Sunday, October 29, 2006

Fake Headlines

This has potential to become a meme ... started by Vera. Here are a few fake headlines on energy.

"EU has decided to cut economic growth by 8% in order to comply with Kyoto targets. The decision is expected to have no effect whatsoever."

"Environmentalists support a scalable electricity production method!"

Comment afterwards: This post is really lousy. I intended to write a longer one about electricity generation to support the attitudes expressed here; however, I don't have patience to dig up the numbers. The points would have been that(1) economic growth and electricity consumption are inseparably linked; there doesn't exist a single 10-year period of economic growth combined with a decrease in energy consumption. (2) burning hydrocarbons and splitting atoms are the only scalable ways to generate electricity; the post would have argumented against wind.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Behaviorism Is Alive And Kicking

Marginal Revolution linked to an article about a school/mental asylum that uses behavioristic methods to keep the special education students well behaved.

They use electric shocks as a punishment. The shocks are administered by devices that are all the time connected to the clients. If the clients behave badly, the staff members can zap them, producing a shock that is comparable to a bee string. The punishment is not arbitrary, but "each student has a sheet listing the types of behaviors that prompt a staff member to administer a shock".

One of the basic ideas of behaviorism is that punishments and rewards should be (1) immediate (2) recognized as punishments/rewards and (3) appropriate for the student's level of understanding. The immediacy is important to ensure that "even a student with a low IQ or a severe psychiatric disorder might be made to understand that whatever he just did was unacceptable". The shock is unquestionably recognized as a punishment. However, it is important to notice that a punishment is not always experienced as a punishment - the article lists counseling as an example: "School literature states that counseling is done "as needed," but not when it could be seen as a reward for bad behavior".

In addition to electric shocks, the school uses a wide range of positive reinforcement. Also the mere threat of shock is for many clients enough to keep the behaviour in line so that actual shocks are not needed.

My take? Wish I could buy an alarm clock that would deliver an electric shock if the I don't rise from bed and press the button three times during the next half an hour.

The article also mentions that the founder of the institute tried to manufacture behavioristic teaching machines in the 60s. I've written about them here. Basically, the 60s teaching machine movement was trying to build mechanical and electric teaching devices to help with rote memorization, but the 60s technology was too inflexible. Present-day flashcard programs, including the ones I've written, are descendants of this tradition.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dating meme: I am an asshole ... give me your candy!

Real men like me don't wait to be challenged to memes but take the initiative themselves, so I'll answer to Hurina's dating meme.

I'm short (163cm) and unmuscular. I like to wear yuppie-style collar shirts and cotton pants. I have a sense of humor, which I express mainly in writing.

Although I don't own a house nor a car and am not currently working, my financial situation is good thanks to disinterest towards the aspects of life that cost a lot of money.

My hobbies include writing computer-aided language learning software and playing go. It's also nice to play old Finnish popular music by electric organs, and go to electronic music events and dance myself legless.

I like to be in control of my own life, and I have succeeded in that a bit too well, since also in my sex life the initiative is in my own hands. Will you change it? I'd like to be tied up and shat on.

Update to avoid further misunderstandings: This dating annoucement is directed exclusively at women.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Topic Absolutist view Relativist view
What makes you happy The absolute amount of resources determines your ability to satisfy your wants, needs and desires. Humans determine their level of satisfaction with their current situation by comparing themselves to others, so that your status relative to others determines your happiness.
Game metaphor of life Life is a positive-sum game, full of opportunities that benefit both parties and just wait to be exploited. Are you taking advantage of them? Life is a zero-sum game, where the spoils of co-operation are divided unevenly between participants. Are you a wolf or a sheep?
Attitude to power Power is legitimate, it hierarchy enables a group of people to get things done better. There's nothing wrong with being a servant in a legitimate hierachy that gives you better results than you could achieve alone.
Power is means for the strong to exploit the weak. You should get as much of it as possible. Serving others is necessary sometimes, but in the long run a sign of failure.
To gain happiness, you should be...
1. Resourceful in order to have something to give, so that you can participate in exchanges and get things you want.

2. Trusted so that other people are willing to engage in activities that carry a risk.

3. Networked and Informed so that you hear about the opportunities.

4. Social so that you can organize things and exchange views and information.

5. Intolerant agaist people who break the rules in order to create a deterrent.

1. Strong so that you can bully others into submission.

2. Ruthless so that you are not prevented by so-called "moral".

3. Cynical in order to prevent others from exploiting you.

4. Able to fake it to create a good impression.

Attitude to other people
Other people are an opportunity to gain information and get deals. You should take a positive attitude to socializing with other people, until they prove themselves untrustable or send signals that imply untrustability.

Other people are trying to manipulate resources from you by their emotions. You should be careful and wary of them.
Other people's happiness
Most people can achieve happiness, since if we set some reasonable standard of living, with suitable economic growth it is achievable for Joe on the street.

It is impossible for everyone to achieve happiness, since for each person who is above average in wealth or status there is another person who is below average. In the end, other people's happiness is your misery.
Opinion on current system
Democratic free martket system has achieved unprecedented standard of living. If you are not happy in this environment, the mistake is either in your attitude or the company you keep. The unemployed are nowadays enjoying many benefits unavailable for the nobility in the past, and this trend of improvement is continuing.

The income differences are starker than ever due to economies of scale and winner-takes-it-all competitions. Due to media, people increasingly compare themselves to the top, making them feel more inferior than before. Global competition for scarce resources is tougher than ever, forcing people to take desparate actions.
Attitude to information
Trying to talk true and insightful facts enhances other people's trust towards you. It is also important that other people know your interests, since it increases your chances to hear about opportunities to further those interests.

You should talk sentences that create positive/negative associations that serve your interests. Talking truth is unessential, since everyone knows it anyway and if they don't, it gives you a competitive advantage. The main thing is that the other believe you. You should always ask: Whose interests are these "facts" serving?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What's Hot

Good Ear: Ear training for amateur musicians; trains your skills to identify intervals, chords and scales. Requires QuickTime.

Big Ears: Identify intervals. Requires Java applets enabled.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Werewolf Masquerade

A week ago me and my brother had a conversation about live gigs. He had seen an electro band Imatran Voima and was impressed by a combination of powerful music and good show. Since I used to visit rock gigs, he asked if that was usual in live performances.

I answered no, and listed the self-ironic bands ? the only ones that had made any impression on me.

Yesterday, I went to a gig by Moonspell, and it changed my views.

(By the way, it has nothing to do with my brother possibly listening to Moonspell in the past. I don't have any memories of being present when my brother put the cassette mentioned in the previous post to a cassette player. In high school, there was a metal fan named Leo who had Moonspell's songs Opium and Mr. Crowley in his hard disk, where I copied them via network share. Later, when I first connected to P2P network I copied more of Moonspell.)

In an earlier post, I?ve listed the reasons that I stopped going to rock gigs and preferred electronic music events: (1) that DJ music is better, since it is done by world-class composers and players, (2) that in your typical live gig the guitars, drums and vocals mix up into an incomprehensible mess, while record music tends to be well mixed, (3) the sound samples of the electronic music are optimized to stay clean and separate even in bad acoustic conditions, while electric guitar is not, and (4) the rave culture involves dancing, which is active participation; after getting used to it, it bores you to tears to just drink beer and watch bands come and go.

Well, in Moonspell?s gig it was all fixed! Moonspell?s musicians are some of the best metal composers and players. The sound was clear and instruments and vocals could be distinguished from each others without effort. And since they were popular, a huge mass of people gathered in front, making the participation more active than just sitting and drinking beer. Regarding the music, I had listened to some of the songs beforehand tens of times. That definitely helps immersion but that is a bit beyond point, since maybe 2/3 of them were still unknown to me.

And to top it all, the singer could really interact with the audience. Especially his hand gestures were really controlled, oscillating between sudden, violent movements that perfectly matched the rhythm on the one hand, and conscious, steady, fully-in-control movements that gave the audience guidance on when to raise hands. The hand dynamics are clearly visible in this video.

Earlier, I?ve noticed that the best of metal and the best of electronic music are equally good on record. Now I know that in the top end, also the live performances are equally good. However, this won?t make me a rock fan, since acts of this class are very rare and the quality of local, Tampere class bands is waaaayyyyy higher in electronic music.

A combination of heavy drunkenness on my part and dancing instincts trained on raves probably resulted in me looking distinctively like the drunken idiot I was, but that?s what people get drunk for. Immersion isn?t possible without a suitable level of drunkenness.