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Sic transit gloria mundi

Apple have declared the 12″ G4 PowerBook obsolete. If you can be bothered, you might notice that the document is dated December 2008, but the news has only recently attracted attention, in my case via The Register.

This is something of a blow. Our venerable PowerBooks are still very useful, although my wife’s has lost its optical drive (probably because she dropped it hard enough to buckle the case). For all its faults (like rubbish wireless), it’s still one of those laptops that every technical generation just hits the spot. Around 2000, it seemed like everyone I knew was buying a Sony Vaio 505; it was exactly the right weight and felt very solid to use.

So, now we’re on borrowed time. Apple don’t make a laptop which I can open properly when travelling coach, or just pop into whatever bag I happen to be carrying. There must be an alternative

From an interview with Terry Pratchett

“Why have you got six screens? Because I haven’t got enough room for eight.”

BBC Documentary, “Living with Alzheimer’s”

Develop your intuition for maths.

Nice post

Unfortunately, math understanding seems to follow the DNA pattern. We’re taught the modern, rigorous definition and not the insights that led up to it. We’re left with arcane formulas (DNA) but little understanding of what the idea is. […] not all starting points are equal. The right perspective makes math click — and the mathematical “cavemen” who first found an idea often had an enlightening viewpoint. Let’s learn how to build our intuition.

via Brent Yorgey

Never was my favourite metaphor…

Copied wholesale from D-Squared

In business circles, particularly among a certain kind of aggressive American businessman (or consultant, or banker, or politician, they’re fairly interchangeable), there is a favourite proverb about a pig:

“When you have bacon and eggs for breakfast, you’ve got your breakfast from a chicken and a pig. The difference between them is that the chicken is ‘involved’ but the pig is committed

which is of course, true. It should also be noted, however, that when you go out to get your next few breakfasts over the course of the rest of the month, the chicken will have laid another egg every day, but the pig will eventually run out of bacon

If I promise to work like a dead pig, can I go home early?

Dilbert 24 November 2008

A coincidence? I don’t think so…

The day after Apple announce their new, metal MacBook, the plastic starts chipping off my current white one. Hmmm.

Update It gets worse. Our two 12″ PowerBooks, the machine we really wanted them to refresh, have started failing too. They’re trying to force an upgrade.

Asian trip. Anyone interested?

I’ll be travelling for personal reasons to Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, and Hong Kong in late October.

I’ve already been making enquiries, so if you’re interested in getting together then please drop me a line.

Great teaching

Here’s a story, A Teacher on the Front Line as Faith and Science Clash, from the New York Times about a teacher David Campbell doing a first rate job for his students. One of the interesting features of the story for me is how he had to work out how to get students committed to diametrically opposing views to open up to other possibilities, a direct challenge would just have alienated them. I’m not sure I have his skill or patience (actually, I’m sure I don’t).

Reading the background to the story reminds me of a line attributed (I think) to Romani Prodi that a nation can’t stay ignorant and rich for more than a generation.

via Andrew McAfee

The cognitive neuroscience of magic

A heavy title, but there are some great videos linked from this paper in Nature on “Attention and Awareness in Magic”, written by a team of scientists and top rate illusionists. Watch James Randi pull a fast one on Daniel Dennett, see if you can tell which is which…

via Neurophilosophy

Bootstrap problem

Today I found on the way to work that I’d forgotten my glasses so, rather than waste the day, I popped into a pharmacy to pick up some cheap reading glasses. The instructions for the viewer machine that figured out which strength to buy were in small print. Hmmmm.