More on Backups!

Last night as I got home a particular song came on my iPod. I decided I wanted to listen to this song, so found it in the files of my computer. I was using the Windows music app, which is kind of poor but at least does not take ten minutes to open like iTunes. Usually I have this app randomly playing tracks from my entire music files. Asking for a specific track seemed to confuse it. While attempting to get it to play other tracks again the computer shut down. It restarted, immediately shut down and then restarted again. Obviously something had gone wrong so when it offered me the option to “refresh” without any danger to my losing my files, I clicked “Yes”.

Apparently, “refresh” actually means “we will delete all of the programs you have ever personally installed, including the upgrade from Win 8 to Win 8.1”. We will also delete your system restore points too so you cannot undo this!
On this blog I have often spoken about the need for backups in life. All of my files were safely stored on an external HDD. It seems most of my programs were not. I have a list of over twenty programs that will need to be reinstalled on the computer. Some of them will be difficult to source. Some will need me to relocate registration codes. Some will come with a host of pointless programs that will try and install toolbars or change my search preferences. Some may no longer be available or the current version lacks features that I found most useful on the old one. Win 8.1 will not install until I have installed a host of updates, a process that has failed at least once so far. I am probably looking at at least several nights of work just getting my computer back up to scratch.
My advice in this blog is to make a copy of the installer application for all of your favourite programs and place them in a folder on your backup drive(s).

Your Best Survival Tool : Science.

The other night someone I know began an vehement rant on the evils of science. As is often the case the problem with this is that they actually had little idea on what science really is and were using “science” when they meant big business, industry, government, the pharmaceutical industry and so forth. I was once required to take a University course on the “Sociology of Science” that in practice was a vehicle for some very-hazy left wing concepts and it was obvious most of the tutors had no idea of what science actually was. When they said “science” they always actually meant “industry” or “technology” or “corporate practice”. Ironically their example of “an alternative approach to science” was one of the best examples of structured scientific investigation I had then come across. Apparently it was “alternative” since Chinese “barefoot” doctors had done the work, which seems somewhat racist and condescending!
For a number of reasons I chose not to argue the issue the other night but it still meant a big chunk of our limited time together was wasted and soured.

What is science? This is something that many people are unclear on and certain factions deliberately attempt to obscure. The Wikipedia page does a reasonable job at explaining this. Science is a tool. It is one of the most useful tools that you may ever use if you master it. Like any other tool it is neither inherently good nor bad. Science, or rather its products, can be used either for good or bad. That is a choice of the user, not science.
Science is a tool for finding answers. The processes we usually use to achieve this are observation and systematic experimentation. Is an answer gained by science inherently true? Not necessarily! Science tends to give us the most likely answer based on the available data.
I used to tell my students the fable of the blind men and the elephant as an example of why you had to take multiple observations of a thing and examine it from different angles. If you were examining an event that was a sine-wave there is a chance your sample interval matched the frequency and you got the same reading every time, leading you to conclude from the available evidence that the event was a straight line.
I once heard about a Medieval monk who built a flying machine and jumped from the watchtower of an abbey. He broke both legs. I remember this because he is a clear example of someone who is an inventor but not scientific. If he had been scientific he might have tried his machine with a dummy first, or tried from progressively increasing lesser heights.
The accuracy of a scientific answer depends on the available data. This is why some scientific “truths” become less reliable as new and additional information becomes available. Science has inherent in it the principle of Fallibilism. It does not say “this is the answer” but “this is the most probable answer, based on the data we have”. If I had something in my pocket and it goes missing the most probable answer is that it fell out. This may not be the actual reason. Someone might have picked my pocket or the item disappeared through a quantum wormhole! I have no evidence to support the latter ideas so the most probably explanation is that I lost it. If someone produces security camera footage of my pocket being picked then we have new evidence and our theory of what has happened is modified.
Science is a tool for problem solving. One of the greatest fictional examples of a scientist is Sherlock Holmes, who wisely tells us “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” I’d replace “truth” with “most likely explanation” but this quote nicely illustrates that to use science effectively you must be both open-minded and sceptical. 
Scientists are human and thus subject to human weaknesses and failings. Dogma and conservatism sometimes find their way into the scientific community. Occasionally a new finding or idea gets held back because of who proposes it or its potential effect on the reputation of the originator of the theory it displaces. Some ideas do not gain acceptance until the scientist who proposed the current theory has died!
That scientists cannot explain something does not mean that they ignore it or reject it. It should be a spur to investigate further and attempt new approaches. Science applies to everything. Some fields such as alternative therapy and parapsychology are ignored by conventional scientists yet these are exactly the fields where good science can be used to sort the wheat from the chaff and the bogus from the genuine. Scientific investigation of acupuncture discovered it stimulates endorphin production. The observations and experiments of a scientist discovered many incidences of hauntings can be attributed to infrasound. Radiations other than light were only discovered in the 19th century when we developed means to measure them or observe their interactions. Who knows what else we may discover or disprove once we have the tools?
True science only rejects what it can disprove, not what it cannot prove.
Sometimes you find insight in unusual places. The entertaining movie “Frankenweenie” says some interesting things about science. Mr. Rzykruski: “They like what science gives them, but not the questions, no. Not the questions that science asks.”
Science is neutral and will sometimes lead us to answers and conclusions that we do not want. This is where science sometimes clashes with some religions. Many religions have dogma, truths you are required to accept as immutable and absolute. Any evidence that may disprove the absolute nature of such ideas must be ignored and rejected. Some religions like to portray science as an alternative belief system or set of dogma but it is not. It is a device for testing assumptions.
I often wonder if the poor teaching of science I have observed in recent years is because those able to think logically and systematically are poorer consumers. If you are better equipped to see through bullshit it is harder for advertisers, politicians and other controllers
Can the knowledge that science produces be exploited for bad purposes? Yes, it can. Any knowledge can be exploited but that produced by science is the most likely to be used since it is verified. Man may use his knowledge to do wrong but science can also be used to prove that such actions have harmful consequences.


More on Foot Wrappings!

My girlfriend contacted me yesterday inviting me to meet her in a large shopping centre for a coffee. When I arrived the cunning trap was soon sprung! Turns out she needs new boots for work. We found a nice pair of ankle boots at a reasonable price. My girlfriend wanted to wear the boots so she swapped her sandals for her new acquisitions. She mentioned that she ought to buy some socks but she was hungry so we went for something to eat.
The meal took longer than expected and by the time we had finished it was dark and the local shops had closed. We headed for a pub where my lady had to meet someone and after a little walking she complained about one of the new boots rubbing against her bare feet.
Given the problems I have with my feet there was no way I could give her my socks. I began to look around for alternate solutions. I had a bandanna in my pocket, still knotted from when I had recently used it as an emergency head covering on an unexpectedly sunny day. Remembering my research on foot wrappings a year ago I offered it to her. She wrapped it around her ankle so that it covered the potential blister.
We walked to the pub and several times my lady told me “this bandanna is really comfortable!” For the rest of the night her feet gave her no problems as she was running around socializing and dancing.
I am going to have to dig out a couple of suitable bits of cloth and give the foot wrappings a try!

Knife Defense Video.

A friend sent me this video for comment. It rather echoes the my recent posts on Silver and his comment that “with this weapon there are no grips and no wards”.
For the most part this video is better than many I see. Knives are poor defensive weapons but they are good counter-offensive weapons. My main criticism of this video is that the knife user makes no attempt to use his other hand when his knife hand is grabbed. He could strike, switch his knife to his other hand or a number of other techniques, many of which are detailed in my book.
When watching videos such as this it is a good idea to consider both sides. You are intended to identify with the figure on the left but also consider what you might do if you were the guy on the right.