Why didn’t anyone tell me there’s a new Yamato?

Space Battleship Yamato was the first animé I ever watched, or at least that I remember watching, I spent my classes drawing the ship all over my notebooks instead of paying attention to what the teacher was saying. For many years I remembered the show and the ship but not the name, until a few years ago when I looked for it, just to satisfy my curiosity.

And now there’s a remake of the show that is available in North America. It’s as great as I remember! (Though I really didn’t remember that much of the story, but the ship is just as cool)

Gene therapy heals both eyes and brain

A type of degenerative, congenital blindness has been treated by injecting copies of healthy genes into the retina using viruses. One of the big problems with blindness is that the areas the brain uses to process visual information get lazy and forget how to see, so an important question about this treatment was whether the brain would recover its ability to see.

Results of research with adult volunteers were returned today and apparently the brain doesn’t just rebuild the neural pathways it needs to see, but they become almost as strong and developed as those in a person who has never been blind. The results are very encouraging not only for the blind, but because of what this says about the plasticity of the brain which could be important in the treatment of some neurological problems.

US Senator says restaurants shouldn’t force staff to wash hands

“Conservative” (as this political term is understood over there) US Senator Thom Tillis says that it’s a bad idea that government intervenes in the affairs of businesses and that it should be the “free market” forces that determines what they end up doing.

He says, as an example not that he actually proposes it, that government health regulations shouldn’t obligate a restaurant to make staff wash their hands after using the toilet, a well known measure that has proven effective beyond doubt in preventing disease.

Instead, they should just display to customers whether they make their staff wash their hands or not and the free market would decide which restaurants survive and which don’t.

Mr Tillis is very stupid.

In case that was not clear, let me repeat it: he is very very stupid.

Firstly, to believe that free market can exist without government regulations, i.e. that capitalism by itself will give origin to and sustain a free market, is naïve in extreme. It’s as naïve and stupid as thinking that unchecked socialism produces and sustains a classless society.

Capitalism naturally tends towards oligopolies and monopolies, the complete opposite of a free market. Without government regulations to prevent trusts and unethical competition the market would quickly be closed to new players and would concentrate in a few hands. This has happened before and government regulations exist to keep this from happening again.

Secondly, one of the most important requisites for a free market is “full disclosure”. A buyer should know exactly what they’re getting and be able to compare the offers from different sellers on equal terms. Without knowing how the sausage is made you can’t have a free market.

In the case of the restaurants, what guarantee do I have that they’re telling the truth when they say they force their employees to wash their hands? Should I just take them at their word? If Mr Tillis believes that businesses and corporations won’t lie to get better profits, advance their market share or increase their stock price then he’s even more stupid than I thought before and there is no hope for him, at all.

Some sort of independent organization would be required to verify that what the restaurant advertises is actually true, and this organization should have enough power to enforce deterrants in case it isn’t. Hmm… I wonder if there’s such a public organization out there that has “public safety” as one of its tasks?

Thirdly, right in his example of why regulations are bad, Mr Tillis proposes a regulation: restaurants shall display their hand-washing policy. So, what is it? Are you for or against regulations, Mr Tillis?

Sure, regulations should be only those strictly necessary to keep the free market free and the public healthy; but there’s no need to wait for an epidemic of typhoidea when we know simple actions like hand-washing can prevent it.

They should come under review periodically and kept to a minimum, but to say that they’re not necessary and that the “free market” will take care of it is just what a stupid person would say.

And that’s why Mr Tillis is stupid.

Source:

Senator Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, made the comments on Monday during a speech criticising business regulations. His argument was that restaurants which did not require workers to wash their hands would quickly go out of business.

Math Monkey

How to add (or subtract) large numbers in your head

Math Monkey

The monkey’s name is Robert. Photo by Maribel.

Being able to add large numbers in your head can be pretty useful sometimes. Here’s how I do it:

Let’s take two relatively large numbers:

4589 +
1578

The first thing I do is round them up (or down) to the nearest hundred (could be thousand, depends how large the numbers are).

4600 +
1600

This is much easier to add.

6200

Now, since we rounded the first number up we need to subtract what we added. It was 11. The second number we also rounded up, so we need to subtract 22. In total we need to take out 33 from that. That’s another easy one:

200 – 33 = 167

And the result is 6167.

Subtraction is very similar:

2375 –
7351

That’s 2400 – 7400, pretty easy, right?

-5000.
The first number we rounded up, so we add 25. The second number we also rounded up, but we have to take the sign into account. We are going to add -49 to 25. That’s -24. That result we then subtract from the -5000. Again, keep the sign in mind.

-5000 – (-24) = -5000 + 24 = -4976

Ok, I admit that working with negative numbers is trickier, in the end it’s a matter of keeping the sign straight. You can turn the numbers around, 7351 – 2375, to make it a bit easier, just remember that the result will be negative.

In essence, both operations are the same: round up, add, add what you rounded up (take the sign into account) and subtract that from the result. A bit of practice and you’ll master it in no time.

What math tricks do you use?

The museum of never

Deep in the immensity of space, between the lost stars of Favrian and Gellimeig, there is a museum that is there and everywhere and nowhere; now, always and never.

This museum is unique in the entire Universe. Unlike most others it doesn’t collect letters from important people, artifacts made by long gone artisans or the remains of old civilizations.

It collects things that have never happened. The memories of things that have never existed, the could-have-beens and the if-onlys.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “those words I should have said, those letters I wrote but never sent, that path I didn’t take; Those must be there.” But they aren’t. No one cares. I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you, but most of what is important to you is irrelevant to the Universe and even this museum only has so much space.

No. What you will find here are those great stories that were never told. People whose lifes happened before anyone could write them, stories that were never recorded because no one bothered to listen, dreams dreamt when there was no way to record them and turn them into reality. And, yes, also words that were never spoke, because of fear or avarice or love or hate. Actions that never happened for lack of a nail, or a horse, or sound economic policies.

Is it a sad museum? Some of it is. Some of it is not. Some wars could have been shorter, some could have been longer. Tyranny was defeated with a word, made stronger with another. Slavery lived on, or was rejected, but for one person doing one thing. Or not. With luck you will find out that something you did rippled through time to affect a planet, or the entire galaxy, and that will make you feel better.

Sometimes enormous, unimaginable athrocities brought the acceptance, unity and long-standing peace that some species are only capable of after a period of horror, but avoiding conflict meant prejudice and intolerance lived on for centuries.

You can buy a bit of all of these things with you in the gift shop. Some lost poetry from the Lafarshid Dinasty, a reproduction of the multi-hued Silrth monument in Fasxa V, the collected works of Barkon, the Gollorian poet. Unfortunately none of this has existed in reality, and can never exist. You can’t keep it. And you won’t remember it.

Man of Steel movie review

Lately it’s been raining a lot, so I decided that spending time indoors wouldn’t be a bad idea and bravely faced hordes of teenagers and kids to go to the movie theater in the nearby mall. Since “World War Z” opens next week I bought tickets for “Man of Steel” the new Superman movie with Morpheus and that stiff FBI agent from Boardwalk Empire.

The movie is a reboot of the Superman series after the disastruous “Superman Returns” that nobody liked, that came years and years after the ones with Christopher Reeves that everyone liked, even more since he fell from a horse.

Superman is one of the most beloved comic figures since ever because he is a weird kid growing up in a shithole of a place, but secretly he’s the only survivor of his planet’s destruction and, instead of getting cancer from Earth’s more powerful Sun, he gets superhuman powers, to the point that he’s practically god-like. Kids love that shit, especially because the character was made up by two weird kids growing up in a shithole, so they knew what they were talking about.

Well, back to the movie. It happens that he wasn’t so much the only survivor. Like in the old Superman movie a number of convicts survived in the Phantom Zone, the destruction frees them and arrive on Earth looking for Sup because he’s the key to rebuilding Krypton. They also want to take over Earth and rebuild Krypton on top.

Anyway, Sup has just been through a world tour trying to find himself (we don’t see the parts where he travels to India, finds a guru, experiments with drugs, sex and psychodelic music, but I’m sure they’re there) and is unsure of what side to support. (SPOILER: he sides with the humans).

The movie is ok. Lots of action and levels of destruction that would make Goku proud, at the same time it is also more mature posing questions about identity and self-awareness that then get completely forgotten, I guess because otherwise the movie would be too long and it was already time to kick butt. Also, they tried that with the last Superman and it was a disaster, so it’s probably better they just barely touched on Sup’s daddy issues after the first half.

I didn’t stay after the credits because I really had to go to the bathroom, so I don’t know if there are teasers for upcoming Justice League movies, or super chimp, or super horse (look them up, they existed).

Overall the movie is entertaining and a good reboot of the character. I give it 6 out of 10 chocolate raisins.

Now, to the really important part. Here’s what I learned from this movie:

1. Capes are all the rage in dieing worlds.
2. If you have a choice between saying “Kneel before Zod!” or not, say it. Even if you’re not Zod.
3. It doesn’t matter how fast you are falling, as long as it’s not the ground that stops you it’s ok.
4. Same for being hit by a mass of around 100 kilos at 400 km/hr. If it’s a guy your organs won’t be pulverized.
5. Chicks dig it when you destroy half a city.
6. If your eyes get all red it could be an infection or you could be about to shoot death rays.
7. Only have one backup of your entire species, who needs multiple redundancy for that?
8. Don’t threaten Superman’s mom.

The Great Gatsby movie review.

Last Saturday I went to the talkies to watch the Great Gatsby movie. It was good, although it could have used more plasmids to go along the Bioshock-inspired setting (Google Bioshock if you need to).

DiCaprio was good, but I still like Redford better in that role. And I’ve never been much of a fan of Tobey McGuire though he could have been more annoying in this movie.

Bioshockscr06

The movie looks more or less like this but with less psychic powers and weirder mutants. Photo by Bludgeoner86.

There was a power failure in the theatre but it was in the end when the credits were rolling, so I couldn’t find out if there was a bloopers reel.

Anyway, here’s what I learned from this movie:

  1. When the ultra rich complain about what miserable life they’ve had, it’s really hard to feel sorry for them.
  2. It’s better to be rich and unloved than poor and unloved, or poor and loved for that matter. Rich people just have it better.
  3. I mean, rich and poor will complain about the same shit, but the rich will do it in their mansion.
  4. Just tell people you’re a scoundrel from the beginning. It’ll save a lot of trouble and in the end they’ll think you’re not too bad for a scoundrel.
  5. If you come up with this convoluted plan to steal your old girlfriend but she says she’d just rather run away, just grab a bag and go, because…
  6. You can’t trust women to stick to the plan (specially if it’s full of false assumptions).
  7. You also can’t trust them to not run over people when they’re upset.
  8. Tall golfer ladies are hot.
  9. Dusselbergs are cool.
  10. Popcorn makes me gassy.

I give this movie 8 chocolate raisins out of 10.

Songs for the end of the World

So, here we are waiting for the end of the world (on a Friday to ruin your weekend, why couldn’t it be on Monday?) and while we wait we can listen to some music fit for the occasion. Here’s my selection:

Ball of Confusion Love and Rockets

Sure, you can listen to The Temptation’s version as well.

Monster The Automatic

Because that’s what you’re going to be saying in the aftermath: “What’s that coming over the hill? Is it a monster?” And yes, it will be a monster and it’ll eat you.

The Killing Moon Echo & the Bunnymen

It’s a great song and I like the idea of the Moon killing everybody.

Cities in dust Siouxsie and the Banshees

It’s about the destruction of Pompeii, but it’s applicable.

Burning down the house The Talking Heads

Since we are into the burning of stuff…

Fire Arthur Brown

“You’re gonna burn!”

Eve of destruction Barry McGuire

The Turtles also have a great version.

Psychobitches outta hell HorrorPops

‘Cause that’s all that’s gonna’ be left. And zombies.

She’s not there The Zombies

Told you there were going to be zombies.

The Death Song Marilyn Manson

This is a good one to finish with, since death is so final.

Podcamp Toronto 2011 – Saturday afternoon #pcto2011

The second part of the day began with a very interesting talk by Brian on the psychology of websites and how our inner mechanisms can be used to build trust and get people to like us, read more of our content, or buy from us. It was a basic talk that didn´t try to delve too deep on the subject, an impossible task since he only had 45 minutes and he also had to keep it accessible to everyone.

Playing with the Kinect

I was then off to a session called “Why we podcast” featuring a panel of well known podcasters that I’ve never listened to just because my interests lie elsewhere. Nevertheless it was a very lively conversation on what motivates this group of people to podcast regularly and keep doing it despite there not being any money (nor getting girls, as Keith complained repeatedly).

After that I moved a few doors down to hear how to get started in games journalism. I admit that PC games are my thing, and getting paid for playing games sounds like a good thing. However, to get to that stage you have to go through a lot of what sounds like hard work that will eat into your game playing time. This session tried to make that transition a bit easier and provided a few good pointer on what you could do and a bit more insight on what’s involved.

And finally, to end the day I went to the session on photojournalism with HiMy Syed (I met him years ago in the first Jane’s Walk, he led one). Unfortunately there was not enough time to go through everything he had prepared, but in the short time available he did share several very good and important points on making your photographs available and selling them. I wish there had been time to go into a deep discussion on Creative Commons vs traditional copyright, but I guess that could’ve easily taken half a day all by itself.

In all, an excellent first day of sessions, learning and sharing.

Podcamp Toronto 2011 – Saturday Morning #pcto2011

One of the things I keep intending to do is start podcasting, though I’ve dabbled in it a couple of times never have taken it as a regular thing. But I keep wanting to do it, and so I keep coming to Podcamp Toronto to share experiences and learn from those already doing it.

So, this morning instead of my usual 2:00 pm wake up time I raised up at the break of dawn and made my way down to Ryerson University.

The sessions have been pretty good this morning. I attended first the “Hello World” Podcast, mostly to know about the process of making a podcast quickly. One of the things that stops me from making a regular podcast is the time in production and all that. I’m not fancy, I prefer to make something quick and just throw it out there. And this session was really good for that. Paul took us quickly through a script, shared his hardware and software tools used for the occasion and had us record a quick minute audio and sent it to a self-hosted WordPress blog. Good for a start.

For the second session I chose a talk on Podcasting as the “new” media tool, Karim Kanji, host of the Social Media Show, and a last minute fill-in (sorry I didn’t get your name). It was an interesting and lively conversation between presenters and participants, talking about recording equipment, coming up with content, and putting it out there. Good stuff. And @marcopolis was there as well.

The session on podcasting as the 'new' media tool

To end the morning I headed up (it was on the third floor) to listen to Ryan Wiseman speak about videocasting, or podcasting video, or whatever the kids call it. It was very nice to see how he’s done it and also how some of the big players do it as well. It’s amazing how much one can do these days with relatively little equipment.

It’s been great and I’m really looking forward to the afternoon sessions.

On the futility of trying to catch bots

Meanwhile, back in DuoPixel, Mark argues on the futility of using captchas as a method to distinguish bots from humans, and that they should be used only after other methods have been tried, because they’re annoying and people, unlike bots, get pissed.

However, he still misses the point on captchas and why use them at all: that the fact that the comments are written by a human or a machine is irrelevant, what’s important is the content and what it adds to the conversation.

It’s easy and cheap to get humans to do the dirty jobs that bots are unable to do just yet, but as Watson recently showed in Jeopardy, it’s just a matter of time before bots can get through any kind of practical test you can implement in your blog or website to keep them out.

And besides, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to keep empty, spammy content out, and that’s easier to recognize by looking at keywords and phrases. After all, for humans to respond it has to be worded a certain way.

Bots can do more than just leave spammy content. They can read your blog post, tell what it’s about and produce a relevant and helpful comment. Sure, it may link back to some site trying to sell you something, but that’s what we humans do and it’s an accepted practice that as long as the comment is relevant and valuable in itself it can link back.

And if you have a bot of your own watching over the comments and producing smart answers of their own, you can have a conversation. Who said the net was only for humans?

Anyway, captchas are useless not because they can be beat, but because they focus on something irrelevant.

In the words of Ken Jennings: I for one welcome our new computer overlords.

WordCamp Toronto 2010

So, here I am at the beggining of WordCamp Toronto 2010, hoping that the blogging by email feature on my site still works (it did!)

The attendance is great. The room is full and still expecting more people. My panel is at 1:00. Should try to find an organizer before then…

First up is blogging and social media with Jeremy Wriight in about 10 mins.

Jeremy’s presentation about angry camels is done and it was great! He’s actually a very good and funny speaker. He’s pretty much spot on about why social media efforts fail. Taking questions now.

Success story number 1 is about Mary and her blog, LunchwthMary. She thought it would be a good idea to have lunch with interesting people and learn stuff from there, then blog about it.

Richard Mitchell’s experience’s both in Georgetown University and the non-profit are very similar to what we went through at Maytree with our website before WordPress. Except for the money part (we didn’t have a CMS, expensive or cheap) the issues with time, flexibility, etc. were pretty much the same.

The talk on using social media and WodPress to win an election was more focused on tools you can use to promote your campaign, not so much on campaign strategies per se. It would have been interesting to have more about listening to the voters, polling, getting proposals, etc.

Up next, lunch. And later George sharing a little about how GM Canada started with the social media thing and Emma’s story of success through challenging someone else to a blogging contest.

Now it’s time for WordPress for n00bs, I mean, newbies.

That was interesting! I thought I still had time to go to the washroom and prepare for my short presentation, but I had to step up as soon as the previous one was over and for longer that I was expecting. I hope I didn’t do too badly and that people are not just saying I did will out of politeness! Thank you all!

Now, Mark’s presentation on how to manage multiple blogs, for strategies to come up with ideas, tools and inspiration to write many posts. He has very good tips, unfortunately I forgot to record it.