Friday, June 29, 2007

Why the iPhone Sucks

Jesus has come back, and he's a phone now.



But not really. I love Apple and everything, and I admit the iPhone looks awesome. If someone were to give me one, I'd shit my pants with glee. However, my problem with it is that, as one of the most expensive cell phones ever made, the iPhone should do everything that other cell phones do, and also have unique features and Apple's sense of style. It doesn't.

For one thing, the iPhone doesn't have all the latest technology in it. It doesn't have GPS, and uses an outdated, slower, internet technology. It barely has any storage space - 8GB at the most, which is 10 times less than my 80GB iPod. I can forgive that, though, if you just consider it the best possible cell phone that uses current technology.



What I can't forgive is the fact that my Motorola V551, which I got 2 or 3 years ago for $50 (more than ten times less than the $600 iPhone), does more than the iPhone does. Here are some things my current cell does that the iPhone doesn't:
  • Instant messenging. Send me a message on MSN when I'm not on my computer, and it goes to my cell phone.
  • Recording video. It may be shitty quality, but at least it can do it.
  • Custom ringtones. I can upload any mp3 to my cell and use it as the ringtone. The iPhone can't do this; you have to buy ringtones.
  • Games.
  • Picture messages.
  • Voice dialing.
  • Etc.


What sucks is that the iPhone is clearly capable of having all these things, but it is intentionally crippled in order to make more money (e.g. ringtones), or to hold back now so that a new hardware or software update in the future seems more impressive (e.g. NEW!!! The iPhone now has GAMES!!!! Just like CELL PHONES from 10 YEARS AGO!!!), or to avoid competing with themselves (e.g. Introducing the next-generation iPod...it looks just like the iPhone, but has enough storage to be useful, and no phone!).



Technology should constantly move forward, building on itself. Each new generation should do everything the last generation did, only better, and should add new technology on top of it. The iPhone, however, is a step backwards, and that should not be the case for a phone that costs thousands of dollars over the course of its contract. It uses old technology, and purposefully leaves out features that should be standard in top of the line phones. As nice as a big touch screen is for watching the 2 videos you can store on it and slowly browsing the internet, it ain't worth the money. I can do more with the combination of my old-ass cell phone and iPod than I could by spending a month's rent on the iPhone.

Maybe I'm just bitter because I can't afford one (and they're not available yet here in Canada even if I could). But I'm hopeful that in a few years the iPhone's offspring will live up to their potential; then I'll be squirting with excitement and waiting in line to buy one like everyone else.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Impending Robot Revolution


Below is a quote from Ray Kurzweil's book The Singularity is Near. To put it in context: The singularity is a time when humanity as we know it will suddenly change drastically, due to advances in technology. For example, our brains will be enhanced by nonbiological computers, and we'll spend half our time in fully immersive virtual reality. Some of the major advances that will lead to this change are what Kurzweil refers to as "GNR", which stands not for the name of a band with a perpetually delayed album, but for "genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics." Here is the quote:

"The most powerful impending revolution is "R": human-level robots with their intelligence derived from our own but redesigned to far exceed human capabilities. R represents the most significant transformation, because intelligence is the most powerful "force" in the universe. Intelligence, if sufficiently advanced, is, well, smart enough to anticipate and overcome obstacles that stand in its path."


Is it just me, or is that terrifying? This isn't science fiction; Kurzweil actually believes this will happen in the not-to-distant future, and I'm inclined to agree with him. Yet it sounds like science fiction, and not happy utopian future science fiction, but The Matrix / Mad Max / Blade Runner / oops we destroyed the earth science fiction.

Sure, it could go either way. Maybe the obstacles standing in the path of these superhuman, superintelligent, and presumably supersized robots will be obstacles that overlap with humanity's: global warming, crime, obesity, premature baldness. But what if their obstacles are us? We with our dull neuron-based brains and squishy bodies?

I'm sure Kurzweil has speculation on how we'll prevent this from happening (I'm only halfway through the book). I just hope he doesn't underestimate the human race's ability to make extremely stupid decisions, or overlook the fact that when it comes to world-altering technology, it only takes a small group of sketchy people to get their hands on it to do great harm. Let's hope we can overcome that stuff, though, because virtual reality would be kickass, and I do like my squishy body.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ice Cream

I think one of the only bad things about ice cream is that you can't put it in tupperware in the morning and bring it to work with you, because by the time lunch rolls around, it's all melted, and does not taste as good.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Tumblr

I made a new blog type thing. It uses something called Tumblr, which is sort of a cross between Blogger and Twitter. You just push a button to post anything you find on the web, and it shows up on this Tumblr blog. It also imports info from other hip Web 2.0 things like Last.fm, Digg, Twitter, Blogger, etc. It's all quick and easy, and ends up being more like a scrapbook than a blog.

Check it out: phronk.tumblr.com

One shitty thing is that it only displays a max of 15 things per page. I've been hitting the "share on Tumblr" button whenever I find anything remotely interesting in the last few days, and stuff goes off the main page quick. So it needs work, but could be a pretty cool little tool for you blogger types.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Stephen King's Richard Bachman's "New" Book



I saw this book in Chapters the other day, and my eye was drawn to Stephen King's name. Of course, this is exactly what the publishers wanted my eye to do, because everyone knows who Stephen King is, but fewer know Richard Bachman. The funny thing is, the book's only author is Bachman, whose name you may be able to make out in tiny letters at the top. It's only the forward that is written by King

Since when does the writer of the forward get a bigger font than the writer of the novel?

Granted, it would be less forgivable if King and Bachman were not the same person, nullifying any confusion about who wrote the book. Still, weird.

I was also surprised to see King putting out another book so soon after his last one. But it turns out that this was written in the 70s as one of the original "Bachman books", then never released. King only rewrote Blaze recently, in addition to writing like 5 other novels from scratch. He can write books faster than I can read them.

I can't imagine the time, motivation, and willpower it would take to write 2 or 3 novels in a year. Actually, scratch that; if I was being paid millions of dollars to live in a fancy house in Maine, and all I had to do was spooge my fantasies into a keyboard all day every day, it would take zero willpower. I'd drop everything and do that in a heartbeat. No, scratch that; in a hamster's heartbeat.

A hamster's heart beats over 450 times per minute!



And it's spelled hamster, not hampster. Where does everyone get that P?

Oh, hey, maybe I should go study for my big set of exams coming up in 2 weeks instead of procrastinating by looking up animal heart rates. Unless anyone wants to offer me a novel deal for enough cash to take a few years off of school and write? I haven't really written anything before, but I'm sure I'll figure it out. Anyone?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I think the awesomest thing about going bald is that if a bug lands on my head, I feel it right away. Ain't no bugs gonna sit on my hair and lay eggs that burrow into my brain, because I ain't GOT no hair. Take that.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Overthinking


Us psychology types are constantly reading and thinking about things like logic, experimental design, and statistics. I recently came across a nice little article, Mistakes in Experimental Design and Interpretation, that summarizes a bunch of issues in designing and interpreting science experiments.

I found the last point the most interesting:

Mistake I9: Being Too Clever

Sir R. A. Fisher (1890-1962) was one of the greatest statisticians of all time, perhaps most noted for the idea of analysis of variance. But he sullied his reputation by arguing strongly that smoking does not cause cancer. He had some sensible arguments. First, he rightfully pointed out our Mistake I7, correlation is not causation. He was clever at coming up with alternative scenarios: perhaps lung cancer causes an irritation that the patient can feel long before it can be diagnosed, such that the irritation is alleviated by smoking. Or perhaps there is some unknown common cause that leads to both cancer and a tendency to smoke. Fisher was also correct in pointing out Mistake D1, lack of randomized trials: we can't randomly separate children at birth and force one group to smoke and the other not to. (Although we can do that with animal studies.) But he was wrong to be so dismissive of reproducible studies, in humans and animals, that showed a strong correlation, with clear medical theories explaining why smoking could cause cancer, and no good theories explaining the correlation any other way. He was wrong not to see that he may have been influenced by his own fondness for smoking a pipe, or by his libertarian objections to any interference with personal liberties, or by his employ as a consultant for the tobacco industry. Fisher died in 1962 of colon cancer (a disease that is 30% more prevalent in smokers than non-smokers). It is sad that the disease took Fisher's life, but it is a tragedy that Fisher's stuborness provided encouragement for the 5 million people a year who kill themselves through smoking.


It's a nice reminder that sometimes, knowing too much can get in the way of seeing the truth that's right in front of us, and can even be deadly. If we don't agree with some conclusion, we can whip out all the "correlation does not equal causation", "research is still inconclusive", and "there was no control group" we want, but that doesn't make the conclusion false. Deep issues concerning statistics and scientific reasoning are important, sure, but sometimes we just need to look past these trees and see the giant fucking forest that's been there all along.

Oh Schnapp

Putting butterscotch schnapps in my coffee this morning, I realized, if this is what drinking in the middle of the work day tastes like, I'm totally ready to become an alcoholic.

Mmm.

Monday, June 18, 2007

I Like to Do Drawrings

Only semi-retarded emo kids post their crappy art to their blogs.

Here is mine:





Click for bigification.

I found these on my computer. They are old. I don't do art any more because science has sucked my soul out like an overzealous hooker.

Friday, June 15, 2007

"The mathematician is fascinated with the marvelous beauty of the forms he constructs, and in their beauty he finds everlasting truth"

Nolff revealed some new mathematical formulas which I have studied carefully . Fatrobot built upon Nolff's previous research and developed new theorums and techniquums. I have done research too. I did it by scribbling on a chalkboard, because that is how scientists like myself do research. I have developed a new methodology which I call taking away, and it is represented by a single dash, like this: - .

Here is proof of concept:



Note its wide application. For example, here is some biological science:



Next week I will demonstrate how to factor analyze the music of Kelly Clarkson in order to reveal viable Calabi-Yau manifolds.

References:

Einstein, A. (1982). (§ / 7) * π r ^ 2 + Oprah = 42. Jrnl O Nppy Hded Hs, 71, 314-6096.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Ottawa


V and I have been in Ottawa for the last few days. Here are some facts about Ottawa:
  • Sneaking into an academic conference isn't too hard. I probably should have registered early, when it didn't cost much, but given that I was lazy and waited until the price went up to $400.00, there's no way I'm paying that much just to wander booths where companies advertise their stuff. If I'm getting deluged with ads, I better be there for cheap or free. In any case, I only got caught once, and even then, didn't get thrown out. Oh and since I saved $400, that's pretty much free money that I can spend on booze and video games, right?
  • The Byward Market is pretty cool. V bought a plastic spider there that will mellow her chakra energies based on ancient Indian colour wheels, or something. There are lots of hippies in Ottawa.
  • The bathrooms in Ottawa are extremely nice and clean. Even in male public washrooms, I barely saw any shit, piss, blood or puke outside of the bowl. Paradoxically (or maybe not), people enjoy peeing in random places that are not bathrooms. We saw a few too many penises flopping out in the middle of the city.
  • I got a nosebleed for the first time in my life. I haven't blown my nose since then, because man, nosebleeds are scary. This probably has nothing to do with Ottawa, other than taking place there.
  • The city was still kinda depressed over not winning the Stanley Cup. It's OK, Ottawa, second place is still pretty good. Hah! Just kidding! Nobody even remembers second place. You fail at life.


I'll post a few pictures or something later. The art gallery has a giant spider in front of it, which I will post a picture of. As the great poet Robert Frost once said, "giant spiders fucking kick ass."

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

"Country Music" is an Oxymoron

I am going to a psychology conference for a few days. V and I will be driving to Ottawa, and she will probably make me listen to country music much of the way there.

I really love country music. Here is some fan mail:

Dear Carrie Underwood,

Maybe the reason he cheated is that his girlfriend is batshit crazy and prone to destroying property when she gets angry. You know who else expresses frustration with violence? Osama Bin Laden. I hope Jesus takes the wheel and drives you straight to hell.

P.S. Your music makes me puke out of my ears.

Sincerely,
-Phronk


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Food Logic Volume 4: Cheese + Coffee

Premise 1: Cheese goes good with beer.
Premise 2: Beer goes good with coffee.

Conclusion: Coffee goes good with cheese.


I'm thinking melted right in there. Yum yum.

See also: Food logic volume 3: Butter + coffee.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Jesus Camp



Jesus Camp: This movie has nothing to do with pirates or reality TV, so it gets a separate post. Jesus Camp is a documentary about a camp where kids go to "learn" about evangelical Christian beliefs. You may have heard Richard Dawkins say that bringing up kids to believe in a certain religion is child abuse. Well, if you want to see a dramatic illustration of that, see this movie. You might as well be watching kids getting beaten with a belt for an hour and a half. It's that bad.

What bugs me isn't that kids are learning about what this particular brand of Christians believe. Rather, they are being TOLD that it is the only thing they can possibly believe, and that anyone who doesn't believe it is an enemy. And maybe I'm just projecting my own beliefs on my perceptions, but I really see a lot of anger and unhappiness behind everything the adults preach, and it passes onto the kids. Some is subtle - a hint of fury in their eyes as they preach - but some is blatant, like making kids cry because they are all less-than-perfect, and sinners, and whatever. Even if I believed in God this would be horrifying; but it's made even worse by the fact that the things being preached about are almost certainly false.

I would never advocate taking away the right for such a camp to exist. Yet it shows that there is a large problem, at least in the United States. There are people - and there are a lot of them - with crazy harmful beliefs, and they are brainwashing their children to have the same beliefs. These kids don't even get a chance to actually learn about reality, because they are taught at home and have little contact with the outside world (other than Jesus Camp). Because they are so extreme and so passionate, they can often get into positions of power. One of the movie's themes is a focus on the desire of these people to, literally, take over the United States. Like some evil comic book supervillain group.

I do believe, however, that sanity will prevail. Most normal Christians will be as horrified by this movie as I am. Atheists are becoming more organized and powerful thanks to Richard Dawkins and his ilk. Basically, most people are sane, and I have "faith" that they will overshadow these nutjobs and their brainwashed children in the future of the United States, and ultimately, the earth.

Arrrrr

Here are a few things I saw:
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End: Meh. This was an OK movie. Maybe I'm just going retarded in my old age, or didn't see the 2nd movie recently enough, but it was damn confusing for a movie about pirates killing each other. I know pirates are supposed to be thieves and liars, but these pirates seem to betray each other, lie, change sides, or change their minds every 5 minutes or so. The result is that everyone is fighting everyone else, but you don't really know WHY anyone is fighting. The movie has its moments, though, like what happens "at world's end", which is pretty much at the beginning of the movie...and Johnny Depp is somehow awesome in every movie he does. Still, could've been better.

  • Pirate Master: This is a reality show. With pirates. Not real pirates, mind you...but ordinary people who have been trained to sail by the show, and who dress up as pirates. It's like a combination of Survivor and Live Action Role Playing (see below). And given the way this game works, I can totally see it going all Stanford Prison Experiment, with people getting way too into their roles and treating each other like shit. Thus, I will watch a few more episodes...purely because I'm interested in the psychological implications, you see. It's research.




  • On the Lot: This is another reality show. This one is exactly like American Idol, except instead of singing, people make movies. It's definitely worth watching just for the movies. Some of the contestants have made some incredible ones, especially considering they are only given a few days (or in one case, 24 hours) to make them. The bad ones are hilariously bad, and it's fun to see the judges rip apart a film that someone has devoted the last week of their life to carefully crafting.