31 January, 2013

Analog Hacking

Phreaking Out Ma Bell - IEEE Spectrum:
Now that New York knows the number you want to call, it makes the local connection and the directory assistance operator’s telephone starts to ring. Up until now everything that has happened has been perfectly normal, just like Ma Bell intended. But now you, using Barclay’s hack, insert yourself into the process. Before the operator can answer, you—naughty you—hold a speaker up to your phone’s mouthpiece and play your own 2600-Hz tone down the line for a second.
It is loud and pure, and it sounds like this: “Bleeeeeeep.”

Seattle isn’t paying any attention to this, but the switching machine in New York sure is. New York hears your 2600-Hz tone loud and clear and thinks that the Seattle switching machine sent it. And since this tone indicates the trunk line is idle, New York figures that Seattle is done using that trunk line, probably because you hung up. New York disconnects the call to the directory assistance operator—maybe before she’s even answered.

But now you stop sending your tone. When you stop sending 2600 Hz, the long-distance switching equipment in New York City now thinks that Seattle wants to make another call. Just like before, New York sends a wink back to Seattle to say that it’s ready for a new call. Due to the nature of the circuitry involved, the wink has a bright, metallic, ringing quality to it. It sounds like this: “Kerchink!”

The secret lives of North Korea - Asia - World - The Independent

The secret lives of North Korea - Asia - World - The Independent: Perhaps because North Korea is so strange and different, life there occasionally offers magical moments. When I once chided a contact gently for coming late to our meeting – I had been afraid that something unpleasant had happened – they told me that they had been at a meeting singing songs about Kim Il-sung. I teased them, saying, having kept me waiting, that I thought they should at least sing me one of the songs. Without hesitation they stood, bowed, adopted the half-smile deemed appropriate for such occasions, and sang for me a lilting song of praise to their god-king, then gave a little bow and sat down as if nothing had happened. It was a moment I still cherish.

I killed people in Afghanistan. Was I right or wrong? - The Washington Post

I killed people in Afghanistan. Was I right or wrong? - The Washington Post: Many veterans are unable to reconcile such actions in war with the biblical commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” When they come home from an environment where killing is not only accepted but is a metric of success, the transition to one where killing is wrong can be incomprehensible.

This incongruity can have devastating effects. After more than 10 years of war, the military lost more active-duty members last year to suicide than to enemy fire. More worrisome, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that one in five Americans who commit suicide is a veteran, despite the fact that veterans make up just 13 percent of the population.

Wired 10.12: A Prayer Before Dying

Wired 10.12: A Prayer Before Dying:

The research results showed that the subjects who were not prayed for spent 600 percent more days in the hospital. They contracted 300 percent as many AIDS-related illnesses. That's a pretty sensationalistic way of saying those who were prayed for were a lot less sick. Here's the somewhat less-sensational way of framing the results: The control group spent a total of 68 days in the hospital receiving treatment for 35 AIDS-related illnesses. The treatment group spent only 10 days in the hospital for a mere 13 illnesses.
This begs all sorts of questions, which we will get to, but for the moment, consider the following:
The chance of this occurring randomly is less than 1 in 20, meaning it is statistically significant.
There was no placebo effect. For the patients, being less sick didn't correlate with believing they were being prayed for by the psychic healers. Not even close. Nearly 55 percent of both groups imagined or guessed or believed they were being prayed for - and they did no better than the others.
Targ had a pedigree. She graduated from Stanford Medical School, did her residency at UCLA, and, at the time of the study, was an assistant professor of psychiatry at UCSF.
The study, while controversial, eventually passed the scrutiny of peer review and was published by the Western Journal of Medicine.
Targ was news. She appeared on Good Morning America and Larry King Live and was written about in Time. She instantly became a star in the New Age community - not as famous as doctors Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weil, and Larry Dossey, but more respected because of her scientific rigor.
Although few doctors have read the study or know its details, it has achieved renown and is routinely cited - not as proof that prayer works, exactly, but as evidence that there's some connection between spirituality and healing.

Pynchon - Essays: "Is it OK to be a Luddite?"

Pynchon - Essays: "Is it OK to be a Luddite?": Today nobody could get away with making such a distinction. Since 1959, we have come to live among flows of data more vast than anything the world has seen. Demystification is the order of our day, all the cats are jumping out of all the bags and even beginning to mingle. We immediately suspect ego insecurity in people who may still try to hide behind the jargon of a specialty or pretend to some data base forever "beyond" the reach of a layman. Anybody with the time, literacy, and access fee can get together with just about any piece of specialized knowledge s/he may need. So, to that extent, the two-cultures quarrel can no longer be sustained. As a visit to any local library or magazine rack will easily confirm, there are now so many more than two cultures that the problem has really become how to find the time to read anything outside one's own specialty.

Former 49ers head coach Bill Walsh's first book lives on as a Super Bowl road map - ESPN The Magazine - ESPN

Former 49ers head coach Bill Walsh's first book lives on as a Super Bowl road map - ESPN The Magazine - ESPN: So it was no surprise that Walsh instantly regretted retiring. Believing that he left at least one Super Bowl on the table, Walsh was "melancholy and terrible," according to Craig. That the 1989 49ers were more dominant in the playoffs under new coach George Seifert than they ever were under Walsh made it worse. Walsh hated that Seifert won a championship that year with his team, his West Coast offense, his philosophy; he so hated the ring that the team awarded him that he gave it away. "He didn't want them to win," Craig says. "He couldn't hand over the team he had created to someone else, because he wasn't capable of it."

He tried broadcasting but quit in 1991. "I'm not going to sit for three hours and let some 27-year-old f-- in my ear tell me about the game," he told Brian Billick, former Ravens coach and one of his many prot�g�s. In 1992 Walsh returned to Stanford, where he had coached in the '70s, but left after two losing seasons in three years, his magic gone. "He needed to be Bill Walsh," Billick says. "He needed to be a genius."

So he decided to write a book.

Jailed for success

Jailed for success: But Kamiar and Arash—who got a three and a six year sentence, respectively—had not been breaking Iranian law, nor were they doing anything that could be considered dissent. They were AIDS doctors. They worked with Iran’s most marginalised populations—drug addicts, sex workers, prisoners—and invented new ways of helping those people that came to be adopted across the country as official policy. And they spoke about what Iran was doing in high-profile international meetings, bringing goodwill and credit to a government in desperate need of both.

These meetings were their undoing. The brothers were too public, too closely aligned with western scientists. “They were mixing it with Americans a bit too much,” said Ali Ansari, a professor of Iranian history at the University of St Andrews. “The government was trying to send a signal to people—don’t do things with the west on your own initiative.”

30 January, 2013

Netanyahu Will Not Make Peace With the Palestinians - Jeffrey Goldberg - The Atlantic

Netanyahu Will Not Make Peace With the Palestinians - Jeffrey Goldberg - The Atlantic: At this point, I actually do feel pretty comprehensively pessimistic, for many reasons, but in large part because I don't think Netanyahu is prepared to take even the most moderate sort of confidence-building steps -- such as stopping the rapid expansion of settlements on territory that would have to be part of an independent Palestinian state -- needed to set the stage for negotiations. A few years from now, when the two-state idea is dead and buried, I'm afraid we will look back on Netanyahu and curse him for his blindness. Right now, he has time to design an orderly transition out of the West Bank, but he's doing everything in his power to keep the Palestinian state from being born.

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba: Strange censorship episode at Guant�namo enrages judge - Guant�namo - MiamiHerald.com

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba: Strange censorship episode at Guant�namo enrages judge - Guant�namo - MiamiHerald.com: Unclear so far in these hearings is whether the judge knows where the black-site prisons were and whether any of them remain. Although he has a special security clearance to hear the 9/11 case, the CIA has not yet released classified information to the court because the defense and prosecution are still haggling over a protective order.

But to court observer Phyllis Rodriguez, the judge appeared “furious” and “livid” when he realized that that outsiders had their finger on the censorship switch of his courtroom.

“It’s a ‘whoa moment’ for the court,” said Human Rights Watch observer Laura Pitter. “Even the judge doesn’t know that someone else has control over the censorship button?”

29 January, 2013

Moving On | RedState

Moving On | RedState: I’ve learned that using my wife’s blush brush to put on my own TV makeup is more than a little problematic from both a marriage stand point and the extra color it adds. I’ve also learned that my make up is more expensive than my wife’s make up, but that’s a whole other story.

I’ve learned that a surprising number of people think Sam Feist and I are related.

I’ve learned to never stay at the Hotel Fort Des Moines when reporters and campaign operatives are in Iowa. Among all the interesting stories, I’ve learned to never stay at the Hotel Fort Des Moines when reporters and campaign operatives are in Iowa. No further comment on that one.

I learned that I will never be competitive with Roland Martin on the fashion front, but he makes an excellent road trip companion through South Carolina. One of the most formative moments of my career at CNN was standing outside a hotel with Roland Martin and tourists began handing him luggage and keys as if he worked at the hotel — only because he was in a suit. His courteousness to the people when he did not have to be courteous and the fact that in the 21st century that’d happen at all really struck me profoundly.

Beyond the New Google Map of North Korea : The New Yorker

Beyond the New Google Map of North Korea : The New Yorker: From space, the nighttime map of North Korea has a curious distinction: it is almost completely dark. Next door, South Korea glitters with great splotches of economic life, and, on the other side, China surges with energy. But North Korea has remained “an expanse of blackness nearly as large as England,” as Barbara Demick writes in “Nothing to Envy,” her profile of the country and its people. “It is baffling how a nation of twenty-three million people can appear as vacant as the oceans. North Korea is simply a blank.”

We got one step closer to filling in that void on Tuesday, when Google unveiled its first detailed map of what had been the last country on Earth to go unmapped by the digital Livingstones in Mountain View. The new map has subway stops in Pyongyang, a dictatorship’s worth of monuments and mausoleums, as well as hotels, hospitals, stores—and what are known to be facilities associated with several of the giant gulags.

A 15 miute video and the importance of dropping 10 and punting - while flying a plane

Accident Case Study: In Too Deep — AOPA Live:

Tancredo Breaks Pot Promise but Remains Pro-Choice - Hit & Run : Reason.com

Tancredo Breaks Pot Promise but Remains Pro-Choice - Hit & Run : Reason.com: Former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo, who endorsed Amendment 64, his state's marijuana legalization initiative, was so sure it would fail that he made a bet with Adam Hartle, a documentarian covering the issue. If this thing passes, the conservative Republican told Hartle, I will smoke pot for the first time in my life. Amendment 64 won by a 10-point margin, and last week Tancredo said he intended to follow through on his promise. But now ABC News reports that Tancredo, "under pressure from his wife and grandchildren," is reneging.

For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine

For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine: The four scientists sent into the district to prospect for iron ore were told about the pilots' sighting, and it perplexed and worried them. "It's less dangerous," the writer Vasily Peskov notes of this part of the taiga, "to run across a wild animal than a stranger," and rather than wait at their own temporary base, 10 miles away, the scientists decided to investigate. Led by a geologist named Galina Pismenskaya, they "chose a fine day and put gifts in our packs for our prospective friends"—though, just to be sure, she recalled, "I did check the pistol that hung at my side."

28 January, 2013

The view from Fox News

The view from Fox News:
Erik Wemple flags this from "Fox News Watch" host Jon Scott:

We heard during the inaugural address, we heard about climate change, we heard about gay rights, we heard about lots of issues but nothing much about the deficit and some of the pressing issues, you know, the really pressing issues of our time.

My friend Malina

My "simple" lifestyle:
I like to live simply. But sometimes I'm such a hypocrite. Like when I'm planning a wedding for example.
My ideal says: I want a simple wedding
My ego says: Well, clearly, but I do want a very nice dress, anything delicious, sumptuous cuisine, a banquet for 150 people in a decorated barn, the opportunity to give small gifts to all the guests, have a husband ... and more , and more.
Ideally Vs. ego.
I will fight for the ideals to win. (And maybe I get a little help when I see the price tags)

I don’t drink: I know you think that makes me weird. - Slate Magazine

I don’t drink: I know you think that makes me weird. - Slate Magazine: It’s not that I haven’t tried alcohol. I have. I've tried it more times than I would ever try anything else I know I don't like. And I still don't like it. My mom recently told me that when I was a toddler she was once in the bath with her eyes closed, and when she opened them she found her glass of Bailey's gone. Apparently, when she asked where it went, I yelled from the hallway, "Chocolate milk!" (Despite that bathtub cocktail, my parents barely drank. “Neither mom nor dad were particularly big drinkers,” my brother recently reminded me as we both considered why neither of us drink. “They tended not to keep alcohol in the house, so it's not something we associated with adulthood or anything else.”) In addition to that premature shot of Bailey’s, I’ve given beer, wine, and hard liquor a chance. And I still don’t like to drink.

Good Correction

‘South Park’ Creators Fortify Their Content Empire - NYTimes.com: The Media Equation column on Monday, about the animated comedy show “South Park” and its creators, misstated a plot point in the show. While the character Kenny was once killed in every episode, that is no longer the case. The column also misstated the circumstances of his repeated deaths. While Kenny met his fate in a variety of ways over the years, he was not routinely “ritually sacrificed.”

A Dish Reader on Breadwinner Moms

The Female Breadwinner, Ctd:
And it wasn’t because my husband and family couldn’t do a great job. My husband teaches - home at 4! summers and school vacations! - so even childcare wasn’t an issue. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to be a successful specialist, expert in her field, and infinitely better paid. It wasn’t because I didn’t have the skills or the smarts. It was because: I'm the Mom. I want to be there.
I don’t want to generalize, because I think there are some men who have the same compulsion, and I think there are some women who don’t. But by and large, women just have a biologic imprint that absolutely compels them to want to be with their children. As we speak, my son is home barfing with the babysitter. My husband (again: a fantastic father, dedicated, loving, present) isn’t too worried, and will get home when he gets home. I am positively aching; I just want to go home and rub his tummy and take care of him.

Best NYTimes Wedding Announcement Ever

Ada Bryant, Robert Haire — Weddings - NYTimes.com: A Lifetime of Happiness, Part 2

Ada Laurie Bryant and Robert Mitchell Haire were married Saturday in Hockessin, Del. Robert L. Bryant, a Universal Life minister and a son of the bride, officiated at his home.

The bride, 97, is keeping her name. She graduated from Lesley College in Cambridge, Mass.

She is the daughter of the late Ada Lee Laurie and the late Richard Laurie, who lived in Hingham, Mass.

The groom, 86, a chemical engineer, retired as a manager of labor relations from E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company in Wilmington, Del. He graduated from Vanderbilt University and received a master’s degree in history from the University of Delaware.

27 January, 2013

The Innocence Penalty

The Innocence Penalty: Call it the innocence penalty. Innocent people are of course much less likely to admit to the crimes for which they're accused --before and after conviction. (Although it still happens.) That "lack of remorse" often moves prosecutors to throw the book at them, judges to give them longer sentences, and paroles boards to keep them behind bars for as long as possible.

There are other, more subtle ways the innocent are often punished more severely than the guilty. A few years ago, Richard Paey -- a Florida man given basically a life sentence for his supply of painkillers, even though even prosecutors conceded he was likely using them only to treat his own pain -- told me about them.....

The overanalysis is familiar.

An Open Letter to the Girl I Pretended To Have a Crush On in Eighth Grade |: Every gay teenager has a different strategy for surviving adolescence. Some join the choir, some write or paint, some play sports, some try to make themselves invisible. And some, like me, make themselves as visible as possible.

You were the first girl I pretended to have a crush on so no one would know I was gay. I didn’t intend for it to happen, for it to be you, for it to be so easy. But it did, and it was.

I want to tell you how it happened. In another world we could have been friends. In this one, you’re the girl who told me, on the last day of school, to go fuck myself. And I’m the guy that deserved it.

Bobby Jindal, on message - to the point of plagerism

Somebody Tell Bobby Jindal Where Gaffes Come From:
.....In November, one week after Mitt Romney lost the presidency, Bobby Jindal gave a 45-minute interview to Politico about the GOP's way forward. Last night, he gave a slightly shorter speech to the Republican National Committee. Compare, contrast.

Jindal to Politico, three months ago:
We’ve got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything. We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys
Jindal last night:
We are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, or big anything. We must not be the party that simply protects the well off so they can keep their toys.
Jindal to Politico, three months ago:
It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments — enough of that.
Jindal last night:
We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. We’ve had enough of that.

25 January, 2013

BBC Sport - Modern pentathlete Mhairi Spence: Olympic failure destroyed me

BBC Sport - Modern pentathlete Mhairi Spence: Olympic failure destroyed me: One night on the yacht, Spence found herself unable to sleep. Just before dawn she climbed up on deck and sat there, alone, waiting for the sun to come up.

"It wasn't until then that I began to process what I was feeling. In those quiet moments I could ask myself, how do I feel about it?

"A few weeks later I got probed more and more in another conversation. It came out that I had been to the Olympics. This guy couldn't get over it, that he was sharing a room with someone who had competed in London. And all I could think was, big deal, I came 21st.

24 January, 2013

The evil of Facebook

The State of the Art III: Facebook (and 500px and Flickr) as a Window Into Social Media | Easily Distracted:
Why is Facebook such a repeatedly bad actor in its relationship to its users, constantly testing and probing for ways to quietly or secretly breach the privacy constraints that most of its users expect and demand, strategems to invade their carefully maintained social networks? Because it has to. That’s Facebook’s version of the Red Queen’s race, its bargain with investment capital. Facebook will keep coming back and back again with various schemes and interface trickery because if it stops, it will be the LiveJournal or BBS of 2020, a trivia answer and nostalgic memory.

That is not the inevitable fate of all social media. It is a distinctive consequence of the intersection of massive slops of surplus investment capital looking desperately for somewhere to come to rest; the character of Facebook’s niche in the ecology of social media; and the path-dependent evolution of Facebook’s interface.

Graph showing military spending as % of GDP is surprising....

Our Imperial Footprint:
Jill Lepore sizes it up:
The United States spends more on defense than all the other nations of the world combined. Between 1998 and 2011, military spending doubled, reaching more than seven hundred billion dollars a year—more, in adjusted dollars, than at any time since the Allies were fighting the Axis.
(Chart from usgovernmentspending.com)

Lynch on choices about Syria, then and now

The Syria debate, continued:
My column last week arguing that American intervention would probably not have
helped Syria has generated a lot of discussion, both positive and negative. Some of the discussion has been productive and useful, even if some has been of the predictably low caliber which anyone who
has has been immersed in the Syria debate over the last two years would
regrettably expect. Robin Yassin-Kassab published a particularly thoughtful
rebuttal yesterday "Fund Syria's Moderates" on FP, which offers a good opportunity to respond to
some of the major objections which have been circulating. [[BREAK]]

It's easy to empathize with the anger of
people horrified by the carnage and desperate to see something done about it. But as
satisfying as moral outrage might be
, it's not enough and is rarely a guide to good policy. For a policy to effectively respond to moral horrors, it has to have a reasonable chance of actually working. The massive human suffering and the deterioriating conditions in Syria do compel greater efforts. But they do not compel misguided actions which would ultimately have little effect or make things worse at great cost.

23 January, 2013

The third-richest man in the world- and you've never heard his name

Meet Amancio Ortega: The third-richest man in the world - Fortune Management: After Gates and Slim comes Amancio Ortega, who built the world's largest fashion empire, Zara. He's difficult to know, impossible to interview, and incredibly secretive. An exclusive portrait.

Could Cyril Ramaphosa Be the Best Leader South Africa Has Not Yet Had? - NYTimes.com

Could Cyril Ramaphosa Be the Best Leader South Africa Has Not Yet Had? - NYTimes.com:
Ready or not, expectations have been fanned back to life. Having been crowned Zuma’s deputy in the party, Ramaphosa is poised to become vice president of the government. (That will mean depositing his wealth into some kind of trust.) There is speculation, so far unconfirmed, that Zuma will let him carve out a role as a kind of prime minister, surround himself with an honest and competent team and start enacting the reforms laid out in the new national development plan. There is a more improbable chance that Zuma, perhaps even before the next election in 2014, will be dragged down by allegations of malfeasance, leaving Ramaphosa at the top. 

This may all be magical thinking, but South Africa’s young democracy has a resilience, a limber quality that has taken it this far. Everything about South Africa is negotiated, including the terms of coexistence across lines of language, race, ideology and class. Maybe the country is ready for a negotiator in chief, a man who brings, among other things, an instinct for the sufficient consensus.

A horror story of online stalking

'I Will Ruin Him' - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education: Some years ago, I found myself, to my surprise, the victim of a campaign of malicious e-mail stalking and online defamation by a former M.F.A. student.

The Last Calendar - NYTimes.com

The Last Calendar - NYTimes.com: But the calendar had other, more subtle effects, too. It was, in essence, a journal kept by two people who read each other’s entries, and so it gradually became a conversation between the two of us as well as a straight-up record of events. One day, he’s infuriating my brother with speculations about two friends’ having an inappropriate affair: “I said I thought he was being outrageous and that it was none of his business, even if his wild speculations were true. I hope he has the sense not to say anything to anyone else about his unfounded, wild, no evidence claims.” Another day, I’m remarking, “I’m worried by the extent to which he does not seem to cook for himself anymore.”

Post Office Business Trouble - Why We Should Save the Post Office - Esquire

Post Office Business Trouble - Why We Should Save the Post Office - Esquire:
Want to send a letter to Talkeetna, Alaska, from New York? It will cost you fifty dollars by UPS. Grabenhorst or Lipscomb can do it for less than two quarters: the same as the cost of getting a letter from Gold Hill to Shady Cove, Oregon, twenty miles up the road. It's how the postal service works: The many short-distance deliveries down the block or across the city pay for the longer ones across the country. From the moment Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general in 1775, the purpose of the post office has always been to bind the nation together. It was a way of unifying thirteen disparate colonies so that the abolitionist in Philadelphia had access to the same information and newspapers as the slaveholder in Augusta, Georgia.

Today the postal service has a network that stretches across America: 461 distribution centers, 32,000 post offices, and 213,000 vehicles, the largest civilian fleet in the world. Trucks carrying mail log 1.2 billion miles a year. The postal service handles almost half of the entire planet's mail. It can physically connect any American to any other American in 3.7 million square miles of territory in a few days, often overnight: a vast lattice of veins and arteries and capillaries designed to circulate the American lifeblood of commerce and information and human contact.

22 January, 2013

Veganism to the limit

Rhys Southan – Vegan invasion: If our intergalactic superiors landed here, but had no interest in eating us or our fellow animals, the first thing they could do is rob our stores, homes, farms, and warehouses of all our fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, and vegan convenience products. Without violating any vegan principles there would be no limit to the amount of food vegan aliens could steal from us — vegan ethics allows for humans using all the plant matter they want in the world, no matter how many animals starve as a consequence. Aliens could cause the worst famine humanity has ever seen, but it would be entirely compatible with vegan ethics. That’s because it would all fall under the rubric of ‘good intent’. They wouldn’t be killing us deliberately to eat us, but rather because they wanted our food and had the power to take it — our starvation would be a foreseeable, yet accidental, side effect. We might try to fight the vegan invaders over this mass plunder, but then they could kill us outright for threatening their lives. That’s because humans killing animals in self-defence is also no crime in veganism, even if we’ve wandered onto the animals’ own territory.

21 January, 2013

Sundance 2013: How did a newbie make an unapproved film in Disney parks? - latimes.com

Sundance 2013: How did a newbie make an unapproved film in Disney parks? - latimes.com: PARK CITY, Utah -- About three years ago, Randy Moore, a struggling screenwriter living in Burbank, had an out-there idea: What if he took a tiny camera and, without asking permission, began shooting a narrative movie at Disney theme parks?

Moore had been visiting Disney World in Orlando, Fla., with his now-estranged father since he was a child, and he’d also begun taking his two children, then 1 and 3, to Disneyland. He thought that juxtaposing the all-American iconography of Mickey Mouse with a dark scripted tale would be cinematic gold, or at least deeply weird.

So with the help of an extremely small Canon camera and some very game actors and crew, the director began shooting a movie guerrilla-style.

Jill Lepore: How Much Military Is Enough? : The New Yorker

Jill Lepore: How Much Military Is Enough? : The New Yorker:
If any arms manufacturer today holds what Eisenhower called “unwarranted influence,” it is Lockheed Martin. The firm’s contracts with the Pentagon amount to some thirty billion dollars annually, as William D. Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, reports in his book “Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex” (Nation). Today, Lockheed Martin spends fifteen million dollars a year on lobbying efforts and campaign contributions. The company was the single largest contributor to Buck McKeon’s last campaign. (Lockheed Martin has a major R. & D. center in McKeon’s congressional district.) This patronage hardly distinguishes McKeon from his colleagues on Capitol Hill. Lockheed Martin contributed to the campaigns of nine of the twelve members of the Supercommittee, fifty-one of the sixty-two members of the House Armed Services Committee, twenty-four of the twenty-five members of that committee’s Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces—in all, to three hundred and eighty-six of the four hundred and thirty-five members of the 112th Congress.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.]

Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.]:
You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

Google and the future of search: Amit Singhal and the Knowledge Graph | Technology | The Observer

Google and the future of search: Amit Singhal and the Knowledge Graph | Technology | The Observer: Presumably we have got more precise in our search terms the more we have used Google?

He sighs, somewhat wearily. "Actually," he says, "it works the other way. The more accurate the machine gets, the lazier the questions become. So actually our lives get harder." He had to work especially hard to correct and understand spelling errors and analyse synonyms. And all along the dream has been the old Star Trek one of providing the right answer to what you think you want to know even if you don't know quite how to phrase the question. To work like a mind works, in other words. "The end game of this is we want to make it as natural as possible a thought process," he says. "We are maniacally focusing on the user to reduce every possible friction point between them, their thoughts and the information they want to find." Getting ever closer to Page's brain implants, in effect.

Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor - Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine

Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor - Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine: The khan dreams of a car. Never mind that there isn’t a road. His father, the previous khan, spent his life lobbying for a road. The new khan does the same. A road, he argues, would permit doctors, and their medicines, to easily reach them. Then maybe all the dying would stop. Teachers too could get to them. Also traders. There could be vegetables. And then his people—the Kyrgyz nomads of remote Afghanistan—might have a legitimate chance to thrive. A road is the khan’s work. A car is his dream.

“What kind of car?” I ask.

“Whatever car you want to give me,” he says. The ends of his mustache curl around a smile.

From 'Iffy' to 'Mulligan': Words American Presidents Made Famous | TIME.com

From 'Iffy' to 'Mulligan': Words American Presidents Made Famous | TIME.com: In honor of President Obama’s upcoming second Inauguration, NewsFeed presents a special edition of Wednesday Words, featuring lesser-known stories of presidential coinage from Paul Dickson’s new book, Words from the White House. Here’s a taste of his compilation:

Founding Fathers (n.): a collective name for the statesmen of the Revolutionary period, especially members of the American Constitutional Convention of 1787.

This was the term that inspired Dickson’s collection. The credit goes to Warren G. Harding, who coined it in 1918 and went on to feature in it his 1920 presidential campaign. Other Harding hits include bloviate and normalcy.

Why You Never Truly Leave High School -- New York Magazine

Why You Never Truly Leave High School -- New York Magazine:
In fact, one of the reasons that high schools may produce such peculiar value systems is precisely because the people there have little in common, except their ages. “These are people in a large box without any clear, predetermined way of sorting out status,” says Robert Faris, a sociologist at UC Davis who’s spent a lot of time studying high-school aggression. “There’s no natural connection between them.” Such a situation, in his view, is likely to reward aggression. Absent established hierarchies and power structures (apart from the privileges that naturally accrue from being an upperclassman), kids create them on their own, and what determines those hierarchies is often the crudest common-­denominator stuff—looks, nice clothes, prowess in sports—­rather than the subtleties of personality. “Remember,” says Crosnoe, who spent a year doing research in a 2,200-student high school in Austin, “high schools are big. There has to be some way of sorting people socially. It’d be nice if kids could be captured by all their characteristics. But that’s not realistic.” 

Slime Molds Make Maps

20 January, 2013

Someone's economic theory

The Four Economic Classes and their Respective Plights | Intellectual Detox: # The Underclass Those scraping by at the fringes of economy, often subsisting on crime or welfare.
# The Plebs The interchangeable parts in the machinery of the economy. Because plebs are so easy to replace, they earn low wages and have little job security.
# The Rat-racers Those who have found a career track that offers leverage and rewards inside knowledge. The inside knowledge makes it harder to replace the rat-racer, thus earning them higher salaries. But they must grind out long work hours to maintain their competitive edge.
# The Rentiers Those who have achieved complete economic security. They no longer need to work to live, instead they work for personal fulfillment.

The Loyal Opposition | RedState

The Loyal Opposition | RedState: We have too many outrage pimps on both sides of the aisle whipping the respective bases into a frenzy and fury against the other side. I don’t have enough time or energy to be outraged about it all. There are things to be outraged by, but not everything, and certainly not with full energy dedicated to every perceived slight and grievance.

What I am finding is that among conservatives there is too much outrage, piss, and vinegar. It makes our ideas less effective. We have become humorless, angry opponents of the President instead of happy warriors selling better ideas. We are not even selling ideas.

Conservatives, frankly, have become purveyors of outrage instead of preachers for a cause. Instead of showing how increasing government harms people, how free markets help people, and how conservative policies benefit all Americans, we scream “Benghazi” and “Fast & Furious.”

From a visit to North Korea, on a group in a "computer lab."

Sophie In North Korea: Looks great, right? All this activity, all those monitors. Probably 90 desks in the room, all manned, with an identical scene one floor up.

One problem: No one was actually doing anything. A few scrolled or clicked, but the rest just stared. More disturbing: when our group walked in--a noisy bunch, with media in tow--not one of them looked up from their desks. Not a head turn, no eye contact, no reaction to stimuli. They might as well have been figurines.

Of all the stops we made, the e-Potemkin Village was among the more unsettling. We knew nothing about what we were seeing, even as it was in front of us. Were they really students? Did our handlers honestly think we bought it? Did they even care? Photo op and tour completed, maybe they dismantled the whole set and went home.

Deception Is Futile When Big Brother's Lie Detector Turns Its Eyes on You | Threat Level | Wired.com

Deception Is Futile When Big Brother's Lie Detector Turns Its Eyes on You | Threat Level | Wired.com: The US Army founded a polygraph school in 1951, and the government later introduced the machine as an employee-screening tool. Indeed, according to some experts, the polygraph can detect deception more than 90 percent of the time—albeit under very strictly defined criteria. “If you’ve got a single issue, and the person knows whether or not they’ve shot John Doe,” Honts says, “the polygraph is pretty good.” Experienced polygraph examiners like Phil Houston, legendary within the CIA for his successful interrogations, are careful to point out that the device relies on the skill of the examiner to produce accurate results—the right kind of questions, the experience to know when to press harder and when the mere presence of the device can intimidate a suspect into telling the truth. Without that, a polygraph machine is no more of a lie-detector than a rubber truncheon or a pair of pliers.

What to do about Syria - Assad refuses to leave, and so....

Debating Syria | Marc Lynch:
A lot of people are trying hard to come up with good ideas.  Along with my piece, I'd recommend having a look at a number of strong proposals for more direct intervention this week, by Andrew Tabler, Fred Hof, and Salman al-Shaikh and Michael Doran.  Their pieces offer up a range of ways to speed up Assad's fall short of direct military intervention, with a range of ideas from arming the opposition, trying to organize the opposition, disabling the regime's air power, and more.  I see serious problems with a number of these proposals and find some intriguing, but given the horrifying conditions of Syria today and the absence of real diplomatic options, it's worth giving them all careful thought. I hope you'll read my piece, read theirs, and contribute to a serious debate about what realistically can be done.  

19 January, 2013

How do I put down on paper the chaos I feel inside my head? | A Street in a Strange World

How do I put down on paper the chaos I feel inside my head? | A Street in a Strange World: Two years ago, I was blessed enough to get a chance to travel to Al Quds (Jerusalem), one of the holiest cities in Islam, during a Winter Study course at Williams College led by our Jewish chaplain, Cantor S. Ten people were selected to fly to Israel; of them, three were Protestants, one Catholic, three Jewish, one Sunni Muslim, one Shia Muslim, and one atheist. Surprisingly, the city was a wonder and a shock to each of us.

It was one of the most intense, memorable, gratifying, and traumatic experiences of my life. I haven’t had the chance to tell many people about it, so I decided to upload my response from the trip, written right after I came back from Israel, in case people are interested in reading it. Needless to say, I am still just as confused about my experience as I was two years ago.

On Deep Diving, one of the most dangerous jobs

Diving Deep into Danger by Nathaniel Rich | The New York Review of Books: A saturation diving complex looks like a small space station. It comes in different sizes, accommodating six to twenty-four divers. A typical complex, which sits on the deck of a ship or an oil rig, has four main components. The first is the living chamber, which resembles a train’s sleeper car, or the berth of a submarine, and has double-decker cots with fire-retardant mattresses and a sitting area with a television screen. (Larger systems have two or even four separate living pods.) A camera—often referred to as “big brother”—peers through a porthole, observing the divers. Other portholes, covered with plexiglass, allow the marooned divers to glimpse the outside world.

Reddit, what is the happiest fact you know? : AskReddit

Reddit, what is the happiest fact you know? : AskReddit: “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.”

-Richard Dawkins

The Power Of The Prosecutor

The Power Of The Prosecutor: There have been a number of projects that attempted to count the total number of federal criminal laws. They usually give up. The federal criminal code is just too complex, too convoluted, and too weighted down with duplications, overlapping laws, and other complications to come to a definite number. But by most estimates, there are at least 4,000 separate criminal laws at the federal level, with another 10,000 to 300,000 regulations that can be enforced criminally. Just this year 400 new federal laws took effect, as did 29,000 new state laws. The civil libertarian and defense attorney Harvey Silverglate has argued that most Americans now unknowingly now commit about three felonies per day.

A Collection of Essays About What We Should Fear : The New Yorker

A Collection of Essays About What We Should Fear : The New Yorker: Edison certainly didn’t envision electric guitars, and even after the basic structure of the Internet had been in place for decades, few people foresaw Facebook or Twitter. It would be mistake for any of us to claim that we know exactly what a world full of robots, 3-D printers, biotech, and nanotechnology will bring. But, at the very least, we can take a long, hard look at our own cognitive limitations (in part through increased training in metacognition and rational decision-making), and significantly increase the currently modest amount of money we invest in research in how to keep our future generations safe from the risks of future technologies.

Which Way Did the Taliban Go? - NYTimes.com

Which Way Did the Taliban Go? - NYTimes.com: How will the A.N.A. fare when it is truly on its own? Predictions vary, tending toward the pessimistic. To the extent that assessments of the competency and preparedness of the A.N.A. take into consideration on-the-ground observations, however, they are usually limited to the perspective of American forces working in concert with Afghan units.

After a week with Daowood’s battalion, what I found is that the A.N.A. looks very different when there are no Americans around.

So does the war.

Nicole Cooke's retirement statement in full - retiring from cyclingk

Nicole Cooke's retirement statement in full | Sport | guardian.co.uk: I am going to recount one of the aspects of my past career that few know about or understand, but about which I am most proud. I am going to talk about the abuse of drugs in the sport of cycling and my experiences and then I am going to talk about changes in the sport and look ahead at one overlooked but absolutely vital aspect.

Sandy Hook Truthers: The NRA has actively encouraged the paranoid fears of conspiracy theories after gun massacres. - Slate Magazine

Sandy Hook Truthers: The NRA has actively encouraged the paranoid fears of conspiracy theories after gun massacres. - Slate Magazine: But what’s the point of debunking any of this? The theories don’t spread because they’re credible. They spread in part because of the confirmation bias of worried gun owners. And that’s actually been egged on, multiple times, by the National Rifle Association. The gun lobby might be the only credible group, with real clout, with the ability to bring presidential candidates to its conferences, to endorse the idea that the government would engage in a “false flag” operation. In 2011, as the Republican House of Representatives dug in on the “Fast and Furious” investigation, the NRA’s professional flak magnet Wayne LaPierre speculated that the Feds planned the debacle, to build momentum for gun control.

Earl Smith is the man behind a military patch that President Obama prizes - The Washington Post

Earl Smith is the man behind a military patch that President Obama prizes - The Washington Post: As he rode the service elevator in the backway of a convention hotel here, the snowy-haired African American operating it turned suddenly. He held out a black-and-gold bit of fabric embroidered with a screaming eagle.

“Senator Obama, I have something I want to give you,” the man said. “I’ve carried this military patch with me every day for 40 years, and I want you to carry it, and it will keep you safe in your journey.” Obama tried to refuse, but the older man persisted.

Big endeavors can find their meaning in small moments.

18 January, 2013

Drug Discovery With the Most Common Words - based on xkcd

Drug Discovery With the Most Common Words. In the Pipeline:: I got caught up this morning in a challenge based on this XKCD strip, the famous "Up-Goer Five". If that doesn't ring a bell, have a look - it's an attempt to describe a Saturn V rocket while using only the most common 1000 words in English. You find, when you do that, that some of the words you really want to be able to use are not on the list - in the case of the Saturn V, "rocket" is probably the first obstacle of that sort you run into, thus "Up-Goer".

So I noticed on Twitter that people are trying to describe their own work using the same vocabulary list, and I thought I'd give it a try. (Here's a handy text editor that will tell you when you've stepped off the path). I quickly found that "lab", "chemical", "test", and "medicine" are not on the list, so there was enough of a challenge to keep me entertained. Here, then, is drug discovery and development, using the simple word list:

What U.S. Jews Don't Get About European Anti-Semitism - The Daily Beast

What U.S. Jews Don't Get About European Anti-Semitism - The Daily Beast: Forgive all the detail, but this is becoming a regular task for a British Jew: reassuring our American friends that, no, we are not living in a new dark age and, no, the lights are not going out all over Europe. We are getting used to the fact that U.S. Jews seem ready to believe the worst of this part of the world. In the two cases I've mentioned, many Americans were all too willing to accept that British Jews were about to become latter-day Marranos, driven underground by an anti-Semitic government and its jihadist allies, huddling together to teach their children about the Holocaust in Hebrew whispers.

The Death of Aaron Swartz - Clive Crook - The Atlantic

The Death of Aaron Swartz - Clive Crook - The Atlantic: By and large, American prosecutors no longer fight their cases at trial. The new dispensation is justice by plea bargain. The more savage the penalties prosecutors can threaten, the more likely the defendant (guilty or innocent) is to speed things along by pleading guilty and accepting a light penalty. According to the Wall Street Journal, Swartz was offered the choice of pleading guilty and going to jail for six to eight months, or else going to trial and taking his chances. The multiple counts and their absurdly savage sentences are best seen, just as the family said, as instruments of intimidation.

The prosecutor's bottom line, apparently, was that Swartz had to go to jail. In my conception of criminal justice, the prosecutor's role is to establish guilt, not pass sentence. Juries have already been substantially dispensed with in this country. (By substantially, I mean in 97 percent of cases.) If prosecutors are not only going to rule on guilt unilaterally but also, in effect, pass sentence as well, one wonders why we can't also dispense with judges.

17 January, 2013

The Goldberg Variations - The Daily Beast

The Goldberg Variations - The Daily Beast: There are two things that every commentator deserves from readers and interlocutors. One is the right to change their minds, and particularly not to be held to views they long since abandoned (especially when those opinions were formed at the age of 12 and quickly abandoned). Second, they have the right not to have their opinions distorted beyond recognition. Criticism is one thing, and that's always fair game, but outright misrepresentation is indefensible. It's been fascinating, instructive and disturbing, to watch Goldberg being subjected to this in recent weeks by both the ultra-right and the far-left in the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio.

A definition of wealth

In honor of Goldman Bonus Day | Bankers Anonymous: So here it is, my definition of wealthy: If you have enough assets plus passive income to cover your personal lifestyle expenses for the rest of your life, and that money allows you to work at something you love – without concern for the amount of compensation – then you are wealthy.

San Francisco can become a world capital. First it needs to get over itself

San Francisco can become a world capital. First it needs to get over itself:
In particular, for San Francisco, adopting that reality means one thing above all: It needs to build more buildings. Build taller buildings, sites that house many more people and businesses than they do now. If it accepts its fate as large metropolis, San Francisco could become the next New York, Hong Kong, or Paris — a city that’s dense with people and businesses, and all of the urban services, cultural values and environmental virtues that density accommodates.

San Francisco’s fundamental problem is that it’s a big city that likes to think of itself as a small one. The city proper is about 46 square miles in area. That’s 40 percent larger than Manhattan. But even with recent growth, there are only 812,000 people in San Francisco, which is half as many as Manhattan. San Francisco’s population density is about 17,000 people per square mile. Manhattan and Paris have more than 60,000 people per square mile.

How do those international capitals manage to house so many more people? Their skylines make it obvious: They’ve built large commercial and residential office buildings, and they’ve built public services — transportation systems, especially — to make density inhabitable. Now look at San Francisco. Other than a cluster of new buildings in the South of Market area, this city is defined by, and reveres, its famous Victorian houses. Those houses are very pretty. They’re also very inefficient. Collectively, they take up a lot of space, but don’t house very many people.

The WSJ's crazy infographic

Hullabaloo: The Onion couldn't top this. Whether it's the sad faces of all these put-upon dejected rich people, or the elderly minority couple who is depressed despite not paying extra taxes (or was that the point?), or the distressed single Asian lady making $230,000 who might not be able to buy that extra designer pantsuit this year, or the "single mother" making $260,000 whose kids presumably have a deadbeat, indigent dad just like any other poor family, or that struggling family of six making $650,000 including $180,000 of pure passive income and wondering how to make ends meet, mockery is almost superfluous. The thing mocks itself. That $650,000 family in particular is bizarre to the point of incredulity: those people could literally stop working entirely, live extremely well on $180,000 while doing nothing but watching television all day and staying home with their kids, and leave their high-salary jobs with their oh-so-onerous tax requirements to people who actually appreciate them.

16 January, 2013

Have we solved 'too big to fail'? Nope.

Have we solved 'too big to fail'? | vox: No.

That is not my pessimistic verdict; it is the market’s. Prior to the crisis, the 29 largest global banks benefitted from just over one notch of uplift from the ratings agencies due to expectations of state support. Today, those same global leviathans benefit from around three notches of implied support. Expectations of state support have risen threefold since the crisis began.

This translates into a large implicit subsidy to the world’s biggest banks in the form of lower funding costs and higher profits. Prior to the crisis, this amounted to tens of billions of dollars each year. Today, it is hundreds of billions (Haldane 2012). In other words, if the market’s expectations are to be believed, the regulatory response to the crisis has not plugged the 'too-big-to-fail' sink.

Facebook's Bold, Compelling and Scary Engine of Discovery: The Inside Story of Graph Search | Wired Business | Wired.com

Facebook's Bold, Compelling and Scary Engine of Discovery: The Inside Story of Graph Search | Wired Business | Wired.com: For years now, Facebook watchers have wondered when the company would unleash the potential of its underpowered search bar. (Nobody has feared this day more than Google, which suddenly faces a competitor able to index tons of data that Google’s own search engine can’t access.) They have also wondered how a Facebook search product might work. Now we know. Graph Search is fundamentally different from web search. Instead of a Google-like effort to help users find answers from a stitched-together corpus of all the world’s information, Facebook is helping them tap its vast, monolithic database to make better use of their “social graph,” the term Zuckerberg uses to describe the network of one’s relationships with friends, acquaintances, favorite celebrities, and preferred brands.

The Real Cuban Missile Crisis - Benjamin Schwarz - The Atlantic

The Real Cuban Missile Crisis - Benjamin Schwarz - The Atlantic:

Although Kennedy in fact agreed to the missile swap and, with Khrushchev, helped settle the confrontation maturely, the legacy of that confrontation was nonetheless pernicious. By successfully hiding the deal from the vice president, from a generation of foreign-policy makers and strategists, and from the American public, Kennedy and his team reinforced the dangerous notion that firmness in the face of what the United States construes as aggression, and the graduated escalation of military threats and action in countering that aggression, makes for a successful national-security strategy—really, all but defines it.

The president and his advisers also reinforced the concomitant view that America should define a threat not merely as circumstances and forces that directly jeopardize the safety of the country, but as circumstances and forces that might indirectly compel potential allies or enemies to question America’s resolve. This recondite calculation led to the American disaster in Vietnam: in attempting to explain how the loss of the strategically inconsequential country of South Vietnam might weaken American credibility and thereby threaten the country’s security, one of McNamara’s closest aides, Assistant Secretary of Defense John McNaughton, allowed that “it takes some sophistication to see how Vietnam automatically involves” our vital interests.

On Inequality

The Smartphone Have-Nots - NYTimes.com:
For two decades, Mishel has been a critic of the S.B.T.C. theory, and that morning in San Diego, he argued that broad technological innovation has been taking place so steadily for so long that the rise of computers simply can’t explain the recent explosion in inequality. After all, when economists talk about technological innovation, they are thinking beyond smartphones; they’re usually considering innovations that affect production. Business innovations — like the railroads, telegraph, Henry Ford’s conveyor belt and the plastic extruders of the 1960s — have occurred for more than a century. Computers and the Internet, Mishel argued, are just new examples on the continuum and cannot explain a development like extreme inequality, which is so recent. So what happened? 

The change came around 1978, Mishel said, when politicians from both parties began to think of America as a nation of consumers, not of workers. President Jimmy Carter deregulated the airline, trucking and railroad industries in order to help lower consumer prices. Congress chose to ignore organized labor’s call for laws strengthening union protections. Ever since, Mishel said, each administration and Congress have made choices — expanding trade, deregulating finance and weakening welfare — that helped the rich and hurt everyone else. Inequality didn’t just happen, Mishel argued. The government created it. 

After Mishel finished his presentation, David Autor, one of the country’s most celebrated labor economists, took the stage, fumbled for his own PowerPoint presentation and then explained that there was plenty of evidence showing that technological change explained a great deal about the rise of income inequality. Computers, Autor says, are fundamentally different. Conveyor belts and massive steel furnaces made blue-collar workers comparatively wealthier and hurt more highly skilled crafts­people, like blacksmiths and master carpenters, whose talents were disrupted by mass production. The computer revolution, however, displaced millions of workers from clerical and production occupations, forcing them to compete in lower-paying jobs in the retail, fast-food and home health sectors. Meanwhile, computers and the Internet disproportionately helped people like doctors, engineers and bankers in information-intensive jobs. Inequality was merely a side effect of the digital revolution, Autor said; it didn’t begin and end in Washington.

Whhhhhattttt - Manti Te'o's Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax

Manti Te'o's Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax: On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te'o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia. The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax. While the proper authorities will continue to investigate this troubling matter, this appears to be, at a minimum, a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators.

Dennis Brown
University Spokesman | Assistant Vice President

15 January, 2013

The Dunbar Number, From the Guru of Social Networks - Businessweek

The Dunbar Number, From the Guru of Social Networks - Businessweek: In the same way that human beings can’t breathe underwater or run the 100-meter dash in 2.5 seconds or see microwaves with the naked eye, most cannot maintain many more than 150 meaningful relationships. Cognitively, we’re just not built for it. As with any human trait, there are outliers in either direction—shut-ins on the one hand, Bill Clinton on the other. But in general, once a group grows larger than 150, its members begin to lose their sense of connection. We live on an increasingly urban, crowded planet, but we have Stone Age social capabilities. “The figure of 150 seems to represent the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us,” Dunbar has written. “Putting it another way, it’s the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar.”

BBC News - Edible edifice: Building the offices of tomorrow

BBC News - Edible edifice: Building the offices of tomorrow: Designers talk of digital walls, which have sensors embedded so you can interact with them.

Or, if you want the professor's technical explanation, "dye sensitised solar cells with titanium oxide layers on a surface with light absorbing dye molecules adsorbed on surface which can generate electricity".

These walls will build up a profile of you and change your working environment accordingly.

This could mean the lighting around your desk dims slightly when you arrive, or a pre-determined microclimate is created for your meeting.

14 January, 2013

Woman Drives for 900 Miles Instead of 90 Thanks to GPS Error

Woman Drives for 900 Miles Instead of 90 Thanks to GPS Error: I've read plenty of crazy GPS stories, but this has to be the craziest of them all: a 67-year-old woman drove for 900 miles over the course of two days because of a GPS error combined with her complete lack of attention. Her actual destination was only 90 miles away.

The woman, 67-year-old Sabine Moreau, started her journey in her home town of Hainault Erquelinnes, Belgium. She wanted to pick up a friend at a train station in Brussels, just 93 miles north from her point of origin. But instead, she turned on her GPS, which told her to drive south, taking her turn by turn all the way down to Zagreb, in Croatia. Instead of a couple hours in the car, she spent a couple days to cover the 900 miles that separates both points in Europe.

We're not very efficient

How the world manages to waste half its food: Between 30 and 50 percent of all the food that’s produced on the planet is lost and wasted without ever reaching human stomachs. That’s the stunning takeaway from a new report (pdf) from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Jack Lew’s Signature

Jack Lew’s Signature:
I’ve been thinking about Jack Lew’s famous signature, which looks like the squiggles on the top of a Hostess cupcake. A series of O’s is an odd way to write the words Jack and Lew, and I actually hope some good-natured senator asks him about it, good-naturedly, at the end of his confirmation hearings.

Maybe Lew will have some interesting thoughts. Maybe he decided some years back that scrawling a series of O’s is, when you sign a lot of things, one way to save time. Maybe his signature started out as a way of subtly spoofing the institution in which he’s spent his life, government, which some think tends to be staffed by a bunch of zeros. Maybe the signature is Proustian: Those cupcakes were his Madeleine, and replicating the squiggles makes him happy. Maybe he is a little eccentric, or a little hidden—if you didn’t want people to think they can read Jack Lew, you could start with having them not be able to read Jack Lew’s signature.


He should do that. Half of America thinks the country is broke, with only zeros in its bank account. Why have something that reminds people of that fear, or seems to underscore it, on your currency? From this high-spending government it may seem like a taunt. Or an admission.

Obama on the debt ceiling

Full Transcript of President Obama’s Press Conference - NYTimes.com:
So to even entertain the idea of this happening, of the United States of America not paying its bills, is irresponsible. It’s absurd. As the speaker said two years ago, it would be -- and I’m quoting Speaker Boehner now -- “a financial disaster not only for us but for the worldwide economy.” So we got to pay our bills. And Republicans in Congress have two choices here: They can act responsibly and pay America’s bills or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis. 

But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. The financial well-being of the American people is not leverage to be used. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip. 

And they’d better choose quickly because time is running short. The last time Republicans in Congress even flirted with this idea, our triple-A credit rating was downgraded for the first time in our history, our businesses created the fewest jobs of any month in nearly the past three years, and ironically, the whole fiasco actually added to the deficit.

Israel’s Rightward Shift

David Remnick: Naftali Bennett and Israel’s Rightward Shift : The New Yorker: If Bennett becomes Prime Minister someday—and his ambition is as plump and glaring as a harvest moon—he intends to annex most of the West Bank and let Arab cities like Ramallah, Nablus, and Jenin be “self-governing” but “under Israeli security.”

“I will do everything in my power to make sure they never get a state,” he says of the Palestinians. No more negotiations, “no more illusions.”

Fashion weeks

Fashion weeks:(38 photos total)

Audience members watch a model during the J. Mendel Spring/Summer 2013 show at New York Fashion Week on September 12, 2012. By exposing for the darkened audience, the photographer overexposed the brightly lit model. (Andrew Burton/Reuters)

On Google and searching "personally"

The searchers | ROUGH TYPE: To be turned inward, to listen to speech that is only a copy, or reflection, of our own speech, is to keep the universe alone. To free ourselves from that prison — the prison we now call personalization — we need to voyage outward to discover “counter-love,” to hear “original response.” As Frost understood, a true search is as dangerous as it is essential. It’s about breaking the shackles of the self, not tightening them.

There was a time, back when Larry Page and Sergey Brin were young and naive and idealistic, that Google spoke to us with the voice of original response. Now, what Google seeks to give us is copy speech, our own voice returned to us. It’s a great tragedy.

Quote For The Day (h/t Andrew Sullivan)

Quote For The Day:
"Faith is not the progressive unearthing of God's nature but a
recognition that he/she is fundamentally unknowable. The signpost points
not to growing certainty but towards increasing non-knowing. " - David Bryant
("Nimbus D’Aspremont
2012" by Berndnaut Smilde.
Photo by Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk. Courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery.)

This Isn't the Petition Response You're Looking For

This Isn't the Petition Response You're Looking For | We the People: Your Voice in Our Government: The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn't on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:

  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

The malignancy of crime

THE INSIDE JOB: Just how much money Ferreira has, of course, had become a hot topic around his company and around his hometown. How do you lose $9 million and not feel it? In reality, Ferreira had felt it, without really knowing what he was feeling. And he insists that if business hadn't been growing so aggressively during much of the time when she was stealing, he would have figured it out much sooner. "I'm still in shock that I made that much money," he said, "that much extra money." Still, he's the first to acknowledge that he was far too trusting and that as far as victims go, he was pretty lucky.

Angela's adventure produced more victims than just Ferreira, and all of them had less to fall back on.

Employees lost their jobs after Ferreira closed stores and downsized. Early in 2006, Angela and Kevin's neighbor in Vermont had quit his job at Sam's U-Save Fuels to become their full-time groundskeeper, at $850 a week.

Marek Kohn – Us and them

Marek Kohn – Us and them: Setting up ‘minimal groups’ like these became standard procedure for researchers interested in what makes in-groups tick. The findings leave no room for doubt: people will coalesce into parochial groups at the drop of a hat, no matter how arbitrary, tiny, vague, esoteric or spurious the differences between them. Rewards, prizes or turf wars will bring the biases to light, but they aren’t necessary. In-group love and bias against out-groups can arise even if nothing at all is at stake.

What Flannery O'Connor Got Right: Epiphanies Aren't Permanent - Joe Fassler - The Atlantic

What Flannery O'Connor Got Right: Epiphanies Aren't Permanent - Joe Fassler - The Atlantic:
The fact that there's a brevity to human connection and human empathy—the fact that it goes away—might make you feel that we should not make a big deal that it was there at all. But of course we can't do that. We have to value the moments when a person is everything we'd hope this person would be, or became briefly something even better than she normally is. We need to give those moments the credit they're due. The glimpse of this capacity is part of what allows you to write characters who are so deeply flawed. Given that so much great literature is about staggering transgression, knowing that that capability of striving for something better is crucial for keeping you reading. O'Connor's view of humanity in these stories is that almost everybody's going to be found wanting much of the time. And we are. But you still want to cherish those moments when someone shows you they have the capacity to be better.

A Maid's Execution in Saudi Arabia : The New Yorker

A Maid's Execution in Saudi Arabia : The New Yorker: Sexual abuse of domestic workers by employers in Saudi Arabia seems not uncommon, according to the Human Rights Watch report. “Examples of abuse included beatings, deliberate burnings with hot irons, threats, insults, and forms of humiliation such as shaving a domestic worker’s head. We interviewed women who reported rape, attempted rape, and sexual harassment, typically by male employers or their sons, and in some instances, by other foreign workers whom they had approached for assistance,” the report added. An Indonesian woman named Darsem Binti Dawud was sentenced to death in 2009 after killing her employer, who she said was trying to rape her; she eventually returned home in July, 2011, after, according to Saudi tradition, the slain employer’s family agreed to waive her death sentence in exchange for blood money—an amount of U.S. $549,900, which was paid by the Indonesian government.

The Washington Post's Chuck Hagel Opposition Just Shifted 180 Degrees | The New Republic

The Washington Post's Chuck Hagel Opposition Just Shifted 180 Degrees | The New Republic: So. On December 18, Hagel was a bad choice because he is perilously out of line with President Obama. Today, he is a bad choice because he is "thoroughly in sync with [Obama's] left-of-center views" and won't offer a challenging perspective. Huh. What changed? Did Obama and Hagel go through some sort of secret mind-meld over the holidays, perhaps at a secret hide-out in Hawaii?

Or maybe it's something else. Maybe the Washington Post editorial board just really, really doesn't like Chuck Hagel, doesn't care if its argument for opposing him shifts 180 degrees in a matter of weeks, and doesn't think its readers will notice.

The UN did this....

In the Time of Cholera - By Jonathan M. Katz | Foreign Policy: In two years, more than 7,800 Haitians have died of cholera. One in five people in a nation of roughly 10 million has fallen seriously ill with the disease, while the unusually virulent strain has spread across the Caribbean, into South America, and the United States.

The United Nations has made grandiose, if seemingly empty, promises to fight and eradicate the disease, but refuses to consider its own accountability in starting the epidemic. Aid workers and donor governments have lost a critical opportunity -- to demonstrate that they took Haitian lives and welfare as seriously as their own.

Annals of the Security State, Glider Pilot Edition

Annals of the Security State, Glider Pilot Edition:
  • The pilot was doing something entirely legal;
  • He was doing it in an area that was in no way marked as being illegal;
  • He was doing it in a tiny craft designed to lift very little more than its own and the pilot's weight;
  • He was doing it roughly two miles from a small airport where light-plane traffic was routine.
Nonetheless he was arrested, handcuffed, held for 24 hours, and interrogated as a national-security suspect. For a while local "security" officials considered shooting the glider down. I could go on, but the AOPA story is full of piquant details.**


Ted Kaptchuk of Harvard Medical School studies placebos | Harvard Magazine Jan-Feb 2013: But years of considering the question led him to his next clinical experiment: What if he simply told people they were taking placebos? The question ultimately inspired a pilot study, published by the peer-reviewed science and medicine journal PLOS ONE in 2010, that yielded his most famous findings to date. His team again compared two groups of IBS sufferers. One group received no treatment. The other patients were told they’d be taking fake, inert drugs (delivered in bottles labeled “placebo pills”) and told also that placebos often have healing effects.

The study’s results shocked the investigators themselves: even patients who knew they were taking placebos described real improvement, reporting twice as much symptom relief as the no-treatment group. That’s a difference so significant, says Kaptchuk, it’s comparable to the improvement seen in trials for the best real IBS drugs.

13 January, 2013

Has the ideas machine broken - are we out of inventions?

Innovation pessimism: Has the ideas machine broken down? | The Economist:
Mr Gordon sees it as possible that there were only a few truly fundamental innovations—the ability to use power on a large scale, to keep houses comfortable regardless of outside temperature, to get from any A to any B, to talk to anyone you need to—and that they have mostly been made. There will be more innovation—but it will not change the way the world works in the way electricity, internal-combustion engines, plumbing, petrochemicals and the telephone have. Mr Cowen is more willing to imagine big technological gains ahead, but he thinks there are no more low-hanging fruit. Turning terabytes of genomic knowledge into medical benefit is a lot harder than discovering and mass producing antibiotics.

The Jig Is Up: Time to Get Past Facebook and Invent a New Future - Alexis C. Madrigal - The Atlantic

The Jig Is Up: Time to Get Past Facebook and Invent a New Future - Alexis C. Madrigal - The Atlantic: On the mobile side, we're working with almost the exact same toolset that we had on the 2007 iPhone, i.e. audio inputs, audio outputs, a camera, a GPS, an accelerometer, Bluetooth, and a touchscreen. That's the palette that everyone has been working with -- and I hate to say it, but we're at the end of the line. The screen's gotten better, but when's the last time you saw an iPhone app do something that made you go, "Whoa! I didn't know that was possible!?"

Meanwhile, despite the efforts of telecom carriers, cellular bandwidth remains limited, especially in the hotbeds of innovation that need it most. It turns out building a superfast, ultrareliable cellular network that's as fast as a wired connection is really, really hard. It's difficult to say precisely what role this limiting factor plays, but if you start to think about what you could do if you had a 100MB/s connection everywhere you went, one's imagination starts to run wild.

A memoir of Marilyn by Truman Capote

An Abbess in High-Heeled Shoes : People.com:
Marilyn (furious, frantic): What does the "S" stand for?

TC: "S." What "S"?

Marilyn: The "S" in William S. Paley.

TC: Oh, that "S." It doesn't stand for anything. He sort of tossed it in there for appearance sake.

Marilyn: It's just an initial with no name behind it? My goodness. Mr. Paley must be a little insecure.

TC: He twitches a lot. But let's get back to our mysterious scribe.

Marilyn: Stop it! You don't understand. I have so much to lose.

TC: Waiter, we'll have another Mumm's, please.

Marilyn: Are you trying to loosen my tongue?

TC: Yes. Tell you what. We'll make an exchange. I'll tell you a story, and if you think it's interesting, then perhaps we can discuss your writer friend.

Marilyn (tempted, but reluctant): What's your story about? 

10 January, 2013

On Society

The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond – review | Books | The Guardian: Traditional societies do not exist to help us tweak our lives as we emulate a few of their cultural practices. They remind us that our way is not the only way. A child raised in the Andes to believe that a mountain is a protective deity will have a relationship with the natural world profoundly different from that of a youth brought up in America to believe a mountain is an inert mass of rock ready to be mined. The mythology of the Barasana and Makuna people is in every way a land management plan revealing how human beings once thrived in the Amazon rain forest in their millions. Take all the genius that enabled us to put a man on the moon and apply it to an understanding of the ocean, and what you get is Polynesia. Tibetan Buddhism condenses 2,500 years of direct empirical observation as to the nature of mind. A lama once remarked that Tibetans do not believe that Americans went to the moon, but they did. Americans may not believe, he added, that Tibetans can achieve enlightenment in one lifetime, but they do.

What happens when you think you are talking to conservatives but are actually talking to Liberals....

EXCLUSIVE: Dick Armey Dishes On FreedomWorks' Deals With Beck & Limbaugh | Blog | Media Matters for America: "The arrangement was simply FreedomWorks paid Glenn Beck money and Glenn Beck said nice things about FreedomWorks on the air," Armey, the former House majority leader, told Media Matters Friday. "I saw that a million dollars went to Beck this past year, that was the annual expenditure."

Julian Baggini – The art of coffee

Julian Baggini – The art of coffee: It is not that handmade is always best, of course. Much technology is itself a testimony to human creativity and ingenuity. Apple has got very rich through supplying technology that is beautifully designed by humans who are as gifted as the best artisans. There is plenty that we should happily allow to be mechanised, for the obvious benefits that brings. But there is plenty else we will continue to prefer to be handmade, because what matters is not just the result, but the process by which you get there. Humans are imperfect, and so a world of perfection that denies the human element can never be truly perfect after all.

I didn't realize that a trillion dollar coin was possible, but.....

Everything You Need to Know About the Crazy Plan to Save the Economy With a Trillion-Dollar Coin - Matthew O'Brien - The Atlantic: Even more serious question time. Who should we put on the trillion dollar coin?

There are lots of good options here. Paul Krugman has suggested John Boehner, which has a certain poetic justice to it, but Ron Paul or a banana are good options too.

Last question. You don't seriously think this is a good idea, do you? If ever there was something that tells the world we're a banana republic, it's --

Choosing to default on our obligations. There is nothing crazier than that. If it it's a choice between defaulting on our obligations, and minting a trillion-dollar coin, I say mint the coin. In an ideal world, Obama would end the platinum coin loophole in return for the House GOP forever ending the debt ceiling, as Josh Barro proposed, but I'll settle for anything that involves us paying our bills as we promised.

The only thing we have to fear is fear of the trillion-dollar coin itself.
A Definition Of Torture:
Waldman asks the apologists to provide one:
Can you give a definition of torture that wouldn't include waterboarding, stress positions, and sleep deprivation? I have no idea what such a definition might be, and I have to imagine that if they had any idea they would have offered one. Because here's the definition of torture you'd think everyone could agree on: Torture is the infliction of extreme suffering for the purpose of extracting information or a confession. That's not too hard to understand. The point is to create such agony that the subject will do anything, including give you information he'd prefer not to give you, to make the suffering stop. That's the purpose of waterboarding, that's the purpose of sleep deprivation (which, by the way, has been described by those subjected to it in places like the Soviet gulag to be worse than any physical pain they had ever experienced), and that's the purpose of stress positions. The "enhanced" techniques that were used weren't meant to trick detainees or win them over, they were meant to make them suffer until they begged for mercy.

Overpopulation's social cost, in mice:

CABINET // The Behavioral Sink: On day 560, a little more than eighteen months into the experiment, the population peaked at 2,200 mice and its growth ceased. A few mice survived past weaning until day six hundred, after which there were few pregnancies and no surviving young. As the population had ceased to regenerate itself, its path to extinction was clear. There would be no recovery, not even after numbers had dwindled back to those of the heady early days of the Universe. The mice had lost the capacity to rebuild their numbers—many of the mice that could still conceive, such as the “beautiful ones” and their secluded singleton female counterparts, had lost the social ability to do so. In a way, the creatures had ceased to be mice long before their death—a “first death,” as Calhoun put it, ruining their spirit and their society as thoroughly as the later “second death” of the physical body.

Stanley Fish, on favouritism

Stanley Fish, on favouritism:
"No one has ever fought for diversity, for universal, undiscriminating inclusion; rather, everyone fights for the inclusion of one’s own kind"

07 January, 2013

The GOP's Dangerous Debt-Ceiling Threat

The GOP's Dangerous Debt-Ceiling Threat:
In 2011, the mere threat of not raising the debt ceiling was enough to slow economic growth to a crawl, and nearly erase the gains of the previous months. Put another way, what Cornyn has signaled—along with most of the Republican Party—is a willingness to crash the economy and damage the full faith and credit of the United States if President Obama doesn’t adopt core parts of the conservative agenda. Either Democrats slash and dismantle programs for working and middle-class Americans—including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—or Republicans will “kill the hostage” and plunge us into a second global recession.

Oddly, large swaths of the press is treating this as a routine negotiation, and not as an extraordinary and irresponsible threat to our national well-being. In two posts worth reading, Greg Sargent and Alec MacGillis document the extent to which the mainstream media is unalarmed by the GOP’s actions. For example, here’s Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post, “Make no mistake: No deal on the fiscal cliff was a political loser for Republicans; this is an issue they needed to get off the table in order to find better political ground—debt ceiling—to make their stand.”

There’s something very wrong with Washington journalism when a threat to imperil the global economy is treated like a round of capture-the-flag.

How Tide Detergent Became a Drug Currency -- New York Magazine

How Tide Detergent Became a Drug Currency -- New York Magazine: What did thieves want with so much laundry soap? To find out, he and his unit pored over security recordings to identify prolific perpetrators, whom officers then tracked down and detained for questioning. “We never promised to go easy on them, but they were willing to talk about it,” Thompson says. “I guess they were bragging.” It turned out the detergent wasn’t �being used as an ingredient in some new recipe for getting high, but instead to buy drugs themselves. Tide bottles have become ad hoc street currency, with a 150-ounce bottle going for either $5 cash or $10 worth of weed or crack cocaine. On certain corners, the detergent has earned a new nickname: “Liquid gold.” The Tide people would never sanction that tag line, of course. But this unlikely black market would not have formed if they weren’t so good at pushing their product.