Wikipedia announces new policy of "editing reality"

Stamford, CT. Wikipedia.org has announced a radical new policy of "editing reality" in order to ensure higher accuracy of the encyclopedia. Founder Jimmy Wales explained, "For too long Wikipedia has tried to maintain accuracy by continually editing pages on a website in order that it accurately reflects reality. However, this requires a large amount of effort, including long drawn-out edit wars, fighting vandalism, updating to reflect current events, and standardizing writing style. Nowadays, everyone just assumes that Wikipedia is accurate, and so it's a lot of hassle doing all this work. Eventually, we realized that it would be much easier just to leave the articles as they are, and instead change real-world events so that they accurately reflect their description on Wikipedia."

Apparently inspiration for this new policy came when a Wikipedia vandal claimed that a wrestler's wife was dead when in fact, she was. The idea that a vandal would change Wikipedia, and that reality would then change to accommodate the edit was seen as a great new policy for the encyclopedia. The outlaw Jimmy Whales then immediately froze all articles, declared that Wikipedia was complete, and in the event of any discrepancies between Wikipedia and reality, clearly reality was in error, and would be amended accordingly.

A number of other celebrities whose deaths were recorded as having happened at the time of the freeze are said to be in fear for their lives.


EULA's theorem

These days, to submit a paper to a database conference, you have to agree to an EULA -- an end user licence agreement. This is all a bit silly. Obviously, no one sane actually bothers to read these. I read them all the time. Here are some highlights from the current boilerplate text

There are no continuing obligations or expectations placed on you. There is no penalty for stopping use of CMT.

Obviously false -- if you don't use the CMT, then you can't submit a paper. If you stop using the CMT, then you are unable to read and respond to any 'author feedback' phase, or read reviewer comments.

By selecting "I agree to the Author's statement", I acknowledge I have read the above information and that I am 18 years or older.

Why are conferences discriminating against child prodigies?

you agree that you will not use CMT for any purpose that is unlawful, harms Microsoft or any end user or other third party

So I am not allowed to submit a paper which demonstrates a bug in Microsoft software, or shows that some alternate piece of software is much better than a Microsoft product? Both of these could be said to "harm" microsoft.


"Get that shit off the air!"

I'm a big fan of any TV show that is so bad that it manages to get itself Cancelled After One Episode. But I was more interested to learn about a program that was cancelled during its first episode. Under the unpromising title of Australia's Naughtiest Home Videos which was so bad that the owner of the network called up the station production crew in the middle of the show and screamed 'Get That Shit off the Air'. And so they did.


Flying Time

Contemplating my recent travel hijinks, I thought I would crunch some numbers on my travels. For the last decade, I've carefully recorded details on every flight I have taken, and I just now tallied up the numbers. The first flight I ever took was to Budapest in 1998 (1000 miles each way); the last was to Beijing (7000 miles each way). In total I have travelled 265,000 miles in 89 flights consisting of 106 flight segments. My furthest flight was Newark to Delhi (7600 miles one-way) in December last year, just pipping Newark to Seoul (7500 miles one-way), in September. The average trip length is 3000 miles. My most frequently travelled route is Newark to Gatwick, a trip I've made 13 times now: about twice a year on average, contributing about 90,000 miles to my total.

Now, what do I have to do to make this up to the planet?


You'll miss it

Operating again in a time-shifted fashion, but is it too much to suggest that 'Blink' is the best Doctor Who story... ever? Could it even be the best thing Steven
Moffat has ever done? Less clear.



Some comments on upgrades: upgrading myself to business class cost me 25K miles each way -- quite a substantial chunk of my balance. But, the travel earned me miles back: 7K miles each way. Further, due to my elite status (silver) I get a 50% bonus in miles, meaning that each way only cost 15K net. Since I've been doing about 1 long flight a year (i.e. 12+ hours), and also do a couple of "short" hops across the atlantic, it seems to be roughly "free" to do this; certainly, compared to the alternative use of miles (buying more flights for free), it seems like a more valuable use, at least when you compare the raw cost of the options. And I'm destroying the environment about as much either way.


Being in Beijing

I took a couple of hundred pictures in China, most of which are not particularly interesting. So instead here's a street sign from just around the corner from Tiananmen Square. There's probably some quite reasonable and sensible explanation, but as far as I am concerned, it is just a polite request for "No Car Bombs".

Computer News

The BBC radio news last week referred to "Sir" Tim B-L as "the inventor of the internet". Which is actually not as bad as the NPR interviewee commenting on Google's "street view" feature who outlined some of the arguments in favour of the system: it allows you to find shops or hotels (yes), and also to monitor your neighborhood "for fires". Um, right. (listen for yourself here).

Computing in beijing was actually quite tolerable, although many useful sites were blocked with just a "site not found" error: BBC news, blogspot (but not blogger, hence the confused post last week), flick photos but not flickr the site etc. And other sites were just intermittent, meaning that you were never entirely sure if something was censored, or just broken. Also, SSH connections seemed to take a very long time to connect, as if some human was deciding whether to allow it to go through.

On the flight back, I watched Eragon, which is point-for-point plot-isomorphic with Star Wars. I'd bore you by listing the matching, but it's sufficiently well-documented elsewhere so I won't bother. Calling the hero a "farmboy" though, that's surely taking it too far. Continental's in-flight movie guide helpfully commented that there are "50 differences between the book and the film" as if this were in any way a meaningful or sensible piece of information. I would have watched more movies, but after years of enduring coach class, I had paid some of my hard earned frequent carbon emitter miles to upgrade myself to business class for the 13 hour flight, so I reclined the seat and went to sleep. The main benefit is the extra space; there's also better food, although they make so much fuss over it, I'd almost rather they just dumped it in front of me on a tray. Oh, and free wine, which helps somewhat in the sleeping. Also, it meant that I could get out of the plane first and peg it over to immigration where there were absolutely no lines. I therefore rolled up in front of an immigration officer, who studiously ignored me and tapped his computer for a few minutes. Then turning to me, he went through the usual procedure while I glanced at a sheet on his desk listing names and offences of various other people on the flight. I thought I caught a glance of my DOB on the paper, but I didn't want to point this out.



I enjoyed the film "Music and Lyrics" on the flight over; it featured a fictional teen pop star called "Cora Corman". Although, I realised that I had been hearing the name as "Korva Coleman" the whole time: she's an esteemed NPR broadcaster. Easily confused. Must get to the airport, and see what delights offer themselves to me today.


Am I Here?

Can see blogger, but not blogspot... although maybe the feed will be picked up by bloglines and routed through that way.

Don't worry, this doesn't concern you. Or at least it shouldn't.


Half the world away

Rather belatedly I discover that the current time difference between Beijing and New York is exactly 12 hours. So this trip will be the first time (I think) that I've been exactly 12 hours out of kilter. Should be interesting. To be honest, I actually quite enjoy these mega jet-lag excursions. I seem to end up falling asleep at about 9pm, and waking up at 4am, and then spend the next 4 hours reading or listening to audiobooks before I feel obliuged to get up, after which I have a reasonable day of conference gubbins before starting to pass out again around 9.

Apropos of not that, I just watched the "season finale" of Numb3rs, the crime-fighting and mathematics show. It opened with a deranged bomber holding up a bridge with a sequence of cellphone bombs, for no apparent reason, as usual. But wait... who was the strangely British actor playing the lunatic? None other than Martin Jarvis, of Richmal Crompton's William stories. Which rather spoiled the illusion...



You know, with all the palaver about the sheer awfulnewss of the epilepsy inducing London 2012 logo (you know, the one that looks like an act of al fresco fellatio if you squint), that no one seems to have mentioned that the font in which "london" is writ seems to be some ugly scrappy thing not a million miles away from Comic Sans. It's a small thing, but it just adds to the fact that the whole thing looks like it was put together in MSPaint in 5 minutes. Do I really have to look at this thing any longer?