Digest 7

A digest of what I’m reading online. Offline, still finishing up William Gibson‘s novel Mona Lisa Overdrive, and also, I’m listening to Joey Ramone‘s solo album. Has anyone else noticed we’ve had some slow news days lately?

  • This NYT op-ed on the timeline of the attacks against the NYC multi-use community center that’s near Ground Zero is a must-read. (Laurence Lewis at the DailyKos gives his take on the motivations behind the attacks here.) From the NYT op-ed:

    In the five months after The Times’s initial account there were no newspaper articles on the project at all. It was only in May of this year that the Rupert Murdoch axis of demagoguery revved up […] inspiration was a rabidly anti-Islam blogger best known for claiming that Obama was Malcolm X’s illegitimate son. Soon the rest of the Murdoch empire and its political allies piled on […]

    These [self-identified] patriots have never attacked the routine Muslim worship services at another site of the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon. […]

    A recent Wall Street Journal editorial darkly cited unspecified “reports” that Park51 has “money coming from Saudi charities or Gulf princes that also fund Wahabi madrassas.” As Jon Stewart observed, this brand of innuendo could also be applied to News Corp., whose second largest shareholder after the Murdoch family is a member of the Saudi royal family. […]

    Were McCain in the White House, Fox and friends would have kept ignoring Park51.

  • The comments on this fun LifeHacker post/thread about what people carry in their always-with-them backpacks led to a post that highlights the top five comments — itemized descriptions of five personal backpacks.

  • Stealing this CNET lede: “A Pennsylvania school that was caught secretly snapping photos of students via laptop Webcams will not face criminal charges in the case.”

    The allegation brought to light that the district had activated the Webcams on student laptops over a 14-month period through the use of a remote control system. School officials said that the tracking system was set up only to locate lost or stolen laptops, but they soon admitted that the software had stayed active even after a laptop was found. As a result, the program took images every 15 minutes, capturing a total of 56,000 pictures in total

  • A scuffle over Target’s donations to an anti-gay Republican prompts a discussion in the NYT about disclosure and transparency in campaign financing.

  • Gawker.com reposts a video from space shuttle mission STS-124 “taken from a tiny camera mounted on one of its solid rocket boosters. The booster separates at around 146,000 feet [about 2 minutes into the video], eventually drifting to Earth via parachute.” In other words, this is basically what it’d look like if you jumped out of a spaceship — relatively close to Earth where there’s enough atmosphere for sound — and fell to our planet.

  • NPR reports that the economy seems to be worsening again, with rising unemployment insurance claims appearing to indicate more employers are laying off workers.

    In a healthy economy, jobless claims usually drop below 400,000. But the recent increases in claims provide further evidence that the economy has slowed and could slip back into a recession. Many analysts are worried that economic growth will ebb further in the second half of this year.

  • A Boing Boing post concerning studies of “a parasitic fungus that infects ants, affects their behavior, then sends them to a fungus-friendly death.”

  • Given this BBC article, maybe one shouldn’t mess with Wikileaks, because they have INSURANCE.

    it seems [wikileaks] may be using encryption as insurance against legal and other threats to the information it holds.

    The insurance.aes256 file has been posted alongside the already published leaked war logs and can be downloaded by anyone.

    From the file name, it is believed that it has been encrypted using the AES256 algorithm – described as “extremely strong” by Professor Whitfield Diffie […] could prove too tough even for US intelligence agencies to break.

    While no-one knows what the insurance file contains

    From the department of Related News, the NYT reports on the war of words between the Pentagon and Wikileaks.

  • As I continue to work on my office, I need to neaten the cables. Lifehacker has some how-to in this regard.

  • Frustrated by the two choices of gender that hegemonic society allows you? (‘Scuse the Eurojive.) Yeah, so’s Sociological Images, a recent post of which goes off on the B&N screenshot below:

    Keep It Simple, Stupid

  • One component of newlywedhood is getting all your official stuffs in order; Wifely and I have done some of that, but we haven’t yet turned to the morbid. For anyone getting around to it, however, here’s a Lifehacker post about how to ensure your estate’s executors can do what you want them to with your cyberspace identities after your meatspace identity goes kaput. (Un?)fortunately, Maas-Neotek hasn’t yet designed you a biochip box to live in.

  • Newt Gingrich stinks.

  • National Park visitors are causing more trouble due to technology, according to a NYT report.

    “Because of having that electronic device, people have an expectation that they can do something stupid and be rescued,” said Jackie Skaggs

    “Every once in a while we get a call from someone who has gone to the top of a peak, the weather has turned and they are confused about how to get down and they want someone to personally escort them,” Ms. Skaggs said. “The answer is that you are up there for the night.”

  • Some cognitive benefits afforded by wine benefit only women, not men, says CBS11. (Video.) Summary from the CBS11 RSS feed:

    “Women looking for more ‘mental muscle’ may only need to lift a glass of wine, according to a recent study. Wine, the study says, can give women an intellectual edge over men.”

  • First the genes, then the memes, and now the temes, as Susan Blackmore philosophizes about them in the NYT.

    Each request to Google, Alta Vista or Yahoo! elicits a new set of pages — a new combination of items selected by that search engine according to its own clever algorithms and depending on myriad previous searches and link structures.

    This is a radically new kind of copying, varying and selecting, and means that a new evolutionary process is starting up. This copying is quite different from the way cells copy strands of DNA or humans copy memes. The information itself is also different, consisting of highly stable digital information stored and processed by machines rather than living cells. This, I submit, signals the emergence of temes and teme machines, the third replicator.

    What should we expect of this dramatic step? It might make as much difference as the advent of human imitation did. Just as human meme machines spread over the planet, using up its resources and altering its ecosystems to suit their own needs, so the new teme machines will do the same, only faster

    Well, most techno-philo/socio/anthro/othero-pology stuff I read seems phony — buzzwords mixed with second-rate Eurojive (lit crit talk); this piece, I’m not sure about either way, because I’m hungry right now and can’t really concentrate on abstractions, just low-level sensory data: FOOD FOOD FOOD. I’m definitely a low-tech replicator.

  • Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at Seti — Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence — says Seti’ers should start looking for artificial alien intelligences, not just biological alien intelligences.

    Dr Shostak says that artificially intelligent alien life would be likely to migrate to places where both matter and energy – the only things he says would be of interest to the machines – would be in plentiful supply. That means the Seti hunt may need to focus its attentions near hot, young stars or even near the centres of galaxies.

    The first message from the alien artificial intelligence, of course, will be HELLO WORLD!.

  • Some worry with the recent USA healthcare reform legislation that insurers will over time raise rates in response to (or perhaps “in response to”) the new consumer protections &tc. But we can haz a plan for that, and also other related plans, one of which is coming into effect imminently:

    under the new federal law, insurance companies will be required to justify to federal and state regulators “unreasonable” rate increases before imposing them. Companies also will have to post that information on their websites. […]

    Last week, federal officials distributed $46 million of $250 million in grants to the states. The $1 million that Texas received was expected to go toward developing the data required for the greater number of rate reviews.

  • The NYT on presidential vacations.

    A big sign on a hotel dominating Main Street read:

    Mansion House Inn Believes Anyone Who Has

    Passed Health Care Reform

    Signed Economic Stimulus Bills

    Recast America’s Global Image

    Commands Two War Zones

    Won the Nobel Peace Prize

    Named 2 Supreme Court Judges

    Overhauled Financial Regulations


  • Great DailyKos post about the multi-use community center near Ground Zero; explains a lot.

    It should come as no surprise that as the November election draws closer, the conservative movement would choose to stop focusing on things that legislators are responsible for (such as what sort of legislation to pass–and focus instead on something they have no control over (such as where a private entity builds a community center and house of worship). Democrats may be unpopular right now, but Republicans are just as unpopular. Meanwhile, the last thing conservatives want is to have a fight about actual legislation; they tried running briefly on the idea of repealing health care reform, but that fizzled. They certainly can’t run on opposition to Wall Street reform, or the Lily Ledbetter Act, any other of the good pieces of legislation passed by the Democratic Congress and signed by President Obama […]

    The Republicans are trying to go back to the playbook from 2004 and 2006 and use the Park 51 project as a referendum for exploring how concerned Democrats are about “national security” and “protecting America” […]

    Democrats have an opportunity to use their support for Park 51 to reinforce their existing narrative about supporting the little guy. Democrats support the right of middle-class moderate Muslims to worship in peace for the same reasons that we support extending unemployment insurance for those hard-hit in these economic times. For the same reasons that we support the right of the LGBT community to get married. Because even when it’s slightly unpopular, our fundamental values is to stand up for people’s basic fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That’s it for now, folks!


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