Archive for July, 2007

Look out for BugLabs, a stealthy startup with an audacious aim: to do for consumer electronics what open source, “web 2.0″, XML, APIs and the rest did for the web.

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Today’s QOTD from The Daily Show: Matt Groening (creator of the Simpsons) explains why Fox’ head honchos don’t want them to satirise Fox News like they did with that ticker* a couple of years ago:

The Fox viewer might confuse our cartoon with actual news.

*You remember, the one that said ‘Albert Einstein + Brad Pitt = Dick Cheney’, etc.

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Pandora: Disaster Looms

Update: The webcasters and SoundExchange are now (as in, this evening) negotiating a new deal, giving net radio a reprieve – with congress paying close attention, apparently. Both the minimum per song fees and the minimum per channel fee are off the table.

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I’m a bit late with this, but Nick Anthis at The Scientific Activist has an informative post discussing a poll that tried to determine where young people in the U.S. lie on the political spectrum. The actual poll results are lengthy but informative. In what follows, I use ‘they/them’ to refer to the demographic addressed by the poll, because I’m the right age but not American.

Notably, young people (i.e. 17-29 year olds) are inclined to prefer a universal health insurance scheme administered by the government to the current U.S. system of private insurance coverage by a 2:1 margin. Young people are more likely to support decriminalization of possession of marijuana 58% to 41%, and 44% of them think gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry – a further 24% support civil unions (the former figure is 16 percentage points higher than in the general population, while the latter is 8 points lower). However, they’re more likely to think that homosexuality is a choice (43% vs 34% in the general). I will address this below.

There is little difference between young voters and the general public on global warming and abortion, though they are actually slightly more optimistic about Iraq than everyone else (cf. questions 59-61 in the report linked above). They are more likely to think of themselves as liberal than conservative by 13 percentage points relative to the general population.

They also like the Democrats a lot more than the Republicans, more so than the general population, but they still think Congress is doing a lousy job, and they’re very enthusiastic about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (noone else comes close to establishing any significant level of enthusiasm among young people*).

However, Anthis touches on the real reason this poll is interesting to me: religious conservatives are one of the fastest growing demographics in the United States, and it was an open question whether or not this trend would be enough to counteract the traditional liberalism of young people and therefore impact the progress of social policy (with respect to gay marriage, for example) when the current generation of young people starts to get into office. According to the poll, fewer young adults identify themselves as evangelicals or born-again Christians than overall: 24% vs 28%. At this point I am reminded of a Daily Show interview with Bill Bennett (I think) in which he admitted that gay marriage was coming, whether the religious right liked it or not. I am not, however, entirely sure that on such matters even a hypothetical growth of religious right influence over the next 20-30 years would halt progress on securing marriage rights for homosexuals. I strongly suspect that gay marriage is one of those things for which opposition likely vanishes after it has passed and everyone sees that the sky hasn’t fallen**. More importantly, however, is this: to gain the right to marry, the gay rights movement is going to need to secure the endorsement of state legislatures. This is distinguished from what happened with abortion, where the practice was legalised by judicial fiat. I say this without knowing much about the history of abortion in the U.S., but it’s clear to me that if a trend towards legalisation of abortion had swept the country before the Supreme Court had a chance to rule on it, then there would have been no Roe vs. Wade to kickstart the religious right movement and provide a rallying cry for conservatives even today. So I do not think that the growing ranks of evangelicals in the U.S. should impact the drive towards recognition of gay marriage.

My point is that as progressions such as gay marriage get more accepted by the public, they will eventually become more accepted even among conservatives – and this will secure social progress when the younger generation start to vote in larger numbers and start to run for office.

Now why do more young people think homosexuality is a choice rather than not? I do not know – but I note that 68% of young people think some kind of legal recognition for gay relationships is appropriate. This means that 32% do not support such recognition, but this is smaller than the 43% of respondents who think that homosexuality is a choice – therefore some people who think it is a choice also believe in civil unions/gay marriage. While I do not doubt that this is the case also among some in the general population (though it does not follow directly from the data in this poll), it makes me wonder why gay rights activists make the argument that being gay is not a choice – even if one believes it is a choice, why should that preclude support for civil unions or even marriage? Apparently, a good chunk of the younger generation thinks it shouldn’t. I would be interested to know exactly how many people who think it is a choice still support legal recognition for these relationships among both the general population and young people. While I understand why activists would want to portray homosexuality as not a choice (indeed, there’s strong evidence that its cause is primarily genetic), this could be interpreted as an argument that if it were a choice, then such relationships are not entitled to legal recognition, nor are homosexuals entitled to protection from discrimination. Apparently, many of today’s young people don’t buy this, which I find heartening.

*No, not even Ron Paul. Seriously.

**Didn’t this happen to some extent with interracial marriage in the 1950s?

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I just finished watching the Transformers movie, which was a fun way to spend a few hours, especially when I really should be fixing other people’s code. I used to love the show as a wee lad (I think it was my favourite), but I actually remembered very little. I spent most of the movie trying to remember the different characters (‘Oh yeah, that’s Bumblebee… oh yeah, that’s the police car…’ (although to be fair I still mistook him for an autobot at first)).

I don’t much like many Hollywood movies as I’m rather annoyed by the focus on special effects at the expense of complex plotlines or engaging dialogue, but the effects were nonetheless very impressive. The movie was unfortunately full of drivel on all matters technical and scientific – when the new intern at the DoD argues that the virus that entered the government network is far more complex and difficult to deal with than any other known virus, she says something like ‘We’re way beyond Fourier transfers here, we’ve got to deal with the quantum mechanics!’ This made me want to hurl random objects at the screen. Also, I’m quite sure she said Fourier transfers and not Fourier transforms.

Several parts of the movie were quite touching – no spoilers here, but suffice it to say I pretty much fell in love with Bumblebee by the end.

Oh yes, and a sequel is pretty much guaranteed, with that ending.

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I did not know that the expression existed, but on a web forum someone called me a ‘diamond geezer’ after I provided some Linux advice. The term seems to mean something along the lines of ‘nice bloke’, and is apparently quite common in parts of England.

Just thought that was slightly interesting.

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