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Saturday, 31 March 2012

hold me. hold you

"Aging Barbie" from: Next Nature

"I know what you’re thinking, so don’t even say it. Buying that thing won’t make you happy, is what you’re thinking. Buying things never makes you happy, so why would you buy this thing? It won’t make you happy.
     But you haven’t seen this thing.
     It’s really cool. They just started making it and not many people have one yet. It does all sorts of stuff and can fit in my pocket, but it can also get bigger than that if I want it to. Plus it’s made by a company I trust to put out things that will make me happy.
     (Not that I wouldn’t consider buying this thing even if it weren’t made by a familiar company—that’s how cool this thing is—but the fact that I know and trust the company makes it even better.)
     It comes in both black and white, but I can also buy an affordable cover for it in a different color if I want. For example, if I buy it in black but decide I want it to be red today, I just buy the red cover and slide it on."
— River Clegg, Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency

"[...] It was her curves.
     Although anatomically incorrect, Barbie was still somehow alluring. She had stunning breasts and slim hips topped off by luminous eyes and lustrous hair. More to the point, Barbie was the only woman whose naked body I could study closely without risking humiliation or punishment.
     I was probably too young to be feeling lust, but I was certainly old enough to be interested in the differences between men and women. And though Barbie didn’t define those differences—even then I knew that Barbie dolls were lacking some essential female equipment—she hinted at the possibilities and inspired a few healthy boyhood fantasies."
— Larry West, About.com

" [...] They are an expression of purest kitsch, sentimentality, and ornamentation for its own sake. In Milan Kundera's brilliant defintion, kitsch is 'the absolute denial of shit.' These are Disney-like apps, sinister in their mendacity.
     The newly popular word for this type of design is 'skeuomorphism.' Strictly speaking it means retaining design features from earlier designs when those features previously had a specific reason for being that way, but do not any longer. A good example would be iPad synthesizer apps that include 'knobs' that you can 'turn,' or 'cables' that you can 'plug in.'"
— James Higgs, MADE BY MANY

Friday, 30 March 2012

the new dark ages (part 2)

"High School Science Class, c. 1889" from: Images of Woburn

"[...] in 1974, people who identified as conservatives were among the most confident in science as an institution, with liberals trailing slightly behind, and moderates bringing up the rear. Liberals have remained fairly steady in their opinion of the scientific community over the interim, while conservative trust in science has plummeted.
     Interestingly, the most educated conservatives have led that charge. Conservatives with college degrees began distrusting science earlier and more forcefully than other conservatives, upending assumptions that less educated people on the whole are more distrustful of science.
     [University of North Carolina postdoctoral fellow Gordon] Gauchat attributes the changes to two forces: Both science and conservatives have changed a lot in 40 years. In the post-WWII period, research was largely wedded to the Defense Department and NASA—think the space race and the development of the atomic bomb. Now the scientific institution 'has come out from behind those institutions and been its own cultural force.' That has meant it is increasingly viewed as a catalyst of government regulation, as in the failed Democratic proposal to institute cap-and-trade as a way to reduce carbon emissions and stave off climate change."
— Liz Goodwin, Yahoo

"American students finish near dead last among developed countries in math and science testing, and they’re turned off at an early age. Foreign students now earn six out of every 10 engineering doctorates at U.S. universities. Just one-third of U.S. undergraduates earn a degree in science and engineering, while nearly two-thirds of Chinese and Japanese students do so.
     A recent report on U.S. economic prospects in the 21st century, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, concluded that leadership in scientific endeavors was crucial to success. By extension, the report found it was necessary to 'vastly improve' America’s talent pool through science, math and technology education."
— Eric Berger, Houston Chronicle

Thursday, 29 March 2012


From: Cover Browser

"Now go to the front page of any mostly male discussion site like Reddit.com and see how many inches you can browse before finding several thousand men bemoaning how all women are gold-digging whores (7,500 upvotes) and how crazy and irrational women are (9,659 upvotes) and how horrible and gross and fat women are (4,000 upvotes). Or browse the 'Men's Rights' section and see weird fantasies about alpha males defeating all the hot women who try to control them with their vaginas.
     This current of white-hot rage has to come as a surprise to some of you, because we tend to think 'sexism' is being dismissive toward women, or paying them lower salaries -- we don't think of it as frenzied 'burn the witch!' hatred. Yet occasionally something like this Limbaugh thing will come along to prick that balloon, and out it pours. Like it's always waiting there, a millimeter below the surface."
— David Wong, cracked.com

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

dirt cheap

From: Cover Browser

"A new result from ESO's [European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere] HARPS [The High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher] planet finder shows that rocky planets not much bigger than Earth are very common in the habitable zones around faint red stars. [...] This is the first direct measurement of the frequency of super-Earths around red dwarfs, which account for 80% of the stars in the Milky Way. [...]
     Our new observations with HARPS mean that about 40% of all red dwarf stars have a super-Earth orbiting in the habitable zone where liquid water can exist on the surface of the planet," says Xavier Bonfils (IPAG, Observatoire des Sciences de l'Univers de Grenoble, France), the leader of the team. "Because red dwarfs are so common — there are about 160 billion of them in the Milky Way — this leads us to the astonishing result that there are tens of billions of these planets in our galaxy alone."
Science Daily

"'The more we learn about life, the more we learn about its ability to grow and survive and prosper in environments that we formerly thought were too inhospitable,' said David Morrison, a senior scientist at NASA's Astrobiology Institute.
     University of Colorado scientist Ted Scambos is sure there will be microbes found in [Antarctica's] Lake Vostok when the long process of examining samples starts — something that may be months away because of logistical problems. He said ice many feet above the lake had bacteria, so it makes sense that the lake does.
     Still, what makes Lake Vostok more important than other extreme environments is its incredible isolation.
     For example, in Atacama, life probably blew in from elsewhere, NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay said. But Lake Vostok microbes, if found, could not have blown in.
     More than 10 million years ago there was little or no ice there, so life could easily have existed then. But with no heat or sunlight after the ice set in, life there now would have had to find another way of getting energy, said molecular chemist and astrobiologist Steve Benner. And that's key.
     If life finds a way to adapt to strange conditions in this awful place, why couldn't it live on Jupiter's moon Europa or Saturn's moon Enceladus, scientists ask. Both bodies have water trapped under crusts of ice, just like Lake Vostok, and are both prime targets in the search for life beyond Earth. The big disagreement among scientists is not about the potential for life on those two moons, but which one has the most potential and should be explored first."
Associated Press (via KATC.com)

Sea a related article here...

Monday, 26 March 2012

turnkey corporatization

"[...] language virtually identical to Florida’s [Stand Your Ground] law is featured in a template supplied to legislators in other states by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed organization that has managed to keep a low profile even as it exerts vast influence (only recently, thanks to yeoman work by the Center for Media and Democracy, has a clear picture of ALEC’s activities emerged). And if there is any silver lining to Trayvon Martin’s killing, it is that it might finally place a spotlight on what ALEC is doing to our society — and our democracy.
     What is ALEC? Despite claims that it’s nonpartisan, it’s very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn’t just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law."
— Paul Krugman, The New York Times

"Let’s say you’re a state lawmaker, passionate about charter schools, and you want to turn this passion into laws that create social change. What you need are bills. And you want them fast — ready-made, just add water, written in language that can withstand partisan debate and legal scrutiny.
     There is a place that has just what you want.
     It’s called the American Legislative Exchange Council, a little-known conservative group headquartered in Washington, D.C., and funded by some of the biggest corporations in the United States — most with a business interest in state legislation.
     ALEC has quietly made its mark on the political landscape by providing state governments with mock-up bills that academic and political experts say are, for the most part, tailored to fit a conservative agenda. In recent years, states — particularly those with new Republican governors and legislatures — have been flooded with ALEC’s model bills. Nearly 1,000 of them are introduced every year, and roughly one-fifth of those become law, according to ALEC’s own count. ALEC’s bills are especially attractive because they are written so they can virtually be copied and pasted onto legislative proposals across the land."
— Salvador Rizzo, nj.com

bits of stuff people want to keep

"Fragment of Fender Stratocaster electric guitar burned and smashed
by Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey International Pop Festival, June 18, 1967. Experience Music Project permanent collection. 1992.7.2."
Seymour Duncan
"Helena knew how to get what she wanted. She convened a group of Rabbin from various places throughout Palestine and demanded they tell her where the cross was hidden, under threat of torture. These men either could not or would not tell and she ordered them burned alive. After that, they delivered up a man whom they promised could take her to where the 'True Cross' lay hidden. This man, named Judas, also refused to cooperate, so the lady who became known as 'Saint Helena' sentenced him to death by starvation. After only six days without food, Judas took her to the place where he said the cross which had borne the dying Jesus was hidden - on the site of a pagan temple dedicated to Venus."
The True Cross by Ron Loeffler

"According to the exhibit's description, scientific tests on the UFO materials revealed bizarre behavior: "Three Soviet academic centers and 11 research institutes analyzed the objects from this UFO crash. The distance between atoms is different from ordinary iron. Radar cannot be reflected from the material. Elements in the material may disappear and new ones appear after heating. One piece disappeared completely in front of four witnesses. The core of the material is composed of a substance with anti-gravitational properties."
— Lee Speigel, Huffington Post

"What these views reveal, is a polished black stone of which less than two feet is visible… This stone is set in large solid silver mountings. The whole resembles, quite deliberately, for reasons which will emerge, ‘the vulva of the goddess!' There is severe damage to the stone, as it was taken away by the sacrilegious Qarmatians in 930 CE and broken into a number of pieces before returning the pieces for a great price. The Stone pieces are held together by a silver frame, which is fastened by silver nails to the Stone. The Stone is roughly 30 cm (12 in.) in diameter, and 1.5 meters (5 ft.) above the ground. When pilgrims circle the Kaaba as part of the Tawaf ritual of the Hajj, many of them try, if possible, to stop and kiss the Black Stone, ‘emulating the kiss that it received from Prophet Muhammad.’ If they cannot reach it, then they are to point to it on each of their seven circuits around the Kaaba. [...]
     Secular historians point to the history of stone worship, and especially meteorite worship, in pre-Islamic Arabia, and say that ‘it is likely that the Stone is a meteorite.' There is no way to test this hypothesis without removing and examining the Stone, which would not be permitted by its guardians. There is no indication as to where this stone originated, but since it predates the revelation of the Holy Quran and Muhammad's prophethood, and even being kissed, it must stem from the time of Abraham since the Hajj traditions are traceable to the patriarch of monotheism by the pre-islamic pagans."
— Lennard James, Islam Watch

Thursday, 22 March 2012

sucking at the teat of the public purse

From Terry Gilliam's eerily prophetic masterpiece Brazil (1985)

"Before yottabytes of data from the deep web and elsewhere can begin piling up inside the servers of the NSA’s new center, they must be collected. To better accomplish that, the agency has undergone the largest building boom in its history, including installing secret electronic monitoring rooms in major US telecom facilities. Controlled by the NSA, these highly secured spaces are where the agency taps into the US communications networks, a practice that came to light during the Bush years but was never acknowledged by the agency. The broad outlines of the so-called warrantless-wiretapping program have long been exposed—how the NSA secretly and illegally bypassed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was supposed to oversee and authorize highly targeted domestic eavesdropping; how the program allowed wholesale monitoring of millions of American phone calls and email. In the wake of the program’s exposure, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which largely made the practices legal. Telecoms that had agreed to participate in the illegal activity were granted immunity from prosecution and lawsuits. What wasn’t revealed until now, however, was the enormity of this ongoing domestic spying program. [...]
     That, he notes, is where the value of Bluffdale, and its mountains of long-stored data, will come in. What can’t be broken today may be broken tomorrow. 'Then you can see what they were saying in the past,' he says. 'By extrapolating the way they did business, it gives us an indication of how they may do things now.' The danger, the former official says, is that it’s not only foreign government information that is locked in weaker algorithms, it’s also a great deal of personal domestic communications, such as Americans’ email intercepted by the NSA in the past decade. [...]
     In the meantime Cray is working on the next step for the NSA, funded in part by a $250 million contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It’s a massively parallel supercomputer called Cascade, a prototype of which is due at the end of 2012. Its development will run largely in parallel with the unclassified effort for the DOE and other partner agencies. That project, due in 2013, will upgrade the Jaguar XT5 into an XK6, codenamed Titan, upping its speed to 10 to 20 petaflops.
     Yottabytes and exaflops, septillions and undecillions—the race for computing speed and data storage goes on. In his 1941 story The Library of Babel, Jorge Luis Borges imagined a collection of information where the entire world’s knowledge is stored but barely a single word is understood. In Bluffdale the NSA is constructing a library on a scale that even Borges might not have contemplated. And to hear the masters of the agency tell it, it’s only a matter of time until every word is illuminated."
— James Bamford, Wired

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

wayback machine

"Foecke wanted me to ride along on one of his assessments. But Walmart officials denied multiple requests to do so, and so I had to settle for Foecke's colorful written accounts. Here he is walking through an aging factory that makes plastic Christmas trees and other fake flora:
     'Then it was on to the plastic injection molders. Wow, I thought I had stumbled into Mr. Wizard's Wayback Machine and somebody dialed in "1960." Wide-open hoppers (hard to keep the polymer dry that way; causes lot of rejects), leaking hydraulics bandaged up with rags; filthy motors everywhere, and more compressed air than I believe I have yet seen used. They have 50-60 smaller molders crammed into the space someone in [Minnesota] would use for a 3-car garage, all actuated with compressed air instead of hydraulics, making bark and twigs and stems and such, sometimes even co-molding a stem onto a previously-made flower. P admitted later that the place made him jumpy, certified safety engineer that he is. The lack of safety guards and [emergency fail-safe] switches and doors and just plain space WAS impressive in a how-do-they-do-it? way. I got speared in the belly by an actuator, but in my defense the darn thing traveled a good foot into the manway.'"
— Andy Kroll, Mother Jones

“Some experts say we are moving back to the pre-antibiotic era. No. This will be a post-antibiotic era. In terms of new replacement antibiotics, the pipeline is 'virtually dry,' said Chan. 'A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.'
     The dearth of effective antibiotics could also make surgical procedures and certain cancer treatments risky or even impossible, Chan said.
     'Some sophisticated interventions, like hip replacements, organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy and care of preterm infants, would become far more difficult or even too dangerous to undertake,' she said.
     The development of new antibiotics now could help stave off catastrophe later. But few drug makers are willing to invest in drugs designed for short term use."
— Katie Moisse, ABC News

"This pungent bit appeared in Punch magazine 8 February 1862, and was a vicious attack against the Americans (almost entirely directed at the Union North) in the second year of the U.S. Civil War. What Mr. Punch saw in 'his' editor's mind was a 'sinking' of the American race to the level of the 'Red Indian,' the whole of the nation reverting to some previous developmental state [...]
     'SEVERAL scientific observers of late years have noticed the fact that the physiognomy of the American of the United States is beginning to exhibit a resemblance to that of the Red Indian.The barbarous act of sinking a stone fleet at the entrance of Charleston Harbour and the ferocity with which the permanent ruin of that port and city was anticipated by the Northern Press indicate an internal and moral change corresponding to that of the exterior Vindictive war is as characteristic as lankiness of features or a sallow complexion. It may be that when LORD MACAULAY'S New Zealander alter having visited London Bridge shall extend his peregrination to New York he will find the site of that once populous city to have reverted to living in wigwams wearing top knots and mocassins and having their coloured faces tattooed. The representatives of the present Yankees will then be armed with tomahawks, rush to the tight with war whoop, scalp their enemies slain in battle, and torture their prisoners at the stake. Such is the level of humanity to which the people who have outraged civilisation by a crime against the commerce of the world are too evidently descending. Their posterity when about to go forth to battle will put on their war paint and even now perhaps the Government of MR. LINCOLN might supply a powerful stimulus to valour by issuing some pots of that ornamental material to the Federal army.'"
Ptak Science Books

Monday, 19 March 2012

bees, bugs, Bush's basket... and Mars

From: KA$H

"In the study, Andrea Tapparo and colleagues explain that seeds coated with so-called neonicotinoid insecticides went into wide use in Europe in the late 1990s. The insecticides are among the most widely used in the world, popular because they kill insects by paralyzing nerves but have lower toxicity for other animals. Almost immediately, beekeepers observed large die-offs of bees that seemed to coincide with mid-March to May corn planting. Scientists thought this might be due to particles of insecticide made airborne by the pneumatic drilling machines used for planting."
Science Daily

"The World Health Organization currently lists the case fatality of avian influenza (H5) somewhere between 50% and 80%. This is the percentage of all cases that report in a hospital and have been confirmed through labwork. Currently, it is transmissible through fluids by coming in contact with infected birds. The two studies under the radar here, by Ron Fouchier at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam and by Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin, have been submitted but not yet published to Science and Nature respectively. Though different, they both prove that it takes a relatively small number of mutations for the virus to become transmissible through aerosol in ferrets."

"In the simulation shown by [Aron] Kisdia [a University of Southampton engineer], a swarm of 50 robots would be able to cover a 300 square meter area in around 5 days. With the addition of more robots with a greater search capability, the search area would be able to be increased.
     Kisdi’s next step is to begin developing the hardware required for the robots, but the idea of a swarm of honey bee robots opens up the potential for much more in-depth searches becoming possible on Mars."

"By far the most compelling confirmation of the phallic meaning of the president's aircraft-carrier cakewalk was found on the hot-selling 'George W. Bush Top Gun action figure' manufactured by Talking Presidents. I originally ordered one to use as part of the cover design for this book. The studly twelve-inch flyboy not only comes with a helmet and visor, goggles and oxygen mask, but underneath his flight suit is a full 'basket' --- a genuine fake penis, apparently constructed with lifelike silicone."
— From: The Wimp Factor by Shephen J. Ducat

Thursday, 15 March 2012

the bible tells me so

Scarlett Letter Barbie (from: Clergy Family Confidential)

"[...] House Bill 2625, which the [Arizona] state House of Representatives passed earlier this month and the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed on Monday, repeals that law and allows any employer to refuse to cover contraception that will be used 'for contraceptive, abortifacient, abortion or sterilization purposes.' If a woman wants the cost of her contraception covered, she has to 'submit a claim' to her employer providing evidence of a medical condition, such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome, that can be treated with birth control.
     Moreover, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, the law would give Arizona employers the green light to fire a woman upon finding out that she took birth control for the purpose of preventing pregnancy."
— Laura Bassett, Huffington Post

"Now that the Arizona House of Representatives has passed (and the Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee has endorsed) [House Bill 2625] making it easier to fire employees who use birth control for dirty, dirty sex rather than other medical reasons, it seems germane to ask if the fine lawmakers in Arizona might be missing other great ideas to increase the religious liberty of their job creator class.
     After all, starting with contraception is a strange choice considering that it doesn't appear anywhere in the Bible. There are other things that do, however. The rights of employers to ensure that their employees follow religious moral codes should not be infringed in any way. [...]
     Further, if any employee wishes their health insurance to cover any sort of facial laceration, the employer must have the right to be assured that the injury was in no way associated with shaving, as Leviticus 19:27 clearly proscribes trimming even the edges of beards. Insurance covering tattoo removal is definitely out, as Leviticus 19:28 forbids them in the first place. Any employee with a secret and unnoticed tattoo should be subject to no-fault firing the first time the employer sees it."
— David Atkins, Hullabaloo

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Buying your iPhone at Walmart = bad karma ²

From: Google Maps

"The battle going on at the Walmart center in Mira Loma [California] is an exemplary case of the chess match between capital and labor, as long as you realize labor is starting the game with virtually no pieces. On one side, Walmart’s center is run by Schneider National, a $3.7 billion logistics giant that provides services to two-thirds of the Fortune 500 companies. Schneider in turn subcontracts for workers to Rogers Premier, one of more than 400 temp agencies in the area. The workers are 'permanent temps' as they may toil on the same site for years. Walmart uses the layers of subcontracting to insulate itself from legal and ethical liability for the inevitable abuses in the low-wage warehouse industry.
     In an open letter to the Occupy movement, workers employed by Rogers in a Schneider-run warehouse handling Walmart’s goods told of 'working up to 72 hours straight [and] not receiving even minimum wage after working 16 hour days consistently for years.' On Oct. 17 six workers initiated a class-action lawsuit against Schneider, Rogers and others for 'systematic wage theft' by deliberately underpaying them and denying overtime. The state of California was investigating the warehouses at the time and hit Rogers with a fine of more than $600,000 for labor law violations.
     A few days after the workers filed suit, Schneider dumped Rogers and dropped the ax on more than 100 warehouse workers. The firings were set for Feb. 24, but a federal judge blocked them because she found it was likely they violated 'anti-retaliation law.'”
— Arun Gupta and Michelle Fawcett, Salon
From: Google Maps

" [...] the workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions, according to employees inside those plants, worker advocates and documents published by companies themselves. Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems.
     Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.
     More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning.
     'If Apple was warned, and didn’t act, that’s reprehensible,' said Nicholas Ashford, a former chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, a group that advises the United States Labor Department. 'But what’s morally repugnant in one country is accepted business practices in another, and companies take advantage of that.'”
— Charles Duhigg and David Barboza, The New York Times

Thursday, 8 March 2012

cops with toys

From: Belmore South Public School

"The string of events that night sounds prosaic, a who-cares accumulation of little mistakes and misapprehensions. Cumulatively, though, it is like tumbling down the stairs. Somehow the uncle, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a former Marine who had heart problems and wheezed if he walked more than 40 feet, triggered his Life Alert pendant. The Life Alert operator came on the loudspeaker in his one-bedroom apartment, asking: 'Mr. Chamberlain, are you O.K.?' All of this is recorded.
     Mr. Chamberlain didn’t respond. So the operator signaled for an ambulance. Police patrol cars fell in behind — standard operating procedure in towns across America. Except an hour later, even as Mr. Chamberlain insisted he was in good health, the police had snapped the locks on the apartment door.
     They fired electric charges from Tasers, and beanbags from shotguns. Then they said they saw Mr. Chamberlain grab a knife, and an officer fired his handgun."
— Michael Powell, The New York Times

"When Yajira Quezada copped an attitude, police put her in cuffs.
An Adams County, Colo. Sheriff's Office incident report obtained by KUSA says the Shaw Heights Middle School 11-year-old was handcuffed and taken to a holding facility because she was, 'argumentative and extremely rude' to an assistant principal.
     'Why would they handcuff me?' Quezada asked KUSA. 'I'm not the type of girl to get arrested.'
     The Sheriff's office said it was just following normal procedure."
Huffington Post
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