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Calling Shenanigans On Super SATA's Claimed Audio Qualities

Dirtside Re:/. discussions about stupid things... (827 comments)

What? People competing to be considered funny? What's this world coming to?!

more than 3 years ago
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Calling Shenanigans On Super SATA's Claimed Audio Qualities

Dirtside Re:HA HA HA HA: (827 comments)

"Bite the wax tadpole" is my favorite bit of gibberish. I use that phrase all the time whenever someone says something that is clearly obfuscated bullshit :-)

more than 3 years ago
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My Automobile Gets __ MPG

Dirtside Re:disappointing survey (1141 comments)

Maybe because, according to the poll results so far, there are more people in the 21-25 (18%) and 26-30 (19%) ranges than in the 35+ range (14%)? That sure looks like a long tail to me.

Yes, our mileage sucks, but what exactly is the problem here?

more than 3 years ago
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Last Roll of Kodachrome Processed

Dirtside Re:Slides made crappy prints (359 comments)

Why do you continue maintaining that 10 MB drive, may I ask?

more than 3 years ago
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Things You Drink Can Be Used To Track You

Dirtside Re:Forensics (202 comments)

I'd prefer that people not use either show as a basis for their understanding of reality. It's not as if CSI and Law & Order are the only available options for learning about criminal justice.

more than 3 years ago
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Should Cities Install Moving Sidewalks?

Dirtside Re:escalators too (698 comments)

Sometimes I walk up escalators. Sometimes I ride up escalators. I live in Los Angeles. I'm not obese. A given person does not always do the same things the same way every time.

more than 3 years ago
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Things You Drink Can Be Used To Track You

Dirtside Re:Forensics (202 comments)

So basically, you're saying that people should get their comprehension of the legal system not from this fictional show that alters reality for dramatic effect, but instead from this other fictional show that alters reality for dramatic effect. That sounds like a great idea.~

more than 3 years ago
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Google Introduces, Then Scraps, Bing-Style Background Images

Dirtside Re:You know something has gone seriously wrong... (466 comments)

Yeah... Microsoft's idea of having a background on something, an idea which they invented, and no one else had ever done before!

more than 3 years ago
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What Scientists Really Think About Religion

Dirtside Fascinating! (1123 comments)

This one single study is quite fascinating! I can't wait to see other, corroborating studies. Until then, of course, I'm going to withhold acceptance of any conclusions claimed by the study.

more than 3 years ago
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The Hurt Locker Producers Sue First 5,000 File-Sharers

Dirtside Re:Not this again... (861 comments)

Excellent characterization of the problem.

One must keep in mind though, that not every distributor/production company is part of the Hollywood cartel, or necessarily agrees with their views on copyright.

more than 3 years ago
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Google PAC-MAN Cost 4.8M Person-Hours

Dirtside Re:Fortunately (332 comments)

Look, just because you orcs don't know how to have fun doesn't mean the rest of us should have to suffer! Why don't you go play with a palantir or something?

more than 3 years ago
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Google PAC-MAN Cost 4.8M Person-Hours

Dirtside Re:What about urination? (332 comments)

I think we might want to pay more attention to how much not urinating will cost...

more than 3 years ago
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Google PAC-MAN Cost 4.8M Person-Hours

Dirtside Re:Slashdot manages that every day (332 comments)

I'm incapable of curing cancer, and the only thing I do with orphans is sacrifice them to Cthulhu, so do you really want me to stop reading your post?

more than 3 years ago
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Google Says It Mistakenly Collected Wi-Fi Data While Mapping

Dirtside Re:Google is great and all... (215 comments)

These "German authorities" asked to audit Google's data, but nothing in there says that they ordered Google to publicize the findings or issue an apology. We'd need to know more about what happened there. Also, we don't know whether they ordered Google to let them review the data, or they simply requested it and Google said "yes."

more than 3 years ago
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Google Says It Mistakenly Collected Wi-Fi Data While Mapping

Dirtside Re:Google is great and all... (215 comments)

As far as I can tell, Google posted this message without being forced to by any government. Most companies would keep this kind of thing quiet, or lie about it, especially if privacy advocates got wind of it. Google, within a few days of finding out about the issue, posts an APOLOGY for doing something that MIGHT have possibly damaged a few people, IF the information they collected had been leaked.

Unless we have reason to believe otherwise, Google screwed up, and as soon as they were aware of the mistake, took steps to rectify it and then went public about the mistake. If we get evidence that Google is lying about this, that's another story, but has there been any such evidence yet? I'm all for raking corporations over the coals when they make mistakes and don't own up, but how often do you see a giant corporation blurting out "mea culpa" like this?

Also:

As much as I like Google I hope they get the book thrown at them over this. To claim that they have accidently been collecting this data for three years is just silly.

It's not remotely silly. A week ago I discovered a DB table at my (multinational media conglomerate) company that had been silently logging data for -- wait for it -- three years. It wasn't any personal info, or data we needed, but everyone had forgotten about it. The idea of Google making a similar mistake is not "silly" at all.

more than 3 years ago
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Google Says It Mistakenly Collected Wi-Fi Data While Mapping

Dirtside Re:Hey, (215 comments)

You might be stupid for leaving your network open, just as you might be stupid for leaving your house door open, but it's still not okay to use either one of them without permission. I won't have a lot of sympathy for you, but I'm not going to let the intruder off the hook, either.

more than 3 years ago
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A Call For an Open, Distributed Alternative To Facebook

Dirtside Re:Just don't use facebook and stop crying (363 comments)

Facebook has 400 million active users (their own claim). That leaves 6.4 billion people who are not on Facebook, and I imagine most of them aren't toddlers or 70. :)

(Yes, I realize there are other social networks out there, nonetheless the overwhelming majority of humans are not using social networking websites.)

more than 3 years ago

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A revised model for content distribution

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 9 years ago

Here's a revised version of my "ideal" copyright system. (Disclaimer: System described is not ideal.)

The point of this system is to recognize the fact that trying to legally prevent free redistribution of copyrighted works, given modern technology, is futile at best, and more often wasteful and destructive. Preventing others from selling copies is feasible, but preventing various and sundry individuals from redistributing them for free is not.

Let me know if I missed anything.

DOMAIN OF COPYRIGHT

Holding the copyright on a work would mean that you and you alone had the right to sell the work. However anyone could distribute copies of that work for free. They could not even charge materials costs or distribution costs, let alone try to make a profit. No one besides the copyright holder could distribute modified copies. The copyright holder could waive these rights in individual cases as they chose.

(The right of first sale would still exist, of course; you couldn't prevent someone from selling a copy they paid for, but no one except the copyright holder could make additional copies and sell those.)

DURATION OF COPYRIGHT

The duration of copyright in this system depends on whether the copyright holder receives any income for the work.

Copyright would be held at the creation of the work. As long as the work is not made available to the public, the copyright would last indefinitely.

When the work is made available to the public, then copyright lasts 70 years from that date OR until the death of the copyright holder plus twenty years, whichever is shorter. However this scheme only holds as long as the work is distributed for free.

As soon as the author receives any income for the work, the duration of copyright decreases to 20 years. (If less than 20 years remain on the copyright when income is first received, then the duration does not change. So you couldn't distribute the work for free for 69 years, then sell a copy, and get another 20 years. You'd still only have 1 year left.)

TRANSFER OF COPYRIGHT

Transferring or selling a copyright to another entity, be it human or corporation, would reduce any remaining copyright to twenty years, regardless of other status. (If the remaining copyright duration was less than twenty years, then nothing would change.)

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A model for content distribution

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 10 years ago

In my opinion, the ideal model for the distribution of creative content is this: A creator creates the content (a writer writes a book, filmmakers make a movie, a musician records a song), then releases the content for free.

The public knows that creators have to eat, and so they know that if they like the work that a particular creator puts out, they should donate to that creator in order to encourage him, her, or them to continue producing things they like. If the creator doesn't receive enough donations due to his work, he may choose not to continue doing it (in favor of "regular" jobs). So it's in each reader/viewer/listener's interest to donate to the creators they like, since if they don't, there's a chance that those creators will decide it's not feasible to continue creating, and will stop, thus depriving the audience of further good artistic creations.

Karmically, you'd donate after experiencing a work, for as much as you think the work was worth to you. If you read Doctorow's new book and hated it, you'd probably donate nothing, and never again read one of his books. If you thought he had potential but didn't like this particular book, or simply wanted to reward him for his effort, you might donate a buck or two. Like the book reasonably well? Maybe five bucks. Think it's the greatest thing ever? The sky's the limit.

That's fundamentally it. The core idea is that since publically-disseminated information (like books, songs, and movies) cannot be controlled once published, fighting against it is wasteful and pointless. This isn't a new idea, nor is it originally my idea (I'm not positive but it's essentially a form of busking). Copyright was a nifty idea back when it was relatively difficult to copy large quantities of information like a book, movie, or song, but technology has changed and controlling it the way we do is no longer feasible.

There are practical issues, like the fact that some percentage of people will take in all the content they can without ever compensating the creators. But even they will eventually come to understand that if they don't contribute, and if enough people are like them, the creators will stop making their content. But we don't need laws to enforce this: it'll happen on its own. (And of course, creators could choose to sell copies of their works, if they wanted, in convenient formats; and I'm willing to bet that most people would still prefer to go to a store and buy a convenient copy of a movie or book or album, rather than dealing with getting a digital copy for free.)

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Thoughts on Pride

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 10 years ago

It's a common enough meme to hear people say something like, "I'm proud to be an American." What does that mean, exactly? Let's ask Dictionary.com:

1. Feeling pleasurable satisfaction over an act, possession, quality, or relationship by which one measures one's stature or self-worth

There are other definitions, but that's the first one for "proud." Taking pride in the fact that you were born in a specific country seems like a bizarre thing, to me. It's more reasonable to take pride in your accomplishments: writing a book, raising a child, helping the homeless. But taking pride in an accident of your birth? Or an aspect of your physique or mind that you had no control over? Absurd. Sure, be happy or thankful that you were born to good parents in a peaceful country... but pride?

Then there's the other kind of pride:

4. Filled with or showing excessive self-esteem.

This is the kind of pride that prevents someone from admitting they're wrong about something, the kind of pride that causes people to make up outlandish excuses to justify some past behavior or belief. Everyone does it, even me. I've had arguments with my wife where I ended up claiming that I meant something besides what I really did, just so that I wouldn't have to admit to being wrong. (Usually, she manages to extract a confession from me anyway. ;))

This pride is the same thing that makes American politics (and probably most politics worldwide) such a complete debacle. Each side -- and there's usually more than two -- insists, insists that they and they alone have The Answers To Our Problems. With occasional exception, politicians and other social leaders will never publicly admit that they made a mistake, made a false claim, or were just plain wrong about something. The usual tack is to change what they're saying, without acknowledging that something they said last week runs directly contrary to what they're saying now. Just pretend you never said any of those things. Someone calls you on it? Talk around it, change the subject. If one of your policies goes into effect, two years later, you can claim that whatever problems were caused by it were actually caused by something else -- after all, so many other things happened in the past two years, who can say what the real cause is?

Never admit that you were wrong. Because being wrong is a sign of weakness, and how can you respect someone who has weakness? We even propagate it ourselves: having weak leaders is bad. So any leader with any weakness is bad. And I certainly wouldn't make a mistake like voting for someone who's weak, would I? Therefore the guy I voted for is strong! He has no weaknesses! He never does anything wrong!

Meanwhile, the guy I voted against, if he won... well, everything he does is wrong. Everything. He can't do anything right. He's a vicious, evil, greedy, misguided, insane, criminal sonofabitch. There's no way he could have any redeeming qualities -- because I wouldn't have ever made a mistake like voting against someone who is actually a good person. Therefore the guy I voted against must be evil!

Is this a conscious decision people make? Not usually. Most people don't really think about it. They don't delve into the reasons for why they do things. Imagine a world where people did thoroughly examine their beliefs, even only once in a while; a world where people would always admit that they were wrong, because nobody would laugh at them or mock them or insult them for being wrong. That's part of the problem. Pride is sometimes a defensive mechanism. If I don't admit to being wrong, then I don't open myself up to people criticizing me for being wrong. I can just pretend I'm not wrong -- in fact, they're the ones who are wrong, the ones who are insulting me for no reason (since I'm clearly right)!

But hey, that's just my opinion... I'm probably wrong. :)

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Oh yeah? Prove it!

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 11 years ago

From all the evidence I can find, religions in general seem to be a manifestation of man's desire for there to be answers to The Big Questions. Actual evidence for the supernatural claims religions make is completely lacking.

If someone comes to me and claims that God exists, my response is, "Prove it." It's the same response I'd give if someone came to me and said that space aliens were implanting chips in people's brains, or if someone said that increasing the number of miles of freeways in Los Angeles County would decrease traffic congestion, or if someone said that pyramid power can help you blah blah mystical-energy-cakes etc. I see no reason to believe things that have no evidence.

You know what evidence is? Arguments like, "But who else could have created all this beauty?" (while gesturing at a grand mountain vista, for example) are not evidence. Arguments like, "Well, we don't know what created the universe, so it must be God!" are not evidence. With that logic, you can claim that anything you don't yet have an answer for to be caused by anything you like. Evidence is quantifiable and physical; it can be scanned, detected, and analyzed. I can do repeatable, falsifiable tests on the theory of universal gravitation; I can do such tests on thermodynamic theory, hydrodynamic theory, mathematical theory, biological theory... but not, it seems, religion. And yet people want me to take as fact the idea that God exists. Come on.

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Copying != theft. Three cheers for kneejerk reactions!

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 11 years ago

Well, looks like it's time to trot this out again.

Copying is not the same as theft.

To some, this is fairly obvious. Others, however, are apparently capable of mentally equating the process of duplicating information with the process of depriving someone of possession of something. The distinction is simple, however, so I'll explain here. Again.

If I have a car, and you steal it, I no longer have the car.

If I have a CD, and you copy that CD, I still have the CD.

I haven't said anything about copyright or other forms of intellectual property law -- but they are all rooted in this distinction. If you're going to argue that these actions are equivalently bad, you should be able to justify that with some reasons why.

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...without the written consent of Major League Baseball!

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 11 years ago

The ostensible purpose of copyright is to preserve the copyright holder's ability to control how their work is distributed and used, and to allow them the primary financial benefits (if any) of the sale of copies of that work. This latter I usually call "right to profit"; it does not mean "the right to make a profit", but rather "the right to possession of any profits that are made". Just because you have the right to any profits that are made from a work, doesn't guarantee that the work will actually turn a profit!

The broadcast TV networks do exactly what their name implies: They broadcast data into the air, allowing anyone with the proper equipment to receive the data. Does this qualify as giving up control over distribution? Well, let's take a look at what that phrase means, or should mean.

Controlling the distribution of a work essentially means that you control who has access to the work. If you broadcast a work, you have given everyone access to the work. In any meaningful sense, you've given up control over who may access the work.

Given this, let's look at an example broadcast of a random TV show.

I could use my VCR to tape the show during its regular broadcast timeslot. This is legal.

I could have a friend tape the show during its regular broadcast timeslot, and then lend me the tape so that I can make my own copy. This is illegal.

In both cases, I end up with the same data: a copy of the show, commercials intact. (Let's assume they're perfect digital copies, recorded via TiVo or a similar method.) In neither case was any money given to anyone. I did not buy the tape, or keep it; nobody gave any money to XBC for broadcasting it. (That's what the commercials are there for.) Yet, one method is legal, and the other is not. This makes no sense.

Now, the right to profit and the right to control distribution are linked. In Show X's case, they've already (effectively) given up their control over distribution, since they already distributed the show to every person on Earth (and nearby star systems, as well ;)). However, they haven't given up their right to profit from the show. In fact, the profit from their show comes from selling commercial time to advertisers, and that happens before the show even airs. Normally, when you watch the show, you have to sit through the commercials (or, at least, do something else while the commercials are on, but you can't skip past the commercials. And on average, each time you watch a commercial for a product, the company whose commercial you're watching earns some average amount of money. (E.g., if 10 million people each watch a commercial once, and 500,000 of them buy the advertised product (which sells for $10) because of the commercial, then you can reasonably say that each person who watched the commercial earned you 50 cents ($5 million from 10 million people).)

Enter VCRs. Now you can tape the show, then watch it later, and fast-forward through the commercials. At least there, you still get the essence of the commercial -- you'll be able to identify the product, or at least the brand, or at least the category ("Hmm, I think that was a detergent commercial"). Now enter PVRs, like TiVo. Now you can skip past the commercials entirely. You can now watch the show without watching the commercials -- so you're basically getting something for nothing. But that's perfectly legal. But if you get the same data from a friend -- even if you do watch the commercials -- that's illegal. Is that logical?

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Language, revisited

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 11 years ago

On October 4th, I wrote about language, covering the concept that languages are essentially arbitrary. I wanted to reiterate this fact, and elaborate on it in a slightly different way.

All methods of communication are, at their base, arbitrary. There is no law of physics that requires that the number that comes after "one" be called "two". However, given that the purpose of language is to communicate effectively, some forms of language are more efficient than others. For example, there is no particular reason why every word in the English language could not be preceded by xxxthree xxxcopies xxxof xxxthe xxxletter xxx"x". But it's not a useful thing to do, since it adds no information to a given communication, and makes it harder to read.

A less absurd example, which came up during recent /. article, might be the following question: Should you use an apostrophe when pluralizing acronyms or certain abbreviations? For example, should the plural of CD be "CDs" or "CD's"? Well, there's several issues to consider, so let's explore them.

The normal pluralization of words in English is to simply add an "s" to the end, or an "es" if the word already ends in "s". For example, "car" becomes "cars" and "pass" becomes "passes". There are, of course, numerous exceptions -- for example, "bus" becomes "busses" (doubling the final "s" before adding the "es"), "ox" becomes "oxen" (adding "en" instead of "s" or "es"), "sheep" stays "sheep" (singular and plural are the same), and so forth.

The apostrophe is normally used in English to denote possession and abbreviation (most commonly, contractions). Possession is usually handled by adding "'s" (an apostrophe and an "s") to the word -- so "Jack's car" means "the car possessed (or owned) by Jack". Contractions are usually handled by removing part of a word, and substituting the apostrophe -- for example, "cannot" replaces the "no" with an apostrophe, becoming "can't", and "does not" removes the space and the "o" to become "doesn't". There are, as always, exceptions to this -- the commonly reviled contraction "ain't", for example, substitutes for "are not", "am not", and "is not", unlike most contractions, which only substitute for one word or phrase.

(Note the common misuse of the words "it's" and "its". "It's" (with an apostrophe) is always a contraction of "it is", and is never the possessive form of "it". "Its" (no apostrophe) is the possessive form of "it" -- it goes right next to "his", "hers", "theirs", and so on.)

If you're talking about an attribute of a CD -- for example, the contents of the CD -- it's entirely appropriate to use an apostrophe, since you're referring to the possessive -- the contents of the CD are the CD's contents. If you're talking about multiple compact discs, then it's reasonable to simply append an "s" to "CD", and you get CDs. But is this always the best answer? Imagine if you were talking about the grades you got this semester. Let's say you did really well, and in each class you got an A. If you were talking about your grades, you might write that you got all As! But that looks funny... kind of like the word "as". So maybe writing that you got all A's would be a little more readable. This defies the usual convention -- using an apostrophe to pluralize. However, "A" isn't an acronym the way that "CD" is -- but it is an abbreviation. Saying that you got "an A" in a class is really shorthand for saying that you got "an A grade" or "a grade of A". So if you got all A grades, perhaps it's reasonable to abbreviate "A grades" as "A's", since "A's" is functioning as a kind of contraction, rather than a pluralization. The pluralization here is from "A grade" to "A grades"; and it's the latter form that's contracted into "A's" (where the removed letters are the space between "A" and "grades" and most of the word "grades"). So "A's" wins, slightly, on readability, and (in a bizarre, roundabout way) makes sense with regard to contraction. I consider the apostrophe acceptable for pluralizing "A's", as long as the context is clear so that you don't mistake it for the possessive (after all, you can say that the influence Bob's single A grade had on him -- AKA, the A's influence -- is what made him want to go into grad school, for example).

Here's another twisty one: What about decades? Sometimes people refer to the 1990s, and sometimes they refer to the 1990's (also the 90s and 90's). Now, 1990 was the name of a particular year -- the one that came after 1989 and before 1991. You can normally pluralize proper names, if you're referring to multiple items with the name name (for example, if you have two people named John, you might refer to them as "the Johns"). But you can't have more than one of the year 1990! Or at least, we don't have more than one -- I suppose you could have two consecutive years both called 1990, although that would be rather confusing. So in this case, when the year's name is pluralized, we use that to refer to the entire decade -- all ten years from 1990 to 1999. That aside, what's better, "1990s" or "1990's" for pluralization? I would say that "1990s" is a better choice, since the apostrophe doesn't help readability, and can easily be mistaken for the possessive (e.g. "1990's biggest news story" is the biggest news story of 1990, not the biggest news story of the entire decade from 1990-1999). Also, what about the possessive case of the plural itself? Well, if we pluralize it as 1990s, then the standard possessive form for a plural (appending an apostrophe) seems to work fine. "The 1990s' biggest news story was..."

The upshot is, we use language to communicate, and it is in our best interests to communicate as effectively as possible. I consider it foolish to slavishly adhere to a language mechanism only because of tradition -- other important factors are commonality of usage (how many people will understand you?), simplicity of form (is the mechanism likely to be confused for another, or its meaning misunderstood?), and logic of construction (does the mechanism fit in, systematically, with the rest of the language?). That last factor is a tricky one, since any mechanism can be looked at in that way -- how well does one particular mechanism fit in with all the rest? But of course, any particular mechanism is as arbitrary as the rest; there is no "solid ground" on which to rest the language. As a result, there are a huge number of ways for any particular mechanism to exist, since there are a huge number of states of "rest of the language" that can exist -- for example, look how differently the possessive is handled in English, French, German, Chinese, and so on.

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Doctor, this man has a severe case of Nostalgitis

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 11 years ago Quiz:

  • Do you believe that one or more of movies, books, video games, music, or art used to be better than they are now?
  • Do you believe that everything that comes out today in one of the above fields is crap?
  • ...or at least, crap compared to stuff that came out in days past?

If you've answered "Yes" to any of these questions, then you have a common ailment known as Nostalgitis. It's characterized by a refusal to accept reality and the donning of rose-colored glasses. <medical>

I see this all the time on /., although it's been a common enough meme in our society for many years. Kids find new things to entertain themselves, and forge their own identities, rebelling (in ways more or less subtle) against their elders -- meanwhile, the elders are befuddled by the New Thing, be it rap music, drugs, Beat poetry, or Pokemon. The war cry of the fogey goes something like this, "All this [MEDIA TYPE] these days is crap! Back in my day, we had [AGED ENTERTAINER] who did real [MEDIA TYPE]." It can be music, movies, books, video games, art, and of course particular subsets thereof.

In the usual manifestation, the Fogey claims that today's media products are crap compared to products of a past era. This can be as recent as a few years back (I've heard people bitching about how all music sucked in the mid-90s, but is now better), or decades ago (truly old people talking about how much better movies were in the 30s). The main problem with these claims is that, except in certain specialized situations, they ignore the fact that just as much crap was produced "back then" as is produced today. Yes, there were a lot of great movies in the 30s -- but there were reams upon reams of worthless, boring, disposable trash produced as well. In some cases, even more as a percentage of total output than is produced today (in Hollywood's earlier days, movies had much smaller budgets -- even taking inflation into account -- and it wasn't uncommon for a movie to go from concept to premiere in a month or two).

The "certain specialized situations" I mentioned usually means the very early days of a media format. The absolute earliest movies were mostly junk -- people experimenting with this new art form. As happens, most of it failed. Within a relatively few years (by the mid-to-late 1930s) we saw the first truly great epic spectacles. Compared to the movies of the 1910s and 1920s, they were, for the most part, vastly superior. But since then, things have slowed down -- children grow fastest in their youth, slower as they age. So in the 40s, movies were actually, on the whole, far better than they had been a couple of decades earlier.

Then there's the flipside, when the overall quality goes down over time... which I'll address later, as I have to go home now. :)

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The deadliest sin...?

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 11 years ago

This is a copy of something I posted on today's poll, about the seven deadly sins. I think I want to expand on this more, but I have to go home now, so I'll wrote more about it later.

----

Pride.

I've spent time thinking about this recently. I've come to the (admittedly fungible) conclusion that pride is really the worst of the traditional "Seven Deadly Sins." I'm not talking in the formal, Catholic sense -- just the colloquial usages of the words. I think that the other sins all really stem from pride, and that much of what's wrong with the world is due to pride.

Pride is the refusal to consider evidence that disproves what you believe to be true. The belief that, in a contentious situation, you could not possibly be in the wrong. The refusal to admit having made a mistake (and the subsequent backing and filling to try and justify the mistake). Those three things, by themselves, sum up huge issues. (Here's another one: Pride is what you are feeling when you think you deserve something.)

For example, take the Israel/Palestine issue. Both sides refuse to admit that they've ever made any mistakes. Both sides refuse to admit that the best solution is going to require some compromises, from both sides. It's like a fight between four-year-olds; neither one wants to admit that they screwed up, and they're going to take their toys and go home (i.e. blow up the opposition some more). (Before you start attacking me and claiming that one side or the other is wholly in the wrong, keep in mind that I've read mountains of words on both sides of the issue, and am unlikely to be swayed by a screed.)

Envy: Envy can, at worst, lead to obsessiveness -- which is a bad thing, for certain, but envy in moderation can also lead a person to work harder, so that they achieve more, which (purely speaking) isn't a bad thing.

Gluttony: Gluttony by itself implies excess -- and the Seven Deadly Sins are, in one way, just a restatement of the old saying, "Moderation in all things." Examine any particular vice, and too much of it will usually be a bad thing. But this is (generally) self-destructive, at worst; not other-destructive. Not by itself. Gluttony can also be seen as deriving from sloth; perhaps you're too lazy to stop doing the "easy" thing (e.g. munching on Funyuns).

Lust: Mostly a self-destructive thing. In a way, it's really just sex gluttony. It can hurt others, if your lust drives you to jealousy; but that would seem to stem from pride -- specifically, you think that you are better than whoever has your lust object, and deserve it more.

Anger: Anger is an emotional reaction, and by itself it can destroy a person's logical thinking processes, clouding your mind with fury. But anger cools over time; pride is reinforced every time the issue returns (because, after all, the longer you wait to admit your mistake, the more embarrassing it is to do so).

Greed: I think greed stems entirely from pride. I deserve more than he does! Therefore, I will take it. It's possible that greed and pride are more intertwined than that, rather than a root-branch relationship.

Sloth: Sloth could be seen as stemming from pride, perhaps: You don't think that you need to do something, because you're too good for it, or it's too important. At least, that's what you say; a lot of sloth comes from, "I haven't dealt with it yet, but I need to deal with it; but if I deal with it now after putting it off, that will feel like 'giving in' to something -- and I'm no loser! I won't give in!"

I could say more, but I have to go home. Maybe I'll write more about this tomorrow.

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Godel, Escher, Bach

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 11 years ago

It's late and I'm lazy, so here's a plug for an excellent science-math-music-art-everything book: Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter. It's a brilliant book, touching on numerous concepts. Very, very geek-oriented.

On a totally different topic, I do like the theory that the reason that executive types tend to be such dolts is that the ties they wear cut off the blood flow to their brains.

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The Salmon of Unverifiable Concepts

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 11 years ago I read "The Salmon of Doubt" this weekend, which is a collection of (mostly) short pieces by the late Douglas Adams. Newspaper articles, speeches, miscellaneous writings, and also eight or so chapters of what was to become either a Dirk Gently novel, a Hitchhiker's Guide novel, or something else entirely. In the presented form (which was culled from several different versions), it's mostly a Dirk Gently story, although it doesn't have much time to get anywhere before ending.

Adams was a self-described radical atheist; a couple of the pieces in the book discuss various reasons for it. He was able, in a way so eloquent as to make me look upon my own writings with shame, to clearly and concisely explain some of the ways in which atheists find fault with religious beliefs. Acceptance of gods was something which Adams thought of as a vestigial notion from humanity's younger days. He gets into far more detail, of course, and I recommend reading the book if for no other reason than to learn about how much Adams loved knowledge and understanding. I get a warm fuzzy glow reading about the respect he had for those concepts.

The book is not very long, and I distinctly recommend it.

Why do most people get so attached to particular beliefs? Not just religious, but political, economic, scientific... there's a thread on Slashdot today about genetically modified food. Virtually every (substantive) post falls into the following categories:

  1. Genetically modifying food/animals is dangerous.
  2. Humans have been genetically modifying food/animals for thousands of years, and it's gone just fine.
  3. What humans have been doing is selective breeding, which takes a long time, and allows for natural equilibria to arise; direct genetic manipulation may not be as safe, since it can cause much more rapid changes per unit time.

And all of them are vociferous. Everyone seems to strongly believe that whatever they believe is the right way, the truth, etc. I've read more articles and debates about GM foods than I can remember, and I honestly have no idea where I stand. Both sides have plausible arguments; both sides present data, facts, and so on. I guess I'm inclined to think that, like any other manipulation of matter, it has the potential to go wrong, or the potential to be a valuable tool for humanity. The influence of money will corrupt things, as it always does; the influence of ideals will (hopefully) help make things better for everyone, rather than a selective few who have the power. Issues that are cut-and-dry are cut-and-dry. Nobody gets into religious debates about whether airplanes can fly, because it would be inane, in a particularly egregious way, to deny that that is not really an airplane flying up there. But people get into (essentially) religious arguments about things that are not so clear, like whether GM foods are "good" or "bad" (should you desire to place the topic into such an easily-labeled box), or (inanely, but in a less egregious way, since it takes millennia to occur, so I can't just point to it happening, and say, "See?") whether species of life arise from elder species via natural selection.

People seem to feel that they have to take a stand -- you can't be indecisive about something; you can't accept that an issue is complex with a lot of gray areas. Everything has to be black or white. Why? Do most people simply lack the energy required to maintain such a quantum-like state of dynamism? After a long day at work, do most people really just not have the mental energy to think about complex world issues? Or are incredibly complex issues like racial politics actually a simple, black-and-white (no pun intended) affair, with clear-cut answers?

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Third anniversary

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 11 years ago

So today is my company's third anniversary. As a treat, they took us all out to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which was entertaining. That's all I'm writing, because I'm falling into a sugar coma and can't really thing straight right now. We had cake and donuts after we got back.

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No offense to Catholics in the audience, but...

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 11 years ago

...goddamn Catholic Church.

Let's take a man.

Let's prohibit him from having sex.

Now let's encourage young boys to hang around him and treat him as an authority figure to be obeyed.

Now let's act real susprised when we find out he's been sexually abusing the boys.

Then let's pretend we're going to do something about it. We certainly wouldn't want to encourage anyone to file, say, criminal sexual assault or child abuse charges against someone who sexually abused children. Because that would be silly!

No, wait, that's fucking stupid.

Jesus H. Christ.

</rant>

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Arduinne planet - don't go there

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 11 years ago

In keeping with Zarf's warning about profundity, I'm going to comment on something I discovered about Earth & Beyond last night that I hate.

Namely, the planet Arduinne.

It's big. It's green. It has lots of things which make me hate it.

1) The mobs are mostly level 30-33. This in itself is not a bad thing. However, the mobs fire very slowly and infrequently, which means they are easy to kill, which means they are always being camped.

2) The mobs are HEALED by plasma damage -- and since 4 of the 6 missile launchers I own are plasma launchers, this does me little good.

3) The mobs spawn in clusters of 4 or 5 at a time, making them harder to kill.

4) They drop huge stacks of level 3 and 4 minerals, which are essentially worthless, even in large quantities.

5) In the October patch, the maximum impulse speed on planets was TRIPLED (not doubled, like those liars said) on planet surfaces. However, your acceleration and deceleration rates were not changed, making it somewhat difficult to stop quickly. Overshooting your intended destination by a kilometer or two is rather common.

6) There's a huge squad of turrets and NPC ships at the exit gate, that will "protect" you from any mobs that get within 5 kilometers. Unfortunately, this is a large chunk of the map, so you get killstealed a lot.

7) For some reason, my framerate on the planet was appallingly slow -- about 15fps. Not that there's exactly a lot going on there -- gas clouds, a few mobs and ships, and that's it. No world geometry to render. Yet it's slow as hell on a Geforce4 ti4200. Argh.

Ok, I'm done bitching. Whine whine. Back to work.

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Empty

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 11 years ago Okay, so I can't think of anything to write today. Uh... I heard that Steve Martin is going to be hosting the Oscars this year. Hooray!

So... uh... yeah.

...

Hey, here's a joke you may not have seen:

Linux :)
Windows XP

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Read? Pfttt

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 11 years ago

This morning I took Monica to the hospital because her cough had not gone away over the weekend -- if anything, it had gotten worse, so we figured she should see a doctor, just to be on the safe side. I was in the waiting room while she was with the doctor, and of the dozen or so people there waiting, only one other person besides myself was reading anything -- and they were reading a newspaper that they'd picked up from a coffee table when they arrived. No one else was reading. One guy was sleeping; everyone else was staring off into space.

It brought forth a range of emotions. I felt sorry for them; I also felt sad, and angry, and frustrated. I wanted to stand up and shout, "Hey! Why aren't you all reading something? Anything? Don't you people know that reading, knowledge, and education are all important to improving your lives and making the world a better place?!"

Maybe some of them were illiterate. Maybe they didn't have the energy to spare on the thoughts that reading inspire. Maybe they have a social disdain for anything that smacks of intellectualism -- [deity] knows we've had enough of that in the past thirty years. Later, two teenagers came in together and sat down. They both had Game Boy Advance units with them, and played nonstop until the time I left, never even talking to each other. Them, I can excuse; like the old saying goes, "Youth is wasted on the young." But the adults? I just felt lost.

Maybe it's arrogant of me... not everyone wants to read for entertainment; too people many probably get reminded of school, which even I didn't enjoy. But damn... imagine if people read, and learned, instead of staring off into space. Even if they just read empty trash, that would be better than memorizing the patterns on the wallpaper. Heck, even the Bible would be better than that! Just kidding.

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The District of Columbia made me sick. Literally.

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 11 years ago

No PFADDA yesterday; I was sick at home and completely forgot about it. I think I may ramble some more today, because I feel like shit. My wife picked up a bug or something when we were in Washington D.C. last weekend -- or it might have been earlier, hard to say -- but now I've got it. I'm not coughing as much as she is (and DAMN it's loud sometimes), but I have sinus congestion, my throat hurts a little, my lungs hurt, everything hurts. Blech.

Washington's a weird city, if you've never been there. It has, more or less, a grid of numbered and lettered streets, with the lettered (A to Z) streets running north-south (more or less; some are slanted), and the numbered streets running east-west (ditto). However, there's a catch: there are TWO SETS of numbered streets. So you've got 3rd St. West and 3rd St. East. They are parallel, about three-quarters of a mile apart. 3rd West runs through the edge of the Mall, and 3rd St. East... uh... doesn't. The streets are not evenly spaced, either; it's a tiny distance between 3rd and 4th, in most places, but a much larger distance between 2nd and 3rd.

Then there's the state streets. Surely you're familiar with Pennsylvania Avenue -- it's the street the White House's address is on. Except Penn. Ave. runs west-northwest by east-southeast. There's a variety of diagonal streets in DC, running at similarly skewed angles. And there's other streets: random short ones at all manner of angles, running arbitrary distances, stopping and restarting sporadically. It looks like a Mondrian painting from afar, only with digonal lines.

Oh, and even though it's blindingly obvious in retrospect, do you realize that DC has no representation in Congress? That's right. The 500,000-odd American citizens who live in Washington DC do not get to vote for Senators or Representatives. There's a movement in DC toward statehood; somehow the city's motor vehicle department is now issuing license plates that have "Taxation Without Representation" written on them!

Rather than turning DC into a state, and establishing two new senators and one or two new representatives, it might make sense if DC were considered part of Virginia or Maryland for representation purposes. Geographically, DC is surrounded by Maryland on three sides and Virginia on the fourth side, and the Virginia side is separated by the Potomac River, whereas the Maryland sides are arbitrary linear borders. If this idea were used, Maryland would be a simpler choice. Of course, either state would want DC to become part of it, if for no other reason than to acquire another representative or two in the House (due to the population increase).

Monica suggested that members of Congress should be required to live in DC (I was under the impression they are required to maintain a residence there, but a lot of them simply rent a tiny apartment and never visit it), the idea being that DC's high crime rate and general lack of goodness would be brought under control if our nation's legislators had to live there.

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Suck

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 11 years ago

I'm not going to write anything interesting or insightful today, because I'm having a horrible allergy attack and my sinuses feel like the BSD demon invaded my nose and is jabbing them wit his pitchfork. So instead I'm going to ramble mindlessly until I get bored and hit Submit.

I'm reading Television Without Pity right now, which is basically a site where they write up recaps of each episode of a couple dozen TV shows. "Snarky" doesn't even begin to cover it, but it's a nice guilty pleasure to re-read old Buffy episodes instead of working.

I have a little cubical-shaped puzzle on my desk. Basically it's a hollow plastic cube, transparent on five sides. Inside the cube is a triangular piece of pink plastic (and an awful amount of alliteration) that isn't attached to the cube walls, but is sized and positioned so that it can't move (pick one corner that touches the non-translucent side of the cube. now take the three corners closest to that first corner. the triangle stretches between those three corners). The triangle itself has a large hole in the center, a smaller hole near each point, and a small groove stretching from one hole to the other. Also inside the cube are 13 small steel beads -- one is large, three are medium, and nine are small. The large one fits into the big hole, and will not go through; the medium ones fit into the three end holes, and will not go through those (although they can fall through the big center hole); and the small beads will fit into the grooves and not fall through, but will fall through the center or corner holes.

Bah, who cares. My sinuses hurt. Begone.

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Drugs

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 11 years ago

I've read a good deal about marijuana and its effects. By no stretch of the imagination can its effects, individual or overall, be considered as harmful as those of alcohol.

So why is pot illegal in the U.S. (barring minor exceptions)? No matter who you ask, you never get a straight answer -- at least, not if they're on the anti-pot side of the debate. Those on the pro-pot side (or at least the pro-legalization side; I don't personally have any interest in using pot (did it a few times in college, found it boring, never did it again), but I do think it should be legal) tend to answer, "Hypocrisy." A friend of mine at work pointed out that pot is the anti-capitalism drug. It's hard to get motivated to go out and achieve, achieve, ACHIEVE! if you're stoned and don't even feel the need to get out of your chair. He was being facetious, but the more I think about it, the more it begins to sound like he's right. Anti-pot folks have this conception of creeping sloth overtaking our nation, should we fall prey to the "evils" of marijuana.

Nevermind that there are more alcohol-related deaths in one year in the U.S. than there have been pot-related deaths in the nation's history. Nevermind that there has never been a single recorded case of someone dying of a pot overdose. Nevermind that even normalized for usage per capita, deaths due to drunk driving far exceed deaths due to driving under the influence of pot.

It's just retarded. Pot is less harmful than alcohol, but it's more heavily restricted. Why?

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Diaspora

Dirtside Dirtside writes  |  more than 11 years ago

I just finished Greg Egan's novel Diaspora. It spent a lot of time dwelling on the nature of consciousness, intelligence, and the self. I keep trying to write something insightful about it, but I can't. Not yet. All I can recommend is that you go get this book and read it. There's a lot of heavy science in it -- everything from quantum mechanics to molecular biology to astrophysics -- but it's intensely fascinating.

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