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Entry 1233, on 2010-10-14 at 21:14:31 (Rating 3, Comments)

I want to comment on a variety of unrelated things today. First there is a series of interesting comments from New Zealand's ex-prime minister, Jim Bolger. He said that the sale of Telecom in 1990 was a mistake and even added that "New Zealand Governments have generally proved themselves inept at privatisation". Since he was in charge during the period when a lot of that happened it really is a surprising admission. Sure, it was Labour who sold Telecom and that should never be forgotten (and Labour voters should be cautious of infiltration by similar elements in the future) but his government continued the process and privatisation is a policy which the right is generally supportive of.

He went on to say that "Sir Roger Douglas was worse than hopeless at privatising, to be honest." Well Roger Douglas, as I have mentioned on occasions, is a despicable human being and not much good at anything, but it's interesting to see a past politician like Bolger, who naturally aligns with the right, agreeing with our current center-right prime minister in dismissing Douglas. Maybe finally people of all political persuasions are seeing that what I have been saying for years is actually correct!

But people are very easy to fool and rarely make any effort to establish what's really true and what isn't. I've made my thoughts on this very clear in the past where I have dismissed the pathetically naive way that some groups support their belief systems. The religious would be the prime examples here but many political and other beliefs are almost as bad.

I often see more trivial examples of this in the way people forward email messages about various "amazing facts" that they think I should know. Often these "facts" look very suspicious and a small amount of research soon reveals them to be untrue. The case today involved the fact that October 2010 contains 5 Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and the claim that this is amazing because it only happens every 823 years.

Many people would just accept this and pass the message on, but how much effort is involved in checking it? A Google search reveals several blogs just repeating the message without checking it, but further down the page is someone who has totally debunked it. But it doesn't really involve too much work to do that. All that is really required is a little bit of logical thought (another thing people are often rather lacking in).

There are 31 days in October, aren't there? That means there must be 4 weeks of seven days with 3 days left over. So the last three days need to be added to the end meaning that 3 days will occur 5 times instead of 4. If that sequence of 3 days starts on Friday then there will be 5 Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, just like the message describes. Because there are 365 days in a year (which is 52 weeks plus one day) each year (and therefore each month) starts one day further forward each year. So if New Year's Day was Friday this year it will be Saturday next. So every 7 years it will cycle back again which means that the 5 Friday, Saturday, Sunday phenomenon must happen every 7 years.

Leap years do make the day jump two days instead of one every 4 years (that's sort of true, because it is a bit more complex than that) but that doesn't change the big picture much. The pattern happens this year, it last happened six years ago in 2004, and it will happen again in 11 years in 2021. That's not very rare and it doesn't happen every 823 years at all! Wasn't that fun!

On a totally different topic, things are looking great for Apple. Their share price today hit US$300 for the first time which must further reinforce Apple's place as the biggest (and most important) computer company in the world. Sales of all their major platforms have been strong: iPad (of course), iPhone, and Mac have all been selling in great numbers (the iPad in "stellar" numbers according the the report I read).

Why? Why do Apple products sell so well even though they are expensive and, on paper, don't necessarily have a better feature set than competitors' efforts? There are two reasons that the iPhone is better than Android and Windows 7 based phones, that the iPad is better than any PC tablet ever made, and that the Mac beats any Linux or Windows PC. First, Apple have style. They know what to leave out as well as what to put in, and they know how to create a total synergistic experience because they make the hardware, OS, and some of the software. And second, it's about attention to detail. There's a famous story about how Steve Jobs insisted that the inside of the Mac should be designed in a particularly aesthetic way even though no one was ever supposed to get inside it! I agree that sometimes this can go too far (there are examples of Apple letting style overwhelm functionality) but overall it works well for them.

So yes, on these three widely divergent subjects I'm right and most other people are wrong (just like I have always said). Privatisation and right wing politics is all about incompetence and immorality. Most people are too stupid to tell truth from fiction. And Apple is great and everyone else sucks. QED. Thank you!


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