End gay marriage, fast!

A fellow from Utah by the name of Trestin Meacham is so against gay marriage that he has commenced fasting until his state nullifies federal law and ends the scourge of equality.

I just want to say that I think it’s a great idea. In fact, I think that all people who are against gay marriage in any form should join Mr Meacham on his hunger strike. It’s a difficult decision, and a great sacrifice to make, but you will be doing humanity the world of good. I mean, just think about it: how great will the world be if all the homophobes have starved themselves to death?

Significant dates

Unless you live in the USA with their weird backwards way of writing dates, today is a special date: 11/12/13.

This is the last time you will see a sequential date until January 1st 2103. You won’t get to enjoy that one though, because by then you, your parents, your friends, your pets if you have them, and everyone you have ever known or loved will be dead. Don’t be too depressed though, because there is a silver lining: at least that annoying National Tiles guy will be dead too.

I got a little distracted there, but back to the special date. But wait a minute…the date isn’t really 11/12/13. Jesus isn’t breaking out in the Holy Acne of Antioch or being embarrassed by sudden bulges that his mother can’t explain. The year is 2013. 11/12/2013 doesn’t look nearly so nice, does it? We humans seem to have a knack for conveniently ignoring facts or information that get in the way of what we want to believe. And this, dear readers, is pretty much the basis of the entire Biblical justification for opposing homosexuality.

Human error? No, the government hates you!

I saw this article in The Age today, discussing an error that occurred with a bushfire warning system. Apparently, somebody screwed up and put test data in their live database, resulting in false warnings going out to large numbers of people.

Apparently this is the Government’s fault because they just don’t care about people. The Age quote the United Firefighters Union secretary Peter Marshall as saying “Either they are incompetent or they simply don’t care” (emphasis mine). The Age also use it as an opportunity to get quotes from the opposition about how terribly bad and evil the government is.

I work in IT, though I have had no involvement in this project. I would bet with almost 100% certainty that this is not because of any government intervention. The government probably had no idea that this was a risk. Some poor sucker has accidentally hit the wrong button somewhere and put test data in the live database. Chillax people, these things happen; it’s a little embarrassing, and the poor person is probably feeling pretty small right now. But it’s not conspiracy, it’s just human error (of course, it’s a bit simplistic and disingenuous to blame it all on one person – the real error is the weakness in the processes that allowed a single person to accidentally do this).

I once worked at a place that had a government client where a similar thing happened – somebody forgot to turn off the automated email functionality in the test environment, so when some test data was created a bunch of alarming emails went out to some very senior people. It wasn’t the government’s fault; it was just an oversight that was rectified by setting up more robust processes for managing the test databases.

When the government screws up, they should be held to account. But there is no need to get into a sensationalist panic about every little thing that goes wrong.

How I lost sympathy for (some) bushfire victims

The Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 were, in terms of lives lost, the worst fires in Victoria’s history. In Kilmore East, 118 people died and over 1,200 houses were lost. Earlier this year, a group of around 10,000 people affected by the fires launched a massive class action against power company SP Ausnet, based on allegations that faulty cables (due to poor maintenance processes) triggered the bushfires. SP Ausnet denies that claim and is fighting it in court.

My gripe is in this article. It discusses how SP Ausnet entered private property (which is perfectly legal in some circumstances) to conduct some tests that they believed would exonerate them. It seems that by accident or design, entering private property for that purpose was illegal. The response of the plaintiffs is to try and have that evidence excluded from the case on the grounds that it was obtained illegally.

In my mind, this act completely removes the moral high ground that the plaintiffs have. They are no longer victims using the civil court system in a way it should be used, i.e. to ensure that perpetrators of criminal negligence are caught and punished. Instead they are using the civil court system the way we mock the Americans for – just to squeeze a major payout from someone out of some misplaced sense of entitlement.

  • If the evidence that SP Ausnet gathered proves that they were not negligent, then what right do the plaintiffs have to pursue the case and get a payout? It’s nothing short of greed.
  • If the evidence that SP Ausnet gathered does not disprove negligence, then the courts will figure that out and ensure that SP Ausnet is punished appropriately.

This kind of court trickery is very disappointing. The plaintiffs should be seeking truth, not a deep-pocketed scapegoat.

Women over the years, whatever next?

I saw this thing doing the rounds on Facebook, seeking comments on which is your favourite era.

Call me crazy, but depending on who you believe the number of white people in the world ranges from eighteen to twenty percent. Accurate figures are hard to find, because for a start, how do you define “white”? And how do you find figures that aren’t posted by idiots with racist agendas?

Anyway, whatever the eanswer, the women in the photo are in no way a representation of “women” from the 1960s through to the 2000s.

What does a fly see?

Something has always bugged me (he he) about the way a flies’ vision is portrayed in books or other media. Flies, as you probably know, have compound eyes. Instead of a big round squishy eyeball like the two you probably have, flies have a whole mess of cones, each one effectively an individual eye (that cannot focus or move) arranged in a mosaic around most of a sphere.

This leads to the issue of how they are portrayed. I’ve used an example based on a Far Side comic, since it is deliberate so I can make my point without being personally critical of anyone. The portrayal is typically something like this:

So here is a question I ask of you. Does the following picture reflect how you see?

A picture of a fly duplicated as if the human eye viewed everything as a mosaic of two images

A fly how a fly might think a human sees a fly based on how a human thinks a fly sees.
© Shouting at the Clouds

Of course not. You see something more like this (ignoring the fuzziness of peripheral vision etc):

A single image of a fly

A fly as a human might really see a fly

Notice the difference? That’s right, your brain mashes the images together so you perceive it as a single image. Why wouldn’t the fly brain do the same thing?

Bonus reference: this link talks in a little bit more depth about how fly eyes work.

If you are wondering where I got the picture from, it is a weird-looking fly I photographed at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. If there are any entomologists out there I’d be interested to know what species it is.