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Current Topic: Society

How The Average U.S. Consumer Spends Their Annual Paycheck
Topic: Society 10:25 am EDT, Jul 10, 2009

Brought to you by the Department of Labor:

Reading: $118
"Entertainment": $2,698

John Lanchester:

If I had to name one high-cultural notion that had died in my adult lifetime, it would be the idea that difficulty is artistically desirable.

Motoko Rich:

As teenagers' scores on standardized reading tests have declined or stagnated, some argue that the hours spent prowling the Internet are the enemy of reading -- diminishing literacy, wrecking attention spans and destroying a precious common culture that exists only through the reading of books.

But others say the Internet has created a new kind of reading, one that schools and society should not discount.

How The Average U.S. Consumer Spends Their Annual Paycheck

The dark side of Dubai
Topic: Society 1:48 pm EDT, Apr 11, 2009

Johann Hari:

All over the city, there are maxed-out expats sleeping secretly in the sand-dunes or the airport or in their cars.

"The thing you have to understand about Dubai is – nothing is what it seems," Karen says at last. "Nothing. This isn't a city, it's a con-job."

The sheikh did not build this city. It was built by slaves. They are building it now.

I believe this is what you'd call an indictment.

Jeff Jarvis:

Dubai is either an act of fiction or of the future. I arrived thinking the former; I leave wondering whether it could be the latter.

From the archive, a selection:

Dubai threatens to become an instant ruin, an emblematic hybrid of the worst of both the West and the Middle-East and a dangerous totem for those who would mistakenly interpret this as the de-facto product of a secular driven culture.

... it's clear that the emirate will soon be overflowing with attractions ...

Dubai, with its Disneyesque Arab souks in which you can purchase Arab handicrafts or a Cinnabon ...

The company behind some of Dubai's best-known landmarks is considering a stock market listing to raise as much as $15bn to reinforce its finances.


Read this now.
Back to Johann Hari:

The most famous hotel in Dubai – the proud icon of the city – is the Burj al Arab hotel, sitting on the shore, shaped like a giant glass sailing boat.

The dark side of Dubai

MAKE: Blog: LED art all over Boston today
Topic: Society 10:57 am EST, Feb  1, 2008

This is interesting - it seems that a group of artists have celebrated 1-31-07 in their own way and have created a series of political themed LED art sculptures and (you guessed it) placed them all over Boston.

I love this note:

This is not a bomb. It is just for lulz

MAKE: Blog: LED art all over Boston today

Charting various aspects of life of last 8 years
Topic: Society 9:12 am EST, Jan 25, 2008

Via the Democratic Caucus...

I'm rerecommending this chart because of the data it contains and not because of the conclusions it seeks to have you draw from that data.

The Bush Administration is certainly directly responsible for some of the changes on this list, such as international opinion of the US, and the increases in our budget and trade deficits.

However, in many respects this chart is pure partisan bullshit. The most starkly annoying aspect is the inclusion of US dependence on foreign oil as a percentage of total oil consumption by the party that faught domestic oil exploration in Alaska. You're blaiming your partisan enemy for the inevitable consequences of the policies you advocated. That's as low as it gets.

Many of the items on this list, such as the increase in oil prices and the amount of job creation, are related to aspects of the business cycle or developments in the global economy that aren't the direct responsibility of the Bush administration. Some, such as changes in the cost of insurance and the number of people insured, are more clearly political, but are the fault of a wide array of actors and not just the Presidency. In fact, the Administration did work on the insurance problem.

The things that I like about this chart are political but I don't see them as directly related to Bush. The most important statistic, I think, is the median household income. It dropped. In 8 years, it dropped.

Charting various aspects of life of last 8 years

Things that were not to be:
Topic: Society 10:02 pm EST, Dec 10, 2007

Virgil made the list with Wikiscanning. Congratulations, Virgil!

(Interestingly, one of the other ideas was also one Virgil came up with a few years ago, but didn't pursue perhaps due to discouragement from several friends.)

Actually, Virgil's idea was to create so people wouldn't find your note before you killed yourself. Revenue models included creating, and I shit you not, a coffee table book of suicide notes.

It was one of the most surreal conversations I have ever had in my life: Strick and I sitting in the student center at Georgia Tech trying to explain to Virgil that this was a bad idea.

This was back in Summer 2003 or so. Got to give my partner-in-crime credit, he's a visionary!

Things that were not to be:

Reading habits dropping
Topic: Society 12:34 am EST, Dec  4, 2007

American reading habits have turned south. Only 30 percent of 13-year-olds read almost every day, according a recent NEA study. The number of 17-year-olds who never read for pleasure increased from 9 percent in 1984 to 19 percent in 2004. Almost half of Americans between ages 18 and 24 never read books for pleasure, which may explain why one out of three does not make it to high school graduation.

As teachers cite the lack of parents’ involvement as a primary cause of faltering of education, parents blame that lack of discipline as the major cause. Both camps, however, can agree on one thing: lack of funding is the second biggest problem.

Indeed, even if nobility is still associated with the profession, the economy is far from showing its appreciation. Many young people who would have gone into teaching have told me they were deterred by financial insecurity. “I would consider teaching seriously but if I ever want to own a house in the Bay Area, I might as well forget that profession,” a graduate from Berkeley recently told me. In Silicon Valley, in order to keep talented teachers, there are now housing units being built for many who couldn’t afford a home, as the average salary for a beginning high school teacher is $44,000 in a county where the median income is around $85,000.

Something about our fast-paced, super consumerist society seems to have robbed the teaching vocation the respect it deserves, disposing that once concrete and tender human relationship to a matter of mere transaction. "You’re a paying customer!” said the yoga student. If in my mother’s world of North Vietnam, the word “teacher” is still interchangeable with the word “father,” in the world I live in now, I fear teaching as a profession is in danger of being reduced to "humble scutwork."

I interview a lot of people and I always ask interview candidates what was the last book they've read. I've never recommended to hire anyone who didn't have a good answer to that question. Thats not because that question is a deal breaker, its just that people who don't have a good answer to that question pretty much also fail to our technical questions.

Reading habits dropping

Everything old...
Topic: Society 3:10 pm EDT, Oct 24, 2007

Modern "security" poster for the UK

Poster from IBM's German subsidiary Dehomag which roughly translates to "Watch everything with a Hollerith." Dehomag sold equipment to the Nazis to power the logistics of Holocaust.

Everything old...

WikiScanner on the Colbert Report
Topic: Society 5:24 pm EDT, Aug 22, 2007

Sorry Samy, Virgil, my former partner in crime, is now my hero.

WikiScanner on the Colbert Report

The K sensitive password
Topic: Society 2:40 pm EDT, Jun 18, 2007

"Even the most brilliant technology can fall short in that it may be too expensive or too complex for the average senior to use."

And then there was the 'k sensitive' password.
My dad is 74 and had trouble with his email. He's a healthy man that still works even though he has not had to in years. He's very active.

He said it kept 'shooting up a box that said password' and so I told him to call Comcast if he couldn't remember his password.

So he did, and still it would not work. "I don't know what I'm doing wrong."

So I went down, and asked him what password they gave him, and he had written down.......... 'k sensitive' He said he'd been trying it every which way he could.

Now this is a man who owned extensive real estate, and 2 businesses in his life. How did this happen?

So I called Comcast to get his REAL password. As soon as I pressed the number in the voice automated system for email problems, a pretty female voice said "Your password is case sensitive."

My dad had assumed - because of his lack of technology vocabulary - well, you all understand. However, to me, it really highlighted the problem that seniors have using and understanding technology, and it just isn't fair.

It isn't fair to leave our 'old but capable' so far behind. It is also probably a huge market if someone would care enough to tap it.

Thanks awesome! After all the password diaglog *told* him what this password was when he set the whole thing up.

The K sensitive password

O'Reilly Radar > Call for a Blogger's Code of Conduct
Topic: Society 11:12 am EDT, Apr 10, 2007

Take responsibility for your actions? Ignore people who are mean? Come up with a ratings system of the vulgarity you wish to have?

Are you fucking kidding me? We have smart and interesting people wasting time on this bullshit? Making a code of conduct for blogs? Ok people, its time to let go of mommy's apron now.

Seriously, This is crazy. Having listened to Tim O'Reilly speak in person at a few conferences, I'm amazed a man who has such vision is wasting time trying to setting up meaningless guidelines about how to play nice. That's like John Nash teaching long division to 4th graders.

"As discussed at a brain storm at Etech..."

Damn, you dragging other smart people into this asinine discussion? I'm still corresponding with people I met at ETech from more than 2 years ago. And the discussions I had there and the people I talked with gave me ideas still percolating in the back of my head. Anyone who attends ETech only to get drawn into a discussion about flame wars should be shot.

And that is what we are dealing with here! We are talking about trying to control/limit flame wars for god sakes. And that's fucking stupid. HTTP:// is no different from news:, and your self-important "geek chic" XHTML 1.1 compliant W3C verified liquid CSS blog doesn't change that.

This is a heartbreaking waste of time and a complete fool's errand.

O'Reilly Radar > Call for a Blogger's Code of Conduct

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