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The Longest Now

Mental damage test
Monday May 09th 2005, 5:15 pm
Filed under: chain-gang

I don’t know who Daniel Wegner is, but I want to.

Here is the personality measure he got published in 1979’s American Psychologist 33 : the Hidden Brain Damage Scale

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Brockhaus freelancer suspected of plagiarizing Wikipedia article
Sunday May 08th 2005, 8:28 am
Filed under: international

One might say this is a case of “Man bites dog,” which would hardly be newsworthy the other way around. Wikipedia contributors plagiarize from other sources all the time; not knowing or not caring enough to properly reference their research, or engaging in wholesale copyright violation which is only caught with great effort or, worse yet, only when the original author complains.

However. Wikipedia does take every copyvio claim extremely seriously, and acts as quickly as is humanly possible to take down alleged copyvios while investigating their copyright status. With these caveats, on to the story!

I thought of various euphemistic ways to title this piece (and the contextual translations I am writing on the subject), but there’s no beating around the bush.
A freelancer for Brockhaus Online last week submitted an article on the newly-elected Pope Benedict XVI. A Wikipedian who saw the result noticed its similarity to the German Wikipedia article; comparison of the freelancer’s article (submitted April 27) with a version of the Wikipedia article from April 26 indicated that he almost certainly copied sections directly from the Wikipedia article — without acknowledging the original or complying with its license (reusers must let the readers know that some of the content they are reading is available under a free license).

Unfortunately, Brockhaus’s initial reaction was a mild “we’ll look into this,” and “we checked the submission for correctness and found it to be accurate.” Marco Krohn, a Brockhaus spokesperson, added ‘The similarity of the texts is definitely not coincidental. There are many ways to formulate a criterion which on its own could similarly exclude 100 articles about [Pope] Benedict by different authors.’ The freelancer’s initial reaction (as conveyed by Brockhaus, I believe) was to deny it and suggest that similar base references were used. This hypothesis was somewhat discredited by finding single sentences which were, in the Wikipedia article, the result of collaboration among many users; and which were repeated verbatim in the article submitted to Brockhaus.

For two days after this was discovered, Brockhaus received private feedback from Wikipedia editors about this matter; however, it was also mentioned on a public Wikipedia mailing list. A reporter took the public discussion, and without contacting any of the parties involved, published a long report on the potential scandal (much to everyone’s dismay). Finally, on Friday, Brockhaus commented that ‘mistakes had probably been made,’ and that they would talk with the author next week to clarify the matter; and they removed the controversial article from their site. (PC Welt article)

Just can’t stop!
Sunday May 08th 2005, 7:24 am
Filed under: poetic justice

I love this instantaneous upload business so much, I just can’t help myself! Here’s a better view from the patio, now that the sun is coming up:

Another lovely view from the F.C. Folk patio.

And this one’s for Mikey, a find from yesterday afternoon. Sometimes a long chute and a long fence just aren’t enough.

Maybe this should become SJ's long fence, or SJ's longest chute... Satan's Finest Laundry Service should like this picture.

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Beautiful experience, technological and social
Sunday May 08th 2005, 6:55 am
Filed under: %a la mod

I just had the most beautiful technological experience. After giving away my old Elph because I never used it and felt it was wasteful to just have it sitting around, I needed a camera a few months later, and got one. I promptly lost its battery charger, and a cable whose purpose I can no longer remember. (I thought it was needed for the charging — maybe it was, to cope with the different power supply there? — but having gotten a replacement since which plugs straight into the wall, I am having doubts.) In any case, I was hemming and hawing about getting replacement parts from Canon for a good chunk of what the camera itself cost, when I remembered that we have a wide open market out there on the Intarweb.

Beautiful experience part 1: Ebay turned up a new battery for $10, and a local camera shop had an original Canon charger for $30 or so. Within three days, packages arrived and the camera was functional again… mass production somehow winning out over efforts to make incompatible hardware and corner the market.

So I brought the newly-working camera with me on my current trip to DC, to stretch its legs. This morning I can’t sleep, and wander the city a bit looking for a place to sit and work outside. Here’s
where it gets good…

2) Your view of a city really changes when you start sitting on random front steps and public platforms, when noone is around and it’s just you and the city skeleton.

3) I had been annoyed that I couldn’t go wake up my hosts and ask for various things like toothpaste and new insoles and a replacement screw for my glasses. Even if it weren’t 4am, I wouldn’t have done that. So wandering around, I find two different 24-hr pharmacies. Fantastic. I joyfully drop a sawbuck; walk outside and find a protected alcove with a nice breeze; and replace, polish up, and improve my flagging toolchain. # of people woken up or vaguely bothered by the noise: 0.

4) I figure I should go find somewhere to sit and write. There’s what looks like an all-night bar nearby, but it’s a bit noisy, and sitting outside I get nothing. So I wander side-streets… aha! A restaurant that’s left its chairs and tables out. I walk up to its front door to look in, and a motion detector clicks on, then starts blinking a large red light. Bzz. Bzz. Bzz. Bzz. Bzz. I back out onto the street and look around. It was such a nice spot, too…

4.5) The light stops blinking. Tentatively, I come back. I sit very quietly at a table and slip out my computer. No troubles with the motion detector this time. Could there be? There is! Second time’s the charm; there’s an open access point with a strong signal.

5) I log on and start to write. I wish I could just pipe the fine view from here into my blog. Well, I /do/ have a camera. And it works now. But I didn’t bring my multi-format flash reader with me. I’m not even sure where that gizmo is. And then– My spider-sense tingles. “What?” I think to myself. “Stop tingling. You’re just chilly.” But despite myself, I scan the sides of my laptop. There’s a suspiciously small flat port next to the headphone jack… I pop out my photo card and slide it in. There are my photos, piped as neatly as you please to my desktop.

And here you are:

View from the outdoor seating area of C.F. Folks, 1225 Dupont? St, Washington DC.  Taken at 5:30 AM, Sunday May 8, 2005.

It’s now half an hour later, noone’s come by save a drunken trio and a hurried biker, and I’m still laughing about this process of finding a hotspot. If I actually lived in DC, I don’t think I could bear to wander the streets looking for a place to get online; I would just buckle and get a broadband connection in my apartment, and miss out on these great open-air sunrises!

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Unverified Research, Part I : Mass Hysteria
Thursday May 05th 2005, 3:56 am
Filed under: fly-by-wire

I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about trust recently, ever since
getting involved in a heated debate two years ago about the efficacy
usefulness of information generated by collections of anonymous people.

My first reaction was, that all information
is generated this way.  No matter how well you know someone else,
it is never possible to truly shake the shackles of anonymity. 
Some people look to Wikipedia et al and assume original sin, then write
about the mediating
advantages of letting people add content directly – rather than
requiring a ‘licensed practitioner’ to go out and extract and parse
such content.  I figure all sources are tainted;  I’d like to
highlight the kind of
unverifiable and unsourced reporting that passes as research today…
starting with the mainstream media and academia.

I. MSM : Mass Hysteria and the Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic of 1962

(a) Here is a credulous report, by the Chicago Tribune, of research done by academic Christian F. Hempelmann (who received his PhD in linguistics from Purdue around that time) :    reprint via a mailing list

There is no original data; it is hypothesized that none
can be obtained. When the issue comes up in earnest, the author
mentions he may try to go interview people who were there, but he does
not seem to feel that the lack of such evidence should prevent him from
declaring the event to have been mass hysteria, nor from going off on
tangents about the physiological limits of laughing. Having myself been
incapacitated by laughter for slightly more than “a minute” (an upper
limit he places on one’s ability to laugh, adding elsewhere that one
can only sustain laughter for 20 seconds), I find myself wondering
which if any of the statements in that article could be backed up by
good research.

(For reference, the Wikipedia article
on the same subject is slightly more skeptical, but has no further
information on the subject. It repeats the unsourced claim that there is no good information on this event.)

(b) Here is a fictional story
based on the same event. Equally informative, if not moreso… equally
unsourced. I would prefer a well-sourced historical narrative,
fictional or not…

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Sharing stories
Thursday May 05th 2005, 12:51 am
Filed under: indescribable

There is nothing like listening to chamber music in a resonant stone chamber. Busch Hall just northeast of Harvard Yard is a fantastic example; you should jump at any chance to hear music there. For instance, I will be singing there this Saturday at 2pm, one of countless groups to use the space this week. If you have any time out of your schedule this week, head over there to visit; there will almost surely be some group or other performing or rehearsing in the main atrium.

I saw something funny on the way home after practicing there yesterday night, and immediately thought “Oh, I just have to [share] this [with my friends],” faster than my mind could fill in the two gaps in that thought.

  • post… to the Nose
  • send… to [some suitable mailing list (cm,eis,jod,dh,bs,brk,bwp)]
  • write a story about… on my blog
  • mention… to my housemates
  • mention… on [some suitable IRC chan (wp/m/n,ji,&c)
  • IM… to [some suitable chatroom or buddy (nsx,&c.)]

Of course, none of these really cuts to the heart of the matter. For a long minute, I thought fondly of places where walking home meant stopping at a canonical park or bar or cafe, where a dozen people would be hanging around, chatting… where a good story could be counted on to spread through town, at least to anyone who knew the teller.

Postscript: I didn’t write about it anywhere; instead I drafted this post, got distracted by Real Work, and went to sleep. Now I can’t for the life of me remember what was so interesting.

laugh riots
Sunday May 01st 2005, 3:46 am
Filed under: poetic justice

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