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Monthly Archives: December 2006

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Don’t Drop the Train of Thought

This week we talked about midgets, telepathic talking parrots and the great big overhyped DRM threat. Of course that can’t help but bring to mind the thought of midget parrots enforcing DRM by reading your mind. Maybe it’s the overdose of cough syrup but I can’t think that if I’ve thought of it, Bill Gates’ mind has probably gone there too.

Seriously though, the entire premise of DRM is a fundamentally failed position. DRM on music and video reminds me of the copy protection codes games used to commonly have where you had to read the 5th letter in the second paragraph of the fourteenth page in your manual or worse yet puzzle out tiny codes, e.g. Sim City (user friendly games my ass) . Of course if the game was cracked you were saved the effort and got the game for free too. If you paid for the game though, you also had to put up with the hassle of game copy protection and of having to keep your CD’s on hand and insert them one by one whenever the game asked for them. DRM with its multiple incompatible formats (Microsoft Play for Sure won’t play on your Microsoft Zune) is essentially the same thing, to the point that Bill Gates infamously admitted in a conference with some bloggers that it’s easier to just rip a CD. And that’s exactly the point. For as long as DRM is more complicated than piracy, piracy will prevail if not for financial reasons but for convenience. People will pay extra for inconvenience after all.

Enjoy the Rest of your Week

I’ve got a cold so I’ll be happily miserable. Why happy? Because being miserable endows one with moral superiority and is an excuse to waste hours of time wandering around the world of Cyrodil in Oblivion.

Last time before the last I had a bad cold I remember spending huge stretches of time wandering around Morrowind, Oblivion’s predecessor. If you can’t go places in real life because your head is stuffed up, your body aches and you’re coughing up things that look like mutant sewer alligators in miniature, it’s good to have a fantasy world to wander in. A world of breathtaking landscapes, of grassland and swampland, hills and desert and scrub. A world to spread your legs in, while your real ones are thoroughly collapsed under you.

Every time I hear that theme it makes me want to grab a horse and ride till sunset.

Damn, that Firefly opening. Every time I hear that theme it makes me want to grab a horse and ride till sunset. Firefly didn’t originate the idea of cowboys in space, though it was probably the first non B Movie to do it quite so explicitly, but that’s the whole appeal of it.

The cowboy genre has gone sodden in movies overall, even Kevin Costner’s recent comeback effort (not to mention Wyatt Earp) didn’t catch any fire. Maybe it’s no surprise that Firefly then didn’t make it either, cancelled in less than half a season, just when the story was getting interesting. Shot dead like a varmint after his last bank robbery. But considering the stinkers of unaired episodes Firefly was throwing at us like Heart of Gold and The Message, maybe it was more like a mercy killing.

And in the end the sun always has to set sooner or later.

Don’t Weep for Y Last Man on Earth

Okay now last time I read through this run (up to issue 44 I think or maybe 45 at most) Y was stranded in a world without men overrun by various secret societies now staffed by women. I’m not going to comment on the comic reviewers who think this is a realistic scenario (how many women are there in the CIA who even have combat training and women in front line combat are unheard of even in Israel since 1948) but what we basically have here is a guy who functions like a semi-retarded man child having to be chauffered around by a bunch of women who are better at everything than he is. Tell me this isn’t a loser nerd’s fantasy come to life?

Last Man on Earth

Now it’s Friday Night and you’re all alone. Why are you all alone? Because you’re the last man on earth! Now wouldn’t that make a great premise for a TV series. Your average TV series is so busy with government conspiracies and terrorist conspiracies and church conspiracies but picture this, you wake up and you’re all alone. There’s no one in your building. No one in your neighborhood. No one in your whole city. No one on earth for all you know. No TV channel works, the radio stations are off the air. What do you do next? (And no there’s no beautiful daughter of a mad scientist still alive out there, what do you think is, an Alfred Bester parody?)

Threat of the Telepathic Talking Parrots

With a renewed discussion on the N’Kisi story, an african grey parrot, supposedly capable of intelligent speech and even telepathy, it’s time to revisit a bit of a wrinkle in the story. Dr. Rupert Sheldrake and N’Kisi’s owner, Aimee Morgana, who both seem a little over the bend of kook road, are essentially arguing for both pet telepathy and pet intelligence. This is a fusion that has made the claims about N’Kisi seem wackier than necessary and put off a lot of scientists and researchers… though the magazines and news shows from the BBC on down have been happy to swallow another cutesy talking animal story.

The problem is that pet intelligence may actually be undermined by pet telepathy, and not in the credibility sense. Using language to demonstrate pet intelligence is fine when you presume that the mind of the animal is a self-contained unit that employs language through a process of learning and interacting. By contrast pet telepathy treats the human mind as an open bucket for the pet to draw on. Thus once claims of pet telepathy are introduced the question becomes, is N’Kisi communicating as an intelligent creature or just drawing on leavings from Aimee’s mind.

Once you throw telepathy into the mix, the pet’s mind is then an I-Pod linked to the microprocessor of the human mind. An I-Pod may play songs and store data but it is not a computer, it’s just a flash drive with an interface that can perform some pre-programmed tasks. Advocates for pet intelligence needed to prove that N’Kisi is a computer, instead with their claims of psychic parrot powers, they’ve opened the door to claiming that N’Kisi is nothing more than an I-Pod, a mechanism for drawing on and replaying some material from the human. N’Kisi in other words becomes an echo of Aimee Morgana, which is exactly what most researchers have always said parrots are.

Where parrot linguistic feats could have been demonstrated by having parrots devise new terms thus demonstrating learning, that no longer works once telepathy is postulated. After all there’s no longer any way to experimentally determine what the parrot or may not pick up telepathically. There’s no way to demonstrate whether the bird learned or whether it’s simply imitating something its owner thought.

And that’s why Dr Sheldrake winds up being the worst enemy of his cause.

And now I’m really wondering…

Okay so we’ve had a bunch of alarmist rhetoric at a bunch of the tech sites like Techdirt and Slashdot and The Register, which are always eager to inform us of the massive DRM conspiracies being leveled against us in tones kooks usually reserve for the ultimate UFO penguin invasion from the skies. What’s their new hobbyhorse? Oh yes, a crippled Windows Vista that will prevent us from watching video in full HDTV. Quick question, who in their right mind watches HDTV on their computer? I mean sure every tech flack is busy predicting a wonderful future that includes super high resolution high definition video broadcast on your shoelace in 100000;1 resolution but seriously, is this the kind of thing to get so worked up about?

When Worst Comes to Worst

Every other day it seems we get a package from the city warning us about the importance of disaster planning, planning for floods, planning for earthquakes, planning for tornadoes (don’t laugh, London was recently hit by a Tornado, no word if Dorothy stopped by Harrods for a brief shopping spree before returning to Oz or Kansas again)

As usual we dump the tax dollars on the government to plan for disasters and the government dumps them back to us in the form of useless packets of bulletins that don’t do us a single bit of good and then obligate us by law to recycle them. In other words we pay the government to send us useless things that make extra work for us. Any chance we can fire the government before Godzilla finally hits London?

The Thing about Spielberg

It’s always sad when a manchild grows up. Compare Spielberg’s idealistic childlike movies, whether it’s ET or Goonies or Batteries Not Included to his 21st century work. Grim attempts at social commentary fumbled more often than not. A.I., which should have been a project the old Spielberg could have brought to life, only wound up being painful and awkward to watch. War of the Worlds was a shaky meditation on being a civilian in a time of war, that was also utterly pointless. Spielberg was never built to provide adult commentary on dystopian societies, but to reach for the dream of the child in all of us. It’s sad that in attempting to grow up he’s also wasted his gifts and his birthright.

In the Future Everyone Will be Hitler for 15 Minutes

Everywhere you look someone is calling someone else a Nazi, comparing some policy, tactic or position to Nazism. in the brave post-ideological future, Andy Warhol was almost right… in the future everyone will be considered a Nazi for 15 minutes. And those are the lucky ones.

Everyone gets accused of extremist views because the overall map of people’s views is all over the place and there’s no consistency in between what’s considered a moderate or extremist views. When everyone’s idea of the extreme is a matter of their own location, everyone can be a Nazi to someone else. No matter how moderate your views may be, be sure that to someone, someone out there you’re just like Hitler.

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