Solid as Iraq  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in

From Graham Walker, Director of Management of the World RPS Society, how to win at Rock, Paper, Scissors. But before you read this, check out The Ultimate Rock, Paper, Scissors Chart. Personally, I'm confident that wolf outruns lightning.

1 - Rock is for Rookies

In RPS circles a common mantra is “Rock is for Rookies” because males have a tendency to lead with Rock on their opening throw. It has a lot to do with idea that Rock is perceived as “strong” and forceful”, so guys tend to fall back on it. Use this knowledge to take an easy first win by playing Paper. This tactic is best done in pedestrian matches against someone who doesn’t play that much and generally won’t work in tournament play.

2 - Scissors on First

The second step in the ‘Rock is for Rookies’ line of thinking is to play scissors as your opening move against a more experienced player. Since you know they won’t come out with rock (since it is too obvious), scissors is your obvious safe move to win against paper or stalemate to itself.

3 - The Double Run

When playing with someone who is not experienced at the RPS, look out for double runs or in other words, the same throw twice. When this happens you can safely eliminate that throw and guarantee yourself at worst a stalemate in the next game. So, when you see a two-Scissor run, you know their next move will be Rock or Paper, so Paper is your best move. Why does this work? People hate being predictable and the perceived hallmark of predictability is to come out with the same throw three times in row.

4 - Telegraph Your Throw

Tell your opponent what you are going to throw and then actually throw what you said. Why? As long as you are not playing someone who actually thinks you are bold enough to telegraph your throw and then actually deliver it, you can eliminate the throw that beats the throw you are telegraphing. So, if you announce rock, your opponent won’t play paper which means coming out with that scissors will give you at worst a stalemate and at best the win.

5 - Step Ahead Thinking

Don’t know what to do for your next throw? Try playing the throw that would have lost to your opponents last throw? Sounds weird but it works more often than not, why? Inexperienced (or flustered) players will often subconsciously deliver the throw that beat their last one. Therefore, if your opponent played paper, they will very often play Scissors, so you go Rock. This is a good tactic in a stalemate situation or when your opponent lost their last game. It is not as successful after a player has won the last game as they are generally in a more confident state of mind which causes them to be more active in choosing their next throw.

6 - Suggest A Throw

When playing against someone who asks you to remind them about the rules, take the opportunity to subtly “suggest a throw” as you explain to them by physically showing them the throw you want them to play. ie “Paper beats Rock, Rock beats scissors (show scissors), Scissors (show scissors again) beats paper.” Believe it or not, when people are not paying attention their subconscious mind will often accept your “suggestion”. A very similar technique is used by magicians to get someone to take a specific card from the deck.

7 - When All Else Fails Go With Paper

Haven’t a clue what to throw next? Then go with Paper. Why? Statistically, in competition play, it has been observed that scissors is thrown the least often. Specifically, it gets delivered 29.6% of the time, so it slightly under-indexes against the expected average of 33.33% by 3.73%. Obviously, knowing this only gives you a slight advantage, but in a situation where you just don’t know what to do, even a slight edge is better than none at all.

8 - The Rounder’s Ploy

This technique falls into more of a ‘cheating’ category, but if you have no honour and can live with yourself the next day, you can use it to get an edge. The way it works is when you suggest a game with someone, make no mention of the number of rounds you are going to play. Play the first match and if you win, take it is as a win. If you lose, without missing a beat start playing the ‘next’ round on the assumption that it was a best 2 out of 3. No doubt you will hear protests from your opponent but stay firm and remind them that ‘no one plays best of one for a kind of decision that you two are making’. No this devious technique won’t guarantee you the win, but it will give you a chance to battle back to even and start again.

Taking the Lead out of the Crime Pencil. Yes, that's it.  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in , ,

Who knew he fought violent crime too?

I've explained before that free will is superstitious nonsense. The reasons for a person's actions are determined by factors outside of their control - this is a logical necessity. And so the rational way to treat crime is as a sickness with causes, rather than a sin of volition.

Put me in charge of parking fines in Auckland City, and I can make a statistically significant number of drivers pay for parking - by doubling the fines. Nothing else will have changed, except for me upping the fines, and that will change their behaviour. External factors.

It's fairly well known that the book Freakonomics claimed that crime rates in the US markedly dropped as a result of legalised abortions. 20 years later, there was a generation of unwanted 20-year-olds born to impoverished young single mothers who didn't exist to join gangs and smoke the marijuana like a cigarette. Crime, which had been a growing concern in the US, plummeted.

The Independent is now reporting that crime has dropped due to leaded petrol being banned. Lead had been associated with minor brain damage in children exposed to it - potentially resulting in higher rates of criminal behaviour as adults. The UK was one of the last developed countries to ban lead in petrol, and it's the last to see a significant drop in crime.

To be concerned more with the long-term causes of crime than the immediate prevention and punishment of criminals in the short term is typically a left-wing political perspective. Right-wing politics are often identified with harsher sentencing and more police powers - whether due to the ideology of the politicians or the simple practicality of an easily grabbed senior-citizen vote.

Unfortunately, people have very short memories, and policies that have long-term reductive effects on crime are seldom appreciated in the form of popular political support. In other words, if you're asked what you're going to do about crime, and you say you'll remove its causes 20 years from now and the other guy says he'll make "life mean life", you'll lose, and 20 years later, crime won't have dropped off.

No more wall candy, people.

Selective, but Cool  

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This News Map is mightily fucking awesome.

Just a Little Bit Awesome  

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Sensing Ratings  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in ,

Sensing Murder is a presumably popular television show here in New Zealand. That means that people watch it, so advertisers pay TVNZ, so TVNZ pays the production company, so the production company pays its employees and the 'psychics' featured. The idea is fairly simple - take an unsolved murder, list the known evidence, bring in psychics to tell us the known evidence again, and then make a few suggestions as to what might have happened.

Now, the show does serve one good function - one mentioned recently on Shortland Street (come on, you all watch it). By bringing the public's attention to these unsolved murders, it's possible to jog viewers' memories and they might contact the police with useful information. The fact that the same function can be fulfilled without encouraging ignorance and stupidity - such as with The Investigator - removes this justification.

The show claims that, having tested almost 200 psychics with a little-known solved murder case, a select few are found to participate. We are then assured that the psychics are told nothing of the unsolved case, don't know what they're working on till they arrive at the production office, aren't given any cues by the crew, and that therefore their melodramatic conversations with dead victims are real.

As my good friend James says, "He either walked up the stairs or teleported to the top of the building, and he didn't walk up the stairs." Which is more likely? That the creators of the show are lying to you, or that these people are actually communicating with dead people.

The victims' families are often understandably eager to believe, with many tears and such. Whether such false hopes are further victimisation or compassionate white lies, I'm not decided.

Knowing how many sceptics there are out there, one recent episode included self-promoting author Nigel Latta, claiming to be a sceptic himself, then being totally amazed by how totally real the show that's paying him to appear on television is.

Alan Charman of has made a very compassionate offer to the show and its four featured psychics. The Immortality Challenge makes a small demand for a big payout. All any of the psychics must do is exactly what they do on the show, except under controlled conditions: prove they are communicating with dead people. Once they've done so, they will receive far more than Sensing Murder pays them - $1,000,000 for themselves and $1,000,000 for their chosen charity. The offer to the Sensing Murder psychics is being discussed on

Me: Hi, Alan speaking.

DB: Who am I talking to?

Me: Alan

DB; Hi, it's David Baldock here from Ninox Television, you just rang me.

Me: It's Alan Charman from the two million dollar paranormal challenge.

DB: [sounding distinctly less happy than 3 seconds previously] Ah. Good morning.

Me: [keeping it friendly] You don't sound all that pleased to hear from me?

DB: [poise quickly recovered] Quite happy to talk, but I'm rushing off to a meeting. Can I call you back in an hour?

Me: [not asking why the hell you'd ring someone if you couldn't talk to them] No problem, look forward to hearing from you.

This television show is making people stupider, but unlike productions from, say, Touchdown, they are making people stupider in a way that could be easily removed with a little honest experiment - like the Immortality Challenge. It's much harder to prove that Mitre 10 Dream Home is a scam.

Sensing Murder can be contacted through their website, or by phoning Ninox Films Ltd in Wellington, if you feel like asking them why they're not giving $1,000,000 to child cancer or something.

Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in , , ,

From your first cigarette to your last dying days.


Posted by Ryan Sproull

Click on the image to make it remotely readable.

Listening Between the Lines  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in ,

Here's an interesting point about Bin Laden's Latest Release. According to this site, all of the references to current events (the usual way to prove that a recording is current) take place during points where the video freezes. Check it out at the Booman Tribune, including enormous downloadable video file.

Joint Suicide Love Letter  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in ,

The joint suicide of André Gorz, the French philosopher and founder of the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, and his British-born wife Dorine, who was suffering from a fatal disease, has turned the love letter that he wrote to her into a surprise bestseller.

Gorz, 84, a friend of Jean-Paul Sartre, and Dorine, 83, committed suicide by lethal injection at their home in the village of Vosnon, east of Paris, on September 22. Two days later a friend found them lying side-by-side in their bedroom.

Gorz’s 75-page Lettre √† D. Histoire d’un Amour (Letter to D. Story of a Love), published a year earlier, was a tribute to his wife. One French critic described the work, which won him a wider audience than his essays on ecology and anti-capitalism, as his “intellectual and emotional testament”.

The couple met by chance at a card game in 1947 and married in 1949. “You will soon be 82. You have shrunk six centimetres and you weigh just 45 kilos and you are still beautiful, gracious and desirable,” the book starts. “It is now 58 years that we have lived together and I love you more than ever.”

Click here for the rest of the article.

Adolescent's Cookbook  

Posted by Ryan Sproull

Dear Mr. Shirriff,

I have recently been made aware of several websites that focus on The Anarchist Cookbook. As the author of the original publication some 30 plus years ago, it is appropriate for me to comment. I would appreciate it if you would post these comments as part of your website on the Anarchist Cookbook. Please do not include my e-mail address. However, should you wish to confirm the authenticity of this message, please do not hesitate to contact me at the above address.

The Anarchist Cookbook was written during 1968 and part of 1969 soon after I graduated from high school. At the time, I was 19 years old and the Vietnam War and the so-called "counter culture movement" were at their height. I was involved in the anti-war movement and attended numerous peace rallies and demonstrations. The book, in many respects, was a misguided product of my adolescent anger at the prospect of being drafted and sent to Vietnam to fight in a war that I did not believe in.

I conducted the research for the manuscript on my own, primarily at the New York City Public Library. Most of the contents were gleaned from Military and Special Forces Manuals. I was not member of any radical group of either a left or right wing persuasion.

I submitted the manuscript directly to a number of publishers without the help or advice of an agent. Ultimately, it was accepted by Lyle Stuart Inc. and was published verbatim - without editing - in early 1970. Contrary to what is the normal custom, the copyright for the book was taken out in the name of the publisher rather than the author. I did not appreciate the significance of this at the time and would only come to understand it some years later when I requested that the book be taken out of print.

The central idea to the book was that violence is an acceptable means to bring about political change. I no longer agree with this.

Apparently in recent years, The Anarchist Cookbook has seen a number of ‘copy cat’ type publications, some with remarkably similar titles (Anarchist Cookbook II, III etc). I am not familiar with these publications and cannot comment upon them. I can say that the original Anarchist Cookbook has not been revised or updated in any way by me since it was first published.

During the years that followed its publication, I went to university, married, became a father and a teacher of adolescents. These developments had a profound moral and spiritual effect on me. I found that I no longer agreed with what I had written earlier and I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the ideas that I had put my name to. In 1976 I became a confirmed Anglican Christian and shortly thereafter I wrote to Lyle Stuart Inc. explaining that I no longer held the views that were expressed in the book and requested that The Anarchist Cookbook be taken out of print. The response from the publisher was that the copyright was in his name and therefore such a decision was his to make - not the author’s. In the early 1980’s, the rights for the book were sold to another publisher. I have had no contact with that publisher (other than to request that the book be taken out of print) and I receive no royalties.

Unfortunately, the book continues to be in print and with the advent of the Internet several websites dealing with it have emerged. I want to state categorically that I am not in agreement with the contents of The Anarchist Cookbook and I would be very pleased (and relieved) to see its publication discontinued. I consider it to be a misguided and potentially dangerous publication which should be taken out of print.

William Powell



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Some Thoughts on Climate Change from a Guy with a Minor Speech Impediment  

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Moderately Clever.  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in


Posted by Ryan Sproull in

You Will Like  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in

Thank you, Harriet, for showing me these.

Having a Good Time  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in


Posted by Ryan Sproull in ,

Apologies for the absence. I haven't had much to say, and I've been a little busy with various projects. They're coming along nicely, thanks for the concern.

Anyway. Yesterday, in a nationwide sweep, various abodes were raided and various people arrested, in what has been billed a response to burgeoning domestic terrorism. Students at Auckland University were treated to drive-bys of LAVs of armed soldiers pointing guns. We're told that guerrilla training camps were raided in the Bay of Plenty. An anonymous source was certain to use the word "napalm", just to press home the urgency of the matter.

I tend to reserve judgement on things until more of the full story has come out, but in this case, I know one of the people arrested. I won't mention his or her name, because I am assuming they have name suppression. I strongly doubt this person posed any kind of threat that would warrant the use of the term "terrorism", and I have never known them to be violent or to condone violence. The person is a passionate political activist, to be sure, and is motivated by a fairly clear concern for the welfare of others.

First, a quick look at the associations being made here. "Training camps", "terrorism", "Maori sovereignty", "environmentalist groups", "youth-rights activists" and "Palestinian rights activists" were all mentioned within seconds of each other by the 6pm news.

That's a pretty broad range of folks. The impression such reporting will make on the general populace is an association of climate-change protesters, Palestinian-rights protesters, youth-rights protesters with gun-toting nutters training an army in the heart of Maoristan. This further pushes the divide between mainstream public opinion and political activists - a divide that has recently been narrowing with regards to climate change, at least.

The impression I get so far is people who are of actual serious concern being swept up with people who are of little concern. For what reason, I don't know, but I could hazard a guess. It's always helpful to have a precedent in your back pocket.

The second effect is the question of how exactly these associations and connections were made. My friend - we shall call him/her Kelly - is unlikely to have visited any East Coast training camps, and I would be surprised if Kelly had any direct communication with those involved in the camps. So whence came the information that led to Kelly's arrest?

Before charges can be laid under the Terrorism Suppression Act, justification must be admitted by the Attorney General. That hasn't been done yet, though police will be putting together a case for it. However, the Terrorism Suppression Act was no doubt accompanied by increased police powers for the purposes of surveillance and tracking.

The reason I note this as an effect is because yesterday afternoon, I received a phone call from a prominent local activist, asking if I would come along and participate in a protest against the arrests. I chose not to, but my first thought after hanging up was, "Well, my phone number's on that network now, if it wasn't already."

If I remember correctly, phone calls - and presumably text messages - are the property of a particular government role during transit. Traditionally, this was the Postmaster General, but I'm not sure how it is now. It stands to reason that the first thing any investigation of organised crime will want to be able to do is track networks of cellphone communication. If the (very good) American TV show The Wire is well researched, and I assume it is, police in the States have the power - after convincing a judge that no further investigation is possible without it - to record numbers dialed and texted from specific phones, and to tap phone calls.

With the assumption that Kiwi police doing anti-terrorism work have similar powers, my attitude towards my cellphone has changed. Yesterday, shortly after my activist friend calling me, I received a text from my sister. I wondered if that puts her on an alert network. In the US, under the US PATRIOT Act, such a flimsy connection could potentially give the federal government the power to cease her assets. It's unlikely they would, but it would be within their legal power. What are the limits of such legal power in New Zealand?

Take a look at the definition of terrorism under the TSA. Terrorism is defined as attempting to induce terror or compel a government to act or abstain by acting, through the following threats, intentions or deeds:

a. ...the death of, or other serious bodily injury to, 1 or more persons
(other than a person carrying out the act)
b. a serious risk to the health or safety of a population
c. destruction of, or serious damage to, property of great value or importance, or major economic loss, or major environmental damage, if likely to result in 1 or more outcomes specified in paragraphs (a), (b), and (d)
d. serious interference with, or serious disruption to, an infrastructure facility, if likely to endanger human life:
e. introduction or release of a disease-bearing organism, if likely to devastate the national economy of a country.

The police website gives an abbreviated version:

Is intended to cause the death of, or serious bodily injury to, one or more persons; and
Is carried out for the purpose of advancing an ideological, political, or religious cause; and
Is intended to either:
Induce terror in a civilian population; or
Unduly compel or to force a government or an international organisation to do or abstain from doing any act; and
Is not an act that occurs in a situation of armed conflict and which is, at the time and in the place that it occurs, in accordance with rules of international law applicable to the conflict

The police site doesn't mention the threat of major economic damage.

While the idea is that this definition of terrorism leaves untouched those forms of political activism we call valid - protesting, writing letters, etc. - it occurs to me that some of the more historically effective tools for compelling a government to act one way or another are in a bit of a grey area. If my arrested friend was advocating a general strike, for example, that could be construed as threatening major economic damage with a threat to human life (if certain professions were included in the strike).

Anyway, the fear is now there, to some extent. I'd like to shrug it off as paranoia - as irrational paranoia, I should say - but the breadth of these arrests and raids seems at first glance to stretch the definition of terrorism to breaking point. Whether or not the intention was to send a message, "Don't step too far out of line," that is the message many political activists are hearing. Even if the majority of those arrested are released without being charged, the effect remains: "Yes, we're even watching you, and look what we can do."