Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Too much to say

Unsurprisingly I find myself with too much to say. Perversely this has resulted in me actually blogging nothing for over a week. My thought process about what to blog had been: BT Vision Review, Cult of "New" or Pain of the Early Adopter, Moore's Law of Exponential Micro-Processor Evolution, The Law of Accelerating Returns by Kurzweil, The First Person that will live for 1000 years has already been born.  It's like "Surfing the Brain".

So let's start at the beginning.
Recently we moved home and this provided an opportunity to rationalise three essential modern services. Fixed line telecoms, broadband internet and pay2view TV. These 3 services between them were responsible for more than I cared to admit of our monthly outgoings.

We had Sky HD with loads of add-ons, BT 8MB business broadband and most of our phone calls were on the O2 mobile account from our iPhone's prepaid monthly calls. The "full service" options were Sky, O2, Virgin and BT. For various reasons and despite my misgivings about BT customer service, we opted for the BT package. Customer service has been the worst I have ever experienced - well maybe the Biroska shop in Soviet Moscow in 1984 - no BT still occupy that nadir, nothing can go lower. The cost saving has been good if they actually credit back all the errors in billing that have occurred!

So finally the review of BT Vision:
The device that is provided is an uninspiring receiver/recorder box for freeview TV but additionally you can access TV programmes over the broadband selecting from a whole array of past series. Unfortunately this selection is quite limited and programmes don't seem to be available in perpetuity. Also HD is only on very limited "download" availability and is not able to be live streamed. As a concept then BT Vision is a prelude to the future. Being able to pay for what you view - or use credits - and to chose a specific programme from a backlog of all those produced is clearly a fairer way to bill and a more empowering way to engage with visual media. In actuality though it is a mere shadow of what it could be, I'd wait until more early adopters (like me) have beta tested it and the bandwidth has improved in the UK.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Temporal causality loop

Should every blog be a monologue?
or occasionally, will a note of brevity
be a sufficient log to do the job?

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Bread and Games

The picture is the card “Bread and Games” from La Citta. These two words encapsulate my two key decisions, bread – a symbol of nourishment and essential resource – do I need this? and games – a symbol of having fun – is it going to make my life fun? You can check many things against this simple binomial test. Beer can often start out in the “Bread” category and soon becomes the “Games” category.

I like to play games. Actually I like to enjoy life and this is achieved in part by playing games. A friend has a motto on his blog, which is itself a paraphrase of the Bernard Shaw quote, "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." I like this sentiment; that the very act of engaging in an apparently frivolous activity can indeed hold back the ravages of old age.

Recently I have had pause to consider what my motivations are for playing games. I listened to an excellent gaming podcast called Gameon -  Episode 28 – Motivations. I sympathized with much of the discussion about the challenging games with people who want to win at all costs, as we have all experienced this from time to time – I’d suggest possibly from both sides of the fence. At the end of one such discussion the guest host, single-L, said, “who even won that game?”.

I must confess, this resonated quite strongly with me. There have been occasions where the game became such a trial I could not recall who won. There have also been games that have been so much fun that I forgot who won. This leads me to believe that winning isn’t the objective. But clearly it is, you wouldn’t be a gamer if you didn’t want to win. In fact, I think Darwin had something to say about this too, so in a sense we are all the decedents of generations of winners.

Until researching for this blog – yes I did!, I had believed my old school motto was “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game”. Actually it now appears to be “Faith in our Future”,  something you’d expect the marketing department of Orange Mobile phones to come up with. Perhaps it was another school, it doesn’t matter, the sentiment I remember is that wining isn’t the objective, but acting in an exemplary manor regardless, is. Not confusing this with the liberal nonsense of, we can all be winners, actually I think this is the point. Victurus te saluto - He who is about to win salutes you, whatever happened to gracious victors?

If not the single-minded objective to win, then what else could the objective be?

Learning, I suspect is one. Experiencing real life concepts played out in a controlled and restricted rule set. From buying property, to the stock market, to balancing resources on a newly settled island, gaming can introduce these concepts in a friendly “risk free” environment. It goes further than this, as an adult, I have enjoyed diplomacy and negotiation or trading games that in someway approximate those interactions from real life – giving me an opportunity to hone my technique. Note-to-self – must try harder. Also, purely social interaction could be the aim – however I believe I’d just go to the pub if this were true. So is it something to do with intellectual stimulation? Probably, but really I think the only objectives are to try to win and to be gracious along the way, regardless of the outcome.

One final thought from Plato

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

Monday, 16 November 2009

Why am I blogging?

So episode 3 and already I'm becoming overly introspective.  What is blogging? typing whyblog? in to google was quite enlightening.  I think, looking at the top link, it gave me some ideas. 

It's like sitting around a virtual fire with some good friends, may be drinking a glass of winter warmer, and "chewing the fat".  You get to hear some of your thoughts and try them out on people - judge their response - before they've become set in stone. Unless of course you're a journalist and then its entirely different.  It strikes me that many people haven't really explored what they express verbally to any degree before they utter it in public.  Of course this all relies on having an audience.  So to the nub of it, I am now torn between polar opposites, the theme "soliloquy" implying that I am speaking in to the ether without care of an audience and the clear opposite - characterised by me regular reviewing my reader stats on blogpatrol - is my desire to solicit feedback from readers, to communicate.

This desire has got me in to trouble previously, I distinctly remember my Dad pleading with me on a long car journey to sit back and try to sleep - code I was clear on even then in the back of his blue Ford Cortina, for "Stop talking".

I suspect then you have an opportunity, with the patient tone of a father driving to Cornwall, to gently say "stop talking".  The opportunity may not be around for long so don't delay!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

I vote for the Romans

So having touched initially on Quantum Mechanics and an application to the theory of relativity, I have decided to touch on a lighter subject - European politics.  I think in general I would see myself as a Europhile.  I'm not sure that this is driven by any great political intent, in fact I think I am politically ambiguous - possibly agnostic.  I suspect it comes from being born in England but being identifiably descended from elsewhere.  My surname and complexion indicate that I am probably of Celtic descent. (McDermott)

The precursor to the established Celtic nations; the Scots, the Irish, the Welsh, the Cornish the Bretons etc, were migratory tribes and were a largely pan European, trading society - sharing language, art, culture, genes, oh and blood & body parts, there were a few wars!  I would suggest that most inhabitants of the section of the map above marked blue could trace their ancestry back to these early migratory Europeans without a defined land to call home other than the continent.  I think that I will not be alone in saying, I often feel closer to our continental cousins than I do to some of our island based locals.  So come the local elections, (I never said this was going to be current affairs or topical), when presented with a list of umpteen candidates, I could find no party that defined itself by being pro-European.  Many defined themselves by being anti-European, some ignored the subject but not one made it their clarion call.  In the end, following despair at the lack of pro European options, I resolved to vote for "Roman Party" (bbc news euro elections) on the basis that they were pro European - well they did conquer most of the warm bits. There was a single candidate, named Jean-Louis Pascual, standing for "The Roman Party. Ave!". apparently (Praetor Jean) is a French bus driver who has lived for many years in Reading and stood on the ticket: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."  Great sentiment.  Actually, I failed to post my ballot, and so I continued my many years of political indecision.  Veni Vidi Vici Decrevi .

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Existential Angst

Recently I have been reading Steerpike’s blog (http://beyondswelterskitchen.blogspot.com/) and we have entered into some offline discussions that have prompted me to want to “blog”. So please any complaints, leave on his page.

The human condition is a confounding one, just when I have managed to (re-)bury my head in the sand with regard to the perpetually perplexing question of “where do we come from?” something shakes me back to awe of existence. I watched a TV programme the other night on BT Vision (whole other blog about this) that presented the current belief about black holes. It was partly about general relativity’s failure to accommodate them as real, which I’m fairly sure wasn’t new to me. Also, the fact that super-brains have been exploring quantum mechanics as a method to explain the bewildering fact that they shouldn’t exist, even though there is significant physical evidence, was vaguely in my consciousness. Quantum mechanics is the physics of the very small and the belief was that the core of a black hole is indeed very small, albeit on a stellar scale initially. This field called quantum gravity has failed completely – if I understand the programme correctly. So I’m left feeling frustrated that humanity still doesn’t know the answer – although surely we’ll establish that it was 42 after all – but excited by the fact that the quest is still on.

There was a moment where anyone in close proximity to me would have heard the penny clunk on the floor of my scull. It’s safe to say, if you were interested in this subject previously, you have already seen images of a 2-dimensional representation of space-time warping under immense mass.
This image has never really helped me understand this concept. Yes, I can imagine the ball-bearing rolling across the sheet and circling around a heavier ball-bearing, but still what does this say. The moment of understanding was when this programme declared that this “warping” was gravity. Gravity is the warping of spacetime. To labour the analogy to breaking point – if a heavier ball was laid on a cloth, it would create a steeper fall, indicating a stronger force of gravity. I thought I’d share this epiphany as it has now opened a whole new bag of worms (worm-holes surely) for me. So gravity is us sliding down a 3-D slope! Taking this concept and trying to perceive it in 3 dimensions is fascinating. Let’s say you are sitting in a train carriage at the far end and the opposite end is heading into the black hole. The very fabric of space will be warping, from the outside we would perceive the carriage stretching to a thin point as it sucked into the black hole. But what would you see if you were on the carriage? Would you see space and time stretch out in front of you? Eek this is too much to hold in my brain, I’m off to watch Dr. Who....