Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Of ESP and cars

Today a message on my car's dashboard read: "ESP not available".

Is this the conclusion my car has reached after some deep thinking? Is it an informative "thought for the day" from those cheeky scamps at Fiat? Or was it a poor error / feedback message that a) failed to fully exploit the display resources available to it and b) failed to give me an informative message which I could use to develop a practical course of action?

This isn't quite as bad as the obscure orange warning light that appeared on my previous car (a Vauxhall). Upon seeing the orange light I reasoned thusly: my car sometimes shows me red lights, orange lights, and green lights. I know that red lights are bad and green lights are good, or at least not bad. Red lights in my car are things I should action promptly to ensure continued safe driving, they include the "the handbrake is on, you shouldn't be trying to drive" light. Green lights inform me of the status of my car, but are things that might be beneficial. Examples include the lights that tell me my indicators are on. Orange lights, following all of my cultural and highway conditioning, must be something between red and green lights. They are important things I need to be aware of, but do not need to action immediately. My conceptual model did not match the design/feedback model, and five mails later the engine 'head' cracked and my car came to a slow, steam producing, halt.

In hindsight I should have tried to get the car company to provide recompense, or to offer me a job so that I could help them to make better products. In the meantime my current car may think that under normal operating conditions it has some form of extra sensory perception (ESP).

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Mac Mini vs Windows.... Windows Mini?

I really like my Mac Mini, and I've been enjoying playing with an unfamiliar operating system. A few months on, now that I have more time, I've been swapping back to the PC a lot because of a number of tools that I have on that machine that I don't have on the Mac, and to play games. The PC wins hands down on the gaming front compared to the Mac, though the Mac has come a long way in recent years.

But I'm beginning to think that it's only the hardware that I really like about my Mac Mini. Sure Lion has a lot of neat features, a great deal to commend it, but it can't completely replace Windows for me. The Office sweet, again whilst having some neat features, really does seem to be lagging behind Microsoft Office.

The future might be dual booting the mini and mainly using it as a Windows box..

Religious affiliation on the wane in the UK

Retention rates for religious affiliation in the UK, source: British Attitudes Survey 28

The latest British Attitudes Survey report was released this month and makes for interesting reading. Amongst the noteworthy points are the continuing decline of religiosity in the UK. Fifty percent of those polled did not consider themselves to be religious, and only 14% regularly attend religious worship. The figure for non-believers is likely to be higher than the 50%, because various surveys seem to indicate that people affiliate with a religious tradition even when they are not a believer. (In Holland for example, 1 in 6 of the clergy in the mainstream protestant church are reported to be non-believers).

The graph shows the success rates of various religious affiliations at retaining people within their worldview. The Nones are in the lead with only 6% of those raised without religion becoming one of the faithful, whereas taken collectively the conversion rate to a 'none' is 40% amongst those raised within a religious tradition. The remaining 60% is entirely 'loyal' to their parental affiliation, with a certain degree of trading between religious traditions.

The numbers are set to swing further in favour of the Nones. Only around 25% of the oldest generation are unaffiliated with a religion, whereas for the youngest (adult) generation 65% of them do not affiliate with a religion. The survey's author indicates that the data doesn't show an age effect, rather a 'cohort' effect. Younger generations are less religious and they're not likely to become more religious as they get older.

If we're not a post Christian society yet, we will be in a generation or two. Which makes it all the more remarkable that we retain such oddities as reserved seats in the House of Lords for Bishops, and the government's enthusiasm to segregate children during their education based on their (or their parents') religion.