40 years of life ... you get the idea. How do I pick a few of those in order to prove that I enjoy working in a place that takes ideas seriously? Should I tell him about my idea for fresh water plants using buoys and solar power? Or the philosophical construct of scaling computer systems based on human attributes of compassion? Or should I push my ideas on semantic operability and digital persistent identity across abstract human computer systems? Or should I venture down the way of educational methods? About teaching kids modelled after evolutionary psychological models? Or how about a better way to pickle cucumbers? Or my idea for self-sufficient wind-driven electricity built into housing materials? Or the opposite way of mapping political ideas and individual opinions against a zeitgeist-like model of social interaction as a means to govern?

Some of my ideas are successful, others are abstract delusions of grandeur, and yet more just outright bad ones. But what makes me an ideas person isn't the successful ones that I suspect was the wanted answer; it is the combination of them all, the fact that I constantly think about these ideas, forever nurturing, pruning and sowing new ideas, never stopping. I often also call it creativity. And there's nothing too special about this; many people out there are also constantly thinking about stuff. But from what I can tell, there's more of those who don't.

I've never understood that, of course. I don't really know what it's like to not have a million solutions to problems not even yours racing through your mind, distracting me from doing stuff that those others people seem to do so well, like sending signals of assurance and disarmament through audiovisual bodily compositioning, and stuff like that. Not my thing, ok? I'm into the problem, not the theatre of spectacle. Some of you have already identified this disease; being a geek.

Geek is far removed from dork or nerd. I'm not socially nor physically challenged, I'm rather the opposite, I can be part of friendly banter and serious cavorting when I so choose to, and have done to great success (to a variety of definitions of 'success'). A geek is focused on stuff that's less generic than the generic stereotype allows, both in terms of topic at hand or the time consumed with it. Spending hours at the pub watching a game with friends is apparently ok, but spending hours researching and taking pictures of local igneous geographical structures and working out beach evolution to understand them, is not, no matter how many friends I drag with me to do it. There's something wrong when value of a past-time is determined by the category for generalized popular activities, as if its inherit value is linked to the number of participants who's even heard about the activity rather than the knowledge or the activity itself.

I'm getting older now. I'm increasingly tired of human social automation as some assumed important part of our identity. I'm constantly finding a lot of my ideas are rooted in fundaments of conformity and that other dreadful word, 'applicability.' I hate it. I hate that I as a purported free man are not free to do the things I want to be doing, simply because my value system isn't shared by the majority. One can understand the logic of it if your views were regarded as hostile, racist, vile, cruel or otherwise derelict (and there's easy measures one could take in order to find out if your ideas and views are bordering on the politically correct, or even going over them), but ideas are ideas - abstract concepts in our minds - and test those ideas against real life, I am not suggesting that ideas are fine when they cross ethical lines or even political sharp edges, not at all. What I am saying is that the norms of our society is not only a measure of where political lines and human ethical sketches are drawn, but that they are often constraints on new ideas no matter their ethical possible outcome.

There's nothing new about these poor ramblings of a middle-aged bitter twisted liberal-centrist man, married, living in the suburbs with wife, kids, dog and a piano, pining for the fjords on the wrong side of the world, wishing all his ideas we applicable rather than abstract, and character-building rather than character assassinating.

From this venture point it is clear; the future is coming, and I'm dedicated to rush towards it rather than wait for it. Even the status quo is forever changing.

11 August 2012

KYME - Debut concert

KYME - Kiama Young Musicians Ensemble (http://kyme.net) perform their first ever concert in Kiama Anglican Church (Kiama, NSW, Australia) on July 22, 2012.

--- Program ---

"Clocks" : Christine Myers

"Autumn - Allegro" : Antonio Vivaldi

"Metal Road" : Anthony Marks

"Mattachins" : Arbeau

"Falling leaves"
Nigel Scaife

--- Intermission ---

"Pretorius Dances" : Antonin Dvorak
solo Oscar Stanis

"Nagato Yuki" : Keigo Hoashi
arr. Jacob Foster
solo Simon Wallace-Pannell

"Ghost ship" : Stephan Chin
arr. Shaun Stewart
solo Grace Johannesen

"Mozart Mix" : Wolfgang Mozart
arr. John O'Reilly

--- Director ---
Shaun Stewart

--- Players ---
Lilje Johannesen -- violin
James Huet - violin
Matej Nolan - violin
Jenny Smith -- clarinet
Wynter Smith -- double bass
Oscar Stanis -- oboe
Grace Johannesen -- violin
Jacob Foster -- violin
Simon Wallace-Pannell -- cello

20 July 2012

Concert : KYME (Kiama Yound Musicians Ensemble) July 22, 2pm, Kiama Anglican Church

Anyone in the Kiama area (or bigger) who's wants to see something musically awesome in its infancy? My girls are members of KYME (Kiama Young Musicians Ensemble) who's having their first ever concert on Sunday (July 22) at 2pm at Kiama Anglican Church (head for the blowhole, but instead of left onto the peninsula, it's straight ahead 40m instead, on the right-hand side). The ensemble is 8 little to slightly bigger people, playing contemporary, classic and baroque pieces, all under the guidance, direction and patience of Shaun Stewart. Gold coin donation at the door, smiles required and support gladly taken! We're all very excited to play for you!

15 June 2012

A little Linux advice, if you please!

Update: See bottom.

Yeah, so it's been quiet from my little corner for a while now. Many reasons, most of them falling into "busy life" category, but one in particular is the topic of this post.

A few weeks back I was noticing a few hickups in my Ubuntu 10.10 install, nothing major but little things here and there. So, I thought the latest Ubuntu 11.04 upgrade was in order. And it was; it even fixed my Bluetooth stack, the sound was better, even the graphics were a bit more stable.

But then all of a sudden I couldn't even boot the kernel properly. Even rescue mode never quite reached a terminal, so I used a Knoppix CD to dig through the logs in trying to find out what the problem might be. However, there wasn't too much to find, no serious errors, except for a segfault in the CUPS (printing) service. After fixing that, then a segfault in something else. And then something else.

So out of the blue I thought of doing an extra 'fsck' after the one I did before the upgrade. Lots of files had various problems with them, and lost+found filled up with a couple of hundred files. So, some file pointer had run amok (perhaps while hovering over a bad sector?), and important kernel files had been corrupted.

After a few rounds and screaming, I've managed to put Knoppix on a 8Gb USB stick, installed a USB bootloader in my GRUB (my BIOS can't do USB booting), and I now boot into that USB stick for a semblance of normal life. I've installed NetBeans, MySQL, PHP and most tools I need, so I'm at least operational.

The question becomes: what now?

1. Try to fix the current Ubuntu install? (I've searched around for some tool that could re-install and re-download kernel and system essentials without any luck)

2. Re-format and install a fresh Ubuntu 11.04 LTS?

3. Buy a new 2.5" HDD, and go back to 2?

3. Buy a HDD + SDD hybrid (like the Seagate Momentus XT which got good reviews)?

4. Buy a SSD, and sacrifice internal storage space for that speedy goodness? (I've got several LAN disks for media stuff, so my space requirements are modest)

5. Change my distro? What are the sexy contenders these days? (I'm a developer by trade, so stability over candy)

6. Generic partitioning tricks, since I think I'll start a blank slate. I've got two SATA ports, so maybe a small SSD for cache and system, and mount a 7200 rpm with nice cache as a secondary? Or?


Ok, so I got myself a 120Gb SSD (a Kingston SSDNow V200 2.5" 128GB SATA III), and set it up as primary drive with a Ext4 partition (115Gb) and a 5Gb swap partition, and filled it up with a new install of Ubuntu 12.04. Just installed Java, NetBeans, MySQL, PHP5, Apache2 all without a hitch, so at least I'm productive again. And the systems is really fast and responsive, too. Love that SSD feelin'

A few negatives, though, and the foremost is - still! - friggin Unity; it annoys me to no end! I tried it first in beta, then in 10.10, again in 11.04 and I've whinced and whined about it before, how it takes the few things I truly hate about the Mac, and merges that hate with the bad bits from classic Xwindows. I can't stand it, but I thought to myself, surely after over two years in the making have they at least fixed the worst, or at least made a lot of it customizable and tweakable - you know, the very essence of why we even run Linux in the first place. But no, Unity is still crap, and I don't know how long I'll last. I'll give it a go for sure, I'll try my hardest to work with it, but its fundamental design just goes against everything I'd like to do, it isn't very intuitive or easy to use either, nor does it make me more efficient. What's more, NetBeans seems incompatible with the bloody task bar thingy, so if I accidentally minimize the application the only way to get it back is to open a task manager, kill the app, and start it again, because, Unity in its infinite wisdom, have removed the app switching (although I've seen some tweaks to get it back, but why, oh why remove the usable parts of it?! The insanity is driving me nuts, and it is damaging to the reputation of an otherwise brilliant operating system. I understand why a lot of geeks are fleeing to other Debian based distros, and I might just go that way myself (any opinions on that?). When my patience with Unity dries up I'll pop the machine into Gnome Classic to at least regain my sanity, but I heard somewhere they're fazing that out as well. For Pete's sake! Talk about building your system up to great heights and then let it fall to ground in your ignorant arrogance. *sigh*

Apart from that; I'm up and running again. Yay.

30 March 2012

ACU with the Hillard Ensemble in concert, Wollongong

From time to time I take my kids to various concerts that in our household is categorised as "dad's music", because, let's face it, the stuff that I love is in minority and often causes discomfort amongst people in social settings. I do this not to torture my children, but because we (that is, me and the wife) recognise the value of a diverse education. Why should we let our children only learn about fun stuff when we weren't allowed to? No, they should be tortured just like I was when I was a boy, only I wasn't tortured with great music. Sorry, did I say torture after all? I meant, educated. There, fixed it.

So, off I took Lilje, age 8, to Wollongong and the Town Hall for a concert with the Australian Chamber Orchestra featuring the Hillard Ensamble a couple of weeks ago (I had an accident of late, so some time passed before I could even write this down). Neither of these two art music groups need no real introduction; they are world class acts, and they are awesome.

Going to this concert was thinking that this was a guaranteed good time for me, and hopefully an enjoyable evening for Lilje. But as the world turns and proves itself stranger than what we can imagine at times, it turned out that something's afoot in the playpen. I didn't actually read the program before we went, and the first time I glanced at it was going into the thing, and I remember my reaction very precisely; "Huh?"

First up, the Town Hall, a dreadful hall with crap acoustics, built in depressing 70's wood-panel, all floor seating on a flat floor, meaning Lilje had to sit on my lap for most of the concert to see anything at all. And these were cheap plastic-in-a-row seats guaranteed to be a pain in the arse from beginning until end, and needless to say, that guarantee was more than fulfilled.

Ok, the program. Since the Hillard Ensemble would be present I had thought that the ACO had brought out their finest silver. First out was Elgar. Now, I'm the first to admit that Elgar bores me more than thrills me, but I thought that surely ACO couldn't go too terribly wrong here, they could choose some of Elgars really wonderful stuff, snippets from his symphonies, or the more obvious Violin Concerto, or even Introduction and Allegro for strings. But no, they had chosen the mostly pleasant but boring Serenade in E, Opus 20 (of 1892) that reeks of conformity. What was up with that? Some unwanted due diligence towards the Hillards' English heritage or something? Looking at the audience, however, confirmed my other suspicion; it was played because it's a popular piece, especially with the, ahem, older demographics. However, it was played well.

Next up, the Hillard Ensemble did "Ah, gentle Jesu", a medieval romp by Sheryngham (around 1500), and they did what the Hillard Ensemble does best; they sang like no other group could do, and it was wonderful, if not draped in some weird dullness by the rotten acoustics. Although I think David James was out of this world awesome to not let the dullness kill his amazing singing!

And then, the final piece of the first part, was the only piece in the whole concert that the ACO and the Hillard's actually did together; Raskatov's "Obikhod", a piece you don't want to take normal people to at the best of times; a great piece for those with patience, difficult to perform, impossible to master, chuck full of idiosyncrasies, discordance, flat harmonies, fuge-like patterns of non-melodic music ... it was, eh, kind of overwhelming, and I thought to myself that this wasn't perhaps the best concert to take an 8-year old to. I can't say I enjoyed this piece, but I certainly appreciated it. It was wrapped up by a lyrical repetitive but thematically interestingly "Most Holy Mother of God" by Pärt, sung by the Hillard's.

Then there was a break in which me and Lilje a) tried to get a drink, b) gave up and went to a kiosk across the street to get a drink, c) racing back because Lilje had to go to the toilet, d) race back across the street to get the drinks, e) race back to get seated again.

Second half was the Hillard's doing Gregorian and medieval French chants, strangely without the awesome David James, a section of 6 songs, with the highlight of the concert in the middle; Ross Edwards' "Veni Creator Spritus", a string octet in two movements. The first was nice and polyphonic and templetative, but the second more lively and full of interesting bounces, melodies and harmonies. But then again, it was Ross Edwards, so it couldn't really be bad. And the ACO, again, played it to what I can only assume was flawless. Wonderful stuff.

Last piece out was Arensky's "Variations on a theme by Tchaikovsky", probably his most famous piece, but not all that know to people in general. And it was, well, nice and all, like a romantic more likeable Tchaikovsky, short and sweet and more to the point. Lilje recognised the Tchaikovsky patterns she plays in her own ensemble, which, I think, was for her the highlight. Hmm.

All in all, the ACO played wonderful. They have such a wonderful tone (and a little bird has whispered baroque tuning in my ear, which might explain some of it), some times so perfectly delicate that it's easy to forget that there's fallible people up there. And the Hillard's were great singers as usual. The problem was the program itself, and I also had this feeling I get when two great entities come together in a concert; "you do a bit, we do a bit, then you do a bit, then we do a bit" rather than making music together, with the difficult Raskatov an honourable exception. And the bits they had chosen weren't the best of bits, either.

At the end of the night I promised Lilje to take her to a better - or, perhaps, a more accessible - concert some other time.

26 March 2012


Hiya. Just thought I'd pop in an explain the lack of posts. Again, too much to write about (and I've got a concert review coming in the next couple of days), but most of my silence was due to an accident I had a couple of weeks ago; a massive beam with nails in it rolled over and slammed into my left arm (and I'm left-handed), the nail puncturing a main artery, blood and gore everywhere, doctors, hospital, now arm in sling for over a week, more tests and scans, complications, etc. I'm writing this post veeeery slowly.

I'm slightly better today, first day of improvement in a long time, so I'm hopeful, and I'm sure I'll get into some more details later on. I'll return to work soon, but I suspect my drumming career is on the blink. On the positive side, I've had plenty of time to read (like the awesome "Don't sleep, there's snakes" which I'll review a bit later, too), especially starting and finishing Sam Harris' "Free-will" during casualty on Saturday (which I'm sure I'll write more on later as well) waiting between doctors and scans.

All in all, this latter subject points to what I'm doing a lot these days as well, dipping into philosophy a lot, mainly dipping into Aquinas and history of doctrine, and Wittgenstein the elder, epistemology as usual, with a strong focus on philosophy of science and determinism as a vehicle for the illusion of free-will (and implications thereof).

I shall talk more on that on my other blog, so here I'll push xSiteable as it shapes itself into a publishable form, and a new project I've been involved in called KTV (but I'll shed more details on this later; basically a local "tv" channel for the Kiama area, only online, and an organisation that helps to create content for the local community we live in). I'll update about our family life a bit later, too, since the girls are doing very well with their music (Grace just won a scholarship), but more details later.


16 February 2012

Something inspired me between coffee and office today ...

Blargh, so I haven't updated here in a while. It's not because there's nothing to say, but simply too much to say, gagging me in the process. I usually dump a few good tidbits to my Google+ stream, but my good ol' rants and raves have taken a hiatus. And I'm not quite ressurecting them yet, I'm not ready to have a strong opinion on a lot of things of late. Well, correction; I have very strong opinions on a number of things, I'm just not sure I'm right. I'm trying to unlearn a life-time of being full of bluster.

Life is full of surprises, which, in itself, is not surprising at all. For some of us, it's even a welcome change. I've ... changed lately. Not in a sudden way, but I suspect my move to a quiet town with a kinda country feel, surrounded by serene and spectacular scenery (and, no doubt, gorgeous beaches) has put my mind into a strange place. One would think it would have calmed down, relaxed a little more, taking in the scenery and let itself be soothed by the looks and sounds of this thin slice of serenity between heaven and earth, but no, it's racing harder than ever! There's so many other things I can squeeze into the time I now have available, so much more to ponder!

For those who have known me for a while knows the certainty with which I stated my bold stance on pretty much any opinion I cared about. No more. The older I get, the more steeped in the ultimate scientific quest for origins I become. I gulp down many buckets of science and scepticism every day, and try to make sense of it all as it slushes - erodes away beliefs and builds up embankments of facts - over my framework of thought. Where in the past I had knowledge and opinions, I now have facts and uncertainty, proud uncertainty! I'm starting to love all the things I don't know, licking up the sweet, sweet tears of frustration that people show me. It seems, on average, that most humans can't deal with not knowing.

I'm starting to suspect that all of humanities problems lie hidden behind the fear of not knowing, and not just not knowing what's for dinner tonight, but not knowing the meaning of life, universe and everything! Behind not knowing something is that awful, horrible, disgusting habit we have of making stuff up in the place of knowledge. We try to fill those gaps in our understanding this universe with something - anything! - quick, before someone sees us! We can't stand the gap, it is empty and repulsive in our mind. It's a pothole in our perfectly flat road to knowledge, fill it, fill it! Quickly, put religion in the spot for origin and purpose! Hurry, slap down some homoeopathy and acupuncture on that disease we don't understand! Look, you missed a spot of telekinesis in your quantum entangled deepism!

The distrust of anything you don't understand should stand in stark contrast to what you believe to be true, however it seems epistemology isn't a very prioritized field amongst normal people. Heck, even specialists and experts can't tell their ontology from their oncology on any good day, even if they depend on the former to really explain - and often cure the source of - the latter.

If that last sentence didn't make much sense to you, then you're part of the problem, too, just like me, but hopefully - if I dare suggest - getting to know the science of philosophy (as opposed to the profession of being a philosopher) and why epistemology matter, you can tatter along with me to the sound of people making bad decisions for us all on faulty grounds.

So, that's where I am right now. Soon, I shall seep through the groundwater of this blog, and become that weed in the garden of knowledge I aspire to be.