Sep 9

Wifi Concerns: Debunking “experts”

Category: Uncategorized

I was just watching this: http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/News/ID=1587312590 a video exploring the concerns that Ontario parents have about wi-fi in their schools. What I noticed was this expert, Magda Havas, making this statement: “wifi routers are like mini-cellphone towers. The frequencies are very similar, very close to each other.” Only problem: they’re not! Cell frequencies barely get close to the lower edge of most wifi these days, 2.4 GHz or 5.8 GHz. Now, if people still used 800MHz, maybe she’d be right. But no one provides 800MHz wireless routers anymore.

This is just mindless fear-mongering. She’s supposed to be an expert on this stuff! This is basic science, don’t make people more fearful with ill-founded statements.

Then on top of that, they mention studies that say wifi may be harmful to children. What they fail to point out is the flaws in the methodology. But that would be boring.

They also do not consider the possibility these kids may be suffering a psychosomatic reaction, especially when they see how parents react over one kid that gets momentarily sick. Its happened before, where an entire school of children broke out into hives and started suffering flu-like symptoms. Eventually, it was determined to be a psychosomatic reaction, rather than anything physiological. Children are especially vulnerable to psychosomatic reactions because they cannot reason fully.

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Sep 6

Media Watch

Category: politics,reporting

In monday’s The Globe and Mail, they ran a column/editorial by Dan Pallotta on the proposed salary limits for charity executives.

Reference: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/salary-caps-would-cripple-canadas-charities/article1694263/

However, Mr. Pallotta’s background is not told to the reader, other than that he is the author of Uncharitable. No information about the book itself is given either.

Let me fill in the missing information:

In his groundbreaking new book, Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential , Pallotta makes the case that the nonprofit sector needs to be deregulated so that it can directly harness the energy of capitalism and the profit motive in pursuit of philanthropy.

Reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcYBCB5dAuc

This is Pallotta’s cause du jour. This needs to be relayed to the reader so they can adequately judge who is doing the writing.

Now, his editorial has some flaws of logic. He is assuming, as many do, that increasing monetary rewards increases motivation, effort, and quality. This is wrong. Study after study has shown some simple facts: money only improves the speed of rote physical tasks. Anything that involves creative thinking, processing, or problem solving, monetary rewards actually make people slower. It also the quality of the output as well. Further studies showed that when you pay people just enough to take money worries off of the table, people work for intrinsic benefits. They want a sense of challenge in their work. They want to impress their peers. They want purpose and interesting challenges.

Pallotta needs to take a look at this research, and see how he can use it in charities. Pay the employees, not just the executives, enough that they don’t have to worry about money. Give them challenging problems. Let them impress their peers. Let them take ownership of the problem, rather than following the dictates of a CEO that is paid 100x more than they are.

Thats another part of the research that shocked people, especially researchers at Harvard. When someone is paid comfortably, and then they see someone being paid more, for what seems like the same work, then money worries become an issue again, and block effort and motivation.

Instead of placing a direct cap on CEO compensation, what should instead be done is to limit pay to a flat multiple of the lowest-paid full-time employee. Say 10x? That means janitors, which make an average of $30,000 a year, would set the limit at $300,000 for the executives. This motivates the CEO to pay his employees better. But due to the number of employees, no board will let the CEO give massive payraises to everyone. The employees, which do all the actual work Mr. Pallotta, are now free to stop worrying about money, and do the best job on their job, while the CEO is paid less.

There is also the fact that Pallotta seems to feel that restricting restricts the quality of the leadership. There is no empirical evidence this is true. For the last 10 years, Harvard economists have not found any link between executive pay, and corporate performance. If anything, there is a slight reverse correlation, where the higher the pay, the worse the companies do.

Mr. Pallotta, look into compensation, rewards and motivations, and pay. You may get some better ideas on how to make charities run better, than spending millions on a CEO. Spending more doesn’t help Wall Street companies, so how will it help charities?

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Sep 4

Conflict of Interest?

Category: Uncategorized

With rumors that Stephen Harper intended to replace the head of the CRTC(a man named Konrad von Finklestein) because of the CRTC’s refusal to grant Quebecor a Class 1 License, a curious series of events happened across the web. A consistently identical media attack is being waged on an activist organization, by media sources, etc, which call into question the impartiality of the media organizations involved.

A bit of background first. Quebecor applied for a rare “must-carry” license, a Class 1 License, for a specialty all-news channel, Sun TV News, which would make all the cable and satellite providers provide this channel to all customers. Such a license would be massively profitable for Quebecor.

The CRTC denied the license request, stating that there was little to differentiate Sun TV News from its all-news competitors.

Quebecor has confirmed that the proposed Sun TV News channel would have a “straight-talk, conservative” bent to it, allegedly to offer more varied viewpoints in the Canadian media landscape.

There are some serious issues surrounding Sun TV News and the involvement of the current government. Stephen Harper’s former Head of Communications, Kory Teneycke will be Sun TV News’ chief executive. Stephen Harper has also had lunches with the head of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch. He has never had a lunch or meeting with the owners or executives from CNN, MSNBC, or any other media organization.

Stephen Harper has also been on record for enjoying the kind of news Fox News provides the United States of America.

Bringing these facts together, Lawrence Martin, backed up by unnamed sources, speculated Harper may remove Finklestein from power to ensure Sun TV News gets its unprecedented Class 1 License.

This in turn spurred the activist organization Avaaz.org, to setup an online petition asking Harper to not remove Finklestein from of his job. Avaaz.org stated in the petition,

“Prime Minister Harper is pressuring the Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to approve plans for a ‘Fox News North’. If successful, this would bring American-style hate media to Canadian airwaves, and be funded by our license fees!”

While they are correct about the license fees, which every Canadian Taxpayer pays as part of our taxes, the conclusions that Sun TV News will be “hate media” are merely rumors so far, spurred by Lawrence Martin’s column.

However, several news organizations saw fit to print the exact same attack piece, “Anti-Sun TV campaign in US”, criticizing avaaz.org. The organizations that have printed the attack piece are: canoe.ca, The Toronto Sun, London Free Press, The Ottawa Sun, and The Edmonton Sun. All of these media organizations are owned by Quebecor, the same company that stands to make millions if the Class 1 License is approved.

The piece uses language like, “A far left-wing American lobby group funded by U.S. billionaire George Soros wants you to be scared, very scared. There might soon be more competition in the world of TV news.” and “What this petition is about is a group of left-wing Americans supporting interests in Canada that don’t want to see competition in news broadcasting.”

The piece notes that “Part of the campaign to stop SUN TV News Channel from launching focuses on the idea that Canadians could be forced to pay for this venture. Author Margaret Atwood took to Twitter to denounce this.” Upon examining Margaret Atwood’s twitter stream, there is no evidence that she has denounced this claim, or the petition. In fact, she tweeted this: “Free speech does not mean under-the-carpet deals that would force people to pay for Fox out of cable fees.” at 6:51 PM PST Aug 31st.

The attack piece was written by Brian Lilley. He works for Quebecor Media International, which is the owner of the not-yet-approved Sun TV News channel, as a Senior Correspondent.

Since I wrote most of the above, there has been some further information to add to the story. Apparently parties unknown signed up Andrew Coyne(Editor in chief of Macleans), Paul Wells(Correspondent, Macleans), Kady O’Malley(CBC), Stephen Wickery(The Globe and Mail) on Avaaz without their permission. This spurred avaaz.org to post the following apology:
(Except)

Yesterday Avaaz experienced an attack on our “Stop ‘Fox News North’” petition consisting of fraudulent sign-ups of targeted individuals.

There is evidence of a deliberate and illegal effort designed to discredit Avaaz and violate an important form of democratic expression for Canadian citizens. If this is confirmed we will request a full investigation, and help to bring the perpetrators to justice.

It seems likely that the people behind this attack wanted the public to think that Avaaz is a spamming organization. They targeted key journalists in an effort to damage Avaaz’s reputation in the press.

It remains to be seen who(whether singular or in collusion) did this action, or what the intentions were. avaaz.org has no obligation to be fair and balanced in its reporting of facts, unlike the media organizations that run the attack piece.

It should also be pointed out that avaaz.org is campaigning against the use of Canadian tax dollars to fund what many fear will be a “Fox News North”. This reporter has no objection to a Fox News North, as long as it is not paid for with Canadian tax dollars. The attack piece by Brian Lilley says that Sun TV News never asked for Canadian tax dollars, ignoring the fact that they did implicitly ask for them with their request for a Class 1 License.

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Mar 25

Making a Game: Part II.5

Category: Uncategorized

Okay so I think I have my physical mechanic. Basically, you have a strain gauge. Bigger, flashier moves put more strain on the mech(which heals slowly over time). In addition, repetitive use of actions(even on low-strain actions) will result in strain on the mech, like during weight-training. Then in between rounds, the strain heals.

This works well with an action-unlock system, where investing in skill trees unlock new actions to use. It also allows the player to choose to take the trade-off, of the big action, whether to save themselves, or to finish the fight, while simultaneously not overly punishing them for choosing to do so. That is the issue with mana-based magic systems coupled with no-cost physical actions. It made players conserve their mana until the dungeon boss. Meanwhile, this system allows for players to balance the choice and risk, without a major long-lasting cost.

I would like to have somethings that could only be used once every five rounds or so, maybe, like 4e’s daily attacks.

What do you think?

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Mar 25

Making a Game: Part II

Category: Uncategorized

Okay so after figuring out some basic stuff, next comes the really important stuff.

First: “look” of the game. After a lot of wrangling and debate, I’ve decided on 2d top-down view. This requires some simplification of some of the combat mechanics. Instead of damage per “part”, there will be damage per facing, then core health. I’m debating hex-tiles or square-tiles at the moment.

Other things I’m considering, are energy mechanics, and physical action mechanics. My current ideas are pretty specious at the moment. I’m considering energy flow to individual items, and some items when used or triggered increase their draw on the circuit(like a load current from a motor). You could also redirect some energy from one part to another as needed, but this takes time(affected by skills and items).

Then for physical action, I’m considering maybe a system similar to Champions Online. That would be a morale meter, where you do actions, then, depending on stuff, the morale meter increases, allowing you to do more complex and expensive stuff.

Another possibility is to adapt the D&D 4e system of at-wills, encounter, daily abilities. I actually kind of like that system.

Yet another possibility is a stamina meter, which acts kind of like a capacitor, that gets drained by actions, then charges up over time.

What do you think?

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