February 2003 Archives

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DoD briefing: Oil as a weapon for terror

I'm surprised this came from the Department of Defense. You could use this slide deck to support war with Iraq or argue against it. It says quite clearly that our military intellegence sources state that if we attack Iraq Saddam may destroy the nation's oil sources, costing the Iraqi people (ahem, American oil companies), upwards of $20 billion dollars. I read this slide deck to say: attack Saddam, lose oil, don't attack, don't lose oil.

This explains the military buildup in Turkey and not Kuwait. We're going to first secure the oil fields, then go after Saddam.

Here's my suggestion to President Bush ("Robert Rose: aka Jr. Foreign Relations Officer"): Lift all of our trade embargos on Iraq TODAY. Let Iraq toy with this idea of complete and totally free trade. Let them repair their broken oil industry on their own terms. Saddam will figure it out on his own.

This war is about oil. It's not about terrorism; it's not about "freeing" the Iraqi people from an oppressive regime; it's not about human rights; it's not about political stability in the Middle East. Anyone who thinks otherwise is horribly misinformed.

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The Saddam and George show

(Picture Dana Carvey performing the part of Bush)...

Bush: Listen to me. It's very simple. First Saddam must compile 200% with the UN inspectorers, and I mean activated compilation, not passivist compilation. Second, he must disarm fully, in keeping with UN revelation 1441 and the next one coming, 1441B, which will require him to disarm even more fully that. Then he must destroy all Samoud missiles and any other weapons of mass destruction he is found, or not found, to be possessive of, without being asked. Finally, there is one more task he must perform, which I am not at liberty to revulge. And even that will not be enough.

Blair: The translator would like to take your answer home with him and work on it over the weekend.

Bush: Fine, but we require nothing less than total disarmature.

Saddam: OK.

Blair: Sorry, but I'm not sure that "disarmature" is a word. I defer to the UN Keeper of the Dictionary, Mr Richard Stilgoe.

Stilgoe: Yes, you can have disarmature. It means, "the action of disarming" according to the OED.

Bush: Exactly. He must cut his own arms off.

Saddam: If it means peace, I will do it.

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"We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes."

"There's a generous current in the American spirit. And if we can simply give voice to that once in a while, I think it's a good message."

--Mister Rogers

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The Talent Myth

A great essay on the collapse of Enron. I like this blurb about how people perceive their own intellegence:

Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Columbia University, has found that people generally hold one of two fairly firm beliefs about their intelligence: they consider it either a fixed trait or something that is malleable and can be developed over time. Five years ago, Dweck did a study at the University of Hong Kong, where all classes are conducted in English. She and her colleagues approached a large group of social-sciences students, told them their English-proficiency scores, and asked them if they wanted to take a course to improve their language skills. One would expect all those who scored poorly to sign up for the remedial course. The University of Hong Kong is a demanding institution, and it is hard to do well in the social sciences without strong English skills. Curiously, however, only the ones who believed in malleable intelligence expressed interest in the class. The students who believed that their intelligence was a fixed trait were so concerned about appearing to be deficient that they preferred to stay home. "Students who hold a fixed view of their intelligence care so much about looking smart that they act dumb," Dweck writes, "for what could be dumber than giving up a chance to learn something that is essential for your own success?"

In a similar experiment, Dweck gave a class of preadolescent students a test filled with challenging problems. After they were finished, one group was praised for its effort and another group was praised for its intelligence. Those praised for their intelligence were reluctant to tackle difficult tasks, and their performance on subsequent tests soon began to suffer. Then Dweck asked the children to write a letter to students at another school, describing their experience in the study. She discovered something remarkable: forty per cent of those students who were praised for their intelligence lied about how they had scored on the test, adjusting their grade upward. They weren't naturally deceptive people, and they weren't any less intelligent or self-confident than anyone else. They simply did what people do when they are immersed in an environment that celebrates them solely for their innate "talent." They begin to define themselves by that description, and when times get tough and that self-image is threatened they have difficulty with the consequences. They will not take the remedial course. They will not stand up to investors and the public and admit that they were wrong. They'd sooner lie.

That will always keep me on my toes... Never stop learning!

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Ah'm gettin' right scunnered wi' Windaes 98!!

Ah cannae shut doon! Ma moose dis'nae work!

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Korean spam

I've been getting more and more spam lately at my home address, and noticed recently (I usually just delete it because Apple Mail detects it as spam) that a great deal of the spam mail I've been getting is from Korea. Not just from Korea, but it's also in the Korean language, and it's for Korean products. Talk about "off target" marketing. :-)

Although spam normally bothers me, as it does most us, this spam mail from Korea I find pretty interesting. I feel like I'm taking a class in international consumerism or something. :-) Today I got a spam from an online women's clothing dealer, daloonim.com. Ah, thanks to the Internet, I can keep up on women's fashion in Korea. (sigh..)

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The reply comments of Raffi Krikorian

My name is Raffi Krikorian, and I am currently enrolled as a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) pursuing a Masters Degree at The Media Lab in the Physics & Media Group studying and specializing in large, distributed, networked, and emergent systems. Before entering the program, I was an undergraduate researcher at the MIT Media Lab where I helped design and build Hive1, I worked as a programmer at Popular Power2 creating a distributed computational engine for the Internet, as a free-lance technical writer for the O'Reilly Network3 where I wrote articles on Java4 security and C#5 programming, and as programmer specializing in peer-to-peer (P2P) and networking technology. Many would call me an authority on these subjects.

The initial comments of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), et al., in this docket, assert that the Digital Television (DTV) transition will create a series of risks to their intellectual property interests, and propose the "broadcast flag" in order to address those risks. They provide a laundry-list of new risks from clear-text free-over-the-air Advanced Television Standards Committee (ATSC) broadcasts, including the prospect of redistribution of captured ATSC programming by:

1. electronic mail
2. "shared folders"
3. a web site, and by
4. P2P networked file-sharing software

As a skilled and experienced technologist, I greeted these claims with immense skepticism as they seemed at direct odds with my longtime experience with designing, deploying, and using P2P and networked applications. In response to my skepticism, I undertook a series of experiments in recording and attempting to redistribute ATSC terrestrial broadcast programming. The results of my research are presented below.

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Photos from weekend camping trip online

Maria and I went to Jack Lake (near Three Fingered Jack) last weekend and had a blast. We got snowed on 4" saturday night. Fun stuff.

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Robot head mimics facial expressions

This is neat. It would be interesting to see this combined with the work of Ken Perlin (Perlin noise functions and facial nuances).

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China's economy: Is the wakening giant a monster?

A great summary of China's economy from The Economist last week. One point that the article misses that I would like to harp on is that, although China makes 60% of the world's bicycles and 86% of the bicycles sold in America, their bicycles, like most of the exports from China that we see in America, are crap. There is not a single product I've bought recently that was labeled Made in China that hasn't fallen apart or is ready to fall apart sometime soon. Lately I've been making a point to check when I'm buying items of importance to me that they aren't made in China, and I've been encouraging my friends to do the same.

  • The North Face sleeping bags are made in China and the stiching and quality of the goose down is extremely poor. I've only backpacked with my "Superlight" 4 times now, and it's already showing signs of wear. I don't think it will last me much longer. The North Face tents are made in China but assembled in Korea, and they appear to be much higher quality.
  • Pacific Trail/London Fog jackets are made in China. I bought a top-of-the-line waterproof/breathable snow jacket a few years ago and it only lasted one season, it literally fell apart at the seams. I'm a small guy; I'm not that rough on clothes.
  • Most of the Martha Stewart merchandise at K-Mart is made in China and use-and-throw-away after 6 months.

    So why does China have this problem? I think it's a combination of working conditions and wages. China has some of the worst working conditions in the world and an average labor wage of 60 cents per hour. Made in China molded plastics that we cherish in our products here at home are made in hot unventilated workshops where overworked and underpaid men and women inhale plastic fumes all day. I would take a job making Nike shoes in a Malaysian sweatshop over that job any day.

    And why does the world accept this problem? I think it's because of our non-stop conumption culture. People in America like having "new" things. "New" is supposed to be better. If it breaks, go buy a "new" one. Industries pump out products that aren't designed to last for a long time so that you'll buy a new one when the old one breaks. Landfills aside, this model is working very well, but the quality of the products is suffering. Sigh...
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    Senator Byrd: Reckless Administration May Reap Disastrous Consequences

    This Administration, now in power for a little over two years, must be judged on its record. I believe that that record is dismal. In that scant two years, this Administration has squandered a large projected surplus of some $5.6 trillion over the next decade and taken us to projected deficits as far as the eye can see. This Administration's domestic policy has put many of our states in dire financial condition, under funding scores of essential programs for our people. This Administration has fostered policies which have slowed economic growth**. This Administration has ignored urgent matters such as the crisis in health care for our elderly. This Administration has been slow to provide adequate funding for homeland security. This Administration has been reluctant to better protect our long and porous borders.

    (** Remember the 30% import tax on steel back in 2001? That helped no one in this country except people who had controlling interest in US steel companies, and hurt the rest of us because increased steel prices trickled down to other sectors... Eat your "trickle down economics" out Reagan.)

    Calling heads of state pygmies, labeling whole countries as evil, denigrating powerful European allies as irrelevant -- these types of crude insensitivities can do our great nation no good. We may have massive military might, but we cannot fight a global war on terrorism alone. We need the cooperation and friendship of our time-honored allies as well as the newer found friends whom we can attract with our wealth.

    After visiting Washington Square in Philly there was no longer any doubt in my mind that I was 100% proud to be American. Our forefathers fought against [then-British] imperialism and blind use of power and to create a society where we would be free to openly question our government. Now it appears that we are becoming the very thing that we opposed. Let us never forget that it was our forefathers that taught us that it is un-American to not question the acts of our government. Horray Byrd!

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    Here's an idea: Osama bin Laden isn't real.

    I thought I'd speculate for a moment. What if Osama bin Laden is not a real person, he's just a fabricated persona created by Al Queda or some other terrorist network? If Hollywood has taught us anything, this would be completely feasible: whenever they feel like making the latest "Osama" video tape, this guy dresses up in his old BDUs, puts on the fake beard, and make-up changes his facial structure slightly and they alter his voice after it's recorded. If this was true, it would explain the US never knowing his whereabouts and ease in finger-pointing all of the world's terrorism problems on him. The public likes to have a scapegoat, and what better one for a propoganda machine to have than one that never goes away and does all of the world's evil-doing. 1984 meets Wag the Dog. :-)

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    Happy Valentines Day!

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    MSN.com rendered in bork-speak

    If you haven't heard, Opera software announced that in retaliation for MSN sending them a bogus HTML style-sheet they were going to release an "Opera: Bork-Speak Edition" of their web browser that rendered the MSN.com website entirely in the language of the Muppet's Swedish Chef. I downloaded the web browser and saved off a screenshot at the link above. Enjoy. :-)

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    Today's current terror level:

    Hehe.. this raises a good point however: What good are the "terror levels" anyways? What can you and I do about it other than live in more fear than before, suspect anyone that's not anglo-saxon-protestant, buy more bottled water, and stock up on gas? (consume! consume!) I know some people at work that are network administrators, and after the raise in the "terror level" they were instructed by our CEO to "be on alert." "Be on alert for what?" they asked, "what are we expected to do now that we don't all ready do?

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    IEEE advises Congress to rethink the DMCA

    This was just slashdotted, but I think it's worth repeating. As a computer engineer, this makes me feel really good. The DMCA has hit academics pretty hard, especially when it comes to encryption. But fortunately the IEEE is thinking a little bigger:

    IEEE members have reported that some content providers have sent baseless or inadequate DMCA notices to service providers, and that some service providers have gone beyond the removal of material that allegedly infringes, including blocking access to all the user's material, suspending the user's account, and sometimes even suspending all access to the Internet by the user. IEEE-USA believes that this goes far beyond the balance between user and content provider rights struck by Congress in the DMCA notice-and-takedown provisions.

    Recently, researchers whose work falls within the exemption provided by Congress have been threatened with possible litigation under the DMCA, causing great concern for those researchers who want to publish their results in academic conferences and journals and similar forums, including those sponsored by the IEEE. IEEE-USA strongly condemns those who threaten legitimate research and its publication when Congress has stated its intention to protect such research and publication from litigation.

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    New York Sun proposes anti-war protestors be tried for treason

    I was pretty shocked to read this... The article written by the editors of The Sun basically says: It's treason to help an enemy -> Saddam is an enemy -> Protestors are helping Saddam. Uhhhh, yeah, I'm sure all those protestors are selling arms to Iraq. (whoops, did I just say that out loud?)

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    Pooh on your Disney

    Get this: Disney takes Pooh, uses Pooh to make money. Original owner of Pooh sues Disney for royalities of said Pooh. Disney attempts to destroy documents that reveal the Pooh trail. Original owner of Pooh hires ex-convict to recover the Pooh trail documents from Disney's garbage. Disney asks judge to dismiss case because the Pooh trail was uncovered by "unthinkable conduct." Everyone now has pooh on their hands.

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    All your waveform are belong to us

    Cool website with loads of music-oriented DSP source code snippets.

    I've been getting a little into music DSP lately... I would love to make the full jump to Cubase SX but there aren't any solid OS X compatible VST samplers out yet, so I've been looking into what it would take to write one. Wow. DSP is a huge field, I wish I had paid more attention in my college DSP courses... So far I've only been able to write a simple saw-tooth wave VST instrument, and it's got terrible aliasing problems towards the upper-frequencies. I'm gonna look into this BLIT thing to see about removing the aliasing. Neat stuff.



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