Cyberpunk, Spirituality and Technology - The Voidspace Blogspot

The strange and deluded ramblings of a rather odd person. Hello Dude - It's Me

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These pages are all my own work. Unfortunately that may be a terrible admission. In these pages are various writings of mine, from the first part of my life story, to poems, to mad ramblings without excuse. Below the links to the articles is my blog. Not to be confused with the Techie Blog, this is random ramblings from life.

Rambling Rumination

Diving or Drowning Part I. The first part of my Autohagiography... up to the point where I first take ecstacy. The tale of how a polite, well mannered middle-class child became such a ruffian.....

Diving or Drowning Part II. The second part of my life story - the further fall....

Life in Romania. An article about living in Romania. This follows two visits in 2004 and 2005 to visit my wifes parents. Life is very different in Romania than it is here in Britain.

A Random Assortment. A short collection of my poetry. There's one or two gems buried in here.

HumanOS v1.3. Subtitled baby crocodiles, computers and the human personality. This is an article that compares the human mind to a computer operating system. It touches on artifical intelligence and the ages old Nature versus Nurture debate.

Christian Meditation. A short piece on Christian meditation - exploring living Spirituality with God.

Imagine Paradise. No its not about a large network of computers, its actually about Christian Community..... and why we bother.

The first is an article on the spiritual power of symbols and sacraments. The second one, is on what sort of truth we can expect to find in the bible - with a brief section providing one possible reconciliation between modern science and Genesis. They should both be understandable by 'beginners' to the subjects.

Quick 'n' Dirty HTML. Need to get a webpage up quick and never done any HTML before ? This article will get you up to speed with the basics, using a TABLE for layout. Not for those who want nice, standards compliant, XHTML and CSS...

Voidspace Story. My cyberpunk short story. Lovely imagery but very short *sigh*. Come and play in the Void !

Beginners Guide to Atlantis. My beginners guide for new players of Atlantis - the computer 'Play-by-eMail' game. Very useful if you`ve just started to play.

Leviticus - a Much Maligned Book

emoticon:home When I was young I attempted to read the Bible from cover to cover. I almost did it as well, working my way through all the old testament and most of the new testament. I got as far as Revelations before I got weirded out and stopped. Laughing

Leviticus is a book of the bible that has a bad reputation amongst both Christians and non-Christians. Amongst Christians it is known as having endless pages of genealogy that is tedious to read. It also enumerates the Jewish law, parts of which are seriously out of context for today's culture and regarded with incredulity by non-Christians.

In fact Leviticus has some things going for it as well. One of my favourite blogs, Zen Habits about living a simpler life, mentioned it recently.

In a post entitled 18 Practical Tips for Living the Golden Rule he says:

"thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Leviticus 19:18

I love the simplicity of the Golden Rule, its tendency to make those I interact with happier, and its tendency to make me happier as well.

Like many pearls of wisdom it can sound trite when read at a glance, but is difficult, challenging and rewarding if really taken to heart.

This is the same for another of my favourite bible verses, also from the old testament:

"man looks at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

This is from when the Prophet Samuel is looking for the next King of Israel. It is a pleasant enough homily, but difficult and life changing to take to heart. Both verses are also great antidotes to Western selfishness...

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Posted by Fuzzyman on 2007-08-06 20:39:23 | |
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Occam's Razor

emoticon:cat I've been reading Wikipedia, it's an extraordinarily valuable source of information. Astonishing to think that this enormous resource can come into existence through the collaboration of people across the internet.

I've also read that some teachers are forbidding their pupils to use Wikipedia as they think it is unreliable. This seems almost criminal in that teachers should be jumping at the opportunity to engage children in the process of creating knowledge. Anyway, that is all besides the point. I stumbled across the page on Occam's Razor.

Occam's razor is a scientific principle that is often quoted. It is also often used in religious debate to argue that God is an unnecessary hypothesis. This too is besides the point.

What interested me was that (as usual) the common understanding of Occam's Razor is incorrect. Occam's razor in the Latin is "entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem", which translates to "entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity".

This is often 'simplified' to, "out of two theories the simplest is most likely to be correct" - which was my understanding of it. The Wikipedia page argues that a better simplification would be, "out of two theories the one that makes the least assumptions is likely to be correct". So between a simple theory and a complex theory it is not necessarily the simplest that is to be preferred, but the one that makes the least assumptions.

It is also interesting that it is difficult to provide any scientific basis for the principle itself that doesn't turn out to be circular reasoning.

I like Jerrold Katz's explanation though:

If a hypothesis, H, explains the same evidence as a hypothesis G, but does so by postulating more entities than G, then, other things being equal, the evidence has to bear greater weight in the case of H than in the case of G, and hence the amount of support it gives H is proportionately less than it gives G.

—Katz 1998

If theory H takes the evidence to support N entities, and theory G takes the available evidence to support less entities, then the available evidence provides more support for each of the individual assumptions (entities) in theory G than in theory H.

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Posted by Fuzzyman on 2007-08-06 02:33:11 | |
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Visit to Cyprus

emoticon:warning We hadn't been away this year, and with the book progressing slowly it looked like we weren't going to get away this year. Delia started to threaten me with divorce, so I found us a cheap holiday in Cyprus from lastminute.com [1].

We spent a week there and it was great. Cyprus is an ex-British colony. It is very hot but very tourist orientated.

It has some interesting (mainly Roman) history.

Paphos - Tomb of the Kings

We did some fun things.

Paragliding

We met some of the locals.

A local lizard

Including some familiar faces.

Shrek in Cypress

Although quite a barren country there is some beautiful scenery. This is from the Troodos mountains.

Shrek in Cypress
[1]Checking out the hotel on Tripadvisor.com of course.

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Posted by Fuzzyman on 2007-07-21 16:02:17 | |
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Feeling Old and More Idiots Inc.

emoticon:movpy2 Over the last few weeks I've done blog entries on companies that have annoyed me with their idiocies or have treated me badly: LloydsTSB, Virgin Media and Ashby Lowery.

With blogs becoming ever more popular I wonder if this will change the way even big companies view their customers? I hope so. Every time I make a major purchase I always check the web first. The power of search engines means that nightmares caused by bad service can usually be tracked down.

Perhaps something more is needed than just google (TM) to find these reports though. Delia and I have just booked a holiday. This is very lastminute (we leave in a week), so we used lastminute.com. Some of the very cheap holidays they offered looked like good value, but when we checked the hotels on Tripadvisor I found some real scare stories! We settled on Cyprus and I'm really looking forward to it.

The thing is, that whilst I find blogging about idiot companies a real release (much more satisfying than sitting at home and raging), I'm not sure I could find the motivation to contribute to an external site. Hmmm...

Anyway, all this is irrelevant to this blog. This week I felt very old, I arranged a pension. Surprised

(Scary stuff, but I find the advice on Money saving expert very helpful. In the end I figured that any reputable pension was much better than dithering...)

Doing any kind of financial stuff like this (as well as being scary) is made more of a pain by terrorist hysteria [1]. You need to (in the UK at least) provide proof of identity and address with authorised copies of your passport or drivers license and a utility bill (or similar). They can only be authorised by certain people - bank officials, MPs, accountants and so on.

Whilst I was in town I visited Alliance and Leicester, who I have an account with. The lady I spoke to was fairly helpful and went off to photocopy my documents. After about ten minutes she returned, with my originals in hand and no copies. Her boss had told her that she wasn't allowed to help me, because sometimes people use authorised documents for other purposes - meaning that I might use them to move my account to another bank!

So if I was an annoyed customer, they would rather go out of their way to make me furious than provide me with any assistance whatsoever! Incredible. Mad

I wasn't in the mood to argue, so I went to another bank who would help, got several copies and am moving our account away from Alliance and Leicester.

Be warned though, if you are or become a customer of theirs, they will do their best to obstruct you leaving...

I guess I should balance this blog out by reporting on a few companies who don't annoy me. That doesn't happen quite so often though...

[1]Actually I guess they are fairly sane precautions, but they're still a nuisance.

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Posted by Fuzzyman on 2007-06-30 00:44:46 | |
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Technology: Social Networking and Webcams

emoticon:apple This blog is supposedly about Cyberpunk, Technology and Spirituality. I usually reserve the geeky stuff for my Techie Blog, so I thought it was time for a technology related entry.

Social networking websites are now a dime a dozen, but they are something I have always resisted until recently. They allow you to maintain a list of friends or contacts and keep a profile with contact details interests and so on. All the different sites have a slightly different focus, but they all share one thing in common: the more work you put into developing your network and maintaining your profile, the more page views (and therefore income) you generate for the site owners. I'd far rather put my time into developing this site where I have complete control over all the contents.

I do use one actually, LinkedIn. This site focusses on developing professional contacts. I don't spend much time on it, but I've actually made some useful contacts through it. (Recently someone from Mozilla contacted me through my LinkedIn profile to see if I was interested in a job - I wasn't, but I did put them in touch with someone who was. It is an extremely interesting project and hopefully readers of my Techie Blog will be able to hear all about it soon.)

About a week ago my webby friend Justin started experimenting with some of the social networking sites and invited me to join Facebook. I signed up but didn't think I would use it much.

It turns out that five different circles of friends I know are using facebook: some of my family, people who go to my church, colleagues, friends from town and some of my programming contacts. bizarre

So within a short period I've got quite a long list of friends. Not only that but it is surprisingly addictive. You get to see all the recent news from people in your friends list, hunt for new friends and send silly messages to each other. Smile

Of course all this activity means that the big social networking sites are in a battle to the death to be the biggest. Most of my friends use facebook, so I will stay with facebook. Whichever site becomes the biggest will gradually sideline the competition.

I thought it was cool that my church was getting so technologically hip. Facebook seems like it could be a useful way of keeping in touch with friends and contacts. Uhm... that was until I read this article:

The article claims that the different networking sites divide along the lines of social class, with the middle classes favouring Facebook and the poorer classes going for MySpace.

Personally I always find MySpace pages loud and difficult to read with all the strange background colour and picture business going on.

This is also terrible news for my church friends, the Jesus Army prides itself [1] in being a church of the poor. Looks like it's time to switch to MySpace guys! This doesn't include our Coventry folk of course, who are that bit more intellectual than the rest of us. Wink

Anyway, all that guff is just the first half (but don't worry - the longer half) of this blog entry.

The second half is about webcams. Smile

Technology can be a controversial subject. On the one hand it is fun and exciting, but some would say it is leading to a fragmented and more isolated society (more obsessed with updating their facebook profile than real human contact).

The webcam I bought months ago finally got put to use. Delia (my wife) comes from Romania where her parents still live. Her family don't have a computer, but the next door neighbour does, and today Delia talked to her family over Yahoo Messenger [2].

Being able to see and talk to her family regularly is going to make a big difference to Delia. Maybe technology isn't all bad. Cool

[1]And rightly so... Jesus had a lot to say on the subject of money, and the core of the Jesus Army live in Christian Community together - sharing their income.
[2]Not my choice!

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Posted by Fuzzyman on 2007-06-30 00:35:17 | |
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Places I've Been

emoticon:firefox Well, this is cool - even it just shows how few places I've been:

Countries I've visited

The actual countries are:

  • USA (for a Python programming conference, but we managed to see three states in one day in a driving trip)
  • UK - well uhm... most of the time in fact (I've been to Belfast, but never south of the border - so not Ireland)
  • Denmark (a family visit as a teenager. I was on the cusp of puberty and the most memorable thing about the country was the prominent bosoms on huge billboards, oh plus the incident with the jellyfish and discovering that mayonnaise goes with chips)
  • France (several family visits)
  • Holland (an ill fated trip to Amsterdam whilst I was going mad)
  • Poland (two programming conferences)
  • Romania (to visit my wife's family)
  • Italy (to visit a university friend of my wife)

And that's it. Smile

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Posted by Fuzzyman on 2007-06-24 23:11:16 | |
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Spider versus Bumblebee

emoticon:torch Today I was witness to an epic struggle, as two bitter enemies fought to the death in mortal combat:

The spider and the bumblebee

Unfortunately the most exciting parts happened before I fetched my camera. The bumblebee got snagged in the web, and the spider (a hefty brute) saw its chance for a week's worth of dinner.

The bee managed to break free, but obviously still had silk on its wings and couldn't fly off.

The spider and the bumblebee - part 2

The spider lunged several times, presumably biting the bee, who was making a desperate attempt to escape on foot! In the end the spider seemed to get bored. Either it gave up (bumblebee fur a bit tough to bite through?), or perhaps it just settled back to wait for the bee to tire or die.

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Posted by Fuzzyman on 2007-06-23 16:40:34 | |
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The Further Adventures of Idiots Inc: LloydsTSB

emoticon:html Whilst we are on the subject of idiot corporations that waste their customers' time, a brief mention of my dalliance with Lloyds TSB over the weekend.

They are another large company who hold firmly to the tradition that no effort is too great to annoy a customer, so I shouldn't be surprised.

Earlier this year I bought a laptop using a 'buy now, pay later' scheme. This is effectively a loan, where you pay no interest if you pay for the goods before a set date. I now have the money for the laptop, so I phoned the credit company to pay them with my debit card.

The transaction was declined, and the lady I spoke to said that they often have this problem with Lloyds because their payment processing system is internet based, and the transactions sometimes get blocked as potentially fraudulent.

I duly phoned Lloyds (another annoying 0845 number - but I bypassed it by phoning their overseas department - which has an ordinary landline number - and getting them to transfer me). After answering about 187 security questions (which I grudgingly acknowledge is for my own good), the customer disservice drone informed me that the transaction had been declined because the credit company was using the wrong address.

At least that seemed easy to rectify, so I phoned back to check. Guess what, they were using the correct address. We tried again and the transaction was declined again. sigh

At this point my mobile phone battery gave up the ghost, along with my patience, and I have to start jumping through the same hoops again today... Mad

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Posted by Fuzzyman on 2007-06-04 13:01:07 | |
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Virginmedia Gets it Worse than Wrong

emoticon:mobile A couple of weeks ago I blogged about how Virginmedia hates their customers, because they steadfastly ignored my pleas for help via their web-form.

Today (nearly three weeks after the request for help), I got a reply! The summary of my request, was that I wanted to upgrade my service and didn't have all the necessary information. I don't have a landline and their customer service line is an 0845 one that is very expensive to call from a mobile. I put all this in the form, and asked that someone phone or email me to help.

Today I got the following reply:

Thanks for your email to Virgin Media about upgrading your services.

If you want to upgrade your services you can call customer services for free from any virgin landline on 150 or 0845 454 1111.

This email even contains my original request, stating that I didn't want to phone them, proving that the person who sent this email couldn't even be bothered to read what I had written... Idiots. Razz

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Posted by Fuzzyman on 2007-06-04 12:56:26 | |
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UK Population and Migration Statistics

emoticon:torch One of the things I do at the Jesus Centre is to arrange our annual snapshot survey. We've done two now, for one week asking all of our visitors to answer a few simple questions about their age, background and which services they use.

One of the aims of the snapshot survey is to see how effective the Jesus Centre is at reaching the ethnic minority [1] population in Northampton.

The figures from 2006 were very encouraging. The numbers visiting the Jesus Centre were roughly the same as last year, this was despite us deciding that services in the 'Step Up' [2] were over-stretched and that we would actually be able to help people more if we had fewer visitors. Particularly encouraging was a more than 100% increase in the number of people using our other [3] services and activities, which was nice for me as organising the groups we run is one of my responsibilities.

Over the last few years, the UK has seen a great deal of immigration: both asylum seekers from very difficult backgrounds and economic migrants from the new EU countries. Since the last round of EU expansion (from Poland in particular) a large number of new people have arrived. This has caused something of a stir (as if our generation was the first to see wide-spread immigration), but in fact a large number of people are also migrating out of Britain each year.

At the Jesus Centre we want to know if the number of non-UK visitors we have is representative of the population in Northampton. Unfortunately, the only data we could find were the 2001 Census figures. A large proportion of the population changes have occurred since the census, so I started looking for more up to date figures.

Uhm... except I couldn't find any. I did find a Northamptonshire local authorities 2005 Study of Black and Minority Ethnic Housing Support Needs (PDF). It uses the 2001 census figures (although it does provide interesting information about the Northampton Gypsy and traveller community - around one third of all traveller caravans in the East Midlands are in Northamptonshire).

So as far as I can tell, after several years of controversial immigration, the most up to date central information about the UK population dates back to 2001...

The home office recognises this, and this year started a new initiative to rectify this: Improving Migration and Population Statistics Project (IMPS).

This involves case studies of bringing in data from a range of sources, carried out in several cities in the UK. Data sources include:

  • Ports
  • Requests for National Insurance numbers
  • Schools
  • The health service
  • The benefits system
  • Universities

and so on...

So, if IMPS is put into general practise, then we might have better information some time; but for the moment the best we can do is use the 2001 information. Luckily that shows that we are fantastic at reaching the non-UK population of Northampton - but comparing with some real data would be useful. Wink

[1]For some definition of 'ethnic'...
[2]Our drop-in facility for the homeless.
[3]By 'other', I mean excluding the step-up, Circle Cafe and info desk.

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Posted by Fuzzyman on 2007-06-03 23:51:07 | |
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Solarized Me

emoticon:envelope Ok, so this isn't exactly original - but I still think it is cool.

Picture of me, solarized

This was done with the 'solarize' effect from Irfan View. I look almost 'Zeus-like'. Laughing

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Posted by Fuzzyman on 2007-05-28 18:52:17 | |
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