Showing posts from June, 2006

We need to invest way more in space

Finally, a recognized figure speaks out about something I wrote about on my previous blog, years ago: the dire need for colonies in space to improve the chances of human survival. The CNN article contains a comment about how science won't be up to the challenge in 50 years. But that misses the point. The science won't be up to it because countries spend ridiculously little on space research compared to how much they spend for social transfers, armies, and pork. Here's a snippet from the estimated US federal spending for 2005 : Total federal budget: $2,479 billion Military spending: $466 billion Income security transfers: $313 billion Social security transfers: $456 billion Farmers' subsidies (a complete waste of money): $31 billion General science and basic research: $7 billion NASA: $15 billion Have you ever wondered why so much technology (like the Internet? GPS? airplanes?) is developed for the military first, and then seeps out to find use in the public

The struggle of fixing net crime

Originally published as a comment to Eric Sink's article, Thirteen Guitars . The net is an anarchy - much like a city without any police. Where there is no functional real-life police, everyone has to allocate a good portion of time and resources to protect against crime, and woe to the gullible one. The net is much like that right now. The primary reason hackers, fraudsters and spammers can elude detection is because (1) they have access to millions of zombie machines, and (2) they can log on to the internet anonymously through things like Wi-Fi hot spots. Removing these people's ability to (1) command armies of zombies, and (2) log on to the net in anonymity would go a long way towards eliminating net crime. The only way to solve #1 is to fix the way software is written. 1. It must be written in a language created with security in mind, so that no buffer overruns or integer overflows are possible. Java and .NET are a good step in this direction, and it is a good thing t

The illusions of narcissistic leaders

From a recent article in New Scientist: Overconfident people are more likely to wage war but fare worse in the ensuing battles, a new study suggests. The research on how people approach a computer war game backs up a theory that “positive illusions” may contribute to costly conflicts. ... then: Those who launched unprovoked attacks also exhibited more narcissism, scoring 13 out of 15 on a standard psychological test. More peaceful types scored 11 on average on the same test. The trend applied to both men and women. “So it's not maleness per se but narcissism that makes some people overly optimistic and aggressive,” suggests Bertram Malle at the University of Oregon in Eugene, US. ... and: Malle agrees that the study raises worrying questions about real-world political leaders. "Perhaps most disconcerting is that today's leaders are above-average in narcissism,” he notes, referring to an analysis of 377 leaders published in King of the Mountain: The nature of political lea

Inheritance and education: the real injustice

The one inequality I think is really unjust is inheritance. Or rather: the inequality between a child born to rich parents and an equivalent child born to parents who are poor. In this respect, our laws and mentality seem feudal. Isn't a person, any person, who is born into this world, a human being? Doesn't each person deserve the opportunity to learn, to prove herself, to try and be successful? (I ask this here rhetorically because I think most would agree. However, there may be a future article in store in which I'll challenge this premise.) How come, then, that we tolerate such inequality when it comes to education? In the USA as well as in Slovenia - two countries I'm reasonably acquainted with - the only schools that give you a valuable education are private. Poor parents cannot afford private schools, even if their children are smart. (Universities in Slovenia are free but produce people who are unemployable. For most careers, the way to get a decent education

What 'socialist' and 'capitalist' mean

Socialists won't like this entry. Please understand, although I have a pet peeve against socialism, this isn't against people who have compassion for others and want to help them. I think that's great. I'm all for helping people when the help actually makes sense and has results. The problem is, it's really difficult to actually help. What passes as helping is all too often a soft-hearted, woossy-feely naivete that leads to the helper being carelessly exploited by the helpee, which doesn't change the person being helped and in the long run just tends to make things worse. It's really very difficult to help someone because most times when you try to help you have really just consented to a game of Victim/Rescuer (see Eric Berne's excellent Games People Play ). And this is a destructive game. For an example, just look at any guy who's 30 and still living with his parents. The mother "helps" by making lunch, cleaning his room and doing all th

Woman fired for going topless in camp

This is an example where the mental health of most Americans seriously worries me. Not the woman, mind you. The reaction! According to the article, all this woman ever did was simply go topless in a campground, in her private time and minding her own business. Apparently, in the United States of Insanity, doing this gets you: harrassed by fellow camp goers; reported to a marine patrol deputy and a park ranger; harrassed by both mentioned authorities; reported to your employer, which in this case is the sheriff's office; fired by your employer; a $1000 fine and up to one year in jail . Now this is just ridiculous. A woman shows her breasts, something no one should pay a second thought to and everyone should be accustomed to seeing, and people fire her for it? And there's a $1000 fine? And up to one year in jail ? WTF? Please tell me again, I forgot. How again are the United States different from Yemen, Iran or Saudi Arabia?


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Circumcision as an adult, part 2

I just returned from my post-operative examination with dr. Stanonik. A few notes in addition to what I wrote before : There are multiple circumcision styles , in particular tight (takes away more skin) vs. loose (leaves more skin), and high (cuts more regular skin, putting the scar line away from the glans) vs. low (cuts more foreskin, putting the scar line closer to the glans). Before the operation, I tried talking to dr. Stanonik about what kind of circumcision I'd get, but he didn't budge - he just said 'We're going to cut as much skin as is necessary to reveal the glans', and that was it. He didn't offer a choice, or a choice combined with a recommendation. There are multiple ways to do a circumcision - with different possibilities of tools , or freehand . Some of the tools which can be used allow the cut line to be determined precisely before actually cutting. Dr. Stanonik operates freehand, and as a result, my circumcision is lopsided - the cut line