Monday, October 30, 2006

Multi-touch sensor drafting table

Jeff Han at NYU has exactly the right ideas about display and interface. The video of his presentation is well worth watching.
Via WilliamGibson.

What's wrong with Blogger?

Having some problems with Blogger. Firefox, Mozilla, Opera, and Camino are all failing to publish from any computer, so I think the problem is in Blogger. Posts are uploaded, but not able to publish due to, for example:

There were errors. 001 Connection refusedblog/58/26/6/blues-tea-cha/archives/2006_10_01_blues-tea-cha_archive.html
The Java is choking on something. It's not always the archive or the same post that it chokes on. Maybe the problem is in creating the index? Wakaranai.

Update: I ended up using an ancient application from 2001 called "Internet Explorer" to publish my post last night. My theory is that maybe Blogger tweaked their interface to work with the new IE7 and broke it for a bunch of Mac browsers. I am on Mozilla now, and the problem seems to be fixed.

Pinky and The Brain

I made this (a year or so ago) after Kyle sent me the Deutsch version of the Pinky and the Brain theme song. I know that Karl Rove is usually the one referred to as "Bush's Brain," but still.

The Space Station Wagon

How soon we forget, with space travel now a humdrum everyday occurence, those exciting early days of the Space Station Wagon.

Principia Prophylactica

Some weak-minded people may find this offensive. I assembled this collage to honor memorialize the works of PJP2, who like Reagan, was hailed as a saint when he died, all misdeeds wiped clean. I was (and stll am) offended by the policy of commanding sub-Saharan Africans and other potential AIDS victims not to use condoms. It is even more offensive when preached by those who set themselves up as moral authorities, yet always seem to get it wrong. The Vatican also seems to have an inaccurate view of human nature, which is something else they advertise themselves as being experts on. Ratzinger's more recent policy of "Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child, Move the Pedophile Priest around and Shut Up the Victims" is even more offensive, but that is a rant for another day. As the leader of one of the world's oldest and most succesful cults, he has a grave responsibility.
Subtitles for the semiotically challenged and offendees:
Although undoubtedly a seminal figure, it would have been better if what PJP2 was spewing had been contained and not widely disseminated, especially for those who were killed by heeding his order to not use condoms.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The God Delusion

I've been a fan of Richard Dawkins since I read The Selfish Gene back in the late 70s or early 80s. I recently listened to him promoting his new bestseller, The God Delusion, on a podcast, and my friend Erik sent me these links from a television series. It's not just a lecture or one-sided intellectual argument; Dawkins gets into heated arguments with Islamofascists, Judeofascists, and Christofascists who readily profess their hate for him and all atheists.

Richard Dawkins - The Root of All Evil Part 1

Root of All Evil 2: God is cruel, immoral, barbaric and evil

Root of All Evil 3: Morals do not come from religious texts

Root of All Evil 4: Christian Hell Houses. No comment needed

Root of All Evil 5: Some religious beliefs are just invented

(God is imaginary.)

Caveat Lector

For years, I've thought that "Caveat Lector" was a combination of "Caveat Emptor" and Hannibal Lecter. Today, I find out that "Caveat Lector" is a fully legitimate Latin phrase in its own write, and that "Caveat Lecter" is only either a misspelling or a pun by movie reviewers who also happen to be scholars of ancient Latin. I blame my Latin instructor for this misunderstanding; I am self-taught.

I was thinking of this today because Mr Halliburton "Dick" Cheney was recently out of the Secure Undisclosed, walking around in public, possibly unarmed or only lightly armed, boasting of how a little water torture is just what the terrorists and/or illegally detained citizens need.

Dick always reminds me of Hannibal Lecter. How could he not, I wonder, and remind myself that none other than the Diebold corporation insist that his ticket got more votes than all but maybe one other candidate. I guess some people don't see him the way I do – the way he really is. For people without the vision-thing, here he is, in the low-res quality with which he appears to those of us who see his soul. He may be even scarier than the mothman.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Shining

Around this time of year I sometimes find myself watching The Shining. This analysis is interesting. I'm not sure if it really rises to the level of being the hidden meaning, or if it was intended to work subconsciously on a visual level to activate that repressed complex of guilt, fear, and hate. The site has a synopsis and some other thoughts about the duality motif in the film.
Update: I think Kubrick was definitely conscious of the symbology mentioned above, and was making meanings on many levels, as artists like him do.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

G.O.P. runs Bush/BinLaden '06 Congressional Campaign spot

The new Repugnicant Nationalist Committee features their hero, Osama BinLaden, prominently, and lets Osama do the talking for them. "What is yet to come will be even greater," the ad quotes bin Laden as saying, according to the Washington Post. Osama has had a prominent role as a front man making audio and video releases for the Party of God (G.O.P.) for years, and is considered untouchable within the party, a key asset that replaces the need for policies and enables a repressive form of kleptocracy. Just imagine the wonders these two (the Bush-BinLaden ticket) can bring us, if they continue to work together. You ain't seen nuthin' yet! If BinLaden didn't exist, they would have to invent him. If he wouldn't make a pre-election recording, the RNC will just have to do it for him.

The RNC website refuses any access from any of my browsers; apparently I am not allowed to know their plans? Is it my IP address or all foreign IPs that they are blocking??

Update: Media Matters did a report on the extensive airplay as "news" that the ad has enjoyed before it aired. (But aren't they part of the same problem?) You can watch a recap of the coverage by Fox, CNN, etc there (but with awarenessTM).

Job opportunities in the US Torture Corps

After a while, I'm not really sure if this is funny or not. I worry a little that the truly shameless torturers might even enjoy this video, too. When you make a joke that references past or ongoing oppressions, it is abusive, exploitative, or does it bring attention and awareness to the issue? Take it with a bit of a Mel Brooks mentality. It has its moments, might make you think, and takes 1 minute 11 seconds. Via Americablog.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Cities of Dreams

On occasion, I have had dreams in which I seemed to be a traveler to a future time and place.

One time, I dreamed I was in an area of rolling mountains. The area was mostly grassy green, and we were on top of a ridge. The slope was rather steep to build on, and the valley below could be prone to flooding or avalanche. On top of the next ridge was another large building like the one we were approaching. I became aware that there was something very strange about this place, that it was real, but I could not tell whether we were in Europe or America. I asked my two guides "What country is this?" and "What year is this?", questions which were met with laughter and disbelief even when I repeated the question, insisting that I was serious. We entered a large single-story building. There was a single entrance to the building, although it was very large and many people lived there. I thought it was something like a longhouse. The entrance opened directly into a large area not unlike a hotel lobby, where various activities were taking place in different corners. For example, in one corner, small children were playing, and being watched and entertained by caretakers, possibly while their parents were away. Children of different ages hung out in another area, and a group of old people were gathered to play chess and cards and chat in another area. I realized that this was not just an apartment-style building, but much more sophisticated. This lobby or social area provided services such as childcare, elderly care, a hangout for interest groups or discussion groups, and even security, since everybody would have to pass through this area to go through to more private living areas.

I don't remember much else about the dream. I half-expected to see elements of the housing design that I had seen start to appear in real designs, but I have seen movement more in the opposite direction: less communal housing and shared communal spaces, more video cameras for security and small or nonexistent shared lobby spaces.

Last night I had another strange dream that was similar. I was awake from 4:05 to at least 4:54, probably due to one of the medications I am taking for pneumonia. The pharmacist had told me it could cause doki-doki, which I took to mean excitement, rapid heartbeat, or something similar. Maybe that caused me to wake up. I had this energy to cycle to the beach and watch the sun rise or something crazy like that. I think the energy was supposed to go to expectoration, not expectation. After I fell asleep again, I was in a dream. I was being given a tour of a place. I knew it was a dream, and that I would be returning from the tour. I was trying to take photos with a cellphone, and take notes to record what I saw. Obviously, when I woke up, these records were gone, but I attempted to take a few notes of what I remembered before the dream eroded away to a trace.

I was in a city. It seemed to be Tokyo. The year may have been 2020 or 2200 or something like that. In the old city, I was being taken around to visit many people. Most interiors had been done completely with bamboo. Interiors looked like a Thai countryside house on the inside. Some of the people I visited seemed to be living in small apartments on small side-streets of the old city. Some of these were clearly very old, and surrounded by older decaying apartment units which were bigger.

Exploring from these side streets, I could see that much of the city was in ruins. It was not the ruins of an earthquake or war, but the ruins of mold, rust, and decay. The buildings looked just like modern buildings only aged 100 years. They were drab, sometimes twisted or warped, appearing leaky and unlivable. Perhaps they were too expensive to tear down and were just abandoned for the time being. The biggest structural problem was probably that many roofs had collapsed. I found the ruins quite picturesque, and was enjoying the atmospheric shadowy spaces among the rusted metal, broken glass, and grimy concrete of this area, taking photographs. People were few in these areas, but friendly, yet slightly curious as to visitors. In some places, the sidewalks along these areas were made of old plywood layered like shingles on a roof. In some places, the plywood had rotted and my foot would go through it into a hole. Underneath, I could see that it was not dirt, but was made of the crushed ruins of old wooden houses.

A few times, in the ruins, I came to spots where there were big steel grid gates, more like a drawbridge or gate that would be dropped in a river or something. You could see through this fenced area to a special area inside. In there was a large cleared area of a few square kilometers. Much of it had been cleared of everything but dirt, and excavated deeper than other areas. It looked cleaned up as if no city had ever been there. Off about a kilometer away, in the background, I could see a big machine working. It was like a car carrier, scaled up to be about 4 times wider, 4 times higher, and longer. It also resembled a combine (harvester) in how it functioned. I called it a city-eater. It converted the ruined city into empty space and materials for building new city. It took in the ruins of the old city at the front, and discharged small amounts of dirt underneath or from the back. Apparently the chopped-up bits of city that it was taking in were sorted into bins inside for re-use. I thought that these machines were human-operated, but while I was watching one, it turned and headed toward me. I thought that it was responding to my staring at it, but it was just coming to the gate where I happened to be. I saw then that it was autonomous, not human-operated, and that it responded to human speech. A guard at the gate met it and left, speaking with it, as it maneuvered down the street toward the port. I followed it to find it there waiting for a ship. Traffic, by the way, was very busy, and consisted of cars, trucks, and bicycles that didn't seem much different than now.

I was able to bring my family there, but we didn't live in a single-family unit like the bamboo-refinished antique apartments of the old city. There was a larger social unit, an intermediate one, that doesn't exist today. Unlike the Work Unit of China, this was like a Living Unit. I think there may have been about a hundred or more of us. We were together in the open air at picnic-tables at the twilight, talking with others. Later, inside, I saw a kitchen area. There was a colored slider-abacus-like device to show when it was your turn to cook. There was room for about 20 people to work, with 4 or 5 rows of counters, with 4 or 5 work stations in each row. Each work space was walled off like a library carrel. These carrels and the walls were made of a plastic or glassy material about 4 to 6 inches thick. Some children were standing up on top of the dividers or trying to help out their dads and moms with cooking chores. There was a nice atmosphere, like a house or casual restaurant more than work. There was a big round metal grill or griddle (teppan) shaped like a barrel, and on top, some kind of gyoza, about 50 of them, were cooking.

Near the cooking area was a shower area. I didn't see any baths, but there were showers for about 20 people at this location, semiprivate. The walls were made of this glassy material that looked like marble or superball-sized pieces of clear glass or plastic, mixed in with some colored pieces of the glass or plastic, had been melded together into semi-translucent walls. There were doors made of this stuff on some showers, which were more like stalls, others were in a more open part of the shower area.

The eating area was near here, too. It seemed a little too crowded and brightly lit. There was picnic-table type seating, i.e. benches and long tables. It all seemed to be indoors, and I don't remember windows in any of these areas, so maybe we were underground.

On waking up, the dream began to evaporate very quickly. I took a few notes to try to save some of it, but most dripped back into the subconscious like water flowing out of a car dredged from a river, or soap bubbles popping.

Update: (20061021): I remembered that "Gunkanjima" -- Hashima Island, in Nagasaki Prefecture, possibly the most densely populated place on earth in 1959, and abandoned since 1974, is a good place to see the process of modern high-rise architecture returning to nature, except that you can't really legally go there, so look up some of the online galleries.

Guns before butter. 花よりだんご

I have pneumonia. It took a while to realize that and be diagnosed properly. The fever of 39.5 and coughing up of blood helped the hospital to get the right diagnosis the second time, with the help of an x-ray. An unpleasant symptom of pneumonia is feeling hot, cold, sweaty, and clammy all at the same time. My splitting headache has come back. Yes, like the one Abe Lincoln had.

I was thinking about two things one day while I waiting around at the hospital. First, it is taken for granted that everyone is cared for in Japan, everyone has health insurance. The system is not up for much political debate of any kind; changes may be made by bureaucrats (by which I mean professionals in the best sense of the word) not politicians. Like virtually every other industrialized country, a public health system was put in place when the GNP per capita passed about US $8000 or 10,000. Countries with socialist ideologies, such as Cuba, build a health system before almost anything else. Something went wrong in the US. Was it that Truman didn't package it correctly? Was Eisenhower blocking it? Why did Kennedy invade Cuba and fly to the moon instead of build up a public health system? Why did Johnson invade Vietnam with his Grate Society? We can't blame it on the Chief Executioner; what about the Congress? They were bought and sold, so why didn't the public insist on it? It could be the assured class-consciousness of the ruling class which runs the press, or it could be a peculiar ludicrousness or gullibility in the American people. I can't explain what went wrong with America but, in Japan, the idea that you would just set off certain people and make it hard or impossible for them to get the same care as everybody is hard to even imagine. It would be like denying some people the vote, or elementary education, or mail service, or electricity, or mail delivery. Which reminds me: maybe it is related to American racism.

The second thing I appreciate is that there are no nuclear weapons and no appetite for them. Somebody who proposes that the country have an atomic bomb is a good candidate to be sent off to a mental hospital. I don't talk with a large number of adults freely about topics like this much anymore, but I would be surprised if many people were in favor of arming with nuclear weapons. I would be surprised to find even one Japanese female who would support Japan having nukes. Let's say the percentage is under 1%. As for the men, I tend to think it would also be hard to find anyone, but in the case of repeated tests or threats from North Korea or China, I can imagine that from 5% to 20% or so of the men might begin to back such a plan. My estimate may be too high. The sea between Japan and Korea has been sufficient to deter effective invasion until the Americans came. The US should likewise have little to worry about, with the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans serving as moats for the fortress. Anyway, it is a mark of insanity to propose having a nuke here, while in the US, to propose the country get rid of its nukes, one might be called insane.

Two cheers for Japan!

If I could add a third point, it would be having decent daycare available for communities, so that children are safely, professionally, and inexpensively cared for while their mothers work. This can be done on a community or state level. For that matter, so can health insurance. Neither seems to be a big priority in the States.

Getting your priorities right is the first step of politics!

America, stop lashing out and killing foreign people, and take care of your own! Be a great nation again! Stop embarrassing us! People, demand the best of your elected officials. Don't settle for money politics.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

How to improve your tourism promotion strategy (Lesson 1)

Here we see the old Malaysia tourist campaign and the newer one. I mentioned these in an earlier post. When entering Malaysia from Thailand as late as the early 1990s, the item on the left greeted you in billboard proportions. I seem to remember this in giant banner form waving over the immigration officers counter, but it may be that it was in a large poster form. The message: "Death awaits you in Malaysia!" or "You'd better hope no junkie slipped a packet of powder into your backpack before crossing the border, because if we find it, we will kill you." The punk aesthetics of the old one were hopelessly out of date by 1992, and the marketing appealed only to masochistic junkies contemplating suicide.
The newer version stresses that Malaysia is truly Asia, not Africa or South America as believed by many non-travellers. This geographical confusion apparently arose from the fact that Malaysia sort of rhymes with Venezuela, and could resemble Malawi or Madagascar if you didn't look carefully at the travel brochure. There is also the possibility of confusion with Melanesia. Having worked for years to associate Malaysia with the right continent, one is curious to see what the second phase of this ad campaign will consist of. They seem to be confident that "Asia" has connotations, not of kamikaze, Kim Jong Ill, Agent Orange, Genghis Khan, Pol Pot, the little Red book, war, despotism, and overpopulation, but rather of peace, harmony, cultural diversity, gentleness, and lovely women. It works for me.
I found the DEATH picture from Stephen Bougerolle. (It's probably not pronounced the way most people would pick.) Steve has a great set of pages of travelogues, although I haven't explored them all yet. I did appreciate the description of Chungking Mansions in Hong Kong, and the Travellers' Hostel there. Thanks, Steve, for allowing me to use the picture. I nicked it without your permission, since the source image is just the Malaysian government's public artifact anyway. I may have a better picture of this somewhere, too, in a box in a basement on another continent. Maybe.
I know I have a picture of a stick figure man shooting another stick figure man in the back with a rifle. The first stick figure man is surprised to be shot in the back without warning, and his arms are jerking up in the air to convey that. That was the international sign language used on a sign in Singapore for "Do NOT Enter!" or "Trespassers will be shot," I suppose. I would have thought that the 3-meter high chain-link fence and coiled razor wire on the top would convey that, but the sign adds another signal for the semiotically challenged.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Hawaiian Earthquake

The last time Hawaii had a quake over magnitude 6.0 was in 1989. To find a quake over 6.0 in Japan, you would have to go back… 6 days.

Kim's Grocery: No mushrooms for export today

It's been a week now since our neighbors, the Kims, allegedly set off their first nuclear test explosion. I say "allegedly" because statements by the DPRK authorities have a very low probability of being true. Almost everything they ever say is a lie. (There are so many more ways to lie than to tell the truth, after all.) I won't report those here; you can find them elsewhere. You can look up Megumi Yokota and a few dozen other kidnapped Japanese slaves, the agreement on a non-nuclear Korean peninsula, and various other pacts over the years.

We also cannot believe the reports of other intelligence agencies. If Iraq taught us anything, it taught us not to believe that something is true just because 3 or 4 national intelligence agencies are saying it is so. Although several agencies confirmed the North Korean statement, they all did so with widely varying numbers. The Russians, in particular, seem to have been tipped off in advance, like the Chinese, and just reported the number the DPRK gave them rather than look at their seismographs.

The US has been slow to confirm that it was a nuclear test, and only yesterday claimed to have found an atmospheric sample consistent with a release of radioactive gas. We don't know if this was cherry-picked intelligence, though, one sample out of a hundred, or what. We certainly cannot trust American integrity or competence (in this administration).

The half-kiloton yield was more typical of a test of a suitcase-bomb or some small artillery nuke. Every state that has tested a nuclear weapon before now has had at least a 9-kiloton explosion. Recall that the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki was a 22-kiloton weapon, and most modern(?) nuclear weapons are in the megaton range. Is it consistent with the personality of Kim Jong-Ill to explode the tiniest possible micro-nuke, or would he want to make a big bang? He would want to make a big bang, so either it was 1) a dud, 2) a conventional explosion to feign that he had worse weapons than he really does, the strategy that misfired for former CIA agent Mr Saddam Hussein, 3) they didn't have enough enriched uranium or plutonium, and had to conserve the core material, or 4) they are even more advanced than we thought, and are making suitcase nukes for export now.

I would say that it was either a dud, a fake, or their only ready-to-go model. Newsweek seems to be talking up the option number 4 above.

The only thing worse than listening to DPRK propaganda is to hear people talk of opening negotiations with the DPRK. This may be a rare issue that the Republicans understand better than the Democrats, probably because like the Kim Jong-Ill entourage, Republicans are also driven by hatred. As much as I hate the un-elected ambassador John Bolton, he sort of understands North Korea. They hate his guts because they can't mindfuck him like they could Jimmy Carter or Madeline Albright. The DPRK leadership are people more like Asian versions of Dick Cheney. They really believe their own propaganda, you see. It is a scaled-up model of what Jim Jones was doing, but more Stalinist in tone. It really doesn't matter what they say. They will say and have said anything and everything. It also doesn't really matter what you say to them either. If you say anything, it can just be conditionals: "If you do A, we will do B. If you do X, we will do Y." However, that may just restrict your options. By saying military options are unthinkable, it actually gives them leverage, because they can always hold Seoul hostage. Regarding "negotiations," there really is no reason for the second-generation politician Dear Leader to meet his second-generation politician counterpart deer-in-the-headlights (cheer)leader. Nor is there reason to send Condoleeza "Birth-Pangs" Rice, the so-called international peacekeeper and destroyer of worlds, aside from the slim hope that Kim may hold her hostage! (It's worth a try!)

As odious as DPRK is, however, there is plenty of blame to go around for the state of proliferation. A Q Khan may have set up nuclear weapons programs in two dozen small countries. Khan is a sort of Johnny Appleseed for developing nations' nuclear weapons programs, and is protected by Perv now, under house arrest, a national hero to Pakistanis. In the long run, his shadow may dwarf that of small-time pirate Osama binLaden. Perhaps the US or UN should insist that he be handed over for an international tribunal, where the extent of who he sold to could be determined.

Quite a lot of the blame for gutting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty also has to go to the US, which is still busy designing and building new nukes even as it dismantles old nukes, and claiming the right to weaponize space with nukes, too. It is the same kind of non-leadership that was shown on the Kyoto climate treaty. It has always been clear from the earliest days, that the nuclear-armed states would have to climb down if they ever expected the rest of the world (all more insecure than the Permanent 5) to not arm themselves. They have been blowing the world off for 50 years.

It seems more and more that we will have to drift into another Hiroshima or Nagasaki before the non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament efforts are really given the attention they deserve. It may be impossible to bottle that genie, so maybe we should start designing more dispersed non-cities and building earth-sheltered housing for the day when 65 countries, 23 companies, and 12 terrorist groups all have suitcase nukes.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Official seals, church signs, cassettes, and Planet Jonestown has some interesting web-based image generators such as the Official Seal generator, the church sign generator, and the cassette tape generator, among others. The Official Seal generator is worth looking at, since there are many wingdings and other possible images. It could save you some time if you ever needed something like this.

Here is my example of a church sign. I didn't have space to add "THAT GOES FOR MOHAMMED TOO." I guess it's a job for Photoshop the free open-source image editor of your choice, after all. This will only let me fit in 10 short words, not 15.
Below this was my attempt to make an "album art" to visually represent the Jonestown Death Tape, which is available at for anyone else interested in the social psychology of that event. Regarding that, I concur with the comments by "brainfuzz":

…these tapes were quite enlightening. Moreso from the perspective of drawing parallels between the language used by Jones and the language used by media and world leaders. Compare it to the language that is used in advertisements for the armed forces, for example.
I thought it could replace the Jim Jones shot to the left as album art, but I guess that tape looks sort of overproduced. As if we all listened to it on our car stereos. According to an academic site at SDSU for studying the Jonestown phenomena, The Jonestown Institute, the real tapes looked more like this, below.

Ruggedization of the USJFCOM Transformation Laboratory -or- Yes, MASTOR!

DARPA has been working with IBM to create a "ruggedized" laptop with the Multilingual Automatic Speech-to-Speech Translator system, a.k.a. MASTOR, "to translate natural speech in real-time to make up for a lack of military linguists proficient in Iraqi Arabic." (I seem to remember reading that their busload of freshly-trained Arabic linguists was blown up on delivery. This must be Plan B.) One just can't help but wonder, how well this is going to work, just from looking at all the military jargon in the press release -- and that's in printed English, presumably written by a professional writer, not translation from input derived from speech recognition of a stream of obscenities uttered by an undereducated grunt noble American warrior in a noisy environment. When you need it the most, in a firefight, or when explosions are going off, flames are crackling, babies crying, women wailing, it probably wouldn't function much better than a Bowlingual with low batteries. To be fair, they admit that is is designed for use in "benign environments" such as hospitals and "secure areas", a constantly shrinking topological construct, hard to find in neo-mesopotamia, until we train them to build karaoke boxes.

When used in Iraq, Mastor will act as an automated bi-directional, English-to-Iraqi Arabic translator capable of translating more than 50,000 English words and 100,000 Iraqi Arabic words.
Uh-huh, right. Tractors are flowering as the nuclear explosion in a binding stores beans. Insert this substance into your hookah and proceed to inhale the fumes thereof. My hovercraft is full of eels. And get this: It's a Panasonic Toughbook. You gotta like the sound of that. Now we're gonna win the war for sure! War is over, if you want it. OK, maybe I am overreacting to the silly name. Too bad it isn't a wind-up like Moammar's. Where are you going to charge it in Iraq?

The only good thing I see about the feature set is that it is going to include a back-translation, so the speaker may often be able to see how garbled his or her words became in the round trip. Within a few generations (of users), they might learn to speak clearly in short simple sentences using a few hundred key words, which, after all, they could have learned in a few weeks. Carry on, invisible insanity! You will extend an appendage to the earth of assurances.

I know it is intended to reduce the need to shoot civilians, by enabling a machine-language interface for speech-to-speech communication, but I wonder if there aren't some people who would prefer to be shot. But what do I know? This just might be the killer app that causes lions to lie down with leg of lamb or whatever the saying is.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.

Floyd Rudmin, a professor in Norway, in an online essay titled The Politics of Paranoia and Intimidation, argues that it is statistically impossible for the NSA mass-surveillance program (of American e-mail and phone calls) to detect terrorists effectively, since the false-positives of such an effort would vastly outnumber the actual terrorists you could find, unless there are a million or so "terrorists" as the target of your search.

It's more likely that the program has political motivations.

The ratio of real terrorists to innocent people in the prison camps of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and Kandahar shows that the US is paranoid and is not bothered by mistaken identifications of innocent people. The ratio of real terrorists to innocent people on Bush's no-fly lists shows that the Bush administration is not bothered by mistaken identifications of innocent Americans.

Also, mass surveillance of the entire population is logically plausible if NSA's domestic spying is not looking for terrorists, but looking for something else, something that is not so rare as terrorists. For example, the May 19 Fox News opinion poll of 900 registered voters found that 30% dislike the Bush administration so much they want him impeached. If NSA were monitoring email and phone calls to identify pro-impeachment people, and if the accuracy rate were .90 and the error rate were .01, then the probability that people are pro-impeachment given that NSA surveillance system identified them as such, would be p=.98, which is coming close to certainty (p=1.00). Mass surveillance by NSA of all Americans' phone calls and emails would be very effective for domestic political intelligence.

Here is the article at:
Found via a comment posted at Conscious Junkyard. The comment poster also refers to a Bloomberg article reporting a claim in court that the surveillance program pre-dates its supposed cause: the 9/11 terror attack.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Be like the squirrel.

I came home late a few days ago and discovered this mysterious bag nearby as I ate a late night snack. I thought it might be a gift for me, but it turns out it is not ours but was used to bring over some food, and is going back. The French "Parlons plus avec le temps" means "Let us speak more with time." Just what you would expect a squirrel to say to you in French. (A lot of furry creatures probably learned French as an evolutionary ploy to compete with French trappers during the settling, or unsettling, of the North American continent.) Earlier, I had been compiling for some as-of-yet-undetermined purpose a mental list of animal words that can also be used as verbs, so I was surprised to see this, since squirrel was on my list. I guess it's not such a strange coincidence. Thinking that someone must have already made a list like this, I did a google search, but I am not turning up anything. Here is a first draft:
Full-fledged verbs: fly, duck, bear, dog, hog, cow, rat, fish, hound, weasel, grouse, snake, bug, kid, badger, goose, seal, buffalo, buck, crow, parrot, swallow, ram, bat, ape, rail, snipe…
Half-assed forms of the verb (2-word verbs requiring a preoposition): horse(around), ferret(out), pig(out), squirrel(away), (out)fox, monkey(around), wolf(down), lion(ize)…
Near-misses and homophones: bull(shit), lion, dove, sow, boar, bee, flea, robin…

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Just another working Sol on Mars

The Spirit and Opportunity rovers continue to probe away on Mars, as they have since January 2004. Both will pass the 1000 Sol mark before 2007. Having not checked in very regularly since the first year, I took another poke around the rover's home and the raw image archive, definitely the best part of it, to see what was new.

(Left: Right Navigation Camera Non-linearized Full frame EDR acquired on Sol 959 of Opportunity's mission to Meridiani Planum at approximately 13:29:09 Mars local solar time. NASA/JPL)

Update: On second thought, the Press Release area is pretty cool, too. Take the "false color" images of the surface, for example. What exactly does "false" mean in this context, considering that if you were on Mars, you would not be seeing in black and white, but in color, and certainly through a tinted helmet which would alter the "real" UV-rich light, too.

"Homeland" gets into Natural Language Processing

The Department of Homeland Security is funding machine-learning research to help separate opinion from fact. Apparently they think they need to be able to find out what Americans think from analyzing the e-mails they have collected from their surveillance program. The domestic spy agencies of East Germany and other soviet bloc states never had it this good.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Why atheists (have to) care about religion.

This well-made little editorial short film embedded below documents the legalized discrimination against atheists in various states all across JeezusLand (the former Republic of Armed Desire). Teachers should make it part of the public school curriculum.

(Thanks to Erik again)

Notes: My optimystic(alist) take on that
While I am not devout enough to proselytize the Atheist creed actively (not the film's purpose), I do, like the (film)maker, resent the institutionalized inquisition by Theists against Atheists and/or non-theists. I try to keep an open "optimystic(al)" mind. None of the Taoist, Buddhist, spiritualist, mystical, and scientific outlooks that influence my thinking have any need or concern with gods. I have some confidence in the existence of spirits or spiritual energy, and the One Mind, but "gods", like "self", seems to be an artifact that arises out of mammalian or primate psychology, as far as I can tell. Given that there still is no accepted scientific theory, and not even the rough notes to begin to construct a theory of what mind is, what a thought is, or what consciousness is, it has always seemed a little premature for someone to proclaim complete knowledge of the psychic superstructure of the universe, let alone to force it onto people who do not see it the same way.

We have just begun to scratch the surface of the universe, have a
(begin Carl Sagan voice here) billionth of a billionth of it under our scientific wings, and the rest of it remains unaccounted for, "mystical".

What is scary is that the religious nutcases are so afraid of freedom, so afraid of free thought. Maybe they think that the non-believers will not be under their social control, but statistics show that the Christians are just as likely, or a little more likely, to cheat, steal, fornicate, shoot the place up, and so on. Dogma product works just the opposite of as advertised.

I don't feel as oppressed as the guy in the video. You need to keep your own psychic flexibility and metacognition open and active. While they want you to say that you believe in god(s), they don't always define it or say which one. Is god "love", (the one) mind, science, Thor, Shiva, the flying spaghetti monster, Eris, or even yourself? Yeah, I believe in that. They do sometimes use the term "Supreme Being", which is probably not unlike a Supreme Pizza among the other Bee-ings, or the word "Creator", which sounds like either a massive software application which created this simulation, or the process which wrote it. Why would I believe in any of these things? Better to keep your options open, hold on to the zen. (not the mp3 player) Doesn't anybody believe in nothing, the void? Has the zero not been discovered yet? Who can believe that the universe is simple enough to model in a small primate brain, with any validity? I'm not buying it. That's my mysticism: accepting the reality that the universe is too great to compress into a format which is small enough to be comprehensible to the categories of my mind.

The person in the video could have avoided a lot of trouble if his parents or teachers had taught him the importance of lying to your oppressors. Almost everybody is a nazi, and when they come knocking on your door to ask if you have Anne Frank in the basement, you should happily tell them no, and consider that to be better integrity than if you ratted her out, right? The capacity to deceive, which exists everywhere in nature, evolved for a reason: to protect, like skin and hair. If you want to join the boy scouts or run for office, tell them you believe in god, while assuming that the word is their euphemism for the Great Spirit, the singularity, or whatever, i.e. without defining what the word means to you.

Having said that, I do appreciate him making his statement and trying to change society.

All religions are fundamentally intolerant, but here the theistic ones have effectively ganged up on the non-theistic thinkers.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The multiverse of E.P.

I recently found time to shrink myself to the nano-scale and navigate the complex webular system of tubes which is "The Internets". Whilst there, I stumbled onto surfed into Ethan Persoff's site. Ethan has archived and posted some of the greatest moments in 20th century American comics, such as the comic book introducing and explaining Martin Luther King's role in the civil right movement, circulated in the 1950s. He has the comic book re-write of history that the CIA dropped on Grenada after Reagan's 1983 invasion to distract attention from the hundreds of dead Marines in Lebanon. There are various government-funded anti-drug comix, including one which was spotted in the Principia Discordia, and let's not forget the racist hate campaign that the US powered up as part of their war effort. He seems to be a musician and cartoonist as well, a multimedia artist as well as archivist of American cultural history. I downloaded his new short movie, Poodle (Samizdat?), which I haven't had time to watch yet. I guess I'm saving it. There is too much freaky stuff on his site to digest in one stop. Shall return.

Fire Monkey's Nuthouse Planet made into Hothouse

This just can't be good news. A study by NASA's James Hansen, climatologist at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences reports Earth is approaching a million-year high in temperature. I have said since the 1980s that if we put all the carbon from the Carboniferous back into the atmosphere, we would return to the conditions of those times, making Iowa, for example, the shallow sea it once was, with excellent diving among its coral reefs. Can people stop talking about whether the heat is real and just agree to do something to slow down any further jump in CO2 levels? A carbon tax and crash program for energy independence would be a reasonable step for a start.
A million-year high is not a return to Jurassic conditions yet. The Cenozoic has gone on for 65 million years, so saying we are at a million-year high is not the end of the world or even necessarily of this geological era. On the other hand, the ongoing mass extinction and reduction of biodiversity suggests that we are leaving the garden of the Cenozoic behind.
I wouldn't gamble on it, but there is one spot of hope offworld, outside of the hope of Sapiens having the sap to save their burgeoning bottoms. That is the Sun. It could be that the present high temperatures on Eath are related to a high in sunspot activity, and that a new little ice age is around the corner with a decline in sunspot activity.
I wouldn't count on it, though. I always remember that over 97% of the species that have lived on this planet are extinct now. We seem to be more careless than most mammals in undermining our own sustainability, but could still avoid giving the planet up to squid and cockroaches, in my opinion. Yes, I'm that optimystic.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Maopost: "dedicated to China propaganda posters"

Wow. What a great collection of Chinese Revolutionary posters. 1,279 of them. I am partial to those featuring class warfare, tractor-driving, scientific/futuristic themes, and educational settings such as barefoot teachers in the fields. If you are a a Mac owner as well as a true red fanatic, you can get the Mac OS Maopost widget. (Right: collecting "medicinal" herbs.)

Defend yourselves against atomic, chemical and biological warfare.

Fang yuanzi, fang huaxue, fang xijun.