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May 2010 Archives

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Happy Cinco de Mayo


Thursday, 6 May 2010

Candy, humor, and horror/sci-fi.

Gummi Bears live short lives, but that doesn't mean that they don't have health problems and will occasionally need some care. There are times when these delicate bears will even need to go under the knife.

Gummi Bear Surgery
fungus amungus

Step 2: The art of the scalpel

Step 2: The art of the scalpel

Step 5: Limb transplants

Step 5: Limb Transplants

Step 7: Brain transplants

Step 7: Brain transplants

Step 9: Three heads are better than one

Step 9: Three heads are better than one

Graham Harman posts in support of Steven Shaviro, who has decided to withhold his contribution to an academic book because of Indiana University Press’s egregiousy slow publication process. Indiana UP’s pace is typical of the academic publishing infrastructure.

I find it pathetic that a handful of academics are cheerleading Shaviro’s stand»,pathetic not because the issue is unimportant, but because the action is futile. Whole institutions are foundering and the best some academics can do, learned as they are, is boycott the presses to which they are addicted?

The real question is why academics in the humanities have not yet completely ditched physical academic publishing and organized a structure of multi-instiutional peer review for online-only documents. You know, like the scientists are doing.

Great write-up on GaGa, queerness, and white privilege.»

So why does Gaga get all the love? How much of it is because, as a small young blonde woman she appears to be trangressive in a way that artists like M.I.A. or even Trina cannot be transgressive, because to begin with they are already seen as non-normative, simply because they aren’t white? Is it because the feminist model is predicated on whiteness, so that is what it is drawn to untangling?

Clearly Gaga is not oblivious to her own “normativity”; she actually uses it as a weapon, drawing in the viewer with the expectation that she will be blonde and submissive, and then upsetting those expectations by doing intentionally weird, gross things.  But while she’s playing with her whiteness, she (& her critic fans) seem somewhat oblivious to her white privilege. And the attendant attention she gets, while women of colour’s contributions to redefining music and gender performance are marginalised.

A Contrarian View of Lady GaGa
Thea Lim and Andrea Plaid

I still think the concept and actuality of a Black Republican is fraught with many vexing problems. Still, from where I sit, a more culturally-diverse electorate seems precisely what the United States needs.


But on Friday Film Forum in Manhattan will begin showing what is being billed as “The Complete Metropolis,” with a DVD scheduled to follow later this year, after screenings in theaters around the country. So an 80-year quest that ranged over three continents seems finally to be over, thanks in large part to the curiosity and perseverance of one man, an Argentine film archivist named Fernando Peña.

Footage Restored to Fritz Lang's ‘Metropolis’
Larry Rohter

Excellent news.

Friday, 7 May 2010

With all my obligations and desires, sleep often takes a second seat to everything else, though I try to get at least six hours a day. I know this is not unusual and for many, like new parents, sleeplessness is a fact of life.

A wide study covering more than 1.3m people and more than 100,00 deaths finds a correlation between inadequate/excessive sleep and premature death.

The study provides unequivocal evidence of the direct link between both short (less than 6 hours sleep a night) and long (9 hours or more) duration of sleep and an increased chance of dying prematurely, compared to those who sleep 6-8 hours a night on average.

With insomnia nothing’s real. Everything’s far away. Everything’s a copy of a copy of a copy.

Fight Club. Dir. David Fincher. 1999

Contrary to the assertion of the Intern (Richmond Arquette) in David Fincher’s Fight Club that No, you can’t die from insomnia», apparently one can die from insomnia.

In particular, one can die from fatal familial insomnia, the main symptom of which

The main symptom of FFI, as the disease is often called, is the inability to sleep. First the ability to nap disappears, then the ability to get a full night's sleep, until the patient cannot sleep at all. The syndrome usually strikes when the sufferer is in his or her 50s, ordinarily lasts about a year, and, as the name indicates, always ends in death.

In summer 1997 I was under extreme emotional distress» and developed insomnia. It started out as waking at 2:00 am, tossing for an hour, and sleeping fitfully until 6 am. Then I started waking at 11:00 pm and 2:00 am, then at 11:00 pm, 2:00 am, 4:00 am until I found myself waking every hour. For a week, I could not sleep at all and found myself just drifting off as it was time to go to my library job.

It was, heretofore, the worst emotional experience of my life. I wonder if IFF is at all linked to emotional trauma.

Unhappy Cat

Cat in front of cake with lit candles.


In some primate groups where sexual selection hinges on female choice, males tend to have larger penises. In primate species whose females do not have so much choice in mate selection, not so much. For example Silverback male gorillas [ . . .] monopolise a harem of females and are poorly endowed.

At greater, ahem, length»:

The origins of the primate sex drive go back more than 60m years to the late Mesozoic era when the first primate evolved. A lot of sex has taken place since then, and a significant proportion has been motivated by female choice between rival males. Female primates can experience multiple orgasms, and it has been theorised that ancestral hominid females sought out males who would sexually satisfy them. Through the mechanism of sexual selection, this will have increased penis size and altered structure.

Today, the average erect gorilla penis is 3cm (1.25 inches) long, the average chimp or bonobo penis comes in at around 8cm and the average human penis stands at around 13cm. Most primates, including chimpanzees, have a penis bone and achieve erections through muscle contraction. The human penis has evolved the unusual system of vasocongestion to achieve erection, making the erect organ far more flexible than that of other primate species.

This unique adaptation is thought to have been selected through female mate choice, and by the time Homo erectus arrived on the scene, the hominid penis was significantly longer, fatter and more bendy than our ape cousins'. It has even been theorised that bipedalism evolved in humans to allow the fashionably new, larger, flexible penis to be displayed to discerning females.


In announcing the F.C.C. decision, Julius Genachowski, the commission’s chairman, said the agency would begin a process to reclassify broadband transmission service as a telecommunications service, subjecting the Internet to some of the same oversight as telephone services.

But, he said, the commission would also exempt broadband service from many of the rules affecting telephone service, seeking mainly to guarantee that Internet service providers could not discriminate against certain applications, Internet sites or users.

Thank you for your common sense.

The telephone

was a 70 year or so period where for some reason humans decided it was socially acceptable to ring a loud bell in someone else’s life and they were expected to come running, like dogs. This was the equivalent of thinking it was okay to walk into someone’s living room and start shouting.

Unless you’re one of my heartmates, this means you».

Monday, 10 May 2010

Darth Vader Hunts Roger O. Thornhill

I finished my first viewing of North by Northwest at the end of last week. The film is certainly a masterpiece, even if it is politicaly incoherent. Sort of like the whimsical mashup, above.

Man Avoids Speeding Tickets by Wearing Monkey Mask

[Dave Vontesmar] was issued over 90 camera speeding tickets but failed to answer them. Upon close inspection, the photos all show the driver of his Subaru vehicle wearing a monkey mask or giraffe mask.

Mr. Vontesmar disputes these tickets on the grounds that they do not prove that he was actually the driver of the speeding car, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety is going bananas. They even arrange for police offices to conduct surveillance of him and claim they can prove that he is the masked man.

Literalizes» the idea drivers are made monkeys by speed cameras. In other news, Arizona is eliminating speed cameras on its highways.

My senior year at Seaside High School, our counselors informed us that as a class, we had outperformed all other MPUSD schools on the annual standardized tests».

Today, Chelsea Balding explains that MPUSD administrators are

trying to take our oldest teachers away, teachers that have been here for 30 years and taught our parents, I think that's just rude that they're going to take away our teachers and send them over to Seaside just to fix their test scores[. . . .]

Monterey High Students march down Lighthouse Avenue

I’m pleased these students are concerned enough about their education and the education of their successors to march, and I’m stunned there are are not enough good teachers to staff both Seaside and Monterey so that the students’ standardized test scores qualify these schools for federal money.

Things have gone from bad to worse, and now Ike’s is facing eviction.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Speaking of political expression on the Internet, MetaFilter user Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey says something that many people are probably thinking right about now.

I want to see people squatting in their own homes and daring the bank to prove that they own the note.

The Wall Street motherfuckers took all those mortgages and created financial monstrosities so complex that they cannot be unwound. In a very real and legally binding sense, the bank that wrote you the loan (and is demanding foreclosure in lieu of payment of that loan) probably does not own that loan any longer, and therefore do not have the legal standing to enforce the terms of the loan.

One woman had $460,000 in mortgage essentially written off when the bank couldn't actually produce a paper trail demonstrating that they still legally owned the loan. She kept her house. Now, if she ever wants to sell it, she may have trouble.

But yeah, I say squat in your own home and challenge the bank to demonstrate that they have the legal right to have the Sheriff's Deputies evict you and change the locks.

No note, no eviction.

Fuck you, bankers. The enduing myth of the Great Depression is the image of newly destitute bankers jumping from the upper story windows.

I know a lot of people this time around who are advocating they be given a bit of a shove.»

6:08 PM on May 9

Conservative and traditional models for starting families are poorly adapted for the modern environment where the ability to manipulate complex streams of information translates to earning power and knowledge equals power.

But then along come two game-changers: the global information economy and the birth-control revolution. The postindustrial economy puts a premium on skill and cognitive ability. A high school education or less no longer offers very good prospects. Blue-collar wages fall, so a factory job no longer cuts it -- if, that is, you can even find a factory job.

Meanwhile, birth control separates decisions about sex from decisions about parenthood, and the advent of effective female contraception lets men shift the moral responsibility for pregnancy to women, eroding the shotgun marriage. Divorce becomes easy to obtain and sheds its stigma. Women stream into the workforce and become more economically independent -- a good thing, but with the side effect of contributing to a much higher divorce rate.

In this very different world, early family formation is often a calamity. It short-circuits skill acquisition by knocking one or both parents out of school. It carries a high penalty for immature marital judgment in the form of likely divorce. It leaves many young mothers, now bearing both the children and the cultural responsibility for pregnancy, without the option of ever marrying at all.

New norms arise for this environment, norms geared to prevent premature family formation. The new paradigm prizes responsible childbearing and child-rearing far above the traditional linkage of sex, marriage, and procreation. Instead of emphasizing abstinence until marriage, it enjoins: Don't form a family until after you have finished your education and are equipped for responsibility. In other words, adults form families. Family life marks the end of the transition to adulthood, not the beginning.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Lulu is now taking submissions for publishing books to Apple’s iBookstore. Lulu’s efforts are aimed not only at authors, but at publishers, too.

Timely and smart.

Participants will address a number of key questions for criticism in the era of computational media. What is an archive if it includes “born digital” materials? How do new forms of digital production and reception change the character of scholarly discourse? What is the relationship between public memory and computer memory? How should teaching materials be handled in the age of open courseware? How can Rorty’s ideas about philosophy as cultural politics be read in both the liberal and the academic blogospheres? How can more dialogue between critical theory and the digital humanities be fostered?

I don’t dispute Rorty’s prominence among Twentieth Century philosophers or philosphers in general. I don’t doubt Rortian pragmatism will be referenced by scholars and statespersons in the years to come. I don’t contest the influence Rorty has had on clarity and understandability in philosophical writing. His long friendship with and understanding of Derrida places him in the company of a small few.

The real significance, though, of this announcement is in the modesty of the archive: electronic word-processing files, created between 1988 and 2003, which were retrieved from Rorty's 3.5" floppy disks during processing of his personal papers.»

On 11 May 2010 in Washington D.C., Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) for failing to provide CREW with records relating to the missing John Yoo emails.

Good that it’s getting done.

Well, quality revenge is hard to come by these days but we have a method that is so insulting and disgusting that you should never wish it on anyone never mind actually go and do it and we dont encourage you to. All we do encourage you to do is give us money and we will send you a package in the mail with tiny, purple dots in it… those are crabs, and they need only be sprinkled on the bedding or clothing of the one you once loved the most to ensure he/she sufferers the fullest wrath of those genital lice.

product information for Crab Revenge

I can’t imagine Crab Revenge ships to the States. Even if they did, purposely exposing someone to parasites is probably illegal in nine kinds of ways. What scares and horrifies me is not that such a service exists» but that there are people who would use it.

The first sentence quoted above is a minor miracle of evasion, one I don’t buy given the name of their domain.

Detail of Couch Surfing

detail of Couch Surfing

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Craig Mod considers the state of ereading on the iPad and finds both Apple’s iBooks and Amazon’s Kindle falling radically short of what we want in our ereader applications. Mod notes the horrible typography of iBooks and Kindle, laments the useless chrome in iBooks», and rolls his eyes over the Bush-league DRM which prevents text copying in iBooks.

These excellent points enumerated, Mod hits ereader pay dirt in The Network (Or, E-Reader ‘Social’ Features)

The Greater Whole

So consider this: 10,000 of us reading the same Kindle book, each of us highlighting and taking notes. Would the aggregate of this not be illuminating? If I want to publicly share my notes with fellow Kindle or iBooks readers, shouldn’t there be a system in place to do this?

Show me the overlap of 10,000 readers' highlighted passages in a digital book. This is our ‘Cliff Notes.’ We don’t need Derek Sivers' brilliant summaries anymore (sorry Derek!) — we’re collectively summarizing for each other as we read and mark our digital copies.

Show me a heat map of passages — ‘hottest’ to ‘coldest’. Which chapters in this Obama biography should I absolutely not miss?

Let Stefan Sagmeister publicly share the passages he’s highlighted in the new Murakami Haruki novel. This is something I want to see. And I bet you do, too.

When I’m considering buying a book, show me how far the average reader gets. Do most readers get through the whole novel or give up halfway? How many notes do they take? How many passages do they highlight?

These can be intimate signifiers of the worth of a particular text. And signifiers that, until books became digital, were invisible — or at best, estimates. Systems should be in place to capture, aggregate and allow access to this data. And this access should be seamlessly integrated with our e-readers.

A me, too moment if I ever saw one.

Seaside High School teachers defend against charges of incompentence, protestors and their parents apologize, and the MPUSD administration explains transferring teachers is the best solution to meet Federal guidelines for improving standardized test score results as well as avoiding more onerous reorganization later.

Based on testing performance, the four schools — Seaside High, King K-8, Highland Elementary and Fitch Middle School — have been identified by the state as persistently lowest-performing. When schools are identified as such, they must be addressed through one of four intervention models outlined by the state.

If the district doesn't take action, a state trustee could be appointed to run the district. State trustees have been appointed in Alisal, Greenfield and King City school districts.

The Peninsula district has three intervention options other than the transfers, but officials say the turnaround model is the most viable.

Nielsen has a few things to say about usability and iPad. One choice bit reads

iPad UIs suffer under a triple threat that causes significant user confusion:

  • Low discoverability: The UI is mostly hidden within the etched-glass aesthetic without perceived affordances.
  • Low memorability: Gestures are inherently ephemeral and difficult to learn when they're not employed consistently across apps; wider reliance on generic commands would help.
  • Accidental activation: This occurs when users touch things by mistake or make a gesture that unexpectedly initiates a feature.
iPad Usability: First Findings From User Testing
Jakob Nielsen

But seriously, you know you’re going to download and read Usability of iPad Apps and Websites: First Research Findings, the Nielsen Norman Group’s 93-page initial report on iPad usability.

Apparently Amazon

Kindle users who highlight passages will now have a record of those highlights sent back to Amazon servers, where they will be compiled and sorted to help produce a new feature called "Popular Highlights."

[. . . .]

Amazon does not reveal preferences of individual users. Only passages highlighted by three or more users are included.

The re-publishing and distribution of user-generated Kindle data should strictly be opt-in. That requirement satisfied, such information would be fantastic to see and share.


Boycotts threatened or carried out over Arizona’s new immigration enforcement law could cost the Phoenix metropolitan area $90 million in hotel and convention business over five years, Mayor Phil Gordon said Tuesday.

The figure, which does not include incidental spending in restaurants and shops, was calculated after four organizations canceled conventions or conferences and a dozen others said they would abandon visits if the law was not repealed, he said.

There’s a lot more where that won’t be coming from.

Microsoft Office Available Over the Web For Free

For the first time, Microsoft will provide a free online version of Office that lets people store their documents on the Web rather than on their personal computers.

If all goes according to Microsoft’s plan, this technology, along with a host of other features, will persuade businesses and consumers to upgrade their Office software once again. “It is a remarkable moment,” said Stephen Elop, the president of Microsoft’s business software division, who will showcase Office 2010 on Wednesday at an event in New York.

Seen this in at least three places, and I’ve been trying to figure out why I don’t care about this, why I don’t think that Microsoft offering an online version of Office for free matters.

I think it’s because Microsoft already has this market sewn up. And also because that market is technologically static, irrelevant to the advance of information technology except as the most banal and invisible of tools. There’s no high in this tech.

And also Microsoft’s online offering changes nothing; I dislike Microsoft Office as much as I did yesterday and the day before that and the day before that.

And also Microsoft doesn’t care» because they get my money regardless.

Simultaneously, a signal is transmitted to a neutron bomb-hardened server located deep within the Cheyenne Moutain Complex. It immediately archives all your individual photos, comments, messages, and items from your profile or anywhere else on Facebook.


Monday, 24 May 2010

Microsoft has problems delivering technical innovation in everything from HTML/CSS/JavaScript standards compliance to operating system updates to mobile OS development».

John Gruber expresses much of what’s on everyone’s mind when he rightly identifies Apple’s over-the-air shortcomings and identifies the magnitude of Microsoft’s inconsequence.

Relying upon a PC is ipso facto not “post-PC”, and the challenge for Apple is that they’ve never demonstrated the sort of expertise needed to do this via the cloud. Over-the-air syncing, backup, and system updates need to be something that “just happens”.


The big loser this week, though, was Microsoft. They’re simply not even part of the game. RIM looms large, as BlackBerrys continue to reign as the best-selling smartphones in the U.S. But Microsoft? They’ve got nothing. No interesting devices, weak sales, and a shrinking user base. Microsoft’s irrelevance is taken for granted.

HTML5 & CSS3 Browser Readiness

The telling parts of this infographic are

  1. The gappiness of IE9 as compared to its nearest better-performing rival, Firefox 3.5 (14/28 vs. 22/28).
  2. The omissions of Chrome 4 and Safari 4 legible as signs of philosophical and/or strategic implementation».

Foucault’s Pendulum, working

Thierry Lalande, the museum's ancient scientific instruments curator, said that the pendulum's brass bob had been badly damaged in three places and could not be restored.

"It's not a loss, because the pendulum is still there, but it's a failure because we were unable to protect it," he said. The circumstances surrounding the accident have raised eyebrows in France.

The museum regularly hosts cocktail parties in the chapel that houses the pendulum, and Mr Lalande admitted that several alarming incidents had occurred over the past year. In May 2009, for example, a partygoer grabbed the 28kg instrument and swung it into a security barrier.

And you thought Americans were uncultured drunkards.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Until now, even in states in other circuits that have issued similar rulings, immigration authorities have generally used the more-lenient law and their discretion to approve such cases, rather than order deportation, immigration lawyers say. But the van Sander case shows that the outlook is dire for couples already in the pipeline for a green card, said Eric E. Olson, an immigration lawyer who has followed the issue closely.

“It’s crazy,” he said, adding that it might provoke a public outcry, because “it’s going to affect a lot of white people, too, not just brown people.”

Strict Reading of Visa Rule Trips Up More Couples

That’s right. The shit’s really gonna hit the fan when the right white illegal immigrants are deported.

Scale is everything.

(Reduced 44%)

Infographic: How high will Virgin Galactic really go?

(Magnified 23%)

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Friday, 28 May 2010



Because it’s that kind of day».

Excellent tutorial on how to pack a carry-on now that airfares no longer necessarily include checked-in backage. Bonus points for not needing to wait at the baggage carousel.

Now that nearly every airline is charging baggage fees, travelers are motivated to pack as efficiently as possible. And who knows more about packing than professional flight crews? In interviews with a dozen flight attendants and pilots, one theme emerged: to pare down and still have everything needed at the destination, think strategically.

Efficient carry-on packing technique

Efficient carry-on packing technique

Efficiently packed carry-on
Efficiently packed
Traditionally packed carry-on
Traditionally packed

Gay rights activists have long sought to repeal the controversial 1993 law, which has seen thousands of Americans forced out of the armed services since it was brought in under President Bill Clinton.

Now that dream is almost certain to happen, after the powerful Senate armed services committee voted 16 to 12 in favour of an amendment that would pave the way for getting rid of the law.

US Senate armed forces committee votes for repeal of military anti-gay law

Contingency aside, this is good, good news.

A 30-year-old Pacific Grove man suffering from hypothermia was rescued Tuesday after his fishing kayak began taking on water in the middle of Monterey Bay, officials said.

The unidentified man called 911 about 6:20 p.m. to report a leaky hull and that he had rolled three times, officials said. The man was unable to describe where he was, but after 20 minutes realized he could determine his location by reading coordinates from his iPhone's GPS system.

A reminder as many of us» head into the Memorial Day weekend: be safe, have fun, and happy returns.