The Null Device


Half-baked idea: What the world really needs is themeable accents for speech synthesisers.


New research suggests that language structure shapes thinking patterns:

The word ''key,'' for example, is masculine in German and feminine in Spanish. Boroditsky recruited two groups of volunteers, native German speakers and native Spanish speakers, who spoke English well. She then asked them to name three adjectives to describe objects. She found a consistent pattern of German speakers using more masculine terms to describe the key - such as ''hard, heavy, jagged'' - while Spanish speakers favored more feminine descriptions, such as ''golden, intricate, lovely.''

Some are saying that this validates the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis; which is derided by many linguists (including Steven Pinker, who eviscerates it in The Language Instinct) as pseudoscience, and has become mostly the province of neo-Marxist social engineers in academe; but others argue that the effects demonstrated here are too trivial to count as proof of any meaningfully strong version of the hypothesis. (via Found)


Some cause for hope: the US Supreme Court to look at whether copyright term extension was unconstitutional. If, by some modern-day miracle, they decide that it was, copyright laws will be overturned, and Mickey Mouse and a lot of other post-1923 works will fall into the public domain, resulting in a collapse of the very foundations of modern capitalism (or so Disney Corp. would like to have you believe). If, however, the status quo and the power of moneyed corporations (not to mention the wise counsel of George W. Bush) prevails, countless films and other post-1923 media which it is not economical to restore will be lost, leaving a gap in the cultural record:

It costs several thousands of dollars to restore old movies from the 1920s and '30s that used lead nitrate, which destroys film. As a result, "Any film after 1923 is not being restored," Bromberg said. "(These films) will be irrevocably lost."

It is quite possible that nothing will ever fall into the public domain again (in the US at least), and that the period between 1923 and the collapse of the copyright economy will be seen by future historians as a "dark age" of which little record exists.


The Nigerian mail scammers are diversifying; I just found a spam in my inbox from someone claiming to be a preacher in the "Seed Harvest Ministry", needing to find some way of disposing of US$30 million left in a church by Nigerian soldiers during the Liberian civil war.

I am interested in using a small fraction of this money, much less than one percent for a re-organization of the work of God, but I do not need the rest and do not want to have any direct dealing with it, but I need someone who will be able to use the fund better maybe for charity or something universally profitable, I have thought of doing it myself but, my ministry is the apocalypse and I believe and preach the soon coming of the Lord which make me not indulgent in reliance on money or wealth in any form.

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