Thursday, December 28, 2006

DNA and MP3

Scott Adams speculated about the "intellectual property of human DNA," and posed this question:

If you were a supermodel who had snorted away all of your money and you were now too old to model, and some billionaire offered you a hundred million dollars for your DNA, would you sell it? Assume you know in advance that the billionaire is a disgusting pig who will be raising your clone to be a brainwashed sex slave.

Assume also that your clone won’t be forced to do anything against her will. She will simply be raised to believe the billionaire is a godlike creature and the rest will happen naturally. No laws will be broken. And she will live like a princess except for the part about being a clone whore to an old, rich fat guy. In other words, the quality of her life will be in the top 10% of the planet if you consider the wretchedness the average human’s life around the world.

Would you sell your DNA for $100,000,000?

This is an entertaining question, but Scott has gotten the economics of the situation backwards. Nobody would pay $100,000,000 for your DNA, when all they have to do is fish one of your used coffee cups out of the trash and extract a DNA sample from there. Instead, it would cost you a large amount of money and inconvenience in order to prevent people from stealing your DNA and doing whatever they wanted with it.

You might be able to sue someone who used your DNA without permission, but that requires you to know about it in the first place, and prove it. I suspect that in the future the "unauthorized" use of DNA will be extremely common, like pirated MP3s today. Both are sequences of information that people can claim ownership of.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Neatthink, Slobthink

When it comes to neatness, my girlfriend is more on the neat-freak end of the spectrum, and I am closer to the border of the People's Republic of Slobistan. And so it puzzles me when she will, for example, look under the couch and say something like, "oh, wow, there is so much dust and cat fur under here!" This is said as if it is something both completely unexpected and deeply disturbing, the way you might say to someone, "dude, what is this dead hobo doing in the trunk of your car?"

To me, of course, under the couch is exactly the sort of place where I would expect to find dust, and the cat fur would be much more shocking and mysterious if we didn't own cats. And neither one especially bothers me, because I don't plan to spend a lot of time under the couch anyway. In fact the whole point of having a couch seems to be to sit on top of it and not beneath it. So to me, it's a bit like saying, "Whoa, what are all these pine needles doing all over this forest?"

But I guess this is the difference between neat-think and slob-think. In neat-think, it is disturbing to realize that an area that hypothetically could be clean is not in fact clean. In slob-think, the default state of things is dirty, so "discovering" that something is dirty is not surprising at all, and the question is whether cleaning it is really necessary.

Oh, Fallen 360

My Xbox 360 went into a nonresponsive, vegetative state. The three red lights of doom blazed in all their glory on the front panel, and I was forced to send it in for repairs. This was on the second day of my 2-week vacation, so just when I thought I'd get some quality video gaming time with the 360, it gave out.

It's funny how when a gadget like the 360 fails, it feels less like a mechanical malfunction and more like having a sick pet or something. And when I called support to explain the problem and ask about getting it repaired, I felt almost like an addict worried about where and when I'd get my next fix. ("Yeah, uh, it seems my crack pipe broke, and I really need to get it fixed so I can smoke some more crack. Is it still under warranty? When do you think you can send me a functioning crack pipe?")

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

On The Media: Great Holiday Conversations, Volume 1

My Girlfriend: (watching TV) I've finally figured out why on TV, actresses' butts look smaller than they really are.

Me: (my mind boggling that this is what she thinks about while watching TV) OK, so why is that?

Her: They wear these very low-rise jeans, so what you think you see as their butt is actually not the whole thing, but only the lower half.

Me: Oh, so you mean the upper part is covered by their shirt, and you only take notice of the lower half.

Her: Right.

Me: (being a smart aleck) OK, so here's my proposal, in the name of truth. Hot actresses on TV should have to either be naked, or wear bikinis, so that we don't get fooled about the real size of their butts. That would prevent this despicable distortion from rotting our minds and giving us false ideas.

Her: I don't think you get the point of what I'm saying.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Lunch Rules

In this Lunch Rules document, some junior high school girls outline the strict requirements for eating lunch at their table. It cracks me up that even though rule 7 is "no outsiders to table" and rule 9 is "have to be on the list," the last rule is "love your neigbor!"

The rule that surprised me most though, is rule 8: "Have to get 5 hugs from boys by the end of the lunch to be able to sit w/ us the next day." When I think back to my junior high school days, I don't recall much if any hugging going on during lunch. In fact, I don't think anyone in my school could have fulfilled this requirement. What happened, is the American junior high school lunch room now a massive hug-fest?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Code Monkey, the video

There aren't enough songs about programmers.

The Real Life "Slow Donnie"

On the "Slow Donnie" episode of Just Shoot Me, Maya discovered that Elliot's brother Donnie had been pretending to be mentally disabled for years, so that he wouldn't have to do anything and other people would wait on him. He revealed himself when he got a crush on Maya and dropped the act to ask her out. Well, it turns out there is a real "Slow Pete" out there who has been faking for almost 20 years, according to this article at SFGate:

For nearly 20 years — ever since Pete Costello was 8 — his mother has collected disability benefits on his behalf. In meetings with Social Security officials and psychologists, he appeared mentally retarded and unable to communicate. His mother insisted he couldn't read or write, shower, take care of himself or drive a car.

But now prosecutors say it was all a huge fraud, and they have video of Costello contesting a traffic ticket to prove it.

I doubt the TV episode was based on him, but that would be funny.