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Beware Gamecopyworld June 25, 2007

Posted by Tim in Science/Tech, Trends.

One of my resolutions as a new wage-earner :) is not to buy pirated software, or at least as sparingly as possible.

The foremost reason is to support game companies, especially the small ones which need the money. Felt guilty about the fate of Troika and Interplay especially.

Another reason is that there’s strong reason to believe that all the fake DVDs you buy and install don’t come with unrequested “extras”. It’s like eating food without knowing where it came from. I doubt the syndicates producing the DVDs are using the profits for charity either. I’m not saying that software prices aren’t expensive; they ARE. Imagine the cost of a movie ticket in Malaysia being converted directly – would you pay 3.4 * 8 = RM27 to watch a movie? I don’t think so. So it’s no surprise when people say “no f***ing way!” when they see a game costing RM150-RM200 – but at least if you wanna pirate something, download it; don’t buy it.

Here’s an article from CodingHorror.com listing the stuff GameCopyWorld.com (how many of you have been to this site, hmm?) tries to do to your PC the minute you surf there.

Webroot SpySweeper detected the following spies after allowing the installer to run over night.
Trojan Downloader Matcash
Web Buying
Core Adware (CoreAdware is known to use Rootkits {core.sys} to mask its presence.)


Examining Expletives May 25, 2007

Posted by Tim in Humour, Literary, Thoughts, Trends.
1 comment so far

I sometimes find myself “filtering” conversations with others.

Take for instance something that happened to me recently – two months ago, I borrowed a book from the library to refer to for an assignment. After I was done with it I passed it to a groupmate, who was supposed to return it to the library for me.

Long story short, I went to the library to fill in a clearance form before graduating and I’m staring at a big fat fine on the screen.

If I were telling this story to someone I don’t know well (including you, dear blog reader), it’d go something like this:

1) “You know, I reminded him many times to return it but he didn’t!”

Which is fine, but fails to convey how I really feel.

Telling this story to say, my mother, it’d go:

2) “You know, I reminded the stupid guy many times to return it but he didn’t!”

To a friend from church?

3) “You know, I reminded the guy so many darn times to return it but he didn’t!”.

You see where I’m going here? To someone I know well and am more comfortable with, I’d just come right out and choose the precise words to convey it:

4) “You know, I told that stupid fucker so many damn times to return it but the fucker didn’t!”

Only 4) properly conveys the extent of my aggravation then; 1), 2) and 3) are politically correct, but gives the impression that I’m only slightly annoyed.

Are You Sure You Still Want to Use That Term?

Now let’s digress a little for another story: about a week ago I came along a post in a friend’s blog. She was concerned about how people were using the word cam-whoring. She linked a definition from Wikipedia:

A cam whore (sometimes cam-whore or cam-slut) is an individual who exposes himself or herself on the Internet with webcam software in exchange for goods, usually via enticing viewers to purchase items on their wish lists or add to their online accounts.

ARE YOU SURE YOU STILL WANT TO USE THAT TERM??? (sic)” was her conclusion.

If you read through the rest of the Wiki, however, the entry continues:

While the label is usually considered derogatory and insulting,[3] it is also used by these people to describe themselves, occasionally in a self-deprecating manner.

The term “cam whore” is also used to refer to individuals who post pictures or videos of themselves on the Internet to gain attention. The term disparages those who post pictures of themselves at inappropriate times or places, and usually implies self-absorption. This second usage of the term, deriding vanity and histrionics, is overtaking the prior, more intuitive definition. It is usually synonymous with attention whore.

Trends in Terms

The first thing to realize is that the meanings of words change. Damn, for example, comes from damnnation: a punishment from God. Fuck is right up there on the list of expletives, of course. The etymology of fuck is actually a good read – mainly because for all its controversy, the actual origin of the word is obscure (For the more liberal readers, there is a popular Flash of the various ways you can use the word). It literally means “sexual intercourse”. But I was obviously not condemning the offending person to fire and brimstone, nor am I privy to his nocturnal activities.

The Guardian published a list of TV’s most offensive words based on a survey, assigning an “offensiveness” rating to every phrase (to my credit, I know only about half of them). It shows that different groups of people have differing opinions on how offensive the phrases are. Arse is only “mildly offensive”, while arsehole is “quite strong” for some. Yet, bum, which has the same meaning literally, is rated “mild”. The most offensive body part is cuntcock is only “a middle of the road” word (I wonder if feminists will be up in arms about this).

A common practice is to bowdlerize “offensive” words. “Oh my god” becomes “Oh my goodness“; “damn it” becomes “darn it“; “fucking terrible” becomes “freaking terrible“. When I was growing up I learnt the the thing in front was dadu (DARE-do); the thing I didn’t have was dudu. Internet slang has also conveniently introduced shorthand – people rarely take offense when you type OM(F)G, WTF, WTH, FFS, etc.

A friend of mine blogged about a comedy routine by George Carlin, who went one step further. Carlin made a list of “unspeakable” words, and assigned numbers to them. Now, would “You 6ing, 7ing monkey 5er. You think your 1 don’t stink well 3 off you 3ing 3er” be allowed on TV? Would it be any different from inserting strategically-timed beeps?

Enid Blyton was a very conservative children’s writer – you won’t find subtle philosophical insights or social upheavals in her writing (unless Georgina was a closet tranny!). But meanings change, and once-innocuous names like Dick (my favourite of the Famous Five) and Fanny have been censored with politically-correct versions. Same for the poor golliwog, a children’s toy that became a symbol of racism.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the most memorable novels a child can read – on one side a captivating tale of childhood adventure, on the other, a glaring look at the racism of those times. Jim, the black slave fleeing down the Mississippi River, is elegantly portrayed by Mark Twain: black people were regarded as inferior, but Jim proves to be the only good man in the story. And yet, to this day it remains one of the most banned books in the US. The century-old controversy revolves mainly around the usage of nigger and negro. Apparently this makes the book “racist” and “offensive” – never mind that this is precisely what the novel portrays, the racism of those times!

What Matters

We need to realize is that words are a social construct. Words have no power except what we choose to assign to them, and the intent behind them. Bocor isn’t a swear word, but in the context where it was used recently, it was definitely offensive. Which is not to say that I encourage freely replacing all your adjectives with expletives (mainly because people won’t be able to tell if you’re angry, or REALLY REALLY angry), nor should you throw insults around for no good reason – rather, examine the intent, not the letters on your screen.

For those still squirming at the un-PC-ness of this essay, I hope I may soothe you with a catchy advertisement you won’t find showing here any time soon.

The Non-Apology Apology May 20, 2007

Posted by Tim in Thoughts, Trends.
1 comment so far

The Non-apology Apology. It’s actually become a well-known phrase. Wikipedia has a good article on it; and here’s another with more specific examples.

You already know the incident I’m referring to, of course. Now, I highly doubt that those two even know how to use a computer, much less be aware of other public apologies (CSMonitor says that public apologies have doubled from 1990 to 2002). But isn’t it a wonder how completely unrelated sleazebags can reach across time and space to utter the same nonsense and expect us to believe them?

Discovers Social Bookmarking May 15, 2007

Posted by Tim in Personal, Reviews, Science/Tech, Trends.

Ok, ok I’m a little late to the party. But for those of you unfamiliar with the concept, think Friendster except instead of sharing friends you share inane bookmarks.

Useful for me because I’ve been piling up a lot of bookmarks and need a place to organize them. Trying to decide between Del.icio.us and BlinkList atm.

Del.icio.us has a (much) larger userbase, useful for finding sites related to your interests. It was also acquired by Yahoo! recently so there’s no chance of it going under, and you can expect updates and features to come regularly.

I like BlinkList’s interface though – more personal. When you add a page to BlinkList, you don’t have to open a new window, and you can view the tags you already have. That’s a nice implementation of AJAX. It also lets you rate and “star” bookmarks so they stand out. If you’re looking for the Boleh spirit, MindValley, the company behind it, is partly based in Malaysia; could also be a reason why BlinkList feels faster for me. Drawback is the smaller userbase.

[Edit] If you want the stats, Del.icio.us has 1,000,000 US visitors and BlinkList about 200,000.

What’s impressive about both is they support Opera well. Kudos! What’s bad is that both don’t let you mass edit bookmarks to say, delete them or make them private. There are several other options that I didn’t try: Furl (ugly GUI), Magnolia (GUI too good, maybe if I had a better connection..), BlueDot (too MySpace-y), etc.

[Update] You can read a more detailed review here.

Surprisingly, Google Bookmarks is pretty lame.

[Update]I’ve settled on BlinkList. You can view my BlinkList here. I’ve also added it to the bottom of my sidebar.

On the subject of socializing, wth is wrong with the BN “bocor” clowns? You don’t need a PR agent to realize a simple, unconditional “sorry” is what’s needed here. Meanwhile, DAP and PKR are happily milking the issue for all it’s worth.

The Just World Effect March 2, 2006

Posted by Tim in Religion, Trends, World.

The Just World Effect, closely related to the concept of “karma”, is a cognitive bias based on the belief that good things happen to good people; bad things to bad people. I would describe it as an anthromorphism of the cosmos – humans reward good actions and bad actions, so it is tempting to think the universe does the same thing.

At first glance there is nothing wrong with this phenomenon. But this bias leads to “victim blame”: the perception that the suffering of a person is deserved in some way. The most obvious examples are studies that show rape victims tended to be blamed for their ordeals, be it by dressing provocatively, inviting attention, or simply being there.

The Just World Effect is powerful when combined with religion. When syphilis first became widespread in the sixteenth century, the Catholic church proclaimed it the “wrath of god” for adultery. After the advent of penicillin this view was abandoned. More recently the emergence of AIDS also led to a similar decree by many religious leaders; at the time the misconception was that it only spread among homosexuals and therefore God was signalling his disapproval. It is a stigma that still exists today.

In the aftermath of 9/11 Pat Robertson, a controversial fundamentalist proclaimed it was the “lifting of His protection” and the result of America’s immorality. Similar things were said about Hurricane Katrina (or any other natural disaster for that matter), with people scrambling to blame it on everything imaginable: gays, gambling, alcoholism, etc.

The flip side can be just as deceptive – that good fortune justifies a person. Rafidah Aziz claims she has God’s mandate because she was reelected to the Cabinet. After Israel won the Six-Day-War against Egypt, Jordan and Syria, it was immediately claimed a miracle had happened and God’s had given Israel their land – its aerial superiority and brilliant military tactics nonwithstanding.

This bias cheapens humanity and offers too simplistic a view of life. We should help others in trouble, not judge them; we should learn from mistakes and successes and not freely assume divine mantles.