says quinn:

ellison vs. templeton, in overtime

aahz maruch saw the baycon eff representation as inappropriate, i disagree. i definitely saw it differently. i never saw brad making terrible faces, i did see a lot more of him trying to get a word in edgewise, and not managing it. ellison consistently talked over other people on the panel, whose expressions consistently looked like people who'd just gotten pushed out of the conversation. i remember brad's finger wag as well. it didn't strike me as inappropriate to the tone of the room at all, though. there was a lot of teasing and conversational caricature going on from all corners, which made the conversation at least somewhat bearable. i recall ellison making a pretty good joke at brad as well about the kid he and susan had adopted from certain death in africa- and winning over some of the audience at the time. this accusation seems to me a representation of the incident out of context. i understand that representing the eff requires a certain level of professionalism at all times that one would be "on duty", but professionalism doesn't mean being disengaged in the tenor of the room. in most cases, it means much the opposite. painting this event as some kind of serious discussion interupted by harlan's abuse and brad's childish imitation of it just isn't the truth.

astrazanaca's evil time release prilosec

they have really made it look like good news. i've waited a long time for prilosec to go generic- the patent ran out last october, even with the 6 month extension for application in kids. the problem is they are claiming another patent on their time release mechanism, and getting a new one through the FDA with omeprazole will cost millions, plus being tied up in court by astrazeneca's claims that anything that works will infringe on their patent. this otc bid isn't as good as it looks. if they retain 5 more years of patent, even in otc status without a generic there won't be much pressure for the price to come down. it may not be the $4 pill i've come to loath, but there's no reason to believe that it will become much cheaper. it will simply be locked up in the same case as the nicorette. this is a placating move. what this will do is take the burden off of angry insurance providers and state drug programs, who don't have to pay for anything otc, no matter how much it costs- and shift the cost back to the patients.

says robin:

eBay will offer health benefits to its most vigorous vendors

(This link is to a Washington Post article and so will likely rot after seven days unless you pay them--my apologies for that.)

Seemingly there are kind of a lot of people whose primary source of income is eBay auctioning (I do know a professional poet who pays his bills by selling used books on Amazon, so I'm not shocked). It's enough of a concern that eBay is now planning this intriguing step toward treating those people as employees. Not without concerns; your insurance rates might be dependent on your sales.

where there's a smoker, there's fire

Michael Moore would like to know why Bic lighters and matches are allowed on planes even after Richard Reid, when nail clippers and crochet hooks are not. His answer: they were to be banned as well, but the tobacco lobby stepped in and nixed it.

After that Mr. Moore takes a remarkable turn, inferring from the willingness of government to roll over on the lighter issue that the government actually secretly knows that the danger isn't so great anyway--because surely they wouldn't knowingly make a concession tobacco companies that might endanger anyone's health!

Now, I don't know how much you've heard of the allegations about 9/11; arguments range from the mild "they bungled their information" variety that finally hit the mainstream press about a month ago, after rattling around the internet for ages, to the "Cheney, the Bushes and their investment cronies conceived and executed the entire thing" stories on the truly dire end--and every dastardly degree in between. It's lurid stuff, the worst of it straight out of a Ludlum novel, and mixed in with a lot of pure BS about there being no plane at the Pentagon or a ring of Israeli spies demolishing the WTC from the inside. So it has to be taken with appropriate seasonings. I've followed this stuff in great detail from early on, and though I'm used to the idea, I still can't decide what to think about it all. How much evidence is there for any of this?

Well... more than none. In fact there's oddly more evidence for this sort of thing than has ever been displayed in support of the official story--which, of course, is every bit as much a conspiracy theory. If nothing else, the fact that the White House starts shrieking treason every time somebody suggests a 9/11 investigation ought to make anyone suspect that something or other is amiss.

That said, I don't understand why the butane-lighter issue, of all things, should spur Moore to start sniffing at 9/11 for the first time. He seems to be claiming that the administration isn't depraved enough to endanger people to please one of the lobbies to which it is much beholden--and that this tells him they're in on some secret subtext to the terrorist attacks. Which can only mean a far greater depravity.


says robin:

this means something, I tell you

I wasn't too worried by the popular fuss about who's saying bloop at the bottom of the sea, but then I heard about the mysterious balls. I'm finding it all too easy to imagine these as the innocent-sounding first notes of a cataclysmic monster movie.

suddenly I am very very interested in chemtrails

I've been hearing allegations about suspicious airplane contrails for a little while now, and it sounded too wacky to take seriously. So this morning I tripped over this juggernaut of an article on the subject, and now it has my keen attention.

Seems the idea is this: military planes are seeding the sky with several vapors one doesn't usually find so high in the atmosphere. This may serve two purposes: firstly, someone appears to have proposed it some years ago as a counter-measure for global warming, and secondly, one particular barium-iron mixture appears to reflect (or conduct? the details here are a little over my head, I'm afraid) certain spectra of radio such that radio surveillance becomes extensible over vast distances.

On the other hand, some folks are saying these compounds are causing weather anomalies and health problems, which maybe ought not to surprise us at this point in history. There's a whole wealth of information on the subject once you go looking.

The more interesting of the putative purposes for this spraying is the former, an attempt to alleviate atmospheric warming. Could it be that even as we quietly admit to the fact of global warming and simultaneously throw up our hands, saying there's nothing we can do anyway so we might as well accelerate the damage, we're also secretly trying to take action to fix the environment? It's encouraging, in a way, to imagine the military would be interested in doing this. And it's certainly gratifying to hear that there is at least one well-heeled corporate lobby that actually wants to stave off environmental degredation (for whatever inanely self-serving reasons).

But it's a forehead-smacker of an approach to the problem. After all the kudzus, the cane toads, the Hawaiian pigs, the Utahan lawns, the pesticides and fertilizers, the prozac, the radiation pills--must we persist in wilfully causing problems and then medicating them?

But of course the underlying mechanism is clear enough. This plane for a rube-goldberg Earth is the only way for a government to genuinely try and address a problem--without inconveniencing any of its paying corporate constituents.


says quinn:

you *could* call it bitterness

i'm a little behind the ball... a while back on boing boing there was the discussion of the death of yet another alternative school, in this case SEED, a school which cory credits for the development of many of his remarkable characteristics. he and others ended up in a debate about the value of less developed curriculum with a poster called "cypherpunk" ... i have just read this, and in particular i enjoyed cory's post about what he did while at SEED:

My track record at SEED: I got two credits my first year, no credits the next, and fourteen the following year. However, during that time, I:

* Moved to Mexico and learned Spanish
* Organized a city-wide anti-Gulf-War organization
* Began my professional writing career
* Taught myself to program
* Mentored a grade 3-4 class with the first-ever Electronic Writer In Residence program (which I invented)
* Fought a legal battle against a chain of shopping malls that had systematically banned students from their premises, despite tax-breaks and zoning rules that required them to act as town-squares for the community
* Became the youngest-ever Director of a 1500-member Co-Op that ran a conference center, and organized much of the conference programming
In my final year, when I decided it was time to move on to University, I thorouhly studied the curriculum requirements and found a way to get three years' worth of credits in two terms. I graduated an Ontario Scholar and went on to be accepted to every University I applied to, and was a straight-A student until I dropped out to be a programmer.

SEED students are fantastically well-prepared for real life, because their principle task at SEED is to figure out what they want to learn and how to learn it. They use teachers and community members as resources to uncover the contours of a given subject, then pursue their research with guidance from those resources.

SEED isn't for everyone and has never claimed to be. That SEED works for a nontrivial fraction of students (who are also poorly served by the traditional system ) is undeniable.

i, on the other hand, enjoyed the benefits of a more traditional, structured education. in my first year at university high i was an A/B student, to cope with the pressure tactics of my instructors i developed a solid secret regimen of self mutilation. after that, i gave up that kind of tactic and my performance suffered a great deal. my final year i was compelled to drop out as an "embarrassment" and was not at all sorry to part company with my high school.

during my time at uni high i:

* was forced out of advanced placement status at the local college by high school administrators, despite proving to the deans of the college that i could perform at their level of expectation, and achieving A's in all the classes i was allowed to complete.

* was told i could only participate in one ap or honors class at a time, and moved into regular science classes where i threw the curve badly enough to be the subject of a student petition to be removed from the grading system.

* failed algebra for the 5th time, was deemed too mathematically incapable to take a class in chemistry, and too undisciplined to be allowed any non-core curriculum classes.

* was raped, and repeatedly told to admit that i was a willing participant by school administrators.

* was told that if i couldn't learn to get along better in my school situation that i had no hope of a future beyond school- that my inability to follow their simple rules meant that i would be a drug addict, alcoholic, and unable to function in even a simple workplace.

* was repeatedly pressured to admit i had a drug problem, though i have still to this day never partaken.

* was actively discouraged from my life long dream as a writer in favor of more traditional pursuits, such as serving coffee and retail clothing sales. when i washed out of these jobs i was criticized for being irresponsible and unable to stick to things.

* learned, in fact, very little. in this i was definitely not alone- many of the people who graduated (more than i did) couldn't read a newspaper.

in my final year i entered a protracted battle over issues of being a "disruptive presence" with my school administration. all my attempts to find a creative or intellectual outlet stymied, and thrown out to live on my own at 16 i turned my focus away from developing as a person and into basic survival. i was harassed repeatedly by child protective services in my new apartment, and interviewed about my whereabouts each time i missed school until all parties concerned agreed to part company, and the paperwork for a work furlough was drawn up. on october 17 1990 i left high school and entered los angeles with no prospects, and no reason for hope.

the regular education channel isn't for everyone. every year thousands of kids fall through the cracks and are made to understand this it their fault for not fitting in to the the 80 part of the 80/20 rule.

the problem is it claims to be for everyone.

says robin:

"The potential for abuse exists."

Why do even the most fiery editorials rest on that milktoast phrase? Is it so wrong to say "the potential for abuse is so freaking obvious that one can only conclude that abuse is the purpose?"

Extreme Ashcroft, and one lonely call for an official anti-Ashcroft.


says robin:

arrested for turning away from the stage

Orwell check.


says quinn:

to your icu in 30 minutes or less

i find the idea of fast food chains in hospitals particularly unnerving. we hold people accountable for how their actions affect their health, as in the case of drinking and smoking. either of these can reduce your ability to be insured or raise your premiums, but both of them combined don't account for the health hazards of heart disease or the pure numbers of death heart disease and obesity related problems cause. plus the poor quality of the food and labor practices in fast food are the kind of things that drum up entirely too much business for hospitals... it's a double standard we will look back on with deep cultural embarrassment.

says robin:

I guess some bad thing happened

I often wonder how much of the web is going on in languages other than English. It's the only one I competently speak, and English-language sites only rarely link to non-English sites. I can only suppose that there are parallel universes of sorts on the web, subwebs of sites in other languages, only peripherally relating to each other, if at all.

Language persists; it's an awkward little stumbling block for those dreams of global dialog inevitably fanned by the simple fact of the internet. There are some attempts to fudge the lines, of course; translation programs are under continual development, so that Google stoutly volunteers to leap into the breach and convert documents from one language to another (with notoriously iffy results). But generally we make do in two ways. To a huge extent we rely utterly on a small number of translators, who shuttle news items back and forth over the wires for extra income, remotely and anonymously. And to an even greater extent, we all ignore one another. Or at least, speakers of English ignore everybody else.

I've become a fierce admirer of folks like the Independent Media Center who are trying to make real use of the web as a grassroots-organizing tool. The open newswire at the Indy is noisy, garbled, defenseless against spam attacks and even more vulnerable to formatting gaffes. But combing through it yields news you don't get anywhere else (and the hands-down fastest reports from hot spots like DC and Jenin).

As a grassroots organization, though, it lacks the budget for professional translators. Articles scroll by with Spanish headlines or rows of squares suggesting some other alphabet entirely is in use; you just ignore them. They're not for you. Which, of course, is troublesome for political organizing.

Why am I going on about all this? Because I'm trying to make myself treat soberly and respectfully with a sincere and admirable homegrown effort to cross that great divide, an article I found this morning--from Argentina, but in English. The Argentinian author, presumably, is fired up to blow the whistle to all corners of the world, not just the Spanish-speaking peoples.

But--forgive me--it's just damned funny to read. And sadly, not very helpful at all. I can more or less make out what the specific event was--but the underlying political meaning of it is totally opaque to me. Something terribly shady and underhanded, I gather.


says robin:

the search for the fountain of truth

In the time-honored tradition of spontaneously deciding a thing must exist and then dragging your sorry ass all over the globe looking for it, the American military continues to try to develop a truth serum. The only problem: no truth serum has ever worked as such, and there's really no compelling reason to imagine that anything could. The idea presupposes that there exists a distinct chemical or neurological state that a truly-speaking person's brain is in and a liar's isn't, or vice versa. So it only remains to force the brain into the truth-telling state.

The only problem is that somebody made that up and it isn't real. In the meantime, pumping a prisoner full of psychoactive chemicals is just one more form of torture.


says robin:

the grassroots blacklist

Today must be the day for screwball public services online. Questionable Doctors, launched today, is a directory of doctors who have been disciplined and are still in practice. For free you can see how many disciplinary actions have been taken against a given doctor; you have to pay to find out what the allegations were. Mixed bag in any case.

For the life of me I can't decide whether I think this is a good idea or not. I've always had mixed feelings about the idea of malpractice; what other trade is held accountable for simply making mistakes? And how implicitly can we trust the judgment of the agencies handing out the rebukes? On the other hand, surely the stakes justify maintaining a strict standard; medicine often affords no second try, expensive or otherwise. But--there's a world of difference between a doctor coming in drunk and a doctor misdiagnosing an illness. But--I can't offer a rule for discerning that difference. I don't think mistakes per se ought to be culpable. And maybe more importantly, one need not make a mistake to fail. Nobody has yet beaten death indefinitely, to pose the extreme example.

But after all, I'm pretty consistently in favor of giving people the greatest possible access to information that affects them. We track the votes of representatives in Congress, and I approve of that, even though the Constitution rather plainly forbids it. So maybe doctors ought to be held responsible for their choices as well. Hell, imagine what might happen if the military were culpable for its mistakes. Well, okay, I suppose that's a bit much to ask, isn't it?

delivered to your door in thirty minutes or your money back

If you haven't been following the politics-trumps-science story of Yucca Mountain, the quick sketch is that we're one imminent Senate vote away from shipping all the country's nuclear wastes to a location that, according to absolutely every study that's been done, hasn't a prayer in hell of containing it. But the objections to the plan have played just as much on the fact of the shipping: it is chilling, after all, to imagine loads of radioactive waste traveling by truck and train right through all the states of the union--even if there were no such things as accidents.

Now, as a public service, MapScience will calculate your personal proximity to the impending hazardous waste traffic. Maybe telecommuting doesn't sound so bad.

"As a matter of fact, compromise is what oppression feeds on."

Things you didn't know about Harry Belafonte. There's more on his resume than honorary muppethood and the enduring popularity of day-o. Here he shows himself, at the age of 75 (and as all NYC subway riders know, a cancer survivor), to be broadly informed about the state of the world, and still vigorously active. Maybe most remarkably, he's able to churn out statements as strong as the one quoted above without ever sounding careless or intemperate.

His long-planned massive epic anthology was finally released, after decades in production, on September 11 of 2001. I'm eyeing it.


says quinn:

jeez digital rights guys, even the frickin analysts can see it

p2p isn't going away. it isn't much of a business model- it's a cost of doing business. when even the yankee group is getting it, you know you need to evolve or die. but ya know, die is ok by me.

says robin:

So I heard that there's a Republican initiative afoot to screen lobbyists so that only an approved canon of lobbyists can gain access to the White House or to Congress. This article is chiefly about the diabolical plot to fill all those approved positions with Republicans and their friends, but to me that misses the point. A retaliatory scramble to fill it with Democrats would be very nearly as ugly.

That there should be such a filter at all is appalling to me. Everybody on that approved list, regardless of their specifics, will be paid pushers of somebody else's agenda, already-connected politicos. And they will all be personally wealthy.

Already, since 9/11, ordinary people are no longer allowed in the lobby at Capitol Hill. Security, don't you know. But what this means, of course, is that actually "lobbying" is effectively banned. The original phenomenon--concerned citizen watches for a Senator, walks up and argues for some issue--has been replaced by a bureaucracy of appointments and connections. Horse-trading. Dirty business.

I've always thought that paying a professional lobbyist creates a plain conflict of interest.

says quinn:

i sit corrected, by aaron swartz. xanadu code is available- my information took the story as far as the technology's sale to autocad, and that it was dropped.

but i politely disagree with aaron's assessment that ted nelson was ahead of his time in an extraordinary way. ted nelson is the alfred wegener of the net; they were men who came upon great ideas that erupted from their environments, and were smart enough to recognized them as such at a visceral level. but both of them lacked mechanism. in wegener's story the actual physical cause of continental drift and in nelson's case the motivation for people to participate. in the case of both men the ridicule is a bit much, but the criticism is valid. you must be able to show your work and show good work in order to do your idea justice. nelson saw an endpoint for the whole world, but he never explained how, or more importantly why, to get there. technology is hard, and geeks and scientist forget that it's not a fun hard most of the time. html wins still to this day despite everyone's angles on getting rid of it (most of them quit a bit more foolish than xanudu anyhow) because the whole perspective of the web is dirty, easy, and makes sense in a human rather than logical way. i believe that nelson is not so much the visionary he describes himself as, but a man being ridden by an idea. a good idea- but one that he can't carry in the right direction.

there was a moment in 94 when i was teaching html to the staff and faculty of my college when the dean of student's secretary made her first web page. it was one line long, but she had a look of fierce triumph on her face. she had told the computer to <center>, and it had centered. she had power over the beast at long last, and better yet, power everyone, everywhere could see. and of course with the <center> tag, we had something to fight over as well, one that erupted later into the "browser war" - how interesting is *that*? we like imperfect systems- perfection is boring, and we have nothing to contribute to it, so it's also a bit depressing. the web though! ugly, contentious, broken- everything humans really dig. it didn't need to be the preserver of all things past, it would create its own content, fuck up the rest a bit and introduce new genres of writing. but each fuck up is another permutation of human creativity. it turned out the promethean nelson couldn't give fire away, because we wanted to bang the sticks together.

i hear a lot these days about how openness beats closeness, i don't know if that is true. however, i put forth that an imperfect system will always beat a perfect system


says quinn:

you're already busy thinking of things you could do...

all the best technologies are for helping the handicapped, making buildings safer in earthquakes, preventing disease, etc. but then you get hold of them, don't you? you sci-fi people and your perverted technophile friends. if ucla managed to give you an extensive network of cheap wireless censors that could interact with the infrastructure... well, you wouldn't stop with sweet little visions of calm technology, would you? you'd map the route cops took on the streets by the weight of the average police cruiser... you'd catalog the songs people sang to themselves as they walked along the street, you'd find the rowdiest clubs by measuring a street vomit radius... you'd geocash data, and use it for drug drops and trading pirated music... you'd dynamically move your anti-exxon protests to new stations based on the movements of the gas and the customers... you'd invent whole self aware cities.

and what about the neurosciences institute's efforts to help the paralyzed move their limbs again? you'd devote misused bit of you occipital cortex or some such, whatever you weren't using to learn how to control some new limb, or map some existing part of the brain to interconnect with a motor controlish experience... you'd feel your poetry alright. all of you lot would become naturally selecting synesthetics, recombining experiences into the most complete, delightful and efficient.

heck, you'd come up with much more creative uses than these, too....

ucla is a bit hubristic thinking they are the fount of all this. it's not like strange wireless networks aren't coming up everywhere, like alligators out of the sewers. and people keep whispering quietly about all the ways they will use them, from community based 802.11 ip phones to bandwidth messes made out of car nodes in traffic, trading music. ucla will have to run far and fast to stay ahead of the beast...
on the other hand, i admire neurologists a bit too much. i have this romantic notion of the neurologist working towards the day when the brain is a hackable platform, always looking towards becoming something more and hopeful, and helping the merehums become vast in their considerations.


says quinn:

according to my own little pulled-out-of-my-ass estimation system based on the number of neurons and possible connections they make, the doubling speed of hard drive and a little moore's law thrown in, i am guessing we will be able to backup a human brain by 2030ish, using slightly more than 1.5 exabytes. but will ~150 petahz processing be enough to run it?

of course, this is fatuous. but being based on some iota of data, it is less fatuous than most estimates i've seen. and this says nothing about our ability to actually physically perform an upload. but heh.

my little addendum to robin's note about the smallpox vaccine: there's another vaccine with several candidates entering non-human trails. it even has its own day, (may 18th) even though it doesn't exist yet. fwiw, i don't think it's getting quite enough press. it's the HIV vaccine. as a fan of humanity and africa in particular, this is exciting, happy stuff. the quest for the HIV vaccine was began in 97, and we've made a helluva lot of progress on something that seemed impossible.

says robin:

Paranoia is in fashion, and the powers that still somehow manage to be are keen to keep it that way. Certain folks are more than willing to risk our safety if that will make us believe we'd be at even greater risk without them. Here's just the latest measure of government readiness to treat the public health like startup stock: the return of the smallpox vaccine. Prompted not by the return of smallpox, mind you, but by a sort of vague uneasiness that doesn't even qualify as hearsay.

In other news, I've been thinking--quit that--for some time now that the famously short tempers of New Yorkers have a lot to do with riding the subway. Twice a day, for the better part of an hour, I navigate the venerable subway system. Like any iterated system of interaction it's developed a set of implicit rules, guided more or less by the quest for efficiency by regular riders. And like any such system, a substantial portion of the users at any given time are either newcomers or for some other reason unaware of, or unconcerned with, these tacit guidelines. And another noteworthy portion of users know how to exploit the system in the short (or even "immediate") term but care nothing for the longer-term value of facilitating the people around them. And so we have the one person who plods up the only downward staircase in that miserable 59/Lex transfer, forcing sometimes hundreds of people to mill around at the top, waiting to squeeze by in single file; so we have the relentless few who determine to bull their way into arriving cars before anyone can exit through the same doors.

The better you understand the subliminal rules of the subway, the more you come to resent the cheaters, the ones who refuse to play along in the various prisoner's-dilemma scenarios involved. For various people that resentment leads to righteous scolding, desperately competitive racing, loosely retaliatory cheating of their own, or simply an ever-simmering buildup of directionless wrath.

The subway is where I see it these days. Driving in Manhattan is even more bitterly frustrating, I just don't do it as often. But a lot of people (otherwise it wouldn't be so bad) go through that every day, for hours. No wonder everybody's on edge, feeling self-righteous and put-upon at seemingly all times. Much the same could be said of the highway, and probably any other complex system of human interactions--road rage is probably the same phenomenon online as on the street.

It's also been in my head for years that most of the evil in the world gets by under the aegis of the simple proposition that anger is license. That having been wronged, by whomever and in whatever way, justifies vengeance--or any other act, no matter how unrelated, as long as it feels pretty much like vengeance.

The unfortunate combination of these trends, a near-universal rage generator for urbanites and an all too common sense that rage is inherently righteous--has shown up before, notably when some driver started shooting at another driver on the L.A. freeway, when I was in high school. A week ago today, it cropped up again during the 10th-anniversary Critical Mass ride in Sacramento. (The ride was going on everywhere--I happened to catch the local one, being on a little family outing in Central Park at the time. Must have been three hundred people.) Critical Mass is designed to frustrate motorists, of course, but the automotive attack on a cyclist was probably never foreseen as such. If you're willing to overlook some slightly overwrought captioning, you can see pictures.

The frightening thing is that I know exactly how that woman felt. I feel pretty much the same way when somebody violates my internal rules-of-the-road. And on foot, when those frenzied office workers with their bloodshot eyes lowered to the floor come shoving into a subway car that hasn't emptied yet, I pretty much run them over all the time. But doesn't anybody have a sense of scale? Do we just forget in these moments?


says quinn:

we have seen the future, and it is dry.

researchers at ucsc have modeled global warming changes for california. it's not terribly surprising. being able to model it at all is an amazing leap from where we were 12 years ago, like in the realm of sci-fi. plus, the pictures are pretty.


cory uses the analogy of mail vs x400 for how kids just going out and doing open things trumps wise men deciding in committees all the time. this has been affectionately written about as cory's greasy kidstuff.
i have a better example for him:
ted nelson, still not buying in.
vs. the web. as with all the old wise white guys, he makes some good points, i think he may be right about the semantic web... and as far as he seems to be confused about what xml is, he would be right. fortunately, xml isn't meant to be used as a new set of hierarchical embedded formats. but it's hard to read his purist view because it doesn't screen wrap. still, joey de villa is right- we must respect our sages, our founders. out here we have so little history and we have to treasure it.... my screen *does* wrap because of ted nelson.

xanadu is ©, of late 80s owned by autocad. so while we live in a world of its reflected shadows we aren't allowed to fuck with it directly. presumably the type of people that made the web would ruin its perfection. the web works precisely because it is broken, one way and rots when no one pays attention. it is a great beast rolling through humanity, consuming our perspective, and growing misshapen limbs from it. this, the decaying stench of data and the perversion of all in the name of content, this more than anything keeps us engaged.

i have to confess though, i never got the whole 2 way linking thing. perhaps i am not quite smart enough.


says robin:

Even the words "truth is stranger than fiction" have become a cliche, and so lost their force. Just as the brain constantly adjusts the messages of the eye, quickly excising any optical pattern that remains static for too long, so the public soon turns a deaf ear to news that repeats with too stubborn constancy. Here's the power of this short circuit between inconceivable and assumed: we in the States can even get used to the idea that our most illegitimate, and most recklessly self-empowering, administration is a wholly owned subsidiary of Enron, the company that just lately sacrificed the public to its own unearned profits about as blatantly as anyone could ask for, singlehandedly creating last year's notorious power crisis without benefit of any actual shortage at all.

But that's not what I came to talk about.

Here's a remarkably audacious bit of satire--a false press release by a purported WTO spokesman (actually a member of the Yes Men, whose fake WTO site has been plausible enough to garner them several public speaking opportunities before) was not only believed by its audience, but remained in circulation for days, finally emerging on the floor of the Canadian Parliament before it was debunked. One little key point to note: the original Sydney audience was actually enthused to hear of the WTO's plans for dramatic restructuring.

Maybe satire can be a sort of coal-mine canary for us. When satire becomes invisible--when the parodists themselves are frustrated because their sendups of real-life activities are too easily and wholly believed--we need to realize how unlikely our reality has become.

The good news is that the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a man whose lawyer fell asleep during the trial that led to his death sentence has not exactly received due process as we like to understand it. Specifics of the case aside, a trial is a trial, except when it really isn't.

The bad news, I suppose, is that such a thing would be news.


says quinn:

what part of non-scarce do you not understand?

ok, i finally read eric raymond's piece that charlie stross responded to, that i posted here. i have now locked in my mind and image of some pre-incarnation raymond declaring that this money thing would never work, everyone knows you need to go to the central square to trade your sheep. otherwise how will anyone look at their teeth?

the thing that kills me the most is that raymond lives in a world of non-market signaling. i would most like to refer him to his own work, the importance of having users. this is probably a bit of a pat answer, but in hayek's time, there was no technology that could foster an environment of direct massive signaling. in raymond's time, there just barely is, and he has written about responding to it. by bank's time, i imagine it's pretty mature from what we have now. what's funny is that i'm not anti-market because it's not altruistic enough (another reason i make a bad socialist) i'm anti-market cause it's a inefficient and insecure form of signaling. it's slow, hard to interpret, doesn't scale, encourages tampering and rewards protectionist behaviors for individuals. i just think we can do better.

more evidence that we live in the future, at least the bovine clone farm future. i believe that given half a chance our government will ban human cloning/stem cell research, and then when their organs start to fail fly to europe or asia and have them replaced.

you know the chinese and reading up on this shit, and they're not going to ban any tech. they're ruthless, in a good way. i believe that the us government's attempts to lead the rest of the world back into the dark ages may usher in a new golden age for china. this is one of those globalization things that very few people seem to get: we live in a time of peer review, public publishing and massive interconnections. *there is no such thing as a forbidden technology*. someone is going to work on it, somewhere, whatever it is, period. this stepping hesitantly into the next industrial revolution thing isn't going to happen.


says robin:

Today Miriam and I spent a precious Saturday afternoon at a seminar on green roofs. I'd sort of vaguely heard about them before; today, despite a sadly unrehearsed presentation, I learned how they address a genuinely striking gamut of social, ecological and even economic issues (from the elevated temperatures of cities to smog, sewage overflows, asthma, and the untimely decay of the buildings themselves). Their relatives, cool roofs, address a significant range of problems without even costing more than their old-fashioned counterparts, even reckoned in the most conscientiously conservative terms.

In the end, though the demon is still the cost--and it's an oddly sightless demon. A Republican candidate for city council on the Upper East Side (kudos to him for even being in such a foreign place, really) asked after much vigorous discussion how he could make any of these designs appealing to the property owners who must ultimately foot the bill for the changes. He was told that the roofs pay for themselves gradually, after maybe twenty years earning back their initial cost in saved power alone. He was told that the initial costs, in some cases, were hardly higher than normal roofing, if at all (not true in all cases, by any means, but some). He was reminded of the various benefits that the green roofs provide in a wide-ranging way, and given estimated price tags for these benefits. But it seemed clear that in some tacit way, these were not the answers he needed to be sold on the idea; he needed to hear something like "you'll make a profit in two years," I suppose. Not just him; that's exactly what keeps these and countless other existing efficiency initiatives from taking off.

Buildings, in Manhattan or anywhere, ought to be designed to last a lot longer than twenty years. If the fancy roof pays for itself in twenty years in power savings, then the continuing savings thereafter are profit. But a lot of investors, knowing they must choose some investment (one kind of roof or the other, eventually), decline the one that demonstrably works out to a much higher return--saying only that the inevitable profit doesn't arrive soon enough to warrant choosing it.

On the flip side, they gave us cake, and it was nice to attend a lecture where the call for questions prompted a deluge instead of an uneasy silence.


says quinn:

i've been looking for a good way to distill down some of my thoughts about the wacky economics of this money and market stuff we are into. now, thanks to charlie stross, i don't have to. he's even framed it in terms of iain m banks, which is fabulous for me. this is what the net is really good for- massively paralleled merehums. now all that mental energy can be freed up for other things i will continue to put off writing. heh.

{it is probably good for me to note that i'm not a socialist and not likely to become one, but in viewing charlie stross' piece i can say way much much easier: i don't believe that socialism lends itself to strong signaling. socialism seems to depend on a state of mass cooperation, which i believe to be a neurological impossible idea. i guess i fall back to being an emergent structures anarchist.}


says robin:

(Hi there.)

Geeks know a lot more than I do about Internet politics, the bitterly contentious frontier of the rule of law. Like most people, they pay the most attention to the politics that hit them where they live. They're apt to be a little less aware of anyone else's hot-button issues, even when other people's fights are increasingly staged on their home turf--they're content as long as the Net itself is only a tool of politics, and not itself at stake.

George Monbiot, always shrewd in his accustomed political arena, demonstrates in a recent article and its even more recent followup the extent to which the spin agents of the wider world have seized upon the Net as a new weapon with which to influence public perception--or, in this case, to influence public perception of public perception.

But it's interesting to note that along the way, Monbiot has shown us that to get the scoop in this age, it well behooves a politico to be a little geeky himself. As these next years pass more of Monbiot's colleagues will start to sniff out the paperless trail, even some who now know the Internet as yesterday's stock market bubble. Inevitably there will be an arms race of masking and tracing.

When the net is host to deadly serious spin wars with stakes rooted in meatspace, will the geeks who build the battleground and know it best take more notice of those struggles? Or will they sigh and grumble, hoping against all odds (again) that the newcomers will go away and give them their golden age back?

says quinn:

i don't normally point to anything boingboing cause what's the point? everyone that might read this has already read that- but i wanted to link to cory's bpdg piece, because specifically i hate reading things like this. but cory actually makes this stuff readable. that's one of his greatest strengths as a writer, he is eminently readable. i also wanted to contrast it with what a broadcast war means in china. (of course, the last time i got excited about something in this newspaper, it turned out to be a complete work of fiction, something that has never happened to me with a blog, curiously.) i firmly believe this access to information is important stuff. i think of majorie (in africa) a lot when i talk about copyright, and i think of her little baby. that probably doesn't make a lot of sense, but i really believe the free flow of information is what will make the difference in the long run.

Dejagoogle:(n) A strong feeling that you've picked through these search results before.