Polonius

To thine own self be true

Archive for December, 2006

The limited capacity of a human’s knowledge

Posted by Polonius on 31 December, 2006

Sherlock Holmes once made this observation, which has a ring of truth to it:

I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.A Study in Scarlet

It’s a bit wordy, but later wordsmiths have expressed the same sentiments in pithier terms:

Mr. Osborne, may I be excused? My brain is full.Gary Larson, 1986

and

D’oh! I didn’t need that new fact! Now I forgot who won Bud Bowl VIII!Homer Simpson, The Father, The Son, and the Holy Guest Star

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Posted in Musings | 2 Comments »

The Times they are a-changin’

Posted by Polonius on 20 December, 2006

The London Times used to be a respected newspaper of record, but since the advent of the Dirty Digger, it has become a tawdry rag that will support whichever political party it is in his interests to support. That in itself would be no great concern; the troubling thing is that the Tory and Tony parties are convinced that Murdoch’s readership are precisely the sort who are stupid enough to vote however he tells them.

Against this background, it is surprising to read an articulate and considered article that expresses concern at the recent behaviour of the UK media.

Posted in News | Leave a Comment »

What conspiracy?

Posted by Polonius on 15 December, 2006

Mohammed Fayed refuses to accept the conclusions of Lord Stevens’ report into the accident that killed his son. I’m a firm believer in Occam’s Razor, entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem, which translates roughly as “Keep it simple, Stupid!” If you get into a car with a driver who’s so pissed he thinks he has a chance of out-running motor-bikes on a dry road, it would be prudent to wear a seat-belt. The facts speak for themselves; there is simply no need for any conspiracy theory.

Now, I don’t seek out royal stories. I’ve gone slightly off The Independent in recent years, but I’ve always been impressed by their attitude towards royal trivia. But this story’s been hard to avoid. Another aspect of it that made headlines even before the publication of the report was the one about the bugged telephones. According to The Observer‘s account, “The American secret service was bugging Princess Diana’s telephone conversations without the approval of the British security services on the night she died”. Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of this story is the implication that US authorities need British approval to conduct ops in France. Does anybody seriously believe that?

Posted in News | 1 Comment »

Phantom caller

Posted by Polonius on 15 December, 2006

Mobile phones (cellphones if you prefer) are everywhere. I avoided getting one for a long time, but now I have two, one for work plus my own. They’re very useful thing, but they do have a tendency to go off at the most inconvenient times. But on Wednesday, my phone went off just as I parked the car. It took a few seconds to finish what I was doing, so I was slightly flustered when I fished it out of my pocket. I fumbled a bit, pushing the wrong button first, but eventually picked up the call. “Hello!” – no reply. “Hello!”, I repeated. I became aware of a strange reverberation on the line, but still nobody there. I feared that the caller had given up waiting as I fumbled. Then I heard the rustle of a phone in somebody’s pocket or handbag. Obviously somebody had dialled my number by accident. I was just about to hang up when I thought, “But what’s the weird echo?” Then I remembered I have two phones! I pulled out the other one and, sure enough, that’s where the call had come from.

Posted in Technology | Leave a Comment »

Cellar floor television

Posted by Polonius on 13 December, 2006

I read in today’s Grauniad of The Verdict, the latest concept in “reality” television. Ever since Big Brother broke through the bottom of the barrel, the most cynical minds in tabloid television have competed to tunnel deeper and deeper into the cellar floor. The Verdict is a serious contender for the deepest yet. Lord Perjuror may be otherwise unemployable, but that is hardly sufficient justification for throwing licence-payers’ money at this drivel. If this is reality, stop the world – I want to get off.

Posted in Rants, TV | 1 Comment »