|Current Topic: Miscellaneous|
|| 8:21 am EDT, Oct 3, 2012
Front and Follow:
This risky tactic, conducted at close quarters, is used to track targets on the move, usually on foot. Two surveillance operatives approach the target at different times. The first falls in behind the target and begins following him discreetly. The second operative predicts the target's path and takes up a position ahead of him. The two agents continue in this manner until the front operative feels the need to lie low or misinterprets the target's destination. Then the following operative repositions to the front and the other operative falls in behind.
Every time our work becomes hard, we are pushed toward an existential crisis, centered on what for many is an obnoxiously unanswerable question: "Is this what I'm really meant to be doing?" This constant doubt generates anxiety and chronic job-hopping.
The motto of athletic competition should not be "Follow your dream." It should be "Follow your reality."
One by one we are outsourcing our mental functions to the global prosthetic brain.
I can live with that.
||A Series of Interesting Choices
|| 7:27 am EDT, Aug 3, 2012
The big problem that is holding back Linux is games. People don't realize how critical games are in driving consumer purchasing behavior.
Mary Meeker, Scott Devitt, and Liang Wu:
Do humans want everything to be like a game?
In order to participate as a citizen of the social web, you must yourself manufacture content. Progress requires that forms must be filled. Thus it is a critical choice of any adult as to where they will perform their free labor.
We're not in the endgame, we're in the middle-game.
The only way to win the game is simply not to play.
Today we are living, for better and worse, in a world of stupid games.
The enemy in Tetris is not some identifiable villain (Donkey Kong, Mike Tyson, Carmen Sandiego) but a faceless, ceaseless, reasonless force that threatens constantly to overwhelm you, a churning production of blocks against which your only defense is a repetitive, meaningless sorting. It is bureaucracy in pure form, busywork with no aim or end, impossible to avoid or escape. And the game's final insult is that it annihilates free will. Despite its obvious futility, somehow we can't make ourselves stop rotating blocks. Tetris, like all the stupid games it spawned, forces us to choose to punish ourselves.
Gamification seeks to turn the world into one giant chore chart covered with achievement stickers -- the kind of thing parents design for their children -- though it raises the potentially terrifying question of who the parents are. This, I fear, is the dystopian future of stupid games: amoral corporations hiring teams of behavioral psychologists to laser-target our addiction cycles for profit.
The legendary game designer Sid Meier once defined a game as, simply, "a series of interesting choices." Maybe that's the secret genius of stupid games: they force us to make a series of interesting choices about what matters, moment to moment, in our lives.
|| 7:27 am EDT, Aug 3, 2012
Pushing back means you already think you know. Asking questions means you want to know. Ask more questions.
Sometimes, when forming our opinions, we grasp at whatever information presents itself, no matter how irrelevant.
Repetition is all-important to spreading a Big Lie.
Laura J. Brown, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs for the F.A.A., said that the agency has decided to take a "fresh look" at the use of personal electronics on planes.
It is in everyone's interest that we move from unscientific fears to real scientific testing.
Science is driven by two powerful motivations -- to discover the "truth," while acknowledging how fleeting it can be, and to achieve recognition through publication in prominent journals, through grant support to continue and expand research, and through promotion, prizes and memberships in prestigious scientific societies. The search for scientific truth may be seriously derailed by the desire for recognition, which may result in scientific misconduct.
Frankly, the professional experience I have had with TSA has frightened me. Once, I was bypassing screening (on official FBI business) with my .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol, and a TSA officer noticed the clip of my pocket knife. "You can't bring a knife on board," he said. I looked at him incredulously and asked, "The semi-automatic pistol is okay, but you don't trust me with a knife?" His response was equal parts predictable and frightening, "But knives are not allowed on the planes."
An unnamed officer:
In the end, it was just easier to do nothing than to, you know, rock the boat.
||Happenstance Cogs in a Clockwork Universe
|| 7:27 am EDT, Aug 3, 2012
Most members of post-industrial societies perceive themselves as happenstance cogs in a clockwork universe, and consequently, exhibit a profound and increasingly dangerous alienation. The dissociation of self is so fundamental that bioregions are sub-divided into tract housing, resources into quarterly earnings, and people into one-percenters and the rest.
William J. H. Andrewes:
The schemes that divided the day into 24 equal parts varied according to the start of the count: Italian hours began at sunset, Babylonian hours at sunrise, astronomical hours at midday and "great clock" hours (used for some large public clocks in Germany) at midnight. Eventually these and competing systems were superseded by "small clock," or French, hours, which split the day, as we currently do, into two 12-hour periods commencing at midnight.
Wikipedia would be a shambles without bots.
As we enter an age of increased global connection, we are also entering an age of increasing participation. The billions of people worldwide who access the Internet via computers and mobile phones have access to information far beyond their borders, and the opportunity to contribute their own insights and opinions. It should be no surprise that we are experiencing a concomitant rise in mystery that parallels the increases in connection.
The challenge for anyone who wants to decipher the mysteries of a connected age is to understand how the Internet does, and does not, connect us. Only then can we find ways to make online connection more common and more powerful.
The truths of science are so profoundly concealed that the only thing we can really be sure of is that much of what we expect to happen won't come to pass.
|| 6:34 am EDT, Aug 2, 2012
The premise of 19th-century liberal democracy, which envisioned national communities as largely self-enclosed and politics as localized debates on the common good, becomes less tenable with each passing year.
Russian democracy became a caricature of the caricature once drawn by Soviet propagandists: it was a pseudo-politics serving only to conceal the controlling hand of moneyed interests. Unlike in Western democracies, however, in Russia everyone was aware of the deception.
By 2003, four-fifths of Russians agreed with the statement, "Democratic procedures are pure show business." In an American context, these words would sound like an angry call for reform. In Putin's Russia, they were a pledge of allegiance.
Being in the water alone, surfing, sharpens a particular kind of concentration, an ability to agree with the ocean, to react with a force that is larger than you are.
Dive into the sea, or stay away.
The stars, and even the moon, were so perfectly reflected that you couldn't find the horizon, so it seemed as if our boat was a satellite in space, surrounded above, below and on all sides by stars.
The best sentences orient us, like stars in the sky, like landmarks on a trail.
Lal Ded, translated by Ranjit Hoskote:
You can stir as much salt as you like in water,
It won't become the sea.
|| 6:34 am EDT, Aug 2, 2012
The first time Sheila McClear had lunch with Nick Denton, she returned to the office afterward and threw up. She attributed this to food poisoning, but it happened again the second time they had lunch.
Just because we can put something in our mouths, does that make it food? At what point do we decide that something isn't food?
More than 60 percent of Twitter users abandon it after a single month.
Half the crime in Seattle occurs on 4.5 percent of that city's streets; just over 3 percent of street addresses and intersections generated half the crimes in Minneapolis; and 8 percent of street blocks accounted for 66 percent of robberies in Boston.
To get all its extra supplies out of Afghanistan, NATO needs to send one container over the Afghan border every seven minutes from now until 2015.
Roughly 50,000 lives have been lost since Mexico's experiment with a Colombian-style militarized drug war began in 2006. The Citizen's Council for Public Security in Mexico recently estimated the kidnapping rate at three times that of Colombia's darkest days. By November 2011, 80 percent of the population ... said they believed security to be worse than just a year ago. A mere 14 percent believed that the government could beat the drug gangs.
Google+ has attracted 100 million members, who spent an average of 3.3 minutes on the service in January, according to ComScore (SCOR). Facebook's 850 million users spend an average of 7.5 hours a month on that site.
The I.R.S. receives 100 million tax returns a year, most filed within a short period of time and a vast majority legitimate.
From 2008 to 2011, the number of returns filed by identity thieves and stopped by the I.R.S. increased significantly, officials said. Last year, it was at least 1.3 million ...
This year, with only 30 percent of the filings reviewed so far, the number is already at 2.6 million.
Among financial academics, chartists tend to be regarded as quacks. But a lot of the Big Data people are exactly like them. They say, "We are just going to stare at the data and look for patterns, and then act on them when we find them." In short, there is very little real science in what we call "data science," and that's a big problem.
Actuaries can say with great confidence what percent of people with your characteristics will live to be 80. But no actuary would ever try to predict when you are going to die. They know exactly where to draw the line.
||On The Artificial Scarcity of Super Hyper Special Happy Moments
|| 7:23 am EDT, Jul 25, 2012
Corporatism, with its promotion of competition between individuals over scarce resources and money, laid the ground for individualism and for a heightened concept of the self.
How do we go back to the idea that ordinary can be extraordinary? How do we teach our children -- and remind ourselves -- that life doesn't have to be all about public recognition and prizes, but can be more about our relationships and special moments?
I like some comic-book movies very much, dislike others. But as a film lover I am frustrated by how the current system of flooding theaters with the same handful of titles limits my choices. (According to boxofficemojo.com "The Avengers" opened on 4,349 screens in the United States and Canada, close to 1 in 10.) The success of these movies also shores up a false market rationale that's used to justify blockbusters in general: that is, these movies make money, therefore people like them; people like them, therefore these movies are made.
I really wanted ten million dollars to make Spider and we could only raise eight. And at that point it was, okay, do we make this movie or not? You know, if we make it for eight then it means we all literally have to not get paid. And I include there, Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson, and the Producer and the Writer and the Director -- me, but we all loved the project so much and we were already so far engaged in it, that we all agreed to do that. So we literally all of us, and Patrick McGrath the writer of the novel, we all literally didn't get paid and we made the movie for eight million, but we really needed ten. So that's an unusual moment, and just in terms of financial survival you can't do that very often, because you're spending two years of your life making a movie and you're making zero money during those two years. But that was sort of a happy case because we managed to survive it.
Anything that doesn't take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.
The day I saw Bicycle Thieves I had become an aesthete without realizing it, more concerned with how a particular film was made, than with whatever twists its plot had. All of a sudden, the way the camera moved, a scene was cut and a certain image was framed, were ... [ Read More (0.2k in body) ]
||Let's Just Say We Have An Understanding
|| 8:08 am EDT, Jul 23, 2012
196 Americans have given more than 80 percent of the super-PAC money spent in the presidential elections so far.
Clive Stafford Smith:
Capital punishment means those without the capital get the punishment.
The Camorra is not an organization like the Mafia that can be separated from society, disciplined in court, or even quite defined. It is an amorphous grouping in Naples and its hinterlands of more than 100 autonomous clans and perhaps 10,000 immediate associates, along with a much larger population of dependents, clients, and friends. It is an understanding, a way of justice, a means of creating wealth and spreading it around. It has been a part of life in Naples for centuries -- far longer than the fragile construct called Italy has even existed. At its strongest it has grown in recent years into a complete parallel world and, in many people's minds, an alternative to the Italian government, whatever that term may mean. Neapolitans call it "the system" with resignation and pride. The Camorra offers them work, lends them money, protects them from the government, and even suppresses street crime. The problem is that periodically the Camorra also tries to tear itself apart, and when that happens, ordinary Neapolitans need to duck.
When we ask questions about technology we often ask about matters such as safety and efficiency or costs and benefits. We don't often ask, "What sort of person will the use of this or that technology make of me?" Or, more to the present point, "What sort of citizen will the use of this or that technology make of me?"
We speak of technological innovation as if it alone could cure our economic and political ills. We forget that our economic and political culture is finally composed of individuals whose actions are driven by character, and character is in large measure the product of habitual patterns of action. It would be one of history's great ironies if under the cover of the ideology of technology, we allowed our use of technology to erode the habits of the heart essential to the health of our society.
There are great benefits to connectedness, but we haven't wrapped our minds around the costs.
||The Complacency That Breeds Ingenious Chimeras
|| 7:57 am EDT, Jul 23, 2012
The reality is that, despite fears that our children are "pumped full of chemicals", everything is made of chemicals.
Kit Parker, a biophysicist at Harvard University:
Morphologically, we've built a jellyfish. Functionally, we've built a jellyfish. Genetically, this thing is a rat.
How do you persuade people to hate a body part? You have to horse trade with their existing hatred of a different body part. Capitalism really is ingenious.
Altogether the digital shifts of the last five years call to mind a horse that has sprinted out from underneath its rider, dragging the person who once held the reins. No one is arguing for some kind of Amish future. But the research is now making it clear that the Internet is not "just" another delivery system. It is creating a whole new mental environment, a digital state of nature where the human mind becomes a spinning instrument panel, and few people will survive unscathed.
All of us, since the relationship with the Internet began, have tended to accept it as is, without much conscious thought about how we want it to be or what we want to avoid. Those days of complacency should end. The Internet is still ours to shape. Our minds are in the balance.
Ashutosh (Ash) Jogalekar:
Much of the modern world as we know it in the form of metals, plastics, fibers, drugs, detergents, pesticides, fuels, medical implants, food and drink is the direct result of chemistry. Pondering just one of chemistry's myriad creations like jet fuel or PVC or aspirin should convince us of its all-pervasive role in human civilization. It would not be a stretch to say that chemistry's influence on our modern way of life and the rise and fall of nations is equal to that of the development of the calculus.
For at least one hundred years and probably much longer, modern societies have been built on the assumption that more rationality and more techne (and more capital) are precisely the solutions to the extremely serious problems that beset our world and our human societies. Yet the evidence that this is not the right solution can be found everywhere.
As the world becomes more threatening, many people seek simple answers, and many Americans conclude that an elite -- from which they are excluded -- must be the source of the ills. They turn on intellectuals, professors, and presumably the specialized knowledge those experts trade in. Instead of resisting that tendency, conservative intellectuals such as Gelernter encourage it. In their flight from elitism, they end up in a populist swamp peopled by autodidacts and fundamentalists. They become cheerleaders for a world without intellectuals, hastening a future in which they themselves will be irrelevant.
||Led By The Nose On A Whirlwind Tour Through The Palace Of Notoriety
|| 7:39 am EDT, Jul 12, 2012
When something doesn't quite match your expectations of how you think the world actually is, people will often build on that, and they will realize that what seems like a minor discrepancy can actually turn into a really, really big thing.
It is worth pausing to consider how much of our cultural life -- even in its most august precincts -- is caught up in the voracious logic of celebrity. It is a logic that builds obsolescence into the banner of achievement and requires that seriousness abdicate before the palace of notoriety and its sound-bite culture.
Anyone who still believes that politics will uplift humanity is considered a crank. Yet the idea of progress hasn't vanished. It has simply been privatised. They don't think the next human generation will be better off, but they are making darned sure their own children will be.
Romney will always be what he needs to be. Count on it.
Won't Mr. Romney pay a price for running a campaign based entirely on falsehoods? He obviously thinks not, and I'm afraid he may be right.
They just want theirs. That is the culture they have created.
It's easy for most Americans to go days without giving the war a thought.
The military, on its end, seems to want things this way.
What I expect in the next few years is the willful amnesia that always comes with the end of unsuccessful wars.
The ideal citizen of a politically corrupt state, such as the one we now have, is a gullible dolt unable to tell truth from bullshit.
An educated, well-informed population, the kind that a functioning democracy requires, would be difficult to lie to, and could not be led by the nose by the various vested interests running amok in this country. Most of our politicians and their political advisers and lobbyists would find themselves unemployed, and so would the gasbags who pass themselves off as our opinion makers. Luckily for them, nothing so catastrophic, even though perfectly well-deserved and widely-welcome, has a remote chance of occurring any time soon. For starters, there's more money to be made from the ignorant than the enlightened, and deceiving Americans is one of the few growing home industries we still have in this country. A truly educated populace would be bad, both for politicians and for business.