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About denoir

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    Second Lieutenant


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    In no particular order:<br>Neural networks & adaptive systems in general<br>Any music by Bach<br>Pol

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  1. denoir

    The Average American?

    The US is the home of the smartest people in the world. No, I'm not joking. About half of the world's Nobel laureates live in America. The three top universities in the world are American and as soon as a European or Asian scientist gets any good he/she runs off to America to work - because all the other smart people are at the universities there. I won't bother listing all the achievements by America and Americans - landing on the moon for instance. So is it why there is so much anti-Americanism in the world (and there is a lot of it)? Is it simply envy of its power? Well, yes and no. Americas power is an answer to why it is the primary target but not quite why. Warning: If you are a cultural relativist who thinks that all cultures are equally good and can't be compared - prepare to be offended. If you think that stoning women for adultery is just a cultural peculiarity that has to be judged within its cultural context, you won't agree with me. So let's look at the why. First let's look at the obvious elephant in the closet: Bush and the Iraq war. A vast majority of the world was against the war and a natural animosity against American politics evolved. When the majority of the America people re-elected Bush it was clear that it wasn't just about the politicians at the top - it was the people. After all, in a democracy people are to some degree responsible for the idiots they elect. The first time didn't count as people didn't know what was to come, but re-electing him was approving of his previous actions. On a practical level it gave Europeans (lusting for integration) something in common: they were not Americans. It is impossible to understate the difference between the opinions and cultures of different EU states - opposition to the Iraq war was one thing that everybody could agree on (the populations if not the politicians). Nobody has done so much for practical European unity as Bush. As I said first, America is home to much of the best that western civilization has to offer. This is due to its enormous size and subsequently it is also home to the worst that the western civilization has to offer. The distribution is as always a bell-shaped curve. The world however does no primarily see the worst - for the most part through television and news it sees the average. It's at the center of the bell curve that everything is aimed at - the average American. And at this point there has to come a comparison. Are Americans more ignorant than other people in the world? Of the 201 states in the world is America at the bottom half? -No, absolutely not. Using almost any imaginable metric America ends up in the top half. To pick a few random countries: The average person in say Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Niger.. are all far less educated and far more ignorant of the world than the average American. Clearly America has been chosen for bashing not just because of the ignorance of its population - more than half the world are worse in that respect. Nigeria isn't being bashed because it is not a significant and visible player on the world stage. Having said all that, there is another elephant in the closet - what about the western world? How does America stack up against countries that have a similar GDP/capita? The answer there is not as encouraging: compared to most other western nations the ignorance is abysmal. One poster wrote earlier that if you looked around you could find a Swede that can't point to Sweden on a map. True enough - according to the 2002 National Geographic Survey about 2% of Swedes don't know where it is given a map and four choices. However, 11% of Americans can't find America on a map, given four choices. That's 5 times worse. Yes, there are ignorant people in every country - the relevant question is however how large percentage of the population they constitute. From the same NG survey: This is astonishingly bad especially since the answer is given in the question. 44% is very much in average territory. We're not talking about marginal idiots here. Same thing for this: And finally one more, which I think is the worst of them all: It is not an exaggeration to say that answering "no" to that question is about as sensible as saying that you think that the earth is flat. 47% of the American population believe that the earth is under 10,000 years old  [src] (the right answer is roughly 4.567 billion years) and 44% think that Jesus will return within their life time [src] (armageddon, end of the world...). This comes from a nation with 20,000 strategic nuclear weapons and that is the #1 polluter. Not very encouraging for building a sustainable development. If you are convinced that you'll be raptured to your sky-god relatively soon, of course you won't bother yourself with such worldly vulgarities as global warming. And the especially disturbing twist is that if say a nuke was to go off in Jerusalem, about half the US population would see it as a happy sign of Jesus soon coming back. Given that a third of the world's population are fundamentalist Muslims that will gladly provide the provocation and excuse for a conflict. So given its power and unique position in the world combined with the excessive (relative) ignorance displayed, America does deserve the mud being flung at it. There are real concerns that go way beyond in-group/out-group bashing. Conclusion: Of course generalizations are bound to be unfair for many at an individual level - and for America especially since it is a very divided society. Saying that Americans are ignorant and dangerous fundamentalists will be wrong 50% of the time. It is however not to dismiss that 50% of the time you would actually be right to say so. And yes, again, there are far worse countries than America in that respect. Instead of 50/50 it would be no overstatement to say that for instance 90% of the Saudi population are ignorant and dangerous fundamentalists. It's not politically correct to say so as it hurts our liberal sensitivities, but nevertheless it is the ugly truth. In Saudi Arabia like (the liberated) Afghanistan and many other Muslim countries you can actually get executed for teaching evolution and any other knowledge deemed 'heretic'. America however is not just any country - it is the most powerful and richest country in the world so of course it deserves special attention. The America bashing that is so popular world-wide has a solid ground it stands on - it is not just arbitrary hatred or jealousy. Ultimately what America needs is a better public education system and much less religion. Some travel (no, invasion doesn't count) wouldn't hurt too.
  2. denoir

    "iPhone" unveiled today...

    It has two nice things: design and screen resolution. Although I truly dislike OS X on a regular computer, I think it might actually work well on a phone. IMO it is the first smartphone that I've seen that isn't visually offensive. Everything else on the market is more or less an aesthetic insult. The really disappointing thing about the iPhone is the lack of a built-in GPS. I'm using a Mio A701 today and I would really miss that feature. Also, the iPhone is a bit too heavy and its battery life seems less than impressive. I'll probably get one, at least if the first reviews are not very negative. I doubt however that I'll stick with it for a longer time. My hope is that it will lead to a better designed generation of smartphones. The perhaps biggest disadvantage is that it won't be available for purchase for another 6 months. A lot of things can happen in that time. Edit: The "multi-touch" touchschreen seems like a very promising thing on the phone. Check this out (not the iPhone but a demonstration of a multi-touch screen) http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6379146923853181774
  3. denoir

    European Politics Thread.

    Slovenia is already in - they actually introduced the euro this year. AFIK they are doing quite well - they're economically better off than a few of the EU15 countries and the richest of the EU+10 bunch. Croatia, that is doing economically better than say Poland and several other EU25 and much better than Romania and Bulgaria, will probably join 2009 or 2010 barring that they don't join the Swiss and Norwegian teams and stay out. IIRC they were one of the most euro-sceptic countries in Europe. Bosnia & Herzegovina as well as Serbia have a long way to go as they are economically broken and not entirely politically stable. My guess would be somewhere between 2015-2025. Macedonia is even poorer and you can count on the Greeks making trouble. Macedonia is however an official candidate - although in their case membership talks won't be completed for at least a decade. Monte Negro is small enough to be able to do a fairly rapid transformation. I'd guess 2015 perhaps. It might take some time, but I'm pretty much sure that all of former Yugoslavia will join within the next say 20 years. There are some primarily political obstacles and there are economic obstacles (although not much greater than in the case of Bulgaria). Still, there is no real cultural obstacle like with Turkey for instance. Goob: That is a load of propaganda that we have been fed by the Swedish unions that fear the erosion of their power. I recommend you to read "Den polske rörmokaren" article series in DN that explores the topic. (Note the articles in the series are listed in reverse order). Start with "Våldnaden från öst".
  4. denoir

    The Iraq thread 4

    Indeed - the way people not affected by Saddam in any way are reacting is telling how little the society has changed in some respect. This is the equivalent of the medieval joy of public executions. Saddam was deposed so the act of killing him had no practical value - he wasn't in the position of every hurting anybody again anyway. Had he been in power and done active harm, then sure. He was however harmless and would remain so. I can understand his victims and their relatives wanting revenge - that's perfectly human. Society is however supposed to have gone beyond accepting moral equivalence and aspired to higher standards of morality. Apparently not as evidenced by the gloating people who have no personal motivation for revenge - they apparently just like revenge as a method in general. Killing a convicted criminal is a moral issue. It is not a question of if the criminal deserved it or not, but if the society is willing to stoop so morally low that it kills people. Now I to some extent understand the people that have been brainwashed by old testament (or equivalent) morality. I would not be surprised if somebody from Mississippi or Kabul was finding this event joyful. I do however find it disturbing to find supposedly enlightened Europeans expressing their joy and approval over the meaningless killing of another human being. I'm not sad about Saddam being dead, but I am sad about so many people finding joy in his killing.
  5. denoir

    The Iraq thread 4

    Meet the new boss..just like the old boss. Traditional banana republic behaviour: change of government = execution of former government. Uncivilized, but hell, I guess that when dozens of people are killed in Baghdad every day +-1 death is within the margin of error. They should have locked him up and thrown away the key. This way he can become a martyr - he has quite a few supporters left. I don't think his life is worth more civilian deaths.
  6. denoir

    USA Politics Thread - *No gun debate*

    That's arbitrary picking and choosing. The bible that states those things also tells us we should kill people that work on Sunday, children that talk back to their parents, adulterers, gays etc The principle of "don't kill me and I won't kill you" and "don't steal my shit and I won't steal yours" are pretty universal and required for any type of organized society to work. If anything religion can corrupt those basic values by overriding them with arbitrary rules. The god of the Old Testament is an ill-tempered genocidal maniac and hardly a suitable role model in modern society. Jesus was of course a great improvement as a moral role model. From a Christian point of view however both books are equally valid. Islam is just like Christianity completely contradictory and basically allows you to find any niche you want. If you want to be nice to people, you can find the verse to support it. If you wish to kill infidels you can find verses that instruct you to do so. The problem of Islam today is that people in the Islamic world are largely religious zealots. The average Muslim takes his religion far more seriously and literally than the average Christian. 700 years ago the roles were reversed. The central concept of religion is “faith†– the blind belief in something without any evidence.  A “leap of faith†is considered to be a good thing. That is what makes the mainstream moderates dangerous. They uphold a framework that enables extremism. As the moderates claim the right to pick and choose the “nice†parts of the religious texts without having any criteria for such a selection, they legitimize the extremists when they do the same. From a biblical perspective “Be nice to other people†and “God hates fags†are equally true. Which one you select is up to you. Therefore people that advocate that morality is to be taken from scripture are not just misguided but dangerous in a wider context.
  7. denoir

    Goodbye Placebo

    Bye Paul. Take care and good luck in Singapore. I'm sure you'll find the time to drop by on occasion
  8. denoir

    The Middle East part 2

    There is more to it than that - a religious conviction of moral supremacy. You can draw many parallels to medieval Europe or the colonization era. The self-designated role of being a "world police" is just a more modern version of the "White man's burden". It's a mix of expansionist economic ambition backed by absolute nationalist and religious beliefs. One should be careful not to think that the nationalism and religion are excuses - they're at least as strong as the pragmatic economic ambitions. When Europeans kidnapped people from Africa to be used as slave labour in the colonies there was a strong conviction not only that they had the right to do it but that it was their duty before God to do so. They were convicted that they had been chosen by God (why else would they be so successful?) to civilize an uncivilized world. The heathens had to be converted. Slavery was necessary as the savages weren't capable of taking care of themselves. The slaves weren't exploited as a cheap work force - they were being cared for by their masters and rescued from barbarism as well as eternal damnation. These weren't excuses - they were dead honest about it. Religion played an essential role in these absolute beliefs of superiority. Fast forward 200 or so years. Our moral standards have evolved to a higher level of sophistication, but we play the same games. Take the Iraq war. Economic exploitation? It's called introducing a free market and free trade. The "White man's burden" has become the "Western man's burden". The Iraq project was as much about introducing a stable democracy in the Middle East - with the hope that it will be spread. Again on the agenda is saving the poor bastards that aren't capable of managing themselves. As in each instance before, it is "One nation under God" doing the 'educating' of the world. It's not a simple question of nationalism. The notion of a divine purpose and approval is essential. And there is no clearer example than America where religion and patriotism are deeply interwoven. To quote Bush (Senior): "I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God." Europe, after two devastating world wars abandoned that type of thinking but America holds the Euro-centric flag high. The only pragmatic approach in recent years was Clinton's North Korea policy - which worked considerably well. There were inspectors on site and NK did not develop nukes. When the negotiated time interval ran out and it was time for renegotiation was badly timed with Bush ascending to power. The result: NK has nukes and its relations to the US are at an all time low. That's exactly what I'm endorsing and I'd say it worked amazingly well. Had it not been for the detente, had the superpowers continued in the style of the 50's and early 60's, the Cuban Missile crisis would have not been the last critical moment. There would have been a series of them, most likely resulting in a nuclear war. As I see it, the detente saved the world. They have universal suffrage for the executive and legislative branches of their government. They elect their president and their parliament. What more are you looking for?
  9. denoir

    The Middle East part 2

    I think they might refer to it as "separation of powers". In standard democracies the judicial branch is not elected nor chosen by the politicians. The US is an exception there. Iran is a democracy, but not of the regular western type. They are also a theocracy where the religious leaders have a formal government body that is separated from the elected politicians. In the same way a supreme court supersedes other branches of government on some issues, so does the guardian council. Now I'm not endorsing Iran's political system - I think it is one of the most potentially destructive ones, but nevertheless, it is a type of democracy. This brings me to a second point. Lately on my favourite website a large number of columnists have been raging against the firing of John Bolton and generally against the UN. Their primary argument is that people like Chavez and Ahmadinejad are allowed to have their say and rant against the US. While I'm not a fan of those two populists the arrogance and presumptiousness of the other side is worse. The root cause of that is a combination of nationalism and religion. You said in the US Politics thread that America wasn't über-religious. In a practical way, you might be right - most people don't pray to Jesus for guidance when buying groceries and religion isn't a factor in the majority of the decisions that the people and the government does. There is however a very widespread and strong belief that God is on America's side - that what America does and stands for is good on an absolute scale. This combination of religion and nationalism breeds intolerance towards other cultures and political systems. That's why you can't tolerate Chavez or anybody else that challenges your system and the American-centric world view. In essence it there is little difference between this and when the Europeans decided that everyone else in the world were savage barbarians who should be converted or enslaved. There are practical differences as society has evolved since then to a set of more sophisticated moral standards, but the principle remains the same: "I'm right and you're not so it's my right and obligation to do something about your incorrect beliefs." I'm not advocating moral relativism - far from it. It can't however be treated as narrow-minded as the US foreign policy does - a more pragmatic approach is required, even if you don't understand or disapprove of what the other side does. To give you an example - the death penalty is seen in the EU as a barbaric violation of human rights. Does it mean that we won't talk to the US and demand that the US be kicked out of all international bodies and that sanctions should be imposed? No, because it would do more damage than good. Instead the EU won't extradite people unless guarantees are made that the death penalty won't be sought and it is mentioned on a regular basis that Europe strongly disapproves of the practice. In the same way you can disapprove of the Iranian government without claiming it is illegitimate and demanding that it be overthrown. You can talk to them on issues where a constructive dialog is possible. There is no need for the relation to be a binary love or hate thing. The first thing you need to do is to seriously drop the idea of American exceptionalism. Look around the world and you'll see that because of it you are more hated than you probably deserve to. And it is the same skewed notion of righteousness and the delusion that your cause is just per definition that got you to initiate this Iraq mess.
  10. denoir

    Armed Assault..

    When OFP 1.0 was released, it was incredibly buggy and so was Resistance. ArmA just follows the same tradition. The bugs will hopefully be fixed as they were in OFP and Res. If you ignore the bugs, ArmA is a great improvement in graphics and multiplayer over OFP. It runs just fine (1600x1200, high settings 4000m view distance) on a modern computer (X6800 Core 2, 3 GB ram,  Radeon X1900 under Vista x32 RTM), but I can imagine that older computers might have a problem with it. I have only one major complaint: the new vehicle steering. Helicopters and fixed wing aircraft are impossible to fly with a mouse, difficult with the keyboard and cumbersome with a joystick. Yes, the flight model for the helos is more realistic - but since the steering interface is useless it's not an improvement in practice. This IMO sucks big time. In addition the game seems pretty spartan - when you are used  to an OFP with tons of addons installed.
  11. denoir

    USA Politics Thread - *No gun debate*

    (Article) YYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!! Â Â (Don't worry, I'm not going crazy) finally a democrat in be in effective charge of the US Military. yes yes, i know i know, "But Sophion, you hate democrats." BUT NOT LIKE THIS!!! I so called it: HAH! [leaves as quickly as he came] You are as well-informed as usual. Gates is a republican. Not only that, he was the CIA directory under Bush senior. wow, thanks for telling the world a murder is just as bad a a homicide. The reason why many US schools don't have britannica in them, surprise. Given your ignorance of.. um.. everything.. I'm guessing your school is one of them. Britannica is generally considered to be the most reliable encyclopedia in existence. As for US schools not having it - hardly surprising - they are at the absolute bottom in the western world. maybe i should use you as one, an egotistic self-centered dumb*ss that has no respect of other human beings. thank you for opening my eye oh great jack*ss of the year! Hehe, I'm going to let your comment speak for itself. we still got into Iraq kicked a*s and took Saddam out of power, whats the difference? fly from the north and drop bombs or fly from the south and drop bombs? The point is that on the white house page Turkey is listed as a member of the coalition along with a number of other countries that not only had nothing to do with the invasion but actively opposed it. It shows how reliable the propaganda office of the white house is.
  12. denoir

    USA Politics Thread - *No gun debate*

    Well.. im sure Kuwait allowing the US to use their country as a staging area for their attack was pretty valuable too. True. Which brings me to a good example why the list on the white house site is completely bogus. They list Turkey - the same Turkey that refused to allow the 'coallition' to use it as a staging area for an attack on Iraq from the north. Nobody screwed up the invasion plans as much as Turkey did.
  13. denoir

    USA Politics Thread - *No gun debate*

    I demand an apology, that was uncalled for. (That is why my research isn't limited to just wikipedia, which is mostly hearsay btw) Hehe, good joke, linking to the white house. If there is one biased source to rule all other biased source on this issue it is the white house. My statement stand for the white house as well as for you: debating is easier if you ignore reality and make shit up. As for the reliability of wikipedia, testing has shown it to be roughly as reliable as Britannica. Not that such accuracy is needed to beat the white house press office - just making things up will put you on that level. Incidentally, that's what you are consistently doing. You need new role models. And claiming that somebody is part of your coalition just because they aren't actively opposing you is fundamentally dishonest. Incidentally, after the white house released that list there were strong denials from some of the countries. This is the list of the 30 countries that agreed to be associated with the US on this one: Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and Uzbekistan. Source: us state department via BBC Anyway the only meaningful contributions to the US led coalition were made by the UK. Money and troops, that's all that counts and in the invasion only the US and the UK provided that in meaningful quantities.
  14. denoir

    USA Politics Thread - *No gun debate*

    lets just look at the list: Afghanistan Albania .. <snip> Uzbekistan nope, don't look so alone. I know that debating is easier if you ignore reality and make things up. These were the countries that participated in the invasion of Iraq [wikipedia]: Note that most of the countries that sent < 1000 troops only sent medical personel.
  15. denoir

    USA Politics Thread - *No gun debate*

    Well, apparently an Iraqi rebel with his weapon. primary sources: PFC David Whelms, USMC LCPL Jessie Whoebach, USMC SGT Justin Davidson, USMC PFC Steven Cornet, US Army Ah, I see. When opinion polls are made for simple questions the pollsters ask thousands of people. Do you think that they do that because they enjoy phoning people? That four of your friends think that the Iraq war is going well isn't enough to draw any general conclusions. For any form of statistics being possible a large sample is required. I'm not aware of any such opinion poll of the support for the war by US military personnel. The majority of the American population in large is (now) against the war and I suspect that the people actually doing the dying are even more against it. The military brass have as we know expressed their opinion about the chance of this ending well.