Excuse me, please

Following the lines of a previous post, I recently had a bout of bad excuses both on my side and on the side of others. So here’s a list of quotes on excuses (from the quotegarden).

We have more ability than will power, and it is often an excuse to ourselves that we imagine that things are impossible. ~François de la Rochefoucauld

Several excuses are always less convincing than one. ~Aldous Huxley

Two wrongs don’t make a right, but they make a good excuse. ~Thomas Szasz

It is wise to direct your anger towards problems — not people, to focus your energies on answers — not excuses. ~William Arthur Ward

In a different vein, I once had a copy of Dogbert’s Clues for the Clueless, and it covered the evolution of the phrase “Excuse me”.

  • Long ago: Excuse me was a form of apology, “Excuse me, kind sir, for my rudeness.”
  • Not so long ago: Excuse me becomes a method for telling people to get out of the way, “Excuse me, coming through.”
  • Modern: Excuse me becomes a sarcastic remark. “Well, excuse me.”

Banned Bags

I don’t live in Chicago, but I do live near Chicago.

After much discussion they’ve finally pulled the trigger on passing a ban on plastic bags for customer purchases at stores, most stores. Customers will have to find an alternative, probably paper or canvas. Oddly, the best system for eliminating disposable plastic bags that I’ve seen was in Italy, and it took a different tack.

Bags at checkout had to be purchased. Amazing how you use fewer of them when each one comes with a price. These bags were plastic, but durable plastic. My experience was that they would last for more than 10 trips (walking trips of store to apartment, not store to car). Since you paid for it, you were also likely to use it again, like a canvas bag. But unlike a canvas bag, these could be rolled up into a tight bundle which you could just keep in your pocket. The consequence was

  • You use less of them.
  • You use them multiple times.
  • You use them reliably.

The alternatives to disposable plastic bags achieve some, but not all, of these objectives. Consequently, the best alternative to disposable plastic bags seems to be non-disposable plastic bags. One could even add in a deposit to make sure people recycle them when they wear out.

 

 

The Everytime

I found this one quite interesting. It showed up on slashdot a few months ago, but I was thinking about it again today, so I thought I’d share.

View story at Medium.com

Enjoy, but I’d like to remind everyone what theory means in science. It’s a structure predicated on data which could be overturned my new data or new theories. It is not fact, but it is far from a wild guess.

Can a Computer be Human?

The Economist had a cover article on the rise of robots recently. It feels like it’s been years, decades even, that people have been trying to make a machine that thinks. It’s called artificial intelligence.

I was thinking, though. I’ve told people several times that this will never happen for a very simple reason. Humans have an innate ability to maintain and process information that is inherently contradictory. It’s like the ability to believe that 1 equals 1, but 1 does not equal 1. I’ve finally realized that this is not a limit on our ability to create artificial intelligence.

It’s a limit on our ability to create artificial stupidity. That’s the challenge. Because it defies logic and math, which form the basis of intelligence.

Consequently, I think we may be able to make something which mimics the mind of Einstein, but I don’t think we’ll ever make a computer which simulates the mind of Rush Limbaugh.

Paris en L’hiver

At first I thought Paris was different because I hadn’t been there in a while. Then I thought about it. Not just a while, a lonnnnng while. This was my first time in Paris where it wasn’t just passing through since 1991, 23 years. Then I thought a little more. No, the thing that was different was that I had never been to Paris in the winter. Anyway, here are a few photos from the trip.

As an example of winter, here’s a view of the Jardin des Plantes. It was also raining at that point.

jardin

Adding a little adventure to the trip, the Seine was very high, flooding some sections of the river walkway. The right wind or a boat and it went even higher.

IMG_1228

Now this was entirely new. This is a phenomenon that is slowly taking over any bridge in Paris where you can fit a lock. Maybe it saves people from covertly scraping names in the stone.

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orsayBut the best part was that I was there on the first Sunday of the month which means … FREE museums! I finally made it to the Musee d’Orsay … after 23 years.

Another Bit of Foolishness

Man, it’s been a while since I posted anything.

I hope I don’t offend anyone, but I’m going to stray into religion. Today I wanted to share something from Church. Lent is coming, and soon we’ll be giving up our Hallelujahs. Anyway, this year we’re on Matthew, and today’s gospel was the part just after the Beatitudes (the meek, the peacemakers, etc.). It warns that even thinking a sin makes you a sinner. It also says that hell fire awaits those who call someone else a fool.

Well that seems a little harsh. I daily run into fools. Well, I observe them. I don’t run into them (although sometimes I’m tempted). I’ve done foolish things myself. Who hasn’t? Admit it. What does this particular verse really mean?

Well, I don’t claim authority, but I think it comes down to how we treat fools. A foolish person is someone we don’t respect. We don’t want to talk to them, and we don’t expect them to understand us. In other words, we’ve given up on them. In my opinion, that is what this passage means. No matter how silly, or destructive, or contrary your fellow humans may behave; you cannot give up on them. You have to keep treating them as individuals who can understand, and may some day change, if you keep engaged with their lives.

I’m not sure if that’s easier or harder than not calling them fools.

Directions, Please?

Do you ever get tired of missing verbs when someone tells you what they support or oppose? One of my favorites was the Violence Against Women Act. Are you opposing or promoting violence against women? Couldn’t it just as easily have been Stop Violence Against Women Act?

At work, this shows up in our training. Everyone has to take Sexual Harassment training. What exactly are they teaching there? Maybe I don’t want to take that training. Or maybe I do. The latest one was Practical Preparedness for Workplace Violence. Well let’s see. Let me check my list.

  • Bring extra magazines.
  • Plan your route ahead of time.
  • Know when your coworkers arrive.
  • Save one bullet, you may need it.

Oh, wait, you meant something else? Sorry, I couldn’t tell.