Sunday, January 31, 2010

German TV on the Failure of Full-Body Scanners

"The video is worth watching, even if you don't speak German. The scanner caught a subject's cell phone and Swiss Army knife -- and the microphone he was wearing -- but missed all the components to make a bomb that he hid on his body. Admittedly, he only faced the scanner from the front and not from the side. But he also didn't hide anything in a body cavity other than his mouth -- I didn't think about that one -- he didn't use low density or thinly sliced PETN, and he didn't hide anything in his carry-on luggage.
Full-body scanners: they're not just a dumb idea, they don't actually work."

How To Deal With Unintended Acceleration

Lexus and Toyota models were stung recently by claims that faulty floor mats had jammed throttle pedals and were causing wide-open acceleration. Toyota has agreed to a largest-ever recall of 4.3 million vehicles (which could cost $250 million or more) to modify the gas pedals and remove unsecured or incompatible driver’s floor mats. Not since Audi was decimated by accusations of unintended acceleration in the late 1980s has the topic of runaway cars received so much media attention.
The furor began when an off-duty California Highway Patrolman crashed a loaner Lexus ES350 at high speed, killing himself, his wife and their daughter, and his brother-in-law. It was reported that someone, either the officer or his brother-in-law, called 9-1-1 moments before the crash, saying that the “accelerator is stuck . . . there’s no brake.”

Obama Budget To Triple Nuclear Power Loan Guarantees

"When President Obama said in his State of the Union address on Wednesday that the country should build 'a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants,' it was one of the few times he got bipartisan applause. Now the NY Times reports that administration officials have confirmed their 2011 federal budget request next week will raise potential loan guarantees for nuclear projects to more than $54 billion, from $18.5 billion, and a new Energy Department panel will examine a vastly expanded list of options for nuclear waste, including a new kind of nuclear reactor that would use some of it. The Energy Department appears to be getting close to offering its first nuclear loan guarantee. Earlier this week, Southern Co. Chief Executive David Ratcliffe said the company expects to finalize an application for a loan guarantee 'within the next couple months,' while Scana Corp., which has also applied, is 'a couple months behind Southern' and is hopeful of receiving a conditional award 'sometime in the next months.'"

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Man in Court Over Simpsons Porn

"Ever get the urge to look at pornographic drawings of famous cartoon children? Neither do I, but 28-year-old Kurt James Milner did, and that's what got him registered as a sex offender. Police received a tip about the pornographic material and eventually found images featuring child characters from The Simpsons and The Powerpuff Girls on Milner's computer. Back in 2008, a Supreme Court judge in Australia ruled that cartoons in which child characters engage in sexual acts is child pornography. Milner said he downloaded the images to show them to his friend 'because he believed they were funny.' Guess it's not so funny now."

It's only fair to mention this was his second offense, the first involving pictures of actual humans.   That being said at most that makes this stupid.  It shouldn't make it any more illegal.  Cartoons don't hurt anyone.


Obama Choosing NOT To Go To the Moon

"Obama's budget proposal will contain no funding for the Constellation program, which was to send astronauts to the moon by 2020. Instead, NASA will be focused on terrestrial science, such as monitoring global warming. One anonymous official said: 'We certainly don't need to go back to the moon.'"

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Judge Lowers Jammie Thomas' Damages to $54,000

"Judge Michael Davis has slashed the amount Jammie Thomas-Rassett is said to owe Big Music from almost $2,000,000 to $54,000. 'The need for deterrence cannot justify a $2 million verdict for stealing and illegally distributing 24 songs for the sole purpose of obtaining free music. Moreover, although Plaintiffs were not required to prove their actual damages, statutory damages must still bear some relation to actual damages.' The full decision (PDF) is also available."
"Judge Davis also indicated that he found even the reduced amount to be "harsh" and that, were he -- rather than a jury -- deciding the appropriate measure of damages, the award would have been even lower than $54,000. But he felt that since the jury had determined the damages, it was his province to determine only the maximum amount a jury could reasonably award."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Civ 4 OCC

So I've been playing a lot of Civ 4 One City Challenge.  Lately I've been playing with the most default options.  Nobel, standard map, 7 civs, continents, all other defaults (except quick game speed).  I've been winning space race victories reliably around 2010.  I'm going to outline my game plan here.

First off I play as Bismark (Germany).  He is expansive and industrious.
Expansive, +2 health per city; build granary and harbor at half cost; +25% worker production
Industrious, +50% wonder production; build forge at half cost

His unique unit is the panzer, replacing tank.  Of some use because late game wars are common in OCC.  The unique building is assembly plant, replacing tank.  Production is always useful.

As for starting position I try not to regen the map too much.  However I do have some requirements.  First off the space elevator is important to me to win space race, and it can't be built too close to the poles.  So if I see any indication that I'm near a pole I'll regen.  Also I used to insist upon being on a coast, to have access to the water.  However, Now I see that sea tiles are a waste.  Thus I refuse to be anywhere where my fat cross will have any water tiles.  I prefer to be as far inland as possible since strategic resources only appear on land, but will play any start position that is a few tiles away from coast at least.  I do insist upon a river start, but almost always am.

As far as visible resources I don't take that into account.  While it's nice to have marble/stone for wonders, and food resources for growth, I don't insist upon it.

Upon starting this game I see that I have stone, corn, and sheep close by, that is great.  I start my scout on auto explore, and build a new scout.  Scouts get goody huts which are usually worthless money, but sometimes valuable techs or workers.  Since I have nothing better to build initially I start with the second scout.
My starting techs are hunting and mysticism.  I do arg, wheel, pott, animal, (mason, arch, preist, bronze no set order).  Note that fishing is cheaper than arg, so if you just click pottery it'll default to that.  However arg needs to be researched for farms, while fishing is worthless.  Todd said he tried to time the completion of the oracle with the ability to get the free tech of civil service.  I was unable to beat the AI in building the oracle with delaying it while researching the prerequisites.  Instead I am to get metal casting, which is rather expensive.

I do notice some tundra to the south, and after my first expansion it's confirmed.  Still I'll stick with this map because the resources are good.  Also I'm building a scout in 5 turns as opposed to 10, so I'll build 2 more instead of the normal 1, giving me 3 total.  After my second scout I'm 3 turns from pottery, and thus granary.  I'm also just at pop 3.  So I build my first worker.

As my explorers fight animals I promote them to combat and let them rest if needed, I don't much care about them after the first 20 or so turns when the pop goodie huts.  I'll pay 50 gold around 50 turns for a map.  I usually just automate my workers, as I hate micro management.  But I'll sometimes manually give them orders, especially at the very start.

In this game I go with mason so I can get access to my stone.  I also start building barracks after my granary.  I then research towards priest (and the 2 requisites).  I build a second worker, then start on pyramids.  Once I've connected my stone, and built on the corn and sheep, I automate my workers.  I also switch to build the Stonehenge in 3 turns with stone connected.

Once priest is done I do archery, so that I can build archers my early game defense.  I still have no units providing defense in my capital.  However, I've never had the AI declare an early war.  Usually there is a point to build a couple archers in 1 or 2 turns between early wonders. 

On turn 48/1120BC I finished the pyramids, and started researched bronze working.  However, someone else finished the Oracle.  This is the earliest I ever saw an AI finish it.  Maybe I should have switched to it as soon as I had the tech and went back to the pyramids which usually don't get built until late.  Oh well.  I switch representation, and begin building walls.  A few archers with city defense to guard the capital.  Throughout the game whenever I don't have something to build I'll build the general defensive unit.  I rarely build research since it's important to have a solid 20 or so units by late game to prevent war.

After bronze I queue writing, math, aesthetics.  Since I have more production than research I build the great wall, more archers and more workers.  All great people get added to the city.  The only exceptions being ones that can build a building with the first one (scientist), and my first artist which I start a golden age with. 

I agree to open borders, and will buy maps once in a while.  Other wise I do no trading.  I'll hold off on a religion until I see one that is leading in terms of power of civs with it. 

Literature, calender, drama, music, civil service.  My 5 national wonders are National epic, globe, oxford university, national park, wall street.  Then I beeline to liberalism.  As my free tech I usually go with nationalism.  I tried to come up with a better tech to get but couldn't.  Nationalism lets me build the Taj Majal, for a golden age.  Whenever I research paper I go to the last AI and buy their map for around 100 gold.  This is really just a nice thing to have, it doesn't much matter what the rest of the map looks like. 

After Liberalism I'll get a few beginning techs that I still don't have (iron working).  Then I'll go towards astronomy then bio, then steam.  There's a lot of techs needed before them, but I just hold shift and click those three.  Then assembly line, and rocketry.  This begins the race to space.  I then research industrialism both for the production boost and to reveal aluminum. 

Around 1900 I usually build my first space ship part.  Around this time I like to take note of two things.  First off you should start strategizing on how you are going to get aluminum.  You can either trade for it or attempt to found the corp that makes it.  I've yet to go the found the corp method.  If you are going to trade you likely won't want to wait until a civ has the tech to see it.  I try to find a civ that is behind but has at least two sources.  Then trade/give them the techs they need.  Second you want to check the victory screen and make sure no one is getting close to winning.  The only method the AI has ever almost won in a OCC with me is culture.  Luckily the victory screen gives you a 100 turn warning before a culture victory.  If you see a civ is going to win culture pretty much your only option is to build tanks and raze the city.

Guantanamo group of 47 'should be held indefinitely'
"A task force on the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay has advised that 47 inmates should be held indefinitely without trial, officials say."
"No person shall be ... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

American's Crazed Corn Habit

"The federal government provides a 45 cent per-gallon subsidy for domestically produced (corn-based) ethanol. Add to that the crippling sugar policy, plus a 54 cent per gallon tariff placed specifically on foreign ethanol (sugar based, from Brazil), and bang — ADM corners the domestic ethanol market. Pretty crafty, huh?"

Obama DOJ Sides With RIAA Again In Tenenbaum

"Despite having had some time to get their act together, Obama's Department of Justice has filed yet another brief defending the RIAA's outlandish statutory damages theory — that someone who downloaded an mp3 with a 99-cent retail value, causing a maximum possible damages of 35 cents, is liable for from $750 to $150,000 for each such file downloaded, in SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum. The 25- page brief (PDF) continues the DOJ's practice of (a) ignoring the case law which holds that the Supreme Court's due process jurisprudence is applicable to statutory damages, (b) ignoring the law review articles to like effect, (c) ignoring the actual holding of the 1919 case they rely upon, (d) ignoring the fact that the RIAA failed to prove 'distribution' as defined by the Copyright Act, and (e) ignoring the actual wording and reasoning of the Supreme Court in its leading Gore and Campbell decisions. Jon Newton of attributes the Justice Department's 'oversights' to the 'eye-popping number of people [in its employ] who worked for, and/or are directly connected with, Vivendi Universal, EMI, Warner Music and Sony Music's RIAA.'"

FBI Obtains Phone Records With a Post-it Note

"The FBI was so cavalier — and telecom companies so eager to help — that a verbal request or even one written on a Post-it note was enough for operators to hand over customer phone records, according to a damning report (PDF) released on Wednesday by the US Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General."

Conan O'Brien
"Under the deal, which came seven months after O'Brien took the reins from Leno, O'Brien will get more than $33 million, NBC said. The rest will go to his 200-strong staff in severance, the network said in an announcement on the "Today" show."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

United Nations

So I was playing some Civ 4, and I was thinking about the UN.  I've long had thoughts for what I'd like to see instead of the UN.  I'll put my ideas here.  First instead of being something linked to a wonder it would be much more similar to mutual protection pacts.  Once some tech had been researched any civ with it would be able to enter into international unions.  The way it would work is one civ would create the charter for the union and then try to get other civs to join it via the trade screen.  No civ would be part of it unless they consented, and there could be multiple unions at a time.  Any attack on any member would put you at war with the entire union.  No civ could be a member of multiple unions.  On the trade screen there would be a new item like, propose my joining your union and vote for me.

The charter would contain everything about how the union worked.  Here's what would be configurable.  Percentage needed to pass resolutions.  Percentage needed to change charter (change these configurable things).  Whether each civ got one vote or a vote based on population (or both).  Percentage needed to admit new members.  Percentage needed to kick out existing members.

Every turn any member would be able to put up any one resolution.  There'd be no leader.  Here's the resolutions.  Give city from one member to another.  Give money from one member to another.  Condemn some civ (suffer -1 relations hit).  Declare war on some civ.  Give any tech known by x members to all members.  All the resolutions currently in the game.

The key for all this is that any civ could defy a resolution whenever they wanted.  However, when they did they'd automatically be kicked out, and they'd automatically be at war with the union (if a civ was kicked out via a vote there would be no mandatory war).  This is really the only change I actually care about, I just don't think it would be fair to force civs into the union. 

I suppose civs would be pretty unlikely to enter these unions.  You could give economic rewards like additional trade routes between members.  Also you could come up with a custom screen for the creating of unions that would show which civs would be willing to join and what changes they'd want before they'd join.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Significant Objects Project

"Would you pay $76 for a shot glass? What about $52 for an oven mitt? And $50 for a jar of marbles?
You may shake your head and say no way, but in a recent series of eBay auctions, the consumers did just that: they shelled out considerable cash for objects that to all appearances should never have fetched more than a couple bucks.
So what made the difference? Each item came with a unique tale."

Interesting, without checking I'd bet there are already copy cat auctions up.

Three Reasons Why NASA Launches From Florida

It seems like before every space shuttle launch from Cape Canaveral, NASA encounters some delay by way of weather, leading most people to wonder “why have it in a state that frequently deals with rainy weather?”

Why Jon Stewart Is Good For News

For decades, young reporters would ask themselves, "What would Walter think?" Nowadays, it's not the memory of Walter Cronkite or even Edward R. Murrow that motivates some reporters — it's more often the fear that the stories they put out today might get picked apart by Jon Stewart tomorrow.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hours Needed For License

So it has recently come to my attention that in order to become a hair dresser in NJ you need 1000 hours of training (1200 at a non state school).  The first thing that came to my mind was the only other thing I knew of that had a training hour requirement, a pilot's license.  Surely you'd need many hours of training to become a pilot, but was it more than 1000?  1000 hours is a very long time.  At 8 hours a day 5 days a week it is 25 weeks, or just over half a year.

So what are some other training hour requirements?

Type: Cosmetologist/Hairstylist
Hours: 1000
What Can You Do: Cut hair.
What Could Go Wrong: Bad hair cuts.  Cut someone's ear off.  Uh, spread lice?
How Much Longer To Become A Hair Dresser: 1x

Type: Driver's license
Hours: 0-50
What Can You Do: Drive a 13 ton vehicle at 75 mph.
What Could Go Wrong: Multicar pileup, kill a few people.
How Much Longer To Become A Hair Dresser: ~ 30x

Type: Private pilot
Hours: 35
What Can You Do: Fly a plane, with passengers, can't get paid.
What Could Go Wrong: Crash into orphanage, kill a few dozen people.
How Much Longer To Become A Hair Dresser: 29x

Type: Commercial pilot
Hours: 35 + 190
What Can You Do: Fly a plane, with passengers, for money.
What Could Go Wrong: Crash into orphanage, kill a few dozen people.
How Much Longer To Become A Hair Dresser: 4x

Type: Airline transport pilot
Hours: 2000
What Can You Do: Fly a 747.
What Could Go Wrong: Crash into a skyscraper, kill a few thousand people.
How Much Longer To Become A Hair Dresser: 0.5x

In researching this the average needed for a Cosmetology license is 1500-1800 hours, some states require 2000+ hours.  The actual number of hours needed to fly a 747 was a bit hard to pin down.  Although a few places said the absolute minimum would be around 2000+ total flight hours.  Try as I may I couldn't find training hour requirements for anything other than driver, pilot, and cosmetologist.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

400 Years of Galilean Moons

Behold therefore, four stars reserved for your famous name, and those not belong to the common and less conspicuous multitude of fixed stars which, with different motions among themselves, together hold their paths and orbs with marvelous speed around the planet Jupiter, the most glorious of all the planets, as if they were his own children, while all the while with one accord they complete all together mighty revolutions every twelve years around the center of the universe, that is, round the Sun.

Slovak Police Planted Explosives On Air Travelers

"Slovakian Police have planted explosives on 8 unsuspecting air travelers. Seven were stopped by airport security, including one man arrested and held upon arriving at a Dublin airport. Unbelievably, one innocent traveler made it home with 90 grams of explosives, and had his flat surrounded by the police and bomb squad."

Interstate Commerce

I've wrote about this before, but it bears repeating.

"The Congress shall have Power...
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;"

Which logically leads to:
"Gonzales v. Raich (previously Ashcroft v. Raich), 545 U.S. 1 (2005), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court ruled on June 6, 2005 that under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, which allows the United States Congress "To regulate Commerce... among the several States," Congress may ban the use of cannabis even where states approve its use for medicinal purposes.
California voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, legalizing the medical use of marijuana. The United States Federal Government has limited the use of marijuana since the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act came into effect. Defendant Angel Raich used homegrown medical marijuana, which was legal under California law, but illegal under federal law. On August 15, 2002, Butte County Sheriff's Department officers and agents from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) destroyed all six of California resident Diane Monson's marijuana plants, facing light resistance. The marijuana plants were illegal Schedule I drugs under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). CSA is Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. Monson and Angel Raich sued, claiming that enforcing the CSA against them would violate the Commerce Clause, the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Ninth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and the doctrine of medical necessity."

Wait, what the fuck?  

A good summary of this:

Justice Thomas also wrote a separate dissent, stating in part:

Respondent's local cultivation and consumption of marijuana is not "Commerce ... among the several States."

Certainly no evidence from the founding suggests that "commerce" included the mere possession of a good or some personal activity that did not involve trade or exchange for value. In the early days of the Republic, it would have been unthinkable that Congress could prohibit the local cultivation, possession, and consumption of marijuana.

If the Federal Government can regulate growing a half-dozen cannabis plants for personal consumption (not because it is interstate commerce, but because it is inextricably bound up with interstate commerce), then Congress' Article I powers -- as expanded by the Necessary and Proper Clause -- have no meaningful limits. Whether Congress aims at the possession of drugs, guns, or any number of other items, it may continue to "appropria[te] state police powers under the guise of regulating commerce."

and further:
If the majority is to be taken seriously, the Federal Government may now regulate quilting bees, clothes drives, and potluck suppers throughout the 50 States. This makes a mockery of Madison's assurance to the people of New York that the "powers delegated" to the Federal Government are "few and defined", while those of the States are "numerous and indefinite."

Monday, January 4, 2010

How Norway Fought Staph Infections

"Studies are showing that Norway's dirtiest hospitals are actually cleaner than most other countries', and the reason for this is that Norwegians stopped taking antibiotics. A number of factors like paid sick leave and now restrictions on advertising for drugs make Norway an anomaly when it comes to diseases like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). A Norwegian doctor explains, 'We don't throw antibiotics at every person with a fever. We tell them to hang on, wait and see, and we give them a Tylenol to feel better.' Norway is the most MRSA free country in the world. In a country like Japan, where 17,000 die from MRSA every year, 'doctors overprescribe antibiotics because they are given financial incentives to push drugs on patients.'"


The world's tallest building opens today.

Burj Dubai is a supertall skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and is the tallest man-made structure ever built, at 818 m (2,684 ft). Construction began on 21 September 2004, with the exterior of the structure completed on 1 October 2009 and the building officially opened on 4 January 2010.

A very interesting story about Dubai:

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Years 2010 Videos

Todd recorded Jeff's set at new years.  I made a torrent. Years 2010.torrent

It's 390 MB total, and about an hour long, cut up into 22 clips.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

China Arrests Thousands In Internet Porn Crackdown

"Chinese police have arrested 5,394 people — with another 4,186 criminal cases in the works — in one of the largest crackdowns on Internet porn in the country. Even more arrests are expected in 2010, according to the Ministry of Public Security's website (In Chinese or Google translated into English). According to the Reuters article on the crackdown, one of the justifications was that the pornography was 'threatening the emotional health of children.' From the English translation of the Ministry of Public Security's website linked above, it appears that certain provinces are also offering 1,000 yuan and 2,000 yuan rewards, per person, for reporting illegal websites to the government."

 I'm sure internet porn is one of the biggest threats to the health of Chinese kids.

Ireland's Blasphemy Law Goes Into Effect

"As of January 1, it is a crime in Ireland to commit Blasphemy. The law was changed in July 2009 to fill a gap in the Irish Constitution, which states that it is a crime but does not define what it is, an omission highlighted in a Supreme Court decision in 1999. To mark the occasion, Atheist Ireland published a list of 25 blasphemous quotations on the website, from such controversial figures as Bjork, Frank Zappa, Richard Dawkins, Randy Newman, and Pope Benedict XVI. (The last-mentioned was quoting a 14th Century Byzantine Emperor, but that's no excuse.)"