Saturday, June 30, 2007


Friday, June 29, 2007

Greek police confronted by 'videos of shame'

Greek police are battling accusations of brutality after their own films taken on mobile phones became public.

Public outrage has even prompted the leader of the opposition party PASOK, former foreign minister George Papandreou, to call them "videos of shame" that have created "a legacy of ... Greek Guantanamo camps."

The controversy was sparked on June 16 when a video of two immigrant youths in police custody, beaten and forced to slap each other in punishment after an alleged bag-snatching, was posted on the Internet by a blogger.

Five days later, footage showing an Asian migrant allegedly beaten by police was aired by the private TV channel Alpha, while the To Vima daily published details of another video which it said showed two prostitutes forced to strip to escape arrest.

Two of the videos were apparently shot at a central Athens police station specialising in narcotics and prostitution cases, and all were reportedly shot and shared by police themselves.

'Molecular surgery' snips off a single atom

A single hydrogen atom has been snipped off a molecule and then added back on again, marking the first time a single chemical bond has been broken and reforged in a controlled, reversible way.

The researchers used a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) for their cutting tool, which works by manoeuvring a sharp metal tip close to an object, applying a small voltage, and measuring the trickle of electrons that flow between the two.

The team first used their STM to locate a methylaminocarbyne (CNHCH3) molecule that was fixed to a platinum surface.

Then they turned up the voltage, increasing the flow of electrons. That was enough to break one bond – between the molecule's nitrogen and hydrogen atom – but not to disturb any of the other bonds, leaving a molecule of methylisocyanide (CNCH3).

Reversed process

To reverse the process, the group simply bathed the sample in hydrogen gas. The platinum surface catalysed the splitting of the hydrogen molecules into their hydrogen atoms, which reacted with nitrogen in the methylisocyanide molecule to re-form methylaminocarbyne.

This kind of reversible alteration could be used in molecular electronics, says Yousoo Kim at the Surface Chemistry Laboratory in Wako, Japan, who carried out the experiment with colleagues.

Changing the bonding of a molecule like this also changes its electrical contact with the metal surface – if it could be reversibly changed from conducting to insulating, it would become a molecular switch.

Lucky break?

But it is not yet clear how to extend this result to other systems. When researchers have attempted molecular surgery with an STM in the past, it has usually either broken other bonds (often completely destroying the molecule), or resulted in a chemical change that cannot readily be reversed.

The key to the new experiment was in the choice of methylaminocarbyne, which turned out to be a much more stable subject.

The team calculates that electrons added by the STM tend to hover relatively closely to the nitrogen-hydrogen bond in the molecule, although they are still unsure why that makes the bond break so neatly.

"We've done a cute experiment and found a nice effect, but we don't fully understand why" says Michael Trenary of the University of Illinois at Chicago, another member of the team. "To a large extent we just got lucky."

Journal reference: Science (vol 316, p 1883)

Reshuffling the Deck Chairs on the National Review cruise.

by Johann Hari

I am traveling on a bright-white cruise ship with two restaurants, five bars, and 500 readers of National Review. Here, the Iraq war has been "an amazing success." Global warming is not happening. Europe is becoming a new Caliphate. And I have nowhere to run.

From time to time, National Review--the bible of American conservatism--organizes a cruise for its readers. Last November, I paid $1,200 to join them. The rules I imposed on myself were simple: If any of the conservative cruisers asked who I was, I answered honestly, telling them I was a journalist. But, mostly, I just tried to blend in--and find out what conservatives say when they think the rest of us aren't listening.


"We're doing an excellent job killing them."

The next morning, I warily wander into the Vista Lounge--a Vegas-style showroom--for the first of the trip's seminars: a discussion intended to exhume the conservative corpse and discover its cause of death on the black, black night of November 7, 2006.

There is something strange about this discussion, and it takes me a few moments to realize exactly what it is. All the tropes conservatives usually deny in public--that Iraq is another Vietnam, that Bush is fighting a class war on behalf of the rich--are embraced on this shining ship in the middle of the ocean. Yes, they concede, we are fighting another Vietnam; and this time we won't let the weak-kneed liberals lose it. "It's customary to say we lost the Vietnam war, but who's 'we'?" Dinesh D'Souza asks angrily. "The left won by demanding America's humiliation." On this ship, there are no Viet Cong, no three million dead. There is only liberal treachery. Yes, D'Souza says, in a swift shift to domestic politics, "of course" Republican politics is "about class. Republicans are the party of winners, Democrats are the party of losers."

The panel nods, but it doesn't want to stray from Iraq. Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan's one-time nominee to the Supreme Court, mumbles from beneath low-hanging jowls: "The coverage of this war is unbelievable. Even Fox News is unbelievable. You'd think we're the only ones dying. Enemy casualties aren't covered. We're doing an excellent job killing them."

Then, with a judder, the panel runs momentarily aground. Rich Lowry, the preppy, handsome 38-year-old editor of National Review, announces, "The American public isn't concluding we're losing in Iraq for any irrational reason. They're looking at the cold, hard facts." The Vista Lounge is, as one, perplexed. Lowry continues, "I wish it was true that, because we're a superpower, we can't lose. But it's not."

No one argues with him. They just look away, in the same manner that people avoid glancing at a crazy person yelling at a bus stop. Then they return to hyperbole and accusations of treachery against people like their editor. The aging historian Bernard Lewis declares, "The election in the U.S. is being seen by [the bin Ladenists] as a victory on a par with the collapse of the Soviet Union. We should be prepared for whatever comes next." This is why the guests paid up to $6,000. This is what they came for. They give him a wheezing, stooping ovation and break for coffee.

The WHOLE ugly story

Summer Moon Illusion

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June 27, 2007: Sometimes you can't believe your eyes. This weekend is one of those times.

On Saturday night, June 30th, step outside at sunset and look around. You'll see a giant moon rising in the east. It looks like Earth's moon with the usual craters and seas, but something's wrong. This full moon is strangely inflated. It's huge!

You've just experienced the Moon Illusion.

Sky watchers have known for thousands of years that low-hanging moons look unnaturally big. Cameras don't see it, but human eyes do; it's a genuine illusion.

see caption

Above: A time-lapse sequence of the moon rising over Seattle. To the camera, the moon appears to be the same size no matter what its location on the sky. Credit and copyright: Shay Stephens. [More]

This weekend's full moon hangs lower in the sky than any other full moon of 2007, so the Moon Illusion is going to be strong. What makes the moon so low? Consider the following: The sun and full moon lie on opposite sides of the sky. They are like a see-saw: when one is high, the other is low. Because the summer solstice was just last week (June 21st), the sun is near its highest point in northern skies. The full moon is correspondingly low.

When you look at the moon, rays of moonlight converge and form an image about 0.15 mm wide in the back of your eye. High moons and low moons make the same sized spot. So why does your brain think one is bigger than the other? After all these years, scientists still aren't sure of the answer.

see captionA similar illusion was discovered in 1913 by Mario Ponzo, who drew two identical bars across a pair of converging lines, like the railroad tracks pictured right. The upper yellow bar looks wider because it spans a greater apparent distance between the rails. This is the "Ponzo Illusion."

Right: The Ponzo Illusion. Image credit: Dr. Tony Phillips. [More]

Some researchers believe that the Moon Illusion is Ponzo's Illusion, with trees and houses playing the role of Ponzo's converging lines. Foreground objects trick your brain into thinking the moon is bigger than it really is.

But there's a problem: Airline pilots flying at very high altitudes sometimes experience the Moon Illusion without any objects in the foreground. What tricks their eyes?

Maybe it's the shape of the sky. Humans perceive the sky as a flattened dome, with the zenith nearby and the horizon far away. It makes sense; birds flying overhead are closer than birds on the horizon. When the moon is near the horizon, your brain, trained by watching birds (and clouds and airplanes), miscalculates the moon's true distance and size.

Below: The "flattened sky" model for the Moon Illusion. [More]

There are other explanations, too. It doesn't matter which is correct, though, if all you want to do is see a big beautiful moon. The best time to look is around moonrise, when the moon is peeking through trees and houses or over mountain ridges, doing its best to trick you. The table below (scroll down) lists moonrise times for selected US cities.

A fun activity: Look at the moon directly and then through a narrow opening of some kind. For example, 'pinch' the moon between your thumb and forefinger or view it through a cardboard tube, which hides the foreground terrain. Can you make the optical illusion vanish?

Stop that! You won't want to miss the Moon Illusion.


Moonrise over Selected US Cities If your city does not appear in the list, click here for more data from the US Naval Observatory.

see caption

Author: Dr. Tony Phillips | Production Editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA

More to the story...

The Moon Illusion Explained -- According to Don McCready, a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, the Moon Illusion is caused by oculomotor micropsia/macropsia.

The Moon Illusion: An Unsolved Mystery -- a nice overview of the Moon Illusion and its possible causes.

New Thoughts on Understanding the Moon Illusion -- from Carl J. Wenning, Physics Department, Illinois State University

Experiment in Perception: The Ponzo Illusion and the Moon

Explaining the Moon Illusion -- from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

NASA's future: The Vision for Space Exploration

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Blast kills Iraqi peace poet

By SAMEER N. YACOUB, Associated Press Writer Mon Jun 25, 4:55 PM ET


The poet Rahim al-Maliki wrote about his dreams of Iraqi unity in a place where such appeals are drowned out by daily bombings. One of them took his life on Monday.

Al-Maliki — whose fame grew by hosting two shows on state-run television — was among 13 people killed in a suicide attack at a Baghdad hotel, where he was filming tribal leaders about their decision to join U.S.-led forces in the fight against factions linked to al-Qaida. Four of the tribal sheiks from the western Anbar province were among the victims.

In one of his shows, "The Guesthouses of our People," the 39-year-old al-Maliki visited Sunni and Shiite groups and used his poetry to open dialogue about ways to end Iraq's sectarian bloodshed. In Anbar, many tribal elders have agreed to help U.S.-Iraqi troops fight groups linked to al-Qaida in an alliance that the Pentagon considers an important blow to the insurgency.

Al-Maliki's other show on the state-run Iraqiya television was "Feelings," which examined love poetry written in the style he favored: the ordinary Iraqi dialect rather than classical Arabic.

Al-Maliki, a Shiite who is not related to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, received several honors in recent years, including the top prize for patriotic poetry in 2006, colleagues said.

Under Saddam Hussein, he was imprisoned twice on accusations of criticizing the government and expressing sympathy for fellow Shiites who suffered widespread crackdowns after a failed uprising in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War. He did not publish his work during Saddam's regime, but he read his poems at gatherings — and they were passed along by admirers who memorized the verses.

Al-Maliki became well-known across the country after his shows were aired by Iraqiya.

In one episode of "Guesthouses," he was shown wearing Arab traditional dress among tribal chiefs and policemen in Ramadi, the main city of Anbar, calling for all Iraqis to be united. He also wrote poems praising Anbar tribes for taking up arms against al-Qaida.

Al-Maliki lived in the Baghdad district of Sadr City with his wife and four children.

In one of his poems, he called upon all Iraqis to understand their shared stake in the country.

"If you do not love Iraq

Then do not pray with me

You, Iraq, the land of well-being

When you stand tall, we stand tall

They throw stones at your windows

But your glass has destroyed their stones."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

From: Dorothy Snarker -Welcome back, Janeane Garofalo

Hey, Janeane Garofalo. Girl, where have you been? I’ve missed you. It’s so great to see you again. Plus, damn, you look fantastic. Look at your cute little wave. Look at your adorable glasses. Look at your killer tattoos. Seriously, damn.

Last Friday, the 42-year-old actress, comic and political activist attended the premiere of the Disney Pixar animated feature Ratatouille. Janeane voices the part of French chef Colette in this culinary comedy about a rat (voiced by Patton Oswalt) who dreams of Cyrano de Berger–cooking his way to the top of the Parisian food world with the help of a young bus boy. Rodent issues aside, the movie looks cute and comes from Brad Bird, the Oscar-winning writer-director of both The Incredibles and The Iron Giant.

I couldn’t be happier to see Janeane working and looking so great. She has always been one of my favorite comics. Her acerbic wit warms the cockles of my ink-black heart. Plus, she was the best “My Sharona” dancer ever in Reality Bites (not to mention her friend’s coming out speech practice partner — to this day, when I’m joking around I call PFLAG “Pah-flag.”)


Her early film career suffered from Hollywood’s lack of imagination when it comes to dealing with funny women. She got stuck in toothless romantic comedies like The Truth About Cats & Dogs and The MatchMaker or cult indie projects like Wet Hot American Summer and 200 Cigarettes. Speaking of the latter, who couldn’t relate to Janeane’s in-transit, post-breakup cab rant? Say it with me: “These matches are disappointing me!” (Yes, that is a pre-Chappelle Show Dave Chappelle as the disco cabbie.)


What I admire about Janeane is not only her humor (or her penchant for slacker casual), but also her willingness to put herself out there politically. She has been an ardent liberal advocate, speaking out against the Iraq War since before it started, supporting the Democratic candidate in the last two presidential elections and co-hosting the Air America talk show “The Majority Report.” Of course, those very same outspoken views made her a favorite target of the right wing. Heaven forbid a famous liberal woman be allowed to express her views.

For a while she was Fox News' favorite kicking bag (a role now reserved for Rosie O’Donnell), but Janeane has no problem wearing her bleeding heart on her sleeve today. Well, actually, on her skin. Check out her left-leaning tats. Instead of a heart with “Mom,” hers says “Liberal.” And instead of a pinup gal, she has Rosie the Riveter.

In a recent interview with Dark Horizons, Janeane said she has quit drinking, which might be the reason for her fantastic-at-40-something-ness of late. She also said, sadly, that she won’t be as active in the next election. But I understand her reasoning.

"No I don't think it's helpful. I worked very hard on the Dean campaign and it became an object of derision, myself and some of the other people who happened to be in entertainment — we're tax paying citizens first and foremost. ... And in any town we would do our little tours across the country, the critics couldn't resist bashing myself and the other actors who happened to be there working on the campaign. And they lose focus from what is important and it just doesn't help because there's too many hacks writing about it that love to waste our time mocking people in the entertainment industry. You know what I mean? And it takes away space from important stuff about the candidate."

She and Rosie would have a lot to talk about. Speaking of which, that seat on The View is still empty. Hey, Janeane, how do you feel about getting up early in the morning?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007 Siva Vaidhyanathan

Anarchist in the Library, by Siva Vaidhyanathan

The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash Between Freedom and Control Is Hacking the Real World


Remote Control: The Rise of Electronic Cultural Policy by: Siva Vaidhyanathan, New York University

Since the early 1990s, the United States has been formulating, executing, and imposing a form of "electronic cultural policy." This phrase means two things: a state-generated setof policies to encourage or mandate design standards for electronic devices and dictate a particular set of cultural choices; and the cultural choices themselves, which have been embedded in the design and software of electronic goods. The goal of electronic cultural policy has been to encourage and enable "remote control," shifting decisions over the use of content from the user to the vendor. The intended macro effects of such micro policies are antidemocratic. Their potential has created the possibility of a whole new set of forms of cultural domination by a handful of powerful global institutions. Yet so far, the actual consequences of these policies have been different from those intended, igniting activism and disobedience on a global scale.


2006 - Vaidhyanathan Receives Griffiths Research Award for The Anarchist in the Library


The Anarchist in the Coffee House: A Brief Consideration of Local Culture, the Free Culture Movement, and Prospects for a Global Public Sphere, By Siva Vaidhyanathan

The global network of networks that President George W. Bush calls “the Internets” represents the first major communicative revolution since the publication in 1962 of Jürgen Habermas’ influential historical work, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. In that work Habermas described a moment in the social and political history of Europe in which a rising bourgeoisies was able to gather in salons and cafes to discuss matters of public concern. The public sphere represented a set of sites and conventions in the 18th century in which (almost exclusively male) members of the bourgeoisies could forge a third space to mediate between domestic concerns and matters of state. It was a social phenomenon enabled by a communicative revolution: the spread of literacy and the rise of cheap printing in Europe. Habermas asserts that such a space had not existed in Europe in a strong form before the 18th century and that by the end of the 19th century it quickly underwent some profound changes. The democratic revolutions in the United States and France, parliamentary reform efforts in England, and the unsteady lurches toward republics in Germany and other parts of Europe eventually codified many of the democratic aspirations of the public sphere: openness, inclusiveness, and fairness. I use the word “revolution”cautiously. It is far too early in the 20-year history of the Internet to assess its effects in a balanced and sober manner. Hype and fear still dominate the discussions of the effects of the Internet on culture, societies, politics, and economics. In addition, the Internet hype may have distracted scholars from another revolution. I believe that the proliferation of the magnetic cassette tape and player in the 1970s has had a more profound effect on daily life in all corners of the Earth than the Internet has so far. ...

Hitachi Introduces Mind Control Device

by Hiroko Tabuchi

Hitachi has developed a technology to allow users to control devices by thinking. The system is currently being used to move a toy train back and forth, but the company and other manufacturers see a future for it in TV remote controls, cars and artificial limbs. A key advantage to Hitachi's technology is that sensors don't have to physically enter the brain.


Any brain-machine interface device for widespread use would be "a little further down the road," Koizumi said.

He added, however, that the technology is entertaining in itself and could easily be applied to toys.

"It's really fun to move a model train just by thinking," he said.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Feline Predator, by Karynna

Re-incarnate There was a cat in my bed I wonder why she was there What is there about a cat that makes it feline I equate her to the feminine Does macho have something to do with it Walks and crouches, pads about Al the parts seem to rythmn Like woman in motion Still, I discriminate Not against For heaven's sake Why on earth A cat in my berth shimon weinroth

Webcasters to Go Silent in Protest of Royalty Rate Increase

Millions of Internet Radio Listeners Urged to Defend the Future of Net Radio

Thousands of U.S. webcasters plan to turn off the music and go silent this Tuesday, June 26, to draw attention to an impending royalty rate increase that, if implemented, would lead to the virtual shutdown of this country's Internet radio industry.

"The arbitrary and drastic rate increases set by the Copyright Royalty Board on March 2nd threaten the very livelihood of thousands of webcasters and their millions of listeners throughout the country," said Jake Ward, a spokesperson for the SaveNetRadio coalition. "The campaign to save Internet radio -- a genuine grassroots movement comprised of hundreds of thousands of webcasters, artists and independent labels, and Net radio listeners -- has quickly brought this issue to the national forefront and the halls of Congress, but there is still more to be done before the approaching deadline of July 15th. On Tuesday, thousands of webcasters will call on their millions of listeners to join the fight to save Internet radio and contact their Congressional representatives to ask for their support of the Internet Radio Equality Act."

Many webcasters are planning to shut off access to their streams entirely, while other webcasters plan to replace their music streams with long periods of silence (or static or ocean sounds or similar) interspersed with occasional brief public service announcements on the subject.

Internet-only webcasters and broadcasters that simulcast online will alert their listeners that "silence" is what Internet radio may be reduced to after July 15th, the day on which 17 months' worth of retroactive royalty payments - -- at new, exceedingly high rates -- are due to the SoundExchange collection organization, following a recent Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) decision.

  WHAT:        National Day of Silence

WHEN:        Tuesday, June 26, 2007

WHO:         The following is a partial list of participants; it is not a
            complete list:

Live365 stations,
MTV Online,
KCRW (Santa Monica, CA),
Wizard Radio,
Born Again Radio,,,
WGLI (Bablylon, NY),
WMUK (Kalamazoo, MI),
Head-On Radio Network,
Zecom/Gemz Radio,
monkeygrip music cafe,
KFCF (Fresno, CA),,
Blue Power/Guitar Speak,
WPNA (Oak Park, IL),
60's Chicks Radio/Seasons & Celebrations Radio,
STAR 107.9,
Puregold Rock 'N Roll,
NeverEndingWonder Radio,
BAGeL Radio,
KDUN (Reedsport, OR),,
KQLZ (Los Angeles, CA),
KXPR/KXJZ (Sacramento, CA),
BlackLight Radio,
Pure Pop 24/7,
Smooth Jazz and More,
Reggae Nostalgia,
WCH Radio/The Wave,
WYGS Southern Gospel Radio Network,,
WRAJ Internet Radio

To learn more about Day of Silence events and the SaveNetRadio coalition, contact or visit


Sunday, June 24, 2007

New age town in U.S. embraces dollar alternative

007-06-21 00:52 A walk down Main Street in this New England town calls to mind the pictures of Norman Rockwell, who lived nearby and chronicled small-town American life in the mid-20th Century.

BerkShares, a currency adopted by towns in western Massachusetts to support locally owned businesses over national chains, is seen in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, June 4, 2007. [Reuters]

So it is fitting that the artist's face adorns the 50 BerkShares note, one of five denominations in a currency adopted by towns in western Massachusetts to support locally owned businesses over national chains.

"I just love the feel of using a local currency," said Trice Atchison, 43, a teacher who used BerkShares to buy a snack at a cafe in Great Barrington, a town of about 7,400 people. "It keeps the profit within the community."

There are about 844,000 BerkShares in circulation, worth $759,600 at the fixed exchange rate of 1 BerkShare to 90 U.S. cents, according to program organizers. The paper scrip is available in denominations of one, five, 10, 20 and 50.

In their 10 months of circulation, they've become a regular feature of the local economy. Businesses that accept BerkShares treat them interchangeably with dollars: a $1 cup of coffee sells for 1 BerkShare, a 10 percent discount for people paying in BerkShares.

Named for the local Berkshire Hills, BerkShares are accepted in about 280 cafes, coffee shops, grocery stores and other businesses in Great Barrington and neighboring towns, including Stockbridge, the town where Rockwell lived for a quarter century.

"BerkShares are cash, and so people have transferred their cash habits to BerkShares," said Susan Witt, executive director of the E.F. Schumacher Society, a nonprofit group that set up the program. "They might have 50 in their pocket, but not 150. They're buying their lunch, their coffee, a small birthday present."

Great Barrington attracts weekend residents and tourists from the New York area who help to support its wealth of organic farms, yoga studios, cafes and businesses like Allow Yourself to Be, which offers services ranging from massage to "chakra balancing" and Infinite Quest, which sells "past life regression therapy."


The BerkShares program is one of about a dozen such efforts in the nation. Local groups in California, Kansas, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Wisconsin run similar ones. One of the oldest is Ithaca Hours, which went into circulation in 1991 in Ithaca, New York.

About $120,000 of that currency circulates in the rural town. Unlike BerkShares, Ithaca Hours cannot officially be freely converted to dollars, though some businesses buy them.

Stephen Burkle, president of the Ithaca Hours program, said the notes are a badge of local pride.

"At the beginning it was very hard to get small businesses to get on board with it," said Burkle, who also owns a music store in Ithaca. "When Ithaca Hours first started, there wasn't a Home Depot in town, there wasn't a Borders, there wasn't a Starbucks. Now that there are, it's a mechanism for small businesses to compete with national chains."

U.S. law prevents states from issuing their own currency but allows private groups to print paper scrip, though not coins, said Lewis Solomon, a professor of law at George Washington University, who studies local currencies.

"As long as you don't turn out quarters and you don't turn out something that looks like the U.S. dollar, it's legal," Solomon said.


The BerkShares experiment comes as the dollar is losing some of its status on international markets, with governments shifting some reserves into euros, the pound and other investments as the U.S. currency has slid in value.

But the dollar is still the currency that businesses in Great Barrington need to pay most of their bills.

"The promise of this program is for it to be a completed circle," said Matt Rubiner, owner of Rubiner's cheese shop and Rubi's cafe. Some local farmers who supply him accept BerkShares, but he pays most of his bills in dollars.

"The circle isn't quite completed yet in most cases, and someone has to take the hit," Rubiner said, referring to the 10 percent discount. "The person who takes the hit is the merchant, it's me."

Meanwhile, Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc., a western Massachusetts bank that exchanges BerkShares for dollars, is considering BerkShares-denominated checks and debit cards.

"Businesses aren't comfortable walking around with wads of BerkShares to pay for their supplies or their advertising," said Melissa Joyce, a branch officer with the bank, which has 25 branches, six of which exchange BerkShares. "I do hope that we're able to develop the checking account and debit card, because it will make it easier for everyone."

Saturday, June 23, 2007

"Initiation", L'Eden, Delville, Khnopff

Come, my child: over there, guarded by an angel, Treasurer of the secrets of forbidden Knowledge, There bleeds, for corrupted hearts, a strange vine, Twined with the hissing snake of Paradise Lost.

The angel sleeps when I wish. Come, My beautiful child, eat with wanton teeth The clusters where my mouth has bitten: Tomorrow you will know the cost of the wine And the power of the vintage your elder has sold you.

You will watch yourself act and think and live, You will be at once the reader and the book, The obscure writer of that hideous book.

And you will die very old, cultivating your pain, For having abdicated the scepter of your ignorance, Which raised you to the height of heroes and the gods. ~"Initiation" from "Hors du Siecle" by ALBERT GIRAUD~


Friday, June 22, 2007

'Mile-wide UFO' spotted by British airline pilot

One of the largest UFOs ever seen has been observed by the crew and passengers of an airliner over the Channel Islands.

An official air-miss report on the incident several weeks ago appears in Pilot magazine.

Aurigny Airlines captain Ray Bowyer, 50, flying close to Alderney first spotted the object, described as "a cigar-shaped brilliant white light".

Aurigny Airlines captain Ray Bowyer, 50, described what he thought to be a UFO as 'a cigar-shaped brilliant white light', similar to the image supplied by Dennis Plunket of the British Flying Saucer bureau

As the plane got closer the captain viewed it through binoculars and said: "It was a very sharp, thin yellow object with a green area.

"It was 2,000ft up and stationary. I thought it was about 10 miles away, although I later realised it was approximately 40 miles from us. At first, I thought it was the size of a [Boeing] 737.

"But it must have been much bigger because of how far away it was. It could have been as much as a mile wide."

Continuing his approach to Guernsey, Bowyer then spied a "second identical object further to the west".

He said: "It was exactly the same but looked smaller because it was further away. It was closer to Guernsey. I can't explain it. This was clearly visual for about nine minutes.

"I'm certainly not saying that it was something of another world. All I'm saying is that I have never seen anything like it before in all my years of flying."

The sightings were confirmed by passengers Kate and John Russell. John, 74, said: "I saw an orange light. It was like an elongated oval."

The sightings were also confirmed by an unnamed pilot with the Blue Islands airline.

The Civil Aviation Authority safety notice states that a Tri-Lander aircraft flying close to Alderney spotted the object.

"Certain parts of the report have not been published. I cannot say why," said a senior CAA source.

Earlier this year, however, the MOD declared its intentions to open its UFO files to the public.

Splash, by C. Bukowski

this is not a poem. poems are dull, they make you sleep. these words force you to a new madness. you have been blessed, you have been pushed into a blinding area of light. the elephant dreams with you now. the curve of space bends and laughs. -excerpts, Splash, by C. Bukowski

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Best Places to Get Free Books - The Ultimate Guide

  1. ManyBooks - Free eBooks for your PDA, iPod, or eBook reader - Thanks Tony Bryan & abben
  2. BookCrossing - Where real books are released into the wild to be found by others - Thanks Engtech
  3. LibraryElf - The perfect companion to a public library system - Thanks Engtech
  4. Scribd - Open library to publish and discover documents online - Thanks CincauHangus
  5. Word Public Library - 400,000 PDF ebooks for download - Thanks Ellen
  6. Free Tech Books - Free computer science and engineering books (+ lecture notes) - Thanks Ellen
  7. Bookins - Swap real books with other readers - Thanks Jimbob
  8. WellToldTales - Free short story podcasts (like audiobooks, but shorter) - Thanks Kevin C.
  9. Wowio - Public domain, free legitimate copyrighted materials & one of the only with a selection of Comic Books - Thanks Jane and Art Dardia
  10. BizBooktalk - Free book giveaway contests on Fridays - Thanks Brandon
  11. MoochMuch - Organize your book lending with your friends - Thanks Bobby
  12. CHMPDF - A collection of general interest and technical ebooks - Thanks Manish Garg & Brian Di Croce
  13. Realtime Publishers - free IT eBooks by many of the world’s best authors - Thanks Kevin
  14. FrugalReader - Trade Books for free - Thanks Brent
  15. TitleTrader - Swap books, movies, and music - Thanks Brent
  16. ZunaFish - Trade your old media and books items for new titles you’d rather have - Thanks Brent
  17. SwapSimple - Swap your used books here - Thanks Brent
  18. SwapThing - Community of users who swap items including books - Thanks Brent
  19. BookCart - Internet paperback exchange - Thanks Brent
  20. SF-Books - Exchange Sci-Fi Books here - Thanks Brent
  21. PaperbackSwap - Swap books for free - Thanks jane dough, IBelieveInFairies, & Lauren
  22. PinkMonkey - 450 Study Guides / Booknotes / Online Chapter Summary Notes and Analysis - Thanks Spellchecker
  23. eBookWorld - Technical resources - Thanks 5n7p3r
  24. Flaxx - IT and computer books - Thanks tejinder
  25. Baen Library - Free science fiction and fantasy novels - Thanks lanthus & Glen Davis
  26. LibraryThing - Social networking and free books - Thanks Michael
  27. Online Books Page - Facilitates access to books that are freely readable over the Internet - Thanks Aman
  28. Podiobooks - free audiobooks that you can subscribe to with iTunes or any other podcatcher - Thanks KJToo
  29. BookRags - Research material in the form of eBooks - Thanks Henry Delany
  30. Technical Books Online - Old tech books from the “vacuum tube age” of electronics- Thanks obiewiz
  31. ebookSearchr - Google powered Thanks Rico & Rokker
  32. Internet Archive - The Intenet indexed - that includes a vast text library - Thanks jojo
  33. BookYards - Books, videos, education materials- Thanks Victor
  34. Memoware - Free books for your PDA - Thanks Doug

The items below were taken from my original Top 10 list with full reviews (here and here)

  1. Gutenberg Project Top 100 - Popular books from the oldest producer of free ebooks on the Internet
  2. BookMooch - Community for exchanging used books
  3. ebookSpyder - Specializes in technical books ranging anywhere from C# to AJAX
  4. Google Book Search - Read the classics online
  5. Dwalin - plain text novels
  6. Free Computer Books - Technical resources about computers
  7. Librivox - Audio works and podcasts of books
  8. CliffsNotes - Get the notes to cram for the exam
  9. WIkibooks - Free textbooks
  10. DailyLit - Receive small parts of books via email

Purposeful living: Co-op housing attracts those seeking something different

Anita Weier 6/20/2007 10:34 am

Surrounded by high-rise apartment buildings and cushy fraternity houses, the Emma Goldman Cooperative at 625 N. Frances St. might be seen as a throwback to the Madison of the 1960s.

The three-story wood and stucco house is home to activism and casually dressed, relatively young people, who eat communal vegetarian meals and pay low rents near the shore of Lake Mendota.

Those looking downtown for a different and inexpensive living experience are finding that places like the Emma Goldman house and other unique co-ops are attractive alternatives to traditional apartments.

Alison Brooks, for instance, moved to the Goldman co-op last summer because she wanted to live in a place that supported her activism against racism. She likes the mutual support of communal living and believes it helps create a strong sense of community to counter the isolation of modern life.

"This is a warm, comfortable living space. We work together instead of in opposition," said Brooks, 21, a junior at UW-Madison. She grew up in Milwaukee and Boulder, Colo.

The Emma Goldman Co-op is one of 11 co-ops in the Madison Community Cooperative network, which provides low-rent housing -- usually less than $400 per month -- at various locations close to campus and on the near east side. About 200 residents are part of the Community Cooperative, and the city also boasts numerous independent cooperatives.

In the Community Cooperative network, each house has its individual personality, goals and ideals. And people who want to live in one of them must attend dinners and a Sunday night meeting before residents decide whether they would fit in and whether they are sufficiently committed to the ideals of the cooperative.

Goldman's goals: The aim at the Goldman household is to work toward a sustainable and socially just society. Members support feminism, anti-racism and fair treatment of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.

Goldman was a famous anarchist, feminist, unionist and anti-war activist who was imprisoned and then deported by the United States and sent to Russia in 1919 after J. Edgar Hoover called her "one of the most dangerous women in America."

But she also didn't like post-revolutionary Russia and ended up living in Europe and Canada.

A quote from the free-spirited Goldman adorns the front of the co-op: "If I can't dance, I don't want your revolution."

Like Goldman, the 16 activists who live in the house stand up for their principles, and house decisions are made by "group-modified consensus." Community dinners are vegetarian with a vegan option. The kitchen boasts large labeled bins of bran flour, raisins, kidney beans, brown rice and brown sugar. Organic foods are sought, and produce comes from a community supported agriculture farm. A typical meal might include tofu, rice with broccoli, biscuits or muffins, and soy milk or juice.

It's an animal-friendly house with ample common space, and a great view of Lake Mendota from the living room.

'Environment of activists': During warm weather, the residents of the non-air-conditioned abode often gather for dinner on the front porch, where they notice they aren't overly popular with some nearby residents.

"Our neighbors don't complain, but we're not bringing cookies to each other's houses," said Brooks, who is the co-op's representative on the board of the Madison Community Co-op.

Christopher Sims, 33, saw a flier about the Goldman co-op. Its statements about social justice, respect and diversity appealed to him. He joined the household in June.

Sims is a writer and performance poet who hopes to be teaching a creative writing course at a community center this summer.

"Everybody here is kindred and supporting one another," said Sims, who is from Rockford.

Josh Healey, who lived at other Madison co-ops before moving to the Emma Goldman household last summer, works at the Office of Multicultural Arts Initiative. Now 23, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a B.A. in sociology and political science in 2005.

"I chose this co-op for political and practical reasons. It is an environment of activists and artists and people who want to live out their ideals. The community gets to make the decisions on how we live -- where we buy food, the types of products we use and so on," he said.

"And affordable housing is hard to come by, especially downtown."

Healey enjoys living with a diverse group of students and working people, and he likes coming home every night to share a meal that the residents themselves prepare.

Summer Wilken, 20, has lived in the house less than a year and plans to take a semester off in the fall and go to Chicago with a friend. But she enjoys the co-op and believes in its principles.

"I heard the Emma Goldman Co-op was into social justice and anti-racism. The people here are mostly activists," said Wilken, who is from Connecticut and is majoring in English and creative writing.

She noted that some co-ops tend to be white middle class, something the Goldman cooperative is not.

"We cook together. Two people cook every night. It's like cooking Thanksgiving dinner every day. It's really nice to talk to people. We clean together and play music," Wilken said. "It seems like a family."

The nuts and bolts: Organizing the communal living arrangement depends on discussions, and residents meet every Sunday evening to talk about upkeep, finance and how they can improve the co-op. The meetings, according to the Goldman house Web site, "can last anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours."

As of Aug. 15, rental cost for a room is $319 to $376 per month. Everyone in the house pays $90 a month for bulk food purchases. Additionally, four people do not live at the co-op but pay $90 a month to eat there. People make their own lunches.

House members contribute from four to six hours of their time each week for jobs such as cooking, washing dishes, cleaning common spaces, paying bills, grocery shopping and serving on Madison Community Cooperative communities.

Of course, things don't always go smoothly, but members work together to solve problems such as nonpayment of rent, failure to do required work or disruptive behavior.

Housing co-op network: The Madison Community Cooperative is an umbrella organization that owns the 11 properties.

"Our organization is a tax-exempt benevolent organization. We had to take the city to court to argue that point," said Tony Anderson, maintenance coordinator.

"We are a nonprofit corporation that provides low-cost housing to low- or moderate-income people."

The Community Co-op started in 1968 when some co-op houses decided to work together. Over the years, additional houses were purchased. The Goldman co-op was purchased in 1996 for $320,000, assessor's records show.

Most of the 11 households are within one-half mile of the UW-Madison campus. They range in size from five to 34 members.

"Every house has its own flavor and personality," Anderson stressed, though all appreciate a diversity in members' backgrounds, occupations and interests.

Most of the houses focus on certain types of residents: One is family-oriented, one is all women and another focuses on international students or well-traveled people.

Each house has an inexpensive meal plan that is usually vegetarian and features home-cooked dinners prepared by house members.

Those interested in joining should ask for the membership coordinator at the office at 1202 Williamson St., or phone 251-2667 to find out if there are openings. The Web site also lists available housing.

The Prison Poets of Guantanamo

The University of Iowa Press is publishing an anthology of poetry by Guantanamo detainees, says WSJ today. Prisoners, denied paper and pens until 2003, wrote poems with toothpaste on the walls, and scratched them into styrofoam cups with spoons and rocks. Link to article here, a really interesting read. Excerpts of poems, and quotes from officials on why this has taken so long:

"U.S. authorities explained why the military has been slow to declassify the poems in a June 2006 letter to one of Mr. Falkoff's colleagues. 'Poetry...presents a special risk, and DOD standards are not to approve the release of any poetry in its original form or language,' it said. The military says poetry is harder to vet than conventional letters because allusions and imagery in poetry that seem innocent can be used to convey coded messages to other militants."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

No..I have no idea what this means... :)

What If the Singularity Does NOT Happen?
It's 2045 and nerds in old-folks homes are wandering around, scratching their heads, and asking plaintively, "But ... but, where's the Singularity? " Science fiction writer Vernor Vinge--who originated the concept of the technological Singularity- -doesn't think that will happen, but he explores three alternate scenarios, along with our "best hope for long-term survival"--self- sufficient, off-Earth settlements.

Originally presented at Long Now Foundation Seminars About Long Term Thinking, February 15, 2007. Published with permission on March 14, 2007.

Just for the record

Given the title of my talk, I should define and briefly discuss what I mean by the Technological Singularity:

It seems plausible that with technology we can, in the fairly near future, create (or become) creatures who surpass humans in every intellectual and creative dimension. Events beyond this event—call it the Technological Singularity—are as unimaginable to us as opera is to a flatworm.

The preceding sentence, almost by definition, makes long-term thinking an impractical thing in a Singularity future.

However, maybe the Singularity won't happen, in which case planning beyond the next fifty years could have great practical importance. In any case, a good science-fiction writer (or a good scenario planner) should always be considering alternative outcomes.

I should add that the alternatives I discuss tonight also assume that faster-than-light space travel is never invented!

Important note for those surfing this talk out of context :-) I still regard the Singularity as the most likely non-catastrophic outcome for our near future.

There are many plausible catastrophic scenarios (see Martin Rees's Our Final Hour), but tonight I'll try to look at non-singular futures that might still be survivable.

The Age of Failed Dreams

A plausible explanation for "Singularity failure" is that we never figure out how to "do the software" (or "find the soul in the hardware", if you're more mystically inclined). Here are some possible symptoms:

All together, the early years of this time come to be called the "Age of Failed Dreams."

Broader characteristics of the early years

Envisioning the resulting Long Now possibilities

Suppose humankind survives the 21st century. Coming out of the Age of Failed Dreams, what would be the prospects for a long human era? I'd like to illustrate some possibilities with diagrams that show all of the Long Now—from tens of thousands of years before our time to tens of thousands of years after—all at once and without explicit reference to the passage of time (which seems appropriate for thinking of the Human Era as a single long now!).

Instead of graphing a variable such as population as a function of time, I'll graph the relationship of an aspect of technology against population size. By way of example, here's our situation so far.

It doesn't look very exciting. In fact, the most impressive thing is that in the big picture, we humans seem a steady sort. Even the Black Death makes barely a nick in our tech/pop progress. Maybe this reflects how things really are—or maybe we haven't seen the whole story. (Note that extreme excursions to the right (population) or upwards (related to destructive potential) would probably be disastrous for civilization on Earth.)

Without the Singularity, here are three possibilities (scenarios in their own right):

Scenario 1: A Return to MADness

Figure 1

Scenario 2: The Golden Age

Figure 2

(A scenario to balance the pessimism of A Return to MADness)

Scenario 3: The Wheel of Time

Figure 3

I fear this scenario is much more plausible than The Golden Age. The Wheel of Time is based on fact that Earth and Nature are dynamic and our own technology can cause terrible destruction. Sooner or later, even with the best planning, megadisasters happen, and civilization falls (or staggers). Hence, in this diagram we see cycles of disasters and recovery.

There has been a range of speculation about such questions (mostly about the first recovery):

In fact, we know almost nothing about such cycles— except that the worst could probably kill everyone on Earth.

How to deal with the deadliest uncertainties

A frequent catchphrase in this talk has been "Who knows?". Often this mantra is applied to the most serious issues we face:

We do our best with scenario planning. But there is another tool, and it is wonderful if you have it: broad experience.

Alas, our range of experience is perilously narrow, since we have essentially one experiment to observe. In the Long Now, can we do better? The Golden Age scenario would allow serial experimentation with some of the less deadly imponderables: over a long period of time, there could be gentle experiments with population size and prolongevity. (In fact, some of that may be visible in the "wiggle" in my Golden Age diagram.)

But there's no way we can guarantee we're in The Golden Age scenario, or have any confidence that our experiments won't destroy civilization. (Personally, I find The Wheel of Time scenarios much more plausible than The Golden Age.)

Of course, there is a way to gain experience and at the same time improve the chances for humanity's survival:

Self-sufficient, off-Earth settlements as humanity's best hope for long-term survival

This message has been brought back to the attention of futurists, and by some very impressive people: Hawking, Dyson, and Rees in particular.

Some or all of these folks have been making this point for many decades. And of course, such settlements were at the heart of much of 20th century science-fiction. It is heartwarming to see the possibility that, in this century, the idea could move back to center stage.

(Important note for those surfing this talk out of context: I'm not suggesting space settlement as an alternative to, or evasion of, the Singularity. Space settlement would probably be important in Singularity scenarios, too, but embedded in inconceivabilities. )

Some objections and responses:

What's a real space program ... and what's not

I believe most people have great sympathy and enthusiasm for humans-in-space. They really "get" the big picture. Unfortunately, their sympathy and enthusiasm has been abused.

Humankind's presence in space is essential to long-term human survival. That is why I urge that we reject any major humans-in-space initiative that does not have the prerequisite goal of much cheaper (at least by a factor of ten) access to space.

Institutional paths to achieve cheaper access to space

©2007 Vernor Vinge

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