George Zimmerman, accused of second-degree murder and/or manslaughter of Trayvon Martin, was acquitted yesterday. The social media response I’ve seen has been almost uniformly one of disgust or despair, intermingled with the apparent belief that the verdict is representative of racism in the United States (and, perhaps, in Florida particularly).
Based on what I know, I think Zimmerman probably accosted Martin in some way and provoked or initiated the struggle that ended with his killing Martin. And had I been on the jury, I would have voted to acquit. Because “probably” isn’t enough. [more...]
It appears that the NSA has been collecting both phone call metadata and actual phone call content from an unknown, but very likely vast, number of American citizens, and that this likely extends to other forms of communication such as email and text messaging. They may have been doing this in violation of the US Constitution while avoiding getting that issue before the courts, but they may also have been doing this in violation of the guidelines that the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act court has laid down—i.e. illegally. [more...]
I’ve been a subscriber to the San Francisco Chronicle for almost 13 years, the entire time I’ve lived in the city. I started that subscription because I was used to living in a household where newspapers were a daily staple, and because I wanted to support local journalism. I also felt that major cities should have newspapers and I should thus support the city paper.
Last Wednesday I went to a talk by Jonah Lehrer on the topic of creativity, and left it feeling quite inspired. This post is a brief summary of why.
(Any inaccuracies in this outline are my own, as there is no guarantee that I understood what Jonah Lehrer intended to convey; I intend to read his book Imagine: How Creativity Works for more insight, but have not yet done so.) [more...]
Last week there was a significant amount of internet outcry over a post by Alyssa Bereznak about two dates she went on with Jon Finkel, a former Magic: The Gathering world champion. Bereznak called him out by name, and made clear that she had no interest in dating him because he was a former MTG world champion who still played the game. She also did more than that, and it’s the more that I’m looking at in this post—that, and how a defense of Bereznak by Sady Doyle at Tiger Beatdown misses the point and perpetuates the core problem with the original post. [more...]
Google+ has come under fire recently for banning users who don’t have usernames conforming to the service’s rules about what usernames should be like. Google’s policies on the matter are wrong, and the reasons why they’re wrong, as well as the potential implications of their policy, are important. [more...]
I mean the various incidents of unrest in England earlier this week. The reference is not to the Watchmen character, but to the blots, because from what I can tell every commentator (I include myself here) is seeing in the events a confirmation of their already-existing political beliefs. That’s not unique to this particular issue, but it strikes me as a particularly egregious example of the phenomenon. [more...]
Personally, I don’t think Turing would have been too impressed; also, could your thinking the bot is human in a case like this be considered a test failure on your part? That brings up one of my favorite rhetorical questions: “what do we do with humans who fail the Turing Test?”.
WHEREAS, hundreds of years have passed since it might have been excusable for any reasonable human to believe in the power of attempting to telepathically transmit thoughts to imaginary beings in the hope that these beings will alter conditions on Earth; and [more...]
This is amazingly ridiculous: “Tennessee Jumps on the Anti-Sharia Bandwagon”. That’s right, Tennessee State Senator Bill Ketron has introduced a bill that essentially equates the practice of Sharia law with treason. While it might not pass, and if it did pass it would pretty clearly not be Constitutional, it’s really sad that it’s even been proposed. [more...]
Long-time readers of this blog will know that happiness is a recurring concern of my posts. Recently, I seem to have made some kind of significant step, or crossed some important line, towards happiness. [more...]
What does it mean to truly express yourself? At first glance, it may seem that this is a pointless question, since the truth value of self-expression can only really be measured by the subject. But that’s not how it really works, and generally we’re well able to spot falsity, artificiality, and posturing. I don’t mean that we’re able to detect lies, as I’m not really talking about objective truth here, but more about what we believe about ourselves and the use of our genuine voice, where “genuine” is something that can’t necessarily be pinned down by a solid definition.
This lack of a solid definition, and of empirical testability, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It’s probably easiest to observe “non-genuine self-expression” when children do it, or when we ourselves remember doing it as children. Children will generally do this imitatively, trying to act in some way that they’ve seen others act, most likely in an attempt to be treated similarly to how those others are treated. It’s clear to an observer that it’s an act, and the child knows it’s an act but is committed to denying that knowledge. That is an example of the inverse of self-expression, but probably only one of the easiest forms to spot—after all, which is more likely to occur as we grow older, that we give up posturing and posing to attract the kinds of attention we desire, or that we become far more adept at so doing? [more...]
I’ve been following the situation with WikiLeaks’ release of diplomatic cables fairly closely, and find it rather interesting as an effective use of the internet to fight government control of information. In that sense, it’s a hopeful sign, a demonstration that a relatively small group of people can still resist the forces of the powerful.
On the other hand, the reaction to the release, particularly in the mainstream press here, has been an appalling if unsurprising demonstration of the servility of our political culture. [more...]
I’ve ordered shoes a few times from Zappos, and I’ve been quite happy with them. Everything has worked well, and I’ve had no complaints. Today, when I picked up my Zappos package expecting to see my brand new pair of Inov-8 F-Lite 195s (yes, apparently CrossFit trends get to me too), I instead opened up a pair of women’s shoes intended for someone in Seattle. [more...]
Apparently quite a few people believed last year that the Obama administration really was going to seriously try to get a public option included in the health care bill—and, further, continued to believe that they had tried to do so even after no such option appeared. It is now quite clear that this was, so say the least, naive.
What about the desire to believe, though? In the linked article, Glenn Greenwald notes that the column he wrote at the time about Obama’s lack of commitment to the public option generated vast amounts of intense hate mail. Clearly there were many people who really wanted to believe, and who objected strenuously to Greenwald’s attempt to puncture their bubble. [more...]
I’ve mostly ignored Christine O’Donnell up to this point, as it doesn’t surprise me much that a highly active group of Republican Christian paranoiacs could propel one of their own to a Senate candidacy. I also think that she has no chance of winning the seat and as such will fade back into obscurity—unlike, for example, Sarah Palin, who despite everything else seems to have an excellent sense of opportunistic timing. My feelings about O’Donnell were broadly similar to, although less developed than, those outlined in Chris Floyd’s “Circle Jerks: Delaware Distraction Obscures Oval Office Atrocities”. [more...]