Common sense from Bruce Willis.

Bruce Willis is irritated by outspoken actors:

Bruce Willis is fed up with listening to outspoken actors – and believes their opinion shouldn’t mean "jack s**t" to the general public. The Die Hard star understands some of his colleagues want to do good for various causes, but wishes others would keep their thoughts to themselves.

He says, "I don’t think my opinion means jack s**t, because I’m an actor. Why do actors think their opinions mean more because you act? You just caught a break as an actor. There are hundreds – thousands – of actors who are just as good as I am, and probably better. Have you heard anything useful come out of an actor’s mouth lately?"

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The consensus unravels.

The much trumpeted scientific consensus that global warming is man-made seems to be unravelling if indeed it ever really existed:

Following the U.S. Senate’s vote today on a global warming measure (see today’s AP article: Senate Defeats Climate Change Measure,) it is an opportune time to examine the recent and quite remarkable momentum shift taking place in climate science. Many former believers in catastrophic man-made global warming have recently reversed themselves and are now climate skeptics. The names included below are just a sampling of the prominent scientists who have spoken out recently to oppose former Vice President Al Gore, the United Nations, and the media driven “consensus” on man-made global warming.

The list below is just the tip of the iceberg. A more detailed and comprehensive sampling of scientists who have only recently spoken out against climate hysteria will be forthcoming in a soon to be released U.S. Senate report. Please stay tuned to this website, as this new government report is set to redefine the current climate debate.

To quote Richard Lindzen, a professor at MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences:

"With respect to science, the assumption behind the [alarmist] consensus is science is the source of authority and that authority increases with the number of scientists [who agree.] But science is not primarily a source of authority. It is a particularly effective approach of inquiry and analysis. Skepticism is essential to science — consensus is foreign," Lindzen said.

Tip of the hat to Kate at small dead animals.

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Patents weren’t always this way.

Mark Pilgrim is ashamed of having filed a patent when he was at IBM:

My name is on a software patent. It happened during my brief tenure at IBM. The patent is not yet issued (as I understand it, issuance may take years) and does not show up in USPTO or Google Patent Search. But it will, someday.

[...]

Later I really did quit, but only after I secured another job, and not because of patents. I’m told that once the patent is issued, I’ll get another $500, even though I don’t work for IBM anymore. Issuance takes anywhere from 2 to 7 years. By then, IBM will have filed tens of thousands more. It’s an institutionalized form of madness, outrageous, all-consuming, and incurable. I’m ashamed to have been a part of it.

My name is on several patents. I’m not ashamed. We created great technology and then we filed patents for it.

Patents weren’t always used by patent trolls to shakedown competitors. Most legitimate companies, including mine at the time, build patent portfolios to barter with if they were accused of patent infringement. We would get to use the other company’s technology, and they would get to use some of ours. Simple. No litigation. No multi-million dollar royalties. No threats. And therefore no shame.

Of course I never expected a reputable company like Microsoft to become a patent troll. So I guess there is a danger in the patents I created. But that seems to be the last resort of a dying company, one that is afraid of its inability to compete on a level playing field.

Has Microsoft really sunk that far? And does that mean than any company could descend to that level?

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By any other name.

Bob Zitter, HBO’s Chief Technology Officer, is tired of the term "Digital Rights Management", or DRM. He thinks it needs a new name:

That changed on Tuesday, when HBO’s Chief Technology Officer, Bob Zitter, suggested at an industry conference that DRM needs a name change. Zitter’s suggested name: Digital Consumer Enablement, or DCE.

The irony here is that “rights management” is itself an industry-sponsored euphemism for what would more straightforwardly be called “restrictions”. But somehow the public got the idea that DRM is restrictive, hence the need for a name change.

As in digitally enabling your customers to be screwed when they try to use what they’ve paid for?

Just suppose for a second that your car stalled everytime you got on the freeway because you car manufacturer decided that you needed a different license for the freeway. How would that work for you?

Tip of the hat to Ed Felten at Freedom to Tinker.

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The weakest link.

Waterloo Region, where I currently live, is having problems with its buses [link will evaporate tomorrow]:

Grand River Transit is stranding some passengers at bus stops because so many buses have been taken off the road for repairs.

When buses show up late they are sometimes overcrowded.

"It’s not a reliable service right now," said Rick Lonergan, of the Canadian Auto Workers, representing bus drivers and mechanics.

"An awful lot of people are upset out there, naturally. They’re late for work, etc. etc., and the drivers are taking real flak over this."

Local politicians insist the the solution to traffic and transit problems in the region is a light rail transit line that runs from one end of the city to the other, at a cost (estimated in 2004) of $260 million. Buses will then carry riders from that central corridor to their intended destinations.

That still leaves the buses as the weakest link in the proposed system. If they can’t even keep the buses running currently, how will spending an additional $260 million on an LRT make it better?

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Watching less TV.

LostRemote notes a story about a substantial decline in the number of television viewers:

Quoting now from an AP story today: “In TV’s worst spring in recent memory, a startling number of Americans drifted away from television the past two months: More than 2.5 million fewer people were watching ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox than at the same time last year, statistics show.” Everyone has a theory: early start to Daylight Savings Time, poor measurement of DVRs, boring TV shows and broader availability of video online. All of these likely have an impact. The bottom line is that these declines will have a significant impact.

I’ve noticed this myself.I used to be a television addict. I’m talking 5-8 hours per night. Sure I was doing other things at the same time, but the television was on every night sometimes until 2 or 3 am while I worked.

But this year things have changed. I don’t enjoy reality shows, haven’t watched Lost, and gave up on Jericho when it become to difficult to follow. There have been entire months of reruns interspersed with the occasional new epidode, to the point where I now only bother to plan to watch television on Mondays and Thursdays. The rest of the time TiVo captures shows for me so that I can watch them when nothing else decent is on, which is frequently.

If they can alientate me, a ridiculously insistent viewer, then what hope do they have to keep the more fickle viewer? People now realize that they have a lot more control over their entertainment and when and how they get it. That means that the networks can’t assume that people will sit back and take what they dish out.

Tip of the hat to Rob Hyndman.

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Fear of Facebook.

Toronto City Hall has banned Facebook for their employees:

City Hall has banned Facebook.

As of yesterday, local government employees can no longer access the wildly popular social networking site from their office computers.

Councillors will be exempt from the ban.

"It’s a matter of asking, ‘Is this something city staff needs to have access to?’ " Brad Ross, a spokesman for the city, said. "There’s a potential for staff to spend an inordinate amount of time on a site like this."

There are many things on the internet on which staff could spend an inordinate amount of time. So why single out Facebook?

And if it is so bad for staff, then why are councillors exempt from the ban?

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A “green” tax is still just a tax.

A Toronto, Canada city councillor wants to levy a 30 cent tax on coffee cups, a 25 cent tax on plastic bags, and similar taxes on styrofoam containers. Glenn De Baeremaeker has a good reason:

Keeping nearly three-quarters of the city’s waste out of landfill — not collecting extra cash — would be the goal of the levies, Mr. De Baeremaeker stressed.

He would insist the money collected be shovelled back into recycling program and other efforts to reduce the amount of Toronto trash that winds up trucked to a Michigan dump.

"In no conceivable way could these taxes and these proposals in any ways address any of the city’s fiscal challenges," Mr. De Baeremaker said. "The idea, for example, to tax plastic bags isn’t to make money, it’s to send a signal to consumers that you are consuming precious natural resources and let’s reflect the true cost of doing that."

The only way to have less trash in the form of coffee cups is to have less people buying coffee, so it seems that Mr. De BaereMaeker is proposing an experiment in social engineering to force people to buy less coffee. I don’t think people are about to give up their daily fix of Tim Horton’s coffee, but the will certainly grumble over a tax that hits lower income folks disproportionately.

The overall impact on the volume of trash will likely be miniscule, but Toronto, with a voracious appetite for cash, will just be generating more tax revenue under the guise of being "green".

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Replacement trends.

Prompted by a recent report on the subject, Om Malik asks if the replacement trends of PCs and TVs are reversing:

This is what he wrote: “In the past, consumers replaced their PC’s every 3 years and their televisions roughly every decade. Is this trend poised to reverse? Hint: Yes.”

It’s always delicate to speculateon trends where the technologies involved are changing so rapidly. Right now PCs are pretty much stagnant, except for the introduction of Microsoft Vista and the rise of the Mac. And their prices aren’t really coming down; they are just staying the same with the addition of more features.

TVs on the other hand are now just reaching the price poing where it is reasonable for the average consumer to move to LCD or plasma flat-panel screens – really the biggest wholesale change in decades.

So right now people are replacing their TVs, a trend that might continue for a year or three. I may buy an LCD screen myself this year. But people are waiting to see what happens with PCs. I for one have no interest in buying a new PC with Windows Vista though that seems to be the only thing available in stores now. Though by next year I will be buying another Mac.

I wouldn’t bet on the trend reversing just yet. I think in a couple of years people will have passed through the move to flat panel TVs and we’ll see that decade long replacement cycle back again. TVs just don’t change that much. Not that there is that much to watch anyway.

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