This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.                             the guys: philogynist jaime tony - the gals:raymi raspil


Michael considered fate at 20:12   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
Courtney Love explains record-company math with not-the-slightest-hint-of-venom-in-her-veins-at-all, and how they are the pirates at the end of the day:
They spend half a million to record their album. That leaves the band with $500,000. They pay $100,000 to their manager for 20 percent commission. They pay $25,000 each to their lawyer and business manager.

That leaves $350,000 for the four band members to split. After $170,000 in taxes, there's $180,000 left. That comes out to $45,000 per person.

That's $45,000 to live on for a year until the record gets released.
$45,000 that they have to pay back to the record company eventually. Bummer.

Yah yah, this is old hat. Everybody knows the RIAA is a bullshit organization and should be the first on the chopping block when it comes to breaking down (multi-)national monopolies.. right? But somehow it doesn't happen. The oil companies merge, the telcos merge, and the record labels merge into an amorphous blob known as the RIAA.. and they continue to fuck. us. in. the. ass.
Last November, a Congressional aide named Mitch Glazier, with the support of the RIAA, added a "technical amendment" to a bill that defined recorded music as "works for hire" under the 1978 Copyright Act.

He did this after all the hearings on the bill were over. By the time artists found out about the change, it was too late. The bill was on its way to the White House for the president's signature.

That subtle change in copyright law will add billions of dollars to record company bank accounts over the next few years -- billions of dollars that rightfully should have been paid to artists. A "work for hire" is now owned in perpetuity by the record company.
This is why I haven't bought a CD since 2001.

Michael considered fate at 20:07   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment

Michael considered fate at 15:35   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
Ain't much faith out there for Da' Bears. Strangely, the state with the second highest bear-faith under #1 Illinois? New Hampshire at 45%. Weird.

Michael considered fate at 13:40   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
Dopey, Boozy, Smoky—and Stupid - a new article by Mark A.R. Kleiman, Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Drug Policy Analysis Program at UCLA, talks about - well, you guessed it - drugs. Specifically, if the system is broke, let's fix it - the oft forgotten flipside to leaving things be when they seem to be working. As always, the academics seem to have generally solid and well thought out ideas (that I agree with) and, as always, these ideas are probably not ones that the politicians and/or public will embrace. Mostly because they're not too bright, me thinks.. perhaps the "-and Stupid" in the article name refers to Congress?
These are depressing facts that cry out for a radical reform to solve the drug problem once and for all. But the first step toward achieving less awful results is accepting that there is no one “solution” to the drug problem, for essentially three reasons. First, the potential for drug abuse is built into the human brain. Left to their own devices, and subject to the sway of fashion and the blandishments of advertising, many people will wind up ruining their lives and the lives of those around them by falling under the spell of one drug or another. Second, any laws—prohibitions, regulations or taxes—stringent enough to substantially reduce the number of addicts will be defied and evaded, and those who use drugs in defiance of the laws will generally wind up poorer, sicker and more likely to be criminally active than they would otherwise have been. Third, drug law enforcement must be intrusive if it is to be effective, and enterprises created for the expressed purpose of breaking the law naturally tend toward violence because they cannot rely on courts to settle disputes or police to protect them from robbery or extortion..

.. Thus the “drug problem” cannot be abolished either by “winning the war on drugs” or by “ending prohibition.” In practice the choice among policies is a choice of which set of problems we want to have.
Particularly well worth the read is the section labelled "The Facts":
And alcohol is a drug, one that ranks high along most dimensions of risk. Among intoxicants (that is, excluding caffeine and nicotine), alcohol abuse accounts for more than three-quarters of total substance abuse in the United States, and for more death, illness, crime, violence and arrests than all illicit drugs combined. A drug abuse control policy that ignores alcohol is as defective as a naval policy that ignores the Pacific.
The article goes on to argue that perhaps one's drinking license should be revoked, not one's driving license, when a DUI conviction is made:
Deny alcohol to problem drinkers. When someone gets caught drinking and driving, we take away his license: his driving license, that is. The “license” to drink—legal permission to buy and consume alcohol in unlimited quantities—is presumed to be irrevocable. But why? We know that someone who drinks and drives is a bad citizen when drunk, but not that he is a bad driver when sober.

If someone is convicted of drunken driving, or drunken assault, or drunken vandalism, or repeatedly of drunk and disorderly conduct—if, that is, someone demonstrates that he is either a menace or a major public nuisance when drunk—then why not revoke his (or, much more rarely, her) drinking license?33. In a typical American jurisdiction, something like a tenth of one percent of the population consisting of chronic drunk and disorderly arrestees accounts for about 15 percent of all arrests.

Of course, the “personal prohibition” imagined here, like the current age restriction, would have to be enforced by sellers of alcoholic beverages, who would have to verify that each buyer has not been banned from drinking, just as they now have to verify that each buyer is of legal age to drink. Obviously, such a ban could not be perfectly enforced. But reducing the frequency and flagrancy of drinking behavior by problem drunks somewhat is far better than not reducing it at all. A ban on drinking by bad drinkers (unlike the current ban on drinking by those under 21) would have an obvious moral basis. Evading it, for example by buying liquor for someone on the “Do Not Drink” list, would be clearly wrong and worth punishing. Moreover, offenders would not easily be able to drink in bars, restaurants or other public places, which means they would be less likely to drink and then drive or cause public disturbances.
And it goes on and on.. In older news, it appears as though Francis Crick may have discovered the double-helix of DNA while on LSD:
Crick, who died ten days ago, aged 88, later told a fellow scientist that he often used small doses of LSD then an experimental drug used in psychotherapy to boost his powers of thought. He said it was LSD .. that helped him to unravel the structure of DNA, the discovery that won him the Nobel Prize.

Despite his Establishment image, Crick was a devotee of novelist Aldous Huxley, whose accounts of his experiments with LSD and another hallucinogen, mescaline, in the short stories The Doors Of Perception and Heaven And Hell became cult texts for the hippies of the Sixties and Seventies. In the late Sixties, Crick was a founder member of Soma, a legalise-cannabis group named after the drug in Huxley's novel Brave New World. He even put his name to a famous letter to The Times in 1967 calling for a reform in the drugs laws.

Michael considered fate at 13:15   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment

Michael considered fate at 12:26   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
Oil rig wind farms? Sounds promising, and at least it's nice to see some reuse here and there. I wonder what the birds will think?
The flower of sustainable energy is blooming in oil country. Get ready for the Great Texas Wind Rush..

.. The key was to take advantage of existing oil-industry infrastructure. To save the expense of designing and building specialized offshore wind equipment, they would mount conventional windmills on decommissioned oil platforms. Hurricanes could be a problem, so they decided to outfit their windmills with hydraulic lifts scavenged from oil-industry machinery; the system would lower the turbines in the event of a squall.


Michael considered fate at 15:52   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
An awful long time ago - specifically, the 4th post made on this blog, on Aug 9th, 2001 - I said milk being dropped and stirred into coffee is a magnificent natural work of moving art. Basically, anyway.

Copyright © 2005 - 2007 of Irene Müller - All Rights Reserved

Someone has taken this idea, melded it with the art of high speed shutter photography and, voila: beautiful pictures.

Michael considered fate at 14:19   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
Was 9/11 really that bad? There, I'm not the only one to say it. It may be an unpopular sort of thing to say, but let's face it, it's true:
IMAGINE THAT on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against terrorism.

It also raises several questions. Has the American reaction to the attacks in fact been a massive overreaction? Is the widespread belief that 9/11 plunged us into one of the deadliest struggles of our time simply wrong? If we did overreact, why did we do so? Does history provide any insight?


Michael considered fate at 14:49   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
Fuck, I hate olives. What's up with that? I'm all for salty goodness - even more so then the next guy, probably. My heart sits here pounding at an accelerated 80bpm just thinking about it.. either that or it's all the salt I had yesterday. But something about olives - in fact any fruit with a pit really - just turns me off. They have that same weird and off feel to me as lychees. Call me crazy, I'll just stick with my banana here.

ripped from raymi

And speaking of bananas, I hear they are slowly becoming extinct. I started hearing about this from a number of various sources, but all of them about as reliable as I am. So I took it upon myself to do some research.

It took all of three seconds to freshen up on the plight of the modern banana. At the root of the problem is the fact that there is no genetic diversity. Hitler, roll over in your grave and take note: Because 99% of the bananas on the market today are basically genetically identical, when a disease comes all that is able to attack one of them, that disease is able to attack all of them. And that, apparently, is what is going on:
.. in 1992, a [fungus] was discovered in Asia. Since then, Panama disease Race 4 has wiped out plantations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia and Taiwan, and it is now spreading through much of Southeast Asia. It has yet to hit Africa or Latin America, but most experts agree that it is coming. “Given today’s modes of travel, there’s almost no doubt that it will hit the major Cavendish crops,” says Randy Ploetz, the University of Florida plant pathologist who identified the first Sumatran samples of the fungus.
Despite the fact this is the second time this has happened - apparently we used to eat a different banana in the mid-20th century which was wiped out by the 60's - people seem to be slightly more prepared this time around. But as usual, there is debate on the best approach:
A global effort is now under way to save the fruit—an effort defined by two opposing visions of how best to address the looming crisis. On one side are traditional banana growers .. who raise experimental breeds in the fields, trying to create a replacement plant that looks and tastes so similar to the Cavendish that consumers won’t notice the difference. On the other side are bioengineers .. who, armed with a largely decoded banana genome, are manipulating the plant’s chromosomes, sometimes crossing them with DNA from other species, with the goal of inventing a tougher Cavendish that will resist Panama disease and other ailments.
It may be to late, say some, but at least people are paying attention in ways they seemingly failed to do in the late 50's.

And I think this story, while still unfolding, is a bit of a shining light in the darkness of all this terrorist warfare, oil-mongering executives, and puppet presidents. It's an example of the differences between the 60's and today. That all that activism could do little to effect real change; a sort of motionless agenda; a hippy chained to a tree, a man lying in front of a bulldozer. But these are all stepping stones and we would not be where we are today without those potrait-like efforts, standing still against the tide of time.

Do we use more energy per capita then we did in the 60's? Sure. Do more of us drive more inefficient vehicles more often? Sure. But there is a collective intelligence that now permeates the culture, especially the younger crowds, and it is with this awareness that more motion is made. Emissions testing, green energy, even large companies are putting on the pants of environmental sustainability (see: Business Week's podcast). Cynics abound of course, but one has to look towards the positive if one wants to keep from drowning themselves in the drink. I, myself, while perhaps a loud-mouthed cynic, am quietly optimistic about our future here on earth.

With that, let us all think good things and hope possitive thoughts for ye 'ol banana, that of the "quite possibly the world’s perfect food" moniker and whose many uses may astound you. Because afterall, we do seem to enjoy them:
Americans eat more bananas than any other kind of fresh fruit, averaging about 26.2 pounds of them per year, per person (apples are a distant second, at 16.7 pounds).


Michael considered fate at 13:14   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
With some rearviews and an in-dash radio, this would make a killer commuter. It "easily" reaches 50mph. I want.

Michael considered fate at 12:02   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
To porn or not to porn, that is the question.

Substitute teacher faces jail time over spyware
On October, 19, 2004, Amero was a substitute teacher for a seventh-grade language class at Kelly Middle School [in Connecticutt]. A few students were crowded around a PC; some were giggling. She investigated and saw the kids looking at a barrage of graphic, hard-core pornographic pop-ups.

The prosecution contended that she had used the computer to visit porn sites.

The defense said that wasn't true and argued that the machine was infested with spyware and malware, and that opening the browser caused the computer to go into an endless loop of pop-ups leading to porn sites.

Amero maintains her innocence. She refused offers of a plea bargain and now faces an astounding 40 years in prison.
A full Washington Post article is here.

The reason I bring this up in the first place is to discuss a little about what is appropriate and inappropriate for people to see at different points in their life and, more specifically, what I saw. The bottom line is that many underage kids have access to porn and have had access well before the internet. I've heard many a story about dad's collection in his closet or VHS tapes under the bed that weren't exactly "well hidden". I myself remember nude playing cards being hidden in the park when I was around 7 or 8, porn mags in the gym class locker room at age 13, and plenty of smut from 14 on once the internet became accessible to me. Am I a morally questionable character? Is it the end of the road for me because I saw a couple of naked people and maybe the rare baseball bat as prop?

Even more important, are ten seventh-graders doomed because they saw a few porn popups? Puh-lease. This country often seems as though it has it's head shoved so far up its ass that it wouldn't recognize porn if it saw it, unless it involved the transverse colon.

The worst points of all of this is that a substitute teacher risks 40 years in prison for a computer she was not responsible for, which had ad/spyware on it that the original teacher probably didn't know about, was running the out-dated windows 98 operating system, and the school system had failed to pay their subscription fees for their filtering software.. and the public just doesn't understand. If my stoic mother, whom I'm sure has no interests on the internet other than crossword puzzles and quilting, can managed to find herself with porn popups than anyone can. The common person is just not savvy when it comes to the ever-changing face of the online world. It is akin to putting all the drivers in the country into vehicles with manual transmissions at the same time. It is a wonder that the internet continues to operate as (semi-)smoothly as it does.

Apparently, even the investigating detective isn't too keen on technology either, that or the local newspaper is horribly misquoting:
In examining the computer's hard drive, [Detective] Lounsbury said he found numerous instances in which graphic images would have appeared on the computer screen. He said he can differentiate between what is and what is not a pop-up based on the source codes.
While I understand what they are intending to say in this paragraph through my superior powers of inference, it almost makes no sense whatsoever.

Michael considered fate at 11:46   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
Maine flatly refused the implications of the 2005 Real ID Act, which forces citizens to use licenses with digital ID standards, basically asking the federal gov'ment to repeal the law. As it is possibly unconstitional and a generally horribly idea, I'm on the side of my legislature for once (check out the ACLU's Real Nightmare anti-RealID page for details). They were actually all on the same side of this issue, too:
The votes in Maine on the resolution were nonpartisan. It was approved by a 34-to-0 vote in the state Senate and by a 137-to-4 vote in the House of Representatives.

Other states are debating similar measures. Bills pending in Georgia, Massachusetts, Montana and Washington state express varying degrees of opposition to the Real ID Act.
The beauty (that's sarcasm) of the Real ID Act is that it wasn't even it's own bill. It was one of those tacked-on piggy-backers:
.. it was enacted as part of an $82 billion military spending and tsunami relief bill. (Its backers say it follows the recommendations that the 9/11 Commission made in 2004.)
To put it differently some nerfherded of a congressman slapped it onto a must pass spending bill, and "we, the people", didn't get a chance to really consider its merits at all.


Michael considered fate at 13:40   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
Credit Cards; the cost of doing business:
  1. Credit card companies earned $90.1B in interest in 2006, up from $89.4B the year before (according to R.K. Hammer).
  2. Credit card companies earned $55.2B in fees in 2006, up from $54.8B the year before (according to R.K. Hammer).
Those numbers, which add up to $145.3 Billion, are f'ing huge. For comparison:
  1. The US video game industry had $12.5 Billion in sales in 2006.
  2. The pornography industry has been reported to make $10 to $14 billion in annual sales. Though that number may be inflated, it is more than major league baseball, the national football league, and the national hockey league.
  3. Ford's revenue in 2005 was a whopping $177.4 Billion.. but then cars are not money, they actually had to build them and pay their employees. Their net income in 2005 was in the red: $-5.8 Billion.

Michael considered fate at 13:16   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
This coffee smell alarm clock may be a step up from the previous one I mentioned (it gets up and runs away so you have to chase it to turn off the noise). However, if you're going with morning smells, just give me some goddamn bacon!


Michael considered fate at 17:52   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
Deep linking illegal?
A court in Dallas, Texas has found a website operator liable for copyright infringement because his site linked to an 'audio webcast' without permission.
This is akin to calling the act of pulling a library book off the shelf, which isn't in the card catalog, "illegal". Sorta.

For those not in the know, deep linking refers to posting a link directly to a work (text, audio, what have you) as opposed to the webpage that refers to it. Nevertheless, the content is freely accessible on an open and public webserver regardless of whether the location was meant to be published or accessed directly. Think of a phone number that isn't printer in the white pages. Is it illegal to call that phone number? As one might guess, I think deep linking is legal.

In the end, it wouldn't be too difficult to restrict content access to only those coming from the webpage that refers to it, putting the onus on the content's creator to decide how it is available (though perhaps it would incur an annoying amount of maintenance overhead)..

Best part though? The sub-headline on the article I linked punirifically refers to Google's dislike of the ruling: "Deeply disturbing, Google lawyer says". In 2000, a law suit seemingly found deep linking legal:, a seller of tickets, was sued for linking to pages on Ticketmaster's website where users could find tickets not available at The US District Court for the Central District of California concluded: "hypertext linking [without framing] does not itself involve a violation of the Copyright Act ... since no copying is involved."
At the end of the day, this all comes down to how we define "copying". If I publish and/or give you a phone number which you can call in order to hear a song, is that "copying" the song? I should think not. If I display content directly on my site (either accessed each time from another server or literally copied) then is that "copying"? I should think so. If I display a link that refers to content on another server, which - if accessed - is done so through that other server, is that "copying"?

I don't think so. Do you?

Michael considered fate at 17:49   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment

A Hostage Who Stayed a Few Steps Ahead:
When the gang offers Mr. Alpert free sex with one of the women, he calculates feverishly. A refusal might be interpreted as racism. On the other hand, the loss of dignity might make him seem less sympathetic, easier to inflict pain on. He says no, very politely.

Michael considered fate at 16:29   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment

The authorities were certainly miffed but could find nothing to charge him with. They had no other recourse but to clean the tunnel — but only the parts Alexandre had already cleaned. The artist merely continued his campaign on the other side of traffic. The utterly flummoxed city officials then decided to take drastic action. Not only did they clean the entire tunnel but also every other tunnel in Sao Paulo.

Michael considered fate at 16:26   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment

Ok. Fuck. Oslo hasn't gone to such ridiculousness yet. Though there are appartments measuring 70 sq. metres going for £2.5 million. 
$335,000 for 77sq feet? Makes the 754sq foot condo I looked at for $259k seem like a fucking mansion. London is out of control:
With no electricity or heating, [the real estate agent] said, it would cost an additional $59,000 to make the room habitable.

"It is an investment," he said, as he stretched his arms the width of the room, laying his palms flat on opposite walls.

Michael considered fate at 14:23   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment

If you know Chris Frost you would know its a completely related link...... Frosty has been known to FROT it up..... 
Personal and perhaps not notable, but hilarious enough for me to post anyway. A fellow I know by the name of Chris Frost, in a fit of mindless office-boredom, googled himself. One thing he found? The Wikipedia page of his name redirects to a rather bizarre and seemingly unrelated entry.

Ain't gonna see that in Britannica!

Michael considered fate at 12:08   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
The NYTimes has a pretty slick page up that let's you look at word counts and positional occurances within Bush's State of the Union speeches since 2001. Of course they are using it to count the number of times Iraq shows up, but you can try out any word you like, and even zoom into each paragraph that the word appears in.

Michael's Web-Design and Usefulness score: Nifty.


Michael considered fate at 18:37   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
A post I made about eight months ago mentioned the Earth Institute and its director Jeffrey Sachs, and a speech he made (text and audio links here). He has specifically been speaking about the first world's inabilities to generate positive and sustainable projects to habilitate the African continent. Yes, I know, there is that curmudgeonly word sustainable, but what can you do. I think we're stuck with it for a few decades.

Along similar but not equal lines is a piece by Laurie Garrett titled the Challenge of Global Health. It talks about the increase in monies that are flowing into places that need it, but yet the right steps are not being taken. The extreme focus on AIDS is a bit like putting all your eggs in one basket, just as Jeffrey Sachs pointed out that attempting to build large systems is kind of like trying to build a steel bridge between two mud banks - you need foundation. Our money may be much more well spent on the likes of cheap mosquito nets than it would be on $100 laptops for starving children.

The Garrett article is a lot broader in scope, and a lengthy read, but worthwhile nonetheless.
Few of the newly funded global health projects, meanwhile, have built-in methods of assessing their efficacy or sustainability. Fewer still have ever scaled up beyond initial pilot stages. And nearly all have been designed, managed, and executed by residents of the wealthy world (albeit in cooperation with local personnel and agencies). Many of the most successful programs are executed by foreign NGOs and academic groups, operating with almost no government interference inside weak or failed states. Virtually no provisions exist to allow the world's poor to say what they want, decide which projects serve their needs, or adopt local innovations. And nearly all programs lack exit strategies or safeguards against the dependency of local governments.


Michael considered fate at 12:04   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
Space roundup:
  1. If you haven't heard already, China shot down one of its own satellites with a new weapon they have developed. It's nomenclature? A kinetic kill vehicle. If you couldn't have already guessed, nobody other than the chinese seem particularly happy about it. Of note: Japan, USA, Britain, Taiwan, Australia, and Canada.

    Canada has formally registered its "strong concerns" with China. In fine "the small child bully on the playground we used to scold as teachers but now can't scold so harshly anymore cause they aren't such a small bully anymore" fashion:
    Government officials spent more than a day searching for the precise words to convey Canada's response to China's Jan. 11 firing of a ground-based missile to destroy one of its own obsolete weather satellites.
    Yes yes.. "precise words." I'm thinking the one they are looking for is stop.

    The take in the USA?
    "The US believes China's development and testing of such weapons is inconsistent with the spirit of co-operation that both countries aspire to in the civil space area," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. "We and other countries have expressed our concern regarding this action to the Chinese."
    Or, as Brant would say: "This is our concern, dude."

    The Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said:
    "So far, the answer from the foreign affairs people in China, including the ambassador in Canberra, is that they are not aware of the incident and they are getting back to us,"
    Smacking very much of do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do:
    In October, President Bush signed an order asserting the United States' right to deny adversaries access to space for hostile purposes. As part of the first revision of U.S. space policy in nearly 10 years, the policy also said the United States would oppose the development of treaties or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit U.S. access to or use of space.

    "Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power," the policy said. "In order to increase knowledge, discovery, economic prosperity and to enhance the national security, the United States must have robust, effective and efficient space capabilities."
    Like the good 'ol lapdog that they are, Britain mimed right along with the US.

  2. It looks like Japan isn't going to the moon afterall:
    Japan's space agency has recommended scrapping its first moon mission after more than a decade of delays, a spokeswoman said Monday, in the latest blow to the country's beleaguered space program.

    The Lunar-A probe was envisioned as planting two seismic sensors on the lunar surface to gather information about the moon's core and learn more about the origins of the Earth's only natural satellite.

    But development of the so-called penetrator probes has taken so long that the mission's mother ship, which was built 10 years ago, has fallen into disrepair and would require too much money to fix, said Satoko Kanazawa, a spokeswoman for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA.
  3. And meanwhile, India is making some inroads:
    A 550-kg satellite that India’s own rocket launched into orbit 12 days ago, was successfully brought back to earth and retrieved on Monday after deft manoeuvres lasting 64 minutes..

    .. With this, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has demonstrated its skill in re-entry technology, vital for future space projects like re-usable launch vehicles and manned missions. The others to master the technology are the US, China, Japan and the European Space Agency.
    The last time I made anywhere close to 64 minutes worth of deft manoevres was.. well, let's just say I feel about as old as a Japanese lunar probe.


Michael considered fate at 18:55   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
Autism? Why not check by taking this test. The real reason I'm posting this? The psychologist who came up with the test is Simon Baron-Cohen. Weird.

Update: I scored an 11. Over on px's page all the commenters came in between 13 and 32. 32 is apparently the cut-off for "high likelyhood of autism".. no guarantees, but a decent indicator. What I want to know is what sort of syndrome or learning disability do I have if I'm on the opposite end of that list???

Update #2: Apparently a Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures, has suggested that the brain abnormalities of a one Williams syndrome are the opposite of those of autism.
It is characterized by a distinctive, "elfish" facial appearance, along with a low nasal bridge; an unusually cheerful demeanor and ease with strangers, coupled with unpredictably occurring negative outbursts; mental retardation coupled with an unusual facility with language; a love for music; and cardiovascular problems, such as supravalvular aortic stenosis and transient hypercalcaemia..

.. There also appears to be a higher prevalence of left-handedness and left-eye dominance in those with Williams, and cases of absolute pitch appear to be significantly higher amongst those with the condition. Another symptom of Williams syndrome is lack of depth perception and an inability to visualize how different parts assemble into larger objects.
While I'd love to think I have absolute pitch I most certainly do not. I am also not left handed, elfish in appearance, or - as many can attest - "unusually cheerful".

So what am I? I'm sure people who know me wouldn't mark me as normal. Maybe I just suffer from the bland Generic Abnormality Syndrome. Yes, I made that up.


Michael considered fate at 12:47   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
A story about the first commercial jet - a FedEx cargo plane - with an anti-missle system is making the rounds.
The FedEx flight marked the start of operational testing and evaluation of the laser system designed to defend against shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles during takeoffs and landings.
This seems a bit pointless, considering that there has never been a passenger plane shot down by a shoulder-fired missle outside of a combat zone. Ever. Luckily, these bad boys only cost about $1 million a wack. Peanuts, I say!
The report said testing showed that the systems can be installed on commercial aircraft without impairing safety; at least one company can supply 1,000 systems at a cost of $1 million each; and operation and maintenance will cost $365 per flight, above the $300-per-flight goal.
Given a very general aircraft service life of twenty years, figuring 50,000 hours and 75,000 pressurization cycles, that's a mere $20 to $30 million for a system that will almost undoubtably never be used.

Why not install anti-cholesterol laser systems on fat people, instead? The margins on those should be astronomical.

Michael considered fate at 00:10   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
Nerd Alert. Us programmers are stuck in the middle in a way that a lot of professions aren't. We must write software that runs on the hardware (the computer, so to speak) it is designed for but it must also "run" on the users it is intended for. This isn't easy. There is no analog, for example, in literature. It is written for the reader. The "program" that is a story "runs" on the reader's mind but there is no flip-side to it. The story does not "run" on the paper it is printed on.

Okay, enough introduction. Here is an interesting arguement for "living software". I don't agree with all of it, but I do think it is a worthwhile discussion. The comments at the end by other "users" of the piece are decent, too.

If we do not think about evolving, we will never - intellectually speaking - do so. We are stuck with the brains we have been given - the "hardware" - but we are not stuck with a static philosophy or intellect. The grey-matter evolutionary equivalent is thinking and debating, continuously evaluating our ideas. Otherwise we are dead branches on the mental evolutionary tree.


Michael considered fate at 11:53   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
You all know I like maps and this one is no different. Carl Størmer happened upon a European-country-to-US-State comparison based on GDP:

When seeing Norway's GDP in the context of this map, one realizes why Norway often is one of the last countries U.S. companies consider when expanding to Europe.
That's because it is equivalent to our Minnesota.

Regardless, the numbers are questionable. Someone took the time to re-order the list according to 2005 GSP data from the BEA and 2005 GDP data from the IMF (in $US billions). Because this doesn't consider purchasing power parity or black market economies, etc, it's still a bit of a stab in the dark:

United States 12455.83
Japan 4567.44
Germany 2791.74
China 2234.13
United Kingdom 2229.47
France 2126.72
Italy 1765.54
California 1621.84
Canada 1132.44
Spain 1126.57
Texas 982.40
New York 963.47
Brazil 795.67
Korea 787.57
India 771.95
Mexico 768.44
Russia 763.29
Australia 708.52
Florida 674.05
Netherlands 629.91
Illinois 560.24
Pennsylvania 487.17
Ohio 442.44
New Jersey 430.79
Michigan 377.90

Belgium 3 71.70
Switzerland 367.57
Georgia 364.31
Turkey 362.46
Sweden 358.81
Virginia 352.75
Taiwan 346.18
North Carolina 344.64
Massachusetts 328.54

Saudi Arabia 309.95
Austria 305.34
Poland 303.23
Norway 295.67
Indonesia 281.26
Washington 268.50
Denmark 259.64
Maryland 244.90
South Africa 239.42
Indiana 238.64
Minnesota 233.29
Tennessee 226.50

Greece 225.59
Wisconsin 217.54
Missouri 216.07
Colorado 216.06
Arizona 215.76

Ireland 200.77
Finland 196.05
Connecticut 194.47
Iran 192.35
Portugal 183.62
Argentina 181.55
Hong Kong SAR 177.70
Thailand 173.13
Louisiana 166.31
Alabama 149.80
Oregon 145.35
Kentucky 140.36
South Carolina 139.77

Venezuela 132.85
Malaysia 130.84
Israel 129.84
UAE 129.64
Czech Republic 124.31
Colombia 122.27
Oklahoma 120.55
Singapore 116.78
Chile 115.31
Iowa 114.29
Pakistan 110.97
Nevada 110.55
Hungary 109.20
New Zealand 108.52
Kansas 105.45
Algeria 102.03
Nigeria 99.15
Romania 98.57
Philippines 98.37
Utah 89.84
Egypt 89.48
Arkansas 86.80
Ukraine 82.88
Washington, DC 82.78
Mississippi 80.20

Peru 79.39
Kuwait 74.60
Nebraska 70.26
New Mexico 69.32

Bangladesh 60.81
Kazakhstan 56.09
New Hampshire 55.69
Delaware 54.35
West Virginia 53.78
Hawaii 53.71

Morocco 51.62
Vietnam 51.39
Slovak Republic 47.46
Idaho 47.18
Maine 45.07
Rhode Island 43.79
Alaska 39.87

Libya 38.74
Croatia 38.51
Luxembourg 36.53
Ecuador 36.49
Qatar 34.34
Slovenia 34.03
Angola 32.81
South Dakota 31.07
Oman 30.73
Montana 29.85
Belarus 29.57
Dominican Rep. 29.09
Tunisia 28.67
Sudan 27.54
Wyoming 27.42
Guatemala 27.37
Syria 27.30
Bulgaria 26.72
Lithuania 25.50
North Dakota 24.18
Serbia 24.06
Sri Lanka 23.53
Vermont 23.13
Lebanon 22.05
Costa Rica 19.99
Kenya 18.73


Michael considered fate at 17:53   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
This art-as-social-commentary is pretty slick, and Babara Millicent Roberts (Barbie) has got nothing on these cans.


Michael considered fate at 12:58   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment

i believe it. i had a link sent to me a few days ago from a recent SNL. purportedly the video had just been posted. i tried to go to it yesterday and it was taken offline at the networks request. what do they think im going to do, stay home on a saturday night for a future rerun, or buy a dvd in 2 years? 0 for 2. if anything id think it would encourage people to watch their shows... which, frankly, they might just not want to discourage with their present ratings.

yeah im off the soapbox. 
According to the New York Times, NBC Universal employs 3 full time employees to scour youtube for copyrighted material. That is interesting on many levels.

Michael considered fate at 12:48   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
Update: Today is Martin Luther King day.

However, for you folks who might not have heard (and I'm a new informant myself as of this weekend), the south have a different name for the day: King, Jackson, Lee day. Why? Because not only do they celebrate MLK, they celebrate Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. Yes, that is correct.. a black civil rights and racial activist is celebrated on the same day as two confederate generals.

Now, really, who doesn't love the South? They're just so.. progressive.


Michael considered fate at 20:24   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
Here is a fun photo off the Reuter's newswire for you this evening. An ant carrying a microchip. A very small microchip. It sort of gives a little perspective of the micro- and nano-technology out there these days. For reference, the chip is 1mm square.

Michael considered fate at 15:19   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment

I'm not surprised. He was warming the bench over at Real Madrid. I think L.A. will suit him quite well. 
In a bid to be taken more seriously and perhaps further legitimize itself as a professional sport, the MLS has acquired David Beckham... at the cost of gads of money:
His deal [with the Los Angeles Galaxy] is reported to be one of the biggest in global sport with Beckham set to earn more than $250 million (128 million pounds) over the duration of his contract following the removal of the salary cap in the MLS. Beckham will earn approximately one million dollars a week.
That's an assload for any sportsman, no doubt, but I'm still a bit surprised Beckham got charmed into coming stateside.


Michael considered fate at 11:29   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment

ah...but did don't forget the very interesting tidbit that apple doesn't actually own the trademark for the systems does, and so far, they ain't backing down...could get interesting. and put a brake on the stocks. 
To give you a little look at how truly psychological the financial markets are, let's take a look at yesterday's Apple news - the announcement of an iPhone. The iPhone looks to be the end all be all of portable productivity devices, but will it fly? At the moment there seemed to be mixed opinions on how well the touch-screen will be accepted (there is no input other than the 3.5" non-stylus touch screen). Likewise, they are choosing to tie themselves to Cingular for their cell coverage and Yahoo! for their free email. Google gets a swing at things too, with their maps. Will such a disparate, wide array of companies get along long enough to seamlessly provide all this?

My guess is that they will.

Will people want a music and video playing, cell phone with full-fledged web browser and "random access voicemail" (I do love the idea of that)?

My guess is that they will.

Will people drop their cell carriers ($$) and switch over to Cingular ($$) and drop the $499~$599 it costs for an iPhone?

My guess is that they will.

But does this justify AAPL's stock price? Probably not. At a P/E of over 42, they are the most expensive by far in the cell market (RIMM - the blackberry company, Palm - the aging PDA maker, and Nokia - the cellphone producer). The singular iPhone announcement (or should I say the cingular iPhone announcement?) caused a 7% gain yesterday and today it is up over 4%.. but they were at about this price only a month ago!

We won't even get the iPhone till June.

In my mind, the bigger (but quieter) announcement, in the long run, will be the Apple TV. It's questionable whether people will be willing to adopt these things in their homes but the potential is there and consumers have said again and again in the last few years that they are very willing to trust Apple's technology and design. The iPhone delivers to Apple a new market, and breaths a bit of life into the aging iPod platform. The Apple TV, however, provides a veritable cornicopia of new revenue streams. This move - even for Apple, a "hardware company" - is not about selling hardware, it's about selling music, movies, and anything else new media.

The real irony here is that they've made it all work and come together with a piece of software - iTunes. In a "web 2.0" world, they created a stand-alone, non-web browser based application - blasphemy! They parlayed this into over two billion song sales, and have already sold 50 million movies at the ridiculus price of $14.95 with a horribly puny selection. They announced yesterday a partnership with Paramount, so now there are new movies are on the way.. new movies you will not have to watch on your iPod or computer screen when you buy the Apple TV for a low-low price of only $299! It is only a matter of time before other movie houses accept their fate and climb aboard the S.S. Apple to sale away on an ocean of dollars.

So it sounds like I'm heralding them, right? But I'm not. The price does not reflect the value, and that's the bottom line. That makes them a bad choice for a short term investment and it makes them a mediocre choice for a long term investment. You want in? Then buck the trend and buy at the bottom. Buy when Apple is on it's knees and puking in the toilet sometime down the road (and yes, you may have to wait awhile); buy when everyone is running scared.

The well known secret of the stock market is to buy low and sell high. I say this is a secret because, while we can all quote it, millions fail to follow the advice. As I write this, people are purchasing AAPL shares at 97.61 - up another 1% since I began writing this. They're buying at a very literal top - it's the highest it has ever been.


Michael considered fate at 11:55   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment

Good article 
British journalist and economist, Will Hutton, with much better prose and more statistical numbers in hand, argues what I've said a few times on this blog over this past year: China is weaker than we think and the west has misunderstood the threat.
But the closer you get to what is happening on the ground in China, its so-called capitalism looks nothing like any form of capitalism the west has known and the transition from communism remains fundamentally problematic. The alpha and omega of China's political economy is that the Communist party remains firmly in the driving seat not just of government, but of the economy - a control that goes into the very marrow of how ownership rights are conceived and business strategies devised..
Nevermind the civil rights issues, the stunted rural growth, the lack of females, or the inability of a Chinese person to use Wikipedia.
.. Absolute power corrupts, and the Chinese Communist party has become one of the most corrupt organisations the world has ever witnessed..

.. The Chinese economist Hu Angang, in his trailblazing book Great Transformations in China: Challenges and Opportunities, calculates that over the late 90s the cumulative annual cost of corruption was between 13.3% and 16.9% of GDP and is still around that level today..
Even the Iraq war doesn't cost anything close to that much. At an estimated $354 billion at the time of this post it is roughly 0.7% of the US GDP over the last four years. Read that again - less than one percent of the GDP, whereas the Chinese government can't keep itself under 13% - over 18 times 0.7% - in corruption churn.
.. As a potential watchdog to correct any of this, the media is crippled. China now has more than 2,000 newspapers, 2,000 television channels, 9,000 magazines and 450 radio stations, but they are all under the watchful eye of the party in Beijing or provincial propaganda departments. These authorities issue daily instructions on what may and may not be reported; journalists who digress will be suspended from working or even imprisoned.
This year has seen plenty of Chinese journalists imprisoned, including bloggers.
.. The cumulative result of all this is economic weakness, despite the eye-catching growth figures. Innovation is poor; half of China's patents come from foreign companies. Its growth depends on huge investment, representing an unsustainable 40% or more of GDP financed by peasant savings. But China now needs $5.4 of extra investment to produce an extra $1 of output, a proportion vastly higher than that in economies such as Britain or the US. But 20 years ago, China needed just $4 to deliver the same result.

Michael considered fate at 11:45   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
That's rich: Peanuts, deer, and lightening are all more dangerous than terrorists. It sounds both obvious and yet eye-opening at the same time.

Michael considered fate at 10:30   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
After two hours of sleep I poured myself into a pair of suit pants this morning, turning each thigh into a tight little sausage wrapped in a polyester/wool blend. In grade school I was one of the smallest kids in the class, the short and almost alien-like skinny kid who clearly hadn't grown into his own skin. A decade and a half later I'm a lot like everyone else, blending deftly into the crowd and keeping a low profile. Normal, and unassuming. Writing myself out of definitions like noteworthy and unique. Same problems, just like everyone else. It's comforting, really.

Except half the time I'm still convinced they're all my own problems. I mean, sure, everybody has problems, but I sometimes can't shake the feeling that these - my own problems - are wholly strange and a cancerous growth all their own, previously undiscovered. They don't share traits with others, they present an entirely new physiology. I'm wrong, right? Everyone's more the same then they are different and I'm projecting my own desires of an individualist's world. We're lying in bed awake sometimes, wondering about which waterslide we're going to go down tomorrow: the long meandering slow one that plops you out at the end like a reluctant shit, or the slick and fast speed demon that slings you into the pool as if you've taken a BMX off a ramp into an inground in your neighbour's back yard.

Bottom line? We're all either flying past everybody, arms flailing wildly in the air, or we're watching the plastic walls of the world slip by as we keep our arms staidly by our sides, our heads bent every-so-slightly forward, navel gazing in a bland attempt to look past it all.

You have to choose one or the other and here I'm stuck in the middle like Goldilocks; it's either too fast or it's too slow. Nothing is just right, that's why they call it a "fairytale", I guess.


Michael considered fate at 13:27   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
Beta-Max and VHS, in their most abstract form, will never have to do battle in the consumer markets again. Technology has a way of creating obsolescence and in this case it is the old-skool product warfare that we will never see again.

Why? Because with technology comes speed to market and excellent cloning abilities. Reverse-engineers never had it so good and that translates into consumers getting a free meal, even if it is leftovers.

Late last year NEC announced they had developed a chip capable of reading both Blu-Ray and HD DVD formats. Now, from Warner Bros. we have a disc capable of storing both Blu-Ray and HD DVD content.

Isn't life beautiful? This is the equivalent of the operating system wars, by the way, if you hadn't been paying attention. For close to two decades the desktop war has been quietly smoldering under the surface like a coal vein in Centralia, Pennsylvania. Now, with the advent of Intel-based Apple products we are all one with each other, like a big 'ol sit in. OSX86, the bootlegged version of Apple's operating system, can run on non-Apple hardware. Windows XP is happy to chug along on a MacBook. Linux, as always, is happy to run on just about anything - even your grandmother's pacemaker.

The end result, though veiled behind a smokescreen of technomumbo and technojumbo for the befuddled consumer, is choice, competition, and forced innovation. This isn't a post about the downfall of Microsoft and Apple's amazing market prowess (and luck) but I will say that Vista will be a major test for the softies. Can they adapt? Big lumbering elephants are little concerned about small insects zipping around at their feet but even a pachyderm has been known to rear up in fear at the sight of a tiny mouse.

So how does all this benefit the consumer? Because the corporate monsters gobbling up every startup that comes along want to control every revenue stream and therefore your pocketbooks: bad thing. They lobby the politicians to allow overuse and misuse of our socio-economic "technology" like copyrights and patents: bad thing.

Technology allows for copycats, and that same speed to market that allows NEC and Warner Bros. to attempt stop-gaps against a DVD-format war is the same speed to market that allows Joe-Shmoe (or Jorge-Bjornsson, as it were) to use freely available tools on his shit-box Pinto-esque hardware in order to break the HD DVD and Blu-Ray DRM encryption system: good thing. In the end, we are always (and usually unknowingly) heading towards equilibrium: good thing. We will never get there or we'll just overshoot our target, but the market forces of big corporations will always be pressed up against the wall of forced innovation, the individual will always look for the easiest alternative. Meanwhile, the craptastic attempts of small-fry think-tanks and indie advancements will always be usurped by the big machines which are much more capable of delivering overall "quality" on a level which is the most acceptable while still being the cheapest: ultimately, and unfortunately (because I honestly do love my 1970's behemoth of a stereo that still works to this day) this is the face of efficiency, the most powerful tool we have to stop the bloodbath that is human destruction of non-renewables, besides innovation: good thing.

In this age of information society is our "hardware" more powerful than our socio-technology? Is blogging and the individualisation of media more important in the long run than the software and hardware tools that publish them? Is our technological dependence a crutch or a cage and, if so, does choice open the bars?


Michael considered fate at 11:52   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
When I can't sleep the thoughts that run through my head are like children, far-flung relatives who show up once a year and run over your day smearing creamy peanut butter on everything; annoying. It's umpteen times worse than the real dreams, which never seem to make sense and so therefore don't carry weight or meaning. You'd think the reverse would be true; that the power of the subconscious would have you in stitches of laughter, tears streaming down your face at how perverse your twisted self can be while your awake self dreams of the mundane - winning the lottery or riding a shotgun shell space shuttle to the f'ing moon.

Not so.

It's tough when the subconscious is the escape because in there it is lonely and cold, like walking the halls of a beautiful museum of art with nobody there, echoes of your footsteps reverberating along the walls. Hullo? Is there anybody in there?

I hope your nodding if you can hear me cause that's as far as we're going to get with that one I suspect. A curt nod and off we go. Let's whirlwind down a strange path of dead presidents and slain dictators. Let's dance in the wake of cyclonic destruction, as if we would never choose to live in the path of Mother Nature's whims of fancy, as if we - born there, bred there, raised and rooted there - would see it how we see it now, of course! It's not safe, let's move. Leave mama there on the porch and the sleeping dog lying under the floorboards. Move up, move over, to the land of a'plenty, stores and shopping malls stacked up like shiny pill-shaped candies in colourful little boxes. Nevermind the second class citizens eating their macaroni and cheese from the back of humvees in the desert thinking If I knew what the world was like I never would have agreed to "see it", their confused expressions of doubt plastered, mirror like, on the faces of passing locals. Inside, in their minds, they are all thinking about how very much alone they are, sitting amongst each other in a big group. Only the cold smooth surface of gunmetal shining through the anti-euphoria of wartime malaise.

Somewhere else an ice shelf eases slowly into the ocean like a hippopotamus-mother easing into the hot tub at the motel 6 on the family's journey to see the Grand Canyon.. some scientists are there to see it but it still doesn't seem to make a sound. The global citizenry are distracted by black and white balls kicked across playing fields, men are celebrated for their deft maneuvers and ability to contact ball with head; a horrible metaphor is born.

Alas, stillbirth.

Somewhere, an economy churns and out comes toothpicks. It's a modern miracle, produced for almost nothing - the greatest achievement of the human being, goods and services that cost nothing, generate revenue, and create jobs. The underbelly is warm and full, as if an entire feast has just been devoured.. but it is really on an IV drip - more efficient this way.

Up above, in the grand void between us and the infinite beyond (where god and zeus and scary things that go bump in the night gather for texas hold 'em tournaments) a tiny station sits. It's multinational crew do somersaults in the anti-gravity and a spacewalk record is set, like the most home runs hit in a bathing suit. The people of Darfur cheer, grateful, triumphant, born anew.

Pepsi anyone? No, a Coke for me please. Black, with acrid smoke pouring forth from the exhaust pipe of the can. Radiant, with all the hope of nuclear power (you know, the kind shaped like a bomb). When all our hope is lost and we come to realize the ineffectual nature of the democratic beast, when we are busy tying each other up in a scandalous two-sided affair, the pure equality of it all bursting forth like sunshine on a rainy day, and $78.4 a barrel seems like an ancient and far off memory (and frankly, what a bargain!), well whell whhell, I tell yah, it'll hurt so good those chains of bondage, the liberty of being owned like that, each of us in our cell with petunias around the outside and a white picket fence marking mine from yours, it will be so beautiful while the fireworks of a new world make atomic displays above our heads. The Iranians, they can take it. The Koreans can march out their stiff little suits pretending the world is perfect within those walls of Chinese depression. We'll lose and all the women will be locked up, the Knicks will win a title, and the world really will be a better place. Nobody will be happy but nobody will be sad and that is a Good Thing. The people of Darfur will cheer, grateful, triumphant, born anew.

Here's to 2007.

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Check out heroecs, the robotics team competition website of my old supervisor's daughter. Fun stuff!
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