Categories
Geek

In charge of the Internet

Followers, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury the Internet, not to praise it. The nonsense that men post lives after them; The good is oft interred with their likes. I propose therefore that we unite and arise. Arise, Followers of Geek Ergo Sum! Hit counts will shall be shaken and drafts splintered! A post a day… a red day… ere the sun rises!

Let today be the beginning of a glorious new era of the Internet as we rally together and form the United Nations of Bloggers, and it is with great reluctance that I have agreed to this calling. I love the internet. I love the Republic. Once this crisis has abated, I will lie down the powers you have given me, but for today I shall lead UNoBs.

I have banned anyone unable to post on Facebook from posting. Are you a cat? Then you cannot type and have no place posting. Are you an infant? Facebook has rules about how old you can be to use the site and by replacing your parents in my newsfeed you are breaking the law. Are you a chain letter telling me to share with a hundred people or I get Ebola? Then you are inanimate and unable to post, or even read this.

Once I have resolved the Facebook issue, I plan to focus on search engines that aren’t Google. You should give in and accept you lost Bing. Remember did Thomas Edison give up when he couldn’t invent the electric light bulb? Of course not, he stole someone else’s invention from their widow and passed it off as his own.

Youtube, you will allow me to search for other videos while watching a video and not change the page so I lose the video I am watching. While I’m at it I’m glad you’ve got rid of anonymous posting. This will make it much easier for my secret Internet “safety” police to identify anyone who will post nasty hate comments on my videos of Vice President Fluffy Whiskers.

  • Automatic playing adverts – Banned
  • E-Commerce sites that don’t allow guest checkouts – Banned
  • Sites that make it difficult to cancel your account or unsubscribe – Banned (in the sense that they have to make it easy)
  • Any download link that requires additional clicks to download something – Banned
  • Sites that disagree with me – Banned
  • Sites that have lots of mobile traffic and still use Flash – Banned
  • Sites that demean others by judging other’s lifestyle, fashion or appearance – Banned
  • The Daily Mail Online – Banned
  • Poorly designed websites – Banned
  • Memes over 7 days old – Banned
  • People who post memes over 7 days old – Banned

The Internet’s death was a terrible tragedy; but to lose our freedom of speech, which had barely lived… For me it is a deep personal loss. So it is with a heavy heart that I assume the throne. Yet, out of the ashes of this tragedy, we shall rise to greet the dawning of a new era… in which Internet and User come together, in a great and glorious future!

Categories
Geek

Read me to sleep

I have four bookcases with 600 books. They range from a history of the bible to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson via Marx and bridges. From Roald Dahl to Jose Saramago through Hugo and Melville. Like everything else in my life there is an eclectic mix of topics, they are just sitting there collecting dust.

I could once set myself a target of reading fifteen books a year, and could achieve that. A combination of plenty of alone time and a comfortable toilet seat meant I could power through a book in a week. Parenting has slowed my reading to a crawl. I love reading, but what can I do to read more?

I used to read on the train to work but what happens when I reach my destination and I haven’t finished? So I can’t read Game of Thrones on the locomotive, I would go sailing by my stop and spend an evening on the rail network.

First thing in the morning is not that conducive to doing mental tasks, especially those that require visual acuity to do. My eyes and brain are too tired to process the words on a page. Considering tome in my satchel is “The signal and the noise”, about using big data to forecast events, then I may just call this a losing battle.

Perhaps I should read at night before I go to sleep, but reading excites me. Whether it is because I’m reading an enjoyable novel or an interesting piece of nonfiction having a glance at a book at night only wakes me up. I suppose I could try something less exciting, or boring, but do you know what they call those books… Man Booker prize winners. I’m looking at you Life of Pi, a book so boring it makes me angry I even read the back cover blurb.

Seriously, don’t bother with Life of Pi.

It should be good sleep hygiene to turn off a screen and pick up the sheets of paper that don’t burn into your brain and keep you awake. Yet I’m buying more and more digital books just so the next time I move I don’t have to pack them all up.

Just like the train ride, I also don’t want to reach a point where the book is smashing into my face because I’m too tired to stop reading an exciting part. The stress of a Red Wedding is not the ideal preparation for a good night’s sleep.

So now the only time I get to read is around 7pm when the Feliciraptor goes to bed and she gets her bedtime story. I’ve already read The Tiger that came to Tea and Dr Seuss so instead I will read some of my own books, I have a rather interesting one on quantum physics and the last Game of Thrones I’m still working on. It will be a strange childhood for them.

Categories
Thoughts

Four simple rules

Life is a mess if you don’t impose a little order on it. It’s impossible to control every little moment but it handy to have a set of rules.

The rules I have are not very complex, in fact I copy most of them from major religions or motivational posters, but they are the code that I try to live by (but like most rules they are merely guidelines for acceptable behaviour).

This is not an attempt to say that how I lead life makes me a good person, or that if you follow these rules, it will make you a better person, I just think they may help.

So the rules, and none of them will reference Fight Club.

Rule 1 – ‘That’ rule.

No, not ‘that’ rule but ‘the’ rule. The do unto others one. I think there is a reason it is a universal and well-accepted rule, it is for most people an ideal way to live your life. I mean nobody really wants to be badly treated so why would you do the same to others?

Rule 2 – Don’t make others cry.

Sometimes it is hard to follow Rule 1, and sadly there are some people who just don’t care, so I think it is important to add in an error rule that tries to capture any failures. Try not to do anything that will hurt someone else, this doesn’t apply to ‘telling’ them try not to do anything which means you have a guilty secret.

Rule 3 – On balance try to do more good.

None of us are saints, we can’t and won’t lead lives that are examples of perfect human beings. We all like to think we follow moral or religious teachings but we all slip. We all judge we shouldn’t and we all have our prejudices. So Rule 3 is about balancing that by trying to be better than that. This isn’t a “you gave money to charity so you can hit a dog” kind of deal, follow Rules 1 & 2 so you don’t do that.

Rule 4 – Do your best.

Even if you fail at all others, just try

Categories
Geek

Boring Books

In recent years I have lost the reading bug, being married means I have other things to do at night than curl up with a good book. For instance, making lunches and doing the washing up. As a result, I have to be more particular with which novel I pick up. There may be plenty of problems with The Da Vinci Code, but it did something Captain Corelli’s Mandolin couldn’t. Make me want to turn the page, and that is a key factor for a book getting its teeth into me.

I read Life of Pi, and I am told it is a well-written book, but I thought it was rubbish. It won literary prizes but nothing happened, or if it did, I missed it. For me this is the greatest crime any book can commit, to be boring. It helps if it is fun, but some of my favourite books (like The Book Thief or Hey Nostradamus) are oppressive. They still wanted me to finish them because they had a real bite from page one that refused to let go.

This is the problem, I’m not a fan of books that explore the deep hidden truths of what makes the human spirit, or any of that similar nonsense excitedly lapped up by book prize judges. As a fan of genre writing I am constantly frustrated that there are some amazing writers that are ignored, just because they write fantasy (thinking of China Mieville here, it’s a literary-crime that none of his novels have won outside of the geeks award circle).

All the time I am being preached at, told how crap the world is out there. Entertain me like a Roman Emperor looking down on a father who will get his revenge in one of many worlds. I want action, or fun, or just something that resembles forward momentum. I don’t care if it is hard to read because it is so literary. I’ve read Nobel literature winners (seriously Jose Saramago is amazing) so this isn’t about being an adjective snob, it’s about stories that have little narrative. If I can read the synopsis of your book on Wikipedia and it still bores me, then I will not invest in reading your 300 page novel.

To help me avoid the boring books the publishing industry has helpfully created a category to allow me to avoid them, they called it the MAN Booker Prize.

Rather than sitting here moaning, I should get my fingers sorted and start writing a novel. The question then arises what kind of story would I write? Will it be a deeply layered mythos like Middle Earth or Bas-Lag? A modern sci-fi parable about the dangers of science or a fantastical hero’s journey across ancient lands? A 500 page novel of danger and thrills, or a 300 comedy?

They say you should write what you know.

So coming soon to all good bookstores…”My life behind the screen”. The tale of a man who sits on his computer all day hoping to write a great piece of fiction that will make him millions, but puts it off and is far too easily distracted by cricket and girls. That sounds so dull and boring… perhaps I have a chance of winning the MAN Booker prize.

Categories
Thoughts

Breaking your resolutions

It’s the first week of January which means it is the traditional time to break all the resolutions that we all set a few days ago. Already I’m doing less exercise and treating vegetables as the enemy.

I’m trying to recall making a proper resolution to keep, one of the big “I will change my life” resolutions such as finding love or learning Klingon. Or even something as absurd as taking up running and eating humus. However, I can’t recall making a single one of these promises.

I am always confused why people determine that they will change their lives based upon the arbitrary date chosen to start a new calendar. Is there a difference to your willpower from the 31st December to the 1st January, what is it about the changing of the year that makes people decide that this is now the point at which they are going to the gym or to sort out their lives?

I would think the science behind keeping a New Year’s Resolution would show that you are more likely to fail at a life changing pledge if you select a start date as opposed to just doing it when you first think of it. Surely you would be more successful at exercising if one Tuesday in June you just started going to the gym or running around the park.

In effect by marking the beginning of the year as a new start you are writing off any chance for improvement for the rest of the year. If on November 7th you decide that you will attempt to go on more dates won’t this just mean you will not try for the next seven weeks? In my experience putting something off once just means you will put it off time and time again.

Just like a puppy a New Year’s Resolution is not just for the festive period, real life change is not just a flash in the pan with a half-hearted attempt to learn to knit or start saving for a house. It’s hard work to break habits and by choosing to use a method notorious for broken promises and not being taken seriously it is surely a set-up for failure.

So rather than making resolutions (which as the United Nations shows are unenforceable and ineffective) set goals, aim to do something by June or October. It gives you more time to recover from any setbacks and won’t make you feel like a failure should you open that bar of chocolate later today.

Categories
Thoughts

Leaving a legacy

To have a legacy, you need to have done something that is worth remembering. History is not fickle, the good and the great are as notable as the bad and the wicked.

Some will live in a collective consciousness. Names like Julius Caesar, Napoleon, or Einstein. Known by many, but perhaps by some without having a clue why. Yet what makes these figures more famous than other less well-known, yet arguably more important, people. What about Augustus, Qin Shi Huang or Brahe? (I am speaking mainly from an anglo centric point of view here, I know the Chinese or Danish may see things differently).

The ancient Egyptians used to destroy the cartouches of pharaohs they wanted to strike from history, yet we still know of Hatshepsut. For some cultures being forgotten was like a second form of death, as if some way your spirit would cease to exist if your legacy was erased. Maybe this is a consideration, how long do you want to be remembered for?

Once you are forgotten you have no legacy

We have lost the names of countless millions to the ages. The sailors on the Greek triremes, the wives of crusader knights, the faceless victims of colonialism. Those who live on only in records, disembodied names who only exist when somebody observes them. Heisenberg humans.

Most of us will be lucky to be remembered for anymore than a few generations, first as parents then as grandparents. Yet as your grandchildren pass who will be there who can remember your face, the way you smile or how they used to play football with you in the park? There are 7 billion people who will need to be forgotten in a hundred years.

Yet many if us are building our own legacy. More of us than ever are producing information about ourselves and the world. We are living in a legacy gold rush, furled by Facebook, twitter and blogs. Sites like YouTube and Wikipedia have given my generation a way to push their existence to millions, should the technology exist in a century there may be someone who stumbles upon an article or video you gave produced.

Myself? I am not going to be remembered as a great writer, scientist or leader and I do not wish to be known for my infamy.

All I ask for is to be remembered, at least for a little while.

Categories
Writing

Open bracket close bracket

I have an interesting relationship with Mrs G because of my interesting relationship with the English language. I love both but sometimes have a strange way of showing it. In terms of my affection for my native language I show this by my liberal use of punctuation.
If there is the slightest opportunity to throw in a non-alphanumeric character, I will take it. Comma, question mark? I will use it even if it is the exclamation mark!

Still, I have my favourites, and most of my writing (whether personal or professional) will include them… and I have used them all in this one sentence.

The first I use, or abuse, is the comma. This post is unusual in that the opening sentence doesn’t use this device. Normally the first line is split in two by one and they will litter the rest of my prose. I use them for pauses, for side thoughts, and as this sentence will show also in the Oxford style.

When I feel I’ve gone on a bit too far with the comma, I’ll rely on my trusted brackets. I should use these sparingly (some style guides tell me on many occasions) but I love throwing in asides. Having the brackets gives me the freedom to write as I think, and even in they are not entirely necessary (they are) my use of the opening and closed brackets reflects how my brain works.

My final punctuation quirk is the use of the ellipsis. I don’t follow the style guides here either as my usage is not to illustrate omission but to trail off my thoughts… just like this post…

Categories
Travel

Surviving a desert island

Imagining the necessities I would need for survival on a desert island can lead me one of two ways. I could either choose the sensible option of equipment that would prolong my life until I’m rescued or expire, or take the other path and select items as ill thought out as a Government healthcare website.

So the healthcare. gov route it is.

When I’m stranded on a deserted island in today’s age the likelihood is that I will never be rescued. I will have been travelling by plane or boat and both of them have GPS systems that allow rescuers to track where I disappeared. If I am truly lost, then there will be little hope for me. I may as well be stuck on an island that is a metaphor for limbo with random numbers, polar bears and that guy who played a hobbit.

Some form of electricity generation.

I’m not saying this needs to be a full on nuclear power plant as I know what happens when they go wrong. Just some other method of being able to run any electronic devices I may have with me on my island. They may be a spoiler, but pretend to be shocked when I come on to Smartphone.

A Smartphone

One that has GPS and Google Maps on, it will help me work out if I am stuck in the middle of the Pacific with no hope of rescue, or just the other side of a Sandals resort. Nobody wants to be the guy who started drinking his own pee when just a few miles away there was all you can drink margaritas. Plus, you can preload some films and games on to pass the time. Finally, a way to catch up on all the Peak TV I have missed.

A pair of sandals

Handy for the beach (which could have hot sand) and walking in the jungle (where it could be thorny). I know that given time the skin on my feet will get hard and give some protection like nature intended, but rather than getting septicaemia while I wait for the callouses I’ll just settle for some sensible footwear.

Twenty tons of McDonald’s

If I will die I might as well choose my death and I pick heart disease. It is not the most nutritionally balanced option but given the fact I may not hunt for my food (because I’m not a natural hunter so will starve before I become proficient) I’ll take the one foodstuff that never rots. Seriously, it doesn’t go off thanks to all the preservatives. After the apocalupse all that will survive are cockroaches, Lego and Big Macs.

Suncream

Because protection against the sun is still important.

Categories
Thoughts

More of Me

I’m sure this is not a sentiment shared by many others, in fact other people may consider it to be akin to the apocalypse, but I really wish there was more of me to go around.

I’m not talking about the volume of my expanding waistline, I am not looking to increase my vertical (or horizontal) height, I just wish there was another version of me to do all the crap jobs. An assistant Geek Ergo Sum that could do all the boring bits of life, like the cleaning or going to work. That way I could spend more time doing the things I enjoy whilst leaving all the other jobs to someone I can trust to do it the way I would like; me. Forget Dolly the Sheep, what I really want is my clone.

Yes, there are several ethical and philosophical issues around having an exact clone made of myself, and especially for doing all the menial work I want to get rid of. If they had the same physicality, mind and memory as me then who is really the clone and who is me.

This isn’t an exercise in being uber clever about the reality of the self though. This is a look at if I had a clone how would we split up our responsibilities, how would I divide my life tasks to lead a better and healthier existence. The temptation is to send Geek Ergo Sum #2 to work for me, get them to do all the housework and just live a life sat in front of the TV and relax.

By doing that who is living my life, me or #2? As much as this pains me to say, we must share the workload. Beware work colleagues there are now two Mes on the team.

This would be handy, as actually there is the need for two of us on the team (and I assume that the budget will allow for another FTE). My task list seems to only ever be increasing with menial tasks and ad hoc reports to produce with little time to get my teeth into some real analysis that could make a huge difference to our business. It’s my fault as I’m good with creating reports so I am given a list of ones that to create with very little time to think about them and interpret them.

With my clone however this is perfect, #2 can concentrate on Excel, Access, VBA and trying to make the myriad of IT systems give accurate and meaningful data. This is what I do at the moment, but with my newly gained free time I can develop real insights into customer behaviour and work on recommendations from the data. I will be able to the Data and Analysis of my Data Analysis job title, rather than spending all day forwarding emails around and trying to fix spreadsheets.

This is the problem so many people have, not having enough time to do all the work they need to. With employers being too worried to take new staff on we are being asked to do more and more with what little time we have. When someone leaves a team we ask the remaining few to split that persons workload amongst them. With little enough time as it is we are being stretched thinner and thinner and feel as though we would like to see that ring we gave Frodo one last time.

The advantage of having a clone at work would be at least I know what they are doing, and how they did it. This is my weakness with delegation, I like to be sure that they have done it in the manner to which I am accustomed. Even when using the various MI systems in place, that have cost millions and took months to implement, I am still not 100% sure of the numbers because I didn’t do them myself. At least with my clone I wouldn’t have to explain VLOOKUP or how to use a pivot table, in fact the more I think about it the more this seems like a good idea.

Okay what we need is developments in science to advance to allow human cloning, sped up aging, and the transference of knowledge and experience to said clone. This all needs to happen as soon as possible, preferably within the next 3 months.

Or instead of a clone I would just settle for an assistant, that way I need not worry about them taking over my life and killing me to be #1. I’ve seen enough science fiction to know that duplicating yourself is not a good idea (or with Multiplicity… a good film).

Categories
Geek

Dummies for Dummies

The world is full of stupid people; the results of elections and the popularity of certain TV shows are evidence on this. One publisher has spotted a niche in the market and has guides on everything dummies may want. Look in any bookstore and most sections you will see books with yellow spines declaring a quick and easy guide to that subject.
This weekend I was looking around for a book on Excel dashboards (and have found one – Excel Dashboards for Dummies) but then ended up on Amazon stumbling around the ‘For Dummies’ section. There are loads of them; a quick check says there are over 1,600 different titles.

This piqued my curiosity, what else could I learn about through the medium of Richard Tennant cartoons (is it just me or does anyone else first scan through to find the 5th Wave captions) and lists of ten things? What areas of my knowledge they could enhance from dummy status?

Well, Mrs G loves the Narnia series, no panic… C.S. Lewis & Narnia for Dummies can provide a friendly introduction to the master storyteller and Christian apologist, revealing the meanings behind The Chronicles of Narnia and The Screwtape Letters and his other works. You’ll also discover why Lewis went from being a confirmed atheist to a committed Christian and how he addressed his beliefs in his writings. Different from how to do a VLOOKUP.

No topic is too obscure. Acne, Dungeon Mastery, Clarinet, Finches, Marathon Training, Sustainable Australian Travel, Urban Planning or Parenting. This got me thinking… if I could read a different For Dummies book every week then in a year’s time I would be 52 different areas cleverer (perhaps I should tackle grammar first).

It won’t be as random as I will look for topics that I might have some interest in, and books that I can easily read (at £20 a pop I will rely on those I can read previews of online or at the bookstore).

How dangerous can a bit of extra knowledge be? A whole generation of Leaders appear to understand the world and science based upon a cursory glance on an overview of Climate Change or social policy.