Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Not to be confused

I have never been to either, so I don't know if this is true or not but I understand that Uttoxeter and utopia should not be confused.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Power to the People

I heard recently that moderate Egyptians were rather put out when the Presidential run-off was held between two quite immoderate candidates. In the first round of voting, the moderate vote had been split between a number of moderate candidates allowing the more extreme candidates to get through. The moderate voice was silenced by the very democratic process it sought to foster.

One of the problems with choosing between candidates using a voting system is that of what to do when you like none of the candidates. You have to vote for one or other of the candidates or not at all. In some places, voting is compulsory which only adds to one's problems. So far as I am aware, there is no third way advocated.

The typical view is that either one's vote counts (in that it is used to vote for one of the candidates) or it is wasted. There are currently two ways of wasting a vote: by spoiling one's ballot paper or by not voting. The latter is certainly a waste: one does not turn up; one does not use the opportunity to vote at all. A spoilt ballot paper is considered to be wasted but it is not wasted in the same way. One does turn up; one does make one's voice heard - or perhaps that should be 'make one's presence felt' - although in a quite different way. A spoilt ballot should not be seen as a wasted vote but as a form of democratic expression.

In countries, such as the UK, where electoral turnouts are very low, the spoilt ballot option should, I believe, be used to register discontent with the options available. If one feels disenfranchised due to the poor choice of candidates - or the political classes in general - one should make one's feelings felt. Spoiling one's ballot paper is such a way. It shows that one has bothered to turn up and made a choice: to deliberately not vote for any of the candidates.

In its logical extension, the spoilt ballot could even be used to determine whether an election should be considered to be ratifiable. With a low turn-out, the candidate with the most votes currently wins but this may be a hollow victory. Above a certain percentage of spoilt votes, an election might be considered to be null and void and a re-run necessary.

(I do not pretend to have solved any of the problems inherent in the democratic process - there are sure to be counter arguments. However, these are my musings as ever.)

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Olympic Flame(s)

I said (Tuesday 29th May) that I would return to the question of the Olympic torch. When the torch passed through my village, I overheard somebody saying how each of the flames kept in case the torch went out were the same. The question that immediately sprang to mind was 'How can a number of separate things be the same thing?'

Clearly they cannot. What the Olympic flame and the spares have in common is a certain continuity with what was kindled at Mount Olympus. That, for most people, is probably enough to warrant the idea of 'same-ness'.

There is more, though. This problem is rather like  Heraclitus' (c535–c475 BCE) problem of whether one can step into the same river twice. If water has flowed past, is it the same river? If it is not the same river, one cannot step into the same river twice.

A flame is like a river in as much as it has a source. Instead of water upstream, the flame is constantly being fed by a source of combustible material. Some might consider the flame to be the same if the combustible material feeding the flame is from a constant source. However, if a flame ignited in Greece (and fed Greek gas - if there is such a thing) comes to be fed in the UK with British/North Sea gas, then it is doubtful whether one can say that it is the same flame. For Heraclitus, even if the combustible material were the same he would not have been satisfied that the flame was always the same. What makes the flame at each instant in time is substantively different from what made it the instant before and what will make it the instant after.

The way I have seen the flame handled is somewhat reminiscent of how a culture of bacteria is handled. This prompts a new question: that of whether an epidemic can be considered as consisting of one single disease or whether there are different (albeit similar) forms of it due to different individual bacteria infecting different individuals.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Another Barcode - 8

 Code One

Time for another barcode. I'm surprised at how many different types there are. I'm certainly not even halfway through my collection, yet. Wikipedia gives quite a list.

This is a 'Code One'. As usual, it says 'Marginalia55'.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Laptop Art

Customising the lid of one's laptop is something that has yet to really take-off. It's not as popular as I would have thought it would have become. My daughter got a laptop a few years ago (when they came with Windows Vista installed!) which had a transparent lid under which one put any A4 sized image one liked. She kept to the same floral image all the time she had it. My wife now uses it – with the same image.  More recently, skins for laptops, iPhones, Kindles etc. have become available.
I suspect the situation is different for different types of computer user. The following two images (from Karin Andrea's Flickr photostream) are suggestive of a certain type of user i.e. a serious one (cf the Linux and GNU stickers). These images appeared different occasions on my iGoogle page. I have a gadget called Notebook Photos by GadgetMama which gives a different image of a notebook (computer and paper) each time I login.

LapTop1.0 LapTop1.1
© Karin Andrea. (Click for the source of the originals.)

Friday, 1 June 2012

More like Rubik's Stack

Here's another variation on the theme of Rubik's Cube found at Gizmodo: an Uneven Rubik's Cube.


There appear to be two variants, a 3x3x7 and a 3x3x9 are available from