Friday, March 30, 2007

Shining Happy People

A couple of months ago I linked to a YouTube video of a trailer for Mary Poppins as a horror movie. I guess this would be the exact opposite:

Here's funny!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Confessions of a Web2.0-aholic

Light posting of late because I've discovered the crack cocaine of the Internet, Facebook! Warn your children, lock your firewalls, for this foul demon will suck away your life and time in the furtive quest for people you've briefly encountered throughout your life. Run away!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Mensa sana...

I went and tried the Test the Nation IQ test on the CBC website, and apparently my IQ is 124. Not too bad, though of course IQ only measures potential, not application.

I was then inspired to take the true test of intelligence: the Nerd Test!

I am nerdier than 91% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

'Nuff said.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The eyes have it

And (I always feel like)
(Somebody's watching me)
And I have no privacy

-Rockwell, "Somebody's Watching Me"

So I received the EFF newsletter in my email today, and it leads me to this video on the spread of CCTV cameras as part of the growing surveillance state:

This is a particular problem in Britain, which is already a surveillance society, but expect the other industrialized "democracies" to follow suit eventually.

Several weeks ago, I came across this excerpt from science fiction author David Brin from his upcoming book, The Transparent Society:

Consider City Number One. In this place, all the myriad cameras report their urban scenes straight to Police Central, where security officers use sophisticated image-processors to scan for infractions against the public order -- or perhaps against an established way of thought. Citizens walk the streets aware that any word or deed may be noted by agents of some mysterious bureau.

Now let's skip across space and time.

At first sight, things seem quite similar in City Number Two. Again, there are ubiquitous cameras, perched on every vantage point. Only here we soon find a crucial difference. These devices do not report to the secret police. Rather, each and every citizen of this metropolis can lift his or her wristwatch/TV and call up images from any camera in town.

Here a late-evening stroller checks to make sure no one lurks beyond the corner she is about to turn.

Over there a tardy young man dials to see if his dinner date still waits for him by a city fountain.

A block away, an anxious parent scans the area and finds which way her child wandered off.

Over by the mall, a teenage shoplifter is taken into custody gingerly, with minute attention to ritual and rights, because the arresting officer knows the entire process is being scrutinized by untold numbers who watch intently, lest her neutral professionalism lapse.

In City Two, such micro cameras are banned from some indoor places... but not Police Headquarters! There, any citizen may tune in on bookings, arraignments, and especially the camera control room itself, making sure that the agents on duty look out for violent crime, and only crime.

That is a surveillance society I can buy into. I already make extensive use of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation's COMPASS Cameras to check up on traffic on major highways, and to a lesser extent the City of Toronto's RESCU Cameras. Cameras throughout the downtown core with the feeds available to all with web access would have infinite uses. How long is the lineup outside that hot club? Any street festivals that might block crosstown traffic? What are the demographics of people walking through the mall?

The Powers That Be always tell us that if we're not guilty, we have nothing to hide. I agree wholeheartedly. I have few problems with my personal finances being open for scrutiny. But in exchange I want to see the tax returns and stock portfolios of every corporate CEO, every senior bureaucrat, and every elected representative of government. Think it will happen?

In any event, if the surveillance society takes hold, the public damn well better have access to all footage and feeds. Our taxes paid for it, after all.

2000 years ago, Juvenal asked Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who watches the watchmen?) Hopefully, we all do.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A few words on an important subject

Today is International Women's Day and Blog Against Sexism Day. I'm finding it difficult to write something in support of it. It's hard to write about something I've never really experienced. It's true that society imposes expectations on men as well, but these hardly compare to the restrictive expectations society still imposes (or tries to impose) on women. I feel presumptuous for even trying to talk about sexism from a platform of male privilege (and white straight male privilege at that).

So I'll just summarize my thoughts below:

I wish for a day when the whole world values its daughters as much as its sons.

I wish for a day when everyone is able to rise to the upper limits of their talents and aptitudes without regard for their sex.

I wish for a day when loud-mouthed morons stop blaming female sexuality for the problems of the world so we can actually work on solving the world's problems.

Karen Healey of Girls Read Comics--And They're Pissed! sheds light on an oft-neglected battleground in the war against sexism.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Oprah's dirty little "Secret"

For those not aware, Oprah's been hawking another useless self-help tome, this one being Rhoda Byrne's The Secret. The Amazing Randi has gone to town on this, but this article in Salon really gets to the "secret":

Steve Martin used to do a routine that went like this: "You too can be a millionaire! It's easy: First, get a million dollars. Now..."

If you put that routine between hard covers, you'd have "The Secret," the self-help manifesto and bottle of minty-fresh snake oil currently topping the bestseller lists. "The Secret" espouses a "philosophy" patched together by an Australian talk-show producer named Rhonda Byrne. Though "The Secret" unabashedly appropriates and mishmashes familiar self-help clich├ęs, it was still the subject of two recent episodes of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" featuring a dream team of self-help gurus, all of whom contributed to the project.

The main idea of "The Secret" is that people need only visualize what they want in order to get it -- and the book certainly has created instant wealth, at least for Rhonda Byrne and her partners-in-con. And the marketing idea behind it -- the enlisting of that dream team, in what is essentially a massive, cross-promotional pyramid scheme -- is brilliant. But what really makes "The Secret" more than a variation on an old theme is the involvement of Oprah Winfrey, who lends the whole enterprise more prestige, and, because of that prestige, more venality, than any previous self-help scam. Oprah hasn't just endorsed "The Secret"; she's championed it, put herself at the apex of its pyramid, and helped create a symbiotic economy of New Age quacks that almost puts OPEC to shame.

Read it all, it's quite damning.

However, it's one of Randi's readers who reveals what the real source of The Secret is:

I was taught "The Secret" when I was younger by a well-guarded book shown to only those who can understand the secret. It's called "The Little Engine that Could". He thought he could do it, he worked towards his goal and he took the chance to prove he could do it when the situation presented itself. AMAZING!