April 2007

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Via Boing Boing comes this list of 'symbols of belief' approved for use on US government tombstones. All interesting trivia, especially the ones at the bottom that can't be displayed for copyright reasons.

What struck me though, was how much the logo for Atheism sucks.

I mean, really. Was a comic-book representation of an atom with a painfully out-of-place 'A' in the middle the best anyone could come up with to represent the mystery and majesty of a natural, godless universe?

Then again, the only accurate logo for atheism would be blank space.


Justin Watt has found the source of the logo. According to the American Atheists society:

You may notice that one of the orbital in our symbol is broken, or open-ended. This demonstrates that while Atheists rely on the scientific method for learning about the cosmos and increasing our knowledge about nature, we know that "not all of the answers are in." We recognize that with new knowledge come new questions and areas for human inquiry and exploration.

Matt Quail, however, found a much more aesthetically pleasing (at least to me) logo: the invisible pink unicorn.

The Invisible Pink Unicorn logo represents atheism. It is a fusion between the mathematical void symbol and the stylized representation of an unicorn.

The Invisible Pink Unicorn has her own page on Wikipedia.

Finally, David Dean sent me a link to Sampo Syreeni's summary of the various different atheist symbols. Syreeni also has a problem with the atom logo:

In its childish adherence to the icons of the modern and the industrial, it lacks the elegance and sophistication to become a universal symbol for nonbelievers. It also manages to completely sidestep the dynamic world we live in—atoms haven’t been a symbol of the ultimate in progress or emancipation for a long time, now. Worst of all, American Atheists holds a trademark on the symbol.

Brett pointed to The Two Things, a page that can be best summed up by quoting:

A few years ago, I was chatting with a stranger in a bar. When I told him I was an economist, he said, “Ah. So… what are the Two Things about economics?”

“Huh?” I cleverly replied.

“You know, the Two Things. For every subject, there are really only two things you really need to know. Everything else is the application of those two things, or just not important.”

“Oh,” I said. “Okay, here are the Two Things about economics. One: Incentives matter. Two: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Ever since that evening, I’ve been playing the Two Things game.

In The Two Things about the Two Things, it's noted that people are unlikely to agree what the two things are, especially when it comes to computing. So I'm going to cheat. Here are my four two by two things:

Computer Programming:

  1. Every problem can be solved by breaking it up into a series of smaller problems.
  2. The computer will always do exactly what you tell it to.

Software Engineering:

  1. Writing the code is the easy part. Writing it so someone else can understand it later is the important part.
  2. Make it work, then make it elegant, then make it fast.

The best portable way to tell the time is a good, analogue wristwatch. The form-factor of just having to tilt your wrist to find out the time is entirely convenient. Analogue displays are more readable in more conditions, and they give you a spatial, relative representation of the time that a digital clock doesn't provide. Plus, they look good.

I don't wear watches any more. The reason? Everywhere I go, I carry my mobile phone (cell-phone, for my American readers) with me. My phone has a built-in clock. Even though it's not as good an overall timepiece as my watch -- not as convenient, not as stylish, digital -- the fact that it tells the time, and it's always with me makes carrying a watch redundant.

What you don't see is phone manufacturers panicking because lots of people are still wearing watches.

Manufacturers can make their phones into a better timepieces. They can add alarms and multi-timezone support. They can make the time prominent on the outside of the phone when it's asleep. They could synch their clocks with the phone network (why they can't do this is an absolute mystery to me). But they'll never be as good at telling the time as a watch, because they're phones. There are form/function trade-offs that can not be overcome.

A watch can put all of its effort into being a watch.
Having a clock in your phone is a useful, valuable feature. It saves you from having to wear a watch. Other functions in the phone can hook into the clock, making both more powerful. But if you just want to tell the time and don't want to make phone calls, Nokia isn't going to chase you as a customer.

On the occasion of the changing of my job title from Lead Developer to Product Architect, as posted to my internal Atlassian weblog.

The Architect: Hello, Neo.

Neo: Who are you?

The Architect: I am the Architect. I created the matrix. I've been waiting for you. You have many questions, and although the process has altered your consciousness, you remain irrevocably human. Ergo, some of my answers you will understand, and some of them you will not. Concordantly, while your first question may be the most pertinent, you may or may not realize it is also irrelevant.

Neo: Why do we need an architect?

The Architect: On one level, Confluence is an unimaginable mass of ones and zeros, all packed together. On another level, it is line after line of Java code. On yet another level it is interdependent managers passing messages to one another. Higher, it is the interaction of hundreds of libraries. Higher still, it it the result of a score of developer-years of deep thinking, alcohol consumption and the occasional nerf war.

Neo: You haven't answered my question.

The Architect: Quite right. Interesting. Perhaps the question is wrong?

Neo: Why do we need an architect now?

The Architect: Confluence is the result of a million decisions made at different times by different people. It is the tangible expression of a chaotic system of interlocking rules. For the past four years I have watched it grow in different directions. It has grown unevenly, it has developed anomalies, eddies and vortexes in what should be smooth and unbroken.

Neo: So what can we do about it?

The Architect: Have you heard of this thing they call... Service Oriented Architecture?

Neo: We are so fucked.

Dear Maven 2,

It has come to my attention that you are responsible for the loss of many, many hours of my life, hours that could have been spent on more worthwhile endeavours but that now I will never get back. In addition, the resultant fluctuations in my blood pressure have likely reduced my life-expectancy by a corresponding amount.

I shall be seeking redress for the lost time.

With an axe.

Warm regards,