Saturday, October 21, 2006

Things that annoy me

Currently in Buenos Aires (great city by the way!) and chilling out after a fairly hectic week travelling and because there is free fast internet in this pariticular hostel (The Hostel Inn - Buenos Aires), so here I am surfing away and reading various news articles, catching up on emails and all that and I come across a train of articles from Slash dot that grabbed my attention..

Now as many of you know I've been interested in computers, games and psychology for quite a while and this is why I was fascinated by these articles, the fairly recent phenomenon of MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) has interested me partially from the gamer side but more from the psych side of things..

Tired and slightly enebriated at the moment (4 pesos for a litre of beer) so just trying to get my head together with what I want to say, there are basically two points I want to make:

Point 1: Addiction

Addiction can take many forms, the usual process is developing a chemical addiction that leads onto a (harder to break) psychological one. One of the things I am consistently surprised about is comments like this:

"It is not comparable to a drug addiction in any way. It's not physical, it's mental. You had the choice to stop at any time. It's only when people started disrespecting your power that you gave up."

Quite simply (and sorry mum & dad to this) I used to smoke and yes this is initially a physical addiction (the nicotine) but when you stop smoking that only takes a maximum of 3-4 weeks for it to completely clear from your system (it's mostly gone in the first few days the rest is your body no longer needing/desiring that substance), so if addiction is only 'physical' why the hell 4-5 years later do I still feel the occasional craving for a cigarrete?

When people get it through their thick skulls that addiction and mental illnesses cannot be treated as purely physical illnesses the world will be a better place.

Point 2: Misguided anger

"All the time you are putting into WOW, you could be putting somewhere else. The real world has problems. If everyone that played WOW stopped playing it, turned to their neighbors and community and said what can I do to help, that would be an accomplishment. Getting to lvl 60 isn't. In 20 years no one is going to remember you did it, no one is going to care."

I am quite passionate about space travel/research and one of the most common complaints when any money is invested in anything to do with space (in particular science missions to the other planets in our solar system let alone possibilities of manned missions) is that the money could of been spent on more worthy causes.. My irke with the above quote and that general argument is that the world has a hell of a lot of really worthy causes (for me space is a more worthy cause than some others, though not all)...

That kind of statement is designed to do 2 things, it is designed for the writer to feel superior (not just to the target but also to everyone else) because they obviously have more 'lofty goals' even though they are spending some of that critical time reading articles about World of Warcraft and complaining about people who play it.

It is also designed to try and get you to do something out of guilt (in this case it is just a generic go and help out your neighbours), I actually agree with a lot of the end goals, they are actually worthy causes and I personally spend time on lots of them (raising money for various charities, spending my time on writing software for medical research, spending time with family and friends, talking to those different from me, generally trying to leave the world a better place than when I arrived...) but to me the ends does not justify the means, if you want me to help with a cause ask me, don't tell me I shouldn't of had that sandwich or that I shouldn't of spent that time doing whatever... The point is don't tell what I shouldn't of done, tell me what I can do.

This is actually my biggest peeves it is why I will:

  • Flick the channel during guilt ridden requests for donations

  • Walk past a hawker for the best restaurant in the world

  • Ignore the issues that people like this wave flags about (there are many worthy causes in the world that I'd rather spend my time on)

and so ends yet another rambling rant...


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Internet Banking while travelling

Just a short comment on this topic.. As we've been travelling around we've needed to check our bank accounts:

  • Checking how much money we've been spending
  • Paying that important credit card bill
  • etc...

You know the deal, but one of the challenging things is that you don't ever really know how secure the net cafe you are using, sometimes (I think once in Peru) you come across a pc that is actually secure (it's got a legitimate copy of XP, virus scanner & a firewall) but mostly you don't get any of those...

The end result is that I spend anything up to an hour (depending on how reliable/fast the net connection is) checking and securing the pc before I can do any banking (or whatever secure stuff I may want to do)...

Luckily there are lots of downloadable tools that I can use for free for a limited time period, but ideally what I'd like is a little usb key that I can plug in and it tells me whether or not this pc is secure and gives me the option to make it secure (if I've only got 15mins I don't want it to automatically secure it)

Ok, that was a random rant (not even a good rant at that), but it's just something that I've been fighting with recently... Also an idea for a product, particularly for travellers but also as net cafes are becoming more and more common