Monday, July 03, 2006

Vox

One of Euan's recent posts prompted me to take a look at SpinVox:

SpinVox converts your voicemails into text messages and sends them straight to your mobile phone or email.

I pretty much hate voicemail so this sounded ideal. My SpinVox account got activated this morning and here is the first result:

Hi Matt, it's Matt. Hopefully this message will get converted into text & You'll be able to understand it. That'd be pretty cool if it did. Let me know. <*01> From: Graham Sadd

It's not quite Alexander Graham Bell but for me it's pretty close. That is a word-for-word translation of a message given in a casual speaking voice. I think it's also pretty neat that it correctly identifes the sender (Graham's office phone) in the message.

What a great service!

03/07/2006 11:11 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Granfalloon

Via Reginald Braithwaite: An article, by Brian Vaszily, about the marketing power of granfalloon tactics.

As with all the most effective marketing tricks, granfalloon tactics prey on this fundamental human need. They manipulate you into feeling part of a group -- centered of course around their product, service, political party, or idea -- in order to obtain your allegiance and your money.

The idea of a granfalloon comes from Kurt Vonneguts novel Cat's Cradle and originates in research by Henry Tajfel into group psychology.

The social psychologist Henri Tajfel once conducted a simple experiment that demonstrates the power of granfalloon tactics: He brought a group of subjects into his lab and randomly, based only on a coin toss, assigned each subject to be labeled an X or a W. Each member of both groups was then asked to make a variety of assumptions about each of the other subjects. Though they were ALL total strangers, each person made MUCH more positive assumptions about those within their group than about those in the other group.

Social psychology is a fascinating area of study and Brian's article an interesting read.

03/07/2006 11:26 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Aid

A week ago, writing about philanthropy, I stated that I was unhappy with the present situation where the government steals money from me (i.e. taxation) and then makes itself look good giving it away to foreign powers as aid.

Today I read a piece by Walter Williams about the aid situation that just reinforces this point for me:

...

Zimbabwe provides an excellent example of why foreign aid, as a way out of poverty, is a fool's errand. "Few countries have failed as spectacularly, or as tragically, as Zimbabwe has over the past half decade. Zimbabwe has transformed from one of Africa's rare success stories into one of its worst economic and humanitarian disasters."

...

Botswana shares a heritage with Zimbabwe, for it, too, was a British colony. What it doesn't share with Zimbabwe is what explains its success: the rule of law, minimal corruption and, most of all, respect for private property rights.

...

No amount of Western foreign aid can bring about the political and socioeconomic climate necessary for economic growth. Instead, foreign aid allows vicious dictators to remain in power. It enables them to buy the allegiance of cronies and the military equipment to oppress their own people, not to mention being able to set up "retirement" accounts in Swiss banks. The best thing Westerners can do for Africa is to keep their money and their economic development "experts."

Allowing government to get into the aid business is tantamount to making it foreign policy and, as such, I'm against it. I'd much rather give the same amount of money, voluntarily, to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and see it do some good.

03/07/2006 12:39 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Pedal

I picked up my new bike today. It's taken two weeks because of a difficulty in ordering this particular frame model & size which is, apparently, a popular combination.

I proudly rode it back home for the first time (actually I cheated and went out on a friends bike last weekend so this is not my first time on a bike in 20 years) and it felt pretty good. The front disc brake seems pretty effective (enough for me to worry about going over the handlebars) and the suspension is a noticeable nicety. I'm still a bit wobbly and nervous but already better than I was last weekend.

It also seems that Maidenhead is fairly well served for cycle routes. As a motorist I've never noticed the signs but there is a route running from the centre of town more or less to my front door and two other routes that get me to work. This means that, for the most part, I can avoid cycling in traffic if I want to although I will probably do so a little just to get used to it.

Obvious things I am going to need: gloves (after 20 minutes my hands were sweating enough to make gripping the handlebars interesting), a puncture kit (even though I have nice chunky tires), and a water bottle.

03/07/2006 15:43 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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