Thoughts, rants and musings about absolutely everything except photography. Or cats.

INDEX

Taking the 4th

planetary politics

in General Rants , Thursday, October 06, 2016

The brief hype bubble surround Elon Musk’s SpaceX push to colonise Mars seems to have died away for now. Donald Trump is far more captivating. The vision is of course breath-taking, the ambition is boundless, and the technology amazing. But in the end, what’s the difference between this and, say, a Steve Jobs product launch writ large? Is Silicon Valley the right place to gestate such a far-reaching (in many senses) plan? I have some serious doubts.

I’ve seen no discussion at all of the socio-political considerations here. Let’s believe that SpaceX are going to be able to launch a fleet of 1000 ships to Mars. So, that’s 1000 ships in Earth orbit under an American corporate flag, off to settle a new world. How are the Russians, Chinese, Indians all of whom are rather immune to Silicon Valley spin going to react to this? Not exactly with wild enthusiasm, I think. How even is the US Government going to react? Will they just be all hands-off free enterprise - or will they engineer an NSA-led coup? Indeed, given his apparent political leanings, will Musk just invite the NSA and all their chums along for the ride? And even beyond the nationalistic rivalry, what about Jeff Bezos? Is he going to let SpaceX eat his cake? Or Boeing ? Or Google, probably.

Who is going to decide who gets to go? Who’s in charge? Somebody has to be - human societies need a leader. And when they get there, and plant a flag, which they assuredly will do, which flag will it be? Will USA nationalist Musk (despite being South African) claim Mars for the United States of America? I can’t see the “no claims” conventions lasting long. Musk evokes the great explorations of the past, but the driving force of almost all of these was greed and conquest - or even worse, religion - and the human species has not yet evolved 1mm beyond that mindset.

I’ve searched for any discussion of these topics, and found nothing. Starting with SpaceX, where all I can find is shiny shiny tech. Inspiration is not the same thing as aspiration. A species which tolerates countless ongoing brutal wars, with major nations perpetrating practically all of them is not ready to leave the planet. And even if it were, the Silicon Valley mindset is the last thing to drive it. The moon landings were driven by politics, not technology. The technology to get to Mars seems to be practically solved. The politics isn't even started.

If SpaceX, or Boeing, or Blue Origin manages to get these ships into Earth orbit, the challenge of getting to Mars will be far less than that of avoiding getting blasted out of the sky by a Chinese missile. And in the unlikely event of getting to Mars, any colonists will probably be in more danger from other humans than the inhospitable environment.

Ok, so I’m terminally pessimistic, but I can only see this as a very dangerous, immature and misguided initiative which could have terminal consequences. It would take the greatest statesmen the world has ever seen to pick a path through this minefield, and Elon Musk most certainly doesn’t qualify.

What was Mars God of, again ?

The case of the Zürich handbag

Wild outbreak of racism

in General Rants , Monday, August 12, 2013

I can’t avoid adding my CHF 0.02’ worth on the Great Swiss Racism scandal, in which an obscenely rich Americam woman was somehow prevented from buying an obscenely expensive handbag in a shop catering to obscenely rich people in Zürich. Given that said woman is of African-American descent, this was of course a clear indication of the endemic racism embraced and encouraged by the entitre vile, evil Swiss nation. Or at least this is what a formerly respectable British newspaper, The Independent, would have you believe, unquestionably delivering the line it was fed.

But, could there be an alternative, hypothetical explanation? Could it actually be a case of a flustered shop assistant reacting in a less than perfect way to yet another loud, arrogant, wildly self-entitled American demanding that everybody in the world speaks perfect American English? Or could it be a case of a very miffed celebrity not being recognised as such? No, it must be racism, especially when said celebrity just happens to need this as a prop in her latest prime-time TV self promotion.

Of course the story isn’t even questioned, and the shop assistant’s side of it is of no interest to anybody. Not even to the Swiss Tourist Authority, who shamefully issued a demeaning apology on the assistant’s behalf.

One would not have thought that an American had to travel so far to find racism. But I suppose Switzerand seemed such an easy target. I doubt most of her audience even knows where Switzerland is, but it’s cleary foreign hence bad guys. Especally as it has all those bad banks (largely run by Americans, but whatever).

Switzerland has probably one of the most egalitarian societies in the world, despite being largely rural and small-c conservative. A full 25% of the population carries a non-Swiss passport. Switzerland welcomes more than twice as many asylum seekers per capita than any other European country, and in recent decades has absorbed and integrated a huge number of immigrants from the traumatised Balkans. Is there racial prejudice? Well, yes, and unfortunately in my random experience, it tends to be directed by people in blue and black uniforms with “Police” written on them against other people found in possession of a dark skin. But casual, day to day racial prejudice? You’d find more of that in one evening in a British country pub than a whole Swiss canton. And as for Alabama, well...

Ping ? Pong ....

Mr Angry blows a gasket

in General Rants , Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Apparently over a million people (well, Apple Cultists anyway) have already signed up for Apple’s brand new “Social Network for Music”, Ping. Well, I hope they found it more interesting than I did. Apple’s flirtations with online communities go back quite a way - I wonder who remembers eWorld ? - but one thing they have in common is that they are irretrievably, hopelessly crap. And Ping follows in that proud tradition.

EWorld_Main_Screen.png

Another Green World. Ping’s early ancestor

For a start, the recommendations, apparently based on stuff I’ve bought on iTunes, are just absurd. I mean for F%&s Sake!!! Does it LOOK like I’m interested in Katy fscking Perry ???? Or Lady Gaga ???  What is the point, Apple ? Why are you wasting my time with this unadulterated SHIT ?

Ping is embedded in iTunes. It only knows about the iTunes Store. It doesn’t make any kind of useful recommendations.  And if I want to “like” something in my iTunes library, what do I need to do ?  Well, find a song in iTunes, select it, go over to the artist, click through to the Store, find whatever it is I want to like, work out that “Like” is hidden under “BUY”, and click.  Jesus H. Christ on a unicycle, who could possibly have though this was anywhere near good design ?  It is absolutely hopeless.

And then there’s Ping on iPhone… does it offer something approaching the same user experience as on iTunes ? No, of course not!

I’m getting really fed up with this company. All I want, and I suspect many others do, and good, well designed reliable computers that “just work” - as they used to - and if they can manage to keep producing half decent iPods, well I’ll take one of those as well. I’m an iPhone user, but frankly, only because it just about manages to provide an average level of functionality that trumps the competition, and it keeps me entertained on the train.  Just as well I don’t make too many phone calls.

As for a “Social Network for Music”, well, Steve, I suggest you pull your head out of your arse and sign up to Last.fm. Then maybe you’ll understand nobody needs your pathetic disguise at maximizing iTunes revenue.

Minarets Nein Danke

the worst form of government

in General Rants , Monday, November 30, 2009

So the Swiss citizenry has voted quite decisively to outlaw the building of minarets in their country. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the underlying issue are (for the record, I don’t find minarets any more offensive than church towers) what is interesting is the outrage from politicos around the world, especially those that habitually bang on about democracy.

minaret.jpg

What we have hear is pure, unadulterated democracy in action. Democracy actual implies that the will of the majority (with, possibly, some degree of weighting) carries the day. This isn’t at all what the common perception is. When people say something is “undemocratic”, they usually mean “it’s NOT FAIR!” or it is “contrary to the policies of the US of America”. Now they have a clear illustration that democracy doesn’t necessarily produce the result they believe should have happened, or they want. Another example is the fair, democratic election of Hamas in the Palestinian State.

So, yes, it probably isn’t fair to deny Muslims in Switzerland the outward expression of their faith. But it is democratic. Very democratic.

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” - Winston Churchill.

iContact show us how not to do it

Just a little rant. I feel better now.

in General Rants , Monday, October 26, 2009

No further comment really necessary. This sort of thing is simply unacceptable in 2009. Especially from a company that purports to promote responsible, permission-based email marketing.

iScum.jpg

“I am trying to cancel my account, as we no longer need it for this specific purpose. However, since discovering that I cannot in fact cancel online, I must inform you that I will never use your service again, nor will I recommend it to anybody else.

This is fundamentally unethical: if I can sign up online, there is no reason why I should not be able to cancel online.

This is not the hallmark of a trustworthy online business, or one I would wish to do business with.”

Page 1 of 7 pages  1 2 3 >  Last ›