Category Archives: Organic machines

Virginity and Unexpected side-effects

Mark Morford thinks that Christian Virgins Are Destroying America:

No wonder over half of all teens who take any sort of virginity pledge end up breaking the ridiculous vow within a year (says a new Harvard study), and fully 88 percent end up having sex before marriage anyway. What’s more, such silly pledges only result in more oral and anal sex among teens who try, vainly, to adhere. They also marry younger, have fewer sexual partners (read: less skill) and yet have exactly the same rate of STDs as kids who are smart enough to avoid such pointless pledges in the first place.

apparently these virgins don’t need sex education, so they don’t realise that the use of condoms is… ahhh… rather important. Morford reckons they should be running around having lots of safe sex and becoming well rounded, happy members of society.

I blame Bill Clinton:

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

from which America’s youth has determined that taking it up the bum (or putting it into someone’s mouth) is not sex. Nice one guys. Statistical proof above. Apparently it’s called technical virginity. Yep, that’s what God wanted.

Where are the aliens?

Coffee drinkers are easier to persuade.

Fermi’s Paradox is explained by aliens getting adicited to computer gaming.

Strom reckons he knows how to make money with a website: ads! Plus a little other stuff.

An Irishman has a rather good summery of how to negotiate an intial salary.

Cross-platform rounded corners without images, extra markup nor CSS. The holy grail of web-design dweebs.

Too Many Meetings Make You Grumpy: study

There’s a Popular Science article on scientific studies that have confirmed the obvious, including:

  1. Too Many Meetings Make You Grumpy
  2. Swallowing More Than One Magnet is Dangerous
  3. Memory and Concentration Fade With Age
  4. Women Like Funny Men (to me, not so obvious. I’m a funny guy and… anyway, I think this one might be wrong.)
  5. Time Flies When You’re Busy

But, on the flipside, they’ve disproved some widely held beliefs too. Such as kids liking Santa.

Parenting magazines and Witchcraft

The difference between Science and Witchcraft is peer-reviewed double blind tests.

I have hearing loss as a result of an ear infection, so seeing this baloney annoys me on a deeply personal level – I don’t like the idea of kiddies ears going down the same path as mine because of faith-based approach to healing. I’ve discovered back issues of parenting magazines can be borrowed from our local library, and I stumbled across this issue of Practical Parenting.

Practical Parenting Magazine
July 2005, pg 74
Homeopathy for Ear Infections

The article started off with

“Editor’s Note: PP brings you this information in the interest of presenting a balanced view, but it should not take the place of medical advice: Make sure your GP knows the approach you are taking.”

Which shows they know they’re fooling around with fire. I want to know, why? The best answer I can come up with is that so many people are using homeopathy that the editors wanted to caution them against turning their backs on modern medicine and whatever benefits it may offer (peer reviewed double-blind tests not withstanding).
When are they going to run the article on the pros of paedophilia, in the interest of presenting a balanced view? Or, for the same reasons, something on balancing the humours? Can’t something just be plain old wrong? Can’t you slap your readers around like Stupid Lemon Eaters?

“Homeopathy works well together with the care offered by modern medical practice.”

Which can be restated as “drinking water will cure you, if you’re using antibiotics at the same time.” Or, summarily, “if you’re using antibiotics, drinking water won’t stop you getting better.” I say: if you want to experience the placebo effect, get your doctor to prescribe some Obecalp.

So Cathy and I looked at each other and decided this magazine was crap and that we’d only read the competitor in the future. After all, on their Editorial board, Woolworths Australian Parents Magazine have got an Obstertrician, a Midwife, a Paediatrician, a Dietitian, a Clinical Psychologist and a Breastfeeding counsellor; the magazine’s branded by Woolworths (the second largest retail company in Australia). They may as well call themselves Evidence-based ‘R Us. Then I see in the current issue:

Woolworths Australian Parents Magazine
Feb/Mar 2006, pg 62
Alternative treatments for glue ear.

Unlike Practical Parenting, Australian Parents saw no need to give a disclaimer that these alternative treatments at best don’t actually work and at worst will injure your child.

However, there are a range of alternative health approaches that are very effective either used on their own or in conjunction with traditional medicine.
(emphasis added)

I can smell a lawsuit. Medical advice without a disclaimer is one thing, but wrong medical advice and you’re up the creek without a paddle. And believe me, I looked for the disclaimer; plenty of information about the publisher of the magazine, nothing saying “don’t take our word for it, actually go to a doctor and get laughed at.”

Homeopathy is, says Patricia, a route that requires patience. Children will be prescribed oral drops which they may have to take for up to a year.

Given that these infections can last as long as six weeks, I’d hope that a year would “cure” the disease. Glue ear is a combination infection and mechanical failure; unless the homeopathic remedy is being shot up the Eustachian tubes, it’s not going to be any help. As double-blind tests have proven. And I can assure you from personal experience, a middle ear infection and the resultant injuries is no barrel of laughs.

The article goes on to recommend, amongst other quackery, ear candling as a remedy. I hate to tell you this, but setting your child on fire is not a safe way to deal with a middle ear infection; worse yet, it doesn’t work. Ear candling is dangerous.

Why not run an article on the healing effects of prayer, which is not only safe and cheap but proven to have some effect?

In the good old days, witches used to be burnt at the stake.

Science or Witchcraft – you choose.

Binary Output

Last night Owen started experiencing the symptoms of his first cold, which prompts me to talk about communications with babies. Newborn babies have only one output mode: screaming. Communicating with the world is a somewhat limited experience when joy, fear and hunger are all exhibited using the same mode of operation. From observation, crying may mean:

  1. Please feed me.
  2. I need to burp.
  3. I’m cold.
  4. I’m tired, please put me to sleep.
  5. I wish my nappy to be changed.
  6. The { toy | valuable object | fragile object } that I can’t reach – give it to me. Now.
  7. No, not that one, the other one.
  8. I’m bored. Amuse me.
  9. Ow, that really hurts.
  10. Carry me / lift me up.
  11. Holy crap! Don’t let that happen again! Are you listening?

Often, context will allow distiction between these options. It’s like a computer system saying “Something went wrong.” I’ve seen computer systems, particularly embedded ones, behave in a similar way. Often through design. Like, if they give you one red / green LED, then you’ve got green – all is good, red – not so good. You might get away with blinking them, and maybe even combining them to form orange, but there’s only so far you can take that (“Hmm, 600ms blink rate – that must mean that ethernet port two has a receive failure – because a 650ms blink rate would mean RAM failure”). That BIOSes doing their Power On Self Test use the PC speaker to report error codes prior to the video system coming online, I think the maximum number of beeps you’d get out of that was eleven… better pay attention and count them out. And a lot of Common Object Model errors are along the lines of “COM didn’t work because something failed”.

Interestingly, often babies don’t care too much that you understand them. They’ll keep on with the output, secure in the knowledge that you’re doing everything you can to determine what it is that they’re trying to say. And servicing one system fault may merely unmask another – a wet nappy may be followed by the need for a feed.

Screeching may also mean:

  1. This is great fun.
  2. Ha! You found me!
  3. Look at that guy, he’s funny.
  4. Hello, toy. You’re red.

The point being, the obviously inferior nature of binary output means it’s replaced as soon as possible by something else. Talking, outputing to screen, COM+, whatever. Oh, except COM+.

Cathy and I want to increase the output vocabulary of our son by using Baby Sign Language, mainly as a way of avoiding the expected trantrums: apparently, kids can sign much earlier than they can talk – like, children of deaf parents are signing from six weeks of age. Most excellently, I got given a book on the subject for Christmas, and joy-of-joys it was Australian made, so rather than American Sign Language, it was filled with AUSLAN, meaning it will have some use as a language outside on family communication (6500 Aussies – my perceived use rate is higher, because I work on St Kilda Road – home of the Victorian College for the Deaf). I’m seeing some comprehension from him, but I’m yet to see him generate any signs. Having re-read the Wikipedia article on the subject, I’m going to try to sign with Cathy when he can see us. I’ll let you know how this little experiment turns out.