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Mooch Off Your Friends and Neighbors - Go Car Free

This morning's Forum was titled "Carless in California" and was full of whining about how terrible cars were and how great it is not to have one.

Well, it is great! For one thing, instead of having to pay gas taxes for the roads you use by walking bicycling, or taking the bus, you can have the car drivers subsidize you! Not to mention that no mass transit system in the country is profitable, so you'll have the added benefit of being subsidized by your neighbors' taxes! Try to ride the bus when the hoodlums are busy doing other things, though. Oh, yeah, and hopefully you don't value your time too much or you can do productive things you would have been doing anyway while you're on the bus/train, or the equation doesn't work out any more.

My roommate takes mass transit on days she can't borrow a car from my wife or our other roommate. She pays about $0.11 and 4 minutes of her time per mile, versus about $0.50 and 1-2 minutes per mile in a car. If she values an hour spent on the bus at most $12.37 less than she values an hour not spent on the bus, that equation works out for her, assuming she'd be driving in traffic. If she wouldn't be driving in traffic it would be more like $8 per hour.

Oh, and if you want to go out somewhere with your friends where the buses don't go at the time you want, don't worry, your friends will drive you! Isn't it great that you have friends who have cars so you can go carless and brag about how much you're saving the environment? Fortunately, two people in a car is worth at least 15 people in a bus when it comes to harm to the environment per passenger mile, and buses are rarely that full except on popular routes during commute hours. Read more »

Brightnets vs. Darknets

Someone dugg the "Owner-Free Filesystem" a bit before they were ready with the proclamation "Darknets are SO last century." Unfortunately, I think reports of the death of darknets are greatly exaggerated.

OFF works very much like a system I had thought of myself and discarded because it doesn't actually provide protection: instead of storing any original data on your computer, you instead create a bunch of blocks of random data, then mix those blocks with the original data in such a way that the new blocks are also indistinguishable from the random data, then you distribute only those indistinguishable-from-random blocks. To recover a file, one just needs to download the right blocks and mix them in the right way. The mixing process is generally XOR, basically a bitwise add without carry, which happens to be its own inverse: 1 XOR 1 = 0, 0 XOR 1 = 1, 1 XOR 0 = 1, 0 XOR 0 = 0. If you XOR a random looking block with non-random data, the result is a block that looks just as random as the original random block.

The beauty of a system like this is that there is no actual connection between the individual blocks that one downloads and the file that one recovers. It doesn't matter which are the original "random" blocks and which are the ones that come from XORing the blocks with blocks of the file. OFF relies on these blocks' being reused over and over again for several different files so that a single block could be used in the Declaration of Independence, an open source software archive, and the latest Eminem track. None of those files could be recovered without this particular block, but since every block one downloads to recover a given file might also be necessary to recover a "legitimate" file, the downloader can have plausible deniability.

This all sounds good, and I wish it could provide protection against lawsuits, but I don't think the RIAA or judges are really going to care that the actual file is not transmitted across the wire. If that were the case, merely encrypting the file and distributing the password separately would be enough. What the law cares about is whether one is involved in making a copyrighted work available or making a copy of a copyrighted work. If someone from the RIAA can download enough blocks from a user's computer to recover a copyrighted work, that person will probably get nailed. Unless the software explicitly prevents this from happening, for example by intentionally erasing blocks from the cache, there is a risk. The other attack is for the RIAA to create their own groups of blocks that aren't mixed with any blocks from the network, then offer those blocks for download. Even if the software avoids downloading all the blocks for a single file from the same IP address, it would be trivial for the RIAA to set up computers with these "unmixed" blocks all over the place. Read more »

Government Forces Millions to Rely on Inferior Antidepressants

This is early information so the title is somewhat exaggerated in direct relation to the content, but it turns out ketamine can relieve depression symptoms far faster than current antidepressants. The hitch?

The team says ketamine, in its current form, would not be appropriate for medication because of side-effects at higher doses, which include hallucinations and euphoria.

The Myth of \"User-Created\"

The Slashdot title reads, "Microsoft To Enable User-Created Xbox 360 Games," but to me this is something a little bigger. The world used to be divided into "consumers" (users) and "producers" of content, but this distinction has been disappearing. In fact, it's always been completely nonsensical to talk about a consumer creating something - someone who creates something is, by definition, a producer of that thing. A better title would have been "Microsoft Lowers the Barrier to Developing Xbox 360 Games." Read more »

Destroy Mass Transportation

For many years mass transportation has been the area of the average westerner's life where the government intrudes most. Things were pretty great for a while after airline deregulation, with the ability to buy tickets at the last minute and transfer tickets to anyone, but that didn't last long. First came the (possibly illegal) order from the FAA that nobody could even point at in writing that told the airlines they needed to require government ID. At best, someone without ID could be a "selectee" and receive special attention, but few people have succeeded in doing this. John Gilmore attempted to push the point, but he no longer flies at all, a rather telling fact. Read more »

Isolationism Now!

The default state of any country should be [political and military] isolationism. There is no reason whatsoever for nation-states to have political ties in a world of free trade, other than for temporary alliances in the case of imminent emergencies that will actually be helped by those alliances. There is no need for "trade deals" if there are no concessions to be made.

Therefore, the burden of proof rests squarely on the shoulders of the interventionists and imperialists. And they have failed to make their case. It is difficult to imagine that current adventures have lowered the frequency of future terrorist attacks against the United States enough to justify their cost, particularly when compared with the likely frequency of terrorist attacks in the absence of interventionism.

Not only that, but we've been fighting terrorists abroad and they *still* seem to have managed to get pretty close to carrying out an attack on a scale similar to 9/11. If we've really been weakening them steadily, either we're doing it darned slowly or we should have been having a 9/11 attack every month prior to the start of the Iraq war. Instead, we've had Bali, Spain, London, London, all since the start of the war. Great job we're doing. Not only has the frequency not gone down, it's in fact gone UP.

Meanwhile, we have people like Kling making this war look like a war on Islam. Not that many Muslims don't already believe it is. How are we going to win a war like that if people believe the intent is to wipe out their religion? People who would never have fought us before are now fighting us. Someone PLEASE explain to me how any of this could POSSIBLY be better than bringing every one of our troops home? Read more »

Has Arnold Kling gone off the deep end?

Someone please tell me this is a joke:

I believe that what we need going forward is a policy of disarming Muslims. I believe that we must keep devout Muslims away from weapons, and keep weapons away from devout Muslims. I can work with Muslims, send my children to school with Muslims, and be friends with Muslims. I do not have an issue with their religion, as long as they do not have weapons. However, the combination of weapons and Islam poses unacceptable danger to the rest of us.

\"Liquids of some kind\"

Update: Looks like we finally have some specifics: sports drink plus peroxide. As someone with a lot of experience with peroxide, I can definitely say that if you mix high strength hydrogen peroxide intimately with a fuel, you can make a high explosive. And peroxide looks just like water and can be carried in (clean) polyethylene bottles without much trouble. No idea if they would have carried hydrogen peroxide onto the planes or something else made with hydrogen peroxide. Read more »

Joining the Conspiracy to Game the System

You may have already noticed that I've added a "digg this" link to the top of each post. This will submit the post to digg (assuming you are registered there) or tell you it's a duplicate and let you digg the story someone else has already submitted.

With this, we join Michelle Malkin's right wing conspiracy to game the system. Or are we liberal social networking revolutionaries? Read more »

Great experience with Verizon Wireless tech support

Most of the posts I see about experiences with various wireless services' tech support departments are negative, so I thought it was in order for me to post about a positive experience.

I recently purchased a Verizon XV6700 Windows Mobile 5.0 phone. Most of my experience with this phone so far has been less than stellar; I usually have to reboot it multiple times per day, and it tends to crash at very inconvenient times. I think I have that problem licked; it seems to be a memory leak related to Outlook's IMAP support. Setting my IMAP account to no longer automatically check for email has made the phone much faster and more stable.

This morning I started getting prompted for a username and password when the phone tried to connect. The username and domain given were from my work VPN so I thought it was trying to prompt me for that, but the errors I was getting seemed to indicate there was something wrong with the EVDO (wireless modem) connection. Eventually I noticed that the heading on the credentials prompt was "Data Network Connect" which is not what it usually says for the VPN.

I figured the phone had suddenly lost my EVDO credentials, so I went looking on Google for the correct credentials. I found something that looked right and tried that; no luck. Same error. I tried a few others and eventually decided to bite the bullet and try Verizon's tech support. I searched around on their tech support web site and didn't find anything related to the modem credentials, but they had "If this doesn't work, call this number and choose this options" displayed on the bottom of the solutions pages, so I called. Read more »

Be Your Own Bank

Ripple is a monetary system based on trust that already exists between people in real-world social networks. You create money simply by accepting an IOU from a friend. If someone you don't know who is trusted by someone you trust wants to pay you, all they have to do is issue IOUs to the person you trust, who in turn issues IOUs to you. Read more »

third :: direction Sells Private Voluntary Carbon Credits

third :: direction appears to be implementing something similar to my voluntary carbon credits idea. However, instead of awarding credits to already carbon negative businesses, they are planting trees to make themselves carbon negative and creating credits based on an estimate of how much carbon the trees will sequester. They only offer credits to individuals right now, presumably because they haven't planted entire forests yet. Read more »

Clever Pig Farmer Discovers New Way to Milk the Government for Tax Money

After years of receiving government subsidies and protections for raising pigs, Heiner Gärtner decided it was no longer enough.

“I couldn’t repair the roof if I only bred pigs,” said Mr. Gärtner, a self-confident fellow with a spiel that is far more entrepreneurial than agricultural. “We have to compete worldwide these days. Pork from Brazil costs half as much as German pork. Our costs are simply too high.”

Coca Cola Pleads with Customers to Stop Buying So Much Coke

Hoping to avoid shortages of their flagship product, Coca Cola has begun asking consumers to limit their purchases of Coke. "We realize that we have an excellent product and it's been really hot lately, but please, if you could just cut back a little, it would help a lot," said company spokeswoman Greta Hansel. "We're going to have to stop shipping to stores in certain areas pretty soon if people don't reduce their Coke consumption."

This is the scenario I think of every time I hear an ad from a power company asking me to "save energy." What the hell kind of business asks people to use less of its product? Who would buy stock in such a business? In the real world, if there is less of something available, prices go up so that people use less and it never runs out. Unfortunately, power companies don't operate in the real world. They operate in a world where they have to ask permission from Mommy to raise rates.

So every summer, I turn on my air conditioner and completely ignore the lighted freeway signs urging me to "flex my power." What's the worst that could happen? I'll tell you what. I could turn up my thermostat and sweat it out, and then have a power outage anyway because my neighbors chose not to. So the thermostat stays at a comfortable temperature, and I hope my neighbors fall for the propaganda. Read more »

You Know How I Know Global Warming is Mostly Baloney?

Because the people arguing against Global Warming "skeptics" feel the need to resort to ad hominem attacks and highly emotionally charged wording to make their case.

Some zingers:

"In his recent opinion piece, National Post's Terrence Corcoran displays how out of touch he is with the recent National Academy of Science's findings on Confused?climate change. It is not worth debating the misinformation he purports, so we will just post a link to his piece and let it speak for itself." Read more »