Showing posts from August, 2007

Teen cracks AU$84 million porn filter in 30 minutes

You'd think supposedly civilized nations wouldn't be blowing millions of forcefully confiscated tax-victims' money on ill-conceived projects aiming to "protect" children from imaginary threats. You would be wrong. In Talibanland, women are taught to hide under all-covering blankets. People fear that so much as the sight of a woman's ankle in public will lead to unspeakable harm, so women are punished severely for that. In Australia and the United States, people fear that letting children see naked women online will corrupt them immeasurably, so "something needs to be done" to protect children from such awful, soul-corrupting sights. Well, guess what. If the mere sight of something can divert a child away from what you are trying to teach them, may it be because what you're trying to teach them is an exaggeration and a lie? Dear prudish parents of the world: is the reason you're trying to "protect" your children from their own cu

Comments vs. program structure in programming

Given that all I have is about 3 readers (I exaggerate - including you, I really have four), and given how the topics on my blog are generally dull and boring socio-political tomes, I figure I can afford to bore my readers some more and talk about programming. Here's what I wrote recently in response to Jacob Gabrielson's post which mentioned the relative importance of comments vs. program structure in programming. Jacob wrote: What matters most to readability is, first, comments, followed by identifier names, followed by there being as little code as possible, followed by program structure. I seriously disagree with this statement. I believe that what matters most are first and foremost the identifier names and program structure; good structure includes that there needs to be as little code as possible; then, to the extent that the meaning of the program is still not plainly evident, this needs to be addressed by comments. Sticking to anecdotal support, I've seen some

Naive humanitarianism: compassion not linked to common sense

I think James Robertson expresses the gist of a problem pervasive in Euro-America when he summarizes this about the declining standards in education: The problem seems to be an excess of compassion that is not linked to common sense. It is no favor to pass a kid through school when they continually fail basic subjects, and it continues to be no favor to them to send them to a college where they are certain to fail. Without basic standards being enforced, all this compassion yields is tragedy. Better to fail kids early, when there's a chance they'll learn something from it, than to feed a sense of entitlement. Compassion not linked to common sense is a problem pervasive not just in education, but in all Euro-American policy. It is a problem I like to call naive humanitarianism . In schools, in social policies, in taxation, we disadvantage and discourage those with more potential, at the same time as we coddle those without. Within our countries, we encourage people to develop

Slovenia is world's first...

I was surprised to find out today that, at least in one small, yet not quite irrelevant way, my mother nation of Slovenia is first in something . It is the world's most taxed country ! Leading Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, according to this article from May 2007 by Forbes. The figures in the slides tell you how much an executive earning a certain amount gets to take home. In Slovenia, an executive earning €50,000 per year gets to keep €27,627, and an executive earning €1,000,000 gets to keep €398,503. Everything else goes to taxes. If anyone is still wondering why I moved to St. Kitts & Nevis, I hope that this will now help clarify that complicated and subtle question once and for all. :-)

Purveyors of distorted perception

In one of my recent posts , I linked to an excellent article (via Schneier ) which discusses how the media distorts the public's perception of risks. In another of his excellent essays , Schneier lists five general patologies in people's perception of risk: People exaggerate spectacular but rare risks and downplay common risks. People have trouble estimating risks for anything not exactly like their normal situation. Personified risks are perceived to be greater than anonymous risks. People underestimate risks they willingly take and overestimate risks in situations they can't control. Last, people overestimate risks that are being talked about and remain an object of public scrutiny. As a contemporary example, here is a recent article on BBC News titled Shot boy's parents speak of loss . Besides the obviously inane headline (well, duh - what else are the kid's parents expected to do? Celebrate?), it is striking how many other articles the BBC devoted to t

New Orleans plumbers: Democracy at work

Under another recent post on this blog, me and my one reader have been having a debate about whether the problem of democracy is that there are no protections against a majority oppressing minorities (my view), or that special interest groups promote their interests at the expense of the majority (his view). Apparently, both views are true. The latest Fortune (vol. 156, no. 4, 2007-08-20) explains part of the problem of reconstruction in New Orleans (p. 71): One unusual problem: a severe shortage of plumbers. KB learned after it arrived that state law requires plumbers to complete more than four years of training before obtaining a license, and that Louisiana follows different plumbing codes than most other states. That means KB effectively can't bring plumbers from Houston, where it has an extensive contractor network. The company promoted a bill in the Louisiana legislature to loosen the requirements. The state's Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association saw that the

The panicking majority

If only we could hammer this into people's heads (by way of Schneier ): Worse, because many reporters are statistically illiterate, personal-injury lawyers get us to hype risks that barely threaten people, like secondhand smoke, or getting cancer from trace amounts of chemicals. Sometimes they even con us into scaring you about risks that don't exist at all, like contracting anti-immune disease from breast implants. There's a lot more interesting stuff in the article . The problem is, people who understand this are exceptional. You and me who read this, we're exceptional. To a much greater extent than you or me, the world is populated by moms who panic at the sight of a paedophile discovery on TV, and they react by prohibiting their kids from playing outside, because they perceive that someone will kidnap them. The only way to fix this would be to recognize that most people are sheep, and treat them that way. Feed them news in a format that won't cause country-wi

A system better than democracy

In my previous post, I wrote about the deficiencies of democracy as usually practiced. A commenter asked in jest whether I think other systems like fascism, communism or anarchy were better. My original response was in Slovene, but I think it's well-expressed enough that it warrants its own post, so I'm translating it to English. Anarchy does not exist, or to the extent that it exists, we already live in it. Democracy, communism, feudalism and other systems are phenomena that spotaneously arise within an absolute anarchy. We know that fascism and communism do not have major advantages on democracy. The problem in fascism and communism is, they permit (or even encourage) oppression of the majority on behalf of a minority. Democracy is good to the extent that it prevents a minority from oppressing the majority. But on the other hand, democracy fails to the extent that it allows oppression of minorities on behalf of a majority. In the developed democratic economies of presen

Demokracija, šolstvo in mediji

Most of my posts are in English. This one is in Slovenian because it is a response I originally posted on Libertarec , a Slovenian blog. Demokracija ni trg, demokracija je socializem. Demokracija je sistem, v katerem 51% kratkovidnih preglasuje 49% modrih. Demokracija sta dva volka in ena ovca, ki glasujejo o tem, kaj bo za večerjo. Velika večina volilcev se zelo omejeno in poenostavljeno zaveda političnih in ekonomskih realnosti. Velika večina volilcev ni sposobnih razumeti, kakšna je funkcija centralne banke in čemu služijo obrestne mere, ki jih postavlja centralna banka. Velika večina volilcev teh principov ne bo nikoli razumela. Lahko se jih samo nauči; naučila pa se bo tega, kar več sliši. Če bo več slišala o socializmu, bo verjela v socializem. Če bo več slišala o libertarizmu, bo verjela v libertarizem. V obeh primerih bo velika večina volilcev le verjela, ne pa razumela, ker večina ni sposobna dovolj globokega kritičnega razmisleka. Večina ljudi zna sklepati le površinsko,

Don't use Nocster or Burst.Net

I've used a number of web hosting services in the past several years. First there was XO, who are reliable but overcharged incredibly for their shared hosting service. Then there were Nocster (Burst.Net), Saving Hosting (Cooplabs), and Cari.Net. Of these, I had a good experience with Saving Hosting, and my best experience so far was with Cari.Net. But I would never any more recommend anyone to use Nocster (or Burst.Net). This service has had by far the most frequent and by far the most lengthy occurences of downtime out of all the services I used. Right now, my company's email server, which is hosted by Burst.Net, has been offline for nearly 30 hours. I've still got no response to a customer support ticket I posted 20 hours ago, and I cannot reach them by telephone. Meanwhile, my own company's ability to communicate with customers is crippled, as I am left with no information about whether our email server died (worked fine before), or whether's UPS syste

TIME Magazine publishes socialist hate speech

TIME magazine, that bastion of socialism and the welfare state, just recently published some amazingly hateful commentary by Michael Kinsley about "private equity pigs". The pigs he is talking about are people who make their living by investing into companies, improving their structure and management and eventually selling them on, benefitting the economy, the shareholders and themselves in the process. The reason Kinsley is bashing these people is because they are lobbying the U.S. Congress to preserve a tax-code provision that allows them to pay a 15% income tax instead of 35%, because most of their income comes from capital gains. The reason the private equity people are lobbying to preserve that tax-code provision is because it makes sense. Capital is a necessity for the development of any economy, and it flees very easily. If it is taxed too high in one corner of the world, it will simply flow elsewhere where it is not punished as harshly for doing what it does - which

Your tax dollars at work!

Yet another instance of your tax dollars at work: immigration sends home a European security researcher attempting to teach a two-day course at Black Hat 2007 in Las Vegas. On a similar note, a guy I know just recently tried to enter Poland with a visa that allowed transit through Poland, and he was denied entry because his intention was just to enter for an hour to meet some people for lunch. Apparently, it would have been okay if he spent a week "transiting" through the country, but just popping in and out for lunch is a no-no. Meanwhile, other people were walking past the border without even having their identification checked or being stopped.

The accuracy of media reporting

Here's a great comment by Leo Davidson on Raymond Chen's blog: Remember that the media is stone-cold wrong whenever they report on a subject you know about in detail. Ask other people about subjects they know about and it seems easy to extrapolate that the media is wrong most of the time about just about everything and, while interesting and a good starting point to discover what's going on in the world, not particularly trustworthy or reliable when it comes to explaining things. (Whether it be because of laziness, bias, agenda, worrying about ratings rather than facts, or taking things from other sources at face value when things may be different in reality. I think it's a mixture of all of those things.) There are few media outlets that actually do what I would consider worthwhile reporting. One of the few is The Economist . I would be hard pressed to name any others that aren't routinely full of falsehoods, naivety, misinterpretations and hyperbole.