Beheader (Vince Li) Gets Off Scot-Free

Vince Li, the guy who beheaded Tim McLean on a greyhound in 2009 and then proceeded to EAT HIM, is slowly working his way to freedom after spending some time in a psych ward. Would you want that guy in your neighbourhood or strolling your local beaches?

According to CBC news, Vince Li, the infamous Greyhound beheader, was deemed not criminally responsible for the beheading of Tim McLean back in 2009. He was sentenced to a psychiatric hospital where he was initially kept in a locked wing but has since been given increasing privileges. Vince will soon be granted permission to go on escorted trips into town and nearby beaches.

Most people in the comments agree that this man, insane or not, poses a very real and intense threat to the public. Even if there is only a 0.1% chance that he will BEHEAD SOMEONE AND EAT THEM, that is obviously too much.

Tim McLean - Vince Li - Beheading

Initially he will be escorted as he ventures away from the hospital, however, he will certainly be released completely in a few years — certainly more than 2 human lifetimes too early for a man of his capacity. There comes a point where the justice system should be about more than just punishment. Even if he was insane when he KILLED AND ATE A MAN he should never be deemed safe to interact with the public.

If I ever BEHEAD AND EAT SOMEONE, you have full permission to end my existence immediately. Barring that, please don’t let me back into society.

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My Brief Dive into the Darknet — Tor and the Deep Web

After reading a brief article titled “Inside Silk Road” in the 20 year anniversary issue of Wired, I was inspired to see what Tor and the “deep web” (frequently referred to as Darknet) is all about.

Getting started was surprisingly easy. All it took was a visit to TorProject.org and download the Tor Browser Bundle. After a simple installation I was ready to go exploring. The exploring part is more difficult.

You see, Tor allows you access to the deep web while simultaneously keeping your identity anonymous through a rely network of volunteer computers. Once you’re on using Tor though, you need to find the right link to the site you want. The problem: there isn’t a search engine for sites on Darknet. Instead you must find direct links on known sites.

The easiest way to access sites on Darknet I was able to find is:

  1. Visit the “How to Access the Hidden Wiki” on HiddenWiki.org.
  2. Follow the instructions there to install Tor (if you haven’t already done so)
  3. Scroll down towards the bottom of the page to access the Tor Library
  4. Look for the “Hidden Wiki” link towards the bottom of the page
  5. From the Hidden Wiki you can click through to the many SUPER sketchy sites of the deep web

There are many “bad” sites full of illegal activity on Darknet. One of the most well-known is Silk Road, where people buy and sell everything from erotica, to drugs and various forged items/documents (pictured below).

You may notice in the image that the prices are not stated in dollars. Instead, the deep web relies on bitcoins as a medium of exchange since it can be untraceable.

[Learn more about bitcoins here: What is bitcoin?]

The deep web is not only about illegal activity, of course. The deep web has been used extensively in uprisings against oppressive governments as well. Basically any time an anonymous identify is required, the deep web is there. Most darknet sites do appear to be in poor taste or promote illegal products and services, though.

My experience with darknet was a frustrating one overall. Since the anonymous network relies on several layers of relays, connecting to sites often takes 30 seconds or more. Worse, sometimes they never load at all.

Needless to say, my foray was brief — partially because of my impatience and partially because the darknet is just too dark a place to hang around for long.

Silk Road Logo

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The World is Not Coming to an End (Duh, Right?)

The World is Not Coming to an EndWhile the screaming “duuhhhh’” is still strong in your mind, I want to take a moment to explain this post. Of course the world is not coming to an end in the near future, and no number of mayan calendars will change that. However, there are many very real threats to the world as we know it. There is less to worry about than the media would have you think, which I will show you with the help of Apocalypse Not.

1. Chemicals

The modern environmentalist movement started as long as 50 years ago with the publishing of Silent Spring. The book focused on the danger of pesticides, as well as other chemicals, and their cancer causing effects. Despite the legitimate danger of many of these pesticides, the overall impact was greatly overstated. Cancer rates have now been falling for over 20 years.

More dramatic were the claims in the 1970’s when Life magazine claimed that “in a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution”. Impressive innovation, as well as regulation, has allowed us to gradually improve air quality throughout the developed world.

Then there was the threat of acid rain, and then thinning ozone layer; each prompting a barrage of media hysteria. Each issue has been addressed over time and are no longer dramatic causes for concern.

2. Disease

For decades the media has screamed about various diseases such as swine flu, west nile, SARS and AIDS. With the notable exception of AIDS, each of these diseases were rather short-lived as methods of treating and preventing them were readily implemented. Long gone are the days when a disease can rip through the population and kill millions. Quarantine measures have helped cut off the spread and vaccines are now routine to create.

We are even beginning to win the war on AIDS, one of the worst diseases of the last century. New infections are down 20% across the world and 2.5 million lives have been saved since 1995 through antiretroviral treatment. In the past, diseases have been a very real threat globally but are quickly becoming a thing of the past due to impressive medical innovation and global education. The fear of urbanization increasing disease prevalence has also largely been debunked. Many diseases are borne by wildlife and as more people move into cities the chances of diseases carrying have grown smaller.

3. Overpopulation

We are, as it seems, our own harshest critics. No other issue has received such attention as the threat we are to ourselves. “Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet” said Agent Smith in The Matrix. People do cause a number of problems for the planet and ourselves but perhaps the biggest looming threat is our increasing population.

For years it has been said that we will no longer be able to feed everyone in the world. Can you guess what happened? Yes, through scientific innovation and improved farming efficiency, we have been able to squeeze more and more food from smaller and smaller amounts of land. Shrinking family sizes globally has further reduced this problem.

4. Resources

In 1977 Jimmy Carter predicted that world oil demand would overtake production by the 1980’s. This media hysteria has persisted since then and is still around today in various forms. New technology would, again, swoop in to allow us to increase oil and gas production consistently in the last 50 years to keep up with demand. In fact, new techniques of shale gas extraction have been so effective that oil supply has now increased dramatically, depressing oil prices (bad news for Alberta as their deficit will likely triple on slumping oil prices).

Moving Forward

Time and time again, the media has blown the seriousness of global issues out of proportion. We all know they do this, yet even the most resilient of us get lost in the media from time to time. So we should ignore the warnings of the media and impending doom such as global warming, right? Wrong. These issues are all very real and require our undivided attention and collective effort. However, we have to come to be more trusting of our ingenuity.

Instead of running around screaming about the end of the world, we should focus on how we can innovate to combat these issues. We have many thousands of years worth of evolutionary victories, there is no reason to think that the next thing to come along will be what does us in. I, for one, have tremendous faith in the human race as a whole.

Online Privacy is Overrated

online-privacyIt seems like everyday a new article comes out decrying the lack of privacy online. On the surface, it seems like something to be truly concerned about. However, after a closer look you begin to realize that we have it pretty good. It’s time to be done with the hysteria.

Reality Check

Everyday we all enjoy free services at the extremely low cost of “some of our personal information”. Take Facebook for example. Facebook offers a number of services to us and asks nothing of direct monetary value in return. I, for one, use it to organize my photos, keep in touch with friends and organize events and the only thing I have ever had to “pay” in return was a couple strings of text indicating who I am. And yes, Facebook has access to my photos and status updates but it’s not as creepy as you think. Contrary to popular belief, Facebook does not give out your information to all of the rapists and murders in the world. It also doesn’t ask that you provide information such as your address, phone number or when your doors are left unlocked (you can post that info if you want but it is discretionary).

View the article that inspired this rant: Online Privacy is Overrated

The point is, we are all getting a great deal. How many of you would continue to use Facebook if it suddenly cost $59.99/month? Most people don’t think of it that way, but when presented with the alternative of paying cold hard cash, they are more than willing to divulge what their favourite TV show is. It’s absolutely painless to divulge this information with very few downsides. Some people consider targeted advertising a downside. I have no idea why. Another reality check: you will be subjected to advertising. It’s a fact. So why not see advertising that is applicable to you? It’s easy to ignore and hey, if you happen to be in the market for that particular product or service, it just saved you some research time. Not to mention ad personalization will save us guys from being subjected to tampon ads everywhere we go and women get to avoid those “meet sexy lolitas” ads. Win-win-win.

The other angle of hysteria perpetuated by the media is the idea of being watched or followed. The idea that with your personal information online everyone knows where you are always – good old fashioned conspiracy theories to boot. A brilliant piece of knowledge I obtained many years ago goes as follows:

No one cares about you as much as you think they do

It sounds super depressing but what it means is that you may think that everyone is always watching you, judging you and trying to get a piece of you, while in reality most of them really couldn’t care less. The government is not after you (and if they are then you are probably a criminal and deserve the attention) and neither is anyone else. No one is going to hack your account randomly to find your children’s photos, so they can somehow track down where they are. It’s preposterous. If your children are unsafe, it’s because the neighbour you thought was so nice turns out to be a creep. They’ll just walk across the lawn and say “hi” after school.

Your family and close friends may care about your personal details (and that’s not creepy), but no one else does. Everyone else is too busy worrying about themselves and their own family and friends.

So what are you hiding from? Keep your financial data close at hand and lend it out to only the most reputable of sites. Other than that, share and reap the rewards.

 

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Side note: even credit card information is relatively safe. In the event that your information is stolen, you are completely protected and the credit card company will reimburse you. Cash, on the other hand, is gone forever if lost or stolen.

Everything Is A Remix: Intellectual Property & Patents Are Broken

Everything is a Remix: System Failure, a video by Kirby Ferguson, is an eye opening illustration of the current struggle with intellectual property. In the video, Kirby argues that people have evolved to learn from each other and to improve upon our own advancements. The idea is that knowledge itself has evolved much like a species – over time it mutates and transforms into better versions of itself. This has worked for us for thousands of years as we have evolved from our humbling roots to rule the earth as we do now. According to the video though, we are now reaching an inflection point where, if we do nothing, the systems designed to protect IP may stifle innovation at a fundamental level.

The video “Everything is a Remix” which can be found here speaks to the absurdity of today’s intellectual property disputes.

The video illustrates the absurdity of owning ideas. Ideas are not physical objects that can be labelled and described in a perfect way – instead they are very complex and abstract at times, making it very difficult to tease apart individual components of ideas and assign rights. With the number of people in the world expanding at a devastating pace it will become ever-harder to protect individual ideas. As it stands there may be many people thinking about the same thing as you at any given point in time. Not only is it next to impossible to protect ideas on a global scale but it also makes no sense.patent-ip-system-broken

The video argues that by trying to protect intellectual property we are stifling innovation. Since the advent of the internet, it has become exponentially easier to discover and disseminate ideas. This is not a bad thing, of course, as people have more information available to them at their fingertips than in the entire history of mankind put together. Unfortunately, some individuals are radically fighting against this open system to close-down ideas and attempt to profit – though they rarely succeed.

The patent system was created to foster the greater good and encourage creativity. Unfortunately, however, the current patent system is utterly broken. The increasing complexity of patent claims and intangibility of these patents pose huge problems for the patent process. Even if patents are eventually awarded, they may become difficult to interpret and assess in courts. What this means is an increasing number of frivolous patent lawsuits that tie up the legal system and costs millions, if not billions, of dollars. patent-ip-suing-google-vs-appleThe only winners in this destructive patent dance are the lawyers (they are happy to spend hundreds of hours trying to tease apart the obscurities of these patents). Also, some companies now exist only to buy up patents and sue companies in the hopes of profiting. Apple, unhappy with their $468 billion valuation (as of Feb 19, 2012), continues to try to crush its competitors with its fat patent portfolio when they could instead be focusing all of their resources on continuing to innovate beyond consumers expectations. This translates to gross inefficiency in, and even stifling of, innovation. What chance does a new start-up have to succeed if large companies have already purchased the patent rights to ideas the patent holders haven’t even begun to develop yet? According to the video, $500,000,000,000 in wealth has been lost as a result of patent wars. The system needs to be fixed.

“The exclusive rights [the original patent acts] introduced were a compromise for a greater purpose. The intent was to better the lives of everyone by incentivizing creativity. The result has not been more progress or more learning; it has been more squabbling and more abuse.”

In summary, there are many factors playing into current patent and IP problems but the system is currently broken. Everything is a Remix sets the stage for a global discussion around innovation. Do you believe the current system is broken? What can be done to turn things around before it’s too late?

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Louis C.k. Gets it Right with ‘Live at The Beacon Theatre’

We live in an age where downloading free movies, TV shows and music are as easy as the click of the mouse. Most labels just don’t get it but Louis C.K. certainly does.

Louis C.K. made his most recent comedy special, Live at the Beacon Theatre available for only $5. Not only is that a very affordable price but he also made it extremely simple to download or stream it – your choice. So not only are you getting it for cheap, you’re getting it easy and without region restrictions or DRM. And because Louis C.K. cut out the middle-men in the process, he has made more money. It’s win-win-lose. Of course, it’s only the publishers/labels/distributors that lose, and that’s okay.

Louis’ honest and new-age approach to releasing Live at the Beacon Theatre has been a huge success and should help pave the way for more artists to take it upon themselves to make their music/comedy available in this way. I am a proud supporter of this arrangement, and if you’re a Louis C.K. fan as I am, you can download Live at the Beacon theatre here.

Louis had the following to say about his “experiment”:Louis-CK-Live-at-the-Beacon-Theater

People of Earth (minus the ones who don’t give a shit about this): it’s been amazing to conduct this experiment with you. The experiment was: if I put out a brand new standup special at a drastically low price ($5) and make it as easy as possible to buy, download and enjoy, free of any restrictions, will everyone just go and steal it? Will they pay for it? And how much money can be made by an individual in this manner?

It’s been 4 days. A lot of people are asking me how it’s going. I’ve been hesitant to share the actual figures, because there’s power in exclusive ownership of information. What I didn’t expect when I started this was that people would not only take part in this experiment, they would be invested in it and it would be important to them. It’s been amazing to see people in large numbers advocating this idea. So I think it’s only fair that you get to know the results. Also, it’s just really cool and fun and I’m dying to tell everybody. I told my Mom, I told three friends, and that wasn’t nearly enough. So here it is.

First of all, this was a premium video production, shot with six cameras over two performances at the Beacon Theater, which is a high-priced elite Manhattan venue. I directed this video myself and the production of the video cost around $170,000. (This was largely paid for by the tickets bought by the audiences at both shows). The material in the video was developed over months on the road and has never been seen on my show (LOUIE) or on any other special. The risks were thus: every new generation of material I create is my income, it’s like a farmer’s annual crop. The time and effort on my part was far more than if I’d done it with a big company. If I’d done it with a big company, I would have a guarantee of a sizable fee, as opposed to this way, where I’m actually investing my own money.

The development of the website, which needed to be a very robust, reliable and carefully constructed website, was around $32,000. We worked for a number of weeks poring over the site to make sure every detail would give buyers a simple, optimal and humane experience for buying the video. I edited the video around the clock for the weeks between the show and the launch.

The show went on sale at noon on Saturday, December 10th. 12 hours later, we had over 50,000 purchases and had earned $250,000, breaking even on the cost of production and website. As of Today, we’ve sold over 110,000 copies for a total of over $500,000. Minus some money for PayPal charges etc, I have a profit around $200,000 (after taxes $75.58). This is less than I would have been paid by a large company to simply perform the show and let them sell it to you, but they would have charged you about $20 for the video. They would have given you an encrypted and regionally restricted video of limited value, and they would have owned your private information for their own use. They would have withheld international availability indefinitely. This way, you only paid $5, you can use the video any way you want, and you can watch it in Dublin, whatever the city is in Belgium, or Dubai. I got paid nice, and I still own the video (as do you). You never have to join anything, and you never have to hear from us again.

I really hope people keep buying it a lot, so I can have shitloads of money, but at this point I think we can safely say that the experiment really worked. If anybody stole it, it wasn’t many of you. Pretty much everybody bought it. And so now we all get to know that about people and stuff. I’m really glad I put this out here this way and I’ll certainly do it again. If the trend continues with sales on this video, my goal is that i can reach the point where when I sell anything, be it videos, CDs or tickets to my tours, I’ll do it here and I’ll continue to follow the model of keeping my price as far down as possible, not overmarketing to you, keeping as few people between you and me as possible in the transaction.
(Of course i reserve the right to go back on all of this and sign a massive deal with a company that pays me fat coin and charges you straight up the ass.). (This is you: yes Louie. And we’ll all enjoy torrenting that content. You fat sweaty dolt).

I probably sound kind of crazy right now. It’s been a really fun and intense few days. This video was paid for by people who bought tickets, and then bought by people who wanted to see that same show. I got to do exactly the show I wanted, and exactly the show you wanted.

I also got an education. And everything i learned are things i was happy to learn.
I learned that people are interested in what happens and shit (i didn’t go to college)

I learned that money can be a lot of things. It can be something that is hoarded, fought over, protected, stolen and withheld. Or it can be like an energy, fueled by the desire, will, creative interest, need to laugh, of large groups of people. And it can be shuffled and pushed around and pooled together to fuel a common interest, jokes about garbage, penises and parenthood.

I want to thank Blair Breard who produced this video and produces my series LOUIE, and I want to thank Caspar and Giles at Version Industries, who created the website.

I hope with all of my heart that I stay funny. Otherwise this all goes to hell. Please have a safe and happy holiday, and thank you again for all this crazy shit.

Sincerely,
Louis C.K.

V for Vendetta & The 5th of November Today

v-for-vendetta-guy-fawkesV for Vendetta has always been one of my favourite movies. I have watched it numerous times, despite not being particularly inclined to re-watching movies. Every year I celebrate the 5th of November by watching it, but never has the movie seemed as relevant as this year.

It seems to me like this year is the year of the protest. Whether it’s about money or freedom – people are not happy. Government’s around the world are coming under fire for a variety of reasons, making the underlying themes in V for Vendetta particularly relevant this year.

The movie is a story about taking back the freedoms we deserve from an oppressive government. We all witnessed a real-life version of this story a short while ago, as Libya freed itself from its oppressive dictator Gaddafi.

Remember remember, the 5th of November

These issues exist close to home as well with many thousands of people taking to the streets to oppose the greed that has taken hold in North America. I am referring, of course, to the Wall Street protests. The messages and situation are very different but the theme remains the same – people standing up for the greater good.It is always inspiring to see people hard at work looking out for each other and society as a whole. v-for-vendetta-5th-of-november

V for Vendetta specifically speaks to a state run of out of control – much like the recent attempt to allow online spying here in Canada. Luckily, just like in the movie, there are people and organizations that are willing to step up and band together to protect the freedoms we currently enjoy. With today’s technology and global economy, it is easy for people to band together and stand up for what they believe in.

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