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Archive for November, 2006

what a maroon

In August, Steen put himself on eBay to pay for his college education, offering 2 percent of all future earnings to the highest bidder, with a minimum $100,000 bid.

I thought this sounded like a clever financing plan, until I read a couple of paragraphs down:

Not everyone is convinced. eBay removed Steen’s auction after five days for violating the site’s charity policy. Bloggers also pointed out spelling errors in his ad.

Idiot.  If you’re going to try to pull a publicity stunt, please spellcheck first.

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pandora internet radio.  Stop reading this and go listen to some new music right now.

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I think Judge Robertson must have seen Ray:

U.S. District Judge James Robertson ordered the Treasury Department to come up with ways for the blind to tell bills apart. He said he wouldn’t tell officials how to fix the problem, but he ordered them to begin working on it.

“Of the more than 180 countries that issue paper currency, only the United States prints bills that are identical in size and color in all their denominations,” Robertson wrote. “More than 100 of the other issuers vary their bills in size according to denomination, and every other issuer includes at least some features that help the visually impaired.”

This is good news for blind people using American currency, and bad news for the US Treasury, just in case our pal Ben needs any more of that. Nothing spurs inflation like printing a whole bunch of new paper money.

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Last week, there was a blurb in the news about a software tool that somone wrote to copy objects in SecondLife, a virtual world currently inhabited by more than 1.6 million avatars. This week, SL announces that they will play host to an interview of one of the most influential US federal judges of the 20th (and the young 21st) century.

Judge Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit will take on avatar form, to discuss the US Constitution in the era of apocalyptic terrorism. Ranked among the top twenty legal professionals in America, Judge Posner is also one of the world’s most influential and wide-ranging thinkers.

I can’t read anything about SL without thinking of the Metaverse from Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.

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outsourcing captchas

The Guardian has a story posted about sophisticated spammers outsourcing captcha problems to naive computer users.  This is an unintended consequence of the internet: not only does widespread availability of networked pc’s make distributed computing efforts like SETI and folding@home possible, but it also makes it simple to use bored humans to solve problems that are difficult for computers.

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It was Fyodor who said

The degree of civilization in a society
can be judged by entering its prisons.
— F. Dostoyevski, The House of the Dead

I can’t help but wonder what the old boy would think about the progress towards civilization that our society has been making.

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checking the numbers

I made a prediction before the elections. I was off by a couple on each scorecard. I can only admit that I’m still too generous by far when estimating the intelligence of my fellow Americans. However, there are folks who suggest that this election was rigged in essentially the same way as the 2004 election, but the events leading up to this one pushed the results so far into the D column that the 3-point swing the machines were set up to effect was overwhelmed by the magnitude of anti-R sentiment. And they have data. If they are correct, my predictions might not have been so far off after all.

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