Apr 262017
 

[mass noun] combination of computer hardware, software and telecommunications equipment that allow individuals to disseminate vacuous guff to a wide audience.

The ultimate DrivelWare©™ is Twitter. As it’s name and logo clearly indicate, it allows hundreds of millions to parrot sparrows by creating digital noise. It is a fact that sparrows’ tweets have important Darwinian functions: to congregate, warn of danger and attract mates for reproduction. In contrast, human tweets fulfill none of these functions; there is no congregation or dangers in cyberspace and reproduction requires a physical encounter. Twitter has become the de facto leader in DrivelWare©™ due to its limit to 140 characters, which curtails – wisely – the amount of information that can be transmitted. In practice this limit is not problematic as the average tweet length is 28 symbols, a good proxy for the authors’ IQ.

The most pervasive DrivelWare©™ is Facebook, where the gerbil-like publish self-important, whimsical information created by random synapse firings: location, bowel movements, olfactory sensations and so forth. The behaviour is rewarded with ‘likes’ from correspondents, sustaining a Pavlovian feedback mechanism that encourages cyclic eructations.

Finally, the epitomy of DrivelWare©™ is SnapChat, where the mindless content is automatically deleted a few seconds after it is created, thus reinforcing the correlation between the quality and the lifetime of the message.

Jun 102014
 

If XKCD’s 4.5° is correct, in some ~160 years there’ll be a 200m rise in sea level and Palm trees at the poles.

I couldn’t give a monkey’s toss, for several good reasons:

  • I live more than 400m above sea level. Those of you who have elected domicile close to the ocean might grasp the meaning of Darwinism sooner or later; but your choice indicates that you have the same intelligence as those that built Fukushima on a beach
  • In 30-odd years, with luck, I’ll be pushing up the daises
  • In 50-odd years we’ll have burnt all the fossile fuels available and the whole CO2 panic will turn out to be be what it really is: a tiny blip in our planet’s evolution
  • Within a century, nuclear fusion will have been mastered and our energy problems will disappear

Carpe diem, our children will look after themselves just as our ancestors did.

Nov 282013
 

The debate over e-cigarettes continues to rage, with statements that are often so extreme as to be laughable. I particularly enjoyed the latest from the European Commission’s proposal for Article 18 which states

Electronic cigarettes are a tobacco related product.

This makes as much sense as saying

Caffeine is a cocaine-related product

because they have similar-sounding names. Nicotine can be synthesised in a laboratory. The fact that it is cheaper to extract it from tobacco demonstrates convenience, not necessary relation.

Let’s look at some facts about nicotine’s properties, in relation to other common drugs (I add the adverb ‘quickly’ as a reminder of Haber’s Law):

  • Caffeine is a widely-used addictive drug that is perfectly acceptable. The lethal dose of caffeine for rats is 192 mg/kg. A cup of coffee contains 40mg of caffeine. A 70Kg human will thus die on drinking 192*70/40=336 cups of coffee quickly.
  • Nicotine is widely portrayed as an addictive poison which should be avoided at all costs. The lethal dose of nicotine for rats is 50mg/Kg. A cigarette or equivalent use of an e-cigarette delivers about 1mg to its user. A 70Kg human will thus die on smoking (or equally vaping) 50*70=3’500 cigarettes quickly.
  • Alcohol is a widely-used addictive drug that is perfectly acceptable. The lethal dose of ethanol for rats is 7’060 mg/kg. A 70Kg human will thus die on drinking 7’060*70=~494g (about 1.2 liters of vodka) quickly.

I’ll be accused of bias, but it seems much easier to drink a couple of bottles of vodka than it is to to drink 33 liters of coffee. Smoking a few thousand cigarettes (or vaping the equivalent) is simply impossible, in a relatively short space of time. The point here is that abusing anything quickly enough will kill you.

Long-term use presents a different picture.

  • Caffeine has no known dangers.
  • Cigarettes are a health risk. “In 2000–2004, cigarette smoking cost more than $193 billion“.
  • Alcohol is too. “The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 were estimated at $223.5 billion“.
  • Vaping is recent, so there are no long-term studies, but nicotine alone has never been associated with a health risk and propyl glycol is innocuous.

The medical profession seems to agree with me:

“Nicotine itself is not a particularly hazardous drug, says Professor John Britton, who leads the Tobacco Advisory Group for the Royal College of Physicians. It’s something on a par with the effects you get from caffeine.
If all the smokers in Britain stopped smoking cigarettes and started smoking e-cigarettes we would save five million deaths in people who are alive today. It’s a massive potential public health prize.”.

How is it that policy makers ignore this? The answer is obvious, unless you fall under Hanlon’s Razor; the truth is this:

  1. Governments collect some 400 billion $ in cigarette taxes yearly
  2. The tobacco industry profits were ~$35 billion in 2012. They have both the clout and a strong incentive to eradicate vaping by promoting regulation to restrict e-cigarettes.
  3. The pharmaceutical industry sells close to a billion $ in Nicotine Replacement Therapy products. They will logically lobby to maintain this profitable business.

My advice to vapers: Buy a 20-year stock of 100mg/mL e-liquid (a few liters) whilst you can and hide it in your cellar; the 600% nicotine tax is just around the corner.

Nov 152013
 

That people find smoking objectionable is perfectly understandable, cigarette smoke contains a plethora of undesirable substances, many of them carcinogenic. For many years I have smoked away from everyone for the obvious reasons.

I recently replaced 40 years of smoking Marlboro lights with vaping. Absolutely nothing to be proud of nor news-worthy in any way, it simply seemed reasonable, once I had learned of the alternative, to replace a health-endangering activity with one that was less so.

Given that vaping presents no risks to bystanders, I quietly vaped at my office desk. Not a day later, complaints were raining and a manager called me in, declaring that vaping was forbidden.

Fine. At the next restaurant I visit, I will complain vehemently about the man who eats with his mouth open and demand that the old biddy with her Chihuahua be expelled from the restaurant immediately.

Aug 012012
 

So UBS has lost $350M after Facebook’s botched launch, and the only people to be surprised are those who were stupid enough to try and buy the shares instead of buying puts (which would have made them significantly richer).

UBS is supposed to be one of the world’s leading banks, and yet time and again they squander money in a manner which beggars belief. I’d find it laughable if I hadn’t been forced to pay my taxes to provide UBS with a 65billion$ bailout a couple of years back; the way things are going it seems more than likely that they’ll be back, cap-in-hand, in the not-so-distant future.

What does surprise me is the naivety of all concerned. It appears that many well-paid employees at UBS subscribed to the idea of buying shares in a company whose business model is based solely on displaying advertisements which are completely ignored by a barely-literate proletariat bent on exchanging mindless drivel.

In a few years, Facebook will be remembered as an ugly skid-mark on the digital toilet.

Hopefully sooner, UBS will nominate a CEO who can learn from his predecessors’ mistakes: sell off the investment banking division, close all operations in the USA and  focus on what the bank does well: private banking. The Swiss will once again be proud of their successful bank and grateful both for the reduction in taxes and hassles from the Americans.

May 302007
 

Have the Poles gone mad? I wrote off the communist witch-hunt, of which McCarthy would have been proud, as once-off silliness brought about by group shame of collaborating with the communist secret police. There was also healthy silliness – the Polish rock band Big Cyc (Big Tit), whose 4th album featured a nun drying condoms on a clothes-line.

But the silliness has taken a turn for the worse:

A senior Polish official has ordered psychologists to investigate whether the popular BBC TV show Teletubbies promotes a homosexual lifestyle. The spokesperson for children’s rights in Poland, Ewa Sowinska, singled out Tinky Winky, the purple character with a triangular aerial on his head. (source BBC)

Teletubbies are queer? What on earth has got into the woman?

It would appear that the affliction has spread to neighbouring Belarus:

Customs officers in Belarus have ordered drivers crossing over from Poland to carry a condom or be denied entry into the former Soviet republic, Polish customs officials claimed on Tuesday. The Belarussian guards have allegedly demanded that drivers include a condom in the emergency first aid kit which road regulations say they must carry. (source)

I’m racking my brains trying to think what the motivation could be.

  • Polish men can’t resist Belarussian women and Belarus doesn’t want their gene pool polluted?
  • Belarussian women all have the clap and their authorities want to spare the Poles? (seems unlikely)
  • Belarus wants to insult the Poles by implying they all have the clap?
  • Belarus wants to insult the Poles by implying they can only get it up once (by insisting on only ONE condom)?
  • The Belarus have a secret agenda in which condoms are used for something else than contraception?

If anyone has the true reason, please let me know 🙂

May 272007
 

I was working for a consulting company in Rome when I met one of the most crass, self-imbued turds I have ever had the misfortune to cross. His disdain for his fellow colleagues was boundless and it was mutual, not one of us would have urinated on Jay, even if he burst into flames.

One morning, nursing a grappa-induced hangover, I decided the time was ripe to give Jay a dose of medecine. My colleagues enjoyed it, I hope you will too.

Jay,
I am leaving [company] today and would like to take this opportunity to settle some things with you.

I’m writing this slowly as I know you can’t read very fast, so pay attention.

You might have noticed that subsequent to [company]’s demise, things have been very trying for the team here in Rome. It certainly hasn’t even crossed your mind that a major portion of the grief we’ve been having is due to your crass, narcissic behaviour. For two months now you’ve been prancing around the corridors here like a bloated peacock on LSD, with hot air, vacuous promises and bovine excrement as your sole deliverables. How you could even imagine that [company] would actually take on a used-car salesman like yourself defies belief; it does however demonstrate clearly that your astonishing arrogance is matched only by your incredible stupidity. You have made an appalling image of our company and were you to have something other than dirt holding your ears apart you would be ashamed.

But I digress, I’m all for letting people fight their own battles, I have a personal axe to grind with you. You may recall that a couple of months back, when I resigned, I sent an email informing all concerned, in which I placed confidence in you to announce my resignation to the client at an opportune moment. A foolish mistake. Having made a complete botch-up of everything, you waited until we were re-negotiating the contract to make the announcement to the client at the worst possible moment. To worsen matters you did it behind everyone’s back and, spineless cockroach that you are, didn’t even admit to having done it. How you could try and sabotage so many of your own colleagues’ efforts to further your base little personal ends shows a despicable contempt. Fortunately the client saw through your miserable ploy, and we now all share a similar contempt for you. Truly, in the 25-odd years I’ve been working, you are the worst piece of scum that I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter.

Had you a less faulty gene pool, you would have learnt that the world is a small place and people that you slight often reappear later in a superior position. I sincerely hope that this will occur and given the opportunity, rest assured that I will ream you dry with neither hesitation nor remorse.

Lest you perceive anything cowardly in sending this message, fear not, I have communication skills that you couldn’t imagine in your wildest dreams. You might like to focus your cramped, porcine imagination on figuring out the extent to which I have have spitefully blind-copied this email >:-|

To avoid any ambiguity note that I write this from a purely personal stand-point; don’t bother trying to associate this email with [company], I’m reachable at the address below.

As you may well imagine, I never got a reply.