Maybe

Sometimes you just want to write something. Maybe you have something specific to say, maybe not. Maybe you have nothing to say at all, but just want to get something out there.

Maybe you’ve set yourself a target, and having missed a day (and being aware that you’ll doubtless miss others) you’ve decided you want to keep the average up. So that at the end of 2017 you’ll be able to look back at at least 365 posts in the year.

Maybe at the start of the year, that was about as many posts as were on your blog in its whole history. So it’s a major challenge. But maybe you keep going, even with nothing to say.

Brain Explain

Interesting article on psychology wherein Robert Epstein tells us that “Your brain does not process information and it is not a computer.”

It is, as I say, interesting. But it’s also profoundly annoying in the way he asserts that the human brain is not an information processor, but then makes no attempt to explain what it is, instead. 

He asserts that the brain does not hold a copy of a song it has learned, for example, but instead “is changed in a way that allows the person to sing it” (I paraphrase).

But isn’t that just another way of saying that it has stored a copy? If that change does not in some sense denote making a cåopy, then what exactly does it mean? What is the brain doing when the singer recalls the song? Inventing it anew, exactly (or not) as the original composer intended?

I don’t doubt that what he calls “[t]he information processing (IP) metaphor of human intelligence” has its limitations; but he has completely failed to explain them or provide an alternative explanation.

The truth is we don’t understand much about how the brain does what it does; and this guy knows more than most of us. But he’s a psychologist. He no doubt has a deep understanding of the workings of the human mind. But I think if you want someone to explain what we understand of the workings of he human brain, then you want that person to be a neuroscientist.

It’s Not Tomorrow if You Haven’t Gone to Sleep yet

Yeah, OK, so I missed my deadline: I’m typing this after midnight. But it’s still the same day I got up in, in sleep-cycle terms. Also in terms of how the TV listings mags give the days, too. Which can actually get a little bit confusing sometimes.

It stems, of course, from the days when all TV would have stopped by midnight or shortly after. Yes, kids, I know it’s hard to imagine, but TV stations used to “close down” at night. One or other of the channels used to even have a wee programme that was actually called Closedown, if I remember correctly. I think it was one of the weird religious things, where a priest or minister would come on and give a Thought for the Day kind of mini sermon.

Anyway, and still on TV, apparently the best comedy show around, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, is having that annoying recent habit, a mid-season break. We have no idea when it will be back. And… well, if you’ve watched it…

No, I’m not going to say any more about it. Just hurry up and get back, guys.

I may actually backdate this post, just so my daily posting doesn’t show a gap. After all, I’m treating it as still Thursday 16th of February, even if the clock doesn’t.

All the Things in the World

Do you ever look around and think how amazing everything is? How it all got there? And I’m not talking about the grandeur of nature, the glory of the universe, and all that. I’m talking about all the human-made stuff.

I have often found myself in the middle of a city, or looking out of a train window at a bridge or power station, and thought, “Wow: people built this. Just ordinary people, like me, actually made all this.”

Look at ancient buildings and you realise that they used to do it without the help of modern machinery, too.

And then think about the infrastructure that’s carrying these words from where I’m typing them to where you’re reading them. Hundreds of miles of fibre and copper cables across the country. Thousands of miles of undersea cables. Satellites, and the rockets to launch them.

We’re pretty amazing sometimes, us humans.

Like I say, I’ve often thought about this kind of thing. But today, while not at work because I’m a bit under the weather1 I had a slightly different version of it.

I had a sudden, overwhelming sense of how much cultural work we have created. Specifically stories and TV and films. Though in fact it was comics that really triggered it.

As I say, I’m not at my best, so I wanted something simple. I ended up reading a bunch of comics on Marvel Unlimited. And no matter how many I could read in a day, I could only make the tiniest of scratches in the surface.

And in TV, Netflix seem to have a new original series or two coming out every week.

It’s not all great, of course. But just think of all those people, writing away, acting, filming. Making things.


  1. I have a vague memory of someone in a film or TV programme mis-saying that as “beneath the weather,” but I can’t think who, or where. I kind of want it to be Josie in Twin Peaks, but I’m not sure. []

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More travel today, back to London. And feeling under the weather. I wrote part of a post on the train, but won’t complete it cos we’re about to go out to see La La Land.

Proper posting will resume tomorrow.

Daily Posting Harder When You’re Away

I may not get to do a proper post today, as I’m in Edinburgh visiting friends. As well, my phone’s battery has become increasingly erratic, so it could go down at any moment.

So this is my post for today, unless I get round to writing more.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Optics

The word “optics” used to mean the science of light. It still does, of course, but it now also refers to “how things look,” in terms of public image and so on.

And it from what I can tell it has only come into this use in the last year or so. I first heard it on tech podcasts, but it was recently in a front-page headline (though the second story) in The Guardian. And I heard it on the telly. I think it was in Agents of SHIELD, wherein they included an explanation of what it means.

I can see how it can be used in its new meaning, but how did it come to be used that way?

And it seems that I’m right that it’s relatively new: Wikipedia, googling: both only turn up definitions like “the branch of physics to do with light.”

Now Urban Dictionary’s top definition is exactly what I’m talking about:

What something will look like to the outside world; the perception a public relations person would have on something. First seen (at least by me) in article by Equity Private on finance blog dealbreaker

Economists repurposing words from real science to dismal? Sounds entirely plausible.

Criticality Escalation

Part of any kind of bug or problem reporting system is triage: the act of deciding how severe each report is and placing it into the appropriate category.

Common categories in software development are things like “Critical,” “High,” “Medium” and “Low,” for example. They would usually be given associated numeric values: probably 1-4, in this case.

I realise that I mentioned “triage,” which of course means dividing things into three; and then I’ve introduced four levels. That would be quadage, maybe? Tesserage? Anyway, three levels wasn’t enough for people: at some point “High,” “Medium” and “Low” just couldn’t cut it.

But even the terminology is breaking down now. This snippet below is based on values from an actual document written by an actual company, for reporting problems during user acceptance testing (UAT).

Severity Description
1 - Extremely critical Critical problem that completely stops testing…
2 - Very critical Critical prbelm that prevents some testing…
3 - Critical Non-critical problem…
4 - Less critical Minor bug…

Imagine if they used that in hospitals: “The patient’s critical.” “Oh, not too bad, then.”

And I love how the definition of “Critical” is “Non-critical problem…”

Some More Bitface Thoughts

Something I forgot to mention yesterday was that I thought the “bitface” term was useful not just to refer to people who manipulate bits for a living (or hobby) — programmers, like myself. It can also work to discuss anyone who makes digital content: websites, blogs, podcasts, videos, photos, and so on.

We’re all moving bits around. We’re all labourers at the bitface.

The Origin of the Bitface

Things go quicker than you think. This tweet post1 was inspired by a tweet, and I thought it wasn’t too long ago. But in fact it was April last year.

My friend Yusuf’s tweet inspired me to finally write about the term “biftace” and why I chose it and what it means. Actually I thought I had written this before, but it seems not.

So a long time ago, when I was first thinking of a name for my blog — before it even existed, indeed — I thought about the way the press used to refer to teachers working “at the chalkface.” The analogy with miners at the coalface was probably original meant to disparage the labour of teachers as being less than that of miners. I’m guessing here, but considering the term seems to have originated in tabloid journalism, and tabloids tend to be disparaging of anything intellectual — though to be fair, they haven’t exactly been friends to miners either, over the years.

Anyway, I quite liked the term, and wanted to come up with something similar to refer to my own industry, that of programming. I tried out one or two for size, at least in my head. “Byteface” felt more accurate (it’s rare for an application programmer to care to much about bit-level things, and I mainly write Java, which compiles to bytecode); but it didn’t feel right.”Codeface” would have been another, but again, didn’t feel right.

“Bitface” did feel right, and so an early version became “The Bitface Diaries.” I don’t think I ever made that live.

When I started my Livejournal (which nowadays is just one of my syndication targets) I went with “Tales from the Bitface,” which I still like. And then when I decided to set up my own site I went with “A Labourer at the Bitface,” which harked back to the original impetus for inventing the word, and also alluded to my support for the Labour Party.

Which means I’m considering a rename now, as I consider my future in said party. But that’s another blog entry.

The conversation with with Yusuf was about hardware, which is not what the term was about. But I never worked out what we should call working with hardware in similar terminology.


  1. Post! This post, not this tweet. []