Sunday, December 25, 2011

Why I support SUPA

I support SUPA. There, I said it. Bring on the hate.

In case there’s anyone left who doesn’t know, SUPA (Stop Underage Prostitution Act) is a U.S. congressional bill that purports to fight trafficking in underage prostitutes. SUPA would allow law enforcement to seek court orders against anyone accused of transporting, facilitating such transport, or accepting payment for, underage prostitutes into this country.

Proponents of the bill say it would prevent abuse of young girls while protecting the rights of 18+ working women. Opponents say it infringes free love, our rights, young girls rights, and will cripple the sex trade.

To tell the truth, I know very little about SUPA other than what I just cut-and-pasted from the first page of its Wikipedia entry. I’m leaning toward supporting SUPA mostly because I’m so tired of the vitriolic, reactionary, and self-serving responses of those who are against it. For example, this rant I just saw on reddit, from the CEO of “SUPA is ripe for abuse. Anyone could claim that an arriving ship holds a container of 13-year old sex-slaves and the SUPA police could use this as an excuse to slow or even prevent unloading of that ship into the free marketplace. Anyone could make such a claim--my competitors, troublemakers looking for a cheap laugh, the girls’ Thai parents wanting to renege on the sale--and the police would have to conduct a search for underage prostitutes, slowing the unloading of that ship, wreaking havoc on worldwide shipping, ending free trade, and destroying our economy. SUPA is a job killer. Worse, SUPA could delay my third round of funding for”

Another way to understand SUPA (without actually *reading* the legislation) is to look at those who are most against it. Many of the corporations shouting the loudest against SUPA *claim* that they’re against underage pornography, and that SUPA is just the wrong way to fight it, but they haven’t offered an alternative. I suspect most of these companies are really just afraid of losing the huge cash flow they get from facilitating underage prostitution. For example, the company fighting hardest against SUPA is Ogle, the giant search engine that most people use to locate young hookers. Or look at the latest anti-SUPA restrictions imposed by XXXCombinator, the incubator that twice a year takes a group of young people for 3 months and trains them to be, um, ahem, “entrepreneurs”. Are Ogle and XXXCombinator fighting the good fight, or are they just watching out for their bottom lines.

The most interesting case may be YoDaddy, which specializes in selling really really cheap licenses to pimps. Originally YoDaddy supported SUPA (due to pressure from pimps who didn’t want an influx of young girls to undercut the prices charged for experienced ladies) until the huge backlash from 10 gazillion underage prostitution startups forced YoDaddy to change its position.

I suspect that, fundamentally, our responses to SUPA, or anything that is a reaction to rampant underage prostitution, has very little to do with particulars of this piece of legislation. Both sides are over-reacting based on fundamentally different values. Either you A) think underage prostitution is bad and steps should be taken to prevent it, even imperfect steps, or B) think the world has changed and we need to just accept that there no longer is an age limit on prostitutes and anyone denying that fact is just badly in need of a new business model.

As for me, I’m torn. On the one hand, I’d like young kids to be encouraged to stay in school, develop healthy relationships with their families and their peers, and so on; but on the other hand, it would be nice to if I could break in a fresh young virgin every day for a couple bucks.

So in the end, I do support SUPA, but just barely.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

self-portrait of the artist as a shakyface

Because you can never get too much of me (right?) here's pictures I took with my iPhone...

while shaking my head in various ways...

taking advantage of the CMOS scanner...

which is slower on the iPhone...

than on most electronic cameras. That's one explanation...

the other explanation is...

that there's a tiny dose of LSD...

in every iPhone.

Here's a big raspberry for you.

These are pictures of my talented friend...


with the shaky hands...

what they've done...

to her man...

those shaky...


More links on legal uses of your iPhone's slow rolling shutter:

Bonus: For your listening pleasure, this archipelago version of Mary-Anne's song:

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Two Options for Carbon Sequestration

"Carbon Sequestration" refers to storing the carbon from fossil fuels (e.g., oil, coal, shale, tar sands, natural gas) so that it is not released into the atmosphere.

There are two basic options for carbon sequestration:

Option #1: Extract the carbon-based fuels that are stored underground (through mining, drilling, fracking, etc...), build power and carbon-capture stations to break the carbon bonds and recapture them, then pump the recaptured carbon back underground for storage. Here's a graphic representation (as found on Halliburton's web site):

Option #2: Leave it down there. Here's a graphic representation:

Anyone taking bets on which option we'll select?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Bazaar Plan to Bring Our Troops Home

A couple of months ago my phone started ringing a few times a day. I didn’t answer it, of course, because I never answer the phone (that’s just good policy: phones are for browsing the internet, not for talking). The ringing went on for a couple of days and on the third day the phone rang and I heard a voice coming out of it even though I never pressed the talk button, which was just freaky. I asked whom it is and how they could talk on my phone without me answering.

He said he was Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, and that he has ways to get around a lot of technical barriers. I thought he was kidding about who he was until he started talking about the book I’ve been working on—he spoke about it in great detail so he’d obviously read the whole thing. What’s weird about that is I’ve been working on the book in private, in a personal Google Docs account, and nobody even knows I’m writing it. I asked how he’s able to read my private documents and he says he has ways to get around a lot of technical barriers, but that Google Docs is so easy to hack that he can hardly call it a “barrier”.

The book I’ve been writing in secret (or so I thought) is a critical history of the open source software movement, and is to be called “Open Source, Schmopen Schmource: The Triumph of Quantity Over Quality”. Mr. Gates was particularly interested Chapter 11, called “The Business Cases for Open Source: Turning Your Failure into Your Enemy’s Disaster”. Chapter 11 describes the two situations in which it makes business sense to concentrate on creating open source.

The first situation in which it makes business sense to open source your work is when you create something for free that is a crucial money maker for someone you don’t like. You have no hope, not even a desire, to be in their core business, you just want to deprive someone you don’t like of their oxygen. Google sums up this business case in their famous manifesto “The Meaning of Open” which says, basically: “if someone else is ahead in a market we don’t care about, then open source reams of stuff and give it away, but if it’s the one market where we actually dominate and make money then create some amazingly-transparent double-talk reason to keep it proprietary”.

Mr. Gates summed up the second situation in which open source makes business sense like this: “Chapter 11 is saying that when you’ve sunk all your money into a campaign, but see that there’s no possible hope of winning, the right strategy is not to admit defeat and withdraw but to instead claim victory and open source it. At West Point we used to call this ‘salting the earth,’ a whiner’s strategy, but ‘open source’ makes the same approach sound victorious. I think your book called it the ‘Eclipse’ model. I like the sound of that: Operation Eclipse.”

“I see where you’re going with this,” I said. “You’re not going to withdraw from Afghanistan, but you’re not going to continue the fight, either. You’re going to Open Source the Long War on Terrorism.”

“Exactly!” He said. “And invite the many eyes of Pakistan and Iran to join our Open Source community, to welcome them to the bazaar we have created, while we quietly ignore it and bring our troops home. The open source long war on terror will become their problem, not ours. I sincerely hope I can sell this to the O-Man while I’ve got time.”

I just read that Robert Gates has retired, but I see no mention in the news of any new open source policy at the department of defense. I guess ‘the O-Man’ didn’t like Mr. Gates plan. I wonder why not? Is using open source as a weapon too underhanded to become U.S. policy?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Car Pushing: A cheaper way to get fit.

You want to get healthier, so you join a gym at $20/month, go three times a week, and burn about 600 kcal on each visit.

Good for you!

But maybe you can do better… with math!

That gym is 5 miles from your home, and you drive the 10 miles (5 there and 5 back) in your 30 mpg car, thus using 1/3 a gallon of gas for the trip. Because gasoline contains about 31,500 kcal per gallon (see here), you’ve just used 10,500 kcal to go to the gym to burn 600 kcal.

You burned 10500 kcal to for a 600 kcal benefit. You’re silly!

If you’re getting 30mpg at 31500kcal/g, then you’re burning (31500/30) 1050 kcal/mile or about 0.6 kcal/yard. Push your car 100 yards and you’d burn 60kcal. Push your car the length of 10 football fields and you’d burn the same 600 kcal you burned at the gym.

So here’s a new plan. Instead of paying the gym each month, driving 5 miles there and 5 miles back 3 times a week, save your money (about $600/year in gym fees, gas cost, and auto depreciation) and instead just push your car a quarter mile down the road (about 5 football fields) and a quarter mile back to your garage. You’ll burn as many calories, save time and money, and I guarantee you’ll get to meet more of your neighbors.

Once again, better living through math.

You’re welcome.

[[Next week: The McDonald's drive-thru fitness plan.]]

Thursday, March 17, 2011

If you’re smart, stay in school. Please.

Hey kids, there’s a lot of shady characters these days giving bad advice that you should quit college and jump right into the startup game. They tell you you’ll learn a lot more that way. They tell you you’ll earn a lot more that way. They say you’ll be the next Gates or Jobs or Zuckerberg, none of whom finished college.

Don’t listen to them. The world needs yet another internet startup like it needs, um…, the five hundred internet startups that probably launched today before breakfast.

It’s true, what they say, that you’ll learn nothing in college applicable to creating the next Facebook or Twitter or Youtube. Those internet services are just computer software. Computer software is relatively easy. It should be no surprise when 12-year-olds write great software, because there’s nothing taught past sixth grade that is applicable to writing software, creating web pages, linking them to databases, and creating the next Facebook. So if you’re going to skip college to be a software entrepreneur then you may as well skip high school and middle school too.

Do you know which people fundamentally made the latest batch of internet services possible? Two, among many, are Albert Fert and Peter Grünberg, who won the Nobel prize for the quantum mechanical magnetoresistance effect, the discovery of which led to our ability to store huge amounts of data, which led to internet services economically storing a zillion useless photos, movies, and tweets. Albert Fert and Peter Grünberg are really smart. They changed the world in ways we’ve only begun to understand. They didn’t quit school to form a startup.

If you’re really smart, please don’t quit school. The world needs you to stay in school, study study study, and prepare yourself to change the world in ways that we really need change. Because we really need change.

Study biology, so you can understand how our bodies work and prevent diseases in future generations.

Or study physics and chemistry, so you can provide the future with clean and safe energy breakthroughs.

Or study psychology, and figure out why we think we need to use so much energy in the first place.

Or study history and sociology and politics, and figure out why we humans are so messed up that society after society are compelled to live beyond their means and, again and again, collapse in disease, famines, and war, so that maybe this times things can be different.

But don’t quit school and do a startup.

If you’re smart, stay in school. Please.