Thracian Gold

The news clip on the BBC website said that the ancient gold artifacts discovered at a Thracian site in what is now Bulgaria may date back as far as the 3rd century BC [I hate our date system].

From Wikipedia:

These Indo-European peoples, while considered barbarian and rural by their refined and urbanized Greek neighbors, had developed advanced forms of music, poetry, industry, and artistic crafts. Aligning themselves in kingdoms and tribes, they never achieved any form of national unity beyond short, dynastic rules at the height of the Greek classical period. Similar to the Gauls and other Celtic tribes, most people are thought to have lived simply in small fortified villages, usually on hilltops.

Our man!

Thanks for working hard to win the election and we are so glad you will be staying for four more years. We love you.

Let’s fix America!

A solution to the artist compensation problem

One of the most significant problems which has arisen since the popularity of digital art media (primarily music in mp3 compression format) is the issue of artist compensation.

When looking at the advent of the popularity of digital art media usage by the general public one can weigh the pros and cons. This author believes that the pros far outweigh the cons. The pros include vastly wider dispersion of art and access to art in the world. The dispersion and access to art on an unprededented scale can have nothing but a positive influence on the world. Art is part of human culture, and human culture benefits from richness of expression.

Culture is one thing which defines humanity, so wide dispersion and access to art is something that increases humanity.

But with the extensive pros which have come with the forms of digital art media comes cons. One must really consider though what is meant by con. Merely propagating something which came before is not necessarily good if that thing which propagates itself was not properly grounded. Merely altering preexisting structures is not inherently bad. One can weigh positive and adverse impacts of changes and consider what, in the long run, is ultimately most beneficial for all parties concerned.

In this paper I propose a solution to the problem of artist compensation which has arisen from the popularity and now extensive if not almost exclusive use of digital media for the transmission and representation of artistic works.

One characteristic of virtually all digital information, down to the level of the very packets of data which get transmitted over the Internet in staggeringly vast amounts every single day on planet Earth and which themselves are organized into still higher level subunits, is that it contains metadata.

Each “packet” of for example TCP traffic which form the basis for most modern communication, contains metadata which relates to that packet and is essential to ensure its correct transmission from one endpoint to another.

Each “message” of an email message is sent using the SMTP protocol which again contains essential metadata about the message which mostly relates to the routing and delivery of the message.

Digitally encoded art media also contain metadata. Images taken with digital cameras contain EXIF data about various parameters related to the photo. Mp3’s optionally contain ID metadata which can identify various things about the audio such as artist, album, genre, year, etc.

This paper proposes a new industry-wide standard for all digital art media to append to metadata of all digital art works a field which enables the consumers to provide compensation to designated partys for each work.

This proposal is good not only for the technical reasons outlined above, but for aspects that extend well beyond technical considerations.

In considering means for compensating artists when digital media is consumed, already there exist various competing methods to compensate artists. Yet all existing methods fall short for a number of reasons. This author maintains that all other methods fall short because they ultimately do not integrate in an ideal manner with actual consumer behavior and instead require the forcing upon consumers behaviors which are not natural. By “not natural” this author means behaviors which consumers would not ordinarily take on their own for a variety of reasons.

One can argue that, with the rise of entirely new modes of human activity and expression in conjunction with the advent of the new technologies, along with these modes a new Tao arises. This Tao is defined by a multiplicity of factors which relate to fundamental aspects of human functioning, electronic devices, and digital technologies, and the nature of new technologies themselves.

It is important to understand that these are things which often extend beyond the realm of human control. For example humans might set up a system of traffic signal lights along streets in order to efficiently accomodate traffic. While it is humans who create the actual streets and devices for trafic signaling, in fact what defines optimal or ideal modes of signaling and traffic engineering are not things determined by any human being.

In a more traditional philosophical consideration they can be considered a priori technical axioms which humans utilize to their advantage (e.g. for the purpose of facilitating traffic), but they do not create them.

Similarly, humans employ mathematics extensively in their endeavors, but it would be clearly wrong for any human to claim that they create or control the truth that 2 + 2 = 4.

This is why software patents are generally a catastrophically bad idea. The vast majority of software patents are tapping into aspects of a technical Tao which humans do not create. Humans only gain advantage by tapping into, by utilizing this Tao and it is every human’s inherent right, and to their advantage, that this Tao be promoted and understood. For any private entity to intentionally limit or stifle any other’s comportment with the Tao is fundamentally unjust.

The system presently proposed for solving the problem of compensation of artists for the consumption of digital media is based on this Tao of how technology operates and also upon human behavior. It does not punish nor intend to alter, curb, or in any way modify human behavior from that which is most natural and efficient. It does not need to impose anything upon humans in order to work. For the above reasons alone it is far superior to all other methods for compensation.

This system proposes that all digital media contain a metadata field, appended to their existing metadata or perhaps incorporated into a new system for metadata, which identifies a party which is responsible for receiving compensation for a particular work.

When human beings collect art their first and most primary concern is to first gather it and accumulate it. They then begin a process of selecting from that which was accumulated. Each individual, based upon their preferences and tastes, will make selections appropriate for themselves which no others can make.

In the end the individual ends up with a collection. One major flaw with other models of artist compensation is that they attempt to impose payment at the gathering and acquisition phase. The model proposed here does not. Instead, based on human behavior and natural means of comportment with digital technology, it suggests conducting compensation at the collection level, after artworks have been acquired and selected.

One other major flaw with the existing model of compensation is that it disrupts the acquisition and selection phases of art acquisition by consumers. This ultimately is one of the most detrimental aspects of the existing model, as by disrupting acquistion and selection it thereby significantly limits that amount of works that consumers will ultimately access, thereby also significantly limiting the number of works that they will enjoy and want to place in their collections, and therefor also wish to compensate artists for.

This method of compensation is superior because it is based on works that a consumer actually enjoys, and has already gone through a natural process of selection of.

This paper does not go into how such a method can be implemented, although this author can make the following suggestions. With regard to digital audio media for example, an individual will go through an extensive process of first collecting, then selecting music that he or she likes. The ultimate end of this process is when the individual is actually listening to and playing music. It becomes part of a playlist Enjoying a piece and wanting to hear it again mean that the individual really wants this piece and is happy with it.

At that stage the individual is most likely to want to compensate the artist of the piece. Therefore if there were a function built into music players which simply allowed the individual to allocate a given amount of funds towards each artist in a given playlist, this method most closely matches the individual’s desire to give compensation with what he or she is listening to.

Each individual could be responsible, based upon their own financial means, of allocating a certain sum of money which they then will choose to disperse to all the artists in a playlist. By clicking a button, said amount of funds will be automatically allocated and distributed to each party which is designated in each digital piece’s metadata field.

In fact, the system could go beyond this. Already most systems for digital playback contain rating fields. So not only can an individual designate that they want to provide compensation to artists for selected works, they can also assign a weight to different works. Works which a person is particulary fond of and therefore wants to rate highly will receive a proprortionally higher share of compensation when the funds are automatically distrubuted, based on ratings.

In light of the above considerations of this paper, it is clear to this author that organizations such as The Pirate Bay, far from doing wrong, in fact are champions of the Tao and of justice. Despite the continued onslaught of private interests which intend to restrict, impose, and stifle human endeavor, The Pirate Bay have promoted and upheld a higher standard which ultimately is far superior to all other models.

This author sincerely believes that if The Pirate Bay and other analoges are ever stifled, it will be a significant setback for humanity inasmuch as art is a basic part of being human.

Setting up a local development server for web development

I was viewing a video where the speaker recommends installing Microsoft Web Platform which is basically a bundle of IIS, SQL Server, and some other components if you want to run a local web server for testing and development of web sites.

This idea didn’t appeal to me for a couple of reasons. One is that none of the components are Open Source. Another is that most hosting sites aren’t using them either – they are running LAMP and/or other Open Source components.

But it made me wonder if there exists something like the Microsoft Web Platform bundle for running LAMP – on a Windows system. On a Linux system it would be trivial to set them all up, as easy as apt-get install php apache mysql or something similar.

There is something I found today: it is called WampServer and is basically Apache, PHP, and MySQL bundled together which installs with one installer.  One cool thing it does beyond making installing and managing all these components easy is install a useful tray icon where you can manage the components.

One caveat: If you have Skype running, it will actually use port 80 and prevent WAMP’s Apache component from starting, so you will need to stop Skype, run the WAMP Apache service, then restart Skype (it will automatically use another port).  Skype has an option under its Settings – Advanced -> “Use port 80 and 443 as alternatives for incoming connections” which is on by default.

WampServer is not the only option.  Similar projects include:

EasyPHP
Zend Server Community Edition
XAMPP

Try to be graceful

This is too much. Its taking reflectivity to a level which opens a deep rent behind the facades of our society. So many things may be claimed to reflect our culture right now, but this particular invocation is raw and actually funny.

This guy just randomly goes up to people with a video camera for no apparent reason and films them. They tend to get pissed off at him. And that’s it.

Maybe this is good therapy for us. I personally used to really become upset when cameras were aimed at me in public. I’ve now come to resign myself to it and realize that it is much wiser to simply accept it and not even react to it than to get upset or agitated.

Yet this is not that easy to do. People feel like their personal space is being violated. We are arriving into a new kind of paradigm in a shocking, abrupt kind of manner. I suppose there is no completely smooth transition into it. Its just an innate, instinctive thing to react to being filmed.

I really think there is a point to what this guy is doing which goes beyond it. There is something therapeutic about it. One has to think: everything else about the lives, the personalities, the character and virtue of those filmed is not seen. All that is seen are the few seconds they are there before the camera and, for the most part, pissed off.

I absolutely don’t blame them for being pissed. I feel sorry for them and I’ve been there. But I think the camera man has a point.

In fact I really admire the relative tranquility of many of the people – even as they are getting pissed off there is still a certain part of them that is civil.

One of the morals out of this for me is: As long as there’s no serious physical violence, the people’s reactions are actually really funny.

During the moment it really seems like such an affront to have some camera filming us.  But later one when we look back I think mostly our reactions seem silly.

My greatest hope is that everyone including the subjects can forgive each other and just laugh about this later and see how silly we can be.

The Zen side of it is maybe that there’s no difference between someone there with a camera or not.  We should be proud of ourselves at every moment of our lives and believe that whatever we send out into the world is good always.

The paradox of this is that what this man is doing with his camera is ultimately vastly more humane and personal than all the surveillance cameras, overt and covert, which film people.

I think we see this paradox a lot now in the world.  We often forget that importance of a living, breathing human in our midst.  We are so surrounded and absorbed by our cold technologies that we often don’t differentiate between a living, breathing, precious being in our midst and a cold machine.

As a bicyclist I see this all the time.    One of the demonic things about motor vehicles is the way they dehumanize and cut the persons in them off from everything else.

Here is more info including a more serious take with political and social overtones:
Seattle’s Creepy Cameraman Pushes Public Surveillance Buttons

‘Creepy Cameraman’ pushes limits of public surveillance — a glimpse of the future?

Really ancient pottery

And inspiring also. This pottery dates back to what are among the earliest known human civilizations in the world, this particular one being Tall-i Bakun in what is now Iran.

See also:
Susa
Proto-Elamite, an as-yet undeciphered ancient script which appears to have borrowed typographic features from other ancient cuneiform scripts in use at the time

“Study finds streetcar tracks blamed in one-third of … bike accidents”

“…Safety needs to be of at least equal or greater importance to other issues when we are making difficult decisions about transportation strategies.”

The research project found that of the accidents involving tracks, 19 cyclists (19.8 per cent) said their tires slipped on the tracks and 77 (80.2 per cent) said their tires got caught in the tracks.

Study finds streetcar tracks blamed in one-third of Toronto bike accidents

W.E.F. 2012 Global Gender Gap Report

The gap is the disparity between various measures of well-being, opportunity, and equality between females and males. A large gap means there is a large disparity between the same measurement when applied to females vs. males.

Here are the countries which ranked last in the composite score, in descending order (first is worst):

Yemen
Pakistan
Chad
Syria
Saudi Arabia
Ivory Coast
Morocco
Mali
Iran
Egypt
Oman
Turkey
Nepal
Lebanon
Jordan
Algeria
Mauritania
Ethiopia
Benin
Guatemala
Qatar
Zambia
Fiji
Cameroon
Bahrain
Nigeria
Kuwait
South Korea
United Arab Emirates
Suriname
India
Burkina Faso
Cambodia
Belize
Japan
Malaysia
Azerbaijan
Mauritius
Indonesia

and for the category “Health & Survival”. Some countries rank very highly here because in some cultures female infants are killed in favor of males:

Azerbaijan
India
Albania
China
Armenia
Vietnam
Georgia
Trinidad and Tobago
Qatar
Zambia
Macedonia
Botswana
Bangladesh
Tajikistan
Nigeria

Curious? Want to read about how the rankings were made and find out more details? See The Global Gender Gap Report 2012

California sells registered voters’ e-mail addresses

Was wondering for a long time how around election time I always start getting lots of e-mails related to political campaigns.  Where are they getting my address?  It turns out they are getting it because California allows it to be sold!  The actual lists are maintained and released by each respective county’s board of elections.

I just found an article about this which states:

If it were a Viagra ad, it be considered a crime in some states. But a political message, that’s all perfectly legal.

For San Francisco the Board of Elections is responsible for providing the “Master Voter File” to qualifying parties which request it, for a fee.

I think I understand why voters’ e-mail addresses are given out.  Its basically an extension of the same reason that addresses are given out.  When its election time candidates want to be able to communicate with voters.

But we are now in a time of paradigm shift and this needs to change.  Privacy reasons are part of it, but there are other reasons are well.  Its not the best system.  I think that every responsible voter should have access to some kind of citizen portal site where, among other things civic, they can check out all the info on candidates and issues.

In other words, I think the system should be a pull-based system rather than a push-based one.  For anyone who logs onto the citizen portal site the first option will be to opt out of all mailings/e-mails.

For state and federal elections I’ve generally found Wikipedia to be useful when researching candidates’ backgrounds.  This is the idea of a pull-based system.  I am pulling the information in because I want to know what or who I’m voting for.  We should take elections more seriously and, in addition to getting the money out of politics which is the most serious threat to America, need to have a better electoral system which incorporates new paradigms and modern technologies. There should be a portal site for every registered voter to access information not just about political campaigns, but all matters of civic concern and community. And e-voting should be an option. In this age of two-factor authentication there is no reason not to have e-voting. My laptop has a fingerprint scanner and others should be able to get one (or even have it provided which would still probably be vastly cheaper in the long run for governments).

In the present case of my e-mail address having been sold to numerous campaigns, I may seek to have it removed from the Master Voter File.  But that’s not the best solution.  There needs to be more.

Oddly, on the beginning page of California’s new online voter registration form it says:

Important Notices
1. Your information is protected.
The law prohibits your voter registration information from being used for commercial purposes. Report any problems to the Secretary of State’s Voter Hotline at (800) 345-VOTE (8683).

A remarkably efficient and powerful reference tool

I have mentioned Dictionary Tooltip – an addon available for Firefox and also Chrome – and want to mention it again. It is one of the most useful reference tools. It allows one to double-click on any word on a web page and then shows a small icon. When the icon is selected a popup window will appear with a reference lookup from one of any number of dictionaries or reference sources. New reference sources can be added.

Today I figured out how to get Dictionary Tooltip to work with dict.org which is perhaps the best online dictionary. Dict.org is more than just a convenient online dictionary however, it involves a whole set of Open Source tools including dictionary servers and clients using and open protocol. Dict.org is committed to the philsophy of openness similar to other Open Source projects and Wikipedia. It is certainly worth supporting and is a meritorious project.

The trick to adding a lookup at dict.org for Dictionary Tooltip is to go into the options and select Add/Edit Custom sites, then use the following URL for dict.org:

http://www.dict.org/bin/Dict?Form=Dict1&Query=$$&Strategy=*&Database=*

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