Broken Windows and Policing
Apr 15, 2004

This is a good text on the the impact that how we think of policing has on the real world.

Apr 11, 2004

Some of the Nigerian spammers are getting lazy. I just got one that has the tale of woe where somebody kicks the bucket and leaves behind Twenty-Four Point Seven Million Dollars, and the fact that our desperate correspondant needs to get the money out of the account, but neglects the part where he needs your help to do it. Instead, it just makes vague reference to "your portion of the fund is subject to negotiation" with no explanation given as to why you would have any claim to a "portion of the fund".

Lazy, lazy, lazy.

How To Determine Motivation From Actions

People are altogether too cavalier about ascribing motivations to others. If sometakes takes an action A, and someone wishes to accuse them of motivation M, the person will ask themselves, "Does M explain why A was done?" If so, then the accusations fly!

Read the rest (751 words)

Post-modern Narratives: A Definition for My Use
Apr 10, 2004

In general, I find
post-modernism to be psuedo-intellectual clap-trap, but it does have
one very valuable concept, the narrative.

Post-modernism is a nebulous philosophy by its very nature, and
getting a concrete definition even from the experts is very difficult,
partially because most or all of them will deny the very possibility
of a concrete definition at all. My understanding is that the core
post-modern point is that we construct our view of the world in terms
of narratives, which are basically stories we use to explain
the world around us. We use a broad definition of the word "story"
here, so not just "boy meets girl" or "fairy tales", but including
explanations like "Gravity decreases in strength as the square of the
distance, which is why orbits work" or "Those neo-con nutcases are
conspiring to bring down society in devious ways, which is why I don't
have a job".

Read the rest (749 words)

On the GMail Controversy

As I define privacy,
privacy only matters when another human sees the privacy-sensitive
information. As long as GMail only allows their computers to scan the
emails for Ad Words, there really isn't a privacy breach. To the
extent they collect aggregate statistics, that is in theory a privacy
breach but one so diffuse that it is not practically worth worrying

Of course, the moment a human reads your email or personally
examines you, your privacy is infringed... but there is nothing
special to GMail about that. Unless you run your own mail server and
all your email, both sent and received, is encrypted, a wide variety
of strangers have full access to your email messages already.

While Google may theoretically be able to do some scanning with
their technology, again, there is nothing special to Google about
this. If the goverment wants your email, they can subpoena it from AOL
as easily as GMail.

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