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Old Blog Posts April 19, 2006

Subject If selling babies for profit is wrong, then I don’t want to be right!
Posted Date: April 19, 2006 – Wednesday – 2:20 AM
For those interested in the copyright wars, there is an awesome article on slyck regarding the CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association,).

It’s a short article on a long story. The great thing about it is, the links are all very pertinent and informative, filling in all the details. The CRIA is supposed to represent Canada’s music industry, but the indie labels have been jumping ship.

They cite lack of support for upcoming artists. And they’re right; the CRIA has become a mouthpiece of the multinationals; and indie artists just aren’t that important to them (Kinda reminds me of another crappy association that could care less about artists.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was the CRIA reversing its position on the candian private copying levy. The levy is on all recording media (Cassettes, CD-R, mp3 players, etc), and is distributed to artists based on their radio play and other statistics. The CRIA was a big advocate for this originally, but now they have changing their mind (because it legitimizes private copying of media, apparently!).

Whether this copying levy was fair or reasonable is definitely up for debate, but musicians sure like it; because they get paid. So as you can imagine this caused some tension between the artists and the association.

The RIAA and CRIA can pay all the lip service to artists they want; but their actions speak louder than their words. The fact is, the internet is an ideal distribution medium for upcoming artists. Labels don’t like the fact that this medium is completely decentralized and almost impossible to regulate, but I think musicians can handle that. Musicians and other content producers (not distributors) can win this war, if they play their cards right.

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Subject Who Will Watch the Watchers?
Posted Date: April 18, 2006 – Tuesday – 12:10 PM

NYPD is deploying a set of cameras (Yahoo News) around the city to combat crime and terrorism. Eventually they hope to have 500 in NYC; eventually even more. Notice I said combat, not prevent. This is because cameras have been more useful in forensics than in prevention. For example, the cameras in London did not stop the terrorist bombings that occurred there recently, but they were quite helpful in identifying the suspects after the fact.

Surveillance is becoming ubiquitous. There are cameras in stores, on sidewalks, at intersections, and many other public areas. If you live in a larger city like Seattle; you have to figure that a camera is watching you most of the time you are out. In Las Vegas, casinos are hooking up their cameras to software that enables facial recognition; making it quite hard on cheaters and pickpockets.

Cameras are also becoming quite popular among the average person as well; digital cameras are small and light, and dont require any processing. Digital video cameras are becoming more popular as well; they are now small and light enough to fit in your coat pocket. People are taking more and more pictures, and are publishing them on the Internet; to enhance blogs, contribute to flickr pools, and share photo galleries with friends and family (photoblogging).

All this new technology can be a wonderful thing, if handled correctly; but it can also be a a nightmare, along the lines of 1984 or Fahrenheit 451.

David Brin wrote this incredible book called The Transparent Society. Brin is always the pragmatist, and realizes that the Pandoras Box of technology cannot be closed. He asks some very good questions, and makes some great points, about what we should do to protect our right of privacy in the Information Age.

Brin defines privacy as The right to be let alone., which I find quite appealing. Privacy isnt the right to anonymity, or the right to act without paying the consequences. Privacy is the right to not have your neighbors meddling in your life. Its the right to take a dump without being watched. Its the right to speak truthfully without reprisal. Anybody interested in this topic should read this book. It also happens to be delightfully well written; David is a Sci-Fi author, but hes quite literary (which is an exception in that genre, as much as I love it).

Surveillance is here to stay, but we need to make sure it is limited to where it is most useful and least intrusive. For example, having a surveillance camera in every room in your home could help combat breaking and entering, but is it worth the privacy that you would have to give up? Exchanging our freedom for safety is sometimes appropriate, but we need to be very careful about what exactly we are giving up.

It is also just as important that proper safeguards for privacy are put in place. If people are watching us, then who is going to watch them? (Village Voice) Our countrys government was built on checks and balances; so that each branch has authority over every other branch; with the Constitution having the highest authority of all. Something like this would work very well here. No hierarchal power structures, where the police watch us, and the polices bosses watch them, and their bosses watch them. In this model eventually somebody isnt being watched; and they happen to also be the person with the most power. Not a good situation; one only needs to look at the waste and corruption related to our military black ops to see this (well, what we can find about our black ops, but isnt that exactly the point?).

The best way to fix this is to close the loop. If the police watch us, then we watch the police. Transparency is the key. If they demand greater openness from us, we demand it back from them. Say, there is 1 policeman for every 1,000 people. That would mean that potentially 1,000 people would watch every policeman. Same for our government; if Congress or the Executive branch want to tap all our phones, then lets tap theirs! If they want greater abilities to gather information on us, then we should get the same from them. This would certainly keep some people out of police and government work completely, but those are probably exactly the kind of cops and politicians that we dont want. With greater authority comes greater responsibility, and whats good for the goose is good for the gander.

Here are some other related links from the blogosphere:

Police are voyeurs too.

Photographing buildings is not a crime(thomashawk.com)

Photography in general is not a crime(jpgmag.com)

Copyrighting Style(arstechnica.com): American website sued under French law for publishing pictures of models (I guess if they hadn’t had dresses on everything would have been fine. :)

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Subject The Sky is Falling!
Posted Date: April 17, 2006 – Monday – 10:42 AM
Now where could these mysterious chunks of ice be coming from? If they’re falling off airplanes; why haven’t they been noticed before?

Another article…
And a third…

That would be pretty freaky if this had something to do with global warming; but there is probably a more mundane explanation than that. I’m just paranoid because this weekend I watched a rather bad sci-fi b-movie called Category 7: The End of the World. What a great title, huh? THE END OF THE WORLD!!!! Funny stuff.

In the movie, chunks of the Mesosphere starts dropping through the Stratosphere and and Troposphere, causing extreme weather. And in other “sky falling” news, Chicken Little is hilarious; and you should see it if you haven’t already.

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Subject The popo are here!
Posted Date: April 17, 2006 – Monday – 3:15 AM
50!

The cops are on myspace; looking for ne’erdowells.

Just thought I’d warn my gangsters out there. :)

I like that word, ne’erdowell….

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Subject Good Website Design
Posted Date: April 15, 2006 – Saturday – 2:48 PM
My cousin Matt has been redesigning his MySpace page using html and css. It looks really cool! I was talking to him, and remembered this excellent article on web design. It has links to some well designed websites; plus tips on how to build them.

Here’s some highlights:

Simple layout
KISS is the keyword here. If the person browsing can be confused, then they will be confused. Don’t clutter up the site; otherwise people won’t know where to click. One or two columns is ideal; with everything laid out left to right, top to bottom.

Soft, neutral background colours
The background should not get in the way of the content.This is the biggest problem I see with custom MySpace pages. Pictures are something that web pages show you; just like words and links. None of these things should BE the background; they should be ON it. the background should only contain one or two colors. The only colors used should be white, off-white, or pastels.

Plenty of whitespace
Keep it simple, use soft backgrounds, and the page should end up with plenty of room on it. This is good; whitespace is your friend. Keep things apart on the page, instead of cramming them all together.

Nice big text
If you think the text may be too small, you should definitely make it bigger. If you think it’s just right, you should probably make it bigger. The design should be about saying more with less; not fitting more words on the page.

3D effects, used sparingly
3D can really help specific things stand out against the background. Making buttons looked slightly raised from the page, for example, makes you want to push them. Sparingly, though; to much 3D looks terrible.

Strong colour, used sparingly
Use strong colors the way you would 3D affects; to draw attention to something specific. sparingly is key; if you try to make someone pay attention to to many things they won’t pay attention to anything.

Cute icons, used sparingly
Use the same way you do 3D and strong colors.

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Subject Right to Read
Posted Date: April 24, 2006 – Monday – 11:15 AM
For those that don’t think Intellectual Property issues will affect the common man, read this excellent article by Richard Stallman on “The Right to Read”.

Stallman (or “RMS”) is the founder of the Free Software Foundation, and is heavily involved with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He has been described as a “pro-user zealot” by industry shills; a title he accepts wholeheartedy (pro-user…jeez; that’s like accusing someone of being “pro-freedom”, “pro-constituent”, or “pro-equality”; only jerks or big business would think that’s a bad thing).

The Copyright Wars are heating up. Now the Bush Administration wants to put you in prison for up to 10 years for loading your CDs onto your iPOD; backing up your DVDs, timeshifting your TV, or using your media in other “fair-use” ways the MAFIAA doesn’t approve of.

Yes…I confirmed that the Bush Aministration is the creator of this terrible bill, although of course they have an industry shill congressman to actually bring it before the House.

I am NOT making this up; you’d be better off beating your wife (up to 24 months) than breaking DRM (up to 120 months); at least as far as the punishment is concerned. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog, when I have more time.

Thank God for people like Richard Stallman!

cl

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Subject Google’s China Problem (and China’s Google Problem)
Posted Date: April 22, 2006 – Saturday – 10:38 AM
I just read an extremely well thought out and informative article (New York Times) on Google, China, and censorship. I’ve been following this story for a while, and this is by far the best article I’ve seen on it.

Google recently started up google.cn, which will now run in paralled with the google.com Chinese version. But since this new sites servers are hosted in China they have to obey Chinese censorship laws. Their main reason for hosting a search in China is because google.com was often blocked and always slow. The also chose not to host blogs, emails, or any other services that record personal information.

Some people are upset at them; but I say Google is probably doing the right thing. Censorship is generally wrong; but in general people need to respect the laws of the countries they are in. The situation is not ideal, and Google recognizes this. They’ve come to a compromise that they can live with (barely), hoping that the internet will change things.

Yes, this is a tough call. I am NOT advocating censorship! It is especially evil to me, because it doesn’t allow for change or criticism. Any other law and one could say, “OK, obey the law, but object to it loudly and try to get it changed”. But with political censorship laws this is just not possible.

But I’m just being pragmatic here. For example, we censor aplenty in the US; we just call it other things and find other justifications. Common Decency, Pornography, Sexual Harassment, Hate Crime, Libel, DMCA, Insider Traiding, Gag orders, Secrets…the list goes on. But most Americans don’t consider our country oppresive, and they’d be right (mostly).

The point is, there are lots of things that you can’t talk about in the US or any other country. Try to form a revolution in the US and you’ll see just how free your speech is. Advocating to overthrow the government is not appreciated in any country.

Sure, we may not have a list of bad words (neither does China, incidentally), and we may have good reasons for having laws that limit free speech. But China claims the same thing; and it would be wrong to flippantly dismiss this statement.

Don’t get me wrong, China is a oppressive regime, no doubt about it. But free speech is not a black and white, idealistic issue; Americans also know that free speech without any limits is a bad idea. We’re just attempting to preserve as much free speech as is possible, especially political, as we realize how important that is.

Better and more relationships between Western people and Chinese people will do more good for them than anything else. Notice I said “people”, not “governments”. The internet is all about the citizens. I may not give kudos to Google, but I certainly don’t judge them “evil” for their decisions in this case.

Below are some excerpts from the article, but I urge you to read it in full.

“Brin and his team decided that if they were going to be forced to censor the results for a search for ‘Tiananmen Square,’ then they would put a disclaimer at the top of the search results on google.cn explaining that information had been removed in accordance with Chinese law. When Chinese users search for forbidden terms, Brin said, “they can notice what’s missing, or at least notice the local control.” It is precisely the solution you’d expect from a computer scientist: the absence of information is a type of information. (Google displays similar disclaimers in France and Germany, where they strip out links to pro-Nazi Web sites.)

….

At the Congressional hearings where the three companies testified along with Cisco, makers of hardware used in the Great Firewall legislators assailed all the firms, but ripped into Google with particular fire. They asked how a company with the slogan ‘Don’t Be Evil’ could conspire with China’s censors. ‘That makes you a functionary of the Chinese government,’ said Jim Leach, an Iowa Republican. ‘So if this Congress wanted to learn how to censor, we’d go to you.’

….

“I expected Zhao to be much angrier with the American Internet companies than he was. He was surprisingly philosophical. He ranked the companies in order of ethics, ticking them off with his fingers. Google, he said, was at the top of the pile. It was genuinely improving the quality of Chinese information and trying to do its best within a bad system. Microsoft came next; Zhao was obviously unhappy with its decision, but he said that it had produced such an easy-to-use blogging tool that, on balance, Microsoft was helping Chinese people to speak publicly. Yahoo came last, and Zhao had nothing but venom for the company.Link that explains why

“In the eyes of critics, Google is lying to itself about the desires of Chinese Internet users and collaborating with the Communist Party merely to secure a profitable market. To take Lee at his word is to take a leap of faith: that the Internet, simply through its own inherent properties, will slowly chip away at the government’s ability to control speech, seeding a cultural change that strongly favors democracy. In this view, there will be no ‘great man’ revolution in China, no Lech Walesa rallying his oppressed countrymen. Instead, the freedom fighters will be a half-billion mostly apolitical young Chinese, blogging and chatting about their dates, their favorite bands, video games an entire generation that is growing up with public speech as a regular habit.
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Subject Poker Tales 0 – Example of “Slow Playing”
Posted Date: April 21, 2006 – Friday – 4:47 PM

I took a couple of months off from playing poker in card rooms; sticking with a couple home games a week for my poker pleasure. I had things I needed to do, including find a new place, hopefully find a new job, blah blah, blah blah. Well, I’m pretty settled in down Eastlake now, and the job hunt is going well, with some excellent leads. So I figured I’d treat myself to some cards.

And, since I’m doing the MySpace blog thing, I figured I’d write about a particular hand that happened tonight that was a good example of how to “slow play”. I apologize in advance if I use too much jargon.

I was playing the $8-$16 limit hold-em game at Diamond Lil’s in Renton. This is limit, so before and after the flop you can only bet $8, and after the turn and river you can only bet $16.I was on the button with A-4 suited diamonds. Ace bad is not an easy hand to play; most of the time you should just muck it and wait for a better one. But suited ace with a kicker five or lower is a little better than the other Ace-offs. You have nut flush possibilities, plus one straight possibility (the “wheel”). If you hit your Ace you must play it conservatively, though.

So, with the added benefit of being the last to act (playing position“), no raise before me, and three people already in the pot, I chose to call. Small blind also called, making it a 5 way pot ($8×5=$40).

The flop comes a 4-4-Q rainbow; giving me a great hand with trip 4s. It was checked to 5th position, who made an $8 bet. 7th position folded, and I sneakily just called. With no draw on the board, trips with top kicker can afford to slow play here. Out of the blue, 1st position check-raised, putting $16 total into the pot. 2nd position folded, 5th called, and I just called as well. This was an ideal situation; I have a very good hand, it’s completely disguised, and there’s already $88 dollars in the pot with somebody betting into me!

The turn card? An Ace. A for Awesome! I now have an almost unbeatable hand with a Full House (only pocket Aces and pocket Queens are beating me here). The time to slow play is past, though. The turn is where to make your move.

1st position bet $16, and 5th called. NOW I raise, making it $32 dollars all day. I’m definitely giving away my hand here, but I don’t loose anybody.*

The river comes down a 5, making it possible that someone caught their straight. Well, a straight doesn’t beat a full house, so I bet when it gets checked to me. Both players call, I show the boat, and take down a $208 pot. They never showed me their hands, but most likely were drawing slim to none against me after the flop.**

Lessons here:
First and foremost, bet when you have the best hand. Second lesson, be deceitful, but only if it will make you more money. Misdirection is good as long as it’s profitable. So here, by missing one $8 bet I was able to induce a $16 dollar bet, plus a $16 call; making it smart to check and disguise my hand early instead of betting right out. This is kind of a subtle concept, but important. Many new players think it’s more important to play sneaky than to play correctly. This is not true; learn to play correctly and THEN learn when and how to disguise your hand.

Of course, playing “correctly” is more than just betting when you’re ahead, although that’s a big part of it. Next lesson will be on folding when you’re behind (after I learn how to do that :)

 

cl

 

 

 

 

*The reason I get called after raising on the turn is because the players are getting 10 to 1 pot odds; $160 in the pot vs the $16 to call. Even if you know you’re beat you can still call if you have a 10% chance of outdrawing me. These guys were most likely drawing dead here, or below 10%, but they didn’t know that.

**After the flop, pocket pair (5 or over) had about a 13% chance of winning; and a Queen (so, with the one on the flop that would be a pair of Queens) had about a 10% of winning by the river. After the Ace on the turn they would have had less than 5%.

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Subject Chernobyl National Park??
Posted Date: April 20, 2006 – Thursday – 3:11 PM
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.(BBC)

…quotes the British scientist and environmentalist James Lovelock, who wrote approvingly in the Daily Telegraph in 2001 of the “unscheduled appearance” of wildlife at Chernobyl.

He went on: ‘I have wondered if the small volumes of nuclear waste from power production should be stored in tropical forests and other habitats in need of a reliable guardian against their destruction by greedy developers’.

A large part of the Chernobyl zone within Belarus has already officially been turned into a nature reserve.”

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Subject I’m the decider and I decide what’s best
Posted Date: April 19, 2006 – Wednesday – 10:00 AM
Why do the get the feeling I’m listening to a three year old?.

Ignoring professional advice will get you into trouble. This is what my mom called being “unteachable”, usually in reference to me not listening to a dam’ thing she said. Sorry mom.

link to article on what Rumsfeld knew about Guantnamo Bay. For those who haven’t read it, Salon.com is awesome, and well worth watching their silly little advertisements.

cl

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