My SO came home this afternoon to a crowd of police outside our house. We'd been broken into. Again.[Read more →]
By now most people who have had any dealings with a large institution will have been asked what their mother's maiden name is.
The first time you encounter this, it makes you do a bit of a double-take and wonder how such information can be relevant to anyone. Look into it a bit further and you see they are simply trying to establish a method of authenticating you, probably as a backup for a password-based authentication system.
These secret questions, as I like to call them, are becoming more common. But there are many mistakes your institution can make in trying to implement them. In my dealings with a large Australian government website, I encountered many of them.
A war story follows.[Read more →]
One of the persistent memes in the Australian media is the notion of childhood obesity caused by poor diet and no exercise. It's one of those self-evident truths that nevertheless causes much handwringing and below-the-neck stock footage on the evening broadcast.
Recently there was a report released by Access Economics which estimated the cost of obesity (both adult and childhood) at $3.7b. Oops, make that $21b. (From reading the report, it seems the lower figure is from type-2 diabetes alone, and the higher figure from all diseases combined). It's a lot, anyway.
So what to do? Most discussion has revolved around fairly weak-sounding measures such as removing — or even just toning down — junk food advertising targeted at kiddies.
But I can't help wondering why an excise wouldn't help here. We tax cigarettes and alcohol in order to (partly) offset the increased health costs that result from their use. Why should junk food be any different, assuming a suitable definition can be found? Better still, what if the excise were to subsidise not the health costs associated with obesity, but instead subsidise the availability, and price, of less harmful food?[Read more →]
A recent post on OddThinking got me thinking oddly about puzzles, particularly their relevance to software engineering. Julian uses the example of some thinking which enabled him to solve a puzzle but which would not be appropriate for solving software engineering problems.[Read more →]
There's a science fiction story I read as a kid, and I want to say that it's Phillip K. Dick's Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, but that may not be right. In this story, or one like it, I can remember being amused and confused at the decadent characters in the story who, as adults, would take a drug that would instantly transport them back to relive some of the more pleasant experiences from their early childhood. The obvious name "Wayback" comes to mind.[Read more →]