Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Take, for example, the allegedly free bag of Purina One advertised on the current batch of Shutup Kitty food. Dolled up as the 30 Day Performance Challenge, the reward dangled for participation is a 510 gram bag of cat bikkies, worth approximately $5. All the questions that followed were compulsory.
OK, first screen asks for name and email address. Fair enough, they have to send the voucher somewhere. How many dogs and cats? What are their names? What?? What do their names matter? Are you trying to hack my internet banking or what?
Couple of screens later, we're onto slightly more relevant health questions, such as how often the cat poos and what they look like. As if I look for these things. It's enough I have to find mouse guts from under the bed and the fossilised skinks from behind the bookcase without enquiring into his toilet. Next screen, where and what I purchase for the fussy bugger.
Then things a lot more personal. Birth date? Why do the fuck do you want my birthdate? This is not worth $5 of tucker. And there goes the close window button. I wonder if he likes Hills? Time to find out.
Justice of the Peace M. Sinclair said after hearing conflicting and contradictory evidence in the Manukau District Court, there was no case for Mr Singh to answer.Now, if we could only convince the cops to drop the tasers and carry sports equipment instead.
Monday, March 23, 2009
According to data compiled by Lucie Schmidt, an economist at Williams College, the birthrate for unmarried college-educated women has climbed 145 percent since 1980, compared with a 60 percent increase in the birthrate for non-college-educated unmarried women...In the UK, more than a quarter primary schools, 4587 of them, don't have a single male teacher:
Increasingly, instead of giving their children a father, they give them a sibling. Schmidt’s data show that second births to unmarried college-educated women have risen even more rapidly than first births — nearly sevenfold since 1980...
“Sometimes we talk about men from before we had kids.” Susan grimaced. “You mean all the deadbeats?” she asked. No one picked up her cue, though, and later Fran assured me that when she talks with her daughters about her own marriage, she stresses the better moments. If her girls can’t see a good marriage or a romantic partnership in action every day, she wants them to be able to imagine one.
For many young men, the lack of male teachers at primary school means they do not have regular contact with an adult man until the age of 11, when they go to secondary school.In the absence of real life male role models, can you guess where the kids are going to get their role models from? Those bastions of realistic expectations, movies and the telly. Congratulations paedophilia moral panic and uptight feminism. Germaine Greer would be spinning in her grave, if she were dead. I bet this is not what she intended.
"This house believes that people's DNA sequences are their business, and nobody else's."
For: Professor Arthur Caplan - Emmanuel and Robert Hart Professor of Bioethics and Director, Centre for Bioethics, Penn University.
Against: Mr J. Craig Venter - Founder and president of the J. Craig Venter Institute and founder and CEO of Synthetic Genomic.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Building the electronic sensor components from scratch, Gerard Marull Paretas, Sergi Saballs Vila, Marta Gasull Morcillo and Jaume Puigmiquel Casamort managed to send their heavy duty £43 latex balloon to the edge of space and take readings of its ascent.
Created by the four students under the guidance of teacher Jordi Fanals Oriol, the budding scientists, all aged 18-19, followed the progress of their balloon using high tech sensors communicating with Google Earth.
But children are sharp-eyed, lacking in empathy, and willing to commit atrocities their elders would shrink from.
Friday, March 20, 2009
The cast of BSG attend the United Nations:
Vid here. Hat Tip /.
When one of the UN's representatives talked about how part of their mandate was to safeguard the human rights of everyone, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, and station, Olmos got a little heated. "You never should've invited me here," he said, before blasting the UN for continuing to use race as a term of separation, of division among peoples. His voice rose, steadily, as if years of social activism was coming to a head on this night. Then, directing his attention to the high schoolers: "Adults will never be able to stop using the word 'race' as a cultural determinant....There is only one race: the human race. SO SAY WE ALL!"
I swear to you, everyone in that chamber shouted it right back at him. Because the Admiral asked us to.
And Mary McDonnell leaned over and gently wiped a tear from Olmos' cheek.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
On one hand there's today's story of Sean Hodgson, the man who was jailed for almost 30 years before DNA profiling cleared him. On the other, there's the very real risks of function creep, institutionalised racism and eugenics, as this article in Slate concludes:
Neither the United States nor the United Kingdom have any models for the kind of comprehensive privacy regulations that would prevent the government from sharing DNA profiles in law enforcement databases with insurance companies, employers, schools, and the private sector. For this reason, while a perfectly regulated universal database may be conceivable in theory, it's nearly impossible to imagine in practice. And a universal database that can be consulted for any crime, serious or trivial, is one that many citizens would resist. It opens us to a world in which, based on the seemingly infallible evidence of DNA, people can be framed or tracked, by their enemies or by the government, in ways that liberal societies have traditionally found unacceptable.And now Ivan Dobsky, the Meat Safe Murderer who never done it:
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The next big thing in recreational substances will be beta blockers. Some musicians have used them for years, calming stage fright and such in order to do their thing. BBs have also known to ease the jitters for actors and public speakers. Now beta blockers might soon be prescribed to ease Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They seem to be able to break conditioned learning, if the test of the taserspider is anything to go by.
Hat Tip to Boing Boing for also pointing out this vid of teetotalling magician Penn Jilette:
Vienna has just hosted a United Nations international meeting on drugs:
The drug summit came as the UN, the CND, and the countries pushing the prohibitionist hard-line have come under repeated attack for essentially maintaining the status quo. On Tuesday, the European Commission issued a report that found while in the past decade policies to help drug users and go after drug traffickers have matured, there was little evidence to suggest that the global drug situation had improved.Ah, Vienna. On the subject of that EC report:
Lindsay Mitchell is calling for another look at the War on Drugs here in NZ. Kotare calls the War on Drugs one for the Bullshit Files.
In London, however, Lady Meacher, speaking on behalf of more than 30 members of the Lords, warned that the existing hardline prohibitionist strategy, which has been led by the US, had been deeply damaging. It was now being challenged by politicians, scientists and lawyers around the world, she said.
"We are concerned that the war on drugs has failed and the harm it has caused is far greater," said Meacher, at a briefing organised by the drugs advice charity Release. "What we want the UN to do is accept that the previous declaration was hopelessly unrealistic."
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
The officer was "hit mistakenly by a taser shot meant for the suspect" during an arrest attempt, and the stun gun's two electrified darts hit his upper back and the back of his head. Immediately after being shot he was found by his colleague to be unresponsive and foaming at the mouth," according to a report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). The seizure continued for about a minute and the officer did not regain full consciousness until he was taken to hospital, where he then felt dazed for several hours.
OK, the cop lived. But I'm sure others might not be so keen on a brain tase. I can't imagine many epileptics enjoying it one bit.
Stewarts' arch humour and hard working researchers combine to make him far more credible than the real news acnchors. The New York Times asked if he was the most trusted man in America.
The closest we have is Jeremy Wells' Eating Media Lunch and the Unofficial History of NZ. But that's unlikely to appear again now that TVNZ is shutting down operations.
First Agenda, now Jeremy Wells. So long, intelligent and provocative programming. Hello, Dancing with the Stars, Top Town and NZ's Next Top Model.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Christchurch: Fri 22 May - Isaac Theatre Royal
Dunedin: Fri 29 May - The Regent
Auckland: Thurs 4 June, Fri 5 June, Sat 6 June - Sky City Theatre
Wellington: Fri 12 June - St James Theatre
Would love to go, but at $61.50 plus booking scalp (book here), I'll wait for the CD. Hat Tip Loop.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
The machine does not just slip a frozen pizza into a microwave. It actually whips up flour, water, tomato sauce and fresh ingredients to produce a piping hot pizza in about three minutes.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
The White House is refusing to release documents about the secretive Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a super-maximal copyright treaty that a bunch of rich countries are negotiating behind closed doors to escape the activists who've started to report on their shenanigans at the UN's World Intellectual Property Organisation.
Incredibly, the Obama administration claims that disclosing the details of this secret copyright law would endanger "national security."
The national security claim is stunning, given that the treaty negotiations have included the 27 member states of the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Switzerland and New Zealand, all of whom presumably have access to the "classified" information.
Is there something John Key, Murray McCully, Tim Groser and Simon Power should be telling us about?
Friday, March 13, 2009
The story of the mythical alpaca-like grass-mud horse, and its continuing fight with the river crab, is an internet wonder. On one hand it's a cheery tale, an innocent children's bedtime story. On the other it's an outrageous tale of the fight between fuck-your-mother and harmony. It all depends on how one listens to it.
China's learning a similar lesson to the US with copyright. The rich and powerful don't get to define the interpretation any longer. The cloud majority rules with common usage. Get used to it.
The speed of the trial — two relatively brief hearings — is likely to feed widespread suspicion among Iraqis that al-Maliki's government orchestrated the process, although defense lawyers said they had no evidence of interference. Spokesmen for Bush and for the State Department both called the verdict "a matter for the Iraqi judicial system."
This is somewhat at odds with popular sentiment:
An ABC News/BBC/NHK poll released Thursday found that 62 percent of Iraqis surveyed considered al-Zeidi a hero and only 24 percent considered him a criminal. Support was highest among Sunni Arabs — 84 percent — and lowest among the Kurds at 38 percent, according to ABC.
However, Zeidi received the minimum sentence. I'm not sure if parole exists in Iraq but it won't be long before he's free again. My bet is Zeidi will end up running for election.
Meantime, a group of Canadian lawyers are trying to prevent George W Bush from entering the country. Lawyers Against War claim:
- George W. Bush, former President of the United States and Commander is Chief of the Armed Forces, is inadmissible to Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), section 35(1)(a) because of overwhelming evidence that he has ‘committed, outside Canada, torture and other offences referred to in sections 4 to 7 of the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act (CAHWC); and,
- the George W. Bush Administration has engaged in “systematic or gross human rights violations, or a war crime or a crime against humanity within the meaning of subsections 6(3) to (5) of the CAHWC.
We request that the RCMP War Crimes Section immediately take the following steps:
- begin an investigation of George W. Bush for aiding, abetting and counseling torture between November 13, 2001 and November 2008 at Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba, Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Bagram prison in Afghanistan and other places; and,
- advise the Prime Minister, Attorney General of Canada and Ministers of Immigration and Public Safety that the George W. Bush administration is a “ government that has engaged in torture and other war crimes and crimes against humanity and therefore G.W. Bush, as former President, is also inadmissible under section 35(1)(b) of the IRPA.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Wired presents Joshua Davis' story of a 2003 heist involving $100 million of diamonds from an Antwerp vault. Read the story (as we know it) of Notarbartolo, Speedy, The King of Keys, The Monster and The Genius. If in doubt, check out the accompanying vid:
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
"It is not our role to make bad legislation work," he says. "The industry had no input into section 92A. [The draft code] is bad for our customers. Customers and businesses have spoken via blogs and petitions and also directly to us. We have listened and we have agreed."Without the support of such a dominant ISP, it is only a matter of time before other providers follow suit. Big ups to Telstraclear. I'm proud to have you as my ISP.
Monday, March 09, 2009
From Cracked, Five Government Programs That Backfired
Before smoking caused blindness, masturbation was also a well-known path to blindness. New Scientist has a gallery of unusual medical devices from the past:
The Guardian's Deaf Section
72 year old milkman convicted for selling cannabis:
"I don't think what I was doing was that wrong. A couple of them have got MS and others have got arthritis. I was just giving them something to help...How to feed a family of 6 for $2.50 a week; What the World Eats Part I.
Holding said his oldest customer had been 92 but was "no longer with us". Although he is teetotal and does not smoke, he began dealing in cannabis after being horrified to hear how much one of his elderly customers was paying for the drug.
"She had arthritis and her husband had MS and was in a wheelchair," he said. "They wanted it for the pain relief but it was costing them a fortune. I would sell them an eighth of an ounce for £4.10." The street value is £9.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Saturday, March 07, 2009
It's almost enough to make you want to stake out police bar carparks and gather dossiers on cops. And while we're sticking it to the Brits, a company is facing prosecution for selling secret data on employees:
The Guardian has found:
• Activists "seen on a regular basis" as well as those deemed on the "periphery" of demonstrations are included on the police databases, regardless of whether they have been convicted or arrested.
• Names, political associations and photographs of protesters from across the political spectrum – from campaigners against the third runway at Heathrow to anti-war activists – are catalogued.
• Police forces are exchanging information about protesters stored on their intelligence systems, enabling officers from different forces to search which political events an individual has attended.
Around 40 construction companies who subscribed to the scheme would send lists of prospective employees to The Consulting Association, who would then warn them about potential troublemakers. Some of the notes uncovered by an ICO raid on the association's offices included descriptions such as "ex-shop steward, definite problems", "Irish ex-Army, bad egg"...
Not only was the database held without the workers' consent, but the existence of it was repeatedly denied... Data included information concerning personal relationships, trade union activity and employment history, it added. Employers paid £3,000 as an annual fee, and £2.20 for individual details, the ICO said.
Friday, March 06, 2009
From John Drinnan:
TVNZ will be paying Holmes much more than it paid Rawdon Christie under the old format, but the question is how Holmes adds or subtracts from the appeal of the old show to serious political junkies... The new show is to be produced by Mary-Anne Ahern - a longtime friend and admirer of Holmes who is steeped in old-school current affairs. Ahern has been working on Backbenchers - the rather overwrought Wellington-focused political show on the TVNZ 7 Freeview channel.Nothing wrong with Backbenchers for what it is, but heavyweight it is not. And at least Backbenchers features new talent. The new show isn't hosted by Jason Gunn as I predicted, but I wasn't far wrong. Expectations have been lowered accordingly for Q&A's debut on March 22.
Thursday, March 05, 2009
A Celebration of Discovery from the Universe to HumanityThe highlight is Monday April 6th:
April 3-6, 2009
The Origins Symposium will inaugurate the new Origins Initiative at ASU. It will bring together 70 of the world’s leading scientists and scholars to explore key outstanding Origins issues and will be capped by a series of remarkable public activities.
Hat Tip Nine to Noon, featuring Kathryn Ryan talking with 'rock star' physicist Professor Lawrence Krauss.
On Monday April 6th an unprecedented public event to inaugurate the new Origins Initiative will be held April 6, 2009 at Gammage Auditorium, and broadcast live on the web. We will assemble in one place a group containing the most well known scientific public intellectuals in the world.
Speakers will include:
- Stephen Hawking
- Steven Pinker
- Richard Dawkins
- Craig Venter
- Lawrence Krauss
- Brian Greene
- Donald C. Johanson
A Nobel Panel, including:
Also, a panel on Science and Culture featuring several famous filmmakers, authors, and scientists, a performance by the World Champion of Magic, and more..
Sources here and here
Faced with rising unemployment and stagnant wages, it's getting harder for people to put bread on the table. From Stuff:
Paymark chief executive Simon Tong said: "The feedback we've had from people in the game is that people have moved toward the home brand products in fact, retailers have been racing to get more of those on the shelves and typically people are buying more in bulk.Told ya so. The Stuff story goes on to say that fast food outlets are raking it in. If it gets as rough as I think it's going to get, this illusion of a meal is a purely temporary phenomenon. It's merely a comfort stop on the way to the reality check.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
The NEAC was formed by Labour back in 2000 and is a classic quango. For one thing, it looks like a quango. It is armed with obscure and ineffable purpose, with undue power over their unknown subordinates, and a budget. It talks like a quango. Some examples:
Ethical values for a pandemicSub-quangos to appeal quango decisions:
An influenza pandemic would be likely to involve high levels of illness and death. Pandemic planning aims to prevent a pandemic when possible, and to minimise negative impacts where prevention is not possible. Considering ethical issues as part of pandemic planning will better equip us to react to a pandemic by acting on shared values using common sense and imagination, even when we have little time.
Sub-Committee on AppealsGoobledegook:
The National Ethics Advisory Committee will convene a Sub-Committee on Appeals (the SCA). Whereas the main statutory function of the National Ethics Advisory Committee is to advise the Minister of Health on ethical issues of national significance regarding health and disability, the function of its SCA is to review particular proposals at appeal.
The SCA may only hear appeals in cases where a second opinion from the Health Research Council Ethics Committee has been sought (by either the original ethics committee or the researcher) and received, and the matter reconsidered by the original ethics committee. All appeals will be from the decision made by the original committee following the second opinion.Glidetime rules that would make blue collar workers weep in envy:
There is an expectation that SCA members will make every effort to attend all SCA meetings and devote sufficient time to become familiar with the affairs of the SCA and the wider environment within which it operates.But with much better compensation:
The Chairperson will receive $430 per day (plus half a day’s preparation fee) and an allowance of two extra days per month to cover additional work undertaken by the Chairperson. The attendance fee for members is set at $320 per day (plus half a day’s preparation fee). The Ministry of Health pays for actual and reasonable travel and accommodation expenses of the National Ethics Advisory Committee members.Now quangos by and large aren't all bad. The old man was once member of the Casino Control Authority. From memory, members were renumerated $500 a day for Authority work, excluding expenses. I remember this because the old man used to grumble about time to and froing to meetings from out of town. But this was complicated work with millions and millions of dollars at stake, inventing casino regulations out of nothing, and there were stuff all lawyers queueing up for what amounted to a full day's work for an hour's pay.
But this NEAC is rubbish. By wielding its undeserved power over what sounds like a jumped-up science fair experiment goes too far. If a quango can't add value, fair go. But when a quango actively gums up the wheels of research instead of greasing them, it's got to go.
Understandably, the main banks are bolshie at paying the guarantee fees while tin-pot property fronts get a free ride. Who's next? Pick your favourites from the approved list.
And if you haven't read it, have a read of this Vanity Fair piece on Iceland. More NZ parallels than you can shake an icepick at, right down to the elves. Hat Tip Dim Post.
And finally, Tyler Cowen links to some cogent arguments on why grad school is an expensive waste of time right now. Quite relevant to all those Icelandic fishermen with PhDs in economic theory.
Sitting opposite [Garrett] in the caucus room you’ve got John Boscawen, who has spent some tens-of-thousands of his own dollars going all the way to the Court of Appeal in a vain effort to have the now-repealed Electoral Finance Act declared inconsistent with … that same Bill of Rights Act.A very good read.
Then you’ve got Rodney Hide and Heather Roy, who in 2007 voted to extend that same Bill of Rights Act to protect private property rights.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
First term MPs are advised to breathe through their noses. It's sage advice, which only a very few first-time MPs have ignored successfully. Louisa Wall comes to mind, and look what happened to her. David Garrett is not one of these exceptions to the rule, which means he comes across as a bit of a mouth-breather.
Garrett gets a few points for fronting up at Legal Beagle to defend the 3 strikes proposal. However, several million points off for the fundamentalist hubris of saying that the Bills of Rights is wrong:
While Garrett insists that this curtailment of rights is more than justified by the amount of murders prevented (78 at last count), he neglects to point out just how many other non-murderers would be locked up as well, and at what cost.
David Garrett dismissed a report by Attorney-General Chris Finlayson that found three strikes had an apparent inconsistency with the section of Bill of Rights protecting New Zealanders against cruel, degrading or disproportionately severe punishment.
Mr Garrett had not read the report, but told of its findings yesterday said: "So what?"
Depending on what statistic you refer to, keeping someone locked up in prison can cost between $50k to $80k per inmate per year. That's well above the average weekly wage, without including the cost of building the prison in the first place. It's around ten times the amount we spend per child on primary or secondary education per year.
Under the 3 strikes law, this would be a strike. So would this. Painting all these petty thieves as tomorrow's Graeme Burtons is misleading enough, but casting the net so wide means there is going to be one hell of a blowout with prisons. The corrections department has enough problems as it is without doubling their workload, and the next ten to fifteen years of budgets are going to tight enough without sinking vast chunks of cash into it as well.
So, seeing how subtlety is lost on David Garrett, let me say this: Fuck you, Mr Garrett, and the horse you rode in on.
Monday, March 02, 2009
There are interesting rumbles from both Laila Harre and Tracy Watkins about that old gorilla in the room, the Retirement of the Boomers.
From Laila Harre (from 18:38 minutes in):
The older generation haven't helped themselves a whole lot... That was an interesting sleeper issue at the summit. I mean, it didn't actually come out officially but I heard a number of conversations where there were issues raised about the retirement age, the ability for people to stay in the workforce..."
Matthew Hooten pointed out that "the baby boomers will never accept any changes to their superannuation entitlement."
From Tracy Watkins:
There has always been an argument about the fairness of today’s workers not only funding the cost of today’s pensions, but pre-funding the (partial) cost of their own pensions as well. That of course is a philosophical debate, rather than an economic one.AND pre-funding ACC AND pre-funding infrastructure (under Cullen's cash accounting system), AND Dagg knows what else. There's going to be a point where the philosophical and the economic clash with the political. Sounds like the intergenerational superannuation skirmish is getting louder.
Sunday, March 01, 2009
Quebecor [owner of Videotron] argues in favour of certain instances of ISPs controlling content, including anti-spam or child pornography blocking. Moreover, it suggests that copyright policies that build upon the graduated response policies in other countries should be added to the list of content controls that benefit society.Nicholas Sarkozy, whose government is also trying to pass a "3 strikes and you're disconnected" law, is being sued by US indie band MGMT for copyright infringement. Sarkozy's party has offered to settle for one Euro:
The party has admitted to using the popular track, Kids, at its national congress in January, in two online videos and in political advertisements. But it claims this was an unintentional mistake and offered the band a symbolic €1 ($1.43 Cdn.) for copyright infringement.John McCain is still being sued by Jackson Browne for copyright infringement of his song "Running on Empty" which was used without permission during the presidential campaign last year:
Browne argued that copyright law protects his song even in the context of a political ad. "Defendants flood the court with paper and essentially argue that because they are politicians and political parties, they have an unfettered right to use musical compositions in political campaign commercials, and to associate themselves with any person they want to, with or without consent.This brings to mind the little problem National had with a certain Coldplay song on a certain DVD not so long ago. Not that Coldplay haven't got issues too, mind.
Under the plan, people in areas hit by heat waves will be advised to stay indoors during the middle of the day — in effect, taking a siesta — and change out of formal clothing such as suits and avoid hot food. They will also be advised to stay cool by using fans, shading windows and drinking lots of water.
Well, they close schools and stuff when there's too much snow. Why not close when it's too hot? Will the Brits swap the bowler hat for a sombrero?