Rants

What really grinds my gears or signs that the world is coming to an end

As If We Needed Any More Reason to Hate Them

I’m to busy to be angry about this right now or to do any more research, but I’m going to post it here anyway. From Slashdot:

Random_Transit writes “Ars Technica is reporting that the EFF has dug up plans by the RIAA/MPAA to stifle the consumer electronics market by replacing it’s “fair use” policy with something called “Customary Historic Use“. This new policy would effectively keep anyone from inventing any new type of media device without the RIAA/MPAA’s say-so.”

I think the Bible has it wrong, I think the Mark of the Beast is RIAA/MPAA.

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Meal Plan Rehashed

I stopped by the cafe today to grab the individual meal prices so I could finish my calculations. This is amazing. Unless you’re getting the 19 meal/week plan, do not get a meal plan. Any meal plan. Here’s what I figured:

Breakfast: $4.20
Lunch: $5.50
Dinner: $6.25

Average Meal Price: $5.32

Eating three meals a day, five days a week costs $79.75. Assuming there are 16 weeks in a semester, that comes to $1276. All dorm-based meal plans cost $1566. The Quartz Plan (15 meals/week + $100 Munch Money) has an average meal cost of $6.11. The Granite Plan (150 meals/semester + $175 Munch Money) has an average meal cost of $9.27. The Topaz Plan (125 meals/semester + $250 Munch Money) has an average meal cost of, brace yourselves, $10.53! But here’s my favorite: The Agate Plan is designed commuters and staff. You get 25 meals per semester and nothing else, yet it costs $155 for an average meal cost of $6.20! Unless you get dinner every single time (this saving an amazing 5 cents per a meal), you end up losing tons of money. WTF?

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Study: How Internet copyright law is abused

More Inboxen™ cleaning time before Christmas Break:

From BoingBoing:

In 1996, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO, the UN body that makes copyright, patent and trademark treaties) got suckered into making the “WIPO Copyright Treaty,” which was the basis for the US’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Europe’s EUCD.

The laws under this treaty let people who claim that their copyrights have been infringed upon have the offending material quickly removed from the Internet, without forcing them to show any evidence that infringement has occurred. This is how the Church of Scientology and others censor their critics — just trump up a bogus copyright claim and knock the site offline.

The Chilling Effects Project tracks these abuses, and now Jennifer Urban and Laura Quilter have published a roundup of the conclusions to be drawn from the project’s hundreds of collected notices.

Just as you’d expect: when you take away legal oversight of a process for suppressing speech, it is widely and ferociously abused.

Nice one, WIPO. Nice one, US Congress. Nice one, EU. You’ve managed to convert the Internet from a venue for unfettered free speech into a lawless zone where anyone who can write a takedown notice can make speech disappear.

* Thirty percent of notices demanded takedown for claims that presented an obvious question for a court (a clear fair use argument, complaints about uncopyrightable material, and the like);
* Notices to traditional ISP’s included a substantial number of demands to remove files from peer-to-peer networks (which are not actually covered under the takedown statute, and which an OSP can only honor by terminating the target’s Internet access entirely); and

* One out of 11 included significant statutory flaws that render the notice unusable (for example, failing to adequately identify infringing material).

In addition, we found some interesting patterns that do not, by themselves, indicate concern, but which are of concern when combined with the fact that one third of the notices depended on questionable claims:

* Over half–57%–of notices sent to Google to demand removal of links in the index were sent by businesses targeting apparent competitors;

* Over a third–37%–of the notices sent to Google targeted sites apparently outside the United States

WIPO is now considering an even more sweeping version of the treaty that gave us this regime: the new proposals floating around on ISP liability could force ISPs to not only delete material, but to shut off the Internet access of those who are baselessly accused of infringement. Link (Thanks, Jen and Joe!)

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Quote of the Week

“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city.”
– Conservative Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson to citizens of a Dover, Pennsylvania that “had rejected God by voting their school board out of office for supporting ‘intelligent design'”

Note: See CNN article ‘Robertson warns Pennsylvania voters of God’s wrath‘ for more.

Pat is a wack job. I don’t think I’ve ever pointed out that I am a Christian. But I am. I don’t believe nor support what Pat said and it makes me furious when people, such as Pat, think they can tell people what God is thinking or what he will do. Pat can’t any neither can anyone else.

Matthew 7:1-6 says,

1“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

6“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

Luke 6:37 says,

37“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Yes, I realize that I may sound hypocritical: scorning Pat for judging, then turning around and judging him. But at least I admit it.

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Holy. Freaking. Crap.

I’m actually not quite sure where to start with this one. Half of me just wants to let out a rather long string of explicatives. The other half wants to reach out and strangle Dan Glickman, president of the MPAA. This isn’t the first time, nor will be the last time, I’ve lashed out at Dano and Company (see An Open Letter to Dan Glickman). This is compiled from BoingBoing via the Electronic Frontier Foundation (whom I am now seriously considering donating to). Here goes:

Hollywood’s gearing up to introduce what is effectively “the Broadcast Flag on steroids.” Dubbed the Anal. Hole, Content Protection in the Digital Age: The Broadcast Flag, High-Definition Radio, and the Analog Hole is a piece of legislation that the MPAA is reintroducing (yes, reintroducing) to the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property.

In a nut shell, the Anal. Hole Bill would “illegal to make anything capable of digitizing video unless it either has all its outputs approved by the Hollywood studios, or is closed-source, proprietary and tamper-resistant.” This honestly makes me sick to my stomach. And I’m not just saying that. Every time I read that line, I physically start to get queasy and feel like vomiting.

To give you an idea of just how damning the Anal. Hole Bill could be, if this Bill “had been around in 1976, the VCR would have been illegal.” Ho-ly Fuck. I would apologize for my language, but I’ve literally been watching the MPAA (and RIAA for that matter) whittle away our rights for years now. This is UNACCEPTABLE! The MPAA is becoming the Catholic church of the 15th Century.

BoingBoing also points out:

Any lawmaker who supports this is an idiot. Americans will forgive a lot of sins from their elected representatives, but there’s one thing they won’t stand for and that’s breaking their TVs.

Here here!

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Chemisty Class

This is absolute crap and I can’t believe I’m still taking it. Our chem Prof., Brad Herrick, is a brand new teacher to Mines. I think he just received his doctorate from UT @ Austin. And no he’s moved up here to terrorize us. A lot of what he does is online. For example, we can check our grades online, we submit our homework online (yes, we have required homework), and we download forms that need to be turned in from online. So what’s the problem. He doesn’t update the website. From the front page on his site “Scantron Data up tonight.” That from Friday and two days later it’s still not up! And it’s not like this has happened just once. This happens literally every single time.

In class, he says that it will be up.

On his website, he says it will be up.

Is it up? Not a chance. I think Katie is more frustrated than I am and I’m pretty frustrated. But if that’s not enough, there’s the exams. We have exams every other week, which is actually kind of nice. However, it doesn’t leave much time to study. And when you’re relying on material from the website to be up, and it’s not up until the day before the exam, it makes it kind of hard. And then there are the rules surrounding the test. For the first two tests, we were required to have a “cheat” sheet. For the third test, he provided us with a cheat sheet and for our fourth test, which we just had on Friday, it was open book/open note. 什么操!

Oh, and we don’t even have our grades from our third test!

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What The Bleep Don’t You Know?

I started watching What the Bleep Do We Know!? and only got about half-way through it before I decided that this was utter crap and not worth watching anymore. My initial reaction was this, “Cool graphics and….nothing.” That was it. They had some cool graphics. My overall gripe with the movie is that they try to make Quantum Physics seem like an exact science when it really isn’t. Wikipedia has some great notes about the controversial nature of the movie:

The filmmakers assembled a panel favorable to their views to make their point (see below). Through creative editing, voice-overs, and special effects, points are raised, discussed, and illustrated in ways designed to inform as well as entertain. Critics have voiced concerns that the film is disingenuous and that it selectively presents information, while not presenting contradictory information.

The film presents scientific experts to support the film’s underlying philosophy, but, by and large, the scientists have previously been involved in promoting similar ideas. Arguably, their presence in the film represents the filmmaker’s efforts to find scientists sympathetic to the film’s ideas. Given the selection process, the scientists do not represent the general scientific community’s views.

Throughout the movie, they failed to show the credentials of any of the persons speaking. This was very troublesome to me and before I stopped watching, I skipped to the end to see if they would identify who was speaking. Fortunately they did. I laughed when they showed the credentials for Ramtha, Master Teacher – Ramtha School of Enlightenment, Channeled by JZ Knight. When I first saw Ramtha in the movie, something didn’t feel right (If you’ve read Blink: Talk about thin-slicing).

JZ Knight/Ramtha appears frequently in the film. In the film, she appears to be a scientist or spiritual teacher of some kind. By the end of the film, during the credits, she is identified as the spirit “Ramtha” who is being “channeled” by “JZ Knight.” The three people who wrote, directed, and produced the movie are students of Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment. Knight was born Judith Darlene Hampton in Roswell, N.M. The spirit, Ramtha, who she claims to channel, is “a 35,000 year-old warrior spirit from the lost continent of Atlantis and one of the Ascended Masters.” (Knight speaks with an accent because English is not Ramtha’s first language.)

Many of the persons in the movie don’t even have the proper credentials to speaking on Quantum Mechanics in the way that they do. They are like me, arm chair enthusiasts that would jump at the chance to express their views without any formal education. There were really only three or so people who had the proper background (at least in my mind) to give an accurate testament of Quantum Mechanics. And then I read about Dr. Albert:

Dr. David Albert, a philosopher of physics and professor at Columbia University, speaks frequently throughout the movie. While it may appear as though he supports the ideas that are presented in the movie, according to a Popular Science article, he is “outraged at the final product.” [4] The article states that Dr. Albert granted the filmmakers a near-four hour interview, which was then edited and incorporated into the film in such a way that misrepresented his views that quantum mechanics is not related to consciousness or spirituality. In the article, Dr. Albert also expresses his feelings of gullibility after having been “taken” by the filmmakers.

Wow. “But what about the studies?” you say. Wikipedia’s got that covered too:

Transcendental Meditation study

As described in the film, the study involved using 5,000 people in June and July of 1993 to do Transcendental Meditation (TM) to reduce violent crime in Washington, DC (which has one of the highest per-capita homicide rates in the US). By counting the number of Homicides, Rapes, and Assaults (HRA), the study came to the conclusion TM reduced crime rates by 18%. Based on the numbers reported in their own study, the HRA crime rate was about 30% higher in 1993 than the average crime rate between 1988-1992. The HRA crime rate showed a decline around the middle of the two month period where TM was practiced and remained relatively low (by 1993 standards) for several months afterward, though the decline was small enough that the reduced HRA crime rate was still about 10-15% higher than average at that time of year. There was no reduction in the homicide rate during the period of the study. Whether this means that TM caused a drop in that year’s unusually high HRA rate, or whether the HRA rate naturally dropped closer to its more typical frequency is the issue.

Water Crystals

Masaru Emoto’s work (The Hidden Messages in Water) plays a prominent role in a scene set in a subway tunnel, where the main character happens upon a presentation of displays showing images of water crystals. In the movie, “before” and “after” photographs of water are presented as evidence that specific words written on pieces of paper and affixed to different containers of water have the power to transform the water into beautiful crystalline shapes. Examples include “You make me sick”, “Love and Gratitude”, and “Merci”. The procedure followed by Emoto can be found at this site. In the movie, it is claimed that “non-physical events” of “mental stimuli” are the cause of this transformation, but skeptics have pointed out that the “after” photographs are microscopic images of the water after being frozen (aka snowflakes) – a step not disclosed in the movie.

Additional problems arise when it becomes clear that Emoto’s work is more artistic than scientific. For example, Emoto never submitted his work for peer review, and he did not utilise double blind methodology. If this had been the case, the individual providing the specimen (i.e., the person who selected the water sample, poured it into the container, labeled the container with a message, and froze it) would need to be a different person than the individual who later received the ice for analysis and photography. This second individual would also need to be unaware of what each specimen had been labelled. If the same person performed all of these tasks, this individual could easily select sections of the frozen water that matched what they wanted to see, perhaps unconsciously (a phenomenon otherwise known as confirmation bias). In other words, if the individual wanted to demonstrate that happy words produced aesthetically pleasing shapes, they only needed to find a section of the ice which was aesthetically pleasing. Conversely, if they wanted to demonstrate that angry words created aesthetically displeasing crystals, they again just needed to search until they found a section that did not look as good. Emoto also claims that polluted water does not crystallize. Depending on the properties of the pollutant, heavily polluted water will still form crystals, though the crystals may contain more crystallographic defects than pure water would. These changes in the way the crystals form can be readily explained using basic chemistry and physics.

Emoto essentially appears to have arbitrarily decided what constitutes a “brilliant crystal” and an “incomplete crystal”, but in a movie claiming a scientific base grounded in quantum mechanics, a quantification of what defines such crystals is required.

So yea. Crap. Complete and utter crap. If you really want to learn about Quantum Mechanics I would check out Elegant Universe. It started as a book and then PBS made a mini-series based on it. Granted, it’s not perfect. But I think it does a hell of a better job that What the Bleep. I should also note that it’s actually more about String Theory than it is Quantum Mechanics. However, it does an excellent job of explaining Newtonian Law and Quantum Mechanics before it delves into String Theory. And you really do need to know about NL and QM before you can even begin to understand ST. I have a copy of the book if anyone cares to read it. I would also suggest reading A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking…perhaps the smartest person in the world.

I’m still fuming about how much utter crap the movie is. Hopefully what I’ve wrote makes some sense. I’ll try to add some more of my own notes later.

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Case In Point: American’s are fat Obese

Not to beat the crap out of the subject any more, but here’s what Apple has to say on issue of iPod nano’s having cracked screens:

Apple’s SVP of Marketing Phil Schiller said today in a press release “…this issue has affected less than 1/10 of 1 percent of the total iPod nano units that we’ve shipped. It is not a design issue. It has more to do with obese Americans in tight pants putting the nano in their front jeans pocket, and then sitting for extended periods of time.”

read more | digg story

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I Swear To God, I’m Talking to a Computer

I’ve pretty much had it up to here with Comcast:

chat id : 3d385733-1aac-485c-b4eb-b9ff1e671636
Problem : Connection/Speed
Curtis > Thank you for contacting Comcast, my name is Curtis, may I ask who I am speaking with and how I may assist you?
Andrew > Andrew, and we are having speed problems
Curtis > I apologize for the inconvenience Andrew, I understand you have an issue with your connection, I believe we can straighten this issue out. May I ask if you have tried powercycling the modem at all?
Andrew > Yes, several times
Curtis > Are you connected through a router or hub at this time?
Andrew > This has been a commen occerance at this location and hasnt been resolved yet
Andrew > router
Curtis > One moment please, while I access your account information.
Andrew > ..and we’ve tried disconnecting the router and pluging straight in and it still doesn’t help
Curtis > I have just sent a diagnostic test to your cable modem, Andrew. You have a very high ping time. The term ‘pinging’ refers to sending a few small files from one computer to another and timing how long it takes, so a low ping is what you want. There are a few possibilities for this. It is possible that there is maintenance in your area, causing a slow connection. As well, I would suggest disabling your router, just to verify if this hardware is causing this latency. Or there could be a problem in the node you are on, or the lines, or your modem. If you like I can send a technician to your house to investigate it. If it turns out that it is something non-comcast related, there is a possible charge of up to $49.95. Would you like me to schedual a technician for you?
Andrew > we’ve had a technicial out here twice before
Andrew > i would need you to send a tech out today
Curtis > I apologize, Andrew, that cannot be done. This is a national call center, technicians are sent by local dispatch based on availability. Would you like me to schedule an appointment to have a technician come out to investigate this issue further?
Andrew > Can I talk with someone in local disbatch to have a technician sent out today. It is of upmost importance that our connection issue be resolved.
Curtis > I apologize, Andrew, that cannot be done. If you wish, I can schedule a technician for you right now through this chat, based on availability in your area. Would you like to do that?
Andrew > I would like your superviser to call me. 206-948-1701
Curtis > I apologize, Andrew, we cannot make outbound calls. As well, a supervisor will also be unable to send a technician to your house today. A supervisor will not tell you any differently than I already have.
Curtis > Is there anything else I can help you with today?
Andrew > Please supply me with a number I can call to talk with a live support person
Curtis > You may speak with an agent over the phone by calling 1.888.COMCAST, however, an agent over the phone will also be unable to assist you further as well, Andrew. I would suggest you inquire about having a technician sent to your house.
Andrew > I would suggest Comcast figure out what the deal is. I’m on the Direct TV website right now getting ready to order Direct TV. I’ll be sure to mention your advice in helping me switch to Direct TV.
Curtis > Is there anything else I can help you with today?
Andrew > Case #
Curtis > I do not understand what you are referring to, Andrew. May I ask what “Case #” you are referring to?
Andrew > Can I get a case # please?
Curtis > Absolutlely, your ticket number is: CR046642457.
Curtis > I apologize, haven’t recieved a message from you in some time, if I do not recieve a message from you, unfortunately, I may have to end this chat.
Curtis > I haven’t recieved a message from you in over 2 minutes, I will have to end this chat. Please chat back if you are having any issues that haven’t been resolved. Thank you for contacting Comcast.
Curtis > Analyst has closed chat and left the room

I’m looking to see when Verizon will get FiOS. I’m also checking out Qwest/DirecTV bundles. Anything else I should look at?

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