Category Archives: General

Knowledge vs Data

I’ve just had an epiphany. I was rolling around a few ideas in my head about the nature of learning and thinking when a few puzzle pieces clicked together for me. A disclaimer up front, I’m not claiming these are totally original thoughts that have never been articulated before by other people (although, if that turns out to be the case, hello PhD thesis!) I have not read or heard this exact thing expressed elsewhere which compelled me to write these thoughts down and share them.

Being a science fiction buff I enjoy the speculative and predictive nature of SF stories although I’m very sceptical of many (if any) writers being directly accurate in their predictions. To be fair, the open secret about SF is the best writers aren’t writing thematically about the future, they are writing about now. They use the future and/or alien worlds to frame their ideas but what they are really concerned with is the technology, issues ideas and actions of today and what paths they might lead us down.

So the focus on prediction is far more a shortcoming of readers than writers but it’s something everyone is guilty of at some point.

One of the favourite wet dreams of SF nerds is the idea of downloaded knowledge a la The Matrix and dozens of other stories. I’ve always had a gut feel this one was bullshit simply because of how long so many people have been fixated on it. I’m not really a contrarian by nature, this is more an analysis of the track record of SF predictions than saying “everyone says it so it must be wrong.”

Big and specific predictions (like personal jet packs) tend to be wrong and I’ve been convinced for a while that downloadable or implantable knowledge is simply not going to happen. It comes down to the difference between data and knowledge. Computers can hold and process vast amounts of data but can’t actually come up with ideas of their own (“not yet” is the breathless whisper from the Singularity geeks who squirt a little in their pants as they get worked up yet again over their fantasy of the rapture of the nerds). I’ll go further, the fact that a person has access to Wikipedia (or any encyclopaedia) doesn’t make them smart. In fact, let’s go even further, anyone who copies and pastes slabs of text from Wikipedia because that “proves their point” is a fucking moron.

But someone who reads, researches, analyses, proposes new ideas and just thinks dammit! That is a person who can get away with calling themselves smart.

And that’s why I think implanted/downloaded knowledge can’t work. It’s mixing up data with knowledge. The most likely outcome would be the scenario in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” where kids have information forced into their brains but they can’t use it. When they hear a trigger word they can repeat the relevant data but it still doesn’t mean anything to them.

A kid is asked about the Nile River and automatically repeats “The Nile is the longest river in the world…” Then the kid is asked what is the longest river in the world and can’t answer. He’s prompted “What about the Nile?” He reflexively repeats “The Nile is the longest river in the world…” then he’s prompted, “So what’s the longest river in the world?” and he still can’t answer.

Now, a smart person can benefit from having fast access to data but even a genius doesn’t learn anything useful from it instantly. And quite honestly, a stupid person with data is still stupid. In fact, they’re probably worse now because they’re drowning in a tsunami of data but they have no idea what to do with it. They have no way of knowing what bits of the data are most valuable and they are incapable of applying it effectively. But that won’t stop them from being a pundit on Fox News.

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Masturbate-a-thon: The gift that keeps on giving

One of the benefits of having built up a core of followers through this blog and YouTube is that people are always sending me suggestions for issues, topics and stories to cover.  I welcome all of the suggestions but in many cases I never do anything with them.  Sometimes it’s because I don’t think the idea suits me, sometimes it’s because I can’t think of anything good to do with it.

But sometimes, there is a story that simply must be done.  One such story was recently provided to me via YouTube by Joshua – the recently held San Francisco Masturbat-a-thon. Which is actually an annual event.

The only problem is knowing where to start because there is so much material to work with. The masturbate-a-thon really is the gift that keeps on giving.  The delightful thing is you can’t parody these people. It’s the perfect balance of a really crazy event and people being committed to an essentially positive message.  If you try to slag them off, they really aren’t going to give a shit.

The good part is, when the subject matter is this funny, you don’t need parody. Just looking at exactly what was going on kept me in hysterics.  It wasn’t enough for them to simply bring people together to masturbate – no, there were competitions.  At the 2009 masturbate-a-thon you could compete in:

  • Longest squirt distance (and this was a mixed gender event, even if men had an unfair advantage)
  • Longest time spent masturbating (and as the website says, bend your gender expectations – the record holder is male)
  • Most orgasms (a mixed gender event where women have the advantage) and
  • Tag Team “Fun” (which quite frankly boggles my mind)

Put simply, these people are determined to earn back some respect for masturbation. Or something.  Hey, I make YouTube videos so I’m all about public masturbation in the metaphorical sense.  But it’s hard to argue with their core points:

  • Masturbation is the safest sex
  • More masturbation means more sexual self-awareness
  • Masturbation with a partner can be educational and hot

I guess I should add that I know a lot of people would be freaked out by this. The world is full of uptight people who are squeamish about discussing sex and thanks to my Catholic upbringing I know masturbation is really taboo for a lot of people.  So putting masturbation right in people’s faces like this (so to speak) is pretty confronting.  Which I think is kind of their point.  Maybe they are just really sick people.  But I think they are a great blend of positive, outrageous and just plain funny.

What’s not to love about a web site that includes featured masturbators as well as a participation guide that encourages you to get your friends to sponsor your masturbation either by the hour or by the orgasm.  I just want to say that if you’re having that conversation with your friends they are either really close friends or they hate you and really wish you’d stop calling.

Oh, and I know you want to know the competition results so here they are:

  • Existing record holder, Mr Masanobu Sato of Japan broke his old mark of masturbating for 9 hours 33 minutes to set a new record of 9 hours 58 minutes. He might think he’s a winner but I say he’s soft for not holding out for to more minutes to make an even 10 hours.
  • A new record for squirting distance was set by “Flint Greasewood” who shot a truly astounding 5 feet 4 inches. I understand they audience was required to wear protective eyewear.
  • And a new Women’s World Tag Team time record was set by the owners and union members of the cooperative strip club the Lusty Lady Theatre. I have no idea what is involved in that record but I’m extremely disappointed that I didn’t see it.

And as an added bonus, the SF Weekly has a decidedly Not Safe For Work slideshow of highlights.  Some of the slideshow captions crack me up too.  For instance there’s the tip about rest breaks in Masturbation marathons – “It’s like a pit stop in the Indianapolis 500 – if you really want to win, keep your tyre changes to a minimum.”  And then there’s the “friendliest wanker of the bunch” who handed the SF Weekly a business card. Which I can only assume they burned – or at least washed thoroughly.

And while, in all honesty, I’m supportive of the overall message of the event I really have to take issue with their site’s logo.

The logo in question

The logo in question

Now, I’m not surprised or offended that it features an erect penis. The wings are a little weird but I guess that’s a metaphor. Whatever.  But WHAT THE FUCK is up with the rear end of it?  Why the fuck does it seem to be some sort of flying penis/dog hybrid? And why the fuck does the dog have a huge gaping arsehole? Seriously!?!?!?!? WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU FUCKING PEOPLE FUCKING THINKING?!?!?!?!

On second thoughts, scratch that question. I really don’t want to know what the person who designed that logo was thinking.

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Greatest song titles ever

I wrote a post last year about my favourite song lyrics of all time. It still gets regular hits and I’ve been meaning to follow it up for ages with some of my favourite song titles. I was pushed along in this direction the first time I heard Jarvis Cocker’s “Cunts are still running the world“.

Apparently Jarvis doesn’t think the current wave of “socially conscious” rock festivals (like Live8) are achieving much and this song was his response. You can check it out on his MySpace page if you’re so inclined.

Because I am both angry and extremely immature, an in-your-face title like that with swearing included appeals to me. A theme you’ll see repeated in the list below. Another common theme is long song titles. For some reason I tend to find long song titles funny. Maybe because they aren’t used very often they stand out more. Anyway, without further ado, my list (as always, feel free to add your own selections):

Why don’t you all get fucked?” – Skyhooks

Skyhooks were very big in Australia in the 70s. This song is from the tail end of their career so maybe it was a desperate grab for attention. I thought the lyrics were hilarious when I was at school and I still think they’re hilarious today. I particularly like towards the end when the singer basically goes on a spoken word rant saying “Why don’t you and you and you and you And your rotten friends too Why don’t you and him and not forgettin’ you Why dontcha all get fucked?!”

You are the generation that bought more shoes and you get what you deserve” – Johnny Boy

Either very deep or very fatuous, I’m not sure. It has the bonus of being a pretty good pop song too (See the video on YouTube here)

“Regretting What I Said to You When You Called Me 11:00 On a Friday Morning to Tell Me that at 1:00 Friday Afternoon You’re Gonna Leave Your Office, Go Downstairs, Hail a Cab to Go Out to the Airport to Catch a Plane to Go Skiing in the Alps for Two Weeks, Not that I Wanted to Go With You, I Wasn’t Able to Leave Town, I’m Not a Very Good Skier, I Couldn’t Expect You to Pay My Way, But After Going Out With You for Three Years I DON’T Like Surprises!”Christin Lavin

I’m not sure if this is the longest song title in the world but it must be close. It’s usually summarised as “Regretting what I said…” and it’s subtitled “A musical apology”. It’s also a very funny song. Christine Lavin is a folkie kind of singer/songwriter from New York and she’s also one of the best live performers I’ve ever seen. She also invented the term “Sensitive New Age Guy” (and I was the first person in Australia ever to be called a SNAG – by her). She’s a genius.

Sick with the taste of truckers’ come” – Machine Gun Fellatio

Someone had to write a song about truck stop whores I guess. Australian band MGF were the ones to come up with the lyrics to do such an important subject justice.

The saddest thing I’ve ever seen was smokers outside the hospital door” – Editors

Some unusual lyrics and I’ve actually seen this in real life. Outside a cardiac unit at a hospital. Smokers pushing their drips alongside them because even though they’re nearly fucking dead they won’t stop smoking. Waste of fucking money treating these people.

I might be a cunt but I’m not a fucking cunt” – This Is Serious Mum

Another Australian band (filthy-mouthed bastard, aren’t we?) TISM wore masks for their whole career to protect their anonymity (another reason I like them). I think they were sick of not being really famous when they recorded this number – it seems a premeditated grab for notoriety. They did actually earn the ire of the arch-conservative Bruce Ruxton who was then head of the Returned Services League (RSL). The fact that he wrote a letter of complaint marks perhaps the only time in history the word “cunt” has appeared under RSL letterhead.

I want to spill the blood of a hippy” – Doug Anthony All Stars

Don’t we all feel like this some days? Besides writing funny songs, DAAS were also very good live performers. Check out a YouTube video example here.

I like your old stuff better than your new stuff” – Regurgitator

I like this one because it was the first track on their second album, thus neatly heading off the usual bullshit bands get as their career progresses. They also released a rock version as a single titled “I like your old remix better than your new remix”. Regurgitator changed style regularly but they always remained masters of irony with lines like “They’re fucked now and they’re sure not what they used to be“.

My spine is the bassline” – Shriekback

The perfect song title for a band who were all about the bass and the funk.

A plane scraped its belly on a sooty yellow moon” – Roni Size and Sould Coughing (from the Spawn soundtrack)

Remember that fad in the 90s of teaming up dance/pop acts with metal/hardcore acts to make movie soundtracks? This was from one of those ventures. The track is OK but I just like the nonsensical title.

Clubbed to death” – Rob Dougan

A simple and clever title. This club instrumental was made famous when it was included on the soundtrack for “The Matrix”. I just love the elegance of the pun in the title.

Shut the fuck up” – The Deadly Hume
A fringe band from the 80s. They were based in Sydney and were named after a notoriously dangerous highway. And they summed up my life philosophy with that song. Soon to appear on a Mr Angry t-shirt.

Speaking of which, I’d better finalise that competition. Damn. Another day.

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The Vagina of a 20 year old virgin filled with semen

Now there’s some guaranteed search engine bait. One more post title to draw the pornhounds to my blog. But despite the seemingly gratuitous title I make two pledges:

  1. It’s actually an accurate title for the content of the post
  2. There’s actually some hardcore graphic content so the pornhounds won’t be disappointed. Especially the fans of “internals”.

This all comes about because I was doing some research into fertility on the weekend. This is not code for “I spent the weekend looking at porn”. If I spent the weekend looking at porn I would say so. I think my readers could deal with it. But this was some serious research.

In the course of this research I happened across what is know as the Billings Ovulation Method. I’m sure anyone who’s had cause to investigate fertility will have come across this concept. It’s essentially supposed to help you determine the most fertile times of the month for women. To illustrate their information they use the following image of a 20 year old virgin’s vagina (this is the hot graphic stuff I was promising the pornhounds):

hot graphic porn image 

Is that hot or what?  The arrows are pointing to various types of sperm that meet various fates.  It’s good to know what happens to the little soldiers.  My first thought on seeing this image was “man, that’s hot!”  My second thought was “Why the hell was this guy so specific?”  Why the need to tell us it was a 20 year old virgin?  That’s porn site specific.  I think we’re seeing the whole reason this guy got into gynecology.  He has some very specific kinky fetishes.

Then a far more important thought occurred to me.  Why does a virgin of any age have a vagina full of semen?  Or more to the point, how does a 20 year old virgin end up with a vagina full of semen?  OK, I know the general method of semen delivery but that would exclude the “virgin” part of the description.

So I’m thinking this guy is not only kinky, he’s very gullible: “No, honest dad, I’m still a virgin.  It’s perfectly normal for a 20 year old virgin to have a vagina full of semen.”

These are the sorts of thoughts that occupy my weekends, anyway.

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A simple misunderstanding

We live in troubled times. It’s a lucky thing I don’t have brown skin. If there was any chance of somebody suspecting I was Muslim then my habit of screaming “If you don’t leave me the fuck alone, people will start dying!” would get me into more trouble than it already does.
I had a simple misunderstanding with someone at work today that could easily have spiraled out of control. You know when you walk around a blind corner and almost bump into someone? The way you have a tendency to jump a little, do a little double-take as you realise there’s someone directly in your path?
I had that situation at work today but the woman involved went a bit over the top. She actually shrieked a little and clutched her heart as if she was having a heart attack. No, she wasn’t having a heart attack. Not to the best of my knowledge anyway. I’m not callous enough to mock a cow-orker for having a heart attack. OK, yes I am, but that isn’t what happened in this case.
I thought her reaction was a bit over the top.  After all, it wasn’t as if I was a crazed madman wielding a knife.  OK, I was actually carrying a knife.  But that isn’t the same as wielding.  And I have a headcold at moment.  So right at that moment I was wheezing and snorking a bit.  But still, she was weird.

If the knife had been bloodstained I could understand her reaction.  But the red stains on it were from the pie I had been slicing.  Definitely not blood.  And I obviously wasn’t planning to stab anybody.  I did stumble a little as I rounded the corner, so my arm… wavered a bit.  It might have looked a bit like a stabby-stabby motion.

All I’m saying is the troubles of these modern times have made people way too paranoid.  I mean, if we can’t stagger around the workplace, breathing heavily, making stabbing motions with big, sharp, red-stained knives then the terrorists have already won.

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Body safely home – brain expected later

I have this strategy when I go on long drives – consume enough caffeine to stay alert for the trip but not so much that I’m an incoherent gibbering wreck when I get home.  Being able to sleep sometime in the next 48 hours would be good too.

I got my plan half right.

So I’m safely home but twitching and drooling more than I’d like.  My brain is sorta like radio slightly out of tune with a channel.  Lots of static that occasionally almost forms coherent sounds that make some sort of sense.  I think I’ll run around outside and chase cicadas for a while.

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Memorial Day in Australia

Memorial Day is one of the US holidays that doesn’t occur in Australia but I think it’s fair to say there’s an unofficial Memorial Day in Australia.  Poor Steve Irwin.  Mr Crikey himself, the Crocodile Hunter met an untimely end in what can only be described as a freak accident.  I think he was odd-on to have a tangle with a crocodile that ended badly one day but stabbed through the heart by a stingray was unexpected.

He’s a good advertisement for living life by your passions.  Even knowing he would suffer a painful death, I doubt he would have changed anything in his life.  He’s also a pretty good advertisement for the fact that if you choose dangerous activities, you’re exposing yourself to risks that other folks don’t have to deal with and they might catch up with you one day. 

Another passing that will doubtless get less exposure is the death of Australian kids’ book author, Colin Thiele, at 85.  He was most famous for a book called “Storm Boy”.  When I was young, every Australian schoolkid had to read this book.  It was something about a boy and a pelican and gaining wisdom from an aboriginal bloke.  I honestly don’t remember the details although I read the book and saw the movie.

On a personal note, things are a bit sad on the home front right now.  My girlfriend’s cat, Furgle, met an untimely end last night – a victim of the scourge of urban cats: a passing car.  He was a very nice kitty and much too young to have this happen (about 4 years old).  A faithful companion who won’t be forgotten.

OK, I promise to post a few videos later to cheer things up.

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