Radley Balko brings up some thoughtful reservations about the NBC show, To Catch a Predator.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
A few friends and I were hanging out out at a bookstore on the night of the release of the final Harry Potter novel over the summer. I figured that it was the last book, so I had to take advantage of the last possible time where you would have masses of children and adults dressed as wizards and witches cramming bookstores across the country.
Anyway, the subject of spoilers came up, as it inevitably does when people are in anticipation of an enormous phenomenon of popular culture such as this the final installment of Harry Potter. The threat of a spoiler ruining someone's enjoyment for something like this is especially real when the media product is a book, where someone can quickly flip to the last chapter and obnoxiously shout out the ending. Of course, the victim has no way of verifying whether or not the work would be actually spoiled, or if the offender just made something up plausible enough to annoy the victim.
On the subject of spoilers, a friend remarked that it would be particularly low to conduct a drive-by spoiler, shouting out from a moving vehicle a real spoiler to people who have clearly just purchased the book. It's funny and immoral, comedic and evil, all at the same time.
Now, libertarians who concern themselves with deontological ethics argue against the initiation of force. This clearly includes fraud, of which the vehicle is language. Freedom of speech also doesn't cover the incitement of violence. You can't legally or morally yell "fire" in a crowded theater. What about a spoiler though, and it's harsher relative, the drive-by spoiler? Is this an initiation of force? One person is ruining a product for someone else, against their will. Now, I doubt if someone has ever actually tried to take this up in court. I would hope that this wouldn't ever get to a court. On the one hand, this hardly passes the "giggle test." On the other hand, it seems that there is a real victim here. Still, I'm not a fan of government intervention in anything really. It seems like this couldn't be solved through the government, and if an agent of the government even tried to fix this, it would be simply unenforceable. Furthermore, how could you determine the quantitative value of ruining someone's enjoyment of Harry Potter? It's clearly more than just the price of the book, and it's different for everyone. It would seem that no law could come close to delivering justice.
This whole puzzle seems like a interesting philosophical question for debate. Pass this tidbit along to your friends, and it's cool for you to say, "That awesome blogger Seth Goldin thought of this interesting situation. What do you think of this?"
By the way, a quick search on Google right now of "drive-by spoilers" returns 149,000 pages. I thought the idea of such a transgression as I've described here was a bit more original. I think I see some videos on YouTube for drive-by spoilers concerning Harry Potter. I will definitely have to go check those out.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 8:38 PM
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
So today's Tea Party is winding down, and it looks like Ron Paul has raised quite a bit of money. Is there hope for the libertarian candidate, the only one that makes any sense at all? It's difficult to tell, since the media have been so absurdly unfair to him. We'll find out soon. The primaries are coming up.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 10:38 PM
A Soviet Poster A Day is a great blog that shows a different Soviet propaganda poster each day. I bookmarked this one from a while back to remember to post it to the blog. It's a pretty fascinating phenomenon in a centrally planned economy where the government has the duty of increasing demand for a product, especially and explicitly unhealthy one. I find especially amusing the contrast with the current war on smoking in public places in the United States today. See, the great thing about a free market is that those who don't want to smoke didn't pay for those cigarettes. In the Soviet economy, even nonsmokers had to pay for this good.
This kind of problem extends to all aspects of central planning. Take the BBC for example. Some hold the BBC as a great model of how the news can escape the profit motive by taxing their citizens, and deliver quality news that doesn't need to appeal to advertisers. Some of the Beeb's properties' may run ads, especially where the get involved in international markets, but I don't think it's their primary source of income, and I'm no expert on this subject.
Still, BBC is still just as guilty of deceptive practices, like any news network on television today, and furthermore, the BBC is not immune to bias, because all British taxpayers pay for it. So how is this fair? Someone who doesn't agree with the BBC's bias is still paying for it! This is compelled speech, and an immoral use of force.
Sure, CNN and Fox and MSNBC have increasingly bad soft news, but the great thing about having them in the context of a free market is that if you don't like it, you don't suffer. When the government does something wrong, or just something you might not agree with, the cost is on everyone, unfairly. In the free market, only those affected cover the cost.
I digress. It's funny that the Soviet government endorsed cigarettes because they couldn't anticipate what the demand was for them. The reason a market is so effective is because people themselves can decide what they want. Democrats, and to some extent, Republicans, rush to make government programs, forgetting that the government can't create services out of nowhere. Any program the government runs could be accomplished in the private sector, with less bureaucracy. If there's no profit motive, there's no incentive for the government program to be efficient. Remember, the government isn't a moneymaking body. Furthermore, a government program is funded an unjustified and immoral initiation of force. It's analogous to holding a gun to someone's head and taking their money to use in this program, but instead of a gun, the government is just using the threat of throwing you in jail if you fail to pay your taxes.
So the moral of this post is that the initiation of force is immoral. Also, if sufficient time has passed after a tragedy, like Soviet Russia's brief stint in existence, you can find humor in it.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 9:00 PM
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
One blogger has dissected how crazy it is that V, of V for Vendetta, and by extension Guy Fawkes, has been associated with Ron Paul and his fund-raising campaign. He posits that there are layers upon layers of symbolic inversion at work.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 10:53 AM
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Dr. Larry Sanger visited the University a couple of weeks ago to give a talk about the politics of information in the digital age. He is a cofounder of Wikipedia along with Jimmy Wales, but now he has become one of Wikipedia's most vocal critics. He expressed in his talk his concern how the lack of deference to experts and the ability of anyone to contribute anonymously has plagued Wikipedia and is its chief flaw. Even people banned from Wikipedia can circumvent procedures to block them. Dr. Sanger aimed to start up another project that would indeed give deference to experts, with anonymity being impossible.
His project, Citizendium, is run on the same software that Wikipedia uses, but to activate an account, one must submit a short biography. This eliminates Wikipedia's problem of credibility and anonymity. Yes, Wikipedia can be completely anonymous. Though I.P. address can be traced to people that don't register an account, all one needs to do to really post anonymously is create an account with a nonsensical name, and the I.P. won't be traced.
Because of the required information on Citizendium, no one is anonymous. Consequently, vandalism is simply not present in the project. The possibility that this could grow to anything comparable to Wikipedia's popularity is frightening to Sanger, as it would mean that the sum of all information would be reliably and freely available on the Internet. This would be pushing human civilization in a direction never considered before. It's certainly a noble and incredible goal, but worthy of fear nonetheless.
Dr. Sanger's primary fear though, is that as online communities like Wikipedia grew more powerful, governments would feel the need to intervene if abuse flagrantly continues, abuse like the vandalism Wikipedia suffers from every day. This isn't so far fetched. Germany shut down the German Wikipedia temporarily for a scandal involving the naming of a deceased computer hacker. Myspace has been used by the government to target convicted sex offenders. A fear of government intrusion into online communities does not arise out of a vacuum.
Wikipedia's irresponsibility would serve as the entry point for government regulation. Of course, Dr. Sanger wouldn't wish this on anyone, including Wikipedia, but has himself taken on the initiative to create a community that would avoid this pressure, because of excellent self-regulation.
The outlook is cynical. Innovation should be driven by a desire to succeed and create a superior product, and advance the greatness of civilization for its own sake, not out of a fear that the government might try to step in and assume control by force. How can anyone expect to innovate under such stressful conditions, by a threat in the back of their mind that they're close to being slaves of the state? No, this motive is weak. Citizendium is a great project and the goals are laudable, but neither Sanger nor anyone should create and innovate out of fear of the government. Such a mindset would be symptomatic of a far greater problem than Wikipedia's irresponsibility.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 6:53 PM
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
This is good news, a signal that the religious right has decreasing influence.
From, 1070 WINA Newsradio,
Gov. Kaine has cut abstinence-only sex education programsIt's good news, but it's only 14 states. There's still work to be done.
Governor Tim Kaine has cut state money for abstinence-only sex education programs. The Democratic governor says recent research shows teenagers also should be taught about condoms and birth control pills to protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. His decision impacts only groups that offer federally funded sex education courses. School systems and organizations that did not get the money still can teach a locally based sex education curriculum. Planned Parenthood of Virginia had pushed for the policy change and is praising Kaine for joining a national effort to cut abstinence-only programs. The Old Dominion is the 14th state to refuse to endorse abstinence-only education.
Of course, we wouldn't have this problem if education was privatized, but that's just too nutty an opinion to be mainstream.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 9:45 PM
Our own UVA researchers, physicists Bellave S. Shivaram and Adam B. Phillips have come up with a potentially amazing technological breakthrough regarding fuel cells. Of course, it's always good to be skeptical. The article concedes, "'Many people who work in this field are excited, while others are skeptics,' [Shivaram] said. 'That’s OK. That’s the way science works. No one accepts results until you test it and it’s proven.'" I could not agree more.
With this in mind, this is pretty exciting stuff. The sooner the U.S. gets to energy independence, the sooner we can tell the Saudis to choke on their oil, because we won't need them for anything. We could tell them to come back and talk to us when they're civilized.
Oh, and fuel cells are good for the environment too. Global warming is the mother of all externalities.
I found this news via the Virginia Sentinel.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 9:32 PM
Friday, November 9, 2007
I am proud to report that my letter to the editor was published in the Cavalier Daily. It was a response to an article attacking the notion of gay marriage.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 4:01 PM
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Sunday, November 4, 2007
In my obliviousness, I had missed all the flyers around Grounds promoting the brand new Virgina Sentinel. This promising blog is expected to flourish into a great publication, and it has a very strong start as a blog. Check it out.
Also, an article about it is here.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 11:06 PM
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
When I heard that J.K. Rowling announced that she "always thought Dumbledore was gay," it didn't really mean anything to me. Having read all the books, I could see how she could fit that opinion into the story, but clearly, her statement is irrelevant, since it wasn't in the body of the text. Also, sexuality in the series is largely absent, if at all present. I can remember some adolescent curiosity implied in some of the later books, but it isn't a major part of the story or part of any theme.
It's not inappropriate for Rowling to specify Dumbledore's sexual orientation outside the body of her work, and I have to praise her for standing up against bigotry by making an admirable protagonist a homosexual, but the point seems totally irrelevant. It should be as irrelevant as if she were to elaborate on the sexual practices of other characters in the series, gay or straight, but the sad fact is that her action isn't irrelevant; she has used her position to take a stand to fairly represent homosexuals. In so many media, homosexual representation is, if even present, quite often negative.
The idea that her statement could change a reading of the book is outright absurd, because there aren't depictions of any sex in the book.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 6:45 PM
It's a pretty nutty opinion that I have that the borders should be opened. The case to keep immigrants out is grounded in racism, xenophobia, jingoism, irrationality, and inconsistency. It's not so crazy an idea that I have. Many who have a knee-jerk reaction against open borders may not be racists or jingoists, but haven't examined the argument fully, or maybe they just don't understand the reasoning for why open borders are best. For that, Phillipe Legrain is here.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 6:36 PM
Posted by Seth Goldin at 6:04 PM
Monday, October 22, 2007
Barack Obama made a comment about how wearing a lapel of an American flag wasn't a subsitute for patriotism. I haven't liked much of Obama's rhetoric which seems to consist of a lot of short-term protectionism, but this is one of the first things that he's said of which I really admire. Too often nationalism goes unquestioned, and nationalism doesn't sound all that different from jingoism. The idea that any one person, or group of people are somehow superior to another because of their geographic location is outright obnoxious. It's bothersome when people talk of their unquestioning loyalty to America, as an end in itself, not a means for a free society.
Flag waving, to me, looks similar to racist chants. Of course, I speak out against this, but let me make it clear that no government, in my humble opinion, has the right to censor any such speech.
Check out Obama's unlikely ally from his statement.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 9:05 PM
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Radley Balko has a piece in Reason and the Wall Street Journal of the shenanigans happening in a Mississippi town. A pathologist is performing an insane amount of autopsies; he has a monopoly on any autopsy for any whose relevant defendants cannot afford to hire pathologists not appointed by the state. He is blatantly fraudulent, and the situation is about the most depressing I've read concerning fairness in the criminal justice system. It's a long and important read, and I give major kudos to Balko for modern-day muckraking.
Balko is of course a senior editor of Reason, but these articles will stir outrage in any libertarian, Democrat, Republican, or any person really.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 10:25 PM
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Over at the Freakonomics blog, Dubner has posted a story about an interesting method actually used to stay out of jail.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 4:02 PM
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Friday, September 7, 2007
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Monday, August 20, 2007
Saturday, August 11, 2007
It's absolutely fascinating and infuriating to watch Cheney assert that the U.S. should not invade Baghdad, for the precise reasons shared by so many of his constituents today. This video is back from 1994. How is it that he could have spoken with such impeccable reason, only to then implement an atrocious policy directly against his own earlier, sound logic? I almost don't believe it.
I found this from Radley Balko.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 11:13 PM
Saturday, August 4, 2007
If money shows how serious people are about what they're doing, Slate may be monitoring most accurately which presidential candidates people think will win. They are monitoring the betting markets for presidential candidates. The description of how to read the tables are here, along with the raw numbers sorted by Republicans, Democrats, all candidates together, and by party.
I should note that real money is probably a better predictor than fake money, so if you're interested in the highest accuracy of people's impressions of the outcome, pay close attention to Iowa Electronic Markets and Intrade. Since NewsFutures and Casual Observer are only monitoring fake money, I would disregard them in comparison to Iowa Electronic Markets and Intrade, who are dealing in the real stuff.
Also, the graphs to the right of the tables that show the value per candidate are worth some note. As those lines steepen, it means that betters are gaining confidence in their candidates, whoever they are.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 1:13 PM
Monday, July 30, 2007
I'm going to go out on a limb here. Harry Potter is not deserving of the hype that it has received. I'm saying this as a person who has read every book and will probably see every movie.
I'm writing this in response to what I see as alarming. There is a phenomenon of Harry Potter being listed as a favorite on Facebook. This strikes me as wacky. Are these people actually reading these books and thinking that they love these books as their true favorite, or are they actually just enjoying this pulp because they're easy to read, and they're just one of the few things that they have read? Is the truth so depressing: that that an alarmingly high number of people just don't have the time to read much, and consequently consider these books, just a few books really, as their favorites? The fact that The Catcher in the Rye is another favorite is similarly alarming, considering that this is a book mandated widely for classes in high school, and which seems to appeal to so many for the shallow reason that Salinger wrote it in slangy conversational prose. The Catcher in the Rye is truly a fantastic book, but I don't jump to that conclusion for the pathetic reason of suffering being too intellectually lazy to appreciate proper grammar for communication.
I should say that I can find redeeming qualities in the Harry Potter series. There is definitely a little bit of rare and good language used to expand the vocabulary for any reader of the book, language not used in everyday conversation, but keep in mind, this is a very little bit. There are somewhat complex plots and subplots, and the dialogue makes the reader discern subtleties, but this stuff isn't original. These stories are fine for an adolescent who is developing a habit of reading, in a context of decent escapism mixed with those situations, good and bad, with which everyone can identify.
With that said, I see a serious problem when the content of this series seen as the epitome of literature, especially considering that these books have repackaged ideas and themes from earlier, if not better, works. There's nothing wrong with this practice alone. Many celebrated fairy tales have many earlier, different versions. The Harry Potter series provides fun, light reads I suppose, but these novels are forgettable for a person who actually takes the time to read more books than those ones where the motivation for their reading arises out of curiosity from the inexplicable explosion of popularity. There's no doubt in my mind that the licensing to Warner Bros. also pushed Harry Potter's popularity to an undeserving level. For however popular those early books were, the ones that came later in the series gained popularity they didn't deserve, popularity not achieved by the merit of the texts themselves, but the associated synergy of media. How many times in history have other books had the parties and thrilling premieres and hype surrounding them before anyone read them? I count zero. This blinded devotion to the texts before anyone had read them reeks of the fact that these books were formulaic. People could get excited about them because they knew what they were getting before they read them.
Now, in all honesty, I enjoyed the ride, but I'm glad that this series is finished. I think that the conventional wisdom that J.K. Rowling got kids to start reading again should be questioned heavily before accepted. Reading one book per year for seven years doesn't form a healthily habitual thirst for knowledge and information. Let's take all this energy put into Harry Potter and diversify what we read.
If you're interested in what I've said here, another blogger from a respectable magazine has some thoughts.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 9:52 PM
Sunday, July 29, 2007
This is an issue that I've followed a little bit. I have found farm subsidies to be counterproductive and harmful, but now it has been brought to my attention that they don't even accomplish what they are promoted to do, to provide a safety net for independent farmers. That's not what's happening.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 10:49 PM
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I haven't seen any of the advertisements on television for Bank of America's Keep the Change program, but while at the bank today, I received the pitch.
In case you're unfamiliar with this program, I'll explain. The teller told me that if you have a checking account and a savings account, which I do, you would be eligible to enroll in the Keep the Change program. It works like this. Every time you swipe your debit card to pay for an item, you pay more for the item, rounding up to the nearest dollar. The extra money you pay goes into your savings account, which the bank then doubles. Let's say you buy a sandwich for $5.20. You pay with your debit card $6.00. That extra $0.80 is put into the savings account, and then the bank gives you another $0.80 in that account!
It sounds like a great deal. I told the teller that it sounded too good to be true. I didn't sign up, but I was interested, so I took a pamphlet for perusal later.
Alas, it was too good to be true. After checking the fine print, I discovered that Bank of America will only match at 100% that extra fraction of a dollar you're paying for three months. After that, it's only 5%. This is the very definition of false advertising. There was no asterisk beside any of the points in the pamphlet that said that they would match that extra change, 100%. Well they do, but only for three months.
Now, it still could be worth it, but for those of us who have limited budgets, all that extra money adds up, money that you can't spend, unless you want to go through the hassle of constantly keeping track of how much extra money you had to pay in a transaction and transferring it back to the checking account with the debit card. Is it worth the hassle for 100% for three months, and then 5% after that? I've given you the facts. You decide.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 7:34 PM
Obesity has been found to be contagious. It sounds pretty stupid I know. It sounds to me as if it might be contagious in the same way that drinking alcohol for fun is, which is to say, not at all. These sensationalist headlines are getting more and more ridiculous. People can take responsibility for themselves, and must not use the nonsense of an excuse that this is contagious like influenza.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 9:43 AM
Posted by Seth Goldin at 12:03 AM
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Because I made fun of Republicans the other day, I should now chastise those unabatedly irritating self-aggrandizing liberals. They've been into some shenanigans like paying homeless people to protest about unfair wages. This is without benefits! How could they?
Excuse me, what is an unfair wage? In a free society there is no one holding a gun to someone's head saying that they have to work at any particular company. A truly fair wage is one agreed upon by both the employer and the employee. What could be fairer?
Posted by Seth Goldin at 11:31 PM
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
The fact that a gamer was kidnapped at gunpoint for his account would be interesting enough, but this was the best player of a specific game, a game that I wasted far too many hours on a while back, titled GunBound. It's fascinating to me that an account like that would be the target for theft, let alone a crime in the physical world. What is so valuable about that account, other than the fact that it is the highest rank? What applicable meaning would it mean to have it, and furthermore, what would one gain from it by stealing it? It's not like the kidnapper would then suddenly have the skills that the true owner acquired from actually ascending to that rank. It's not like that account could be sold for real money, especially if it was reported to Softnyx, and since it hit the news, I couldn't imagine that that didn't happen. The whole thing stinks, but this is a signal of a fascinating time we're in where a computer gamer can accumulate something, anything valuable enough to attract a grave crime in the real world.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 10:40 PM
So apparently there is this new study that has been put out, linking the consumption of about one can of soda per day to metabolic syndrome, and it doesn't matter whether or not this is diet soda.
Now a quick glance at Wikipedia informs me that metabolic syndrome is a pretty broad condition. Pinning metabolic syndrome on daily consumption of soda is like pinning any one specific thing to obesity, or heart disease.
Just so you know, the article clarifies that metabolic syndrome isn't one thing, but consists of "high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excess fat around the abdomen and glucose intolerance." Could it be that maybe, just maybe, the soda is a signal for other factors that would lead to this? Correlation is not synonymous with causation. A doesn't necessarily affect B, and B could even affect A. For this situation however, it's more likely that C affects both A and B, where C is the fact that someone indulging in soda daily may have other unhealthy habits. That's what my money would be on, especially since it doesn't matter whether or not the soda was diet or not. Realistically, most people who are serious about the health usually avoid all habitual soda consumption. The diet stuff isn't much better. The full effects of aspartame and sucralose are still disputed, and caffeine is just bad, no matter how you drink it. People conveniently forget that caffeine is a highly addictive drug that causes high blood pressure.
At the same time, a person can be quite healthy and drink soda occasionally, but that person should also keep in mind that regular sodas, not diet sodas, consist of water that has basically reached its saturation point of sugar. Your pancreas, liver, and heart hate you every time you down a gulp of Mountain Dew.
This was also an observational study. It wasn't hard science. Dig beyond sensationalist headlines, and you'll find a tiny bit of journalistic integrity left saying, "But not really." The article has this bit, " However, because this was an observational study, Vasan's group could not discern any evidence that drinking soft drinks actually caused the metabolic syndrome."
So there you have it. This article is garbage, but for the fact that it was a slow day for news, it spread virally through the media.
For full disclosure, even though I try to avoid soda, root beer is my kryptonite. I do however, avoid all caffeine. Coffee to me has always tasted disgusting, and I steer clear of soft drinks that have caffeine for the simple reason of abstaining from any unnecessary drugs. Seltzer is always good, unless you pour it all over your keyboard.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 8:50 PM
Sunday, July 22, 2007
When is the last time anyone ever saw a bookstore like this? If you've been to a premiere of a Harry Potter book before, maybe you have, but I have not. I decided to attend with a couple of friends for this opportunity that only arrives once in a lifetime, for the final book.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 12:35 AM
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
By law, a record of each campaign contribution must be made available to the public. I know that you can check contributions on the New York Times website. I haven't made a contribution, but just to let you know what kind of nut I am, I am considering contributing to Ron Paul's campaign.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 6:52 PM
Monday, July 9, 2007
This stuff is the first of these peanut butters that I've been reviewing that actually has a different color than that of normal peanut butter due to the added featured ingredient. It's smooth like peanut butter, but it's darker, brown from the dark chocolate. I opened the container and smelled inside. This smelled of very dark chocolate, bitter even. I like that, but I know some people don't. This isn't your normal milk chocolate like you find in a Hershey bar. This is the good raw bitter stuff. When tasted, it's sweet, so it's not like you're biting into a cacao plant, but it's quite dark indeed.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 5:27 PM
Monday, July 2, 2007
Sometimes, it's pretty cool to look twice at a concept. Take comedy for example. Has anyone really given thought to how amazing it really is? I don't study this stuff, but as far as I know, animals don't experience any kind of emotion like amusement or humor. It's all instict. Their brains aren't developed enough to process such an event. Of course, we still haven't pinpointed every single feature of animal behavior. We haven't translated dolphin language, and we can only communicate with apes by sign language, if we teach it to them. Apes are probably the most interesting being our closest animal relatives. A simple search on Google doesn't return anything about how apes or monkeys of any kind can experience humor, but it does give lots of things that derive humor from apes themselves.
I know that there has been scientific research to suggest that people who laugh generally find happiness. There are health benefits. I'm talking about real, genuine laughter, not nervous laughs or some kind of character trait. When deeply considered, it's pretty fascinating that our brains can analyze a situation, all sorts of different ones, and derive some pleasure from it. It's fairly inexplicable. You can describe why something is funny, but it's difficult to describe how something is funny.
Even the mechanism of laughter is completely bizarre. It's strenuous breathing with odd jaw movements, or a simple little breath with a mouth movement, or even just a sound, but everyone can recognize laughter.
I don't really know where I'm going with this, but I just figured that readers of this blog should take some time to stop and appreciate the simple things. If you're interested, you should check out Wikipedia's pages on comedy and laughter.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 9:39 PM
Friday, June 29, 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Stupidly, against the advice on the label, I refrigerated this peanut butter, immediately after reading that it wasn't required. When I opened it later, I found that this product was quite difficult to spread onto celery. I left it out to warm to room temperature and tried again the next day. It was much easier, and I spread it on some celery smoothly. I theorize that this is because the white chocolate made for more fat, and naturally, fat solidifies as it gets cold, and makes it greasily smooth at room temperature.
Anyway, the product itself is good, I guess. My taste buds weren't really sensitive enough to discern the flavor of raspberry or white chocolate specifically, but I did notice that this was indeed a greasier peanut butter, which is cool, if you like that kind of food. It was also significantly sweeter.
The bottom line, literally, is that this is OK, but nothing special.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 5:43 PM
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
So, animal rights activists are pushing for more ridiculous legislation in their endless flurry of shenanigans. I am really just posting this to display a great picture.
For the record, I'm all for animal rights, to a certain extent. When an appeal for something like rights for tarantulas surfaces in the news however, I will then take the opportunity to lambaste the extremists of the cause.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 8:26 PM
Sunday, June 24, 2007
So I saw 1408. I'm not a big fan of horror movies, mostly because I unfairly lump them into one category of slasher flicks. I think the slasher flicks are boring, and I don't understand why gratuitous violence is entertaining, but 1408 is cool. It's a flick where it's scary, and it startles you and freaks you out, but it's not a slasher flick. It also makes you think, and plays with your head, in cool ways. It's not going to go down in the history of movies, but it's highly entertaining. Check it out if you like the thrill.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 11:18 PM
For the past week, I've been drinking three different flavors of Izze. It's pretty good, but it's nothing that I wouldn't make by myself, by just mixing these juices with seltzer water myself. I've tried pomegranate, blueberry, and blackberry. They're delicious and refreshing, and healthy! I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce this product.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 11:11 PM
Monday, June 18, 2007
Next up in my series of two-year-old Israeli snacks is Bissli: Taco Flavor.
It smells like polyurethane, and tastes like cardboard. Again, this could just be because it's over two years old, but I'm not getting the resemblance to any kind of taco I've ever eaten. How would they know what good tacos taste like in Israel anyway? It's not like they border Mexico.
So anyway, yes, this is not good. This is not good at all. Each piece is shaped like a miniature barrel, if you will, with no top or bottom, and they're hollow.
Avoid this like the plague. Who is buying this stuff? I hope I only bought this in some sort of experimental window right before the product flopped. I can't even finish this bag.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 5:57 PM
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Lately I've been catching up on the Best of Craigslist. I was alerted by TWiT to the posting Hey Crackhead, but never bothered to check the "Best Of" page again. I've been catching up on all of them from January 14 on. I found this gem of a post, of which the veracity is unverifiable. Still, I have seen the sentiment firsthand, the one that is immune to reason or logic, that where patriotism can only be seen as warmongering. It's the kind of person who would say, pretty much in any context, the three words "support our troops." I would say that I support them much more than the person who wants to see them killed for no good, or even mediocre reason at all.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 11:46 AM
Saturday, June 9, 2007
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
When I first started posting online reviews of wacky ethnic foods I've found about two years ago, I made it through a few. I still have leftover however, three bags of a food I purchased at a Middle Eastern market. These food products are about two years old, so they very well may affect the taste and quality. However, they are sealed, so I will attempt to review them just as I would with any other wacky food! The food is wacky enough already, and there is likely extreme mutation in the intended flavor of the food. With that in mind, I'll review here, Bissli: Falafel Flavor.
When you open the bag, the potent smell of onion and garlic attacks your nostrils. Now, I'm a fan of real falafel, which is delicious if prepared properly. If you actually go to a Mediterranean country, then you'd be able to get delicious, genuine falafel.
As you can see from the picture, the snack itself looks like what you might feed a pet, or line their cage with. However, I have to hand it to Osem, the Israeli company which also produces the extremely popular Bamba, they did seem to catch the flavor of falafel. What I bit into was a bit hard, but you could probably attribute that to eating a bag that is over two years old. It's a bit greasy too, and I generally don't care for palm oil.
If the visual experience contributes to consumption of food, the labeling on the product makes that aspect nearly indescribable. This is a "cholesterol free wheat party snack." What does that mean? The two cartoon characters are oddly recognizable, and hopelessly irrelevant, standing in meaningless poses. Maybe in Israel there was a matching ad campaign that I'm not aware of, because I know the Bamba baby is featured in ads.
As I nosh on this bag while I'm writing this review, pausing to wipe my hands of the grease so that I maintain the cleanliness of my keyboard, I'm finding that I probably won't be able to finish this bag. That's probably good for my health, because while it is free of cholesterol, it's not too skimpy on the saturated fat or sodium.
I'm not going to recommend this one too strongly. Normally onions and garlic can only add to a product, but if you're not ready for it, this violently grabs onto your taste buds and won't let go until you tell it, "Yes, yes, you taste like falafel! Any person who wouldn't immediately recognize the flavor you are trying to achieve is a backwards bumpkin!"
Posted by Seth Goldin at 5:56 PM
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Monday, June 4, 2007
It seems that when the state forces people do to things, people will naturally find ways to disobey. Chinese women are taking fertility drugs in hopes of getting twins, triplets, quadruplets, or even quintuplets. The limit is on pregnancies, not actual offspring.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 8:48 PM
I forgot to mention of course, that Google has also linked the Internet to USENET. More specifically, they acquired Deja News, which was one of their earlier acquisitions that would be a foreshadowing of buying out everything that is worth owning as it pertains to the Internet. I guess that I figured it just went without saying that they also provide a pretty nifty site for news. Of course, what has brought them much attention lately though, is that they are watching us.
In other news, here's an example of how I support Israel fully while disagreeing completely with policy. Idiotic conservatives are impeding progress. For however much they want to "preserve the people of Israel," with irrelevant and outdated policies, they are making Israeli ambassadors look silly by eating at casual eateries for very important international business.
Israeli diplomats denied non-kosher dining
Mon Jun 4, 12:44 PM ET
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli diplomats fed up with a protocol requiring they entertain guests at less-than-fancy kosher eateries abroad have asked for the rules to be relaxed, only to be overruled by a religious Jewish cabinet minister.
Trade Minister Eli Yishai, a member of the Orthodox Shas party, persuaded the Foreign Ministry not to accept the appeal by dozens of Israeli envoys to be allowed to hold official functions in non-kosher restaurants, Maariv newspaper said.
"Keeping kosher preserved the people of Israel," the daily quoted Yishai as saying.
According to Maariv, the ambassadors had complained that in many foreign postings, most kosher restaurants are fast-food establishments far below the standards of diplomatic dining.
Jewish dietary rules ban pork and some other meat, shellfish and the mixing of dairy products and meat at meals. Orthodox tradition bars Jews from even entering non-kosher restaurants.
But most Israelis are secular and many of them ignore kosher rules.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 8:22 PM
Scott Adams has written something about Israel, and I've replied. I don't know if he'll edit my comment as he moderates it. I've attached his post, along with my consecutive replies. I will say that if I could edit my reply, in the second reply, I would have just stated that I support Israel. I support them, totally, and in that context, you can disagree with policy.
If you love it when I admit I was wrong, you’ll enjoy this post.
I used to think America needed to change its foreign policy if it had any hope of ending terrorism. That sort of opinion is never better than a reasonable guess about what is most likely. But it seemed to me that even terrorists have specific objectives, and if they achieve those objectives, they stop terrorizing.
My thinking was that the terrorists were asking for things we’d be better off giving them anyway, for our own selfish reasons. For example, Israel is strong enough and wealthy enough to no longer need our support. And it’s unclear that our heavy footprint in the Middle East is guaranteeing us more oil and less terrorism. It seemed like a win-win scenario to give the terrorists what they were asking for, since the only impact on us is saving some money. Or at least it would save me from transferring my wealth to the pockets of U.S. military industries.
Recently I changed my opinion. While I think there was a period in the past when a different foreign policy would have brought us to a different point, we don’t have a time machine. We are where we are. And where we are is totally fucked.
The problem is with the loose cell structure of Al-Qaeda, and the fact it has become a lifestyle for its members. If we remove all the original reasons for Al-Qaeda’s existence, I believe they would find new ones. It is unlikely the members of terror cells would decide to quit and become insurance salesmen.
While the cell structure of Al-Qaeda is an excellent way to wage war, it’s a bad way to stop a war. If all the existing cells around the world made lists of their reasons for being terrorists, and compared those lists, I think they’d look very different except for the parts about hating Israel and the United States. If the leadership of Al-Qaeda told its cells to disarm, half of the cells would just splinter off and keep on terrorizing. It’s permawar.
One of the problems is that there is a complete disconnect between reality and what terrorists believe. They think God gave them specific real estate, that a horse can fly, there are virgins waiting for them in heaven, and Jews orchestrated the 9-11 attacks. There’s no reason to believe that reality intrudes on their decisions. Tweaking reality would be a waste of time.
(To be fair, the same can be said of America’s government. Just replace “flying horse” with “a guy who walks on water,” and “virgins in heaven” with “the rapture.”)
This leads me to Israel. I used to think Israel was making a mistake to occupy disputed land and give their enemies more reasons to attack and fewer reasons to make peace. Again, perhaps if we had a time machine there was a period in history where that was true. But we’re long past that. Now I believe there is sufficient perpetual hatred against Israel that it would be irrational for them to offer any concessions. It makes more sense to grab as much land and water as they can get their hands on. And it makes sense to keep the Palestinians in a permanent state of wretchedness and powerlessness as Israel consolidates its hold on those resources. In five hundred years, they’ll be glad they have more land and water.
I don’t think there’s much chance of Israel getting nuked. Even the craziest Muslims wouldn’t irradiate their own holy lands while standing downwind and hoping for the best.
While I think Israel’s policies are a dark grey form of evil, I support them because at this point they are being entirely rational. It would be hypocritical to deny any other nation the right to pursue their self-interest.
If the Palestinians ever display an ability to offer a credible peace, I’m willing to revise my opinion. If not, the best advice I can give them is to say goodbye to their shit.
Meanwhile I’m going to invest in Halliburton and see if I can get back some of my money.
The Palestinians are some of the most tragically unfortunate people in the Middle East. If any of the Arab nations actually acted on their principles they speak of, they could reach out to the Palestinians, send money their way for education, healthcare, and development, but the Arab world would rather just maintain a reason to hate Israel. They need Israel as a scapegoat because inventing a bad guy makes politics simpler. Israel is a nation that must continue an aggressive policy to the Palestinians; Israel is defending themselves against a desperate, poor people with nothing to lose.
The Palestinians organizations are miserable liars as well. Where the Palestinian terrorist organizations like Hamas promise to "unite the Palestinians in a fight against the Zionist enemies," they're really just exploiting the impoverished Palestinians for their own meager gain of insignificant control.
Of course, there's always the number one reason to support Israel over its enemies. We must support Israel because they are a beacon of freedom in a vast region of tyranny, and what is so tragic is that their enemies deny Israel the right to exist. How can you negotiate with someone who says, "you have no right to exist." Maybe all anti-Zionists will try to say that the creation of the state of Israel was unfair, but that kind of talk will get nowhere to peace. If Israel should give back all its land to the Palestinians, should the U.S. give back all its land to the Native Americans?
Also, I support Israel mostly, but not all if its actions. The occupation was a terrible burden that everyone hated. Where Israel had been top-ranked in healthcare and education, they fell because they devoted an absurd amount of resources to occupying Gaza. It was totally insane for the government of a previous generation to have encouraged ultra-religious Jews to settle among populations dominated by Arabs, and then consume all the precious time, resources, and lives of Israeli soldiers to protect them. In the fall of '05, Israel made an excellent decision to evacuate these deluded and troublesome Jewish settlers from Gaza.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 7:18 PM
Friday, June 1, 2007
So, now that Google has purchased FeedBurner, I can now say that Google owns me. This is ironic, since all their services that I use are free.
- Google owns five of my blogs.
- Google operates my primary e-mail account.
- Google owns the feeds for two of my podcasts.
- Google owns my personalized homepage, crammed with information.
- Google owns my favorite substitute for a globe on a computer.
- Google owns services that I use for advertising, AdSense.
- Google owns all those cool tools and applications in their labs.
- Google owns Google Video and YouTube.
- Google owns the gateway to all of my information in the world.
- Google owns pretty much everything that is good in the world.
That penultimate point is a stretch, since there are competing search engines, news sites, and Wikipedia, but I needed some dramatic emphasis, and quickly realized that my list wasn't looking long enough. OK, so it's a short list maybe, but it is pretty much everything basic for what a newbie would need online.
It still astounds me really that pretty much everything they do is free, but maybe that's why it's so successful. Google's making money behind the scenes, tons of it.
It's also pretty cool that their offices are paradise, and they host the series Authors@Google, including the cool dude Max Barry.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 9:43 PM
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Earlier today, I found an old copy of To Kill a Mockingbird lost under the sink in my bathroom, which brought back memories of visiting friends finding much amusement at reading the first chapter for entertainment while conducting their "business." Furthermore, it brought back some old blogging moments of misunderstood and misplaced aggression and hostility between blogs.
Alvin has reposted a historical post, which originally came around the same time as this nonsensical item which sparked some sort of debate. The debate concerned absolutely nothing at all, but the conversation that occured between two different blogs went down in the history of the Internet, for sure. He and I together reach millions of readers, indubitably.
I've also blogged about To Kill a Mockingbird before; I mentioned how it was referenced gratuitously in Big Daddy.
My point is this. I only create content on the Internet so that I can rediscover it in a couple of years and amuse myself.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 8:54 PM
I am sitting here watching the national spelling bee, and the first contestant, Jonathan Horton is repeating his word about literally 40 times, back and forth with the announcer. His word was girolle, and he missed it. It is one of the most ridiculous words to say in the the English language. He took up all of the two minutes they allow. I wonder about the sanity and wellbeing of the children who study the most obscure and esoteric words in existence for this competition.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 8:07 PM
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
So it's time to quickly review two movies, Pirates of the Carribean 3 and Spiderman 3.
They're jumpy. "Pirates" is jumpy because is so confusing. Gene Seymour summarized it well, "It won't matter whether you've seen the first two Pirates movies or not. You'll still be confused." Still, it felt much more entertaining than the second one. It was jumpy because there were way too many plots that were not explained adequately.
Spiderman 3, I thought, was entertaining enough, but it seemed to drag. There was a lot of emotion from the characters, but somehow, the reader didn't really have to connect with them. Of course, as a Spiderman movie, one might expect a bit more action, and this one was lacking something to liven it up. Also there were a few loose ends, and plot elements that didn't seem to logically follow; some major events that should have triggered some other things were simply ignored, and in this way, it was jumpy. It's hard to talk about a movie in the abstract so as to not give away spoilers, but if and when you see it, you'll probably understand what I'm saying. It did have a few hilariously intentional irrelevant items.
So, the consensus is that both movies were disappointing. Of course, people will see them, because the machine we call Hollywood is beyond our control! Studios can make a terrible film for a hundred million, and audiences will flock the theaters, buy the DVDs, succumbing to the advertising. If a studio pours a hundred million into a terrible film, advertise if for five million, and then make 2oo or 300 million, it's a great success! I am, of course, making up these numbers out of thin air, with no authority or basis whatsoever.
You know, sales of movie tickets and DVDs have been declining, and many people have been quick to blame piracy. Sure, that probably contributes to it, but there's a much bigger factor here. The movies are getting worse and worse! If these are the summer blockbusters that Hollywood has to offer, they're in bigger trouble. They have a lesson to learn. If they make good movies, they will regain all those ticket sales. If they continue to push bad movies, they will lose money, and fans. It's that simple. So many small, relatively low budget films that are really well made are remembered by the public, and when they make a ton of money, it's due to merit. Films like Napoleon Dynamite, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Those were sleepers. Anyway, I forgot what my point was here. Watch good movies, and don't watch bad ones. That pretty much applies to everything in life. Do good, not bad. The discretion is yours.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 10:31 PM
Somehow I'd like to think that the reason a product like fake beer, marketed to kids, wouldn't fly in the United States is a difference in culture, but some cynical part in me feels that a conservative politician, or even a liberal politician, trying to appeal to some conservative or even mainstream bloc, would try to outlaw this. There were some politicians I had heard about a while back who were trying to ban THC-free Marijuana-flavored lollipops. That issue turns into one regarding freedom of speech, as such a ban would be stifling anti-prohibition speech. I'm not sure what someone would want in a Marijuana-flavored lollipop, because I'm pretty sure that people consuming real Marijuana it aren't doing it for the flavor.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 6:00 PM
It looks like the administrators of the blogging service I used previously are conducting some interesting filtering.
Of course, this isn't censorship to me. LiveJournal is a private company, so they should be able to do whatever they want. Censorship should be clearly defined as something only the government can do.
What strikes me as silly though, is why they're cracking down on this. It doesn't seem to me that sexual offenders and pedophiles have anything to lose really. LiveJournal is stifling discussion of sex crimes, but it doesn't seem to me that this action alone could actually do anything to prevent or even slow sex crimes in real life. Even still, maybe the administrators feel some kind of guilt for having condoned filthy discussions of this nature, and they don't want to tolerate it anymore. They can clean their hands of it, but really, they ought to know that they aren't really accomplishing anything in the real world.
This raises a question about pornography in general, specifically child pornography. Now, pornography can be simply text. Should child pornography be illegal, where it is only synthetic? That is, if someone writes a pornographic short story involving children, there are no victims. What about sexually explicit depictions of children that are entirely computer-generated? There's no victim there. I believe that under current law, possession of this "synthetic" child porn is a crime. Proponents of this policy might argue that those who create, distribute and consume such synthetic child porn would be encouraging crimes in real life. That argument doesn't hold a lot of weight to me, since popular culture references and even glorifies all sorts of other crimes. Think of all the movies about the Mafia, or car thieves, burglars, and others. Conservatives would probably still make this argument that condoning synthetic child porn would encourage crimes against children, but I say, it could even have the opposite effect, from catharsis. I don't want to immediately take the side and say that consumption of this type of pornography would be cathartic, but I can say pretty confidently that the world is nowhere near as scary as fictional media products would have you believe. What's fantasy is fantasy, and any fool can tell the difference. At the same time, I definitely would not like to associate myself in any way with the kind of person who would watch synthetic child porn. Now, the instant one tries to touch a child inappropriately, they should be locked away forever, but we can't be making certain thoughts a crime.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 5:03 PM
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Somehow I missed it a while back when it exploded in popularity as a phenomenon on this great Internet, but I have recently caught the fever of Line Rider. You can decorate the backgrounds, but mostly, there's some inexplicably simple pleasure one derives from sending little two-dimensional pixel down a line. Enjoy.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 9:49 PM
If you're living under a rock, you should know that StarCraft II has been announced. I personally think that StarCraft is probably the greatest video game of all time, having wasted a decade playing it, and I can imagine how the sequel will step it up. To build hype, I have been using some themed backgrounds. Check them out here.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 4:55 PM
This is The Paltry Press.
I'm Seth Goldin, and I'm not going to pretend that this blog is some sort of new phenomenon to me. The truth is that I am creating this blog to help to simplify my content-producing identity online. What do I mean? I suppose I started into this venture of producing content online on April 26, 2003, a date that my most devoted fans of mine will know is the date I launched my personal website. Back then, I used stupidly simple online editors, because I hadn't bothered to take the time to play around with any actual HTML. When other people had already started blogging, I attempted to do so by manually editing pages, not posting with software of the future. Later, I experimented with different blogs, migrating waves of posts on different different sites. Hilariously, I lost the earliest works by accidentally deleting them forever.
Anyway, I'm getting off track. A friend pushed me into using the Blogger software for a certain collaborative project a few years back, and I experimented with it. He had already been using it, and over the years, I have liked what he was doing with it, how he's blogging, and how he continues to blog. I admired his work, completely deluding myself by not using Blogger as my primary blogging tool, even when I had used it for quite a few projects. I still do. I've been using Blogger for a good long while, but today, I simplify my digital identity by consolidating everything I want in a blog, right here, at The Paltry Press. I say I'm simplifying things because I can manage all my projects at Blogger together, easily, and I now am finally creating the primary blog to go along with them, the blog I should have had much earlier, years ago.
I'm titling it The Paltry Press. Yes, I write the title again, perhaps because I'm still mulling it over, having just thought of it, and titling this blog whimsically. Of course, the self-deprecating humor in the title will serve to show that this blog won't be professional, but I'll do my best to make it good, with frequent posts of high quality. However, if history tells us anything about the future, this blog will consist of terrible posts published irregularly and unpredictably.
Because this is about cleaning up things, of sorts, I aim to divulge my intentions for doing so. With the popularity of blogging having exploded, I see this pressure to record chronologically all content worth producing. I have been able to do this for the projects involved with Blogger, and I am ready to trust it for bigger and better things. I hesitate to say that I am migrating here, because this to me is a clean slate, a fresh start, even if I have maintained other blogs before that I am now happening to discontinue with, or even delete, after archiving. My purpose here is to provide a blog to disseminate information that I want to disseminate, what I want, how I want it.
In this blog, which is hopefully going to continue for a long time, links may become outdated, but the content here will last. Because of the fleeting nature of the Internet, a reader must remember that posts which will eventually have broken links worked when I posted them. I can't believe I'm talking about the future as if it's the distant past, but that's just a testament to my plan to make this last a very long time, with consistent content. Of course, things change so quickly on the Internet, having a broken link, to somewhere else on the Internet, controlled by an entirely different person, in one of my posts doesn't mean that it's old. On the Internet, a broken, but once working link could mean the post is a couple of days, or even a couple of hours old.
This blog will stand alone. It isn't complementary to another component of my online presence, like my home page or another blog or podcast. Having that mindset, I believe, will free it up to be creative, making it limitless, such that I can post items that I intend for distribution elsewhere as well, keeping in mind that it was here first, and conveniently, it is stamped with a date and a time, immortalizing the content exactly as I desire.
So getting all this obligatory meta-blogging for an introductory post, I can now inform you to rest assured that what I'll take for good content is on the way. You'll soon learn of what I find interesting, and what my opinions are. Read on. Spread the word.
Posted by Seth Goldin at 3:50 PM