Posts by Thomas Lumley

  • Hard News: Blockchain, what is it?,

    Money is safer on the Bitcoin blockchain than it is sitting on a bank’s computer system or when it is sent from one bank to another.

    I'm happy to believe that, and it's nice for the banks, but it doesn't translate into risks for depositors: If Westpac is robbed or hacked I don't lose money, but there have been multiple examples of people losing Bitcoin because exchanges were robbed. As I'm sure Alex appreciates as a lawyer, it's the interfaces between blockchains and the rest of the world that are messy.

    That's why I like Matt Levine's take on the DAO hack/fork as a complement to the techie ones. (there was a bug in smart-contract software; someone used it to steal lots of cryptocurrency; more than 51% of the community decided to edit the blockchain and change history so the hack hadn't happened]

    Auckland • Since Feb 2013 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: What the wastewater tells us…, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Ritalin's not, but there is an amphetamine prescribed for ADHD.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2013 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: I tried Sativex: it was no…,

    While I agree it would be amazing if anyone paid list price for Sativex to get high, the Seattle cannabis shops (eg) do seem to advertise quite a few products with as much or more cannabidiol than THC, so there may be a chacun à son goût issue here.

    It's possible that the high CBD products are for medical use, but there's a separate medical-marijuana network, so it would be a bit surprising if they all were.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2013 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Legal Beagle: New Zealand rockets up the…, in reply to David Hood,

    Although I suspect it gives lie to Transparency International’s outline of the results as shocking because so many countries score below 50:

    I'm going to partly disagree with David Hood and agree with Graeme here. The standardisation doesn't guarantee that a lot of countries will be below 50, but it certainly tilts the scale that way. Worse than that, it's possible that the proportion below 50 could increase even if all the changes that occurred were improvements (or the reverse).

    The fact that improvements in one country will tend to lower the values (not just the ranking, which is inevitable) for other countries is more fundamentally wrong, though. Reducing corruption in other countries is good for New Zealand, not bad. This isn't rugby, where someone has to lose for us to win.


    There can be good reasons for scaling an index differently each year. The motivation for 'grading on a curve' in the literal sense in large college classes is that each year's exams are completely different, so it's plausible the population is more stable than the difficulty of the test. If that's the case, scaling away year-to-year differences in mean and variance is sensible.

    Here, the idea is to have the same inputs to the index each year, and it's quite plausible that there are changes in the population -- that there are trends in corruption either around the world or in large groups of countries. In that situation it doesn't make a lot of sense to use a different scaling each year.

    On the other hand, it is still true that given the actually-existing scaling, a country does have to be pretty bad to get a grade below 50. It's just that this is a contingent fact about the scaling, and might not be true in a different, better world.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2013 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Greens drug policy 2: the…,

    Another interesting question is whether the Greens would ever be willing to compromise on zebrafish. These are used a lot in biological and biochemical research as a step between cell cultures and mice -- partly because they're transparent when young, but also because they're small, cheap, and about as cuddly as whitebait.

    On the one hand, they're obviously animals. Vertebrates, even. On the other hand, there's much less social disapproval of being cruel to fish than to small furry animals. Think of catch-and-release fishing, for example.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2013 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Greens drug policy 2: the…, in reply to Russell Brown,

    could you use existing evidence for, say, cannabis or MDMA?

    I’d say so. I mean, if MDMA were legalised I’m sure there’d be lots of interest in research on the more subtle or longer-term health effects, but we must know about as much about short-term safety risks as we would from a Phase II human study.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2013 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Greens drug policy 2: the…,

    I'd be worried about teratogenic effects without animal testing -- which seems to have been the initial sticking point for the 'rodents only, ie, not rabbits' version of Psychoactive Substances animal testing.

    One difference between medicinal and recreational drugs is that we might be willing to tolerate a lot more false-positive rejections from in vitro tests for recreational drugs, and get fewer false-negative safety problems. That is, it's not a disaster if huge swathes of THC analogues gets turned down by a computer, but it would be a pity if that happened to a new class of diabetes treatments.

    The other question is what level of human trials (with what level of monitoring of users) get done before approval. Something like the Parkinson's disease from that synthetic opioid back in the 1980s might well not get caught in animal testing, but under protocols for medicinal drugs it would probably get caught in Phase I clinical testing and be a tragedy rather than a catastrophe.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2013 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Up Front: Giving It the Bish,

    Also, however annoying Ken Ring's lunar lunacy is, he at least tries to warn people when he thinks there are going to be earthquakes. Brian Tamaki claims to have known Christchurch was at higher risk than anyone else thought, but didn't use this knowledge to try to help people. Assuming he's lying is the charitable interpretation.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2013 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Up Front: Giving It the Bish,

    It might be useful to have some non-hateful openly-Christian bloggers to suggest to anyone who’s in danger of taking Tamaki seriously (ie, seriously believing him, not seriously worrying about him). I’d recommend Fred Clark at Slacktivist. He was brought up American white evangelical and is still Baptist; he posts most days; he’s considerate thoughtful and understands the issues; and he writes… well, let me give you some examples:

    After the Tohoku quakes:

    And down in the hollow space where the soul is supposed to be, this seems to be how the “Bible prophecy” heresies condition their adherents to respond to earthquakes, hurricanes and all kinds of natural disasters. Such things should not be viewed with horror and empathy and a generosity proportionate to our gratitude. They should just be seen as exciting — as gleeful reminders that every moment we are closer to the day when we will be proved right and others will be proved wrong.

    And on Pat Robertson, who has similar gay-baiting tendencies to Tamaki

    But it’s not really that easy to ignore the substance of Robertson’s hateful post-tragedy statements. If you love God, or if you love GLBT people, or if you love both God and people, then it’s not easy to ignore Robertson’s habitual suggestion that every natural disaster is the product of a petty, reckless, sloppy god indiscriminately pouring out wrathful destruction due to some divine “gay panic” defense. That’s blasphemy. And the scapegoating of GLBT people as the alleged focus of this poorly aimed divine wrath invites Robertson’s many followers to imitate his churlish god by directing their own animus toward Those People as well.

    Robertson’s post-disaster ritual thus isn’t just abstractly hateful, it’s tangibly hurtful.

    He’s far from just negative. That second quote is from a post that also has two examples of Pat Robertson behaving like a human being.

    Recommended

    Auckland • Since Feb 2013 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Meth houses and stigma,

    There's one big problem left unaddressed. I haven't seen any mention of baseline testing, so it seems that presence of meth (over the new threshold) will still be taken as evidence that the current tenant is responsible.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2013 • 36 posts Report Reply

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