Tuesday, 24 January 2012


An unexpected letter appears in my inbox from a Russian woman wanting to get to know me.
At first it looked like all the other scam dating emails I get, and, as usual, I set out to see what I could learn.

It had a bunch of the usual red-flags - a very attractive woman is interested in me, she thinks I'm nice and wants to get to know me. She mentions my profile on a dating site (remember back then?) as how she knows me - but those sites don't normally let you email people privately so that's a bit odd. Does not say anything about what it was about the profile that interested her and the email handle did not match the name.

OTOH: googling the text of the email got zero hits ... scams usually produce millions.

There were photos with it so hey: I can use google photo search to see if the photos appeared anywhere else and sure enough one of the did. It appeared on a Russian dating site - but it looked a lot less scammy than I was expecting so I used g+ contacts to help figure out the site.

Seems the handle is a reasonable pseudonym for a woman online and the site is a genuine social media site ... looks like a kind of facebook for the romantically inclined. The posts on her public page were all poetry, but that is not so unusual either and a lady has to be cautious.

On the strength of this I wrote back asking for information, and got a reply - a bit slower than I'm used to - which managed to confirm what I'd already figured out. She also sounded a bit freaked out that I found her other profile ... I still don't know any more about her or what she finds so interesting about me though. I was half expecting this to turn out to be the dating site trying to lure me back, so I was surprised, but heartened, that her reply was not an immediate solicitation, "come and sign in to a premium account to talk some more..." sort of thing. That would have been depressing. Look what these scams are doing to the dating scheme!

I actually quite like Russian women. I've replied to the reply and provided links to my other profiles ... we'll see what we can see.

The trouble with this sort of contact is that the positive possibilities are strongly limited by distance while the negative ones are not.

So, Natalya, if you read this,  .............. um?
Call me?

Monday, 16 January 2012


Movie Weekend ...

The Assassin Next Door : this is an Israeli movie in Hebrew, Russian, and English - I switched the subtitles on. It's like La Femme Nikita only much grungier. A relentless pace even if the ending was a little predictable, overall I liked it: it was the best of this bunch.

Season of the Witch: tedious and dull with no moments of credible tension and a total waste of a strong cast. It had the usual supernatural villain who can melt iron by touching it and knock over large bookcases by thought alone and yet seems to forget these abilities when in combat with the hero. Pathetic. The ending looked like the setup for a TV series.

Deadland: if anything, even more tedious - I actually started nodding off during this. The villains randomly kill anyone except the hero, who they keep trapping. Unsubtle foreshadowing leads to a clumsy "twist". I was glad when it ended.

Thinner: A morbid, rather than scary, horror: I liked it. It had hokey dialog, holey logic, and bad makeup. Classic. By the end you are chuckling at the psychology. Though it starts out with a cliche'd tale of a gypsey curse, the plot avoids heading down the usual paths. Joe Montegna (Criminal Minds) is good value as a mob boss.

Well two duds and no greatness. The recommend on that list is The Assassin Next Door by a long way.
I'm starting to run out of titles at the local video store that I haven't seen.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

FTL - um - Light

Sounds like a contradiction - light being faster than itself. However, by FTL I mean "Faster Than the speed of Light in a vacuum".

Recently my attention has been drawn to some reports of light pulses in an optical fibre travelling FTL. They tend to be quite sensational - making much of the great but unspecified implications for communication. I thought I'd check it out.

There are a bunch of papers about this, like this one. So it's real! Next I had to actually read them, and find people in the field to help me understand them - one of the advantages of having a scientific community. Gradually understanding dawns and, as suspected, it's a trick.

I was shown a nice animation that illustrates the effect quite well.

When the articles say "FTL light pulse" what we imagine is that someone points a torch (or something) down a fiber, turns it on, turns it off. The middle of the pulse (the "group velocity") is FTL. But that's not quite what is going on here.

If you watch the animation, nothing at all physical is going FTL ... the individual photons are all STL. Light moving Slower Than Light is not a problem, lightspeed in a medium is less than in a vacuum, it's how optical fibers work. What happens is that each of the colors travel at a different STL speed, and so they interfere with each other. The colors still add up to white light, but the brightest part of the beam (not pulse) changes position quickly - FTL. Those are the big wiggles in the animation. It is the bright bump in the beam that the authors of the papers are calling the "superluminal pulse" and the sensational articles are "forgetting" that this pulse is just part of an overall beam.

And the great consequences for communication?

The superluminal pulses cannot be used for FTL communication. The other effects, slowing down the long-wavelength colors and all that, those are the bits with the potential use. Greatly slowing light pulses would be useful in making optical computers for example. Light is just too darn fast.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Internet Access as a Human Right?

Access to information is already a right - this is not controversial.

Literacy is required for that in the modern age so literacy education is also a right ... we all have the right to be able to read and right and to exercise these skills... comes under the concepts of freedom of speech and expression.

However, nobody is out campaigning that access to clay tablets and styli should be a right - they are "tools for writing". This is because clay tablets are not very important to modern written expression ... we'd place more emphasis on access to paper and ink (the 1765 Stamp Act, USA, comes to mind).

In the 21st century, the internet is emerging as a major means of access to all kinds of information - easily as important as paper in the late 1700's. The primacy of the internet in many countries now means that, if not now, then in the near future, access to the internet will become essential to the exercise of existing rights . This is the basis for the claim that internet access should be (formally recognized as) a right in law as well ... meaning that it should be protected in law as a way to protect existing rights into the future.

This is hard to fit on a banner - so the slogan is that "the internet should be a right".

The phenominon of the internet pretty much embodies article 19 of the UN UDOHR which includes the freedom to ... receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Access to the internet is already an International Human Right.

There are legal implications for this or any country whose powers want to be able to restrict internet access without due process.

Even those who have moral reservations about the rights status of the internet, if they care about due process, and access to information, want to support this idea.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

House Pest

I have a house pest.
Well - I have a mother visiting - supposed to be just for xmas, I think she's worried about me, but it starts to grate after a while. I thought maybe after the New Year she'd go by herself.

She's been cleaning. Last time she cleaned it cost me $300 ... but I let her because I can't stop it and she feels better for doing it. After a while it sort of grates - like when she wants to set new rules for my house. It is  my house, she is a guest in it. She does not like it, she does not have to visit.

It's not terrible - she makes up for it by buying in extra food for example ... and the house is clean. This is nice. A little of this is nice. I appreciate it I do. Really.

But how do you throw your mother out?