The Longest Now


Cat Shit One
Wednesday February 23rd 2011, 12:32 am
Filed under: fly-by-wire,indescribable,Too weird for fiction

Motofumi Kobayashi’s infamous “metal gear bunny” comic about USA GIs in the Vietnam War (released in the US as Apocalypse Meow) is now a slickly produced animated series. It is a careful 3D rendering of the original, bloodless body count and all.



La Voz Del Mako
Sunday February 06th 2011, 6:55 pm
Filed under: Blogroll,chain-gang,international,poetic justice,Too weird for fiction

Some things are too good to mako up: The prison-blogging project La Voz Del Mako, “un espacio libre para los reclusos” at Centro Penitenciario de Albolote in Spain, apparently began life as a newspaper of the same name a dozen years ago. The current director of the prison said, in setting up the blog, “I wanted to open more than prison.” It’s not quite Between the Bars, but it looks like an interesting cloistered-community-wide effort.



A patent alternative: aaaaaagmmnrr

Hooke liked to note discoveries he had made before he had found time to exlpain and prove his discoveries.  He used the simple mechanich of anagramming an entire phrase:

The true Mathematical and Mechanichal form of all manner of ARches for Building, with the true butment necessary to each of them. A Problem which no Architectonick Writer hath ever yet attempted, much less performed. abcccddeeeeefggiiiiiiiillmmmmnnnnnooprrsssttttttuuuuuuuux

This code, not decrypted during Hooke’s life, was revealed on his death to anagram to: Ut pendet continuum flexile, sic stabit contiguum rigidum inversum — “As hangs a flexible cable, so inverted, stand the touching pieces of an arch”.  The modest original context follows; (more…)



I love it when scientists talk dirty…
Friday January 07th 2011, 1:59 am
Filed under: Blogroll,chain-gang,indescribable,international,metrics,Too weird for fiction

…and when they make loose with a few orders of magnitude.

Rouder and Morey critique some recent work by Bem on “Feeling for the Future”:

[O]ur assessment is that Bem’s experiments, collectively, provide some evidence of psi phenomena, but not enough to sway the beliefs an appropriately skeptical reader…

…There is [a] surprising degree of evidence for the hypothesis that people can feel the future with emotionally-valenced nonerotic stimuli, with a Bayes factor of about 40. Though this value is certainly noteworthy, it is several orders of magnitude lower than what is required to overcome appropriate skepticism of such implausible claims.”

The framing of the questions and hypotheses here is most amusing, and worth a read. Rouder’s face sums up this whole debate.

Hat-tip to Cassandra Vieten at HuPo.



On Graphene
Sunday December 26th 2010, 12:16 am
Filed under: chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,Too weird for fiction

Graphene is one of the most remarkable substances in the world. Physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov won the Nobel Prize for their work to manufacture single-layer sheets of it only six years after their first success.

Now it is entering mass production, and being considered for the sort of applications that currently rely on nanotubes. It might also be suitable for very different macro-scale tasks, as sheets of graphene can theoretically be arbitrarily broad (while just one atom thick), once a suitable production process is worked out.

In practice, it is still hard to produce monolayer sheets of graphene, but we are making thinner and thinner ‘platelets’ by exfoliating them from larger chunks. Many current applications depend on the bulk surface area available for interaction with the environment, and platelets are often marketed in terms of their surface area per unit weight (in m^2/g).

The properties of commercially produced graphene are 1-2 magnitudes less than the extreme values measurable with pure monolayer sheets. So on top of the practical economic applications today, there is a decade of Moore-like improvement to look forward to. Costs of production vary according to purity: low-grade graphene (platelets 3-10 layers thick and a few dozen microns wide) are available for under $300/kg, while higher-quality graphene (1-3 layers thick, hundreds of microns wide) can range from $10/gram to $100/gram, and only in small quantities.

Finally, my favorite factoid about graphene (out of MANY): you can use a sheet of it to directly measure the fine structure constant: each layer absorbs πα (that’s pi times the fine structure constant) of light that passes through it!



The Andy Kaufman of bloggers?
Wednesday October 13th 2010, 2:57 pm
Filed under: indescribable,Not so popular,Too weird for fiction,Uncategorized,wikipedia

Luke Ford is the most bizarre person I’ve come across in a long time.  (Update, 2012: still is!)  Reading his personal journal suggests he is a cross between Andy Kaufman, Sam Sloan, and Woody Allen… with a pinch of dissociation and a journalists reflection on his own life journey.  The characters he writes about one believes are all being quoted and transcribed verbatim.

// I believe in chocolate,” she says. “And not much else. It’s definitely pretty scary.//

What seem to be entire unedited photosets of his (many different versions of each portrait) have been uploaded to Commons. When does a photographer sharing their photos cross the line from “publishing productively to the Commons” to “using Commons as a personal photo hosting service”? Do we want to duplicate Flickr’s functionality for any freely-licensed images, and if so, what will that end up costing? Flickr already hosts many times the current Commons capacity in CC-BY and CC-SA photos, this would be a significant shift in our use of infrastructure.

I happen to have come across Ford’s work because he has a large personal category on Commons, and was linked from a discussion of controversial content; are there other photogs (with other topical focus) who also have thousands of their own photos there?



Drinking the Kool-Aid (sic)
Tuesday August 10th 2010, 1:34 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,poetic justice,Too weird for fiction,Uncategorized,wikipedia

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid, they say — commonly remembered as a reference to the final drinks of most victims of the Jonestown massacre. At the time the phrase was coined,Tom Wolfe’s book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test was also popular, and in the context of  60s hippie culture, “drinking the kool-aid” could also mean taking LSD.

Early reports about the compound referred to “cool aid(sic) packets”.  Since then, Kraft Foods and others have maintained that it was an urban legend that they all drank Kool-Aid, and that it was Flavor Aid instead – a misunderstanding thanks to the genericization of “cool aid” as a term.

Enter YouTube, Wikipedia, and the open web.  After decades of casual debate, we can now resolve half of the mystery: they certainly had both powdered drinks at Jonestown, and we have a handy link to the 9 seconds of a newsreel that shows it first-hand.  Whether the final drink was from one set of packets or the other, this handily settles the question of whether they had Kool Aid on site.  It’s the first time I’ve seen a few seconds of video effectively used as a moving-image citation!  Note to Readers: you can also embed YouTube videos and tell them where to start playback.

Hat-tip to brassratgirl for helping me towards enlightenment on the issue.



I am already addicted to “Young Imam”
Tuesday June 29th 2010, 1:34 pm
Filed under: indescribable,international,poetic justice,Too weird for fiction

This new reality show from Malaysia looks amazing. I would go out of my way to watch this sort of show for any religion whatever. (The Frum and the Restless didn’t do it for me. But if you have another amazing reality show that captures real life, let me know.) The winner of the show is sponsored to take the Hajj, and has a chance to lead services for a famous congregation in Kuala Lumpur.

UPDATE: Here’s a YouTube video trailer of the show.



Boston police shamed in earnest
Saturday August 01st 2009, 3:56 am
Filed under: chain-gang,Too weird for fiction

When Skip Gates was arrested last week for disorderly conduct after breaking into his own home – by a policeman known for his calm demeanor who teaches racial sensitivity to other cops – the Cambridge Police could at least say they were working to protect their community.

Then the day after Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham published an article on the arrest, the Boston force found itself in a truly embarrassing spot.  Police officer, National Guard reservist, and self-proclaimed writer and English teacher Justin Barrett wrote an incredible half-coherent racist and sexist screed to a large cc: list — including his fellow officers and Abraham herself.   She responded with style:

I didn’t make it to the part where he calls me a fool and an infidel (he correctly pegged me as Catholic). And I certainly didn’t make it to the bit where he invites me to serve him hot Panamanian coffee and a warm cruller on a Sunday morning.

I wish I had gotten that far. That would have given me a good laugh.

Barrett was soon suspended from his police and reserve positions; but not before making the whole Boston Police Department hang their collective head in shame.



Twitterpedia FTW
Sunday May 17th 2009, 3:52 am
Filed under: indescribable,Too weird for fiction,Uncategorized,wikipedia

It has been claimed that twitterpedia will one day replace Wikipedia, at the point where everyone needs no more than a tweet about any given topic.

FT2 astutely comments:

the predictable twitterpedia sequel follows:
– user#217869: pov warring!!
– @83476238 not so!
– @217869 is so!!
– @83476238 not so!
– @both: u blocked 24 hrs 3rr
– @admin plz no?
– @217869 o ok
– @admin kthxbai
– @83476238 u block I not u suxxor pov war!!!
– @admin u involved,, @arbcom plzdesysopkthx?
– @user no wai!!
– ……….

A tip of the hat to all involved for scrying the essential parts of our post-singularity knowledge landscape.



Bull dies of exhaustion near Times Square
Friday September 19th 2008, 7:04 pm
Filed under: poetic justice,Too weird for fiction

OK, it was in Queens.  And it was a young schizophrenic bull, not an old one with degenerative troubles.  But you can’t make this stuff up.



Lackaff on the enormity of 15c mesoamerican destruction
Sunday September 07th 2008, 8:50 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,null,Too weird for fiction

I ran across Lackaff‘s pithy blog again tonight, and was touched by this quote about the enormity of our species’s loss after the destruction of mesoamerican civilization.

I also discovered a good alternate use to my next-door-street‘s name.



Glorious Vista
Monday January 22nd 2007, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Too weird for fiction

The cost of Vista… a view of a glorious future. Thanks to Peter Gutmann for the thoughtful analysis.

Glorious Vista …



Biowiki
Monday June 19th 2006, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Too weird for fiction

I’m not sure what to make of this.   What a fabulous site license 🙂

In other dredged-up quotes from the Phil S. poetry cellar: “He indicated that he took issue with my comma usage, but that yes, absolutely, he felt that this was appropriate…”

Biowiki …



Red scare
Tuesday November 08th 2005, 6:16 am
Filed under: Too weird for fiction

The “Polit Bureau” of the Communist Party*
of a billion-person nuclear government took aim at Washington last
month, claiming the UN-organized Volcker committee was a product
of “the
US and its allies
,” pausing to note “the pressure of vicious attacks by
the rightwing circles in the United States against the United
Nations
”   The Apocamon are knocking at the door…

* Not China; rather the “Communist Party of India (Marxist)”, the largest of around ten similarly-named parties in the country.

Red scare …



New Orleans, before and after : Days 0 through 5
Sunday September 11th 2005, 3:59 am
Filed under: Too weird for fiction

What a fantastic, nightmarish photoessay.  200 photos, before and after, all over town.  Beautifully shot by one Alvaro. As Ian notes, he could use a caption editor, but his love of the city comes through… it breaks my heart.

when I wasn’t taking pictures, we donated a truckload of food to the
police department, gave away over 10 gallons of water to civilians when
we decided to leave, and we sat on the curb outside of our apartment
with a radio on so that the whole block could listen to the news. I’m
not trained as a lifesaver, but I do like taking pictures.

The city seems to have been fine well into Day 2; a quick evacuation should
have been possible as late as day 3, once everyone realized there was real
trouble underfoot, and was promised by day 5.  I’m not sure when
the last buses left, but it was more like day 8…

New Orleans, before and after : Days 0 through 5 …



Katrina Chaos
Thursday September 01st 2005, 6:54 pm
Filed under: Too weird for fiction

Find lost friends and loved ones

FEMA was unprepared.  The engineers in New Orleans, despite insisting at some point this wasn’t as bad as their worst fears, were unprepared.  Even Fats Domino was unprepared.  The governors of
Louisiana and Mississippi were unprepared even to fight for order, and
have already thrown up their hands and claimed salvage impossible,
repair “in the hands of a higher power.” 

But this wasn’t unexpected
It has been talked about and thought about, for decades, by people at
every level from city district planners to various branches of the
federal government and the military.  Louisiana isn’t the only
region of the US that talks about “The Big One
and when it will come, but they have one of the better reasons to
expect it to happen soon; everyone knew the chances a disaster were
only increasing year by year.  We have advanced hurricane tracking
systems that allowed us to start worrying about Katrina long
before landfall.   But what was the response?  Is there
some way to see how forces, experts, and materials were mobilized in
the run up to the past week?

I know more about catastrophes in Texas than in Louisiana, so a few
comments from across the border:  the extensive flooding in
Southeast Texas a few summers back was no wake-up call, either; and
improvement plans made then have yet to be implemented in Houston (to
pick a nearby and wealthier city).  Anything readily survived can
be readily forgotten.

Why are good contingency plans so scarce?  Why are people so
shy about demanding them?  In Houston, I remember, people had
known for ten years before the last flood that measures promised after
the preceding flood hadn’t been implemented… but there was only
occasional grumbling. 

And most importantly, why are there so few community-based disaster
groups who know what to do and how in such situations?  This
disaster proved again that waiting for national or global organizations
to come and help often takes too long.  The health  and
looting problems have worsened rapidly (currently, active Marines have
been called in and the governor’s orders include “shoot looters on
sight”).  People let in the area feel stranded, don’t know what to
do, and are in many regions making the situation worse. 

This was a MINOR natural disaster, for all the destruction it caused —  it was trackable, predictable, and came in a familiar form.
Yet hundreds of communities proved themselves incapable of coping with
it.   Just imagine the results of a real cataclysm.




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