Friday, 27 March 2015

A Bit Of Humor

Slightly different post to usual here. On an impulse I came up with a joke and turned it into what the kids call a bitstrip. Enjoy:


Good Afternoon Reader,

I've been doing quite a bit of thinking about positivist and happiness today. Yesterday I found myself in exceptionally high spirits and it's the weekend now and things are looking up.

One thing that has been a consistent source of good moods for my throughout my life is the weather. I remember as a young lad of 11 or so playing soccer at school one day when it was particularly cold. I remember it well because during half time I stopped and thought to myself "this is great, I'm running around but because it's so cold and there's a strong wind I don't feel hot at all". This was the first time in my life that I realised that I love cold weather and I just can't stand heat. When it's cold I feel like a better person, I am less stressed, I can exercise more and I can focus more intently. I understand other people have similar reactions to heat and sometimes I wonder why people can have such a specific reaction to something so mundane as the weather changing.

I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend as much as I am. Stay frosty.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Blame And Where It Belongs

Good Afternoon Reader,

Alrighty so I've been hearing a lot of talk about the cause of problems. People blame belief systems, ideologies, religions, political views, economic forces, the Sith and just about everything else they can think of. I would like to note that today I'm specifically talking about broader and general matters, not individual personal matters which are a completely different thing (it's fine to blame the Sith if you have a terrible illness or your house blew down and fell on your cat).

However all too often I read and hear things such as "big evil corporations have ruined the nation and we are all paying for it while they get richer" or "socialist commies are destroying the fabric of society because they thing they are entitled to my hard earned money". Many of these arguments do contain useful information and make valid points. What I never hear though is about the reality of our lives. You can organise people in any way you like be it through socialism or capitalism, libertarianism or authoritarianism but these changes do organisation are not changes to the people. Whether your society is divided into companies or governments the same people with the same skills and the same beliefs are still the ones making the society function. If all governments were disbanded tomorrow all those horrible corrupt politicians would seek jobs in companies that befit their skills and given they clearly know how to get to the top chances are they would just end up in similar positions still looking after their own interests regardless of the outcome for everyone else. Likewise if we gather our torches and pitchforks and tear down Big Industry and turn the world into a socialist paradise all those executives and CEOs with their fancy degrees and millionaire's clubs would find positions in the new system that enable them to pursue their own interests.

To drill down to the point of my thoughts today; we need to cut this ridiculous belief that the wrong system is ruining mankind and the right system would immediately give us some grand paradise where everyone is happy and start recognising that we are our issue. If people would really like to see changes for the better that starts with rational people saying "There is no arbitrary system or idea making my life bad. Like those people who seem to have more than me if I just work hard and take opportunities to better myself my life will be better."

Like the rest of you my motivation towards such ideals waxes and wanes but it's my opinion that there is a cycle of blame that needs to be broken and that starts with forgetting who has done what and just doing what you can.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Strength of Character

Hello Again Reader,

Busy day for me today. In addition to my thoughts on the nature of capitalism I've also been wanting to write something about an are that I've often been drawn to for many years now. I first started pondering this after hearing a great quote:
"The measure of a man's character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out",
Baron Thomas Babington Macaulay, British MP.
Ever since hearing this revelatory quote as a teenager it's often been at the forefront of my mind. Influencing the way I have conducted myself (Of course like any human I have strayed from this path from time to time).

But as a young person it's difficult to understand the reason to act in a respectable manner when no one else is around. Having only recently been through the agonies of adolescence myself I recall many times wonder what the purpose of social protocol was and enjoying the sweet taste of breaking such protocols when I was alone. This quote helped me to gain an understanding that I'm never truly alone. Even when there is no one else around to scrutinise and judge me I am still there to scrutinise and judge myself. No matter what I do I will always evaluate and judge my own actions (like most people to a level that would be considered obsession in any other way) and I have to live with those judgements and assessments of who I really am.

These days you can hardly open a newspaper or check a news site without hearing about some public figure, politician or celebrity, committing some terrible indiscretion or having a "lapse of judgement". Hearing this constant flow of evidence that famous and powerful people can make a person wonder what the point of doing the right thing is when so many at the top clearly aren't concerned. For me though I'll always remember that I don't have to live with anyone at all except for myself.

Capitalism: The End Of The Race

Good Morning Reader,

Capitalism was a genius idea. At it's core you harness people's nature to compete and excel and by allowing them to compete you ensure a high level of productivity. It encourages high levels of economic growth, satisfaction for people who work hard and reward for people who innovate.

To allow capitalism to flourish requires a free market. Unfettered by government or irrational intervention. The problem with these kinds of intervention is that they restrict capitalism and run the risk of destroying the reward of capitalism; if you innovate and work hard you might still get nothing and then people lose faith in capitalism and the whole system breaks down.

However for some time I have considered capitalism to have a flaw that it seems to me that not many people have identified. When people are competing eventually someone wins. That winner then receives the prizes and rewards which give them an edge in the next race. To use an analogy capitalism is like putting everyone in a running race. The runners do their thing and at the end the top 3 get medals and recognition. But that's not all they get, other people see their talent and want to invest in them. They get support including expert training, better equipment and as a result a better chance at winning in the next race. In the market it's exactly the same thing. The purpose of capitalism is to get everyone to work as hard as they can and innovate as much as possible and when one group or business does so they make more money and gain more resources. They get better applicants wanting to work with them, can buy better equipment and offer better services meaning they continue to pull further ahead of the rest of the competition. It's then only natural for them to absorb some of their competitors where they can and suddenly you have less of a free market and more of an oligopoly where only a few of the best remain.

So how do you get everyone to compete in a competition where nobody wins but people still try their hardest? Any parent with a child at one of these new fangled weekend football events where they don't keep score can tell you that people don't try their hardest. Balanced situations (as we have in most Western nations today) where you try to keep markets relatively free but with government controls to protect the spirit of the competition also have frequent problems. For now there is no solution. The only one I can see would require people to genuinely start believing in doing what they can for the good of our species.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Who Enjoys Counting?

Ahoy Reader,

Those of you who know me know that I love mathematics. I love learning mathematics, using mathematics and I love how everything in the entire universe can be simplified to mathematical equations and formulae (sort of).

But it was while enjoying a riveting tale of Sherlock Holmes that it struck me that maybe we're all using numbers wrong. Today if you would like to say or write a number we go from biggest to smallest. For example you would say "five hundred and twenty three"; we start with the biggest denomination, hundreds, then descend to tens then singles. However there was a time when it was not unusual to express smaller denominations first and I would imagine in many other languages/numeric systems this is the norm. For example in Sherlock Holmes' tale of The Red-Headed League the tradesman, Mr. Wilson, states that he was paid "two and thirty" pounds.

This got me thinking about whether stating the larger denominations first is actually more efficient and whether it would be easier to start with smaller denominations. On paper and verbally it is the same amount of work to write or say. You are still stating the same total quantity of numbers and stating the denominations in the same way, hundreds, thousands, etc. However there is a benefit to starting with the smallest that is not compensated for by starting with the largest and that is if you start with the smallest number you don't need to know what the biggest is going to be. To help explain I will use an example; if you needed to read out the number 21427871005 most people would need to count the numbers first to check where they are starting (in this case with twenty-one billion, four hundred and twenty-seven thousand, eight hundred and seventy-one thousand, ). If this were a number starting from smallest and ending with largest however there is no preliminary work required. You can start talking straight away. The exact organisation of saying it would be a little confusing at first and it's probably far too impractical to actually change how to arrange numbers but I found it amusing to consider.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Political Parties in Australia

Good Morning Reader,

It's been a little while since my last post, things have been a little crazy with work and uni since I'm doing an additional unit this term (in robotics for those interested). But I've had a little time to consider one of my favourite topics, elections in Australia. This time specifically about the parties and the requirements of a party to run for office in the magical land of Oz.

Currently, and for a very long time, one of the main requirements for any party to run for a seat in parliament is that they have 500 registered, paying members of their party. Parties who do not meet this requirement can not run and if it is found out post-election that they did not have the necessary members it may result in a High Court enquiry and a Bi-election, an expensive outcome for taxpayers especially given the cause. Elections are costly and re-running an election because of an under-supported party with less than 500 members is a particularly undesirable event in my eyes.

But when you consider the requirement itself it may be that we aren't doing it right. 500 people out of the (approximately) 23 million current population of Australia is not very much. 0.00217% of our population in fact. Does having 0.002% of the population really merit a genuine run for office where you are suppose to be representing an electorate of roughly 15,000 people. It seems to me that it would be far more appropriate for us to set the minimum membership requirement as a percentage of our population, ensuring continued fairness of this requirement and preventing the need to review it as our population grows. My personal opinion is that parties should be required to enjoy the support of at least 0.05% of the population (although I think this is still rather low considering what they are running for). Perhaps that would be a good transitional level to set it at with the goal of building to a minimum of 0.5% of the population eventually.