Friday, October 22, 2010


From BBC News:

Speaking to reporters in Washington earlier, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she condemned "in the most clear terms the disclosure of any information by individuals and or organisations which puts the lives of United States and its partners' service members and civilians at risk".

Being the aggressor nation in an unjustified war to find weapons of mass destruction that didn't actually exist.

That is how you put lives at risk, not by revealing events that never should have happened and should have been disclosed much earlier.

There has been ample opportunity to reveal and hopefully apologize for the wrongdoings of the previous administration, and do it on your own terms.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Scotiabank / Google Ads Fail

I added Google Ads to my page here mostly to see how it works, and just because you never know when you might become the target of an Internet meme. We can all hope, anyway. Plus I do get a small but steady stream of people who end up here by searching for boooooooo*oooooobs due to this post (for which I have new, current statistics, but just haven't posted yet).

In any case, I found this humorous:

I'm not quite sure why Scotiabank would want to buy their own name for AdWords. It's not like their web site is hard to find.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Scotia iTrade are a bunch of money grubbing bastards

This is my review of Scotiabank's Scotia iTrade service.

I used to have an account with eTrade Canada. My former employer didn't give me many choices regarding brokerages for our employee stock purchase program, but this was back during the dot-com boom and eTrade was obviously the best known.

For the last decade, everything was fine. I had a few shares from the employee stock purchase program sitting in the account, and a little cash. I eventually moved most of the cash out to my main investment account, but I always kept the shares there as a little bit of savings that I wouldn't touch. Plus the shares had declined in value by about 70%, so it wasn't of great interest.

Then eTrade went out of business and got bought by Scotiabank. This was fine, everything was the same, just a different name.

Then, without any warning, or even a change of policy that was brought to my attention, they started charging a $25/month "inactivity fee." For the pleasure of letting them hold onto some of my money, they feel they need to charge me. Wonderful.

So, I sent the appropriate forms to my bank to get all of the assets away from Scotiabank, and that all went smoothly and wonderfully and only took a couple of days and everything was fine.

Until I got my statement. Apparently the fee for transferring my account, in order that I might avoid a $25/month charge, is $120. Plus HST.

Now, it's possible I overlooked something I was sent after the account was moved to iTrade. I don't think so, though. I usually read that sort of stuff fairly carefully.

In any case, I hereby vow to, as far as it is possible, never use Scotiabank or any of the financial services ever again. I would encourage anyone reading this to do the same, if you value your money.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Actually, I mistyped the title "Democrazy" initially. Somehow that seems appropriate.

Thought for the day:

Democracy should, in theory, be the last "big stick" that gets used when, for whatever major failing of human intellect, compassion or common sense, we can't come to a suitable consensus or compromise about something.

Somehow the polarization, us-vs-them, my-team-vs-their-team mentality (commonly referred to under the broad category of "politicization") has taken over, until all we get are "big stick" resolutions. That's kind of sad really.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Overtime

It is bad for the blogging.

So, random videos. They fill a lot of space and don't require much effort.

I found this very awesome somehow:

80's TV the way I like it:

This was at least entertaining:

And a little skepticism to round things out:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Games as Art

Roger Ebert (whose intellect I greatly appreciate) has created a bit of a kerfuffle by declaring that video games can never be art.

The basic disagreements seem to come down to a) arbitrary definitions of art and b) an unclear distinction between the act of playing and the items played with.

While playing a game of chess might not be art, the chess set itself could be art. Playing catch with the Mona Lisa might not be art (performance artists might disagree) but the Mona Lisa itself is, I think, art. Still, if dance can be art, why not the act of playing a game? Can figure skating be art, but not hockey?

That's a slightly poor analogy, but perhaps this is the central problem: video games don't fit any of the traditional categories we would stick things into. Campfire stories to books to radio. Street performance to stage to movies. Games don't really fit.

Maybe games are ultimately the extension of playing make-believe with a big chunk of art (even if it's only preschooler level art) latched on the side.

I don't know if games are art. I'm quite sure there is, or can be, art IN games. Personally I think arguing one way or the other falls between stupid and pointless. So I'll stop now.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hash Based Compression

Over the weekend, I was trying to remember the name of someone I haven't seen and barely thought about for over 15 years. After much effort I finally managed to remember the family's last name, and then after coming up with a few first names that didn't seem right, I iterated through every letter of the alphabet until I finally remembered the first name.

This immediately made me wonder exactly how human memory works, and if there is a potential for something like "hash based compression." Let me explain:

A hash function is simply a way of creating a small identifier from a large data set. This sort of thing is frequently used to verify that data has been transmitted correctly (for example, in the TCP/IP protocol) - a hash of the data is sent along with it, and if the hash you received and the hash of the data that you compute yourself match, you can be fairly certain that the data transmitted correctly. Since the hash is smaller in size than the data, many data sets will generate the same hash, so there is a chance of collision, but a well designed hash function can give a high level of confidence that the data is correct.

The idea is this: Is it possible to use this sort of technique to reproduce something similar to human memory? Human memory is lossy (i.e. imperfect) and we almost certainly don't remember every detail of everything that happens to us.

My thought was, I wonder if we store something like a hash code for memories, and then try every reasonable combination of options until we find a match with the stored hash code. If the search space is relatively small - say, all known English names - then comparing the hash of every name with the name we're trying to remember will eventually allow us to "remember" the name we're looking for, without ever having stored the full name. Since our memory is a big web of connections, we'll probably have a few other ways of confirming we have the right match.

A search on Google for "hash based compression" turns up a stunning 26 entries, so there doesn't seem to be a lot of work on this technique, at least under that name. Most compression techniques seem to be based on removing redundant information rather than attempting to match in this way.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I remember sitting in Social Studies class in high school in 1990 or so, hearing about the Japanese Internment during World War II and McCarthyism. I remember thinking that I was happy we were now such an enlightened people that we would never allow something so foolish to happen again. We had learned from the mistakes of the past and were no longer doomed to repeat them.

Then I hear callers to a local radio station calling for the banning of face coverings in the name of protecting us from terrorists. The irony of this being a Canadian station, a country where it is necessary to wear a scarf much of the year or risk frostbite. The lack of terrorist attacks from both the masked and unmasked should perhaps be a clue that this is an issue that does not need addressing.

Certainly the need to positively identify individuals in certain situations is necessary, although those situations are very rare. Religion does not grant additional rights.

Much of what the Burka represents is the antithesis of a secular, free and equal society. However, banning such things is only treating the symptoms and does nothing at all to deal with the issue. As usual, it is a solution that is clear, simple and wrong.

Terrorism is our generation's witch trials, our Red Scare, our Japanese Internment. When my children's children learn of this time in school, they will look back on our paranoia and shake their heads, wondering how we could be so foolish.

Another Vietnam

In the most recent revelation from Iraq, the US military has been murdering civilians for fun. I don't think I can even watch that video. Well, I could, but I don't really want to. Some other day, perhaps.

The goal of peace seems to have been lost in the last nine years. I think even the whole concept has been distorted. There has been a shift from, "Can't we all just get along," to, "Obviously we can't all get along, so just kill or marginalize everyone else." All wrapped up in the patriotic fallacy that it's all about the marginally inclusive "us" versus the poorly defined "them."

The LHC had its first 7TeV collisions last week. The highest controlled collisions ever in the most complicated machine ever assembled. There are still people in the world interested in advancing knowledge, fortunately, but it all seems a little bit pointless right now.

I watched the new Star Trek again the other day. Very enjoyable movie. Star Trek (in general, not just the movie) is a rather interesting view of the future, where people do the jobs they are good at and enjoy for the betterment of all humanity. Of course, you only get to see a handful of starships. I wonder what they do with all of the people who are more harmful to themselves than a benefit to humanity. Really, if you could eliminate all scarcity in the basic necessities of life - food, water, shelter - what would you end up with? How many people are there in the world who want to push other people around, just because they can? What would it actually take to meet all of the basic needs of every person, and then make everyone actually respect one another?

There's a growing movement, particularly in Europe but there are rumblings of such things here in Canada, to ban full face coverings in public. This is obviously a direct assault on some of the traditional (if not specifically religious) clothing worn by Muslim women. I for one think people should be able to wear whatever they want. Your religion doesn't give you extra rights, so you don't get to do something I'm not allowed to do just because your religion requires it. At the same time, fears over "security" are a bit over blown, and the general unease at not being able to see someone's face when communicating with them is hardly reason for an outright ban. That it is a symbol of men attempting to control women is unfortunate, but not strictly a matter requiring legislation, just the assurance that everyone is equal under the law, and should they choose to resist that oppression, they are free to do so.

I have heard suggestions that the immigration and birth rates of Muslims will cause there to be a Muslim majority in various places in Europe, allowing constitutional change to take place democratically, thus eliminating decades of secularism and installing Muslim theocracy. I have no idea how accurate that is, but if people actually believe that, I can see where this "fight for secularism" comes from. A return to the Dark Ages would not be fun.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Converse Also True

The majority of idiots in the world are people.