Friday, June 30, 2006

Satisficing

[This is an awesome concept that explains a geat deal, but more importantly one of those words with which you can amaze your friends...]

In economics, satisficing is a behaviour which attempts to achieve at least some minimum level of a particular variable, but which does not strive to achieve its maximum possible value. The most common application of the concept in economics is in the behavioural theory of the firm, which, unlike traditional accounts, postulates that producers treat profit not as a goal to be maximized, but as a constraint. Under these theories, a critical level of profit must be achieved by firms; thereafter, priority is attached to the attainment of other goals.

The word satisfice was coined by Herbert Simon in 1957. Simon says that people are only 'rational enough', and in fact relax their rationality when it is no longer required. This is called bounded rationality.

Some consequentialist theories in moral philosophy use the concept of satisficing in the same sense, though most call for optimization instead....

In decision-making, satisficing explains the tendency to select the first option given that can work for the situation rather than the “optimal” solution.

Example: One's task is to sew a patch onto a pair of jeans. The best needle to do the threading is a 4 in long needle with a 3 millimeter eye. This needle is hidden in a haystack along with 1000 other needles varying in size from 1 inch to 6 inches. Satisficing claims that the first needle that can sew on the patch is the one that should be used. Spending time searching for that one specific needle in the haystack is a waste of energy and resources.

Satisficing occurs in consensus building when the group looks towards a solution everyone can agree on even if it may not be the best.

Example: A staff spends hours projecting the next fiscal year's budget. After hours of debating they eventually reach a consensus only to have one person speak up and ask if the projections are correct. When the group becomes upset at the question, it is not because this person is wrong to ask, but rather because they have come up with a solution that works. The projection may not be what will actually come, but the majority agrees on one number and thus the projection is good enough to close the book on the budget.

[More....]

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Reebok Freestyle

[In the mood for shoes...]
Reebok Freestyle is a women's athletic shoe style that was introduced in 1982 and designed for aerobic exercise. It quickly surged Reebok into the mainstream athletic wear market and fashion scene along with becoming one of the most popular athletic shoes of all time. As a result, the Freestyle became a 1980s fashion icon and is still manufactured to this day.

The original Freestyle was a low-top Oxford-style shoe made of leather with a yellow gum sole. The shoe was white with "Reebok" in light blue lettering and the British Union Jack flag on the one side. In the mid-1980s, Reebok introduced a hi-top Freestyle which became more popular than the low-top version. The Freestyle hi-top was ankle-high and consisted of two Velcro closures. Both the low-top and hi-top were offered in white, black, red, yellow, blue, pink, orange, and green colors over the years.

In addition to low-top, hi-top, and various colored patterns, Reebok has made modifications to the Freestyle, although, mostly to the hi-top version. The most common production material used is leather; however, an all canvas shoe and a synthetic mesh shoe have been offered. In the late 1980s, the sole pattern was slightly changed with the word "Reebok" enlarged and moved from the center to bottom edge of the sole (near the back of the shoe). In 1987, Reebok introduced the "White 'n Brights" Freestyles that had splashes of color like turquoise, red, yellow, and midnight blue. These colors were added to the terry cloth lining, the laces, logos, and the sole.

More drastic Freestyle versions came out in the late 1990s. A Freestyle hi-top with ripple soles and a "high-rise" (thicker sole) were created to compete with the chunky-soled shoes. Also, a higher hi-top called the "Double-Bubble" was produced. Around 2002, Reebok introduced a completely redesigned and updated Freestyle called the Freedom. None of these recent versions really caught on with consumers and were soon discontinued.

The Freestyle was one of the first athletic shoes to be specifically designed for women and was introduced at a time when the aerobic exercise fitness craze started. Women were impressed with the styling, comfort, and support the shoe provided for working out. The Freestyle's athletic use quickly spread to walking, bodybuilding, dance, and cheerleading. Ms. Olympia Cory Everson wore Freestyle hi-tops frequently in competition, working out, and on ESPN's Body Shaping program. Reebok sponsored the Los Angeles Laker Girls in the late 1980's and supplied them with white Freestyle hi-tops. Since then, other professional cheerleading and dance teams have used Freestyles. Even high school and college cheerleading teams have used Freestyles as their shoe of choice including some organizations currently in Texas.

Outside the gym, the Freestyle quickly hit the streets as popular casual wear. Women could wear Freestyles with jeans, shorts, capri-pants, sweat pants, tights or leggings, and even as commuter shoes to work. In the 1980s, Freestyles were often seen with flop or slouch socks which were usually streched over the bottom of the pant leg to help highlight the shoe. Some women would own more than one color of Freestyles allowing some to wear two different colored shoes like white and black or red and yellow. This trend occurred after the Punky Brewster television series.

The Freestyle's popularity, comfort, and styling quickly spread to the work place. Nurses and waitresses gave up ordinary uniform shoes for the Freestyle. It was not uncommon for many Hooters girls to be wearing Freestyles.

The Freestyle success and the athletic shoe fad of the late 1980s saw new competition from the likes of Avia, LA Gear, and Nike. Many competitors even had models that looked like the Freestyle hi-top complete with Velcro enclosures. By the mid-1990s, the Freestyle sales began to decline as fashion trends changed. Hi-top athletic shoes were out of style and consumers were choosing high-tech shoes. In the casual shoe market, consumers opted for non-athletic, "brown shoes" while fashion conscience teens opted for new styles from Nike, and Skechers. Sales continued to decline further to the point Freestyles became rare to find in retail stores except for Freestyle's sister shoe, the Princess. Today, the Freestyle is still widely available on the Internet and has a strong following with dedicated consumers. Many satisfied people have purchased the Freestyle for years while others like the support the shoe provides for weak ankles. As with many fashion trends, it is quite possible the Freestyle could make a comeback in the future.

[More....]

Thursday, June 22, 2006

20th hijacker

[The real one, a Saudi man named Fawaz al-Nashimi, has apparently just died...]
A 20th hijacker is a numeric metaphor concerning a possible additional terrorist in the September 11, 2001 attacks who was not able to participate.

The term is somewhat misleading, as there is no evidence that al-Qaeda ever planned to have exactly 20 hijackers. There were many variations of the 9/11 plot, with the number of terrorists fluctuating with available resources and changing circumstances. In the end, there were 19 hijackers: three of the planes were taken over by five members each and the fourth was hijacked by only four people. One plane, United Airlines Flight 93, had fewer hijackers than the rest, thus the idea of a 20th hijacker came to be widely discussed....

The 9/11 Commission concluded that eight members of al-Qaeda, in addition to the 19 hijackers, attempted to enter the United States to participate in the attacks.

Ramzi Binalshibh was repeatedly denied entry into the U.S and was unable to take part. Mohamed al-Kahtani was another would-be hijacker, but he was denied entry into the U.S. at Orlando International Airport in August, 2001. He was later captured and imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.

Zacarias Moussaoui was considered as a replacement for Ziad Jarrah, who at one point threatened to withdraw from the scheme because of tensions amongst the plotters. Plans to include Moussaoui were never finalized, as the al-Qaeda hierarchy had doubts about his reliability. Ultimately, Moussaoui did not play a role in the hijacking scheme. He was arrested about four weeks before the attacks.

The other al-Qaeda members who attempted to take part in the attacks, but were not able, were Saeed al-Ghamdi (not to be confused with the successful hijacker of the same name), Mushabib al-Hamlan, Zakariyah Essabar, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Tawfiq bin Attash. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the attack's mastermind, had wanted to remove at least one member — Khalid al-Mihdhar — from the operation, but he was overruled by Osama bin Laden.

According to the BBC(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5101954.stm), it has been announced that the 20th hijacker was "Fawaz al-Nashimi". An Al-Qaeda video has been released from a US intelligence organisation, showing al-Nashimi justifying attacks on the west.

[More....]

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Reality porn

[The 'reality' virus infects everything...]
Reality porn is a genre of pornography where staged scenes, usually shot in cinéma vérité fashion, set up and prelude sexual encounters. These scenes may either have the cameraman directly engaging in sex (see Gonzo pornography) or merely filming others having sex.

For legal reasons, the vast majority of all so-called reality porn involves professional actors and actresses posing as so-called "amateurs." Ironically, even though the women who perform in these films typically appear on many reality websites within a short span of time, most of these websites claim that each female is an amateur....

Most, but not all, reality porn features disparaging attitudes towards women. For example, several reality websites refer to their female stars as "bitches", "sluts", "bimbos" or "whores". The male participants often openly ridicule the women's intelligence, subject them to degrading sexual acts, or both. Some series, including Bang Bus, feature plots in which women are offered money for sex; the women are almost invariably depicted as being humiliated and abandoned without payment (in reality, the stars are under contract and get paid beforehand). The women notably also always accept the offer, though often after some considerable persuasion, another characteristic of a degrading attitude.

In response to these attitudes, several sites have emerged in recent years which both critique and confront the presentation of women as submissive, sexualised objects by allowing the contibuter themselves to be in control of documenting their own eroticised image. The most prominent examples being ishotmyself.com and beautifulagony.com, both of which encourage ordinary people to submit their own images and video.

[More....]

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Wifebeater

[I thought the name was inspired by "Cops," but I guess not...]
Wife beater
, also wifebeater, and sometimes abbreviated as simply beater, is a slang term used in North America, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand and various other places to refer to an A-shirt, tank top, singlet, or 'muscle shirt' when worn as a sole, outer layer as opposed to being worn as an undershirt. This term is often seen as demeaning and is often associated with the similarly derogatory phrase "white trash".

"Guinea T" and "Dago T" are other terms for the same style of shirt; and arguably just as offensive, "guinea" and "dago" both being ethnic slurs against Italian Americans, among whom this style of shirt is stereotypically popular.

The origin of the term is from the stereotype that the shirts are worn predominantly by men who beat their wives; black tank tops were often worn by Ike Turner, a notorious abuser of his wife Tina. In the 1980 movie Raging Bull, the main character, a boxer, is commonly seen wearing tank tops around the house, including in one scene where he beats his wife. Another likely source for the association is the movie A Streetcar Named Desire, in which Marlon Brando's character, Stanley Kowalski, also frequently wearing tank tops, violently beats his wife (see below). The wifebeater is also seen in New Zealand movie Once Were Warriors, where Jake the Muss, a stereotypical Māori tough man is nearly always seen wearing his black wifebeater. This movie is well known for the scene where Jake violently beats his wife after a heavy drinking session with his mates.

Some film roles have avoided the stereotypical image portrayed by wifebeaters such as Wolverine in the popular comic-book film series X-Men. Wolverine is a rough and ready character, but is loyal and protective to his friends. Whilst the debate can be argued as to whether Wolverine wears the shirt as underwear or just an extra item of clothing, the wifebeater is evident in several scenes.

Wifebeaters are also popular in the street gang culture of the United States. From there the wearing of wifebeaters spread to hip hop culture; wifebeaters are often worn by hip hop artists in public, on stage, or in the media.

Use of the term wifebeater to describe an article of clothing (as opposed to its literal use) is relatively new, perhaps originating as early as the 1970s. Some people find the term extremely offensive, as serving to legitimize spousal abuse; while others consider it harmless or even humorous. The term has been denounced by the National Organization for Women, who say it trivializes domestic violence. "The implication is that wife beating is not viewed as sufficiently serious to lift it above the level of something that's OK to joke about," says Kim Gandy, president of NOW.

In England, the term is used as slang for the Belgian beer Stella Artois. Although this is also used in Scotland by some, its main usage remains as a vest type sleeve-less shirt. In British culture, Stella Artois is associated with a drinking culture in which domestic abuse may follow a bout of drinking at the local pub.

A shirt of this type worn by women and often more fitted than the male version is sometimes referred to as a "boy beater."

[More....]

Monday, June 19, 2006

Juneteenth

[Today is...]
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is an annual holiday in the United States. Celebrated on June 19, it commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas. The holiday originated in Galveston, Texas; for more than a century, the state of Texas was the primary home of Juneteenth celebrations. Since 1980, Juneteenth has been an official state holiday in Texas. More recently, however, its observance has spread across the nation....

Though the Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect on January 1, 1863, it had little immediate effect on most slaves' day-to-day lives, particularly in Texas, which was almost entirely under Confederate control. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived on Galveston Island to take possession of the state and enforce slaves' new freedoms. Standing on the balcony of Galveston's Ashton Villa, Granger read the contents of "General Order No. 3":

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

That day has since become known as Juneteenth, a name derived from a portmanteau of the words June and nineteenth.

Slaves in Galveston rejoiced in the streets with jubilant celebrations. Juneteenth celebrations began in Texas the following year. Across many parts of Texas, freed slaves pooled their funds to purchase land specifically for their communities' increasingly large Juneteenth gatherings — including Houston's Emancipation Park, Mexia's Booker T. Washington Park, and Emancipation Park in Austin. Within a few years, these celebrations spread to other states and have become an annual tradition. Celebrations often open with praying and religious ceremonies, and include a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. A wide range of festivities entertain participants, from music and dancing to contests of physical strength and intellect. Baseball and other popular American games are played. Food is central to the celebrations, with barbecued meats being especially popular.

[More....]

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ancient astronaut theory

[Jim Marrs, who's come up in research I've been doing on 9/11 conspiracy theorists, is one of the proponents of this theory of human creation...]
Ancient astronaut theory
is a term used to describe the theories of ancient extraterrestrial contact being involved in some way with the origin or development of human culture. Most notably popularized by authors such as Erich von Däniken and Zecharia Sitchin, this theory is an expansion or elaboration of the more basic Paleocontact theory.

These theories often claim that human beings are either the descendants or creations of aliens who landed on Earth millennia ago — ideas that are commonly dismissed by the scientific community.

Another element of this view is the suggestion that much of human wisdom or religion was given to man by extraterrestrial visitors in ancient times. This possibility has been considered by some scientists, including Carl Sagan and I.S. Shklovskii, but the lack of hard evidence and the nature of the concept makes it unpopular among the scientific community....

Ancient astronaut theories have been advanced by authors such as Charles Fort (1919), Morris K. Jessup (1955), George Hunt Williamson (1957), Peter Kolosimo (in his 1957 book, Il pianeta sconosciuto), Henri Lhote (1958),[1] Matest M. Agrest (1959), W. Raymond Drake (1964), Erich von Däniken (1968), Robert Charroux (1969), Dr. S. Lunskaya (1970) Robert K. G. Temple (1976), Zecharia Sitchin (1978) and Richard Hoagland....

Erich von Däniken was foremost in popularizing ancient astronaut theories in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the 1968 publication of his best-selling Chariots of the Gods and its sequels. The evidence that von Däniken put forward to support his vision of paleo-contact can be categorised as follows:
  • Artifacts and monumental constructions have been found whose manufacture appears to have required a more sophisticated technological ability than that presumed to have been available to their associated contemporary cultures. These include objects and structures whose purpose or origins are not known, as well as those deemed to be beyond the capabilities of the societies attributed with their manufacture, at least in the eyes of Von Däniken and his supporters. Von Däniken maintains that these artifacts must have been manufactured either by extraterrestrial visitors or by humans who learned the necessary knowledge from them. Such artifacts and monuments he cites include Stonehenge, the head statues of Easter Island, the Antikythera mechanism and the Ancient Baghdad Electric Batteries. (See OOPArt)
  • In ancient art and iconography throughout the world, themes can be observed which can be interpreted to illustrate astronauts, air and space vehicles, non-human but intelligent creatures, and artifacts of anachronistically-advanced technology. Von Däniken also identifies details that appear to be similar in the art of geographically-diverse historical cultures, which he argues imply a common origin.
  • The origins of many religions could be interpreted or characterized as reactions to contacts of primitive humans with some alien race. In this view, the humans considered the technology of the aliens to be supernatural and the aliens themselves to be gods. According to von Däniken, the oral and written traditions of most religions contain references to visitors from stars and vehicles travelling through air and space. These, he says, should be interpreted as literal descriptions which have changed during the passage of time and become more obscure, rather than symbolic or mythical fiction. One such is Ezekiel's revelation in the Old Testament, which Däniken interprets as a detailed description of a landing spacecraft.

Since the publication of von Däniken's books, no substantial evidence has been found to verify his claims, while many of them have been disproven.[2]Most historians regard his claims — as well of those of other ancient astronaut believers — as pseudoscience or pseudoarchaeology....

Zecharia Sitchin's continuing body of work The Earth Chronicles, beginning with the first installment The 12th Planet, revolves around Sitchin's interpretation of ancient Sumerian and Middle Eastern texts and mysterious megalithic sites and anomalous artifacts from around the world. He theorizes the gods of old were actually astronauts from the planet Nibiru, which the Sumerians believed to be a remote "12th" planet (counting the Sun and Moon as planets) associated with the god Marduk. According to Sitchin, Nibiru continues to orbit our sun on a 3,600-year elongated orbit.

According to Sitchin, the Sumerians relate how 50 "Anunnaki" or inhabitants of Nibiru came to Earth approximately 400,000 years ago with the intent of mining raw materials for transport back to their own world. With their small numbers they soon tired of the task and set out to genetically engineer laborers to work the mines. After much trial and error they eventually created homo sapiens sapiens: the "Adapa" (model man) or Adam of later mythology.

[More....]

Friday, June 09, 2006

Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge

[Something brought me here, I'll never know what...]

The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, also known as Pearl Bridge, is a suspension bridge in Japan that crosses the Akashi Strait; it links Maiko in Kobe and Iwaya on Awaji Island as part of the Honshu-Shikoku Highway. The central section is the longest bridge span in the world at 1991 metres (6532 ft). It was planned to be one of three Honshu-Shikoku connecting bridges, annexing two borders of the Inland Sea.

Before the Akashi-Kaikyo bridge was built, ferries carried passengers back and forth across the Akashi Strait in Japan. This dangerous waterway often experiences severe storms, and in 1955, two ferries sank in the strait during a storm, killing 168 children. The ensuing shock and public outrage convinced the Japanese government to draw up plans for a suspension bridge to cross the strait. The original plan was for a mixed railway-road bridge but when the bridge was begun in April 1986 it was restricted to road only, with six lanes. Actual construction did not begin until May 1988 and the bridge was opened for traffic on April 5, 1998. The Akashi Strait is an international waterway and required a 1500 metre wide shipping lane.

The bridge has three spans. The central span is 1991 metres, with the two other sections each 960 metres. The bridge is 3911 metres long overall. The central span was originally only 1990 metres but was stretched by a further metre in the Kobe earthquake on January 17, 1995. It was designed on a two-hinged stiffening girder system, allowing it to withstand 286 kilometres per hour (178 mph) winds, earthquakes measuring up to 8.5 on the Richter scale, and harsh sea currents. The bridge also contains pendula which operate at the resonant frequency of the bridge to dampen forces on it.

The total cost is estimated at ¥ 500 billion (≈USD 5 billion). This cost is expected to be defrayed by charging commuters a toll to cross the bridge. However, the toll is so high that, ironically, very few drivers actually use the expensive bridge, preferring instead to use the slower-but-cheaper ferries.

Two parks in proximity of the bridge have been built for tourists, one in Maiko (including a small museum) and one in Asagiri. Both are accessible by the coastal train line.

[More....]

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Circumstantial evidence

[Looking up the pecise meaning of legal terms (I was recently indicted)...]
Circumstantial evidence is indirect evidence. Circumstantial evidence is the result of combining seemingly unrelated facts that, when considered together, can be used to infer a conclusion. Circumstantial evidence is usually a theory, supported by a significant quantity of corroborating evidence.

Circumstantial evidence is used in criminal courts to establish guilt or innocence through reasoning.

The distinction between direct and circumstantial evidence is important because, with the obvious exceptions (the immature, incompetent, or mentally ill), nearly all criminals are careful to not generate direct evidence, and try to avoid demonstrating criminal intent. Therefore, to prove the mens rea levels of "purposely" or "knowingly," the prosecution must usually resort to circumstantial evidence. The same goes for tortfeasors in tort law, if one needs to prove a high level of mens rea to obtain punitive damages.

An example of circumstantial evidence is the behavior of a person around the time of an alleged offense. If someone were charged with theft of money, and were then seen in a shopping spree purchasing expensive items, the shopping spree might be regarded as circumstantial evidence of the individual's guilt.

A popular misconception is that circumstantial evidence is less valid or less important than direct evidence. This is only partly true: direct evidence is generally considered more powerful, but successful criminal prosecutions often rely largely on circumstantial evidence, and civil charges are frequently based on circumstantial or indirect evidence. In practice, circumstantial evidence often has an advantage over direct evidence in that it is more difficult to suppress or fabricate.

Much of the evidence against Timothy McVeigh was circumstantial, for example. Speaking about McVeigh's trial, University of Michigan law professor Robert Precht said, "Circumstantial evidence can be, and often is much more powerful than direct evidence." The recent Scott Peterson trial was based heavily on circumstantial evidence.

Circumstantial evidence is also used in civil courts to establish or deny liability.

However, there is sometimes more than one logical conclusion inferable from the same set of circumstances. In cases where one conclusion implies a defendant's guilt and another his/her innocence, the 'benefit of the doubt' principle would apply.

[More....]

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Rhinotillexomania / Mucophagy / Rhinolith

[Inspired by this, I looked into this...]
Nose-picking
is the act of extracting mucus or foreign bodies from the nose with a finger. Compulsive nose-picking is known as rhinotillexomania (etymology: Greek, rhino "nose" + tillexis "habit of picking" + mania).

Although a very common habit, it is a mildly taboo subject in most East Asian and Western cultures. Children's literature often makes reference to it, to amuse readers (for example Jacques Charpentreau's poem "De l'Education!" and Gordon Korman's Nose Pickers series). John Allen Paulos's imaginary novel, Rucker: a life fractal has a section where "proboscis probing is discussed at length." [1]

Mucophagy is the consumption of the mucus thus extracted, and is commonly referred to as "picking your nose and eating it" (where 'it' refers to the mucus rather than the nose). While common in some cultures, it is also generally viewed as a cultural taboo, to the extent that many of those who engage in the practice generally find it disgusting when done by someone else in their presence, much like flatulence.

Nose-picking may carry a number of medical risks, including causing nasal infections and nosebleeds. Most authorities recommend using a tissue.

However, at least one well-known doctor sees nose-picking and mucophagy as beneficial [2]. He states that not only is the finger capable of reaching parts of the nose that a handkerchief or tissue is unable to, thus keeping the nose cleaner, but that eating the bacteria-rich dried mucus offers a boost to the immune system, and is analogous to immunization.

Due to the special nature of the blood supply to the nose and surrounding area, it is possible for retrograde infections from the nasal area to spread to the brain, although this scenario is unlikely to arise from nose-picking. For this reason, the area from the corners of the mouth to the bridge of the nose, including the nose and maxilla, is known to doctors as the "danger triangle of the face".

A rhinolith (called a "booger" or "boogie" in American slang, or "bogey" in British slang) is a piece of dry or semi-dry nasal mucus.

Rhinoliths forms when the mucus traps dust and other particles in the air. Mucus dries around the particle and hardens, somewhat like a pearl forming in an oyster. Since catching foreign particles is one of the main functions of nasal mucus, the presence of rhinoliths is a good indicator of a properly functioning nose (as opposed to a "runny nose", which can indicate illness).

[For more on nose-picking, see here; for more on eating it, see here; and for all you need to know about boogers -- or, as they say across the pond, bogeys -- click here.]