Oi, Microsoft… Advertise This.

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To whom it may concern,

I am writing to you to express my sadness and disgust at some of the advertising displayed on my Hotmail account. Namely, for cosmetic surgery and, in particular, that one where big brother losers (I mean that in the literal sense of the word, for now) endorse a particular cosmetic surgery (not improvement, not enhancement…) company to entice young women, such as myself, to mutilate their bodies.

I understand that you will need to create an advertising revenue, as Hotmail is a free service (for which I applaud you), I also understand that someone, somewhere will have produced a report claiming that targeted advertising will yield far better results than randomly generated adverts, which leads me to believe that I am being targeted because of the demographic to which I belong. I find this to be appalling.

If you think about why certain demographics are vulnerable to certain types of advertising, for example, young women are more vulnerable to these types of advertising because they have the highest rate of ‘body issues’, then surely you will see that to target them is immoral. Not to mention Microsoft being a well-respected multi-national corporation who, no doubt, is in tune with equal rights and has promoted many women to top, managerial roles and perhaps even to the board? In addition to the (perhaps more obvious) disgrace that is the cosmetic surgery industry and my being a target, how on earth is their credibility enhanced by the endorsement of Big Brother contestants?

Big brother is awash with talentless oiks who encourage us, as a nation, to celebrate mediocrity; to shirk responsibility, thirst for knowledge and the sense of working towards an achievement; to ridicule others for their idiosyncratic faults and to voyeuristically gape into their private lives and judge them by our own standards. [Please feel free to insert the alternative meaning of the word ‘losers’ at any time].

We know MSN to be part of the respected technology brand Microsoft, who have led the way in software, hardware and social media for some years now, it would be a real shame to see MS lose some of its respect in favour of the many other competitors out there who have a sense for what their customers want, not to mention superior algorithms for relevant advertising.

Which brings me to my next point. I have not have time to research your algorithm or policy for advertising selection, but I know that there are algorithms being used by your competitors to select keywords from emails in the account holder’s inbox to provide them with advertising for products which they are *likely* to find useful. I know you do not utilise these algorithms because all of my advertising has been for credit cards, loans and cosmetic surgery – all of which are so far outside of stratosphere of interest, I would be willing to bet I have *never* mentioned any of the three in an email or searched for any using your search engine. To reiterate, it would be a shame to see a company such as your fall by the wayside to superior technology.

While this may not all be relevant to MSN/Hotmail (you have no choice in the creative aspect of cosmetic surgery adverts, I presume), my specific feedback to you is with regards to the image you project to customers. With the cosmetic surgery (and credit card/loans advertisements) you are propagating what is a very serious and ubiquitous problem for young people these days (and in terms of the financial ‘solutions’, very irresponsible given the cause for the current recession).

I know that your profits more than doubled from £2.15 billion to £4.6 billion (yes, billion) in the most recent quarterly reports (yes, quarterly) which is obviously very impressive in a recession, but Microsoft is in a very lucky position compared to many other companies where they can afford to present the image they would like to customers in all aspects, including the adverts they *choose* to display.

In short, you should be leading the way and not falling foul to the temptation of the greed culture.

Of course, there is the chance that this particular advertising is not targeted at all and you show this type of advertising to everyone. In which case, I have said before, there is superior technology out there, you should investigate. I would be interested to hear your reply and would be willing to assist, as a customer, your quest for a successful product.

Kind regards,

Saronimo

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“Calculus of Risk”

Calculus (n) Latin ~ Small stone used for counting.

Usage:

1. (Mathematics) a branch of mathematics, developed independently by Newton and Leibniz. Both differential calculus and integral calculus are concerned with the effect on a function of an infinitesimal change in the independent variable as it tends to zero.
2. (Mathematics) any mathematical system of calculation involving the use of symbols
3. (Philosophy / Logic) Logic an uninterpreted formal system
4. (Medicine / Pathology) pl -li [-ˌlaɪ] Pathol a stonelike concretion of minerals and salts found in ducts or hollow organs of the body

So which definition does Blair mean when he uses his new phrase ‘Calculus of risk’?

1. (Mathematics) a branch of mathematics, developed independently by Newton and Leibniz. Both differential calculus and integral calculus are concerned with the effect on a function of an infinitesimal change in the independent variable as it tends to zero.
2. (Mathematics) any mathematical system of calculation involving the use of symbols

Calculus is a branch of mathematics concerned with change. You can look into differential calculus and discover rate of change. For example given a speed-time graph you can find the acceleration using the method of differentiation – the gradient of the speed curve = acceleration. Alternatively, looking at integral calculus, the same speed-time graph can be used to find the total distance traveled, which is the area under the graph.  A good way to look at it is changing between dimensions: differentiation – down a dimension and integration – up a dimension.

Both methods can be explained by studying increasingly smaller changes in the variable x (time in the speed-time graph) so that, conceptually, the difference between one input ‘x’ and the next is infinitesimally small.

Trying to put this into context of Blair’s usage and attempting to turn it into an equation, I can only speculate that he means quantifiable risk measuring the output ‘reward’ plotted on the axis of evil.

To differentiate the ‘equation’ might result in a rate of change, but I am more interested in what he though the integral effects of any war waged would be. The sum of all risk-reward options as the change in risk tends towards zero.

Now, I’m not privy to Blair’s idiosyncratic equation measuring reward against risk,  I suppose that’s part of the Chilcot Inquiry – to discover whether his equation makes sense, is well defined and it reporting sensible answers. But it seems, to my humble self, that Blair has manipulated the change in risk by attempting to ensure that people were behind him, rather than behind his strategy or logic. One of his repetitive justifications is that he was doing what he thought was the right thing, perhaps in the hope that that the ‘change in risk’ of public opinion turning sour tends towards zero for each increment along the scale of actions and their relative extremities. Using this assumption for his approximation he has appeared to have used methods of calculus to enter into a higher dimension (which is a discovery of mathematics I’m sure he favours, given his new phrase). But are his methods of seeking support sound? Well we’ve heard rumours of fabrication, ignoring advice and sexing up anything they could get their hands on. Of course it’s not for me to opine politically, but if we’re talking maths here, then its no matter for debate that the incorrect input can result in the incorrect output.

Of course he could mean the philosophical definition:

3. (Philosophy / Logic) Logic an uninterpreted formal system

Closely related to the 2nd mathematical definition above, the logical calculus in which the expressions include predicate letters and variables, as well as the expressions for truth-functions and the propositional variables of the propositional calculus. Hmmm… truth function. I’m sure he likes the sound of that, too.

So, for example, IF Saddam Hussain has wmd THEN he must be removed.

Or, perhaps: IF Saddam has wmd THEN we have an excuse for regime change.

Of course, it doesn’t tell you what to do if your predicate turns out to be incorrect – you have the relationship between predicate and subject wrong? For most it’s back to the drawing board, but for some perhaps they enlist the help of the aforementioned ‘higher dimensions’..

But by his own admission, this calculus of risk changed after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, an emotive and terrifying event, but what did his predicate change from? And what to? Will we ever find out?

Of course there is the medical definition:

4. (Medicine / Pathology) pl -li [-ˌlaɪ] Pathol a stonelike concretion of minerals and salts found in ducts or hollow organs of the body

While I do think this definition has more to do with the original Latin meaning of the word, it certainly gives me a stone in the pit of my stomach.

Freedom to Create Straw-Man

I had arranged to meet with my old University comrades at the weekend. We met in a pub and, of course, started talking about work, in particular any new jobs amongst us. One of the group had moved down to London fairly recently and was talking in general about the hedges made by the commodity trading company he works for. I asked him the name of the company, out of interest. He seemed to mumble into his glass. “Speak up, boy, what’s the name?” I asked, confused as to why this chirpy, loud, northerner was shrinking behind his pint.

Imagine my surprise when it turned out he works for Trafigura. Yes – THE Trafigura – child-killing, freedom-of-speech inhibiting Trafigura. After my initial shock had calmed down and I had retreated from trying to physically attack him with my umbrella, we started to talk about it as some in the group had never heard of them so a couple of us explained the situation.

This got me thinking. The Guardian, of course, have been keeping tabs for a while and a number of articles are categorised away in their own section on the website, helpfully entitled: ‘Trafigura’ which have, as far as I can tell, details on the main bulk of the situation starting May 2009.

So I wondered to myself, as I was telling the story (adding in my own adjectives, which got progressively more sweary as the night went on), after the Newcastle-under-Lyne MP Paul Farrelly asked his question in Parliament, (which us Plebians weren’t meant to know) then after twitter went crazy for the treasure hunt and spilled the beans (because the questions asked in Parliament are published ahead of time anyway and the name Carter-Ruck were given in the article), the actual Minton Report was bandied about, then the injunction was lifted after it was dropped by Carter-Ruck (one assumes at the request of Trafigura)… Then what happened, after the outrage died down?

Did I even know what Jack Straw said in answer to the question, or was my outrage enough as a standalone object? At what was my seething rage directed? Well the curtailing of our human rights, of course. Under the Bill of Rights Act 1688 no-one must inhibit the freedom to debate and speak in the Houses of Parliament.

So what happened then, in a nutshell?  The Guardian planned to report, as it had been doing since May 2009, on the on-going saga involving a company outsourced by the entity in question, Trafigura and the illegal dumping of Toxic Waste. This time, the story had been taken to Parliament and to our very own Secretary of State for Justice, Mr. Jack Straw.

Paul Farrelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura; [293006]

The super-injunction was sought only 24 hours before the Parliamentary session. There is no doubt in my mind that Carter-Ruck have a team that scour the media looking for incidences of libel. They also would have known that The Guardian, especially, would not just sit there and have the whole Bill of Rights Act called into question without piping up, given its previous articles on Trafigura and their ‘situation’. I have made 2 assumptions there, but, quite probably, neither is a leap of faith.

But that made me think. Did Carter-Ruck/ Trafigura also know that their ‘super-injunction’ wouldn’t last very long? One presumes so, as they would have known about the Bill of Rights Act and the reporting of Parliamentary debate – one of the corner stones of democracy! They may have expected the injunction to last longer; they may not have expected Twitter and her real-time response to act so quickly and accurately, but respond they did. By elevensies we had the name Trafigura and The official Minton Report into the hands and onto the desktops of many. I had read all the Guardian articles I could get my hands on and anything on WikiLeaks.  So, while I went merrily on my way, asserting my right to share information online, like many others I’m sure I gained much more knowledge on the subject.  But only The Minton Report (2006) was new to broadcasting.

So what had I done? I had jumped on the straw-man bandwagon – provided (purposefully or otherwise) by Trafigura and their Carter-Ruck – of free-speech. The outrage I felt, that was reported in the media, and proclaimed on Twitter was at the blockade of freedom of speech.

This is all very well; it is outrageous. It was a bold, pugnacious move by Team Trafigura.  A move that seems to have, for now, diverted attention away from them and their disgraceful outsourcing of waste disposal and onto Carter-Ruck, who are merely agents for Trafigura and their whitewash; their spin.

Indignantly declaring our disgust that our Human Rights, the very rights that put us (we like to pretend) at the forefront of social progressivism, have been forsaken at the expense, yet again, of the Big Business. Our elected MP and, by extension, our Freedom of Speech has been bruised.

Hang on a second… wasn’t the toxic waste dumped in The Ivory Coast? Isn’t that the main issue here? We have an unrivalled tool to grant us freedom of speech – the uncensored internet – luckily for us, no one has tried to censor that (yet) and while I do think that the freedom to report Parliament, the freedom to debate in Parliament and the freedom of the rabble to discuss are incredibly important, that’s not what was at stake, surely? Building a Straw-man and knocking it down is all well and good, but let’s not lose sight of the original fight.

P.S. What’s that about Barclays and Tax Avoidance Scheme? Hmmmm…..

Vigilantism

I never believe people when they say the football season is over. It’s not even that I think they’re mistaken, it’s that I think they’re lying. It is never over. Everyone knows this; we were born with an innate part of our brains dedicated to football. I, for one, try hard to suppress this.

So, when assured rather vehemently by my tube buddy Chris that it was, in fact, over, imagine my dismay when I woke up last Friday to find Ronaldo’s stupid, greasy, twatty face sneering up at me from the Newspapers with reports of being bought for a healthy sum that would put a serious dent in ‘third-world debt’.

The Times had a splendid photo of him, a copy of which was adorning the table by the lift at work. A few seconds to spare, a clear coast, hatred on my mind, pen in bag… Had an opportunity just presented itself to me?

I reached for my pen, smiled for the security camera and graffiti-ed the fuck out of his ugly mug.

I opted for the ‘classic face graffiti’ look. You know, devil horns, devil tail, a devil fork, stupid moustache… etc etc. I had a little chuckle to myself at my own joke (very cool) and put my pen away. I think I should have stopped there, but the lift hadn’t arrived yet. Still bored, full of hatred for the guy and unaware of this ‘when to stop’ that people keep telling me I should know, I got my pen back out of my bag and drew a speech bubble with the words “I blow goats” as the proud announcement inside.

The lift dinged open and I snuk inside, chest puffed out with pride at what I considered, even if I do say so myself, to be a heroic act. I got into work and twitted it. “Pictures, show us pictures!!” You all demanded. That’s right all of you. So I trotted off downstairs armed with my blackberry in order to give the crowds what they want, nay, demand.

Yeah, reception had taken it hadn’t they? Clearly someone was dissatisfied with my artwork, anyway. Wildly downhearted, I wondered to myself what to do. I asked the twits what they thought. “Give us pictures, O wise graffiti woman” they cried, single-mindedly desperate to share in this heroic act.

So I left work. I had plans to go to Tesco’s (dicks) and deface one of their newspapers then run out. “Yeah, great plan, I hate Tesco’s” I thought to myself. I walked past and looked in. There was no queue, the newspapers were right by the till and there was three members of staff who looked at me and immediately knew my plan. I’m sure they would have been behind me 100%, but a job’ a job, so I moved along.

I came across my favourite little newspaper shop. Oooooh, interesting. The perfect environment for my crime contrasted with my love (love? A bit strong?) for this shop. But, as I bought New Scientist and Time from them weekly, I claimed my hard-earned right to commit a crime on their property.

They had The Times right on the outside rack, Ronaldo’s face leering at each passer-by individually. I picked one up and subtly cased out the joint. No one in sight. For the second time that day, I did some art on Greasy-Toad-Boy.

At a crucial moment, a man walked from inside the shop towards the door. Towards me. Who was he? Did he work there? Was he going to come outside? So many questions. I wouldn’t like to say I was frozen with fear at that point, but decided that taking no action was probably the best move. Didn’t want to draw attention to myself any more than I already had done. The man strode over to the door and stopped right by me. I looked up at him, as innocently as I could muster. He looked at me, looked at the defaced paper, looked at the pen in my hand and left. Seriously, didn’t even blink. The guy didn’t give a shit. Phew. Although a more supportive reaction would have been nice, at least I didn’t have to explain myself (by explain myself I mean throw 20p at him and leggit).

So, I continued doing art on Ronaldo. When I had finished I put the newspaper back on the rack in full view. I balanced it on the separators, rather than placing it inside them and got out my blackberry. My weapon of choice in my proof-gathering quest. One photo, a close up, then I quickly left.

I know many of you wont want to look at his disgusting face and if you’ve recently eaten you might want to save looking for another time (unless you loved you food so much you want to see it again, that is). But here we go:

Greasy twat faceGreasy twat face

And a close up:

This guy is just grease, grease, greaseThis guy is just grease, grease, grease

And there begins my life of crime. More to come, I expect.

If this inspires just one kid to leave school to be a vigilante I’ll feel like I have helped the Dog-forsaken world.

That is all.