Category Archives: Ramblings

The random ramblings of an Aspie, you have my apologies.

David-Cameron-Nick-Clegg-006

ConDemNation for the disabled

David Cameron & Nick CleggI’m afraid this is a very UK based post today, as I step into the murky world of politics – somewhere I rarely venture, mainly because I don’t believe any particular political party has a mandate that I feel entirely comfortable with.

Over the past 15 years we have made some real tangible progress in the UK in the field of Equality. We haven’t gone far enough, but things certainly have changed for the better in this area. Members of the public, some employers and even some politicians were beginning to grasp the very simple concept that Equality is not about treating people the same, it is about ensuring they have the same opportunities where possible, in other words, the means is far less important than the outcome. Slowly but surely it has become OK to be different, and as someone who is different, let me assure you, I am relieved about that.

Although I haven’t been a Labour supporter for some time, it is true that under a Labour government, we made unprecedented progress in accepting that people with disabilities are valued and useful members of society. When you look closely at our benefits system, it is there in order to promote equality, to help those who need extra care, who need help to give their children an acceptable quality of life or to help support those who spend their lives caring for a loved one who can’t care for themselves. It is there to give these people a fighting chance. The new coalition government is freezing these benefits and a cut hasn’t been ruled out either.

David Cameron seems at heart to be a One-Nation Conservative, but is he? One Nationalism as a concept claims to support social institutions that maintain harmony between different interest groups, classes, and—more recently—different races or religions. One of the key institutions that is held at the heart of this ethos is the Welfare State. Yet here we are, with a Conservative / Liberal coalition, lead by a One Nation Conservative, and one of the first ports of call on his agenda is to look at Disability Living Allowance and to force all disabled people to go through a medical assessment between 2013-16 in order to keep their benefit.

DLA is not means tested, it is provided for disabled people to help pay for non-medical related care and to pay toward mobility. Many people require this benefit in order to work, but the benefit itself has nothing to do with the ability to work. Under the new medical assessment, the whole scope of a persons disability and how it affects them day to day will be judged in a twenty minute session by a doctor who has taken a few minutes to read that persons notes and who is being paid on a case by case basis for these assessments. It seems to me for those people with Mental Health issues on these benefits, this is going to be an unnecessarily stressful process.

Obviously people committing benefit fraud need to be caught, but the government is looking to reduce DLA payments by 20%, and I am sorry, but one in five people are not on the fiddle. Most independent reports put fraudulent claims at or around 6%. To address this problem, the government is in the process of releasing the details of everyone on benefits to private credit agencies – yes that’s right your confidential details held by the government passed on to a private company, so that they can check to see if your spending habits are suspicious. How that works with DLA, which as I mentioned earlier is non-means tested is anyone’s guess.

I don’t personally claim Disability Living Allowance, as I don’t feel I need it, but I am worried that if a Conservative ideology follows true to form, then again the vulnerable members of society will come out worst, and will be seen as a drain on society. In essence, there is a strong risk here that we will see a large step backwards where Equality for the disabled is concerned.

We can only hope for less Con-Dem-Nation for the disabled, but don’t count on it.

Banjo01

Feeling a bit guilty

This is Banjo (formerly & briefly known as Dylan). There is a very good reason that Banjo is looking sorry for himself and is going a quite convincing impression of  a broken lamp, and that reason is that he was neutered yesterday.

I have been told time and time again that unless you are going to breed from your dog, it is always good practice to neuter male dogs. Apparently they get sexually frustrated and are more likely to run away (or under a car) should they get the scent of a female on heat. These reasons make sense and are enough to convince me that it is the right thing to do. In fact our male cats are neutered too for similar reasons.

A recent documentary on the BBC told us that in the UK on average one stray or unwanted dog is put to sleep every hour, which frankly is another great reason to have your dog fixed. Why potentially add to a very serious problem?

Apparently there are serious health risks associated with not having your dog neutered, although I must admit, I am a little more dubious about that argument. Obviously if you remove your dogs’ testicles, then testicular cancer is unlikely to say the least, but I was told by a vet recently that cancer is very common in “in-tact” male dogs. Alright, Mother Nature and natural selection may not have much to do with Banjo’s appearance, but his basic biology is pretty much the same as his bigger pack hunting cousins and I am a little unsure as to why evolution would lumber male canines in particular with a ticking cancerous time bomb. Still I am not a vet and I am sure there is a good reason.

Incidentally I am writing this at 6am, as Banjo keeps waking up thinking his head is trapped in something because of the lampshade, which causes him to panic and to pull his stitches.

As the title of this post suggests, I am feeling a bit guilty, one male to another, I find it quite difficult to catch Banjo’s eye, which for once has nothing to do with Aspergers Syndrome.

Poor Banjo!

ZenEmu X

Steve Jobs

Steve, Steve, Steve…

Steve, Steve, Steve…

Oh Dear, Steve Jobs has been making waves again. Now it looks like he is prepared to go to war against Adobe, but who will the casualties be? I suspect it will be us. Still, whether he’s a genius or a madman, you have to respect his determination.

As you know I am a fan of his holiness – Steve Jobs. Recently he has been let down by his website design team. While instilling the virtues of HTML 5 and the evils of flash recently, Steve pointed out how easily HTML 5 can work easily across all platforms and how quickly it can be adopted. Apple posted examples on its website, but they are limited to Safari, not a good move by Apple. Steve, if you read this, take my advice and fire the lot of them. It wouldn’t surprise me if they design  Apples websites on Windows XP machines just to laugh behind your back.

So whats the deal with HTML 5 anyway?

Well HTML4 and CSS are messy to begin with, you see different browsers deal with HTML and CSS in slightly different ways, meaning the final output is not necessarily exactly how you would want it in every single browser. Although there are tricks to get around these minor browser niggles, it can often mean using lots of snippets of code which are superfluous to other browsers. In short, browser developers hate website developers.

HTML5 doesn’t change any of the above. What it does do is add some new functions which will remove the need for some third party browser plug-ins like Flash. The most common use of flash these days is to play video, but most flash video is also encoded in a format called H.264, which HTML5 supports naively. It has greater built in audio support as well for most of the common formats. It also adds some much needed advanced animation options and commands too. Sounds pretty cool doesn’t it? And it would be if everybody was on-board and all the browsers adopted it and agreed to compile it in the same way, unfortunately there are already arguments, disagreements and poor development of the new generations of HTML 5 browsers.

Steve may be making his stand against flash (and to be honest, there is a definite element of sour cider, between Apple and Adobe who own Flash, as they have had a long and often fiery history. Adobe it seems, have been woefully slow in updating flash and making it run more smoothly. Flash has always been a system resource hog (try playing a flash game on a laptop while running on battery, you will see what I mean), and things simply haven’t been improved enough if at all for small portable devices like the IPhone, Ipad, Ipod and Blackberry to name a few. Flash eats vast amounts of memory and takes up a surprising amount of CPU time, whereas HTML5 performing similar functions doesn’t really. Newer portable devices have hardware specifically for decoding H.264 video for example, which dramatically increases battery life over flash.

Adobe, to be fair make some fairly decent products like Photoshop, but they also make some dire products too like acrobat reader, which many of you will have installed.  Their mainstream products tend to be pretty good, if somewhat over priced, but things like Acrobat Reader, Flash, Shockwave and Air are simply not updated often enough and as any web developer will tell you, they are poorly coded and unnecessarily bulky and worse still, you have to wait for Adobe to update them. So Steve has some pretty valid points here.

Unfortunately, what Steve is not going to get around is the plain and simple fact that a truly vast amount of websites use flash these days, and as such possibly as much as 25% of websites will have some non-viewable Flash content on them which Apples portable devices simply can see. In short Steve appears to be in a bind, to flash or not to flash? Steve shose to protect his modesty. A brave if somewhat questionable choice. Still with two million Ipads sold in two months, it seems the public are backing Steve on this one.

It seems that his website development team aren’t the only ones letteing poor old Steve down. Recently when presenting Iphone 4 to the press on stage, Steve’s Iphone broke. Happily Steve didn’t kill anyone for these mistakes, well not personally anyway.

Remember, Men love war because it makes them look serious. Sadly it is the one thing that stops women laughing at them.

Zen Emu X

EDIT – AUGUST 2012: Just recently Adobe announced it was no longer actively developing Flash for Android devices – It seems Steve knew what he was talking about after all!

Avatar

Avatar

So last week we bought some comedy glasses and went to see Avatar in 3d and it was good.

To be fair there isn’t much of a story line, but the most has been made of what there is. The CGI was a little glitchy in places too, and the 3d rendering was a little flaky as well. I did enjoy it though as did Avaloncariad, although we both looked a little like Roy Orbison.

My main criticism though, is how bloody expensive it is to go to the cinema these days! Nearly a thirty quid for two tickets, two lots of popcorn and some comedy specs!

In my day you used to sneak in though the fire door with your own food, but then my brother got a job in demolition and knocked down my local cinema, along with all those magical childhood memories – he is a git, but that is another post entirely.

Here’s the thing with James Cameron, despite being a genius, the man is an idiot. Look at his filmography:

He started with Piranha 2: The Spawning, which would be the worst movie ever made, only nobody apart from me has ever seen it.

He made Terminator, a fantastic film.

He made Rambo 2, not a good film but forgivable – people have done worse things for money.

Then he gives us Aliens, The Abyss and Terminator 2 – some of the best sci-fi films made.

Then, and I can only assume it was due to some sort of blow to the head, he decides Schwarzenegger would be a good comedy actor and makes True Lies.

Titianic better ending

As for Titanic, where is the actual story? As far as I can see it is less about a boat sinking and more about a selfish bitch who fancies a bit of rough, and then lets the poor sod she supposedly loves freeze to death in the sea while she is all comfy and safe floating on a door and then chooses to repay his sacrifice by not acknowledging he existed for the next 70 years or so. If that isn’t depressing enough, Jimmy also chooses to inflict Celine Dion on us. Personally I think he should be fined every time THAT song gets air time.

 

Anyway, back on to the subject at hand. Having watched the Avatar I don’t really understand what  message Cameron is trying to get across this time. It’s almost like Bono and Sting helped to co-write it.

All I know is if you go to Pandora, don’t expect to be able to park or go shopping, because the locals are sexy blue tree hugging giant neo luddites with bad temper and suspicious and borderline immoral animal training practices.

Personally I don’t see the attraction of living in an environment where everything is trying to eat you all the time, but hey, I am an imbecile. As for the mineral “Unobtainium”, sorry Jimmy, you deserve a clip around the ear for that one son.

“If you have to go 4 1/2 light years to another, made-up planet to appreciate this miracle of the world that we have right here, well, you know what, that’s the wonder of cinema right there, that’s the magic.” – Yeah, to be honest I am still none the wiser.

Another thing I can’t help wondering about, is this whole 3d thing when it comes to DVD and Bluray. As I understand it, 3d ready TVs are ridiculously expensive, and don’t work very well, so having seen it in 3d, will anyone want it in 2d? I think Jimmy may well have shot himself in the foot there when it comes to DVD sales. Of course I am always wrong about these things, so it will probably break all records for DVD sales.

Still I daresay there will be at least two Avatar sequels, probably an Avatar: the  TV series at some point too. I can’t help feeling that these will be all very cute though, a bit like a Care Bears movie in 3d for teenagers and preachy environmentalists. If you haven’t seen it yet, go and have a look it is good, unless you happen to be a Jeremy Clarkson disciple, in which case don’t you will burst into flames.

If anyone can actually elaborate on what this film is actually about, please feel free to share.

Remember, suburbia is where bulldozers knock down tree’s so that developers can name streets after them.

Zen Emu

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painted

Such is life

It has occurred to me recently that the world is becoming an increasingly surreal place. For example, we live in a world where things like THIS are allowed to happen. Maybe I am wrong. It could well be that bioluminescent hamster powered lamps may be the way forward. Perhaps taking small pets and turning them into alternative energy sources is the way to go. It would certainly cut down on carbon emissions. Personally I don’t feel that I want to encourage that kind of thing though. It’s just not cricket.

We also live in a world, where people are allowed to do things like this to their cats. I really don’t approve of things like that either, and I am not sure that cat does if you look at it. I am sure it would rather be toying with something small and furry rather than enforcing truth, justice and the American way.

I own a few animals. I quite like them and I have never felt the need to humiliate them or paint them in any way. Nor do I feel the need to make them fight crime. Perhaps I am in a minority though, or perhaps I am just too British. I don’t know.Perhaps the future is going to be full of genetically engineered bioluminescent crime fighting super pets.

We are already using animals to grow spare bits for us. We use cow poo to create methane which we burn. I suppose it is only a matter of time before we look at nature as another technology to be menipulated. Why have parasites that cause harm when you can scamble some DNA and make parasites that eat cancer or ginger hair?

I’m not entrirly sure I agree with genetically engineering people either. I am all for detecting and fixing genetic illness if at all possible, after all why would you want your child to grow up with a disability if it could be avoided? As someone with Aspergers syndrome, I would have preferred to have a brain that was wired a little more normally for example. There is of course the argument that such conditions are a form of evolution. I mean I may be a social and emotional moron, but I am pretty good at math and science, and I have ridiculous recall. None of that helps on a day to day basis though. I also have congenital Anosmia (I was born without a sense of smell – I have heard all the jokes before, so please don’t bother). I can’t imagine that has a particular evolutionary advantage.

Perhaps science could look at the “Traffic Warden” gene. I for one feel  it would be beneficial to remove the genetic predisposition to be a “Smug little jobsworth” from the small percentage of the population that suffers from it. Those people who know that they are about to ruin your day and take a great deal of satisfaction from it.

Mary had a little lamb, It’s fleece glowed night and day, It didn’t have a father, just some Fire Fly DNA.

Remember, if someone approches you and says they want to unzip your genes, run, for gods sake run!

OK, I am going to climb back under my rock now.

ZenEmu

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A bit of the old Irish luck

A Little Perspective

According to a very clever chap called Frank Drake,  their is approximately one intelligent civilization in every 1000 cubic light years of space. That means that there are only approximately 50 civilizations in our galaxy. That is 50 planets supporting intelligent life in a galaxy with over 100,000,000,000 stars. No wonder we never meet the neighbours.

If you look at life from a more biological point of view, going back let’s say 10 generations, so approximately 250 years, and you take into account that you are the result of a specific egg/sperm combination, suddenly the odds of you being born at all are approximately 1 in 60000000000000000000000000000000000 00000000000000000000000000 000000000000000000000000000000000000 or 6 x 10100

Obviously the further back you go the higher that number. Calculating the probability of you being born going all the way back to the monkeys and small rodents from which you descended are well out of my league. We could go further back still to the single cell organisms from which all life on earth descends, but I daresay the Internet would fall on its bottom if we tried to write than number.

Lets look at you from a more day to day standpoint shall we?  Presumably you got out of bed this morning, or if not you will get up at some point in the next day or two. That being the case, you are somewhat better off than the  142, 875 people who on average didn’t survive yesterday.

Hopefully as you are reading this, you are in pretty good health. That makes you much better off than the 10,000 or so people who are unlucky enough to be diagnosed as terminally ill everyday. It is also my sincerest hope that you are not one of the 500,000,000 unlucky souls who are in an active war zone today. If you are one of those people, good luck, and keep your head down.

If you have somewhere to sleep tonight, warm clothes and something to eat, then you are infinitely better off than around 75% of the worlds population. As you can read this post, I’m guessing you are a member of the one third of the earths population to be lucky enough to have been taught to read, because two thirds haven’t had that opportunity. You are also one of the 5%  of the population with Internet access. Good isn’t it?

If you have a bank account, and any money in it at all, and I am talking pennies here, that puts you in the top 8% of the worlds richest people.

Why am I telling you all this, you may be asking?

Well about 30 minutes ago, I stubbed my toe, which caused me to hop around swearing. The hopping around and swearing resulted in me pulling my back slightly again, which has made the headache I have had for almost a week slightly worse. So after a few minutes of sitting here feeling incredibly sorry for myself and convincing myself  that I am the unluckiest person in existence, I decided to analyze the argument. It turns out that I am not the unluckiest man in the world, and that the great Douglas Addams was right when he said “In an infinite universe anything is possible, even survival, as unlikely as that seems”.

Anyway, I am off to find painkillers, strong ones.

Happy Wednesday.

ZenEmu

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choose your poison

Microsoft Vs Apple

I am in the very lucky position of having access to several PCs running Windows 7 and a couple of Apple Macs running the latest version of Mac OS X (Snow Leopard at the time of writing). I have a computer buying / building compulsion and I am undergoing therapy for it – online of course.

I have been using Windows since Windows 3.11, which was released around 1993 and worked quite well. I have also been using Apple machines for about the same length of time. I’m not an expert on either of them. I just have an opinion.

My fiancee describes herself as a “Macophile“, which I was amazed to learn is not a criminal offence; it is just apparently a dedicated Mac user. She tells me that you don’t use a mac, you experience it, and interface with it. Perhaps she needs online therapy too, I don’t know. I certainly don’t experience my Mac, I use it, usually for designing websites and it is all very friendly and Disney like.

The thing is, I don’t choose to use my Mac for anything else apart from webdesign. I don’t browse the web on it. I don’t use it for email or to write letters. I don’t use it to watch movies or listen to music. I have never activated it’s built in web-cam. I don’t use it to manage my Ipod and I don’t use it for games (mainly because there are hardly games any for it). There is a good reason I don’t use my Mac though; I don’t think I deserve a Mac!

If I look at myself as a human being, I am not bad, but I am no Dalai Lama or Ghandi either. I think I deserve to be slightly disappointed, a little inconvenienced and a little bit bullied. In other-words I deserve Windows. I deserve to have the occasional Blue Screen of Death. I deserve to have Microsoft nagging me about updates, I deserve to have an operating system that becomes increasingly unstable over time, until ultimately it will need reinstalling, and if I don’t it will destroy all of my work as punishment. I think Microsoft have possibly managed to code Karma into their operating system, whereas Apple just designed an operating system.

This morning I read about Mukul Asadujjaman, who is a New York City taxi cab driver who found $21,000 in the back of his cab. He drove 50 miles to an address he found with the money and returned it to a 72 year old lady. He is probably a  Mac user, and if not he will have a bullet proof installation of Windows 7 that will never fail him.

Bill "Dubious Business Pratices" Gates

Look at Bill (I basically stole MS DOS (for $75,000) and the idea for windows) Gates. That poor sod has no choice but to use Windows for the rest of his life. How would it look if he suddenly became a full time Mac User. He even has to use Microsoft  based mobile phones, which poo! He can’t use an ipod, he has to use Microsofts Zune, which is also poo! The poor guy has made a rod for his own back. Sad Really.

 

Steve "I'll leave Karma to the Universe" Jobs

Steve Jobs on the other-hand is a Buddhist! He gets to use the iPhone and listen to his Ipod Shuffle. Alright he might have been described as an egomaniac, but his operating system doesn’t punish you, it leaves that to the universe in general and allows you to carry on with mundane things like checking your face-book page.

I think what you need to ask yourself about your preference between Microsoft and Apple, is what does that choice say about how you see yourself? Are you the kind of person who deserves an operating system that “Works”, or are you the kind of person that deserves an operating system that “Judges”? If you are honest with yourself, I think you may be quite unsurprised. I know I am. It isn’t surprising that over 92% of computer users are happy to be judged and punished by Windows. It helps them feel a little bit better about themselves.

Personally, I like Windows, it makes sense out of life. You know where you are going with it. It is going to punish you sooner or later, it is only a matter of time. That is what I deserve, and probably what you deserve too. There is nothing you can do about it, so you might as well just get on with it, install your favourite games and ignore the inevitable.

Bury your head, have fun, enjoy whichever OS you feel comfortable with and if your bored give Linux a go.

ZenEmu. X