Wikileaks founder is definitely a villain

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, looks like a man who has enemies. Enemies that want to kill him. Enemies that want to foil his plans for world domination. If we lived in a comicbook universe he would be fantastically rich, fiercely intelligent, scheming and heartless. He would control the world's governments and finances. I mean, just look at him:

Who wears black under black and then a red tie? Is that a golden vest peeking out of his jacket? He has long white hair! Look at his soul-less eyes! This man is not a man. No, this man is a character, and I totally love it.

Wikileaks has made itself famous by obtaining massive amounts of sensitive documents and releasing them to the world. Governments are panicking, media is feasting, civilians are outraged. The sorts of things that go on behind closed doors, eh? As of now, most of the documents obtained by Wikileaks are related to the US, UK and other similar countries, and many people are critical of that. Credited to Assange is the response,
"People say, why don’t you release more leaks [from] the Taliban. So I say hey, help us, tell more Taliban dissidents about us."
Wikileaks isn't biased in their "coverage" on purpose - it's just that Western folks are more aware of the organization and there are apparently more sources prepared to divulge information.

I once saw someone criticize Assange for accepting the publicity he receives. The more publicity Wikileaks gets the better! The more eyes that are on Assange and Wikileaks the less likely it is that someone would arrange an "accident" for him. And I certainly hope that the same someone is smart enough not to touch the Wikileaks site itself. To attack it would be to create a Hydra, nurtured by the rage and anti-establishment tendencies of thousands of geeks worldwide (This attitude can be evidenced by the recent Limewire hilarity). Even still, even knowing that a threat on his life would be the stupidest mistake anyone could make, Assange still mostly lives in the shadows, traveling constantly, occasionally surfacing to attend a conference. He won't enter the United States, for example, on the advice of his lawyer.

The thing I find most intriguing about this whole thing is that the founder of the world's most infamous (and arguably effective) whistleblower website is Australian. The man who fights censorship and secrecy as a job hails from a country so gung-ho about censorship that they have come dangerously close to censoring the Internet and routinely censor media (video games, movies) before offering them to its citizens. On the other hand, maybe it's not ironic at all; maybe it makes perfect sense.

I am less interested in the information divulged than in the phenomena of a civilian-led rebellion. And that's what this is - a rebellion. A rebellion against secrecy in our governments. A rebellion demanding accountability. A rebellion that will change the face of media, journalism and, hopefully, government. At the very least it will make organizations take a closer look at their security to keep it falling into the wrong hands.

Evolution and Natural Selection

It is not my place to go into great detail about the nuances of the theory of natural selection and the phenomena of evolution. I'm not a biologist, for one, and while I have a modest grasp on the whole thing I can't answer the hard questions about genetics and fossil records. For that you're going to have to read an actual book. I would recommend any of Richard Dawkins' books, because he is a biologist. The Blind Watchmaker and The Ancestor's Tale I have read and can vouch for; and I hear The Selfish Gene is a good one too. If you're brave you can wade through Darwin's The Origin of Species but it's a heavy read.

However, the topic of evolution comes up a lot in various situations, and I constantly find that many people are woefully undereducated - or worse, were lied to - so I figured I would clear up just what the theory of natural selection is, in a very broad and layman-friendly sense. First, a couple of definitions:

Evolution: Evolution is a phenomena. It is not a theory - it is an observed occurrence. Evolution happens and to deny is it idiotic. Evolution happens to viruses, evolution happens to bacteria, evolution is evident in our fossil records and DNA. Evolution is change within a species.

Natural Selection: The theory of Natural Selection proposes the mechanism behind the phenomena of evolution.

Theory: In common English, is is unfortunate that the word "theory" has come to mean "guess" or "hypothesis". In the scientific realm, a theory is "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena; theories can incorporate facts and laws and tested hypotheses" A theory is the highest status an idea can go. A scientific law and a theory are not the same: a law describes a phenomenon while a theory explains why it occurs.

The best example to demonstrate the differences is usually gravity, because most people understand and few dispute gravity. The phenomenon of gravity is what we can feel and observe - we see falling objects, feel ourselves attracted to the earth and we observe planets orbiting stars. The law of gravity is F = G * ((m1*m2)/r2. And the theory that explains gravity is general relativity.

I look down on you when you call that thing an iPod

The title says it all, folks. I have assembled a nice little graphic to clear things up for you:

I know it's not that big of a deal, but it irks me. I don't know if it's the slight OCD if it's generally how techno-retarded it makes people sound, or if it's just that I hate Apple, but it drives me crazy when people call their non-Apple music players an "iPod."

Imagine this. Just picture this scenario. Someone you just met keeps going on and on about their Ferrari, how they lost the keys to their Ferrari, how they had to take the Ferrari to the mechanics, how they have to pay their Ferrari insurance. And then, when you finally see the thing, it's actually a minivan. They were just calling it a Ferrari because that's what they thought cars were called. Or they were calling their cat a "Siamese" when it was just a tabby cat. Or, a more fitting example, if someone called all computers an "iMac" for no apparent reason other than that they were an idiot.

Here's an easy guide to identifying whether a music player is an iPod:
* Apple made it
* It wants you to use iTunes
* It came with white earbuds
* It cost you your first born son

See? Simple. Now, if only I can get my mother to understand...

Euclidean algorithm, inverses and division in mod

This is the second bit of math necessary for the little cipher I implemented (First part about the euclidean algorithm here). Today we'll look at inverses in modular arithmetic.

In order to do arithmetic in any "system" or field, there must exist two identities. These identities are the additive identity and the multiplicative identity. In the fields/systems we are used to working in (Naturals, Integers, Reals and Complex, in addition to modulus systems) the additive identity is 0 and the multiplicative identity is 1.
We think of a' and b' as the inverses of a and b, respectively.
a + a' = 0

b * b' = 1
As you can see, when we add the inverse of a to a, we are really subtracting a from a. When we are multiplying the inverse of b with b, we are dividing b by itself. This way we do not need to define division and subtraction; they are simply the inverse operations of addition and multiplication.
Side note: Something interesting: the multiplicative inverse does not exist for the additive identity. For example, there is no possible value of a' to get 0*a' = 1

"Division" in mod

What we would call "division" in modular arithmetic is different from division in the other number systems we are familiar with. In a mod system, we cannot simply divide a number as we would in Integers, Reals, Naturals, etc. We cannot, for example, do the following:
This is wrong!

2x ≡ 8 mod 10
x ≡ (8/2) mod 10
x ≡ 4 mod 10

This is not the correct approach!

WAYWT | My secret shame

Shhh, don't tell anyone... but I secretly love...

Rhinestones. The most tacky gemstone (if it even qualifies as that) on the market, the rainbow diffraction and tinted stone made me totally crazy for them. Yay, shiny rocks! I've spent the past week in either pajamas or jeans & t-shirts, so I decided to go for broke and channel loli goth.

This week has been eventful. I spent most of it miserable with a cold that is now in my lungs making me cough nonstop. We got a new sofa to replace our horribly broken futon. And today it snowed!

DIY Kitty Pillow

Let's make a kitty pillow!

You will need:
- Half a meter/yard of cuddly fabric, any color
- Fiber fill to stuff your kitty
- Fabric scissors
- Sewing machine or needle and thread
- Pink embroidery floss and a tapestry needle
- Buttons for the eyes
- Felt-tip pen, marker or chalk for marking
- Ribbon and a bell (optional)

Discoveries that took the magic out of living

There are some things that one wishes one could unlearn. Finding your father's fetish porn, realizing that cute waiters only flirt with you to get more tips, noticing the arrow in the FedEx logo... They take a little bit of the magic out of the world, and make you see it for the grey, dreary, twisted place it is. I've decided to compile a list of the things that ruined the world for me, so that you could share in my misery and nihilism. Nothing is sacred.

Mother Teresa was a sadist, well-known for providing deplorable "health care" and unsanitary conditions for her patients and for being obsessed with the beauty of suffering. Her life's mission was not to reduce pain, poverty and suffering in the world, but rather to spread Catholicism as fast as she could, at all costs.

Dolphins are known to kidnap and violently gangrape female dolphins, kill and torture other sea creatures for fun, and kill babies.

Most women will defecate during childbirth, this is why enemas before birth are common.

The breeding cycle of angler fish.

The seemingly random distribution of an infinite amount of prime numbers. No one has yet discovered any rhyme or reason to the spacing of prime numbers, other than that the only even prime is 2. Seriously, fuck math.

Gelatin, the stuff that males Jell-o jiggly, is made from boiling animal bones and tendons. Forget grinding bones to make your bread; I'll grind your bones to make a jiggly, neon-colored dessert.

The word "vagina" is derived from the Latin word meaning "sheath." Every time you use the word "vagina" you are saying your girl parts are a sheath for a penis... or a sword.

Humans will never, ever, intuitively grasp randomness and probability. We're just terrible at it. The Monty Hall problem will destroy your brain.

I'll be sure to add to this list whenever I encounter something soul-crushing. Feel free to comment with your own!

The heart-warming "you can do anything if you put your mind to it" story that Einstein failed math and science as a child in school is absolutely false. He was, in fact, a math prodigy, receiving top marks and mastering calculus before the age of 15.

Euclid's algorithm for Greatest Common Divisors

Well, isn't that title exciting? Today I bring you more math. This particular math is important for some types of cryptography, so instead of explaining it all in a post on the little cipher I implemented, I figured I'd write up a separate post.

The fundamental theory of arithmetic states that all positive integers have a unique prime factorization. This means that any number can be reduced into a product of at least one prime. Prime numbers are numbers where the only factors are 1 and itself. Numbers with more than one prime factor are composite numbers. That is, they are a product of some number of integers > 1. (Side note: 1 is neither a prime nor composite number, and is therefore often called the "unit.")

The Greatest Common Divisor (gcd) of two or more numbers is the largest number that evenly divides all of them. For example, the gcd(10, 20) is 10, because 10 evenly divides 10 and 10 also evenly divides 20. We use the symbol | to denote "divides". We can then write,
gcd(12,20) = 4 because 4 | 12 and 4 | 20
To denote "does not divide" we use ∤ (Unicode 2224, in case you're wondering)
gcd(13,20) ≠ 4 because while 4 | 20, 4 ∤ 13
You can easily see that any prime number (p) will have a gcd of 1 with any other number less than p; that is a prime number by definition will not have a common divisor with any number less than itself. Any two numbers that have a gcd of 1 are called relatively prime to each other.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

An alphabet story

"Alpha!" screeched the young child,
"Bravo! Good job!" exclaimed his father, Charlie, proud that his son was learning his favorite alphabet.
"Delta!" screeched the child again, pleased with the Echo that resonated through the Foxtrot hotel's lobby.
"Golf clubs, please!" Charlie called to the Hotel's bellboy, "I just bought them in India, wouldn't want to lose them."
Charlie's sister Juliet appeared in the lobby, immediately spotting them and rushing over to hug the young boy. "Oh my, you've grown so much! You must weigh almost fifteen Kilos!"
"Lima!" the child pointed at the doors, "Lima! Lima!" a sleek black stretch limo glided by the glass doors. A man appeared at Juliet's side. She straightened up and introduced him,
"Oh Charlie, you've met Mike before, correct?"
"Sure," said Charlie, shaking Mike's hand, "I think we met last November, at Thanksgiving. Oh, how's Oscar settling in?"
"Oscar's a handful, though he's finally housebroken. Papa is watching him for the weekend while we're in Quebec. Romeo is happy to have another dog to play with."
"I'm sure he is," agreed Charlie. "Where are y'all staying?"
"We're staying at the Sierra hotel. They're actually having a ball tonight, Charlie, and I know how much you love to Tango."
"Tango!" repeated the boy, excited by all the new faces.
"Perfect. I even brought my dress Uniform, just in case. Victor should be joining us, though if there's any Whiskey around maybe we should keep it away from him, eh? Last time we had a get-together I believe he had to have a series of rather embarrassing Xrays taken..."
Juliet and Mike chuckled, giving Charlie a hand with his luggage. A disgruntled Frenchman muttered "Damn Yankees" as they passed him, but no one paid him any notice, except the young boy who simply threw open his arms and yelled "Zulu!"
"Shush now, don't yell at strangers," his father admonished
"Zulu!" he repeated in quiet tones.
"That's much better!"

Taking down KFC's Double Down

Some time ago, a friend told me about a horrible chicken monstrosity that KFC was offering to American customers. It was a bacon cheese sandwich, except instead of using bread as the bun, two pieces of fried chicken were used instead. My initial reaction of revulsion was quickly replaced with reservation, then awe, then desire. If you ignored the particular ordering of the foods in the "sandwich" and considered only the components, you're really just eating chicken with cheese, mystery sauce and bacon on top of it. If you ignore the fact that the chicken is deep fried, you are actually looking at a perfectly normal meal. It sounded delicious. It sounded thrilling. My life would not be complete without one. But alas, the Double Down sandwich was not available in Canada, so I moved on with my life knowing it would be one step short of being complete.

Until one fateful day when we received a flier in the mail.
A flier with a bacon-cheese-chicken monstrosity gracing its glossy cover.
A flier with an announcement on it. An announcement just for me.
It was coming: the Double Down was coming!

San Fransciso targets Happy Meals; barely grazes them

As many people are probably not yet aware but will soon be, San Fransisco just passed a non-vetoable bill to ban the use of toys to encourage kids to eat unhealthy food. In other words, restaurants can no longer offer free toys with meals that do not meet certain nutritional guidelines. The media trumpets the news to the world with eye-catching titles like, "Law curbs McDonalds Happy Meals," "Sad Faces over Happy Meals", "San Francisco toy ban takes the ‘happy’ out of Happy Meals", "San Fransisico Bans Happy Meals", [1-4] and.. well, you get the picture. Surely it makes sense that the largest fast food chain in the world would become the posterchild of this debate, although the law doesn't target any restaurant in particular.

The law isn't in place yet - a second review vote will be held next week - but it certainly is attracting a lot of attention. McDonalds has released a few statements, "We are extremely disappointed with today's decision. It's not what our customers want, nor is it something they asked for" [1] and the rest echo that sentiment. On one hand are the people who are insulted or feel as if their freedoms are being infringed upon by an overreaching nanny state, while on the other hand are people who applaud the decision and "balk at the sight of a child sucking on a salty [fry] or chicken nugget" [5] (Incidentally, this is the forum discussion that sparked my interest in the first place; can you guess which posts are mine? ;) )

In general, I do not believe that the demands of the populace on a free market will produce the safest, most ethical and highest quality goods. Such an ideal relies on one very large assumption: that the populace is fully informed and willing to and capable of making a decision. Everyone knows from everyday experiences that this simply isn't so - be it themselves struggling to make an informed decision in a society drowning in advertising and propaganda, or by watching others make less-than-intelligent decisions. This is why we allow governments to regulate the market, even in a capitalism-obsessed country like the US. Sometimes these bodies get overeager and overreach and begin infringing on personal freedom. That's why there needs to be a good system of checks and balances and a method of appeal. (Whether there is one available in this instance I am uncertain) I also believe this to be such a case - it is, frankly, a silly law put in place with good intentions.

DST scares me

Today is the first real day of normal time after turning the clocks back from Daylight Savings time. In my province, we turn the clocks back on Saturday night but since Sunday is a weekend and I don't go to church, nothing of consequence is affected.

DST was invented to give us more daylight hours in summer afternoons, mostly in an effort to save electricity (not as relevant now that household lighting is a much smaller proportion of energy consumption compared to before) but it has also proven effective in boosting the economy (though hurting some areas, such as theatres) and health (though heart attacks rates rise for the three weeks following spring DST and are lower following the fall change) and reducing traffic accidents in the summer months. Not all areas of the world observe DST: Saskatchewan, for example, is a Canadian province that doesn't. I've heard from multiple third-hand sources that the reason for this is because Saskatchewanian farmers think having an extra hour of sunlight every twenty-four hours will hurt their crops. Whether this example of stupidity is true or is a rumor started by a bitter Albertin, I do not know.

Point is, DST is observed by most developed areas but there is less and less reason to keep it up. Also, it worries me.

In general, I worry about things I shouldn't - and DST is one of them. I don't trust it. Up to this point I have never had an incident caused by forgetting to change the clocks, but I know it will happen one day. I'm a forgetful person and I know I'm a forgetful person, so as it draws nearer and nearer to DST weekend I start obsessively asking my friends "What time is it?" which seems to confuse them because I usually ask them over IM while I'm on my computer. I can just imagine missing an interview or presentation because I didn't turn my clock forward in the spring, or thinking a class was canceled when I show up an hour early in the fall.

It seems like an outdated practice that only complicates our lives. (By that I mean, it complicates my life) I would be happy if we did away with DST altogether and kept "winter time" all year round. I guess the benefit is that in the fall when I turn the clocks back I have a whole week or so where I feel very rested.

PS: I also find that "Daylight Savings" sounds more like an activists group than a time modifier.

Whiteboard scribbles

I had to erase the miscellaneous scribbles off my whiteboard so I could actually use the damn thing. Problem is I like the accumulated writings that collect there. First up is a collection of punch lines for geeky jokes I am fond of:

And secondly, and I'm proud of this one, a graph-dick:

The penis was totally unintentional. I was explaining to my boyfriend a chart mentioned in a paper on false reporting of speedups from parallel implementations of algorithms (heh) and a few days later looked over and... well, there was a nice big dick, balls and all. It's also (slightly) OVER 9000!!!!!!!

Anyway, I'm off to finish the assignment that required me to clean the board in the first place.

What I want from an IM client and how I fixed MSN

Instant messaging clients and web browsers are probably the most used programs on any of my computers. The problem with IM clients is... well... none are perfect. I've tried several: Trillian (ugly, bad GUI, buggy), Google talk (ugly, no group convos), Pidgin (can't get it running. This post was inspired by a review of Pidgin on a blog I follow.) and Windows Live AKA MSN. None of them meet my requirements. My requirements are fairly simple, although it looks lengthly:

- Add, remove and block contacts
- "Appear offline" functionality - for everyone or only to individuals
- Choose whether people who aren't a contact can message you
- Allow transfers of any filetype
- Clickable links in chat open a new tab or browser window
- Change nicknames/status of yourself
- Change the display name of people on your contact list
- Conference/ group chats
- Group contacts and send a message to the whole group at once
- Use multiple chat protocols
- Send messages to offline contacts who will receive it when they sign in
- "Toast"/ popups when contacts come online (configurable for other events)
- Change chimes and noises for specific events
- Easy to install, modify and export emoticon packs
- Change personal font
- Be able to override a contact's font
- Ability to italicize or bold text in a conversation

- Have avatar pictures
- Main window consists only of the contact list and a few menu buttons - no ads or gimmicks
- Change the color of the main window
- Change the background and color of the chat windows and have it persist
- The color of a contact's chat window is the color of their toast

How far can we take our language?

It is a hot topic on the blogosphere now: what is happening to the English language? Even in my first sentence I have used a word that has been artificially invented which would be gibberish to someone from only twenty years ago. Clearly, as our society - and especially our technology - evolves, the language must evolve with it. The question is... how far is too far?

Any sociologist or linguist (or dystopian writer) will tell you that if you can't express an idea you can't have that idea. There are some really wonderful examples of this even in modern days. So clearly we need to be able to create words to express novel ideas - scientists do this all the time. Can you imagine not having words like "computer" or "black hole" because the idea they represent wasn't conceived of when the language was developing? Allowing a language to naturally evolve is the only way to let our societies evolve.

And yet there is a growing movement of frustrated logophiles who seek to retain the current, or a recent ancestor, of the English language - at all costs. These folks will wax poetic about wondrous multisyllabic words, archaic verb tenses and the distinction between who and whom. To them, language is art first and function secondarily. Even people who are less logophiles and more simply avid readers are quick to talk about the destruction of the language by txtspeek and teenagers. I don't blame them - when I visit webforums and c ppl talkin like dis, neglecting to correct typos and check basic grammar like the difference between their, there and they're... it makes me frustrated. On the other side of the fence are the people who insist that the language serves the people, not the other way around - so there is no harm in abbreviating or misspelling words as long as the ideas being conveyed are still getting across. I haven't run into one of these people in a while, but I wonder what they think of technology-related evolutions - for example, the proliferation of common typos due to the QWERTY keyboard layout. I am constantly swapping "from" and "form" in my typing if one hand moves faster than the other - is this a language evolution or a mistake?

Handmade Pocahontas Costume

Alrighty, Halloween's been and gone and here's my costume all put together! You'll have to excuse the awkward pose and facial expressions, here:


Handmade stretch suede dress with hand tied fringe cording. The dress is based on a sweetheart neckline strapless dress that I modified to have a single shoulder and triangle hem. I kept the proportions as true to the film as possible - thigh-high slit and all! Construction details here.


The belt was simply a piece of brown faux-suede cut to the proper shape, with a lace up back so I could get it on and off. I thought about attaching it to the dress so it wouldn't slide around, but figured I would just let it be.
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"Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."