Archive for ‘Money’

July 26, 2012

Silk Road

Silk Road is an online marketplace that its operators run as a Tor hidden service (anonymous and encrypted). Visitors must use Tor software to access the marketplace. The majority of products that sellers list on Silk Road qualify as contraband in most jurisdictions. ‘NPR’ has referred to the site as the ‘Amazon.com of illegal drugs.’ Buyers and sellers conduct all transactions with bitcoins (an encrypted digital currency). Although the bitcoin’s exchange rate may fluctuate greatly in short periods of time, most of the prices on Silk Road are bound to United States dollar to prevent too drastic inflation or deflation. Buyers can register on Silk Road for free, but sellers must purchase new accounts through auctions to mitigate the possibility of malicious individuals distributing tainted goods.

Senators Charles Schumer and Joe Manchin sent a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder and DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart insisting that the agency shut down the marketplace. Subsequently, Silk Road’s administrators posted on the Silk Road forums the following statement: ‘The die have [sic] been cast and now we will see how they land [sic]. We will be diverting even more effort into countering their attacks and making the site as resilient as possible, which means we may not be as responsive to messages for a while. I’m sure this news will scare some off, but should we win the fight, a new era will be born. Even if we lose, the genie is out of the bottle and they are fighting a losing War already.’ After this attention, traffic to the website increased dramatically and the bitcoin saw a corresponding rise in value. The site was also used during the markup hearing for the 2011 Stop Online Piracy Act as an example of distributed networking and computer systems which by design are not blockable by domain name filtering such as proposed in SOPA.

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July 25, 2012

Joke Thievery

Joke thievery is the act of performing and taking credit for comic material written by another person without their consent. This is a form of plagiarism and sometimes can be copyright infringement. A common epithet for a joke thief is ‘hack,’ which is derived from the term, ‘hackneyed’ (over used and thus cheapened, or trite). From the music hall and vaudeville beginnings of stand-up comedy, joke thievery was common as there were few chances that a performer from one area would meet one from another and a single twenty-minute set could sustain a comic for a decade. Most jokes at the time were one-liners and there was little in the way of proof of a joke’s origin, but the value of each joke was immeasurable to a comedian. Milton Berle and Bob Hope had a long-standing feud due to Hope’s accusation that Berle had stolen some of his jokes. Berle never refuted the claim, but instead embraced the title ‘The Thief of Bad Gag.’

There is, historically, very little legal recourse taken in cases of joke theft. Some comics, however, have chosen to exact their own justice. W. C. Fields reportedly paid fifty dollars to have a thieving comic’s legs broken. ‘You have a better chance of stopping a serial killer than a serial thief in comedy,’ said comedian David Brenner. ‘If we could protect our jokes, I’d be a retired billionaire in Europe somewhere — and what I just said is original.’

July 25, 2012

Ambient Awareness

Ambient awareness is a term used by social scientists to describe a new form of peripheral social awareness. This awareness is propagated from relatively constant contact with one’s friends and colleagues via social networking platforms on the Internet. Marketing professor Andreas Kaplan defines ambient awareness as ‘awareness created through regular and constant reception, and/or exchange of information fragments through social media.’ The term essentially defines the sort of omnipresent knowledge one experiences by being a regular user of media outlets that allow a constant connection with one’s social circle. According to Clive Thompson of ‘The New York Times,’ ambient awareness is ‘very much like being physically near someone and picking up on mood through the little things; body language, sighs, stray comments…’ Therefore, in effect two friends who regularly follow one another’s digital information can already be aware of each other’s lives without actually being physically present to have a conversation.

July 24, 2012

Late Modernity

Late modernity (or liquid modernity) is a term that has been used to describe the condition or state of some highly developed present day societies. It regards their state as a continuation or development of modernity, rather than as a distinct new state, post-modernity. ‘Late modernity is defined by complex, global capitalist economies and a shift from state support and welfare to the privatization of services…a process fuelled by the information revolution, the capacity to move capital and information around the world instantaneously.’ Social theorists, ‘criticize adherents of postmodernity that presume the ending of the modernization process and the dawning of a new era. Contemporary modernity, they argue, rather involves a continuation or even a radicalization of the modernization process.’

On technological and social changes since the 1960s, the concept of late modernity proposes that contemporary societies are a clear continuation of modern institutional transitions and cultural developments. Such authors talk about a reflexive modernization process: ‘social practices are constantly examined and reformed in the light of incoming information about those very practices, thus constitutively altering their character.’ Modernity now tends to be self-referring, instead of being defined largely in opposition to traditionalism, as with classical modernity.

July 23, 2012

Rhythm Game

Rhythm game refers to a genre of music-themed action video games. Games in the genre typically focus on dance or the simulated performance of musical instruments, and require players to press buttons in a sequence dictated on the screen. Doing so causes the game’s protagonist or avatar to dance or to play their instrument correctly, which increases the player’s score. Many rhythm games include multiplayer modes in which players compete for the highest score or cooperate as a simulated musical ensemble. While conventional control pads may be used as input devices, rhythm games often feature novel game controllers that emulate musical instruments. Certain dance-based games require the player to physically dance on a mat, with pressure-sensitive pads acting as the input device.

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July 19, 2012

Energy Independence

US energy independence relates to the goal of reducing the US imports of oil and other foreign sources of energy. If total energy is looked at, the US is over 70% self-sufficient. Energy independence is espoused by those who want to leave America unaffected by global energy supply disruptions, and to restrict a reliance upon politically unstable states for its energy purposes. Energy independence is highly concerned with oil, being perhaps the most important imported energy sources for purposes of both transportation and electricity. The United States is the world’s third largest producer of oil, but it also relies on imported oil. More oil is imported from Canada than any other country. 19% of imported oil comes from the Middle East. Such resources are finite and decreasing, despite an increase in demand. World-wide demand for oil is projected to grow 60% over the next two decades.

The US currently produces about 40% of the oil that it consumes; its oil production peaked in 1970 and its imports have exceeded domestic production since the early 1990s. Greater energy self-sufficiency, it is claimed, would prevent major supply disruptions like the 1973 oil crisis and the 1979 energy crisis from recurring. Proponents argue that the potential for political unrest in major oil suppliers, such as Saudi Arabia (15% of domestic consumption), Venezuela (13%), and Nigeria (10%), is abundant, and often cause great fluctuations in crude oil prices (especially in the short-term), despite the risk-potential being factored into market prices.

July 19, 2012

Jevons Paradox

In economics, the Jevons [jev-uhnzparadox is the proposition that technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource. In 1865, the English economist William Stanley Jevons observed that technological improvements that increased the efficiency of coal use led to increased consumption of coal in a wide range of industries. He argued that, contrary to intuition, technological improvements could not be relied upon to reduce fuel consumption.

The issue has been re-examined by modern economists studying consumption rebound effects from improved energy efficiency. In addition to reducing the amount needed for a given use, improved efficiency lowers the relative cost of using a resource, which tends to increase the quantity of the resource demanded, potentially counteracting any savings from increased efficiency. Additionally, increased efficiency accelerates economic growth, further increasing the demand for resources. The Jevons paradox occurs when the effect from increased demand predominates, causing resource use to increase.

July 18, 2012

Cradle-to-cradle

Cradle-to-cradle design (C2C) is a biomimetic approach to the design of systems. It models human industry on nature’s processes in which materials are viewed as nutrients circulating in healthy, safe metabolisms. It suggests that industry must protect and enrich ecosystems and nature’s biological metabolism while also maintaining safe, productive technical metabolism for the high-quality use and circulation of organic and synthetic  materials. Put simply, it is a holistic economic, industrial and social framework that seeks to create systems that are not just efficient but essentially waste free. The model in its broadest sense is not limited to industrial design and manufacturing; it can be applied to many different aspects of human civilization such as urban environments, buildings, economics, and social systems.

The term ‘C2C Certification’ is a protected term of the McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) consultants. It is a proprietary system of certification. The phrase ‘cradle to cradle’ itself was coined by Swiss architect Walter R. Stahel in the 1970s, and the current model is based on a system of ‘lifecycle development’ initiated by German chemist Michael Braungart and colleagues at the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA) in the 1990s and explored through the publication ‘A Technical Framework for Life-Cycle Assessment.’ In partnership with Braungart, American architect William McDonough released the publication ‘Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things’ in 2002, which is an effective manifesto for cradle to cradle design that gives specific details of how to achieve the model. The model has been implemented by a number of companies, organizations, and governments around the world, predominantly in the European Union, China, and the United States. Cradle to cradle has also been the subject matter of many documentary films, including ‘Waste=Food.’

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July 17, 2012

Amitron

The Amitron was an electric concept car built in 1967 by American Motors Corporation (AMC) and Gulton Industries of Metuchen, New Jersey. It was a snub-snouted three-passenger urban area vehicle or city car with an overall length of only 85 inches. Roy D. Chapin, Jr., Chairman and CEO of AMC, stated that the Amitron ‘could eliminate many problems that up to this point have made electric-type cars impractical.’ A piggyback system of two 24 lb nickel-cadmium batteries and two 75 lb lithium batteries developed by Gulton were designed to power the car for 150-miles at 50 mph. This was a big step beyond contemporary lead-acid electric vehicles. The car’s lithium batteries were designed for sustained speeds. During acceleration, the nickel-cadmium batteries would cut in briefly to boost the Amitron from a standstill to 50 mph in 20 seconds. An Energy Regeneration Brake system would automatically switch the drive motors to generators as the car slowed so that the batteries could recharge; thus increasing the range of the car. This was first use of regenerative braking technology in the U.S.

The first road tests of the power plant were in 1968 using a Rambler American sedan. At the time, American Motors Vice President of Design, Richard A. Teague, was working on a car called ‘the Voltswagon.’ However, the programs to develop clean-transportation in the U.S. were ended, and the Amitron did not go beyond the prototype stage. Its development was significant for the emphasis on various methods to improve performance and range. It had a solid-state electronic CPU to efficiently use power and on-the-road regeneration. Among its unique automobile design features were passenger seats that had air filled cushions, rather than conventional polyurethane (foam rubber). The Amitron was designed to minimize power loss by keeping down rolling resistance, wind drag resistance, and vehicle weight.

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July 17, 2012

Abandonware

Abandonware are discontinued products for which no product support is available, or whose copyright ownership may be unclear for various reasons. Abandonware may be computer software or physical devices which are usually computerized in some fashion, such as personal computer games, productivity applications, utility software, or mobile phones. Definitions of ‘abandoned’ vary; generally it refers to a product that is no longer available for legal purchase, over the age where the product creator feels an obligation to continue to support it, or where operating systems or hardware platforms have evolved to such a degree that the creator feels continued support cannot be financially justified. Software companies and manufacturers may change their names, go bankrupt, enter into mergers, or cease to exist for a variety of reasons. When this happens, product rights are usually transferred to another company that may elect not to sell or support products acquired.

In most cases, software classed as abandonware is not in the public domain, as it has never had its original copyright revoked and some company or individual still owns exclusive rights. Therefore, sharing of such software is usually considered copyright infringement, though in practice copyright holders rarely enforce their abandonware copyrights.

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July 17, 2012

4X

4X games are a genre of strategy video game in which players control an empire and ‘explore (reveal surrounding territories), expand (create new settlements), exploit (gather resources), and exterminate’ (eliminate rivals). The four elements often overlap with each other and vary in length depending on the game design. For example, the ‘Space Empires’ series and ‘Galactic Civilizations II’ have lengthy expansion phases, because players must make large investments in research to explore and expand into every area. The term was first coined by video game critic Alan Emrich in his 1993 preview of ‘Master of Orion’ for ‘Computer Gaming World,’ in which he rated the game ‘XXXX’ as a pun on the rating for pornography.

The earliest 4X games borrowed ideas from board games and 1970s text-based computer games, and are noted for their deep, complex gameplay. Emphasis is placed upon economic and technological development, as well as a range of non-military routes to supremacy. Games can take a long time to complete since the amount of micromanagement needed to sustain an empire scales as the empire grows. 4X games are sometimes criticized for becoming tedious for these reasons, and several games have attempted to address these concerns by limiting micromanagement with varying degrees of success. The first 4X games were turn-based, but real-time 4X games are not uncommon. Many 4X games were published in the mid-1990s, but were later outsold by other types of strategy games. ‘Sid Meier’s Civilization’ is an important example from this formative era, and popularized the level of detail that later became a staple of the genre.

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July 17, 2012

Die Antwoord

Die Antwoord (Afrikaans: ‘The Answer’) is a South African rap-rave group whose style draws from the Zef counter-culture movement. Its lead vocalists are Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er. DJ Hi-Tek is commonly referenced as a third member of the group, although the band blends reality with fantastical elements for artistic effect and they do not acknowledge whether DJ Hi-Tek is a real person or a character played by a variety of musicians and actors. Die Antwoord lead vocalist Ninja was part of the South African hip-hop scene for many years, fronting acts such as The Original Evergreens, MaxNormal.TV, and The Constructus Corporation. Ninja told ‘Rolling Stone,’ ‘Everything I did before Die Antwoord was me experimenting, messing around and trying to find die antwoord… Everything before it was disposable. It was all throwaway.’

Die Antwoord’s musical and visual style incorporates elements of Zef culture, described as modern and trashy, appropriating out-of-date, discarded cultural elements. Yo-Landi said, ‘It’s associated with people who soup their cars up and rock gold and shit. Zef is, you’re poor but you’re fancy. You’re poor but you’re sexy, you’ve got style.’ Their lyrics are performed in Afrikaans, Xhosa, and English. Die Antwoord observed that journalists and critics, particularly in the United States, frequently ask if their creative output is a joke or a hoax. When asked if he was playing a character, Ninja said, ‘Ninja is, how can I say, like Superman is to Clark Kent. The only difference is, I don’t take off this fokken Superman suit.’ They have described their work as ‘documentary fiction’ and ‘exaggerated experience’ designed for shock value. Ninja told Spin: ‘People are unconscious and you have to use your art as a shock machine to wake them up. Some people are too far gone. They’ll just keep asking, ‘Is it real? Is it real?’ That’s dwanky. That’s a word we have in South Africa, ‘dwanky.’ It’s like lame. ‘Is it real?’ Dwanky. You have to be futuristic and carry on. You gotta be a good guide to help people get away from dull experience.’

July 17, 2012

Zef

Zef is a South African counter-culture movement. Die Antwoord (Afrikaans: ‘The Answer’) is a South African rap-rave group whose style draws from the movement. The word ‘zef’ stems from an Afrikaans word, which roughly translates to the English word ‘common.’ South African rapper and Die Antwoord collaborator Jack Parow, describes the movement as ‘It’s kind of like posh, but the opposite of posh.’ It differs from the Australian term ‘bogan’ (pejorative f0r those from a low-class background) and the related British term ‘chav’ in that it is mostly a positive term used to describe oneself, rather than a derogatory term for someone else. It is also not typical of the poorest classes of the society, but rather a mostly white, lower-middle class subculture, albeit one that glorifies cheap stuff. Yolandi Visser of Die Antwoord is quoted as saying, ‘It’s associated with people who soup their cars up and rock gold and shit. Zef is, you’re poor but you’re fancy. You’re poor but you’re sexy, you’ve got style.’

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July 16, 2012

Slow Movement

in praise of slow

The Slow Movement advocates a cultural shift toward slowing down life’s pace. It began with Carlo Petrini’s protest against the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in Piazza di Spagna, Rome in 1986 that sparked the creation of the Slow Food organization. Over time, this developed into a subculture in other areas, such as Cittaslow (Slow Cities), Slow living, Slow Travel, and Slow Design. Geir Berthelsen and his creation of The World Institute of Slowness presented a vision in 1999 for an entire ‘Slow Planet.’

Norwegian philosopher Guttorm Fløistad summarizes the philosophy, stating: ‘The only thing for certain is that everything changes. The rate of change increases. If you want to hang on you better speed up. That is the message of today. It could however be useful to remind everyone that our basic needs never change. The need to be seen and appreciated! It is the need to belong. The need for nearness and care, and for a little love! This is given only through slowness in human relations. In order to master changes, we have to recover slowness, reflection and togetherness. There we will find real renewal.’

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July 16, 2012

Concerted Cultivation

Concerted cultivation is a style of parenting that is marked by a parent’s attempts to foster their child’s talents by incorporating organized activities in their children’s lives. This parenting style is commonly exhibited in middle and upper class American families, and is also characterized by consciously developing language use and ability to interact with social institutions. Many have attributed cultural benefits to this form of child-rearing due to the style’s use in higher income families, conversely affecting the social habitus (socially learned dispositions) of children raised in such a manner. A child that has been concertedly cultivated will often express greater social prowess in social situations involving formality or structure attributed to their increased experience and engagement in organized clubs, sports, musical groups, as well as increased experience with adults and power structure. While this pattern of child rearing holds no innate positive qualities, it has been linked to an increase in financial and academic success. Negative considerations have included an overburdened sense of entitlement, potentially disrespectful behavior toward authority figures, lack of creativity, and the psychosomatic inability to play or relax. As a result, advocates of ‘Slow parenting’ prefer less management of childhood activities. None of these effects can be considered without broader cultural and economic considerations.

Concerted cultivation also emphasizes the use of reasoning skills and variations in language use. Parents start to encourage their children to learn how to speak with adults so that they become comfortable and understand the importance of eye contact and speaking properly at an earlier age. According to Sociologist Annette Lareau, with these type of experiences, middle class parents try to pursue the concerted cultivation approach. They also try to promote a sense of entitlement in their children.  Concerted cultivation causes a transmission of differential advantages, meaning they end up having a financial and educational advantage in life over children reared based on other methods. Children who are reared using the concerted cultivation method are set apart in academic environments, such as college campuses, and they also learn to have more confidence when confronted with social interactions. Children start to form a certain sense of entitlement because of their early comfort interacting with adults. Children also become more comfortable questioning adults, and it is easier for them to see themselves as equals.

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