Category Archives: Media

Incorrect thinking is dangerous

I’ve recently watched an episode of a series called Exposé. This specific episode showed serious lapses in how airport security is currently implemented. The producers called that episode “Security Theater” with good reason, since, as demonstrated in the episode, the security currently implemented at airports is more for show than for real. I was particularly appalled at the response, or rather lack of response, from the official figure interviewed in the first part of the show. While listening to him avoid the questions of the journalist, one of my mantras came to mind: “incorrect thinking is dangerous”. In the current ideological climate promoting everybody’s opinion on any topic as automatically “valid”, mine is not a popular view. Saying there is incorrect thinking implies that some forms of thinking are better than others, which implies that not all thoughts and opinions are equally valid. Holding that some people think better than others amounts to committing the sin of elitism. And yet, even while admitting that the complexity of some problems means that two people thinking properly will come to different conclusions, it remains that some thinking is patently incorrect. For instance, putting on a big show of security while leaving the back door wide open is a case of incorrect thinking, a dangerous case at that.

Reactions to the AAP’s FUD: the danger of alienation

A few days ago, I finally posted my belated reaction to the AAP’s position on a possible government mandate to make all articles published from publicly funded research freely available to the general public. I was not aware at the time but some reactions to the AAP’s position had already been published when I wrote my post. I was informed of that fact by a post on Slashdot. Of note is the open letter by Rockefeller University Press. They are a member organization of the AAP but they clearly distance themselves from the FUD being spread by the AAP. (This is a good example of the general caution we should apply in interpreting the pronouncements of umbrella associations that purport to speak for their members. Such associations can go rogue and misrepresent what their members really want. Or, and this is probably the case here, they represent the views only of their most powerful members.)

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More support for ebooks on the horizon?

A recent NY Times article titled “Envisioning the Next Chapter for Electronic Books” notes the imminent arrival of two new services for people who want to use ebooks. Read the article for the full scoop. I found two parts interesting. First,

“Digital readers are not a replacement for a print book; they are a replacement for a stack of print books,” said Ron Hawkins, vice president for portable reader systems at Sony. “That is where we see people, on the go, in the subway and in airports, with our device.”

Hawkins expresses exactly why I prefer to use ebooks rather than paper books: it allows me to carry a small bookcase in my laptop. I say a small bookcase because right now support for ebooks is pretty anemic. Searchability and the possibility for electronic annotations are also advantages but they are more theoretical than real right now, again because the support for ebooks is deficient. My dream would be to have my entire book collection at my fingertips, ready for searching and ready for being annotated at will.

But the same article shows why I’m so reluctant to use any of the “solutions” currently proposed:

Some also complain about the fact that Amazon is using a proprietary e-book format from Mobipocket, a French company that Amazon bought in 2005, instead of supporting the open e-book standard backed by most major publishers and high-tech companies like Adobe. That means owners of other digital book devices, like the Sony Reader, will not be able to use books purchased on Amazon.com.

Vendor lock-in again?! I’m sorry but I’m not interested in buying an ebook that will work only on one device. If I buy “War and Peace” I want it to be readable on as many electronic devices as possible. Give me a searchable and annotatable PDF or nothing.

Proof that the AAP is in league with the RIAA and the MPAA

Just after posting yesterday about how the AAP uses dubious rhetoric to try to preserve its current power and revenue in the domain of scholarly publishing, I learned of a new alliance dedicated to corrupting public policy in favor of copyright holders called the Copyright Alliance. I examined their list of members. What do I find in the list?

Motion Picture Association of America

Association of American Publishers

Recording Industry Association of America

There’s the proof that the AAP is in league with the RIAA and the MPAA.

And now, for some FUD from the AAP

[This is a post I wrote a long time ago but left in draft form for way too long.]

Look up the term FUD on Wikipedia if you are unfamiliar with it and then come back to this article. According to an article in the online version of Nature, the American Association of Publishers (AAP) has hired a “pit bull of public relations” to counter the rise of free information. From the article:

Now, Nature has learned, a group of big scientific publishers has hired the pit bull to take on the free-information movement, which campaigns for scientific results to be made freely available.

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ReBoot is returning

I came across this article reporting that the animated series ReBoot is going to be “reimagined” (that’s not the term used in the article but it seems to be an adequate buzzword) for the big screen. Yay!

ReBoot is an animated series for children that was broadcasted in the mid-90s. When it was shown on TV, I was definitely older than their target audience but two things hooked me. First, I have for a long time been a fan of computer animation. In those days, ReBoot was as close as state of the art as you could get in an animated series produced for television. So I enjoyed the art. The second thing that hooked me was the nerdy humor of the show. For sure the show was enjoyable for the general public. However, the old story of “good guys vs bad guys” was weaved from computer science concepts that only techheads were able to get.

I hope they’ll be able to incorporate in their new version of ReBoot what made the series great in the first place.

Strange encounter of the Devanagari type

Yesterday, my wife and I went to a used book store. I was browsing their foreign books section and found a book with Devanagari script on it. The first thing that caught my eye was the word dharmaśāstra (धर्मशास्त्र) written on the cover. I thought “aha! a Sanskrit book”. But above it I saw the word māramana (मॉरमन), which did not ring any bell. (People who read Hindi will already have found where I erred.) I looked at the table of contents and realized immediately that the book was in Hindi, not Sanskrit. But that word, māramana, did not ring a bell. I was trying to figure out whether it was the name of an ancient author, a place, some sort of obscure philosophical view. Then I noticed the ardhacandra over the first syllabe. That’s the half moon diacritical mark above the word. This is not a normally found in Sanskrit so it has to be a modern Hindi word. Since it is Hindi, the last short “a” vowel is not pronounced so it should sound like māraman. Still, nothing came to mind. Then I remembered that the ardhacandra is normally used in transliterating the long “o” sound found in some English words (like in the name “John”: जॉन). Ok, so it is an English name sounding like moraman…. the religion of moraman…. moraman morman… Mormon!

It was an instructional book about Mormonism. It’s been my experience that recognizing English words transliterated in Hindi is pretty hard. Unfortunately, I don’t have to read such transliterated words very often. Here, I had a big fat clue in the ardhacandra but I’m reading much more Sanskrit than Hindi these days and even in the Hindi I read from time to time, the ardhacandra is not very frequent. So it initially slipped my mind. In general, Hindi transliteration of English words is done to represent how the English word sounds to the ears of native Hindi speakers. Hence, it requires quite a bit of mental gymnastics for a reader thinking in English to totally flip perspectives. The reader must no longer be an English language speaker looking at Hindi as a foreign language but must become a Hindi speaker looking at English as a foreign language. Arguably, the same gymnastics sometimes has to be performed with French for instance but because English and French “grew up” together, so to speak, and use the same script, the mental gymnastics involved are usually trivial.

The appeal of “plus-size women”

Meh…

I just caught a glimpse of a show called “Divorce Court”. It seems to be some sort of show where people with marital problems air their grievances in front of a judge. Anyway, just as I come across that show I hear the following exchange. I’m paraphrasing but I think I have the gist here.

JUDGE [TO HUSBAND]: she says you like plus-size women, is that true?
HUSBAND: That’s right.
JUDGE: Why do you like plus-size women?
HUSBAND: Well, plus-size women know how to pamper a man. You know… they know how to take care of their man. Thin women don’t know how to cook. Plus-size women know how to cook. I like my food greasy.

And so on and so forth… Basically, the guy likes plus-size women not because he associates obesity with overindulgent eating habits and hopes to benefit from those habits. And thin women don’t know how to cook. Ain’t that charming.

Before anybody gets the bright idea that I spend my days watching “Divorce Court”, I caught a glimpse of it while I was sorting out my recorded episodes of “Kahani Saat Pheron Ki”. That’s a Hindi show I watch to try to keep my Hindi fresh… somehow. Oh alright, it’s a soap opera… but I watch it for educational purposes! I do have some standards.

Darby Conley hits the nail on the head

I don’t think Conley was trying specifically to comment on online discussions with his last strip. Yet, even if inadvertently, that strip does point out a prominent problem when engaging in discussions on the web. The world is filled with people who like to make outrageous claims, all the while being patently aware that some statements are just not disprovable or are disprovable only with a significant effort on the part of the person trying to disprove them.

Formula One at last

Since I’ve moved to the US in 1997, I have never watched any Formula One race… until today. Much to my surprise, I found that Fox is broadcasting the US Grand Prix. I knew that the Grand Prix had come to the US and I knew it was being broadcast. However, in past years I found that it was broadcast on channels that require special subscriptions. Those were just too expensive. The only racing I have any interest in is F1 racing. I don’t care about Nascar or any of the other offerings. So I could not justify the price of subscribing to a special racing channel just for F1 racing.

But now Fox is showing it… and in HD no less! Yay!