Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mad Skeptic's Disease

The internet is a wondrous thing, to be sure. All that information, waiting to be sucked up.
A very conservative estimate; I look up 6-8 things on Wikipedia, Merriam-Webster, Google, UrbanDictionary, whatever, during my average work day. Half of it is probably work-related, the other half is trivia or based on interests.

Wikipedia has the unique property of sending me off on link rampages, and I guess everyone experiences this. Yesterday, I read a fun article on the crappiest beasts of the old televised Star Trek series. I followed one of those beasts to Wikipedia, remebered that I had always wanted to know more about Q and went through to that section. From there, I went on to read about the Borg which lead me to a passage about physics and dimensionality and - briefly - to the anthropological description of the Finns (who are, by some, referred to as Borg). I then returned through the biography of Patrick Stewart. Star Trek waved goodbye by linking to the definition of fusion power which led me to Hydrogen-3 and the apparently impending space race to the Moon. Since that has to do with withering energy supplies, I returned to Earth through a Peak Oil reference. At this point I left Wikipedia, reading an interesting Wired article - in which a comment links to this.

Now, of course I don't really read all this. Like most webformation-addicts (I suspect that is what I have become) I have perfected a skimming-style that allows me to read 3-page articles in, say, 3-4 minutes. Definitely a heavy information loss there - I don't pick it all up. However, there is also a technique to reading blog and newspaper articles. I usually begin with the first 2-3 sentences, to get a feel for the topic. If I am interested, I jump to the last 4-5 sentences to judge the conclusion, if it is present. If the conclusion is as expected, I let it go and head on for other stuff to pique my curiosity. If the conclusion is absent or controversial, I begin scanning back towards the middle section - usually the meat of the arguments in any article lie between the 50% and 75% markers of the bulk text, this seems to be my experience.
I wasn't really aware that I did this skimming until someone commented the way I was skipping ahead (I have a habit of marking up the text with my cursor while reading it).

I expect these habits are quite common, but compared to how one reads a book the difference is really quite huge - and I think it goes to show how much one needs to "shut out" in order to get anywhere, webformationally speaking.

Anyway, my main point was the skepticism that this leads (should lead) to. The example with the whole Peak Oil discussion above is quite vivid. Both articles are well-written - the second is more biased and as such weighs in less on my overall opinion - but how are we to believe anything? I don't dare take a stand anymore - I'm still trying to fathom the mechanisms behind the immense discourse shift on global warming - not because of scientific evidence but because of media attention through Gore.

Disclaimer: I am not saying the evidence is not there...I am saying that it has, in its basic form, been there for at least a decade. Gore put it in the discourse. So does that make him a scientist or a spin-doctor? Assuming there is a difference these days...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Stumbled over this when I was reading about how pissed Trent Reznor is at his record company, Universal.

Apparently, he wants to have fans remix and upload his latest album to the official site - but Universal are spooked because they are involved in a humongous lawsuit against YouTube and MySpace. Legal paranoia ruining a fine idea - even if it is not very ground-breaking. David Bowie did the same with one of his albums a couple of years ago - although I seem to recall it was tied to the music program Acid and some limited track selections. I remember I was all agitated and downloaded everything to give it a go - but lost heart after one measly evening of slider-pulling and creative vacuum.

Funny how you can be bubbling with ideas when walking under a clear sky. Then, when you want to activate and actualise all those dreams you are hit in the face by the inertia of reality's tools.

Hm, what a strange paragraph...I stand by it, though.

Well, back to the initial point - Saul Williams (left field poetic rapper) is giving away his album for free, much like Radiohead. Except he has optimised the concept and asked $5 for the really high-grade download (320 Kbit/s or FLAC). Very reasonable - I opted to pay even if 192 Kbit/s is usually fine for me.
Reznor is deeply involved in the production of said album - and that pairing cannot be half bad.

Monday, November 12, 2007


I'm ill again - sore throat and heavy coughing. For the second time within two weeks.
I think exercise might be needed. Badly.


This sketch on modern finance and specifically the sub-prime crisis is absolutely brilliant (courtesy of

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Populism all across the board

The Danish vote for parliament is coming up and every politician in the country has suspended real work for a while in order to enjoy a few weeks of mock-faced mud slinging, promise-brokering, and void-eyed exchanges of superficial clichés.

You guessed it, I'm sick of it already. I'm not sure if my late years at uni rendered me too academic and philosophical on social and economic issues - but I really do feel that the discourse is shamefully ignorant and shallow. Even worse, I think it is ignorant and shallow intentionally. As if there is a contract between politicians, however far apart, to never dive deep into anything of substance.
Of course, the spin and media dilutions of political issues have always been there...but I really feel it is getting worse every year. I wonder if it's just me, getting old, losing my ideological innocence, becoming ever more cynical.

This year has been promising, though, since 'Ny Alliance' has arisen to kick some excitement into the melting pot. Usually we have 2 or 3 "circus parties", as I like to call them, in the Danish parliament. Generally represented on the wings, of course. The far lefties that wail about human degradation and want communism reinstated in a cleaner form, the far righties that wail about immigration and want to shut out the surrounding world as much as possible. Both sides weigh in heavily on certain popular groups - often the helpless destitutes and the easily spooked elderly citizens, respectively.

'Ny Alliance' rose from the middle ground, apparently claiming a group of voters that were either just tired of the traditional political landscape or needed to express their support for the current government but wishing to expel the far righties.
Usually, this would suit me fine. I'm not too distraught with the policies of the current government - not on the basic economical level anyway. I do feel there have been too many mistakes made, eg. the war in Iraq, the immigration policies, the priorities on specific social areas. However, the country has been doing fine - and virtually everyone (except maybe incapacitated destitutes and immigrants) have the opportunity of a job these days. Perhaps the most important thing of all.

But, however nicely 'Ny Alliance' may suit my general feelings on the political landscape, they just seem too smooth and calculating. The past couple of days were really bad. They seem to be catering to the most popular topics on both sides of the divide, gathering a nice bouquet to entice the voters with. It seems too glittery and "marketed". So, I am thinking of them increasingly as the third circus act of the election show.

I am also thinking of making my own party, something like The Reasoned People's Party. Main goal is to present accurate facts and figures. And insist on 5 minutes of answering time for each question on nationally transmitted debates.

Now, that would constitute Utopia.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I've succumbed

I should apologise for my previous rant on the phenomenon of LOLcats. While I still hold contempt for the aesthetic derangement that the LOLcat lingo brings into the fine art of subtitling, I've recently been active myself in this respect.

Place? Neatorama's occasional Caption Monkey contests - good fun :) And with prizes too!

PS. I stubbornly refrain from using silly language. Good old English will suffice.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Musing of the day

I wonder if "bad software" will ever be dismissed on a bill of human rights.