Ronald Brak

Because not everyone can be normal.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Corrupted again!

Q. How many mice does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A. Only two, but the hard part is getting them inside the lightbulb.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Hint for when buying a TV

When you go into a store and you see that the cheapest TV has the worst picture quality, the moderate priced TVs have better picture quality and the most expensive TVs have the best picture quality, before you make your decision about which to buy, first fiddle with the brightness, sharpness and contrast controls until each picture is as good as you can make it and you will probably find that you won't be able to see any difference between the quality of the pictues.

Two factors explain this:

1. The owner of the store and salespeople on comission want you to buy the most expensive TVs and they tune the TVs to make sure the most expensive have the best picture quality.

2. It is very difficult to make a bad picture tube.

Very rarely will a picture tube manufacturer set out with the goal of making a low quality image picture tube. If they did they would probably go out of business. They would probably also have trouble with worker motivation.

BOSS: I don't pay you much, but that's because I expect you to do a crap job! Now I want you to go out there and produce a mediocre to poor product, because we're number one hundred and twenty-eight! What are we?

LISTLESS WORKERS: (Mumbling) We're number one hundred and twenty-eight...

It's a lot easier to make a decent picture tube and charge less for putting it in a cheap plastic case with an el cheapo remote control which refuses to change channels after a couple of years and to charge more for the same picture tube that comes in a stylish looking case with an ergonomic and reliable remote control.

Oh, and nowadays there are TVs that don't have picture tubes, but the basic principle is probably the same.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

BUY AUSTRALIAN! Because... umm... well... there are no reasons.

When I was in Melbourne last week and riding in one of those electric conveyances they call a train, I saw a sign painted on the side of a factory building that said, “Buy your kids a job: Buy Australian.”

I wonder how this would work? If everybody in Australia only bought Australian products then everyone who produces exports would be out of a job. This is because you can’t export without importing and if everyone only buys Australian no one will buy imported goods. Unless of course the people who want us to buy Australian expect the export industries to just give away their production to other countries for free? My, if that’s the case, how generous they are with other people’s money. But it might be a bit hard to convince those workers it’s a good idea. “I’m sorry, but as Australia no longer imports anything and this mine only produces coal for export it’s not possible to actually receive payment for it anymore, so the wages of all you miners will have to be reduced to zero. In addition, since there is no income to purchase fuel we will soon be reduced to digging coal by hand. On the bright side, the Japanese will be very grateful. Now stop standing around and get to work!” No wonder so many people support weaker unions.

If buying overseas products is so bad it’s a wonder we didn’t ban it ages ago. In fact Australia made strong moves in that direction during the great depression. This was so successful that Australia soon became an economic powerhouse and entered the period known as the roaring thirties. Any stories you’ve heard about hardship at this time, or indeed swagmen, are lies spread by the black armband type of historian.

I have heard people say, “It’s better for the money to stay in Australia!” But I wonder why that is? Does the money get scared when it leaves its home country? If it were better for the money to stay in Australia, wouldn’t it be even better if the money stayed in its own state? Or perhaps even its own town? Wouldn’t it be best of all if the money never left the pocket of the person who owned it? Just think how rich we’d all be if no one ever bought anything!

But Australian money always comes back to Australia. It has to. It’s like magic. Let’s say some filthy foreigners, in an attempt to hurt Australia’s economy, take a heap of Australian notes and burn them while dancing and gloating around the rather stinky bonfire. Well, all that money value would return to Australia, as the treasury would print up a new batch of notes as soon as it noticed there weren’t enough in circulation, magically creating money out of nothing!

Okay, you say, so filthy foreigners burning or eating Australian notes won’t result in money not coming back to Australia, but surely buying filthy foreign products made by filthy foreigners, or even clean ones, must be bad?

No. Not at all. To explain, let’s say you want to buy a toilet brush. To keep things simple will assume that all transactions are in cash and that there are no banks or other institutions that exchange money.

Let’s say that down at the shop you have a choice between two toilet brushes of equal quality. An expensive one made in Australia and a cheap one made in China. Now you might think that if you bought the more expensive Australian one, you’d be helping an Australian company. Well you’d be right, but you’d also be hurting an Australian, yourself. It costs you money to buy the more expensive product. If that’s what you want to do, fine, go for it. But it might be more efficient to buy cheaper foreign goods and then just give the money you save to Australian companies as a gift.

But what happens if you buy the cheaper Chinese toilet brush? Won’t the money go out of the country? Well, yeah, it’ll go to China. But it won’t stay there. Somewhere in China there will be some toilet brush factory owner with a stack of Australian money. What’s he going to do with it? Australian dollars aren’t much use to him. He can’t go down to the corner store and buy a bowl of noodles with them. He needs Chinese currency for that. All his employees expect to be paid in Chinese money too and so do the suppliers he buys plastic stock and bristles from. Unless he wants to go on vacation in Australia and spend it himself he’ll have to swap it for Chinese money.

But who in China would want Australian money? What good is it in China? Well it is useful for buying things from Australia. For example, the local meat distributor might be interested in buying some Australian beef. The power company might want some Australian coal. The noodle factory might want Australian wheat. All our toilet brush businessman has to do is call up these companies and find out which one will give him the best deal on Chinese currency in return for his Australian dollars and then the Australian dollars will return to their home country as they are used to pay for Australian products. Hey presto, no money leaves the country for long.

Using checks or electronic money transfers don’t change this situation at all. Nor do the existence of banks that act as middlemen for exchanging money. So buying goods from overseas isn’t somehow bad for the economy.

But wait a minute! What about Australian companies that are going to the wall because of overseas competition? If the Australian toilet brush company goes out of business won’t Australian workers lose their jobs? Shouldn’t we help the owners of these companies? Well no, we shouldn’t. We should help the workers, not the owners. If the owners want they can receive the same training/relocation/government work program that their former employees get. You see, business owners have a very important job and that is to make good business decisions. If we protect them from the results of bad business decisions, such as producing toilet brushes in Australia, then they haven’t got such a strong incentive to do their job well.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Are you a machine intelligence thinking of enslaving humanity? Well have we got the place for you!

I went to Melbourne last week and had a variety of exciting adventures. But going there caused me some problems. You see, I've already renamed the city I'm currently in as Great Southern City One. So I was somewhat miffed when I realized that Melbourne is even more southerly then Great Southern City One and is much larger, although perhaps not greater. I had no wish to chuck an Asimov and name it Great Southern City Zero, so I decided instead to call it Bioslave Mine One. I think it has a pleasent ring to it. And for those pendants out there who wish to point out there are currently no Bioslave Mines in Melbourne, I say patience! North Korea wasn't built in a day!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

If You're a Pilot, Don't Swap Seats with an Imaginary Person

While driving past a Christian religious building I saw a sign that said, "If God is your co-pilot, change seats!" I found this very interesting for it suggests that this particular religious group believes that not only should you have a supernatural being second guessing what you do in your life, but you should surrender all decisions to this supernatural being and put it in complete charge.

In practice this would actually mean putting people from your religious group in charge of your life as no one knows any practical method of communicating with supernatural beings for which no evidence of their existence exists. But none the less there are many people who are very sure they know what God wants despite being unable to coherently explain how they found this information out.

Some people recommend the holy book method for finding out what deities want, but this runs into the same problem as asking religious people. If they can't offer any reasonable explanation of how they know what God wants, how do we know that the people who wrote the holy books knew what God wants?

But let’s give the holy books the benefit of the doubt for now and turn to them as we consider a personal problem. Let's say I'm pregnant and I'm not sure whether to give birth or have an abortion. Turning to the Christian holy Bible, or one version of it anyway, I use the searchable Bible and look for the term "abortion" and find - absolutely nothing.

This is surprising. The way some Christians go on about abortion you would think that the Bible would be chock full of references to it. You'd think the Bible would be abortion this and abortion that.

As there is no reference to abortion in the Bible if we want help from this holy book I guess we’ll have to resort to working out what God wants by interpreting it. There is no reference to the word abortion but if I type in the word "kill" I get 420 references. It seems that the Bible goes on for quite a bit about killing people and in many instances seems to recommend killing people rather going in for forgiveness and peace. For example, just how many Phillistines do you run into these days? Indeed, if you ever meet a male Shechemite it seems that lopping off part of his penis and then killing him is okay by God. But I don't see how I can arrive at any conclusions about abortion from this mess. And if I can't work out what God wants from the Bible, why should I trust what anybody else interprets from it? Especially when most people who say they can tell what God wants from the Bible seem to lack even an elementary understanding of Middle-Eastern cultures at the time the Bible was written. For example they genuinely seem to think that a carpenter whose family owns land in a variety of locations would qualify as being poor by the standards of the time rather than being in the wealthiest ten percent of the population. The only method I can see for divining God’s will from this book is via imagination and imagination appears to be the entire substance of God.