David Johnstone

Why I bought a Mac

September 27, 2011

A couple of weeks ago I bought my first ever Apple product, a 13” MacBook Air. Before I bought it, I had a desktop running Windows 7 and a tiny little netbook. The desktop is great, but it isn’t exactly portable, while the netbook really only gives a lightweight computing experience. Now that I’m working for myself, I have the freedom to work anywhere I want, but I also need the ability to work wherever I am. Getting a laptop was the obvious solution.

I have been thinking that I might get into iOS app development (for iPhones and iPads) sometime in the near future, and having a Mac of some sort is necessary for this. This was the first major reason I had for why I should get one. I have had vague thoughts for the last five years that, if I was to get a laptop, I would get an Apple, mostly because they’re aesthetically nice, and OS X can’t be too bad. But that’s hardly a compelling reason to spend upwards of $2000 when you’ve just quit your job.

Another major reason for getting one is that Windows and OS X render type different, and since I make websites that use all sorts of fonts, knowing what they look like on different platforms is quite important.

I was initially thinking that a 15” MacBook Pro would be the ideal choice, but I didn’t realise that the Airs were as good as they are. The main attraction of the 15” Pro over the 13” Pro is that it has a higher resolution screen, because the 13” Pro has a really quite low resolution screen (1280×800). But then I noticed the 13” Air and it looked quite nice. It had the same 1440×900 screen as the 15” Pro, and although it wasn’t as powerful, it certainly didn’t look slow on paper.

So then I had two options: the 13” MacBook Air, and the 15” MacBook Pro. The main differences, as far as I was concerned, were:

  • The Pro cost $650 more.
  • The Pro came with a 500GB HDD, while the Air had a 128GB SSD HDD (both of these could be made larger, and I could get an SSD with the Pro if I wanted to pay more).
  • The Pro had a real graphics card.
  • The Pro weighed…

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Collective noun for ticket inspectors

September 16, 2011

I just found this short note I wrote way back in 2007 sitting somewhere on my computer:

I heard the funniest thing on a train today.

There were two girls, about 17, dressed up, fake tans and heels.

There was a group of four ticket inspectors standing a couple of meters away.

The girls started talking about what a group of ticket inspectors would be called.

The girls got off, and just after that the ticket inspectors went into the other carriage.

But before they had gone, one of them asked “what is the collective noun for us anyways?”

And one of them replied “I don’t know… assholes?”

Why I quit my job

September 10, 2011

Yesterday was my last day of work at the company I’d been working at for the last eighteen months. The plan now is to make great things and then hopefully make money from it. The main thing I’ll be working on now is an art critiquing website that will work. (Do you have photos that you want thorough and thoughtful feedback on? You want to use my site. Update: what I planned on building when I submitted my resignation, and what I ended up making, was a website for serious cyclists to track their riding.) I’m looking forward to it existing so that I can use it. But the purpose of this post isn’t to explain that, but to explain what led me to where I am today.

Firstly, I have lots of ideas for things I would love to create. I was recently lent a book called The E-Myth which categorises people into three types: technicians (who make things and understand details), entrepreneurs (who dream up new and innovative things) and managers (who get people to work together). Each person is all of those to varying degrees, but the book claims that most people starting businesses are technicians who have a burst of entrepreneurial inspiration. But I’m confident that I’m as much of an entrepreneur as I am a technician. I have many ideas for things I want to create, and when I submitted my resignation four weeks ago, I was planning on making something completely different.

Over the past year and a bit I have spent over three hundred hours making quite a few things. But I want more time — the fifteen hours or so I can find in a good week isn’t nearly enough. And, to add to that, I find my own ideas far more interesting than what I work on at work. This has nothing to do with my current job in particular — I can’t imagine that I’d feel much different if I worked at one of the places consistently recognised as the best places to work, such as Google or Adobe. Quitting work to be able to concentrate on my own things has sounded quite appealing for some time. As a caveat to that, I am aware that I’ll need to concentrate on just one of my ideas if I hope to turn it… continue reading

Is Anders Behring Breivik insane?

July 28, 2011

The short answer, based on my reading of his manifesto, is “no”.

Many people have labeled him as an insane, psychotic madman. Even his lawyer has said that he is most likely insane. However, this is not the impression that I get of him.

Taking inspiration from a number of authors, he has very strong anti-Islamic views. Although one may not agree with these, nothing about them makes Breivik insane. And as negative as his views might be, they’re not much more than a strong version of view that is not that uncommon. It’s not hard to find people who are far more critical of Islam than the average Westerner, or who are deeply disenfranchised with the way Europe is heading. There is a reason that a lot of his manifesto is copy and pasted from other works:

I have written approximately half of the compendium myself. The rest is a compilation of works from several courageous individuals throughout the world.

Even if Breivik has misrepresented some of his authors, this shouldn’t affect one’s assessment of his sanity. He’s hardly the only person to have [mis-]used another’s words for their own purposes.

It seems reasonable to me that, given how much time he spent on his manifesto, Breivik could have easily formed his opinions without the aid of any madness. He was working on the manifesto since 2002, including three years full time:

I’ve spent a total of 9 years of my life working on this project. The first five years were spent studying and creating a financial base, and the last three years was spent working full time with research, compilation and writing. Creating this compendium has personally cost me a total of 317 000 Euros (130 000 Euros spent from my own pocket and 187 500 Euros for loss of income during three years). All that, however, is barely noticeable compared to the sacrifices made in relation to the distribution of this book, the actual marketing operation;)

Can you guess what the “marketing operation” is? (Do you like the winking smiley?)

Furthermore, his strong opinions make even more sense given the way he tried to limit contact with others, especially near the end of the project. This deliberate isolation surely would have helped nurture his ideas. He was incredibly focused and judging (in the Myers-Briggs sense of the word), but… continue reading

Anders Behring Breivik and violent video games

July 27, 2011

It is popular to link violent crimes with violent video games. It didn’t take long for reports to claim that violent computer games were found at Breivik’s house. Nor did it take long for some to use this for their political advantage. However, since Breivik has published a 1500 page manifesto detailing all sorts of things, it is worth looking at this to see what he himself says about games.

Firstly, it should be noted that, despite the length of the document, there are very few things on games. There are massive sections on Islam and it’s evils, on how Europe (that is, “Christian Europe”) will be destroyed if the Islamic invasion isn’t stopped, on the current suicidal political structures, and on how the war against Islam should be fought, but there are only a few references that have anything to do with video games. It is ridiculous to suggest that video games provided any inspiration for Breivik’s actions.

As for what he does write in the manifesto, let’s start in a profile of himself, where he lists his hobbies and interests, some of which are games:

I took a year off when I was 25 and played WoW PvE hardcore for a year.

Conservatism - Alliance, human female mage – PvE, Server: Silvermoon

Conservative - Horde, tauren female resto druid – PvP, Server: Silvermoon

I raided hardcore and was a guild leader in a couple of hardcore guilds: Virtue, then Unit, Nordrassil – Rank 1 Alliance PvE. We transferred the guild to Silvermoon. I grew tired of running the guild and sorting recruitment issues so I joined Nevermore, another hardcore guild on Silvermoon (Rank 3). Silvermoon is the most progressed Alliance server in the world out of more than 300 servers (10 million + players worldwide) so the competition is extremely hard. This means we were one of the most progressed guilds in the world at one time. I can honestly say running a hardcore WoW guild is equally challenging to running your own business with 7 employees or more. It requires an extreme amount of work in order to be successful and get server first kills. It was a good experience and something I wanted to do at least a limited amount of time during a period of my life.

I’m currently playing Modern Warfare 2 casually.

And in another section:

I spent three years were I…

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A deeper look at Anders Behring Breivik’s beliefs

July 26, 2011

Yesterday I posted a handful of quotes from Anders Behring Breivik’s manifesto about what he means when he says he’s Christian. That post was far shorter than this one, but the gist of it was that there are two types of Christians, “cultural Christians” who essentially like traditional European culture and associate themself with Christianity (whatever that is), and “religious Christians” who have real belief in Jesus who died for their sins and rose again, and Anders is of the first type:

If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian.

Note that “religious Christians”, or real Christians, don’t consider “cultural Christians” to be Christian at all. But not all make this distinction. This is how Anders can speak of “agnostic Christians” and “atheistic Christians”:

You don’t need to have a personal relationship with God or Jesus to fight for our Christian cultural heritage. It is enough that you are a Christian-agnostic or a Christian-atheist (an atheist who wants to preserve at least the basics of the European Christian cultural legacy (Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter)).

But, it is fair to say that Anders does have some vague Christianish beliefs. In his personal facts where, amongst other things, he lists his ethnicity, weight, favourite sports and name of his side arm, he lists “religion” and “religious” seperately:

Religion: Christian, Protestant but I support a reformation of Protestantism leading to it being absorbed by Catholisism. The typical “Protestant Labour Church” has to be deconstructed as its creation was an attempt to abolish the Church

Religious: I went from moderately to agnostic to moderately religious

Elsewhere, in a section on how there are no atheists at the moment of death, he writes:

I’m not going to pretend I’m a very religious person as that would be a lie. I’ve always been very pragmatic and influenced by my secular surroundings and environment. In the past, I remember I used to think;

“Religion is a crutch for weak people. What is the point in believing in a higher power if you have confidence in yourself!? Pathetic.”

Perhaps this is true for many cases…

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Is Anders Behring Breivik a Christian?

July 25, 2011

Anders Behring Breivik, the man who killed ninety-something people in Norway apparently is a Christian. His Wikipedia page says he is one, and on his Facebook page he claimed to be one. But, here is what he says in his manifesto, “2083 — A European Declaration of Independence“:

If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian.

And again:

As this is a cultural war, our definition of being a Christian does not necessarily constitute that you are required to have a personal relationship with God or Jesus. Being a Christian can mean many things.

And a couple of paragraphs later:

You don’t need to have a personal relationship with God or Jesus to fight for our Christian cultural heritage. It is enough that you are a Christian-agnostic or a Christian-atheist (an atheist who wants to preserve at least the basics of the European Christian cultural legacy (Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter)).

And finally:

Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I’m not an excessively religious man. I am first and foremost a man of logic. However, I am a supporter of a monocultural Christian Europe.

Any “religous Christian” would say that makes him no Christian at all.

Update: Here’s a follow up post that looks at many more things Breivik has to say concerning religion.

Everything is a remix

July 24, 2011

I recently enjoyed watching Everything is a Remix, a series of videos that explain how nothing is created in a vacuum, but rather are built on what has already been done. Only three of the four episodes have been released so far, but they are definitely worth watching.

The first looks at how musicians (Led Zeppelin in particular) and elements of their music have used and been used by many other artists. The second focuses on movies, and starts off by claiming that 74 of the top ten movies of the past ten years have been remakes of older movies, sequels, or based on books or games (not to mention the fact that movies fall into genres and subgenres which each work according to their own formulas). It takes a closer look at how so many elements of Star Wars (plots, scenes, characters, etc.) have been borrowed from other movies. This is not criticising George Lucas at all, but is just making the point.

I found the third episode the most interesting. It looks at ideas in general and argues that ideas/inventions/intellectual discoveries never form in a vacuum. There is always a background to an idea, and the greatest are often when ideas from multiple domains are combined. For example, Henry Ford neither invented the motor car, the production line or interchangeable parts, but he invented the automobile industry as we know it by combining them all.

Interesting questions come out of this. What would happen if some great mind never had that great idea that we couldn’t imagine not existing today? Think the telephone or the internet or calculus. But, as the video points out, after thousands of years where no patents on telephones existed, there were two submitted independently on the same day. And Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz famously invented calculus at the same time.

As Newton said:

If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

But even this is a reworking of an earlier idea:

We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.

Does this mean that the great ideas that shape our world… continue reading

Beware the scribes

July 5, 2011

You may have noticed the way that the gospels written by Matthew, Mark and Luke have a lot in common. This is, after all, why they are called the synoptic gospels. The exact relationship between them is notoriously difficult to work out, and, for all the parallels, there are many interesting differences.

I noticed one of these differences the other day. Compare the ESV section headings for these three passages (of course, these headings aren’t part of the original text, but are added by the translators to make the Bible more readable):

Matthew 22:15–24:2Mark 12:13–13:2Luke 20:19–21:9
Paying taxes to CaesarPaying taxes to CaesarPaying taxes to Caesar
Sadducees ask about the resurrectionSadducees ask about the resurrectionSadducees ask about the resurrection
The great commandmentThe great commandment
Whose son is the Christ?Whose son is the Christ?Whose son is the Christ?
Seven woes to the Scribes and PhariseesBeware the ScribesBeware the Scribes
The widow’s offeringThe widow’s offering
Lament over Jerusalem
Jesus foretells destruction of the templeJesus foretells destruction of the templeJesus foretells destruction of the temple

Looking at the headings alone hardly tells you everything, so it’s probably very helpful to look a side by side comparison of these passages. But what is obvious from just the headings is that the three gospels are following the same story arc. What I’m interested in here is how Mark and Luke have “Beware the Scribes” while Matthew has “Seven woes to the Scribes and Pharisees” (look at the passages to see how the text differs).

When I first noticed this, I assumed that Matthew had a more thorough version of what Jesus said to condemn the Scribes compared with what Mark or Luke included (Matthew’s section is far longer than the others’). It certainly appeared to be thematically similar material in the same position. However, Luke 11:37–54 contains a passage (titled “Woes to the Pharisees and Lawyers”) that is much more similar to Matthew’s “Woes”, which could make you think that Matthew added a similar but different story to Mark and Luke.

So what is one to make of this? I don’t know. It’s interesting to think about, but I don’t think I’ll be losing much sleep over it. Maybe… continue reading

Bible study notes for Ephesians 2:1–2:10

April 20, 2011

I have loved this passage for a long time thanks to its relevance to Calvinism. This is the part of Ephesians I knew the best before I started studying the book systematically. And now that I have looked at it more closely than ever, I still love the way it describes what we have been transformed from and to, and the fact that God is completely responsible for that transformation.

  • What are the three things that act as influences when they were dead in their trespasses and sins?
    • The world (v. 2).
    • The devil (v. 2).
    • The flesh (v. 3).
  • What is “the kingdom of the air” (v. 2)?
    • In the ancient worldview, the “air” was the place between heaven and earth where [evil] spirits dwelt (as the magical literature of the day attests). This is quite different to the intellectual atmosphere with opinions and ideas that we have today.
  • What does it mean that all are “by nature children of wrath”?
    • Everybody is born in a state of deserving condemnation (cf. Romans 5). A quote from my commentary: “only the person who understands something of the greatness of his wrath will be mastered by the greatness of his mercy”.
  • How do people become Christians? Why do people become Christians (v. 4–5)?
    • God loved us — even when we were undeserving and didn’t love God — and made us alive. It is God’s work.
  • Note that “through faith” in v. 7 could mean either “through your faith in Jesus” (cf. Galatians 2:16) or “through Christ’s faithfulness”.
  • What does “this” in “this is not your own doing” refer to?
    • Not just faith, but salvation as a whole.
  • Notice how Paul denounced good works (as a way of salvation) in v. 9, and then encourages good works (as a consequence of salvation) in the next verse.
  • The “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” is potentially confusing. But it makes sense when read in light of the sovereignty of God (cf. 1:4, 11).
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