Friday, August 29, 2003

First off, a quick hello to all the people at the first Brighton Bloggers gathering yesterday - always amusing to put faces to names... :)

Second off, I had to mention this post from Tom Chance about the state of apathy amongst people.

"They will only start to care if they suddenly cannot buy a CD, or get prosecuted by a record company for making a copy of a CD to tape for their car, or are directly affected in some similar way, and they find out that WIPO is directly involved in their problems. Then they might get a little angry, in their armchair, about WIPO."

I think he's a bit naive though. Most people will just accept things, even when they're being screwed over. Or maybe I'm just cynical.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Plugin Patent to Mean Changes in IE?

Another predictably irritating conclusion of the SNAFU software patent system, timed so gracefully aptly in concordance with the current EU machinations - if ever there were an example of why software patents are A Bad Thing, this is it. No, I'm not keen on the Explorer monopoly, but I'm even less keen on Soft Pats. A majority that's wrong is still a majority. A restrictive minority is despotism ;)

Consider this. Code is based on practises and processes - take your pick of any "software methodologies" book on Amazon - and software development is inherently influenced by these patterns. Software methodologies have evolved and have been refined for about 50 years now (nothing's new), to the point where if you want to implement a new idea, there are obviously "better" ways to do it. So to implement a patenting idea on this is utterly ridiculous - even if one person comes up with an implementation first, it will be reasonably easy for someone else to do the same thing, quite independently.

This applies on different scales, according to the complexity - for instance, a lot of modern cryptography may be based on the work of a small set of people (e.g. Diffie and Helman), but the principle is the same. For most common IT work, ideas sprout readily constantly. The "race" to patent a new idea, as pursued by all the larger companies, should be undermined by the race for competition (or collaboration, it's all the same thing).

The sooner we put a stop to all this, the better.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Some BBC articles of note...

Iraq 'needs tens of billions'

Really, nobody should be too surprised - I mean, we're talking about overhauling the entire infrastructure of an entire country here. What I find interesting is the play between this funding, the services provided by private companies (mostly) from the States, such as Halliburton, and the role of the Iraqis. In the end, it'll be a bit of both, but I suspect most of the decisions and most of the financial interest stuff will be funded by, or answerable to the big companies. Or maybe I'm naive. Still it's interesting to see a country being rebuilt.

Support your local corner shop?

The plight of small cornershops against a new breed of "mini-superstores". A couple of interesting points - "small-scale" advertising that's non-profit based, the power of economies-of-scale, and the comments below that claim cornershops are actually quite useless anyway, and a bit of competition is definitely a good thing.

I kind of agree with all of this, ha. I've started shopping at the local market and local butchers, as a). it's friendlier - people actually talk to you while they're serving you, b). it's cheaper - you should see the amount of meat you can get for a fiver. But also yes, many "traditional" small shops are also pants - grumpy service, crap goods... tho these seem to be far more franchised than independent.

Credit card culture takes hold

"Out of the 2,000 adults surveyed, 16% said that they had substantial debts of between £10,000 and £40,000."

Ha, fools. I really don't get it. People constantly worry about ramping up enough money to see them into death, but then completely ignore this and just spend more. I have even less sympathy. I'm about to completely get rid of my overdraft, and I figure I can pay off most of my debt in the next year, if I'm just a bit careful and stop buying useless crap that I never use.

>> CSNS

New idea for the Campaign for Smiley Nice Stuff: Whenever you get served by someone in a shop, cafe, etc, and they have their name on display (like on a name tag, or on the til), then use it. "Hi -name-", kind of thing.

Actually, I think that might just scare them, or something. I guess it's supposed to be "friendlier", but hey, if it's there... And there's always the chance that either a). they might ask your name (is that a good thing? ;) or b). it actually becomes too "personal" and the company take the stupid name thing away. PUTTING A BADGE ON SOMEONE DOESN'T MAKE IT AS FRIENDLY AS FINDING OUT AFTER GETTING TO KNOW THEM PROPERLY.

Phew, there.

Maybe I should start a Campaign of Confusion as well as a CSNS.

I have taken exmosis.net off-line in protest of Software Patents.

For those not involved in actively developing software, this is still an important issue. In a world where ideas can be born, take root, go mainstream and die within a year, a grant of secrecy to a company or individual for 18 months can be a killer.

Imagine if there was a patent on blogging technology. For starters, many would think that this is simply a handy combination of webpages with CGI and database. But it has a specific function, and so, much like the way in which the Amazon one-click-order was, it could be patented (at least under US rules). Any company wanting to implement a blogging system would have to pay the patent holder - would there be as many blogging networks as there are now? The same diversity? I doubt it. What's more, it's been proven that business models can exist about providing a service, rather than selling the rights to use a concept.

The same applies to Wikis, and will apply to new ideas in the future.

More and more people are being introduced to the idea of ideas, seizing upon new ones and weaving them into their daily lives. As we venture further into a world of co-operation (see journalism for an emerging example), it is increasingly important that the ideas allowing us to develop new communication techniques remain free for everyone, not just those with the money.

See the FFII and this summary for more information.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

>> indie brighton

OK, I'm still naive then ;) Or maybe just polite - I either believed, or feigned surprise when told by the Spanish guy in the Pasty Shop up the road that he was working most of the (bank holiday) weekend, as were all the other employees in that road. Got to feel sorry for him - he's been working in there since January, with the same 4 CDs playing over and over again. And he has to wear those plastic gloves. And it's not cold in there. And they have fake wooden beams.

WHAT'S WITH PLASTIC GLOVES? Are companies afraid of hiring lepers? One day I'm going to force someone to USE THEIR HANDS. I think I actually prefer the idea of some rnadom person putting their fingers on my food than having it smeared with hygienic plastic bags.

Anyway, found out today that he's actually going back off to Spain next month. It's one of those weird paradoxes - it's a West Country Cornish Pasty Shop, but just about all the people in there are from abroad, working while they're learning English in Brighton. Oh, and it's run from London, I think.

Hmm, more an observation on general business, than independent Brighton. Ah well.

Best place for coffee is still the Cafe Mobile up outside the station in the morning - go and chat to Diane if you see her. And buy coffee too.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Smart bunny ditches Microsoft and doesn't look back

Oh. Goddamn. BOOM. SCO eats some.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

OK, I think I have a focus now. Up til now, this blog has been just me ranting about stuff I've seen in the news. Mostly. Memefilter-style. However, since joining Brighton Bloggers, I've been wanting to start making it more localised, more Brighton & Hove specific.

So from now on, I'm going to start including thoughts related to corporatism in Brighton. This ties in nicely with another project I have in my head, to list all the "nice" spots in Brighton - all the good cafes worth mentioning, all the hidden away bits that escape the eye of the flashy-logo, anti-Brighton side of corporatism. I think this came about after visiting the Pasty shop up the road one more time, and noting that a). new staff, again. b). one of them was wearing two gloves, rather than the usual one. Plastic gloves annoy me, for some reason...

By all this, I mean to catch *little* things - noting Churchill Square, for instance, is too easy. I mean, any little... creeping, like small, independent shops or puybs getting taken over and changed. Stuff like that. Hell, I dunno, really. Things.

It's something, anyway ;)

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Pant-fillingly sweet! Local arthouse picture haven, the Duke of York's, is showing both Spirited Away [12th - 25th September] and Cowboy Bebop [29th August] - if you haven't seen them and you like fantastic (in the case of Spirited Away) or darker (Cowboy Bebop) anime, get along.

Hmm... more proof?

US company blamed for blackout: "[FirstEnergy] also said the alarm screen function of the computerised system for monitoring the transmission and generation system was not operating."

Monday, August 18, 2003

Hmm. Still skeptical.

Blaster blackout? Sophos questions rumours that internet worm was responsible for North American power cuts: "Critical computers running power stations are unlikely to be linked to the internet and vulnerable to this kind of attack,"

But that would be naivety there... %)

Also...

"'Of course, the power cut may have affected some users' ability to ensure their computers are protected against the worm. "

I'd say being *off* would be pretty good prevention against infection.

Cameraman shot dead in Iraq: "The US military said that soldiers had mistaken Mazen Dana's camera for a rocket propelled grenade launcher."

Uh.

I'm thinking of starting a list of things I'm undecided yet - as I think about stuff more and more, the list gets bigger and bigger. Whilst reading Richard Forno's "Forget California, It's Time to Recall Microsoft" piece, and ignoring capitalism vs security issues beside (maybe another time :), I found myself trying to work out who to blame for such matters as worms and widespread network insecurity.

It used to be the company, but generally because that company was always Microsoft. Then it was the lusers, and the whole structure that put insecure products into their incapable hands. Interestingly, at no real point have I really blamed worm authors. While I certainly don't agree with their methods, I think it's better for someone who can do something about it to take responsibility - after all, their wouldn't be worms if the products were secure. Maybe I just grew up with viruses, and accept them as an inevitability...

Now though, I tend to split where the responsibility lies - yes, people should patch patch patch, and people that don't (because there's little chance of being infected, or not enough time, or whatever lame excuse they come up with) infuriate me. If you're driving a car, you take responsibility for locking it. If you have a networked computer, you should understand the risks of an unpatched system, and hitting that little "update" button should become second nature.

But that's utopian. There are billions of people using networked, insecure technology around the world, and expecting the majority of them to understand this when they have been sold something as a product (even though it's not, it's a lend) that doesn't need any updating is just ridiculous. And software companies need to understand this. They are the central origin of the software, they are the most sensible place to put in measures that help curtail the spead of insecurity. If people aren't patching, then the company should make it automatically update, either by default, or by throwing up a big alert box on install asking if you want to disable it. That way, those with critical systems can turn it off, and test patches (while they're behind firewalls), but at least they know what they're doing. And the vast majority of users, for whom the patch won't break, stay updated.

That's my current standing, anyway...

Saturday, August 16, 2003

CNN.com - Power line focus of blackout probe - Aug. 16, 2003: "'It was magnificent to see the energy of people just relax and enjoy it. It was like a camp. People were saying, 'Look you can see the stars in Times Square for the first time ever.' People were playing music, they were telling stories well into the night,'"

Made me smile... more blackouts needed, methinks.

Hackers Claim New Fingerprint Biometric Attack

Damn, wish I was at the CCC. Ah well... the amount of work going into cracking biometrics is quite amazing, and kind of proves it has a long way to go. Unfortunately, IMHO, biometric systems still suffer from 2 major drawbacks -

1. they're useless against physical attacks - kidnap a person and force them to access something. Most people would cave in to being exploited this way.

2. access is tied to the person, unlike any existing system (i.e. passwords) which can be changed if necessary - this is important. If someone is able to "forge" another person's biometrics, then the only way around it is to replace the system. This seems kind of really, really dumb to me.

Also, as soon as you start to associate access logs with biometric data, "identity forgery" becomes inherent - if the system says Alice logged in and deleted everything, when it was actually Mallory impersonating her, then how do you prove it wasn't her? Video cameras, or alternative verification for logging, are an absolute must.

There's definitely still a lot of undiscovered ground in terms of biometrics, which is why traditional security, when properly applied is so strong, relatively - it's mature.

Food for thought... This BugTraq post describes a plausible state-of-affairs that implies that the recent Blaster worm was responsible for the North American power outages. The information seems to be accurate. Maybe something will be revealed in the next week or two. The BBC page still just claims:

"What caused the initial problem is still in dispute.

But something knocked out power near the Canadian border and the system began to demand power for other areas.
"

If true, then this just proves that our entire civilisation is constantly teetering on the edge of our own man-made destruction =)

However it turns out, it kind of makes sense, in an inevitable kind of way, that there will always be the constant threat that some critical systems will remain vulnerable, somewhere. While we have fantastic theoretical processes and infrastructures that can withstand anything, and people advocating these, the number of systems in use, and the number of possible debilitating scenarios, is far vaster. To tie it in with my criticisms of competition, below, distinct corporations in control of such things is an even worse idea, especially if they lack accountability, and any system that combines these two ideas is necessarily feted to some "disaster" - the question is just when.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Sometimes, just sometimes, a whole bunch of stuff happens at the same time that makes you think that what you feel about how to do things is, in actual fact, right. Or at least more right.

Case in point 1 - open source versus closed source. The "obfuscation" of closed sourceness led to many people being left unpatched, when Windows Update said they were actually patched. This was due to a stupid way of checking for the patch being already applied (i.e. not actually checking for it). I don't claim that an open-source approach would have been better, but judging from the amount of traffic and thought that goes on on the bugtraq list, it's certainly much much more likely that someone else would have spotted this.

Case in point 2 - capitalism isn't so great. Turns out that the North America/Canada black-outs were caused by negligence more than anything else:

"Furthermore, the increased competition amongst power suppliers has cut profit margins, making the firms reluctant to make new investments if not absolutely necessary."

This was after the power industry was deregulated in the 1980s. The BBC don't say why it was, but I can't see any good reason, apart from to improve the, uh, "efficiency" of corporations...

This brings up one important effect of capitalism and competition - that by placing economies of scale and profit margins higher than quality assessment, you ensure a certain level of striving for minimalism - most bang for buck, so to speak. In a market in which quality is all important, and in which there is little to differentiate the competition anyway (i.e. little room for advance and improvement other than service charges et al), competition just isn't appropriate. British trains are another great case study. And our telecoms. In the end, the state always has to step in (with the fantastic advice... "Stay cool by drinking water, wearing light clothing and keeping the windows open"...)

The other obvious effect of capitalism is corruption, as again people strive for profit. This is why Enron was so inevitable, and it'll happen again.


Amusingly, Billy Gates managed to sum it all up in his memo re security:

"Today, in the developed world, we do not worry about electricity and water services being available."

Mmmm, apt...

Hmm, I appear to have made another slightly dubious entry into Need To Know, but at least this time I've been named for my shame... Proper link. For some reason, NTK seems to keep colliding with my destiny in tiny, irrelevant ways - maybe I should take more notice of all the little meetings. Or get a t-shirt.

Wowwww - now that's what I call a wristwatch computer.

The Register has an interesting article on spam techniques: Spam fuels boom in secure content market

I'm thinking some kind of distributed, peer-to-peer whitelist approach might be quite cool - friends of friends would be automatically approved. Still doesn't solve completely random people mailing you, which is the big hole in all this antispam stuff really. I say solve this with a manual whitelist-authentication system, i.e. challenge response. Make it non-scriptable. Going to try and put something together using procmail and cgi over the next few months...

Well... Don't believe everything you read online ... Duh. I can't believe people still actually believe anything, at all. I've stopped.

Another one that the CSNS approves of... Good Manners Day - this "nice" thing could really take off. Especially with a global campaign behind it...

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Good God, man!

New head of CPS had cannabis conviction

"As an 18-year-old student, Mr Macdonald was fined £75 with £5 costs after he sent 0.1g of the drug - worth 25p - through the post to a friend in December 1971."

But, more importantly, possibly someone that isn't afraid to think for themselves:

"Mr Macdonald, who recently represented one of Britain's first convicted al-Qaida terrorists, takes over the £145,000-a-year post from Sir David Calvert-Smith in November."

Innerstin.

Woohoo! Phrack #61 is out! (Actually, most of it over my head, but it makes me look hackery-like. ;)


Been discussing Kidscom over on the e-mint list, and it struck me that in a recent discussion, everyone pretty much agreed that child-chatting-up and kids running off with people was pretty much a societal thing - a breakdown in communications between parent and child, or whatever. But people are simultaneously interested in things like Kidscom, because they are a step towards solving the problem. But this is a technical solution.

Then I realised just how much power the technology is having over our politics - it *is* making new things possible, as it becomes more and more integral to daily life, just as Lessig set out in Code vs Law vs Morals - code *does* have the power to change both Law and Morals - I feel renewed vigour and faith in my art.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

OK, so I thought I'd gotten away from the whole consumerism thing, but this is seriously making me think about splashing out large amounts of money... ogg and ethernet support, mmm...

RioAudio : Rio Karma 20

Friday, August 08, 2003

Spiked deep links

Why should we trust leaders who believe in nothing?

... which raises my concerns about politics being based on character, rather than reason:

"Sleaze and character have become the standards by which we are supposed to judge our leaders. New Labour did most to speed these changes, going to war against the last Tory government over its alleged corruption rather than its conservatism. When Tony Blair declared that his government would be 'whiter than white', it ensured that politics would be reduced to a beauty contest over who has the most honest face, rather than the most inspiring vision of the good society. "

and Putting the IT into politics describes the failures of "e-government", but further embellishes problems with trying to squeeze the current system into new technology. Or the other way around.

More evidence for extremist activists being arrogant, short-sighted, intolerant wannabes with the mindsets of 4-year-olds. Yes, we want to protect the fish by throwing stones at them. Hum. They should probably go on my island now.

Kids' fishing day saboteurs slammed: "Activist Chris James, 23, said: 'We throw the stones in the water to scare the fish from taking bait. A few kids might say, 'What are they doing here?' and their parents will say 'They're against fishing' and the kids might ask, 'Why is that?'"

House prices keep climbing

Hmm, I seem to be quite into the idea of "inter-relations" today, i.e. the linking of one effect with another, or other causes.

I figure house prices rising in Sussex comes about from:
- convergence of interests towards large cities, i.e. large cities get larger, wield a greater sphere of influence, to the detriment of smaller towns
- the fact that people don't actually want to live in large towns, but they feel that have no other choice
- therefore south-of-London is good place to be, i.e. Sussex

The first of those comes about from our tendency towards capitalism too, with a combination on our relatively-small size and density as a nation. London (and other large cities) gain momentum as a centre of income/capitalism, and people aren't far enough away to establish separate spheres for their own needs, thus they get "sucked into" London's influence.

This is partly why communities are suffering (as interest of work differs from interest of location), which can be linked into why delinquency levels are on the rise, IMHO.

What can be done? Up til now I've been thinking of the problems mostly in terms of governmental influence. However, I think now that this needs to be considered in terms of both policy and business/industry. It's not enough to simply provide community through approproate technology - the technology needs to be part of the jigsaw of adapting business and government/council (and media et al) towards a decentralisation.

It is important to consider this as a whole, that has a number of mingled constituent parts (as outlined above) - what are the fundamentals that technology provides? What are the linking factors that need to be considered, i.e. the relations between the business (trade of resources), government (policy decisions and implementation) and media (information and distribution thereof).

I feel a PhD coming on...

Got this through the Cypherpunk list...

BYU Death of writing systems linked to viability of civilizations

...which links writing systems and alphabets with the civilisations that supported them (or vice versa) - interesting to think that the way we communicate could be so heavily defined by the upper ruling echelons of the society we live in, much like "Queen's English" as a "standard", imposed by those who wrote the dictionaries.

I now love stuff like this for the context into which it puts our own civilisation, and the things such as language that we really take for granted. Must look into the histories of languages more.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Innerstin-looking article on tying together databases and html templates in perl, using DBI and Template::Toolkit - would like to really get into this, as it looks so simple once you get the hang of it (like anything. but simpler).

perl.com: How to Avoid Writing Code

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

washingtonpost.com: Just fucking unbelievable.

This just goes to prove that a). this kind of thing will get in eventually, unless there's a drastic change in governmental attitudes, and b). crypto's more important than ever. Where'd that anonymity guide go?

Good (and quite long) article from the Reg without too much blustering and nay-saying on ID cards in the UK:

Smart cards, ID cards, nice, nasty, inevitable?


Not that hot today after all. Thank god. Nietszche is making more and more sense every day, too.

Got sent YAGT today (yet another Geek Test, for those ungeeks...) - the problem with these is that they all pale into imitation with the original geek test that ships with any decent*nix distro. Maybe I'm just BITTER that I only got 40%, or maybe there are just 2 kinds of geek - those that go for the geek image, and those know things ;)

Can't be arsed to ever do another one unless (/\/[^\/]+\/).

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Political warnglings [sic] today, despite the heat...

Evidence of evidence might be cropping up, now that all the fuss is over:
Swedes 'find evidence' of Saddam's weapons
and
Saddam's dirty bomb: Weapons expert David Kelly had proof

What's interesting is that it seems that a fair bit of these were ignored, in favour for less concrete "evidence". While it's definitely easy to jump to the conclusion that the US and the UK wanted regime control, i.e. power over the region, from the start, they're now surely in the position of having to defend themselves against the argument of
a). no reliable evidence
b). reliable (and public) evidence that wasn't presented to the public as a case
The limbo ground between these two would indicate a twisting of truths (as always, this much is certain) to induce the case for going to war, i.e. as many people said, it was unavoidable. I find this infinitely more insidious than any issues to do with the BBC's reliability, et al.

Meanwhile, the media's hounding of the govt about the lack of evidence and the status of Iraq/the entire region (let us not forget all the influences that go on around it) have faded completely from front pages, replaced instead by death enquiries, heatwaves, and Kylie's bottom. As usual, the fickleness of the media - about the only industry that the govt seems to be accountable to these days - plays right back into the hands of those in control. Sickening.

Oh, and rumours of Powell's resignation abound:
Powell calls report of exit 'gossip'.
I give him a month or two, then the real right-wing christian busy-bodies will really rule the nest with him out of the way. He never did really fit in...

Monday, August 04, 2003

Following up on the whole piracy thing, here's the EFF page on Making P2P Pay Artists, renumeration without large distributive monopolies...

Bloody Hell! At last, a sensible anti-music-industry article on the BBC news site!

Stopping the pop-swappers

The free-sklyarov list will be pleased with this. It just kind of shows that it might take a few years, but voicing an opinion very loudly, actually doing something that you believe in, it can get a place within all the bullshit that's out there.

My faith in the world is restored a little.

Useful link to check out: The Guardian's guide to UK Freedom of information. Definitely worth the column inches...

Meanwhile, the MPAA have launched their new copyright-holders, anti-file-sharing site: www.respectcopyrights.org. Alas, it's either under really heavy pressure at the mo, or something's happened to it. Hmmm. Needless to say, I don't think it's going to be making a huge number of geek friends.

Should probably write something to work out why I hate the MPAA, as it's not as clear-cut as the RIAA situation (although I should write that up too). For some reason I think that film swapping is more threatening than song swapping, because each film stands by itself, effectively, rather than being simply a "factor" that goes to make up a person or group. And you can't really argue that fiml stars are getting ripped off either.

However, the MPAA's attitude is arrogant and unecessary, their extensions of copyright and their legal battlings prove to me that they care only about the financial side, plus I hate pretty much all of the films that come out in mainstream cinemas. In fact, that's probably why I don't download films, myself. Their refusal to acknowledge new technology, their threats to users/consumers/sheeple, all point to the fact that they're just after as much as they can get.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Hum why can't industries see this kind of thing coming a mile off...?
Blame game starts as Wi-Fi Bubble pops

Look, it's not difficult to work out the potential market, and what people really want (are people scrambling to get their hands on phone cameras and video yet? No.*), rather than putting blind faith in something just because it's new and shiny. Geeks should fall for that, companies shouldn't. In the race to make more oodles of cash, everyone just seems intent on choosing something - anything - and plugging enough money and hope into it to produce something nobody wants, and it's SO ANNOYING.

* The only people go "i want one" is a). the novelty factor and b). because nobody else has one. (This goes for a lot of things, like computers.) I predict that once they're the de facto, nobody will use them. But by then, we'll have phones integrated with washing machines.**

** This reminds me of an idea I set upon yesterday, after having my phone going off while I was having a dump (it's not impossible, just harder, to ignore it). I only want *really* want phones as an emergency thing. However, what *would* be cool is if you had an "sms"/voip portable terminal that could hook into IP networks, via 802.11* gateways, i.e. anywhere with DHCP running. Then you could just find the nearest AP to pick up messages/talk to someone. I dunno, it's kind of less convenient, but I like the less-invasory approach.
Maybe I should just turn my phone off more.

Today's pick of the Guardian site...

1. Pope calls for halt to 'evil' gay marriages

-- which is more proof of firstly the conservatism towards sexual attitudes that has maintained control over the majority of this millenium (as per Foucault's studies), and secondly the possibility that finally we are moving away from the objectification of sex, to return confidence in our own sexual nature, as ties in with my current (and extremely vague) theory of sexual pleasure and evolution.

2. Britons owe each other £29bn in 'borrowed' goods

-- Continuing the "debt" theme from yesterday, it now turns out that apparently Britons owe each other vast sums just from not paying each other back for small things like chocolate bars. I say this is a good thing - yes, pound after pound does add up, but only if you are so ANALLY RETENTIVE that you have to WORRY about the odd pound here or there, ESPECIALLY when you're earning anything more than you REALLY NEED TO. And if it REALLY stresses you out, DON'T LEND MONEY TO PEOPLE. The very fact that anyone commissioned a study into this may reflect just how financially up our own arses we actually are as a nation.

3. A matter of life and death

-- mostly anti-US ranting, which is always fun, but throws up the rarely-mentioned (or maybe I'm just ignoring it) point that if Saddam had many many doubles, how are we sure that the pictures of his sons aren't doubles of them, too? The evidence for their deaths is fucked, or at any rate, is outweighed by the plausibility of this being a sham. As such, I choose to believe they are still alive.

Lastly, I'm intrigued by the blurring of the boundaries between "fact" derived from empirical studies, and "fact" as presented in the form of opinion, in the domain of newspapers. Extreme examples of this can be found in such rags as the Daily Mail, and the big black lines they put in to separate the "We say..." column with the rest of the "news" is often so opinionally or factually thin to be non-existent. But the same kind of thing happens in all of them - the state of a nation as backed up by facts, and the state of a nation as backed up by reason. Should there be a difference? Is there a place for one or the other in papers?

Background reading for the advent of the CSNS, from the Guardian yesterday:

'I wanted to show how niceness evolves'

Interesting usuals regarding selfish tendencies vs altruistic within populations. Maybe we're just naturally balanced to maintain a social "equality" between these two, and believing that we can have complete altruism is just as foolish as believing in complete selfishness. Not that capitalism reflects this, but food for thought.