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Colin Johnson’s blog


Archive for December, 2011

Zeitgeist (3)

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Interesting perspective from a forum post that I read somewhere t’other day: someone (presumably someone growing up since the ubiquity of mobile phones) who saw landlines as a premium service (because the company had to “put all the wires in” to the house) and mobile service as the basic service (because you just issue someone with a handset and then you are done with it), and didn’t understand why the mobile service was the more expensive one. I wonder how much this is true: is mobile only a premium-price service because historically it was, or is it still more expensive to maintain and run the mobile infrastructure?

3D Printing

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

3D printing is an exciting new technology. But I wonder what it might be used for, in practice? I’m sat here in the sitting room in my father’s house, and I struggle to see many things that could be readily produced using such technology. The room contains:

  • Large items of furniture, too large for this technology to produce
  • Complex technological items like a laptop and a television, too complex to be created using 3D printing
  • Lots of newspapers, books and magazines. These could be readily printed using 2D printing technology. If I were to invest in a technological replacement for these, it would be an iPad or similar.
  • Several plants. Several craft items, like vases and knitted decorations. Dried flowers. I could imagine that it might be possible to create some interesting ornaments and vases using this kind of technology, but less so the complex craft objects: but, it might be possible to create some of the supporting tools (e.g. knitting needles) using such technology.
  • Clothes, pairs of shoes, etc. Probably not readily creatable using that sort of technology.
  • A christmas tree and decorations. Probably all rather creatable using 3D printing, even the (plastic) tree.
  • Mugs, glasses, plates. Don’t know; might need very specialised materials.

Of course, this is hardly the point. The excitement is about creating new kinds of things that couldn’t be bespoke-built before; furthermore, there are clear applications in specific work environments such as laboratories and rapid-prototyping. But, I do worry that in the domestic environment this is just a sophisticated way of creating some fancy jelly-moulds and ice-cube trays. Is this destined to be the Breville toastie-maker of the 21st century?

Insults (2)

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

“Is there no end to your one talent.” (thanks to Paul Spencer who came up with this many years ago)

Insults (1)

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

(to an author) “He puts the ink into incapable”.

Variations on Folk Sayings (12) (Seasonal Special)

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

“Oh what fun it is to ride, on a half-arsed broken sleigh.”

House Size

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

On the kind of property programs that were popular a few years ago and that my mother was addicted to watching, a clichéd suggestion was that “you could just knock this wall down”. However, when compared with housing in many other countries with similar economies and lifestyles, the typical English house has lots of small rooms.

Why does this contradiction continue to hold? We might assume that if there is sufficient demand for larger rooms, then eventually the market would respond and start providing houses with a smaller number of, larger, rooms. However, I suspect that the answer is in how houses are marketed. By contrast with, AFAICT, every other country in Europe, no headline indication is given of the overall floor area of the house. Therefore, number of rooms is used as a proxy for overall size of house, which motivates builders to build houses with a large number of small rooms.

Propositional and Deduced Knowledge and Memory Conditions

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Here is something that I have observed, which has interesting implications for memory problems like Alzheimer’s disease. My father has some memory problems, and what is interesting is that he can recall some facts learned a long time ago, but some of the deductions from that knowledge aren’t readily recalled. For example, he can remember each of his two marriages, but when asked “how many times were you married?” he doesn’t know.

Here is my hypothesis about what is happening. He has a clear memory of the two marriages as specific sets of events, but has not “bothered” to learn the fact “I have been married twice” as a specific propositional fact, as this can be deduced immediately from the memories of those two specific facts. However, as he has lost speed of access to specific memories, the ability to make that link from particular pieces of knowledge to a new “deduced” piece of knowledge has declined, and so he has trouble accessing the pieces of knowledge that were never stored as explicit propositional knowledge but which were always present as immediate deductions from readily recalled facts.

Do we not bother learning some things because we can instantly deduce them from other knowledge, and then if we have memory problems we actually end up with this being a problem?

December Rituals (1)

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Taking last year’s plastic-wrapped phone book off the shelf, unwrapping it, putting it in the recycling, replacing it with this year’s phone book, still in its wrapper.

Spam (2)

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Weirdly specific spam today:

Hello,    Am Robert William and i will like to order GRANULATOR from your company.Can you please let me know the price in range for USED GRANULATOR you carry in stock and also let me know if you do accept credit card as a method of payment,I wish to start business with your good company and look forward for your valued reply ASAP.  Have a nice day !  Best Regards, Robert William

Is this because I mention “granular synthesis” somewhere on my web pages?

No Sale!

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Bizarre message from East Coast trains website:

You have now made the maximum allowed number of purchases today (4)

I wonder what the origins of this are? Trying to clamp down on secondary markets? Avoiding fraud in some way?

One in 1926; one in 2010

Monday, December 5th, 2011

It is interesting to consider just how over-represented the major public schools are in parliament/government. There are around 500,000 pupils in independent schools in the UK. Eton College has about 1300 pupils. There are over three million pupils in UK state secondary schools. Thus, in each year, around 1 in 2600 school-leavers was an Eton pupil.

In recent elections, around 120 new MPs have been elected. If entry to parliament was distributed equally by school attended, then we would expect to see one new Old Etonian entering parliament every 21 elections!

Multi-media

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

A cod-definition that I used to trot out in my media computing course; I still rather like this, it is provocative:

“Multimedia is a failed attempt to combine two or more media.”