Foie Gras

foie gras

|fwä ˈgrä|
noun
the liver of a specially fattened goose or duck prepared as food.

No Cover Ups

The newly appointed Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, the Reverend Anthony Fisher, has promised “there will be no excuses and no cover-ups” in the wake of the child sex abuse inquiry.

Bullshit.

Let’s look at the reported statements of the Reverend Anthony Fisher.

I think the Catholic Church is going through a period of well-deserved public scrutiny and humiliation and certainly self examination, but I hope we’ll emerge from that purified, more humble, more compassionate and be spiritually regenerated.

A period of well-deserved public scrutiny. Somewhat of an understatement. And the hope is that the Church emerges “purified, more humble, more compassionate and be spiritually regenerated”. What about all the people who’s lives have been destroyed by the actions of the Church? No hope for them. Not even a mention.

There’s still a lot that the Church can do for society, and that can only happen if we regain the trust by making sure we do these things much better in the future

The best thing the Church could do for society is put itself in a position where it can be held legally accountable for its actions. Take its pants down, so to speak. As for trust, I think they have burned that up. No one should ever trust the Catholic Church.

We’re going to take every victim seriously and do all we can to help the survivors and all those affected by child sexual abuse, and put in place whatever we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Sure. That’s been said before. Let have a quick look, using one particular metric, financial compensation, to get an idea of what “all we can” means.

In the US, the Catholic Church is a legal entity and as such they are able to be sued. In Australia however, the Catholic Church is not accessible at law. It cannot be held legally responsible for its actions. It assets are held in property trusts that are shielded from any civil liability.

In the US, the average payout to sexual abuse victims is $1,000,000. In Australia, the average payout is $50–70,000. Clearly they do as little as possible, because they can.

To “put in place whatever we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again” needs to start with handing abusers over to authorities, and to have Australian law changed so that the Catholic Church can be held responsible for its gross human rights violations.

I think the royal commission and the general discussion in the community will give us a lot of leads on how to do that.

You think? But you know, if you have any trouble figuring what you’re doing wrong, let me know and I’ll help you out.

We are genuinely sorry and deeply sorry for what’s gone wrong and we are determined to do better.

Excellent. Do better, that sounds great. How hard could that be? Rape a few less kids, you’re already doing better.

No, “do better” is not enough. Stop raping kids for a start. Compensate victims adequately, which given current form, will mean allowing the government/law to determine amounts of compensation rather than leaving it up to The Church.

One more thing, given Fisher previously held the position of chairman of the Catholic Education Commission of New South Wales, I’m betting he’s known about one or two cases of sexual abuse that were not reported to police. Here’s his chance for ‘no cover-ups’.

You Can't Have a War on Terrorism

You can’t have a war on terrorism because that’s not a actual enemy, it’s an abstract. It’s like having a war on dandruff. That war will be eternal and pointless. It’s idiotic. That’s not a war, it’s a slogan. it’s a lie. It’s advertising, which is the only art form we ever invented in America. And we use it to sell soap, wars and presidential candidates in the same fashion.

Gore Vidal

Open-ended War in Iraq Will Increase Security Threat

Labour MP Melissa Parke expresses concern over deployment to iraq:

The best way to avoid being the target of terrorism is to not partake in terrorism.

…committing Australia to what appears to be an open-ended war will only increase the security threat to Australians.

Damn straight it will.

The whole reason we have any kind of terrorist threat in Australia right now is because Johnny Howard took us to Iraq in the first place.

About a week ago, ASIO raised Australia’s terror alert level to high.

If you get involved with terrorism, now you’re playing the game and you have to defend your own goal line.

The best way to avoid being the target of terrorism is to not partake in terrorism.

Somehow Familiar but New

So it was a watch. Not just a watch though. With the Apple Watch, apple is redefining what people will expect from a watch. And I’m excited.

I think it is the start of a new era of devices. Devices that one wears and is more personally connected to than any other technology before.

Until recently I have not worn a watch since about 1995 or so. Right now I am wearing a replica 1942 Luftwaffe B Uhr (and I happen to be sitting in Germany as I type). It’s a piece of shit but it’s cool enough that I wear it even though it can’t even tell me the time anymore. But this is a temporary thing, this wearing a watch. Until now that is. As soon as this Apple watch comes out, I’m back to being a full time watch wearer.

So what will one of these things cost me?

Tim Cook gave a starting price of $349 USD. That will be the price of the cheapest, sport version with aluminium and glass. The other two options?

John Gruber reckons they’ll be around 1K and 5K respectively. Ouch. But hey, if you want a designer watch – a piece of jewellery – that is made of gold, you’ll pay 20K or more. So 5K doesn’t seem that crazy.

But if you buy something like a rolex, it will usually be something you’ll end up handing down to your children. Computer technology is not something people think of keeping for more than 5 years let alone handing down as a family heirloom. How does this short life-span of technology fit with the high price of a special item like a designer watch?

I believe the Apple watch form factor will not change. Why would it? A watch does not need to get smaller and smaller like phones used to. And phones don’t get smaller anymore either.

I think the Apple watch of 2020, in its physical form, will be the same as the current one. Good design, form factor and aesthetics, will stand the test of time. I think the working innards of the watch will be upgradable, or more like replaceable.

The whole computer, the S1, is a computer on a chip. This makes it easily upgradeable. Send it back to Apple, they open it up, replace the one single chip and bam, a totally new computer in the same, well designed form factor. The sensors are also replaceable as they are on the watch back. The interface, which Jony Ive has paired down to a beautiful minimum will stand the test of time as good design does.

In terms of industrial design, this is a case study. Jony Ive and his team have produced something that will challenge the traditional watch makers with products in the range of $100 - $30,000. In short, Swiss watch makers are fucked.

From A Watch Guy’s Thoughts

The Apple Watch, in its own way, really pays great homage to traditional watchmaking and the environment in which horology was developed. We have to remember that the first timekeeping devices, things like sundials, were dictated by the sun and the stars, as is time to this day. The fact that Apple chose to develop two faces dedicated to the cosmos shows they are, at the very least, aware of the origins and importance of the earliest timekeeping machines, and the governing body of all time and space – the universe.

These guys have done something special. Through the usual deep thinking and starting from first principles they have produced something somehow familiar but new.

A Little Different

Tomorrow when I wake up (here in Australia), the world will look a little different. The new whatever-it-is-that-apple-is-about-to-announce will have been announced.

The internet is leaking with predictions of what Apple is going to release and most of it is about bigger iPhones and an iWatch.

I have no idea, but a new iPhone sounds pretty likely in the same way it seems likely that the sun will rise in the morning. An iWatch? I’m not sure about that. Jony Ive and all the other genius minds at Apple and they’re gonna come up with a watch? I think they’ll invent something new. Somehow familiar but new.

And then there’s the Apple Mobile Payments idea. That will be interesting. The online and mobile payments industry is in a state of flux. We’re on the dawn of the next big innovation. I don’t know what it is, but it’s coming. Apple might be the company to give us the next big thing and it might be tomorrow.

But what I really want to see when I wake up in the morning to read about it is a wearable HealthKit device that gathers enough information that my phone know’s when I’m awake, sleeping or somewhere in between. I’ve been wanting this technology since about 1997. Although back then the idea was only useful for interfacing to an alarm clock or maybe a car because iPhones were still 10 years away.

There are all kinds of things this technology could be useful for, the thing I want it for is to pause my podcast player when I nod off.

Speaking of Beer

Speaking of beer, I was just on the phone with a friend organising an outing for this Sunday and it reminded me of something.

Many places in the world have their own special drink that suits the place or is historical or in some other way associated with that place. When I’m visiting one of those places, I like to drink that particular drink.

For example, in Munich I like to drink Weissbier, in Singapore it’s Gin & Tonic or Singapore Sling and cups of tea, in The Alsace it’s Picon Biere.

So this Sunday, it’ll be the finest of Gins mixed with tonic water.

Philosophical God Sipping a Beer

Does god sit around on a quiet afternoon, sipping a beer and think to himself I’m eternal. I’m all powerful. But where did I come from?

You bet he does. And then, probably after another beer, he invents a higher being to explain his own existence.

And thus god invents the Cosmological Argument.

Then, by the next beer, he gets a bit self conscious about it all and comes up with something like

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Exodus 20:3

Then he reflects on the absurdity of it all and eventually thinks of an argument that proves himself out of existence, leaving nothing but a half glass of beer.

An Historic

Do you say “an historic…”? I bet you don’t, because you’re smart and you know that it’s incorrect. But then again, I see a lot of (apparently) smart people using it.

An hysterical, an house, an histogram, an hit-man.

Do they sound wrong? Yep. Because they are. And so is an historic.

Using the indefinite article form an in front of the word historic or any of its variants is incorrect.

Here’s why. The grammar[1] rule is:

An is the form of the indefinite article that is used before a spoken vowel sound.

It doesn’t matter how the written word in question is actually spelled, it matters how it is spoken or pronounced and if it starts with a vowel sound or not.

That’s why we say ‘an honour’, ‘an hour’, or ‘an heir’, for example. By contrast we say ‘a hair’ or ‘a horse’ because, in these cases, the ‘h’ is pronounced.

The word history – unless you’re cockney or have an accent that doesn’t pronounce h at the beginning of words – starts with an h sound (aitch, don’t get me started on haitch), not a vowel sound.

Why?

Indeed, why do people do it?

I suspect it’s about being trendy. That’s why so many fuckwits in the city use it (to borrow a phrase from Cleaver Greene). Especially news readers. I think they say it in an effort to show others how refined, cultured and smart they are.

Getting Quantitative About It

Let’s take a look at usage of “an historic” vs “a historic”.

The internet is a wonderful thing. Using google, we can essentially count how many times a term is used, either over the whole internet or over a particular site. Simply do a search (put quotes around the search term to search that exact usage) and google will tell you the number of returned results. Do the same for another term and you can compare the two numbers. I call this a Googleoff. Try putting this into google "an historic" site:bbc.com, or I’ve done it for you

Here are some results:

Site “an historic” “a historic”
bbc.com 1,060 3,240
abc.net.au 8,070 46,600
nytimes.com 17,100 22,000

Clearly popular usage is on the side of sanity. But that doesn’t mean anything. Facts are true by virtue of being true, not how many people believe they are true.

But the reason I wanted to show some data is to compare “an historic” usage with “an history”. This is interesting. Let’s just look at abc.net.au

Site “an history” “a history”
abc.net.au 42 38,000

So what’s happening here?

It appears that people who say “an historic”, don’t also say “an history”, because it’s incorrect and it sounds silly. My theory is this: some clown started using “an historic”, either mistakenly or because he was a dickhead, then a few people thought it was cool and started copying it. But this copycat behaviour didn’t extend to any other words, which is borne out in the above googleoff results.

I call shenanigans on anyone using the indefinite article an with the word historic. Clowns.


  1. This rule is not a rule just because it appears in the grammar book. Grammar exists independently of grammar books and english teachers.  ↩

20,000 Days on Earth

I can hardly wait to see this film.

It’s a world I’m creating. A world full of monsters and heroes, good guys and bad guys. It is an absurd, crazy, violent world where people rage away and God actually exists.

Nick Cave

20,000 Days On Earth
20,000 Days On Earth

I think Nick Cave is one of the greatest song writers of our time. But he’s much more than that. He’s a poet, a writer, a composer, a screenwriter and an occasional actor.

I look forward to exploring the world Nick Cave is creating when I get to see this film. It’s an interesting world, that’s for sure. I know it from his songs.

It is an absurd, crazy, violent world where people rage away and God actually exists.

Imaginary Weather Forecasts

This news article on fictitious weather reports set in 2050 made me think “what do weather forecasters know about the weather in 2050? They can’t pin it down for next week”.

Imaginary Weather Forecasts
Imaginary Weather Forecasts

Sure, they are talking about the climate in 2050 and the fanciful weather forecasts are meant to be plausible forecasts within the 2050 predicted climate (there is an important distinction between climate and weather). But still, they routinely get the forecast for next week wrong, in the current climate.

Weather forecasts usually extend about 5 days or a week or so into the future. I propose that the accuracy (or inaccuracy) of reports for 5 or more days into the future render those forecasts pretty much meaningless. I want to test that idea.

For the rest of September, each day I will record weather forecasts offered for the coming days. Once I have all the data, I can look at the variations in those forecasts for a particular day as the the forecasts move from 5 days out, to 4 days and so on to then what actually happened on the day.

Then I should be able offer something quantitative on the meaningfulness of weather forecasts, especially those forecasting a week or so into the future.

The Qualia of Consuming Soft Boiled Eggs Whole

This morning as I ate my soft-boiled eggs, my mind turned to Kafka and The Metamorphosis. This novel novel does a lot but one particular thing I think it does, perhaps unintentionally, is to invite the reader to consider the nature of subjective experience. It gives you a glimpse of and prompts you to wonder further what it is like to be an insect (it’s a story about a man, Gregor Samsa, who wakes up one day to find himself a gigantic insect).

Franz Kafka The Metamorphosis
Franz Kafka The Metamorphosis

And then there’s Thomas Nagel’s What Is it Like to Be a Bat? It’s right there in the title. Nagel is dealing with what it’s like to have the subjective experience of another being.

What do soft-boiled eggs have to do with this?

There’s a certain way I like to consume soft-boiled eggs or poached eggs that reminds me of those two works from Kafka and Nagel. It gets me wondering what it might be like to have the subjective experience of, say, a goanna.

If you peel the soft-boiled egg and pop it in whole, the explosion of yolk – the taste, the texture, the warmth – might give you an idea of at least some of the subjective experience of being a goanna. I bet one of the best things for a goanna is happening upon a nest full of eggs and sitting there devouring them whole.

Centre of the Universe

This is the front cover of my latest New Philosopher magazine.

New Philosopher
New Philosopher

To me, the cover picture says that with a narcissistic view, each of us are at the centre of the universe which, given the very nature of subjective experience, seems about right.

But how can we all be at the centre of the universe? Should there not be, by definition, one centre of the universe?

Well, a few months ago I read A Universe From Nothing by physicist Lawrence M. Krauss. In the book, Krauss covers the theory that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. So from any and every point in the universe, the rest of the universe is moving away from that point at an ever increasing rate.

Krauss offers the following diagram as part of his explanation.

Expansion Dots
Expansion Dots

Imagine the universe as a two dimensional object. If all the galaxies were in a grid and spaced apart equally (A). Then imagine that the grid expands so that the space between each galaxy is larger but still equal (B). The universe has indeed expanded around a centre point. From the perspective of any one galaxy, all the other galaxies are farther away. You can see this by superimposing the expanded universe onto the original and aligning any galaxy with itself (C,D).

So it would seem, every point in the universe is its own centre of the universe.

This is arguably just a product of the perspective one has and indeed why the earth was once thought of as the centre of the solar system. And I would think some definition of a centre would include, in some way, the whole object including the edges. Like this from Wikipedia:

Centre (geometry), the middle of an object

But even so, it’s a useful way of considering the concept that everyone, at least from their own perspective, is the centre of the universe.

Narcissus

No other poem has resonated with me as much as Daffodils by William Wordsworth.

This, the last stanza, practically defines me:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.