Asimov, Robots, and Christmas Sales

I am sitting at the mall Starbucks working on my dissertation while Y takes advantage of last minute sales. I don’t get to work among the bustle as much as I used to, because the local Starbucks is always packed in Kent. Also, Scribbles is too far away for a walk.

I look around and I wonder if I will ever see a world where robots walk among us. Some folks, like David Levy, believe that this and more is right around the corner. However, I wonder if pro-robotics folks, myself included, will find our enthusiasm challenged by the antirobotic Luddites that Asimov writes about in his Robot, Empire, and Foundation stories? I say coexist, coevolve, and cooperate.

The Best Cost Saving, Ecofriendly Winterizing Tips for Fellow House Renters

Y and I have rented a house in Kent for the past 2.5 years, and it has been a rewarding experience. We each have a dedicated office, Miao has plenty of space to run around, and we were even married in our backyard. However, the greatest challenge to renting a house in NEO is keeping heating costs under control during the winter. We can’t do anything radical to the house, because we don’t own the property and we can’t afford to anyways.

We have had to find solutions that work for out renting situation to save money and the environment while keeping warm. These are some tips that we have aggregated over the years to maximize our savings and do our part to lower our environmental impact.

  1. Seal drafty windows and window frames with heat-shrink plastic wrap. This is a low cost solution that immediately produces results if you have drafty windows (this is an older house with subpar dual pane windows–on the corners of the panes and around the edges of the window you can feel cold air pushing inside the house). The key to this is to seal over the window and frame so that no outside air passes the plastic barrier.
  2. Seal door window panes with plastic. Our backdoor has two pane glass that is sealed well, but the front door has single pane glass. You can use the same plastic wrap to seal these smaller in-door windows.
  3. Seal door frames with weather stripping and the bottom edge with an attachable foam barrier or cut pipe insulation to lay at the bottom of the door (the latter only works if you have a really terrible gap).
  4. Place insulating objects and furniture against the inside of exterior walls. Our bookshelves are laden with books and placed against exterior walls. Desks, tables, and suitcases full of summer clothes are lined up against the walls, too. This is also useful for preventing mildew growth in closets where the suitcases usually pile up.
  5. Cover unused electrical outlets with plastic safety plugs if you feel a draft (we do). Some folks recommend installing foam inserts behind the electrical plate also, but I don’t think that is necessary unless the plate doesn’t fit flush against the wall. We have found the plastic safety plugs to adequately stop drafts.
  6. Don’t run your bathroom’s exhaust fan, because it will vent your house’s hot air outside or into the attic. Instead, leave the bathroom door open to let steam and moisture vent into the house to elevate the relative humidity, which in turn makes it feel warmer inside.
  7. Take short showers and turn down the temperature of your water heater. This will save you gas and reduce skin dryness.
  8. Set your ceiling fans to clockwise rotation. This will draw air from the floor up and push warm air down from the ceiling.
  9. Deploy electric space heaters in small spaces where you are working (e.g., an office or bedroom). It is more cost effective to warm the space you occupy rather than the entire house.
  10. Keep the temperature at 65-64 during the day and wear a fleece, pants, and socks or slippers. At night, turn the temperature down to 60, cuddle under the duvet, and turn on a space heater with the bedroom door cracked (to let the cat in-and-out). If you can manage a lower temperature during most of the day and night, you will see significant savings on your heating bill.
  11. Invite your cat or dog to sleep in your bed, they can help keep you warm and you can in turn help keep them warm.
  12. Keep inside doors closed when rooms are not in use. This helps insulate the spaces where you are actually spending time.
  13. If you have rooms divided by door frames that lack an actual door, you can divide rooms by hanging a blanket or plastic sheeting from a curtain rod. We have found this to be particularly useful to separate the rear utility room (where the washer and dryer are) from the kitchen.
  14. Keep your fireplace flue closed when there is no fire. Leaving your flue open will effectively draft the warm air out of your house.
  15. Turn the heat down during the day and go some place warm like the library or coffee shop. There’s no reason to keep your whole house warm if you are not there (of course, keep your pets warm no matter what).
  16. Drink hot tea or coffee and eat warm soups or cereals during the day. Holding a cup of tea while sipping it can make you feel warm all over.
  17. Wash your clothes using cold water instead of warm or hot water. Then, hang dry clothes in the house to increase the humidity and not use gas/electricity to dry them. Using less soap is also advisable if you aren’t too hard on your clothes.

What advice for surviving the winter without spending a fortune do you have? Please tell us in the comments below.

Square Enix Games Are On Sale in the Apple App Store

Most Square Enix games in the Apple App Store for iOS devices including the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch are on sale including Final Fantasy I, II, and III, Secret of Mana, and others:

End of year holidays campaign now running! Square Enix games at 25-67% off for 2 weeks only! Limited Period FINAL FANTASY III 25% off!

Browse their iOS games here.

It’s Not Just Technical: There are Legal Reasons Why SOPA and PROTECT-IP Are Wrong

Mark Lemley, David S. Levin, and David G. Post write in the Stanford Law Review that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect-IP are misguided laws that take a “sledgehammer” approach to policing the Internet without judicial oversight. They write:

These bills, and the enforcement philosophy that underlies them, represent a dramatic retreat from this country’s tradition of leadership in supporting the free exchange of information and ideas on the Internet. At a time when many foreign governments have dramatically stepped up their efforts to censor Internet communications, these bills would incorporate into U.S. law a principle more closely associated with those repressive regimes: a right to insist on the removal of content from the global Internet, regardless of where it may have originated or be located, in service of the exigencies of domestic law.

via Don’t Break the Internet – Stanford Law Review.

It’s almost Christmas, but Santa needs some help giving coal to the big media financed congressional representatives and senators. Go here to find out how to give ’em hell!

First spied on BoingBoing here.

Star Wars Galaxies MMORPG Closes for Good

PC Gamer offers a touching insider’s view and sendoff for Star Wars Galaxies here. Now that the license between Sony and Lucasarts has ended, Star Wars Galaxies has ceased to be.

Next week, Star Wars: The Old Republic will launch (pre-orders should already have access to the virtual world); it is co-developed by Bioware, EA, and Lucasarts.

One virtual world ends while another one begins. This is the apparent immediacy of the Internet-enabled present. However, the transitional switch took years in planning, production, and testing.

Lamar Smith Moves for Another Committee Meeting on SOPA Just Before Christmas

Mike Masnick writes on TechDirt that the adjournment of the Judiciary committee marking up SOPA might be pulling a fast one to get this bill on the floor as soon as the congressional recess is over:

Update…. Or not. Despite the fact that Congress was supposed to be out of session until the end of January, the Judiciary Committee has just announced plans to come back to continue the markup this coming Wednesday. This is rather unusual and totally unnecessary. But it shows just how desperate Hollywood is to pass this bill as quickly as possible, before the momentum of opposition builds up even further.

via SOPA Markup Runs Out Of Time; Likely Delayed Until 2012 [Update: Or Not…] | Techdirt.

Cory Doctorow adds on BoingBoing:

If you followed my tweets from the markup session for SOPA in the House of Representatives, you know how frustrating it was to watch: you had these lawmakers blithely dismissing the security concerns of the likes of Vint Cerf, saying things like, “I’m no technology nerd, but I don’t believe it.” In other words: “I’m a perfect ignoramus, but I find it convenient to disregard the world’s foremost experts.” Another congressman from Florida kept saying things like “No one can explain to me how this bill harms political debate or academic freedom.”

The markup hearing ended early yesterday, surprising many who concluded that the early adjournment meant that SOPA was off the table until Congress reconvened in 2012. But committee chair Lamar Smith quietly announced that there would be a special session on the 21st of December (when the press and opponents of the bill are likely to be distracted by the impending holiday) to finish up the bill’s markup.

via WTF is Happening with SOPA now? |

I call this political maneuvering the rhetoric of refusal and it frustrates me beyond belief. It is kind of like someone stands outside a burning building with a fire hose turned off. They look at the burning building and they say, “I don’t see a burning building.” Bystanders yell at the person, “turn on the fire hose! Put water on the burning building.” The person with the hose replies to no one, “I don’t hear anyone telling me that a building is burning.”

I suppose the rhetoric of refusal arises from the deep seated anti-intellectualism that has hijacked the political discourse, or I should say that anti-intellectualism that isn’t financed by deep pockets. It is almost if an intelligent individual won’t be heard unless there is corporate sponsorship. It increasingly seems as if American politics is a new form of NASCAR, and this is bad. I like NASCAR, but I don’t like my government and the political process to be like NASCAR.

Even if you have already contacted your representative about SOPA, you have to do it again. We can’t stop voicing our concerns about this until it disappears again. And then when it comes back, we will fight once more.


A Prime Example Why SOPA Will Endanger the Internet: Spiteful Big Corporations

The other big news this past week besides SOPA was’s MegaUpload Song on YouTube:

Universal Music Group (UMG) had a conniption fit, because some of their signed artists provided testimonials for MegaUpload, a file sharing site that makes it easy to share files with others.

Despite MegaUpload having every right to use the testimonials in their music video advertisement, UMG used a tool provided by YouTube/Google for big media to easily remove copyright infringing content to nuke the MegaUpload Mega Song. However, UMG had no right to do this, which made it a violation of the DMCA and worth $150,000 in favor of MegaUpload.

According to’s Threat Level Blog here, UMG admits that they used Google’s filtering system, but they claim that their use of it does not violate the DMCA. Essentially, they ADMIT that they were fucking with MegaUpload!

Now, if SOPA were to go into effect and entire domain names were wiped from the Internet and all of the sites hosted on those domains, I can see in my crystal ball that many more episodes like the one taking place between UMG and MegaUpload will take place. The collateral damage will be those of us who use the Internet on a daily basis for our work and enjoyment.

I don’t want corporations to have more power over what I do online especially when they don’t own what I do or the work of others. They don’t own the infrastructure that they will be given so much control over.

What does this sound like to you? To me, it sounds like theft. Big media is so twisted over its defeats over its iron grip over culture that it now wants to steal back that control through legislation aimed at the people’s culture. We, the people, cannot stand for this kind of dickery. Big media corporations are not above human failings, and as UMG has demonstrated, they will use any means necessary including hijacking democracy and insider agreements to control our culture.

Joshua Kopstein on the SOPA Debates: Politicians HAVE to Get Educated About How the Internet Works

Joshua Kopstein on has a very good analysis of the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) debate in committee yesterday. He argues that politicans can no longer feign ignorance of the things that they want to legislate. Congressional knuckleheads should not try to legislate something that they know nothing about. The consequences of SOPA, if passed, will royally screwup the way the Internet works. What do I mean by screwup? Well, it will lead to erroneous shuttering of allegedly copyright infringing websites in toto rather than the parts of those sites that might be infringing, and its proposed methods of censorship will introduce new security risks into the way network traffic is routed through DNS, which will likely be a boon to criminals who find ways to exploit this. This isn’t how laws should be made. They should be carefully considered and effected to address specific, identifiable problems with surgically specific solutions. SOPA bucks how laws should work with a scorched earth approach that will create new opportunities for *real* criminals who do *real* harm. Let’s not pretend that the “copyright piracy data” SOPA supporters flaunt points to *real* offenses–it clearly has been shown to lead to additional sales.

First spied on Slashdot here.

According to Ars Technica Report, SOPA Hearing Off to Contentious Start

I was happy to read here that the committee meeting convened to markup SOPA today didn’t go as well as the big media supporters had wanted. Apparently, things got off to a great start when:

The session is likely to be a long one. Early in the hearing, Chairman Smith asked for unanimous consent to skip reading the bill aloud. But Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), a fierce opponent of the proposal, insisted that a clerk read the whole thing—a process that took about an hour. With that kind of acrimony, the Committee is likely to be working late into the night.