Twenty Four Standard Causes of Human Misjudgement

A great post on Metafilter turned me on to "Twenty Four Standard Causes of Human Misjudgement," a classic 1995 speech by Charlie Munger

Great moments in pedantry: Actually, there is a Jedi mind meld

It's right there in the Expanded Universe book series, says Chris Peterson, a research assistant in MIT's Center for Civic Media. It's a form of group communication. What's more, Peterson writes, if you follow the theories of anthropologist and sociologist of science Bruno Latour, the Jedi meld might actually be the most useful tool for Obama to employ. (Thanks Ryan!) Read the rest

How an algorithm came up with Amazon's KEEP CALM AND RAPE A LOT t-shirt

You may have heard that Amazon is selling a "KEEP CALM AND RAPE A LOT" t-shirt. How did such a thing come to pass? Well, as Pete Ashton explains, this is a weird outcome of an automated algorithm that just tries random variations on "KEEP CALM AND," offering them for sale in Amazon's third-party marketplace and printing them on demand if any of them manage to find a buyer.

The t-shirts are created by an algorithm. The word “algorithm” is a little scary to some people because they don’t know what it means. It’s basically a process automated by a computer programme, sometimes simple, sometimes complex as hell. Amazon’s recommendations are powered by an algorithm. They look at what you’ve been browsing and buying, find patterns in that behaviour and show you things the algorithm things you might like to buy. Amazons algorithms are very complex and powerful, which is why they work. The algorithm that creates these t-shirts is not complex or powerful. This is how I expect it works.

1) Start a sentence with the words KEEP CALM AND.

2) Pick a word from this long list of verbs. Any word will do. Don’t worry, I’m sure they’re all fine.

3) Finish the sentence with one of the following: OFF, THEM, IF, THEM or US.

4) Lay these words out in the classic Keep Calm style.

5) Create a mockup jpeg of a t-shirt.

6) Submit the design to Amazon using our boilerplate t-shirt description.

7) Go back to 1 and start again.

Read the rest

America's six-strikes copyright system is a nightmare

A post on Slashdot by Dangerous_Minds links to a parade of horrors with the new "Copyright Alert System" -- the voluntary six-strikes-and-you're-out copyright enforcement system that America's major ISPs have chosen to enact on behalf of the MPAA and the RIAA. It's trivial to hijack, clobbers small business owners who let people use their Internet access.

Most immediately, it also requires its victims to complete an online copyright re-education camp designed by the major record labels and studios, and as EFF's Corynne McSherry points out, this is a total clusterpoop, a way of ramming inaccurate copyright information into the nation's eyeballs. Unsurprisingly, the gross errors in the mandatory copyright reeducation materials would all improve the profitability of the entertainment industry if they were taken to heart by the public.

"Whenever you create something like a poem, a story or a song, you own it – and no one else can use it without your permission."

Not so: thanks to the fair use doctrine, others can in fact use the works you create in a variety of ways. That’s how we help ensure copyright fosters, rather than hinders, new creativity and innovation.

Equally worrisome: the CCI site directs users to the Copyright Alliance to learn more about the history of copyright. The Copyright Alliance is hardly a neutral “resource”—it was a leader in the battle to pass SOPA and remains a staunch advocate of copyright maximalism.

Finally, CCI is promising to partner with iKeepSafe to develop a copyright curriculum for California public schools.

Read the rest

Horror/sf play by a four-year-old

Rachel Bublitz's four year old Audrey wrote her first play:

Characters: Scare People, F, very tall, wears a mask, growls, 18 years old. She goes to scare people school. She is an octopus monster with wings.

Audrey, F, 11 years old. Wears monkey pajamas.

Synopsis: Audrey tries to get Scare People out of her house.

AUDREY SCARE PEOPLE PLAY

(Thanks, Ashley!) Read the rest

Aerial photography ban proposed for all but government

AGBeat: "Neal Kurk (R), member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives since 1986 has recently sponsored HB 619-FN to make aerial photography illegal in their state."

The proposed bill states:

A person is guilty of a class A misdemeanor if such person knowingly creates or assists in creating an image of the exterior of any residential dwelling in this state where such image is created by or with the assistance of a satellite, drone, or any device that is not supported by the ground. This prohibition shall not apply where the image does not reveal forms identifiable as human beings or man-made objects. In this paragraph, “dwelling” means any building, structure, or portion thereof which is occupied as, or designed or intended for occupancy as, a residence by one or more individuals.

This bill would forbid you from tossing a camera two feet into the air with the shutter-timer feature activated. And Kite aerial photographers will have to switch to pole cams, I guess. Read the rest

Baja in my Westy: Side tracked by Disneyland

I got side tracked by Dinseyland. On Thursday AM my traveling companion Jenny landed at LAX. She'd never been to the Magic Kingdom and we had a day to kill before heading to San Diego. What else could I do?

It was amazing. We had a wonderful time and even I, a far too frequent visitor, found some new things to marvel at. Most interestingly, we had an incredible customer service experience. Read the rest

Journalists took secret money for critical pieces about Malaysian opposition candidate

The government of Malaysia hired a US PR firm to pay conservative journalists to write articles critical of a opposition leader running on a pro-democracy platform for The Huffington Post, The Guardian, The National Review, The San Francisco Examiner, Red State, and The Washington Times. The writers who took the money then wrote for their usual places, but didn't disclose that they were getting money from a third party to criticize Anwar Ibrahim.

The payments to conservative American opinion writers — whose work appeared in outlets from the Huffington Post and San Francisco Examiner to the Washington Times to National Review and RedState — emerged in a filing this week to the Department of Justice. The filing under the Foreign Agent Registration Act outlines a campaign spanning May 2008 to April 2011 and led by Joshua Trevino, a conservative pundit, who received $389,724.70 under the contract and paid smaller sums to a series of conservative writers.

Trevino lost his column at the Guardian last year after allegations that his relationship with Malaysian business interests wasn't being disclosed in columns dealing with Malaysia. Trevino told Politico in 2011 that "I was never on any 'Malaysian entity's payroll,' and I resent your assumption that I was."

According to Trevino's belated federal filing, the interests paying Trevino were in fact the government of Malaysia, "its ruling party, or interests closely aligned with either." The Malaysian government has been accused of multiple human rights abuses and restricting the press and personal freedoms.

Read the rest

US Trade Rep orders Canada to comply with the dead-and-buried ACTA treaty, Canada rolls over and wets itself

Do you remember ACTA? It was a broad, Internet-destroying copyright treaty, negotiated with unprecedented secrecy (even Congress and the European Parliament were not allowed to know what was going on in the negotiations -- though CEOs of beer and fertilizer companies were kept apprised on a running basis). Well, ACTA died when the people of the world rejected it, marching by the thousands in the streets, and governments refused to ratify it.

But now it's back. The US Trade Representative gave marching orders to Canada's Harper government, and it has introduced a bill that would force Canadians to obey the provisions in ACTA, even though ACTA no longer exists. From EFF's Maira Sutton:

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) posted its 2013 Trade Policy Agenda and 2012 Trade Policy Report, which covers all of its ongoing negotiations over trade agreements. It reports that the US is working with Japan and other negotiating parties “to ensure that ACTA can come into force as soon as possible,” and encourages Canada “to meet its [ACTA] obligations.”

Canada did not miss a beat to satisfy this demand. The Canadian government introduced a bill today to make Canada compliant with provisions of ACTA, paving the way for its eventual ratification. Among the provisions outlined within the 52-page bill are increased criminalization of copyright and trademark law as well as a new authority for Canadian customs officials to seize and destroy goods they can determine to be “counterfeit or pirated goods” without any judicial oversight.

Read the rest

The legacy of Fukushima

At Time, Bryan Walsh reports on two pieces of news coming out of the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. First, the World Health Organization has released estimates of the health effects on the plant's workers, the people who were involved in shutting it down, and the local residents who lived closest to the plant when it went into meltdown. These people will have an increased risk of leukemia, thyroid cancers, and cancer, in general. But the increase isn't as large as you might have feared. Walsh does a very good job of breaking down the statistics, here. The second bit of news is, unfortunately, not so good. In Germany, which decided to phase out nuclear power in the wake of Fukushima, coal power is on the rise. And it's rising faster than the increase in renewable energy. Read the rest

United Airlines sucks

Yesterday morning, I flew the final leg of my 23-city book-tour. I was supposed to fly Kansas City -Chicago -Toronto, but the Kansas/Chicago flight was delayed, because United had scheduled the crew too tightly on its turnaround, and the FAA grounded them until they got a full night's sleep. I was able to get on another flight in Chicago, but my bag didn't make it.

But they assured me it would follow. After all, there are several United flights every day from Chicago to Toronto. The ground agent in Toronto even offered to expedite the bag.

But it didn't show up. When I called last night, the automated system reported no updates. This morning, it was the same. After a very long time on hold, I was told that they'd flown it to Las Vegas and forgotten about it. When I asked what I was going to do about toiletries, medication, workout stuff and a change of clothes, they offered me a whopping $75. That won't cover it -- especially since I have to dress up for an event tonight (bad enough that I had to finish out the tour without clean socks or underwear). And when I spoke to a supervisor, he wouldn't budge.

Screw you, United. This has been a comedy of errors, from the scheduling screw up in Kansas to the series of bag and reporting screwups, to the awful treatment from your customer service department. Every one of them was your fault, and you left me high and dry. Read the rest

New Haunted Mansion merch

Uh-oh, Disney is releasing a rather nice line of Haunted Mansion memoribilia. There goes my bank-balance. Some highlights:

The Hourglass: “I’ve wanted to make an hourglass for years,” said Cody, who is an 18-year Disney cast member. “This 7 ½-inch-tall hourglass has gargoyles from the stretching room and the famous wallpaper design on the top. White sand is more commonly used in hourglasses, yet we chose purple sand to match the overall color palette. The hourglass keeps track of about an hour.”

Candelabra: My favorite item is the candelabra, which also features a gargoyle. Cody said the base was inspired by the paneling found in the queue just after the stretching room.

Music Box: “We needed a music box because music is an important part to the attraction,” explained Cody. “This music box plays ‘Grim Grinning Ghosts,’ and draws inspiration from Madame Leota’s tombstone outside the attraction. Her epitaph is included on the inside lid.”

Pillow and Throw: “For the pillow, we considered using the chair design from the endless hallway scene,” continued Cody. “Yet we selected a simple black pillow with the phrase ‘Rest in Peace.’ The back of the pillow and the throw include the famous wallpaper design.”

Nine New Chilling, Thrilling Haunted Mansion Merchandise Items from Disney Parks « Disney Parks Blog

(Thanks, Michael!) Read the rest