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Developing Nations Licence
December 4th, 2006 under Uncategorized. [ Comments: 1 ]

Awhile ago, I listened to a podcast by Cory Doctorow. For those of you who don’t know, Cory seems to be somewhat of science fiction writer who’s particularly liberal about copyright licenses. He recently published his latest sci-fi book under The Developing Nations licence. He says the following in the podcast:

If you live in a country that’s not on the world bank’s list of high-income nations, you can treat this work as though it were in the public domain and make an unlimited amount of money in anyway that you can think off of this work, provided you don’t re-export to the developed world.

He even goes on to say that using this licence drives sales:

I’m generating more sales of my printed books. Sure, giving away ebooks displaces the occasional sale but it’s far more common for a reader to download the book, read some or all of it, and decide to buy the print edition. I’ve given away more than half a million digital copies of my award-winning first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, and that sucker has blown through five print editions (yee-HAW!), so I’m not worried that giving away books is hurting my sales.

Though it does depend on what the World Bank deems as a developed/developing nation, this makes sense to me. For years, top industry players, like the Microsoft/RIAA’s of this world, have waved their anti-piracy banner. Especially pointed in the direction of Asia and Africa where piracy is rife. That just shows their myopic worldview in my opinion. Their problem is that they assume that for every piece of software pirated, they’ve lost a sale. When their product is reproduced, they haven’t lost anything, they don’t have a tangible product like a hardware manufacturer. It seems to me they have two options:

  • Continue selling software at a global price, ignoring the differences between economies, so that it
    • widens the gap between the developed nations and the developing nations
    • drives them away from their products
    • reduces future sales

or …

Well I’m sure you can guess the alternative. I know which one I would take.

We can’t all be rock stars
November 23rd, 2006 under Uncategorized. [ Comments: 2 ]

I’ve always wondered about my musical ability and I stumbled across Jake Mandell’s site which is supposed to test for tone deafness. I would think that if you scored less than 50%, you would be considered tone deaf because you would do better just by randomly hitting buttons.

Again, I scored below average! Only 69.3% when “normal” is considered 70% and of 15000 people, only 23% did worse than I did. I’m sure all these online tests are conspiring against me! :P. I guess I haven’t been playing enough guitar in order to promote my understanding of music :P.

Big Brother Haircut
November 20th, 2006 under Uncategorized. [ Comments: 1 ]

Ever wondered what it would be like to live under a Big Brother-style government? I think North Koreans do:

North Korean state television is showing a series of programmes instructing shabbily coiffured men on the personal grooming required of a citizen of the vehemently anti-capitalist state.

The five-part series, entitled “Let’s trim our hair in accordance with the socialist lifestyle”, exhorted them to opt for one of several officially sanctioned haircuts, including the crew cut and the “high, middle and low” styles. Hair should be kept between 1cm and 5cm in length and should be trimmed every 15 days, it said.

Their policies on sex must be scary. I especially loved this quote:

People who wear other’s style of dress and live in other’s style will become fools and that nation will come to ruin.

I mean come on! Had the West entertained this kind of thinking, the 80s would never have happened!

Counter-Intuitivity (Pt 1) – The Ultimatum Game
November 16th, 2006 under Uncategorized. [ Comments: 3 ]

Recently, I was wondering why people (including myself) seem to make irrational decisions. Often, we seem to make impulse purchases and then regret it later. I came a across a Newsweek article that described a game I’d never heard of called The Ultimatum Game:

Imagine that I have $100 and I offer you $20 of it, no strings attached. You’d take it, right? Any fool would; it’s a windfall. But imagine further that you know I must give away part of my $100 or lose it all. All of a sudden my motives aren’t entirely altruistic, but I’m still offering you free money. Take it or leave it, but no negotiation allowed. How would you feel? What would you do?

The Ultimatum game is used in experimental economics to model irrational behaviour. This site goes on to explain it further:

A typical experiment is the so-called ‘Ultimatum Game’, which involves two people (A and B) and 10 coins. Person A has 10 coins and places some of them in front of him, and the rest in front of person B, who is asked whether or not he accepts the proposed allocation.

  • If B says ‘Yes‘, then both A & B keep the coins in front of them.
  • If B says ‘No‘, then neither player gets any of the coins.

So which deals do you think people are most willing to accept?

Player A usually splits the coins nearly evenly, averaging around 6:4, and player B usually accepts this offer. Interestingly, autistic players are the only ones who consistently split the coins 9:1, as game theory predicts.
Player B usually accepts the allocation when the coins are fairly evenly split. However, with unfair allocations, especially when offered only a single coin, very few people make the ‘logical’ decision to accept the offer.

This is exactly how I would have behaved. But if you use game theory and you’re Person B, the only correct option is to accept every offer as long as it’s not zero. Surely something is better than nothing?

Jesus Camp shuts down
November 10th, 2006 under Uncategorized. [ Comments: none ]

While I’m happy that Jesus Camp has been shutdown, it’s kind of a hollow victory:

The summer camp featured in the documentary “Jesus Camp,” which includes scenes with disgraced preacher Ted Haggard, will shut down for at least several years…

So it’s been shut down for a few years but so what? There’s probably a 100 other camps like this all over the place. If not, they’ll probably spring up to fill some parents insane need to brainwash their children. Do parent’s not trust their children enough to make their own choices? The fact that this came about because vandals hit the campsite in the pocket is also a bit a sad but I guess I didn’t really expect anything less.

As for this:

The married, 50-year-old father of five admitted in a letter read Sunday to his followers that he was “guilty of sexual immorality.”

Wow. I’m stunned. I never expected him to be human. I guess forgiveness doesn’t extend to people in positions of power. But then again, the congregation is also human.

Child Labour 2.0
November 2nd, 2006 under Uncategorized. [ Comments: 10 ]

What is it with parents who force their views on kids? I mean is it so difficult to get them to grow up well adjusted? A few weeks ago, there was a story going around about a film called Jesus Camp. Kids learn about Christ and then go out and preach. Here’s an example:

In another scene, Rachael, who has a habit of nervously holding her breath as she talks, clearly parroting the lessons about faith and values she’s learned at home and at church, walks up to three older African-American men seated in a park in Washington, D.C., where she has traveled with her parents to take part in an anti-abortion demonstration.

“Hi,” Rachael says, arm semi-outstretched with a Bible tract in hand. “If you died tonight, where do you think you’d go?”
“Heaven,” one of the men says.
“Are you sure?” the little girl prods.
“Yes,” the man says pleasantly.
As she walks away, clearly flummoxed by the encounter, Rachael whispers to the two kids with her, “I think they were Muslims.”

Children don’t understand the world they are living in. How can they possibly comprehend the afterlife.

So if that isn’t bad enough, there was a link on reddit to the most racist ad ever. While the association the ad represents clearly do not share my views, it’s their right to tell whoever is dumb enough to listen. What I object to, is the use of children to promote their ideology. Enter Prussian Blue! Two 14 year old girls who sing about “white separatism”. Here’s an example of some lyrics:

ALL the mud races must be banished,
For look at the world they have damaged.
Look around and what do I see?
Ugly brown faces staring at me.

That’s not separatism, that’s supremacy folks. Want to know how they got their name?:

The band was named after the color Prussian blue, a reference to the name of the blue residue left over by the use of Zyklon B, the poison the Nazis employed to kill millions of Jews and others in concentration camps during World War II.

Those words are not from the twins, they are from their parents. So my question is, why do they use cute and cuddly kids extoll the views of their parents? Because it sells well, of course. I believe that the parents of these children should seriously be held for child labour. This is the definition:

States Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.

Last time I checked, the United States are part of the UN right? Do you think these children are going to grow up well-adjusted?

Flat Earth Society Wants YOU!
October 29th, 2006 under Uncategorized. [ Comments: none ]

So about two weeks ago, my roomate sent me this link to the Flat Earth Society. For those of you who don’t know, this society has been around since the 19th century in various forms and (obviously) believe that the earth is flat. You can imagine that their stance got rather complicated when pictures like this started showing up. The society started claiming that the whole thing was an elaborate hoax. This, I think, is an example of where Occam’s Razor breaks down. I mean, which story would you be more inclined to believe?

  1. A large government entity spent billions of dollars to put a man in space and go traipsing about on the moon because it was hard.
  2. A large government entity spent billions of dollars pretending to put a man in space and go traipsing about on the moon to strike fear into the Communist infidels.

If I were to follow Occam’s Razor, I think option 2 seems the safest bet. Then again, I have been known to be cynical.

What’s your Tension Quotient?
October 25th, 2006 under Uncategorized. [ Comments: none ]

Personally, I’m not usually one to go for these “Check Your IQ” or “What type of Personality Test” type online tests as I find them over-simplified and they don’t explain your score well enough (if at all). However, I found a test on reddit today called the “Philosophical Health Check” (sub-titled “Check your Tension Quotient”) which I really think is worth the effort. In this test, they ask you a bunch of philosophical questions and then give you value indicating how contradictory your beliefs are. The important bit is not so much the value but that they actually explain why your beliefs contradict. You can then obviously choose to agree or disagree with what they say.

Sadly, my tension quotient was 33%, worse then the average. Guess I have some reconciling to do.

P.S. The lower the percentage, the better.

Chiropractors = Nonsense
October 19th, 2006 under Uncategorized. [ Comments: 1 ]

Okay. I’m going to start off this entry by relating a story. About 4 years ago, I was having severe back pain. It was probably from acting the fool on stage when I was still in a band. Anyways, so my mom ships me off to a chiropractor. I think I went twice and the pain didn’t really subside. Fortunately, over the next couple of weeks, the pain went away. Because of the ineffectiveness of the treatment, it started me thinking about the validity of the profession. Anyways, I carry on regardless. Then about 2 years later, I get back pain again. True to form, my mom ships me off to the chiropractor. During the consultation, the chiropractor proceeds to tell me that if I regularly go for checkups, it’ll improve my guitar playing. IN MY FINGERS! After that consultation, I swore never to go back to another chiropractor ever again. And the research began…

Did you know that chiropractic is based on pseudoscience? The Skeptic’s Dictionary has a lot to say on the matter so I’ll quote:

The basic idea of classical chiropractic is that “subluxations” are the cause of most medical problems. According to chiropractic, a “subluxation” is a misalignment of the spine that allegedly interferes with nerve signals from the brain. However, there is no scientific evidence for spinal subluxations and none have ever been observed by medical practitioners such as orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, or radiologists. Chiropractors think that by adjusting the misalignments they can thereby restore the nerve signals and cure health problems. This idea was first propounded in 1895 by D.D. Palmer, a grocer from Davenport, Iowa, and a vitalist who considered intelligent energy to be conveying information among various body parts.

Intelligent energy? Are you kidding me? Does the average person know this? If you look at the wikipedia entry, it’s listed under “Alternative Medicine”. Yup, right up there with Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Acupuncture and Magic Pixie Shiatsu Massage. I ‘ve had a friend tell me they’ve followed Ayurveda to the letter, and has made absolutely no difference in there lives. The problem seems to be that everyone seems to rely on anecdotal evidence (Oh the irony). The major problem with that is you can always find someone with a different opinion. Does no one do research anymore? The entry in Skeptic’s Dictionary goes on:

For years chiropractors rarely worked with medical doctors and they were almost never on staff at hospitals. The American Medical Association (AMA) made no bones about its disapproval of chiropractic, which was discredited by their Committee on Quackery. The chiropractors fought back and won a lawsuit against the AMA in 1976 for restraint of trade.

Restraint of trade? What? No jumping to the defense of chiropractors everywhere by providing factual evidence of it’s validity? No shouting of, “Liar liar, pants on fire!” Instead, they go after the AMA from an economic standpoint. They are effectively saying, “you’re getting rid of your competition”, something more akin to Microsoft(Read here for more information). It seems they didn’t want to get tangled in a my expert has a bigger research pool than your research pool debate.

Doesn’t that seem a little suspicious to you?

Dog > Tank
October 18th, 2006 under Uncategorized. [ Comments: 2 ]

I came across the following wikipedia link on reddit today. What the hell were people thinking half-way through the last century? Typical Russians you say? Oh but wait. It’s not just them. As if entertaining the idea of remoteviewing (e.g. the Stargate Project) wasn’t bad enough, the CIA developed the purrfect secret weapon. That’s right. Operation Acoustic Kitty! Oh but it gets worse. I did a little bit of digging on the net and found this site which details the use of animals throughout the ages.

Okay anything before the turn of the 20th century I can sort of understand. Men were probably little more than apes back then. But I would think that an army would not be able to be brought to its knees by a mangy mutt in search of sustenance. I’m just waiting for gorillas with bazookas/rpgs. It’ll give the poachers one hell of a surprise.

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