Social mobility

According to the New York Times, I can no longer think of myself as in any way middle class. Interestingly, the US has worse social mobility than several European countries—but not worse than the UK. I remember back in the John Major days, hearing a lot of talk about the “classless society”. A lot of people seemed to believe the US was one.

“It sucked. Can I have my £1m now?”

A couple of months ago, 15 UK troops were taken hostage in Iraq. They were eventually freed. Then I started seeing news stories about how everyone was furious because the troops were selling their personal stories to the highest bidder. Maybe I’ve been in the US too long, but I didn’t understand what people were upset about. I still don’t. Those troops went through a hideous ordeal. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to get money in return for telling people what it was like?

Say goodbye to DRM

Today’s the big day. The iTunes Music Store has started actually selling DRM-free music. I decided to vote with my wallet and go find and buy something. I’m hoping that in a few weeks we’ll see a press release stating that EMI’s music sales tripled, or something like that, and the other labels will get that clue they’ve been missing. Unfortunately, it seems as if everyone else has had the same idea, and Apple’s Internet connections anre buckling under the strain.

FotFM: The Domain Name System (DNS)

Once upon a time, back in the ancient history of the Internet–before the 1990s–domain names were carefully controlled and regulated. A single organization controlled each top level domain. If you wanted a domain name, you had to meet their requirements. Often the policies enforced were quite picky. If you wanted a .uk domain name, you were required to actually be in the UK, for example. If you wanted a .org domain, you were required to be a non-profit organization.

Put a sock in it

Another interesting survey was about socks. It was a really long survey. It asked about my preference for different kinds of sock, using phrases like “crew”, “low-cut”, “high-performance”, “quarter”, “ankle”, and so on. I was mostly mystified as to the distinctions being made. Even now, I couldn’t define a quarter sock or a crew sock. I do have opinions about sock material: I like cotton, and don’t like anything else. Oh, all right, perhaps a little Spandex for stretchyness.

Liquid engineering

One of my random Internet pastimes is answering surveys. Partly I do it because I suspect I’m an interesting edge case for their data set, the exception that will prove their rules. Also, at the end they offer some of the statistics they’ve gathered, which can be interesting. And sometimes, the act of answering trivial questions can lead me to odd insights about myself. Like just now. It was a survey about motor oil.

Mast debate

A recent BBC Panorama documentary has suggested that wifi Internet might be a major health hazard. Scary quotes about chromosome damage and radiation exposure have appeared all over the Internet. Unfortunately, the documentary’s conclusions are junk science. Let’s start off by noting the inverse square law, a piece of basic physics which applies to electromagnetic radiation exposure. Basically, the strength of a signal varies in proportion to the distance squared.

Business ethics and telemarketing

InfoUSA is a list broker, a company that aggregates personal data and sells it to telemarketers and catalog sales companies. The New York Times reports: InfoUSA advertised lists of “Elderly Opportunity Seekers,” 3.3 million older people “looking for ways to make money,” and “Suffering Seniors,” 4.7 million people with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. “Oldies but Goodies” contained 500,000 gamblers over 55 years old, for 8.5 cents apiece. One list said: “These people are gullible.

At the cutting edge of pedagogy

CNN: MURFREESBORO, Tennessee (AP) — Staff members of an elementary school staged a fictitious gun attack on students during a class trip, telling them it was not a drill as the children cried and hid under tables. The mock attack Thursday night was intended as a learning experience and lasted five minutes during the weeklong trip to a state park, said Scales Elementary School Assistant Principal Don Bartch, who led the trip.

MagicGate shut after horse has bolted

My PS2 memory card died, taking with it various save files. I guess I was courting disaster, in that I had been using the same single memory card since I bought my first PS2 in 2002. Flash memory is great, but it only lasts for a finite number of write cycles. Looks like I’m going to have to play all those levels of Katamari Damacy again. (Oh, the horror.)