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Wednesday, December 31, 2003


Breast Implants Found
To Cause Problems
In Laboratory Mice


Future vision: Nano-subs would seek and
destroy cancer (Image by Science Photo Library)

[:: comment! :]

Tuesday, December 30, 2003
brainwaves (via STD)

luck (via SE)

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Sunday, December 28, 2003
shafting the poles (via blogdex)

Throughout the 19th century, Poles fought for freedom wherever the struggle raged, in Latin America, Greece and Italy, and on the Union side in our Civil War. Although their country had been raped by the great powers of Europe, Poles kept her cause alive.

Again and again, Poles rose against their occupiers, only to be savagely put down, with their finest young men slaughtered or marched to Siberian prisons. Then, at the end of the Great War, Poland suddenly reappeared on the maps.

What did the Poles do? They immediately saved Western civilization yet again. In the now-forgotten "Miracle on the Vistula," a patched-together Polish army turned back the Red hordes headed for Berlin. One of history's most brilliant campaigns, it saved defeated Germany from a communist takeover.

Poland's thanks? The slaughter of World War II. Then the Soviet occupation.

But the Poles never gave up. Their language, their faith - and their martial traditions - were maintained with rigor and pride. Of all the countries that gained their freedom as the Soviet Union collapsed, none had struggled for liberty as relentlessly as Poland.

changing times for poland's youth (via danny)

They are restless, hardworking and, according to one Polish sociologist, the "best-educated generation in the 1,000 years of Polish history." Millions of Poles born during the final years of communism are coming of age in a highly competitive, capitalist society that often bewilders their parents.

As a generation, they represent Europe's most recent baby boom, a Polish asterisk of fertility on a continent that has far too few babies to replace its population. They were born in the 1980's just as birth rates in places like France and Germany were in decline.

Today these young men and women are the foot soldiers of a more confident and proud Poland; they are entering adulthood at a time when the country is displaying unexpected levels of political assertiveness as a future member of the European Union. This was most recently seen when the Polish government almost single-handedly scuttled talks on an EU constitution.

Young Poles are very different from their counterparts in Western Europe: more religious, socially conservative and, perhaps most significant, working harder for much less pay. Many young people here are struggling to find jobs amid 18 percent unemployment and say they would move west at the first opportunity.

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Saturday, December 27, 2003
superhuman intelligence

The behavior of larger human groups linked using writing and hierarchical organization (e.g. ancient Egypt) approached the level of sophistication of relatively primitive animals such as fish.

The behavior of industrial age societies, using the printing press and electronic communication, is mostly comparable to lower level mammals such as shrews but occasionally goes far beyond that and may approach the level of cats.

And all along the primary limit has been the bandwidth and latency of the communications channel. Each successive technological advance which improved the channel caused a noticeable improvement in the effective intelligence of human hive minds which adopted them.

ward's proudhon biography

By mid-century, Proudhon was the leading left intellectual in France or for that matter, all of Europe, far surpassing Marx's notoriety or Bakunin's. Proudhon, as Hyams noted (1979, p. 1), was among the inventors of socialism, along wih Marx, Bakunin, Blanqui, Blanc, Herzen, Lassalle and Engles. Of these, Proudhon had the profoundest effect upon the workers' movement in the 19th century and his ideas influenced some of the most notable later anarchists, including both Tolstoy and Bakunin, both of whom knew Proudhon personally. Indeed, throughout his life Proudhon acquired and kept a remarkable collection of friends, and as his notoriety spread, acquaintances. Friendship for Proudhon was more important than sexual love or marriage.

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Thursday, December 25, 2003
free money for social progress - silvio gesell (via overmorgen)

In Europe, The Natural Economic Order aroused wide interest during the period between the wars. Gesell acquired many followers . . . and even more detractors. His admirers considered him a "prophet," but among his detractors, orthodox economists in particular, he was dismissed as a "crank." What provoked such a rejection were both Gesell's nonacademic and deeply heterodox ideas, and his hysterical rhetoric, which was similar to that of many socialist writers. In fact, Gesell considered himself a socialist - not a Marxian, but a Proudhonian one.
a future for socialism - john e. roemer (via CRS)
A related benefit, which Roemer goes into at some length, is reducing the level of profitable public bads. Many public bads, like pollution, go with increased profits, so, all else being equal, the more money you get from profits, the more of those public bads you will be willing to tolerate. If profits are highly concentrated, there will be a small group of people who want much more of those public bads than the rest of the population, and, being powerful and rich, they are likely to get their way. Distributing profits widely eliminates this problem.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2003
sir arthur c. clarke (via worldchanging!)

I sometimes wonder how we spent leisure time before satellite television and Internet came along….and then I realise that I have spent more than half of my life in the ‘dark ages’! Satellite television, Internet, mobile phones, email – all these are technological responses to a deep-rooted human desire to communicate and access information. Having achieved unprecedented progress in the field of communications during the past half century, we now have to pause to think of social, cultural and intellectual implications of what we have created.
I have no doubt at all that television is the most marvellous medium of communication ever invented - it can be used to educate, inform, entertain and even inspire. But it’s a mixed blessing and much of television content rightfully earns the medium its dubious label, the ‘Great Wasteland’.
ricky gervais and stephen merchant (via LMG :)
"I imagine surgeons and people who work with NASA," Gervais muses, "going: 'Why has he got a bigger chair than me? He's only been here six months.' You can't help it, you pick up symptoms. You compare yourself to your neighbour, not someone who lives 10,000 miles away ... If a country sinks, it's not as bad as your boss who's a twat."
The English wit Charles Lamb (1775-1834) was obliged to work as a clerk at East India House to support his sister, who suffered from periodic bouts of violent mental disturbance. "You arrive late, Mr Lamb," his colleagues would greet him censoriously. "Yes," would come the great man's retort, "but see how early I leave." The poetic expression Lamb gave to the dissatisfactions of his working life - "I had grown to my desk as it were, and the wood had entered into my soul" :D

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Monday, December 22, 2003
magickal connexions! (via boing^2)

"The world presents two faces to us: the natural, that is that which arose by itself, and the artificial, that which is the product of man’s interactions within the world. While both the natural and artificial are clouded with the omnipresent linguistic fog, only the artificial world is the product of our linguistic nature. Artifacts are language concretized and exteriorized. Technology is a language of sorts, in which the forms of the world are shaped by our words, and then speak back to us. We have been throwing technological innovations into the world since we discovered fire (at least a half million years ago), and since that time the technological world, the world of artifact, has been talking back. The history of humanity, viewed in this way, can be seen as a continuous process of feedback. As we talk to the world through our hands, the world accepts these invocations, which modify the environment within which we participate, which modifies our own understanding of the world, which leads to new innovations, which modifies the environment, which modifies us, and so on, and so on."

yeah but... (via plastic :)

"The information-theoretic point of view proposed by Leibniz in 1686 and developed by algorithmic information theory (AIT) suggests that mathematics and physics are not that different. This will be a first-person account of some doubts and speculations about the nature of mathematics that I have entertained for the past three decades, and which have now been incorporated in a digital philosophy paradigm shift that is sweeping across the sciences."

[:: comment! :]

Sunday, December 21, 2003
hey yeah,

so just as i'd about turned into a neocon [CC on December 23, 2003 10:37 AM] née republican [dIrK 2003-12-18 13:09] apologist :D it seems there's dissension in the ranks! it appears there's been an uneasy (convenient) alliance between republican realists and neocon hawks, the nuances of which haven't really been appreciated much until recently as cracks and fissures have surfaced.

not that i'm not sympathetic to criticisms (and even conspiracy :) only i just as readily like to try and mark my assumptions to reality once in awhile. plus i'm fascinated (among other things :) by real politick and strategic allegiance. i guess it helps to not take it very seriously (security/freedom!), silly even, except for the misery/pain/death and *consequences* entailed by great decisions of momentous import -- and it also helps not to be making them! still...

my existential,

but not too bleak, indie-rock comic: because i don't have a life! because i spend my time pretending that i do :D

waking up: close-up of an eleven gallon aquarium at eyelevel containing mice (?, a bunny, rodents of somekind?) looking through it in the background is a TV, filling the view with a "teletubbies" sunrise (or perhaps the weather channel?). so, in summary, rodents of some sort snuffling/hopping around in the foreground on wood chips in an aquarium and seen through the glass panes filling the background is a sunrise being shown on the telly.

next shot is from above, composed overhead with a bed along one end, opposite is the TV. on the bed is the aquarium and next to it our Waking Protagonist, blinkering through at the unexpected mise-en-pastorale. between the bed and the TV is a coffee table, and upon it is a coffeemaker. is the room scattered with clothes/refuse and assorted detritus, is there a bong, ashtray, empties and slutty magazines/comix on the coffee table along with the coffeemaker? or is it sleek and stylish with... no, let us stick to visually interesting squalor... to connote entropy and heat death, for it is very warm inside the room, and cold outside, and our Waking Protagonist is dying/melting... and the world is ending/dissolving.

voiceover: You know the ending already. You die. And right before that you'd done something. You tried to do/be/achieve something *good*. [against all odds] Sometimes you got married and had kids, and that is a beginning of sorts, for some, but in general, you/we die. If there was an afterlife, if you'd had "faith," you lived according to precepts and principles, some code of ethics and morals that you'd happen upon to believe. Only it was more of an equation, a balance, however ill-measured and imprecise. When "temptation" got to you, the scale would tip ever so slightly to the present, weighted to "now," rather than some indefinite time in "the future."

And it would all make sense.

It started with people putting helmets on their kids, whenever they went for a drive, and then whenever they left the house. Full body armor for babies soon followed. You could never be too safe after all.

[montage: protection and security make startling milieus. esp wrt entropy]

Well we know we had to rationalize a whole hell of a lot to get here... and from there, that's a lot of 'ifs' we had to take, to justify... and I'm not sure you'd swallow it all.

[action: our Waking Protagonist gets up, stretches, and picking through debris, shuffles over to his streetlevel window -- faintly hears road noises, cars and busses and rumbling trains and children trafficking on the sidewalk -- and opens it, doubles back to the coffee table and gets some coffee from the coffee machine, returns to bed, takes rabbit from cage, pets it and watches TV]

Simultaneity occurs when two (or more) things happen at the same time, when they're "coincident." If it also occurs in the same spot it often, indeed almost always, has the aura of "causality" to it... of meaning. If two or more events happen, at the same time, to occur together then it's thought that there was some mechanism, in the past, that brought them, at that moment, to do what they did. It might even be said that the objects contained a certain memory about them, a memory they carried along. And how do we ascertain such memories, when they collide, to know what did in fact happen? Only through observation can we understand how their impermanence has taken form.

THE END.

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Friday, December 19, 2003
lars von trier/paul thomas anderson (via kottke :)

tina fey (via fimoculous!)

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Thursday, December 18, 2003
let it snow by david sedaris

chicago christmas, 1984 by george saunders

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Tuesday, December 16, 2003
reprogramming amazon

Just as most folks have come to view Amazon as a retailer that happens to sell online, guess what? It's morphing into something new. In ways few people realize, Amazon is becoming more of a technology company -- as much Microsoft Corp. (MSFT ) as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT ). "What gets us up in the morning and keeps us here late at night is technology," says founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey P. Bezos. "From where we sit, advanced technology is everything."

No, Amazon isn't selling its own shrink-wrapped software or leaving the retail business behind. But developing technology is becoming at least as important as selling Harry Potter books or The Strokes CDs. Indeed, some analysts say it's possible that in a few years so many other retailers will be using Amazon's tech expertise to sell on its site that they could account for more than half the products sold on Amazon.com. Says Bezos: "Amazon Services could be our most important business."

[...]

By beefing up its technology and distributing it more freely, Amazon could bust out of the conceptual prison of stores and the virtual confines of a single Web site. Says e-commerce consultant and author John Hagel III: "It's really breaking apart the whole store metaphor." Into what? Already, Amazon has applied its own technology to forge an identity as an online mall -- a piece of business that generates gross margins about double its 25% retail margins. Plugging into its massive e-commerce system, thousands of retailers from mom-and-pop shops to Lands' End Inc. (S ) and Circuit City Stores Inc. (CC ) sell through its site. Amazon even runs the Web sites and distribution for the likes of Target Corp. (TGT ) and Toys 'R' Us Inc. (TOY ), which are featured on Amazon.com.

coming out in corporate america

The frank talk was the kickoff of Gay 201, the upper-level course in gay sensitivity training offered at S.C. Johnson. It's available only to graduates of Gay 101, an introductory seminar that debunks stereotypes. The classes at Johnson are hardly anomalous. Eastman Kodak Co. (EK ) offers similar sessions. Lucent Technologies (LU ), Microsoft (MSFT ), Southern California Edison (EIX ), and dozens of others, meanwhile, send executives to weeklong training courses for gay managers at the University of California at Los Angeles' Anderson School of Management.

The programs are just one small piece of a growing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) rights movement in Corporate America. Following in the footsteps of African Americans, women, and other traditionally marginalized groups, corporate gays are increasingly standing up for their rights. Defense contractors such as Raytheon Co. (RTN ) and Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT ) now sponsor gay support groups. American Express Co. (AXP ) and Lehman Brothers Inc. (LEH ) promote their gay financial advisers in GLBT publications. Even culturally conservative Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT ), which bans racy magazines and compact discs with offensive lyrics, this year adopted a nondiscrimination policy toward gays.

[...]

Of the nation's top 500 companies, 95% now offer policies that preclude discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 70% offer domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples. In 2000, the numbers stood at 51% and 25%, respectively. "To be competitive, we need to be able to get the best from people when they're at work, and to do that they need to bring their whole self to the table," says Marge Connelly, director of operations at credit-card issuer Capital One Financial Corp. (COF ). She should know -- she's a lesbian. "Being out is imperative for me to be a good leader," Connelly says. "You've got to let people know you. People have to trust you."

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Monday, December 15, 2003
disintermediation and politics (via slashdot)

For all Dean's talk about wanting to represent the truly "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," the paradox is that he is a third-party candidate using modern technology to achieve a takeover of the Democratic Party. Other candidates -- Joseph Lieberman , John Kerry, John Edwards -- are competing to take control of the party's fundraising, organizational and media assets. But Dean is not interested in taking control of those depreciating assets. He is creating his own party, his own lists, his own money, his own organization. What he wants is the Democratic brand name and legacy, its last remaining asset of value, as part of his marketing strategy.

the fabulous ruins of detroit (via metafilter)

In 2000, frustrated by stadium-building and other traditional means of drawing business downtown, a group of growers, architects, urban planners and activists collaborated on an alternative city plan focused on neighborhoods called Adamah (Hebrew for "of the earth"). Drafted by architects and students at the University of Detroit Mercy, it proposed converting four and a half square miles on the east side into a self-sustaining village, complete with farms, greenhouses, grazing land, a dairy and cannery. For irrigation, Adamah proposed tapping an underground creek (now used as a sewage main).

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Saturday, December 13, 2003
for us, the living

Spider lays it all out for you in the foreword: this book isn't strong on stories, it's strong on ideas. People who found Heinlein's later works too preachy should steer clear, as this book is probably his preachiest. Robinson speculates that Heinlein really wanted to convey his radical ideas, having just lost a political race, and spent too much of the book standing on the proverbial soapbox, and not enough telling a good story. He says that Heinlein learned from this, and went on to become a master storyteller, learning that people are much more likely to sit still for the lecture if it's embedded in a gripping story.
worth what it used to be
Economist Irving Fisher formulated Fisher's Law (which links current expectations to future inflation), invented the Rolodex, and assured the investing public that stock prices were at a "permanent high plateau." Shortly thereafter, the crash of 1929 wiped out his Rolodex fortune. He also came up with an idea for scrip that would slowly be worth less and less. Financed by sales tax, the scrip would strongly encourage consumption. California ad men Lawrence and Willis Allen adopted Fisher's plan as the "Thirty Dollars Every Thursday" or "Ham and Eggs" plan.

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Friday, December 12, 2003
america = rome analogy

What if the current American hegemony follows the same historical trajectory as the Roman Empire? Granted, the parallels are not exact, the sequence of events does not precisely match, and the analogies are not perfect, but both Rome and America apparently have a great deal in common.
re: beyond thunderdome?
I'm working on a thesis exploring how the post-apocolyptic society depicted in the 1985 film Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome represents the logical conclusion to the society-in-flux depicted by Sherwood Schwartz in the 98-episode (1964-67) run of Gilligan's Island. It is right now incomplete, but I'd like to share a small part of it.

[:: comment! :]

Wednesday, December 10, 2003
groundhog day (via link miniblog)

"Mr. Ramis, who was raised Jewish, said he feels like a Buddhist, but does not practice any religion. "Although I am wearing meditation beads on my wrist," he said. "But that's because I'm on a Buddhist diet. They're supposed to remind me not to eat, but actually just get in the way when I'm cutting my steak." The connection between Judaism and Buddhism, he said, is a strong one, adding that many Buddhists in the United States started out as Jews."

paradise reclaimed (via danny yee)

"It is a touching story - based, as is so often the case with Laxness, on real persons and events - of an Icelandic farmer who is baptized by a Mormon and decides to move to the promised land, i.e. Salt Lake City. The story is beautiful and deeply touching in its descriptions of the many sacrifices which have to be made in order for this dream to be realized, and the ending is absolutely brilliant (and fully in keeping with Laxness's Taoist philosophy)."

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Tuesday, December 9, 2003
the ineffability of the noumenal

"What Musil quotes is one of Maeterlinck's typically mystical statements about the ineffability of the noumenal; i.e., that there is an objective, external indisputable world about which our words are unsatisfactory approximations."

the emergence of probability

"I review key ideas of quantum Darwinism and investigate its connections with the environment -- assisted invariance or envariance, a recently identified symmetry exhibited by pairs of entangled quantum systems that is responsible for the emergence of probability (allowing, in particular, a completely quantum derivation of the Born's rule) within the wholly quantum Universe."

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Sunday, December 7, 2003
damn book

blook II

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Saturday, December 6, 2003
you are invited

brendon's original mp3s

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Thursday, December 4, 2003
vengeful majorities (via addl)

My aunt's killing was just a pinprick in a violent world. But there is a connection between her murder and the Serbian concentration camps of the early 1990s, the murder of 800,000 Tutsis by ordinary Hutus in Rwanda in 1994, the mobs in Indonesia in 1998 which looted hundreds of Chinese properties leaving nearly 2,000 dead and even the terror attacks of 11th September. The connection lies in the relationship among the three most powerful forces operating in the world today: markets, democracy and ethnic hatred. There exists today a phenomenon - pervasive outside the west yet rarely acknowledged, indeed often viewed as taboo - that turns free market democracy into an engine of ethnic conflagration. I am speaking of the phenomenon of market-dominant minorities: ethnic minorities who, for varying reasons, tend under market conditions to dominate economically, often to a startling extent, the indigenous majorities.

migration's new payoff (via bw)

At the simplest level, remittances are about helping individual families. A couple of hundred dollars sent home every month can make the difference between abject poverty and food on the table. At another level, these small transactions, repeated thousands of times every day across the world, are quietly binding the fates of nations. The growing number of people working abroad is reshaping the debate over immigration in industrialized countries and forcing developing nations to embrace dual citizenship, which helps their citizens find better jobs and send home even more money. Politicians seeking financial support for their election campaigns increasingly must tend to the needs and priorities of their countries' swelling diasporas. And policymakers seeking to cut off the flow of money to terrorist groups are struggling to learn how to distinguish "good" money from "bad" in the murky informal system of financial transfers that has kept citizens in failed states like Somalia from total humanitarian disaster.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2003
a deepening chasm

"In the 70's we were taught Canada would be absorbed by the United States, and in the 80's it looked like it was happening," recalled Douglas Coupland, the Canadian author known for his cultural commentaries on both sides of the border. "Then came the latter part of the 90's and it was like some high school class 16-millimeter film where you see the chromosome duplicates, then realigns, and finally the cell splits.

"And that process only seems to be quickening in recent months."

yeah yeah yeahs

Reflecting on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' short history, Zimmer feels the group's music has evolved, and now encompasses a broader sonic palette.

"I'd say the first year we were writing and playing, I think we were going through something. I know, the word stripped down is like kind of out of vogue now, but it was sort of like minimal and specific and direct. But then, I think now we're probably just trying to evolve to fill up as much sound and space as possible. ... We kind of like have short attention spans and big dreams at the same time."

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