Saturday, March 28, 2015

The troll loophole

There's something you need to know regarding copyright infringement in Canada and how your government is throwing you under the bus.

US media corporations want you to believe that you can be sued for up to $150,000, or even lose your internet access, simply for being 'suspected' of copyright infringement. These ridiculous claims are based on US law, not Canadian law. These notices are sent out based on unproven accusations, untested in a court of law. It’s a tactic to try and shakedown Canadian internet users just like they've tried in the US. A cash-grab designed to bail out Big Media’s outdated business model. Our Industry Minister James Moore has done nothing to protect Canadians from this harassment and it could result in innocent people caving to the threat just to avoid court, etc. Your government doesn't seem to care.

Canada’s copyright rules are meant to be fair and balanced as compared to US rules, but a legal loophole is allowing US copyright trolls to intimidate and threaten Canadians with settlement offers. The offers don't even come directly from the entertainment companies in most cases, they are generated by 3rd party companies who do nothing but threaten internet users based on IP addresses (which proves nothing by the way). The same American copyright trolls who are threatening Canadians have tried these dirty tricks south of the border, and have even been taken to court for their abusive and illegal tactics. There is no proof provided (or gathered for that matter) that the targets of these letters have done anything wrong.

The government has already admitted that we have a problem, but they haven’t taken any action to close the legal loophole. In the meantime, Canadians are getting notices every day, telling them to pay up now or get sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more. The fact is, even if you are found guilty of copyright infringement for personal use, the most a Canadian court will punish you with is $5000.

Our own copyright laws are being co-opted and abused by foreign companies who are trying to use extrajudicial measures to squeeze consumers, before they've even been proven to have done anything wrong. Do yourself a favour, call your MP and complain. They're in government to serve YOUR interests and rights, not those of a foreign corporate giant.

Dash cam confessional

Ever wonder what the police do in their cars when nobody is watching?

Wonder no more.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

My fun answer suggestions for the interview question "where do you see yourself in 5 years?"
(Use these at your own risk)

  • Doing your job.
  • In my next job, looking back on this one, thinking "Wow, that job really sucked!"
  • Not looking at price tags while I shop.
  • Celebrating my fifth anniversary of you asking me this question.
  • Jury duty.
  • Still waiting for my indoctrination briefing from HR.
  • Hopefully not in a position where I'd have to answer this question again.
  • Looking back, thinking, 'those were the longest five years of my life'.
  • That's impossible to answer. The multiverse of probabilities indicates that I could be doing any of a countless number of things and trying to predict which probability I'll follow would be ridiculous.
  • Finally getting that bonus I was promised.
  • Doing this job from home, which would basically give me a 2 day work week.
  • In a van, down by the river...
  • Wishing I had insisted on $20k more for this job than I did.
  • About 5 years older than I am now.
  • Wondering why we haven't won the office lottery pool yet.
  • Blogging about great answers to 'where do you see yourself in 5 years?'
  • [New] Come on - I don't have 2020 vision....... (only will work in 2015)

Hats! Ahhhhh!

Defenceless graduates flee in fear as jets cluster-bomb them with hats.

Things I learned lately - 28 Mar

  • Ford is baking an intelligent speed limiter into some of (but eventually all of) their newest cars. The technology reads speed limit signs and (if you choose) limits your speed to the legal limit. 
  • If a Google employee passes away, their spouse gets 50% of their salary for 10 years. If they have any children, the children get $1000 a month until they are 19, or 23 if they are a full-time student.
  • PowerPoint karaoke is a thing. You're given a slide show of random images and phrases and have to make sense of it in your speech to the crowd. Done at a bar with alcohol.
  • Tesla named the industrial robots that construct the Model S after X-Men characters: Wolverine, Xavier, Beast, Iceman, and Cyclops.
  • In 1987, 25% of beds sold were waterbeds.
  • Spandex is an anagram for expands.
  • 17% of Americans with tattoos are trying to get them removed.
  • There's only 300 homeless people in the state of Utah, but not for long. Their Housing First strategy gets everyone into housing, with medical and mental health care at a cost much lower than the cost of shelters, jail stays, ambulance costs and hospital stays for people stuck on the streets. 
  • The most expensive one bedroom apartment goes for a paltry $300,000 per month. That's 1200 square feet and access to a rooftop garden.
  • The reason most people don't like the sound of their own voice (when recorded and played back) is because you only hear the sound component that comes into your ears through air conduction. When you hear your own voice live, as you're speaking, you're also hearing the sound conducted through your bones and skull to your inner ear and that typically sounds deeper and richer. 
  • There are more smokers in China than there are people in the US.
  • It wasn't until 1992 that the Vatican finally admitted that Galileo was right - the earth revolved around the sun.
  • The character name Saul Goodman is a play on the words "It's all good, man."

Saturday, March 21, 2015

But...... why?

Things I learned lately - 21 Mar

  • Ancient Greeks believed pregnancy could be prevented if a woman held her breath during intercourse and sneezed afterwards.
  • Ira Rennert's $248 million Hamptons mansion has a yearly property tax bill of $649,281.
  • There's a sequel to Frozen coming. It's official now. What a surprise.
  • The name of the first Star Wars spin-off film is 'Rogue One'.
  • The US just supposedly gave the green light to sell powdered alcoholic beverages. Just add water to Palcohol and you have a full-blown alcohol drink. Nothing could possibly go wrong with that. 
  • In St Pauli, one of Hamburg's popular clubbing districts, they've coated the walls with superhydrophobic paint. So when drunks try to pee on the walls, it splashes right back onto them. It's peeback.
  • Research funded by the sugar industry is 5 times less likely to find a connection between sugar and obesity.
  • The cost of college in the US has gone up 500% since 1985.
  • In Jamaica, Columbia and St Lucia, your boss is more likely to be a woman.
  • As of 2015, 4 states have legalized retail marijuana: Alaska, Colorado, Orgeon and Washington.
  • The dates 4/4, 6/6, 8/8, 10/10 and 12/12 of 2015 all fall on the same day of the week.
  • The moon gets as cold as -413F.
  • Americans consume 10 billion donuts every year.

Self driving cars will rule

There are many reasons why we should be looking forward to self-driving cars in the future, assuming they are made with enough real awareness and intelligence to drive safely.

  • Riding in a car will be so much safer because a computer with the right sensors and other inputs can react to changing conditions and surroundings much faster than we can.
  • You'll get to relax and let the car drive.
  • On scenic trips, you'll get to enjoy the scenery too.
  • You'll be able to talk and text and eat and other things safely.
  • Insurance rates should go down since there should be far fewer accidents.
  • Taxis should take the most efficient route. No more wasteful trips to your destination.
  • Cars would have the ability to communicate with each other to warn of impending hazards.
  • Traffic awareness in real time would allow for automatic alternate route selection.
  • Faster reaction times mean cars can be spaced closer together on highways. That means higher road capacity.
  • No more getting cut off.
  • No more imbecile, risk-tasking drivers.
  • A self-respecting self-driving car would never let itself run out of gas.
  • Less stress.
  • Self-driving cars would likely be more gentle with acceleration, and would be less likely to brake for no reason, leading to lower fuel consumption.
  • Pedestrians and cyclists could be equipped with special transmitters, maybe even a person's phone, making them much more visible to the car's sensors.

Dear CRTC - welcome to 1995

Dear CRTC,

Welcome to 1995. So, you're going to force television signal delivery corporations to offer more choices to their customers. 1995 called. They said you should have offered us that way back then.

Meanwhile, your new regulations mean absolutely nothing. The TV cable companies are on the precipice of disaster and they know it. Consumers are tired of paying the price to keep marginal content networks afloat just to get access to the few channels they want. So they're looking elsewhere. It's called the internet - maybe you've heard of it?

Roku, Apple, Slingbox and other set-top boxes are all offering leaner packages of programming and the big networks, especially the HBOs of the world, are partnering with them because they know that they'll pay less money to get to an audience. Once the cable cord-cutting starts in droves, cable TV as we know it will die an excruciating, loud, and dramatic death.

I mean really, if you gave me Netflix, HBO Now, and Hulu Plus (please come to Canada), and I can buy the rest on demand, what more do I need? Nothing. And that's what you'll be getting from me, Shaw Cable. Nothing. Soon. Enjoy the ride while it lasts.

Lego pi

Saturday, March 14, 2015

15 things I wish everyone learned

1. How to establish and follow a personal / family budget.
2. How to use the internet safely.
3. How to focus on making others happy.
4. How to manage their time better.
5. How to be happy with their body.
6. How to embrace failure.
7. How to be more generous, tolerant, and open-minded.
8. How valuable the arts are to the self and to society.
9. Why lying is such a bad habit.
10. Why equality for women is more than about money.
11. How economic inequality needs to be substantially reduced for everyone's benefit.
12. That religion is a belief system, not a law.
13. To challenge the status quo.
14. To specialize in at least one specific skill.
15. To make some kind of music, or sing.

Daylight saving - the movie

Hilarious trailer for a movie about the horrors of daylight saving.

Or not being in it.

And clocks.

It's scary.

Why red?

Things I learned lately - 14 Mar

  • China used more concrete in 3 years (2011-2013, 6.6 gigatons) than the US did in 100 years (1901-2000, 4.5 gigatons).
  • Adult smoking rates in the US have dropped from 43% (1965) to 18% (2014). Meanwhile, in Indonesia, smoking rates among males is 67%.
  • The 'no animals harmed' notice that appears in film credits doesn't cover unintentional harm or off-screen harm.
  • When a supernova unleashes a gamma ray burst, it releases as much energy in a few seconds as our sun will release in its entire lifetime (assuming it doesn't supernova).
  • You will remember a person's name better if you hold their gaze as you're being introduced.
  • In the Netherlands, there are public facilities where you can get your recreational drugs tested to make sure they don't have any impurities.
  • According to the Vatican, Catholics can reduce their time in purgatory by following the Pope on Twitter.
  • David Tennant, who played Doctor Who, was inspired as a child to become an actor because he loved the original Doctor Who series.
  • Divorce moves in clusters. Friends who divorce increase the likelihood that their friends will also divorce.
  • Cookie Monster's real name is Sid.
  • According to the founders, Ben & Jerry's ice cream could someday come infused with marijuana.

Blurred Lines verdict more evidence that copyright has gone too far

A jury awarded Marvin Gaye's children nearly $7.4 million after determining that the musical teaming of Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams copied the Marvin Gaye song "Got to give it up" in crafting "Blurred Lines".

I heard the mashup. You can find it in a number of places, but here is one of them.

They sound like clones, it's true. But so what? I've heard the song a few times and in no way did I ever find myself thinking, "That sounds just like 'got to give it up'." And I'm quite familiar with both songs.

The problem I have with the entire premise is one of creative influence. Very few artists create what can be described as brand new music. Every new song, every new piece of music is in some way influenced by other material. We have the grand sum of all the music we've heard stored in our brains and it has an effect on anything we might create. If you ask an artist who their influences are, in general, on a particular album, or even regarding a specific song, you're not likely to get 'nobody' for an answer. We ask about their influences in part, because we hear the influences ourselves and we want to see if we're right in our guess. It's a natural part of creating art. You're likely to be inspired whether in a small part or a lot by other works.

It doesn't just happen in music, either. Movies are based on life stories, books, the news, and other movies. Paintings are based on real or imagined subjects with the stylistic influences of other artists and even your art teacher.

So at what point do we insist that the new work is an infringement on an older work? I venture to say you can't draw an accurate line that everyone would agree on. You can't numerically quantify how similar or dissimilar works are from each other. We've tried, but we're truly kidding ourselves. But the better question is why would you want to? Why should an artist have to worry about being influenced by another piece of art? Sure, it's ethically wrong to outright copy a work in a large part, but it doesn't actually have any effect on the original artist, because it's a fake. A forgery. In a world where important news about fakery and forgery travels at the speed of light. No self-respecting artist wants to be labelled a fraud and typically wouldn't intentionally copy another artist, trying to be the original version of an idea or style. When artists do copy, it is almost always a tribute to the original work. I believe Pharrell when he said that he didn't intentionally copy the Marvin Gaye song. He admitted being influenced by the man's music throughout his life and therefore the creation of music that sounds like Marvin Gaye is to be expected.

So now, thanks to a crappy copyright law, and a crafty lawyer, the offspring of Marvin Gaye, who is no longer with us, will earn over 7 million dollars just because someone made a ton of money creating a catchy song that sounds a lot like a song their dad wrote. Blurred Lines earned a Grammy award too. How come the Grammy people didn't notice the similarity? They're music gurus for crying out loud. Maybe they did notice and they were OK with it.

The Verve got in trouble too when they used a (rather obscure) Rolling Stones sample in their massive hit "Bittersweet Symphony". That little steal cost them relinquishing all royalties to the song. Originally it was to be a 50/50 split, but the song got really popular and the Stones camp got greedy. Andrew Oldham, of the orchestra that made the original music that the sample is based on, said "As for Richard Ashcroft, well, I don't know how an artist can be severely damaged by that experience. Songwriters have learned to call songs their children, and he thinks he wrote something. He didn't. I hope he's got over it." Meanwhile, Keith Richards, when asked if it was harsh taking all The Verve's royalties from the song said, "I'm out of whack here, this is serious lawyer shit. If The Verve can write a better song, they can keep the money." You would probably find that many artists involved in copyright cases with other artists are actually thrilled that their music was inspiration for new works. But the battle is typically initiated by copyright holders who have little to do with the creation of the original work and are motivated by money, nothing more.

Who the hell would want to create new music anymore? I'd be too afraid of pissing off the kids of Kurt Cobain or Elvis Presley. Why do we need this greed-fest? Let's stop pretending that copying art is a crime punishable by bankruptcy and let artists be artists.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Lyrics I love: Talking Heads - Psycho Killer

You start a conversation, you can't even finish it
You're talkin' a lot, but you're not sayin' anything
When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed
Say something once, why say it again?

Haunting strings and springs and membranes

It's not often that I hear music that really moves me. In this case, it's not so much the music as the sound this Yaybahar instrument makes.

The vibrations from the strings on the vertical stalk are transmitted via coiled springs to frame drums. The vibrations are turned into sound by the membranes which echo back and forth on the coiled springs.


Hey Old Navy. Did you really have to make the women's plus tile twice as big as the rest?

Things I learned lately - 7 Mar

  • In ancient texts, there is no mention at all of the colour blue. Not in Homer's Odyssey, the Koran, not in other Greek, Icelandic, Chinese, the ancient Hebrew version of the Bible, Hindu, nothing.
  • New York City is the only subway service that operates 24 hours a day, on all lines.
  • The most effective method of motivation in the workplace revolves around autonomy (the urge to direct our own lives), mastery (the desire to get better at something that matters) and purpose (the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves).
  • The most effective work environment (to date) is known as ROWE (results oriented work environment). It doesn't matter how you work, or where, or when, as long as the tasks are getting done.
  • An overwhelming amount of peer-reviewed tests prove that incentives actually lead to poorer performance, except when the work is purely mechanical.
  • The word 'crisp' starts at the back of your mouth and ends in the front.
  • The word 'bride' comes from an old proto-germanic word meaning 'to cook'.
  • In Finland, speeding fines are calculated as a percentage of the offender's income.
  • Fist bumps transfer only 1/10 the bacteria that handshakes do.
  • Norwegians pay half the tax in November so they have more money for Christmas.
  • Avocados are basically poisonous to all pets.
  • Astronauts aboard the ISS can see about 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets per day.