Game theory and future forecasting

Political scientist Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is bringing mathematics to bear on what Yogi Berra said is the hardest thing to predict: the future. The New York University professor is profiled in this week's Science News and is also on the cover story in the current issue of GOOD Magazine. He's consulted for the CIA, the Department of Defense, and Fortune 500 companies to help generate forecasts using a computerized game theory model. He's recently worked with the US government on the conflict with Iran. However, he says his private consultancy's corporate policy bars him from saying, "on a commercial basis," who will be the next president of the United States. From Science News:
The details of his study of negotiation options with Iran are classified, but Bueno de Mesquita says that the broad outline is that there is nothing the United States can do to prevent Iran from pursuing nuclear energy for civilian power generation. The more aggressively the U.S. responds to Iran, he says, the more likely it is that Iran will develop nuclear weapons. The upshot of the study, Bueno de Mesquita argues, is that the international community needs to find out if there is a way to monitor civilian nuclear energy projects in Iran thoroughly enough to ensure that Iran is not developing weapons. One of his most famous past predictions also concerned Iran. In 1984, the model predicted that when Ayatollah Khomeini died, an ayatollah named Hojatolislam Khameini and a little-known cleric named Hasheimi Rafsanjani would rise to succeed Khomeini as leaders of Iran.
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Zombie thought to really be dead

After attending a Halloween party in Hamburg, Germany, a 26-year-old drunken man dressed as a zombie passed out on the train home. Passengers thought he was dead and called police. Apparently, Halloween costumes aren't a common sight in the town he was passing thorough. From Reuters:
A first aid team called to the scene soon cleared up the confusion. Police told the man to remove his make-up after which he was allowed to continue his journey.
Link (via Fortean Times) Read the rest
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Blog-goggles and red cape make another webcomic appearance

The punchline on today's Jack of All Blades web-comic riffs off my fave xkcd episode -- the one where I'm outed for my practice of blogging from a hot-air balloon while wearing goggles and a red cape. Link (Thanks, Joe!)

See also: Geeky comic strip uses Cory as the punchline Cory Doctorow cosplayers at the XKCD picnic

Update: From the comments, "Cory (A Different One)"'s revelation that this was his Hallowe'en costume! Read the rest

Tokyo Disneyland's Haunted Mansion themed Hallowe'en parade

Kirby sez,
Ricky at Inside the Magic has a video of Disney's Haunted Halloween Parade at Tokyo Disneyland.

All of the floats have Haunted Mansion themes - even obscure stuff like the Rolly Crump designed overstuffed easy chair with the face worked into the design. Another float has the Ballroom's Organ as the major design element. The Knight from just outside the endless hallway is represented by 4 cast members. The bride is a chipmunk character. Another float has a giant representation of the skeletal arm with a trowel bricking himself into his own tomb.

A phalanx of Haunted Mansion maids leads the parade. Ghosts from the Mickey Mouse cartoon "Lonesome Ghosts" pepper the entire parade.

The song that accompanies the parade is called "One More Ghost" in reference to the need to find that 1000th ghost that the Mansion needs.

The show stop at the end of the parade features the Japanese Ghost Host voice with various riffs off of the Grim Grinning Ghosts theme.

MP4 Link, Inside the Magic podcast (Thanks, Kirby!) Read the rest

South African kids' cartoon about DRM

Lauren sez, "Our kick-ass South African sci-fi kids' show, URBO: The Adventures of Pax Afrika has a special episode about the music industry and DRM technology, only in our universe, 'DRM' stands for the Don't Rip Monsters, who really do bite you on the ass if you dare to file-share." Link (Thanks, Lauren!) Read the rest

Skeletal Looney Toons sculpture from Hollywood Day of the Dead

Tim K sez, "I thought you'd enjoy seeing this set of Flickr pix I took at a Hollywood Day of the Dead festival: Bugs and the gang as Looney Tunes skeletons." Link (Thanks, Tim K!) Read the rest

Blythe doll internal organs clothes

Flickr's Girlontherocks has made a grisly "inside out" wardrobe for her Blythe doll, garments that show the doll's notional internal organs -- it's the Visible Woman Blythe Doll! Link (via Craft)

See also: Balloon-dog anatomy Read the rest

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Wired editor bans PR flacks

For the past week or so, I've been blacklisting PR flacks from my email inbox. Anytime I get a press release that doesn't interest me, I add the domain name of the PR agency to my killfile list.

I just found out that Chris Anderson, Wired's editor-in-chief, has been doing the same thing.

He's also published his long, long list of banned flacks. Good for him.

I've had it. I get more than 300 emails a day and my problem isn't spam (Cloudmark Desktop solves that nicely), it's PR people. Lazy flacks send press releases to the Editor in Chief of Wired because they can't be bothered to find out who on my staff, if anyone, might actually be interested in what they're pitching.

Everything else gets banned on first abuse. The following is just the last month's list of people and companies who have been added to my Outlook blocked list. All of them have sent me something inappropriate at some point in the past 30 days. Many of them sent press releases; others just added me to a distribution list without asking. If their address gets harvested by spammers by being published here, so be it--turnabout is fair play.

There is no getting off this list. If you're on it and have something appropriate to say to me, use a different email address.

Link (Thanks, Barry!) Read the rest

Donovan to open meditation-based college

Donovan, singer of such fantastic 60s tunes as "Mellow Yellow" and "Sunshine Superman" is opening his own Donovan University in Scotland where students will all practice transcendental meditation. He's working on the idea with his surrealist film director pal David Lynch. From the Associated Press:
"The Maharishi told me during that 1968 visit that I should build a university in Edinburgh. I went to my room and drew a beautiful dome-shaped place of learning," he said Friday... Donovan and Lynch, Oscar-nominated director of "Blue Velvet," "Mullholland Dr." and "The Elephant Man," are part of a tour to promote transcendental meditation as a means of reducing violence, crime and stress in schools and colleges... "For a country the size of Scotland it would take only 250 students meditating to protect Scotland from its enemies and to bring peace, to stop violence and drug abuse," Lynch said. "That is just a byproduct of the students meditating together."
Link (Thanks, Jess Hemerly!) Read the rest

Film news about Philip K. Dick's Radio Free Albemuth

Production has wrapped on the film adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel Radio Free Albemuth. The 10th movie adaptation of a PKD story, the indy movie was directed by John Alan Simon and stars Alanis Morisette. According to Simon, the total shoot took just 24 days and "the entire budget of the picture was less than the majors spend on catering." David Gill has more news over at the Total Dick-Head blog including promise of an interview with the director. Link to Total Dick-Head, Link to buy the book Radio Free Albemuth Read the rest

Andrew Keen gets it wrong again

Professional amateur-hater Andrew Keen gets raked over the coals by Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas Zuniga. On page 52 of Keen's silly book The Cult of the Amateur, Keen writes:
Unfortunately, the internet is bloated with the hot air of these amateur journalists. Despite the size of their readership, even the A-List bloggers have no formal journalistic training. And, in fact, much of the real news their blogs contain has been lifted from (or aggregated from) the very news organizations they aim to replace.

It is not surprising then that these prominent bloggers have no professional training in the collection of news. After all, who needs a degree in journalism to post a hyperlink on a Web site? Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, for example, the founder of Daily Kos, a left-leaning site, came to political blogging via the technology industry and the military.

Kos responds by listing his education and professional background as a journalist, which anyone with access to the Internet can easily discover for themselves.

Moulitsas earned two bachelor degrees at Northern Illinois University (1992-96), with majors in Philosophy, Journalism, and Political Science and a minor in German.

After a hitch serving as an artillery fire director at the headquarters for a missile battery, he attended Northern Illinois University, winning dual degrees and majoring in philosophy, political science and journalism and minoring in German.

From there, it was on to Boston University, where he earned his law degree.

“I knew in law school that I never wanted to be a lawyer.

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The Sex Pistols and Ron Paul The Tonight Show

Jay Leno will have The Sex Pistols and Ron Paul on this evening's Tonight Show. Link Read the rest

Decapitated doll head pencil sharpener

Last night my daughter and I watched the Night Gallery episode about the killer doll from India and it freaked her out (in a good way).

I probably should get her this Living Dead Dolls pencil sharpener, which reminds me of the creepy killer doll from Night Gallery. (Aww shucks -- it's sold out.) Link Read the rest

Visit to the Body Farm

In 1971, anthropologist Dr. William Bass (seen above) founded the University of Tennessee's Forensic Anthropology Facility, aka the "Body Farm." On those three acres in Knoxville, dozens of lifeless human bodies lie in various states of decomposition in the name of science and education. Alan Bellows of Damn Interesting paid a visit. From the article, which is not for the squeamish:
From a short distance the male figure almost appeared to be napping among the hummingbirds and squirrels, draped as he was over the pebbled ground. But something about his peculiar pose evoked a sense of grim finality– the body language of the deceased... The students knelt alongside the slumped form, seemingly untroubled by the acrid, syrupy tang of human decay which hung in the air. They remarked on the amount of decomposition that had become evident since their last visit, such as the sloughed skin and distended midsection. The insects which feasted upon the decommissioned man were of specific interest, prompting a number of photographs and note-jottings. After surveying the scene to their satisfaction, the students strolled across the glade to examine a considerably more decayed corpse in the trunk of an abandoned car. Their lack of alarm wasn't altogether surprising, for they were part of the organization responsible for dumping these corpses– along with dozens more– throughout the otherwise serene forest.... As the lifeless subjects are interred into the grisly forest hideaway, each is assigned an anonymous identification number. Some are situated to provide interesting decomposition vectors, while others are used to reconstruct specific circumstances for police investigations.
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BBC exec's straw-man defence of DRM

Ashley Highfield, the BBC's Director Future Media & Technology, has done an interview with the BBC Backstage podcast about the BBC's new DRM-based net-delivery system, iPlayer, which delivers a slim fraction of the functionality available to people who watch their TV over the air.

Highfield defends the company's DRM in an incoherent way, attacking straw-men ("The rightsholders need DRM to protect their rights" and "we need open source DRM, but that may be a contradiction in terms," "Rightsholders are scary," "We need a fictional technology that will let us insert ads but only when American eyeballs are present") but without addressing the really meaty questions.

The BBC broadcasts the entirety of its programming at the speed of light, in digital form, without DRM, to every corner of the UK. The net is flooded with every single show the BBC transmits. The BBC has previously stood up to rightsholders who insisted DRM (removing DRM from its satellite feeds, despite an entertainment industry boycott that lasted a year). Adding DRM to its downloads just makes the downloads suck, traps Britons into using Microsoft OSes, shuts out one in four license-paying households who don't have the right combination, bans open source -- but it has nothing to do with stopping infringing downloads.

What's more, the fictional technology Highfield cites as a prerequisite for dropping DRM is wildly improbable. It would require every single entity in the video "value chain" -- every player, every hosting site, every hardware company -- to sign on to always follow the BBC's "insert ad here" instruction, and the only way to force them to do that add DRM. Read the rest

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