Monday, July 8, 2013

The music industry: On-demand touring | The Economist

The music industry: On-demand touring | The Economist: After paying for venue rental, her flight and equipment, she will walk away with somewhere between $3,000 and $4,000, perhaps a bit more, says Ian Hogarth, a co-founder of Songkick.
Let's agree this is The Economist talking, which means this information really isn't for musicians. Yet here come the ever-hopeful email forwards:

"This is GREAT!"

"It CAN be done!"

No, it isn't, and no, it can't.

Read the opening quote, and bear in mind this is the only sentence in the entire piece that really matters, because this sentence tells us, (in what order) who gets paid.

To grasp this, work the sentence backwards and re-write it in your head. Like this:
Songkick, via one of its cofounders, claims a Northern California cellist will "walk away" with $$$muneez$$$ "perhaps a bit more" AFTER she pays for 1) equipment (rentals), 2) a flight, 3) venue rental. 
In this rereading, the artist is the last to get paid. First was Songkick. Who is this article for?

To answer this, we need to examine the "focus" of the piece, a married woman who goes by "Ms." , "independently" earns six-figures, goes "digging through the analytics on her various social networks" (laptop! coffee!), and plays cello (creative! = non-wage slave! = not lower-class!).

Ms Keating is indeed a real person, but in this piece, the Economist is using a caricature of her to forward an agenda. We know which caricature, so who's agenda?

My money's (!!!) on Songkick/Detour, who are marketing to the aspirational artists in the NPR parental community, because A) these people have money, and A), these people have money.

In which publication did this mythic figure appear?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

XBOX - The Era of The 'Male Gamer' Is Over.

Someone who earns money will buy one of these,
and let you use it.

If you're male and between the ages of 12-54, you know that Microsoft "unveiled" its new flagship version of its flagship timewaster, the XBOX. You also know that Microsoft could give a shit less about you as a market. And this enrages you.

For the last decade Microsoft (and its ilk) have given your 'market segment' a lot of attention and influence in the culture. How else do we explain unemployable fat dudes with million-plus views on their "How to Play [Game Title]" videos?

"Gaming" has been elevated culturally to a legitimate activity, right on par with home maintenance, childcare, and even slightly above food service (as if to cement it's prerequisite social privilege).

But here's another reality: employment among the 18-49 male 'market segment' is at an all-time low, and all indicators point toward a continuing downward trend.

You have no money, and Microsoft knows it.

But your parents and your employable female relationship (wife? girlfriend? relative?) are somehow content to let you sit about in their basements and spare rooms as if keeping you out of trouble was the last/best thing to do while they go about earning.

To the people who are earning incomes, "gaming" is not really a priority. So XBOX is being marketed to them for the activity they enjoy: watching television. Everybody in the world knows XBOX plays games, and that's precisely what you'll be doing while the income earners are working and sleeping.

So for a few hours a day you'll sit and fume at how "disengaged" your immediate relations are while they sit "passively" in front of the TV, oblivious to the fact that this is exactly how they see you while they are out actively engaged in the real world.

Obama, NSA, China, and the Android Surveillance Network

This is a surveillance device that lets you make calls.
It's like this: Google (Android) (and 2nd, Apple's IOS) built the world's most prolific, distributed surveillance network. Your Android (and IOS) mobile device keeps track of LOTS of data, but most importantly, *with whom you are in proximity.*

Your calling/texting/Facebook is of little value - that's why the marketing companies get that data.

The intelligence gatherers want to know who you're around and what you're talking about. So when a group (N < 1) of targeted devices are in proximity, the mic/camera are activated and 'samples' taken. Those samples are analyzed for keywords, flagged for human review if necessary.

Ever wonder why so many politicos and celebrities used Blackberry? (it wasn't a surveillance net like Android/IOS.)

Why did the NSA ask for/get months of phone data? Chinese hacking.

China wants access to the Google surveillance platform(s). If China can hack their way in, they too can spy on influential Americans.

Probable scenario: China wants to promote its wine products. It targets the Northern California wine region by undermining political support for the wine growers. This is accomplished by using the Android/IOS systems to track influential people (nodes) in the political network and interrupting or introducing conversation elements (i.e., critical messages do not relay, or conversely, messages introduced or edited by China (the "Inherent Trust1" problem.)

For scaled analysis systems to identify this activity, the NSA needs to develop 'signatures.' This is why they needs tons of phone data. Ironic that a gov't agency is coming under fire for doing its job (arguably very well, too.)

Obama's role in this is simply to be a distraction. While you're busy being angry at him or venting spittle about the NSA, Google and Apple are quietly downloading your family's photos, listening to what you talk about after sex (with both your spouse AND your affairs!), gathering data about your TV viewing2, and most importantly, which clusters you associate with.

This is not the future - it is the now. The present. What lies ahead is the revealing of this system and your eventual coming to terms with it.

1 - you have been taught to trust 'your' device in that when it tells you a message has been received from your friend, you believe it 100%.

2 - YouTube has an media ID system that tracks copyright infringement on the website. Android uses the same system to identify what you're watching when it samples mic audio from your phone. Most accurate market research, ever.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Monterey Jack, Meet Monterey Jill � Sociological Images

Monterey Jack, Meet Monterey Jill � Sociological Images: I mean we all know that dieting and women go together like peas and carrots. We know this — collectively and together, even if we don’t agree that it should be this way – not because it’s inevitable or natural, but because we constantly get reminded that women should be on diets and dieting is a feminine activity.
I think SocImages reading is too generous. This is what Safeway (Lucerne) is saying:
"Eat this you fucking cow."
As usual, my services this week are free.

Breaking: Silicio Barrio startup demos 3D tortilla printer : Pocho

Breaking: Silicio Barrio startup demos 3D tortilla printer : Pocho: There were “ooohs” and “aaaahs” as scantily-clad MasaTek spokesmodels passed out fresh, hot corn tortillas embossed with the images of La Virgen and Frida Kahlo to the audience (photo, above) while he spoke.

Let's just let that sentence wash over us.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Shale Oil And Gas: The Contrarian View - Forbes

Shale Oil And Gas: The Contrarian View - Forbes: The petrochemical sector is probably the most integrated of all industries, because every operation generates by-products that can be used in other processes, provided that they are co-located. One example is carbon monoxide, which is a valuable fuel or feedstock if it can be used near the source, but is too cheap to be worth transporting any significant distance.
The integration can always improve.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bradley Manning is off limits at SF Gay Pride parade, but corporate sleaze is embraced | Glenn Greenwald | Comment is free |

Bradley Manning is off limits at SF Gay Pride parade, but corporate sleaze is embraced | Glenn Greenwald | Comment is free | Third, when I wrote several weeks ago about the remarkable shift in public opinion on gay equality, I noted that this development is less significant than it seems because the cause of gay equality poses no real threat to elite factions or to how political and economic power in the US are distributed. If anything, it bolsters those power structures because it completely and harmlessly assimilates a previously excluded group into existing institutions and thus incentivizes them to accommodate those institutions and adopt their mindset. This event illustrates exactly what I meant.
That's why it's called "power", Glenn.

Astute observations, nonetheless.

Also, go read The Last Psychiatrist.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Gordon's Notes: The Net is a forest. It has fires.

Gordon's Notes: The Net is a forest. It has fires.: The first fire I remember was the end of Usenet. Yeah, I know it's technically still running, but it's a faint shadow of the days when I posted about Mosaic for Windows in WinOS2. The Usenet archive nearly vanished when DejaNews failed, but Google rescued it. That was a different Google that the one we know now.

The next fire took out GeoCities. GeoCities was once the third most valuable property on the Net; thirty-eight million web pages died when Yahoo closed it. (Did you know is still around and that it still hosts Tripod? I was shocked.)
What meteor will take out YouTube? (Energy costs?)

PS - this is a good blog. I'll miss seeing it in Google Reader.

George W. Bush’s presidency, in 24 charts

George W. Bush’s presidency, in 24 charts: But in the interest of history, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at Bush’s record, issue by issue, and, of course, in charts.
So many Teabaggers forget that every one of their claimed ills was set in motion during the Bush Presidency. Saying "Obama owns it now!" is like shitting on someone's carpet and walking out of their house saying "You own it now!"

George W Bush was the worst president/presidency in modern history.

We Had No Idea What Alexander Graham Bell Sounded Like. Until Now | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine

We Had No Idea What Alexander Graham Bell Sounded Like. Until Now | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine: Inside the lab, Bell and his associates bent over their pioneering audio apparatus, testing the potential of a variety of materials, including metal, wax, glass, paper, plaster, foil and cardboard, for recording sound, and then listening to what they had embedded on discs or cylinders. However, the precise methods they employed in early efforts to play back their recordings are lost to history.

As a result, says curator Carlene Stephens of the National Museum of American History, the discs, ranging from 4 to 14 inches in diameter, remained “mute artifacts.” She began to wonder, she adds, “if we would ever know what was on them.”
The historic discs bear an uncanny resemblance to modern compact discs. 

Unique in the Crowd: The privacy bounds of human mobility : Scientific Reports : Nature Publishing Group

Unique in the Crowd: The privacy bounds of human mobility : Scientific Reports : Nature Publishing Group: Finally, we show that one formula determines the uniqueness of mobility traces providing mathematical bounds to the privacy of mobility data. The uniqueness of traces is found to decrease according to a power function with an exponent that scales linearly with the number of known spatio-temporal points. This implies that even coarse datasets provide little anonymity.
 Remember: Your phone is a surveillance device that lets you make calls.

Can We Please Stop Drawing Trees on Top of Skyscrapers? | ArchDaily

Can We Please Stop Drawing Trees on Top of Skyscrapers? | ArchDaily: There are plenty of scientific reasons why skyscrapers don’t—and probably won’t—have trees, at least not to the heights which many architects propose. Life sucks up there. For you, for me, for trees, and just about everything else except peregrine falcons. It’s hot, cold, windy, the rain lashes at you, and the snow and sleet pelt you at high velocity. Life for city trees is hard enough on the ground. I can’t imagine what it’s like at 500 feet, where nearly every climate variable is more extreme than at street level.

Buffett Mocking Gold Sidesteps Slump As He Bets on Stocks - Bloomberg

Buffett Mocking Gold Sidesteps Slump As He Bets on Stocks - Bloomberg: To illustrate the point, he asked readers to picture the world’s entire gold stock melded together into a cube 68 feet (21 meters) on each side valued at $9.6 trillion at then- prevailing prices. For the same amount, an investor could have purchased all the farmland in the U.S., 16 replicas of Exxon Mobil Corp., and still have about $1 trillion of “walking- around money.”

A century later, the farmland will be producing valuable crops no matter the currency, and dividends from the companies would probably added up to trillions of dollars, Buffett wrote.

The 170,000 metric tons of gold “will be unchanged in size and still incapable of producing anything,” he wrote. “You can fondle the cube, but it will not respond.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Crazy Train: April 16, 2013

Disconnected ramblings for the day:

  • Nobody is going to travel to Mars until a gallon of water makes it there and back. Until we build a canister that keeps those hydrogen and oxygen bonds from being blown apart by radiation, living things will be staying put.
  • Gold is "crashing" today, which means goldbugs have to figure out new rationales (and abandon old ones.) What will they be?
    • Collusion of 'powers'
    • But gold is still preferable because:
      • it's not prone to inflation/deflation (circle one)
      • people still value it for (pick any number)
        • Manufacturing.
        • "It's shiny!"
        • "History!"
        • "Rarity!"
        • Random wackadoodle econ theory
      • Insert rhetorical question
    • Bitcoin
  • Bitcoin reaches prominent discussion just as gold crashes. Why?
    • If gold crash is the result of policy decisions, then lack of central mgmt is central appeal.
    • If the crash is the result of manipulation, then Bitcoin won't experience bubbles because:
      • it can't be manipulated (see: Natural Resources)
    • Bitcoiners keep pointing at the trade price (measured in US dollars, in case anyone wondered), but I think its more important to look at what currency they convert Bitcoins TO: (answer: US dollars and apparently, drugs.)
    • The illicit trades of the world (blood diamonds, sex slaves, drugs, arms) all still use American cash. I think the dollar is still strongest. When Mexican cartels are caught with boatloads of Euros or Yuan, then I'll reexamine this.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bombs in Boston

(Note: This is a rough draft. Please forgive blatant grammar errors.)

Smarter animals run AWAY from things that blow up.
It hasn't been 24 hours, yet we already have the dominant meme by which this event will be remembered: PEOPLE RAN TOWARD THE EXPLOSIONS! AMERICA!

Various versions of this are appearing on FB newfeeds, almost all have been typed (vs shared image macros.) This means the meme has 'velocity' - people are replicating it by raw action instead of a passive one (click-share).

You could use this phenomenon to make a list of people you don't want around you in the event of an actual emergency because they'll be the last ones making clear decisions.

When someone types/shares this meme, what they're saying (remember, all of Facebook is about telling people about YOU!) is: "I'm a hero."

They're not.

You only need to listen to the mobile videos shot during the aftermath. You can hear person after person who runs up saying something like "I'm an EMT!" or "I'm a firefighter!" or "I'm a corpsman!" or "I'm a cop!"

You know, the ones who are actually trained to RESPOND to these situations. But your friends posting this tripe think THEY will be of clear mind - they will rise above and act with calm precision.

No, they'll shit themselves.

Two kinds of people run toward destruction: first-responders and fucking morons validating their own existence. There's only one of those you want touching your injured body.

But why the meme in the first place?

There is nobody to blame. Terrorism? Domestic? Foreign? We don't even have a go-to bogey-man right now. Broad blaming of groups seems to be out of vogue - we prefer our political violence to have a single face instead of considering the kind of inertia of a civil society fracturing at the seams.

Without someone to blame (external) we turn inward and deal with the crippling fear by telling ourselves we'd be stalwart and strong (but most importantly in this meme... NOT DEAD!).

Here's a way to test yourself: look at that picture of the guy with dangling leg remains being pushed in a wheelchair by two bystanders, then ask: Which person am I in this photo? Hint: Not the guy with no legs. You can't even imagine that, so instead you imagine yourself helping, because in that scenario, you still have your legs.

Law enforcement will probably find someone. Then we'll have more image macros about mental health again.

In the event someone sets off a bomb in your vicinity, here are a couple practical things to prepare for:

No, really, stay the fuck out of the way. Nothing is a bigger obstacle to first responders than "helpers" and "heroes." If emergency services personnel ask you to leave, do it. Do NOT decide that your heroism is more important than anything else.

#2: See #1.

While observing #1 and #2, remember to turn on your phone's camera and record. If you're doing video, let it roll as long as you can. Sound is almost more important than a clear video shot.

Last, you will remember none of this as you will probably be in shock.

My $5 prediction: the dude that did this is Irish.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Brain Dump: Dead or Sticking Keys on Yamaha Keyboards

(Update: A Yamaha rep has contacted me directly. Parts should be avail from repair shops - they should not be requiring customers to sell them only as part of a repair.)

Too many companies think their brand is their bottom line.

Turned around, too many consumers think they're a company's bottom line when they're not. What's the saying - your cheapest clients are also your most expensive?

I don't own the premiere model, nor am I an endorser. Should I have to be?

If Honda built great cars, their dealers would go out of business. Because like music instrument retail, car dealerships are not built on sales - they're built on service.

Built-in helplessness.

this is not a good paradigm, especially for musicians who are mostly DIY anyway.

Yamaha's "24x7" is most certainly not. On the day I needed someone, I called at noon only to be told that department was closed for lunch. When I called back an hour later, another recorded message indicated the department was closed for training. No coverage - no voicemail.

So here I sit - knowing *exactly* what I need, but without the precise part #, I can't fix my gear. A service center won't sell the part unless I pay them a 10x markup to put it in, too. Madness.

The premium I still have to "pay" is in time: I'm waiting for a part from a company that salvages used keyboards. Three days for a salvage rubber membrane.

The Problem:
Do you know what this is?

In Yamaha (and Korg) 88-key weighted keyboards, there is a rubber membrane underneath the keys. That membrane has small pegs that are capped with a micro-thin carbon cap. The cap is conductive, and when the key is pressed, the cap contacts the PCB, closes a circuit, and the synth plays a sound.

On one key, the carbon tab lost conductivity (micro fracture?) and didn't close a circuit any longer. It didn't take long to figure it out, thanks to YouTube.

A retailer up the street (Rainbow Electronics) refused to sell me the part, insisting that he also be paid to fix the keyboard, too. Ten day turnaround. In what world does this person live?

The local economy lost a sale AND a relationship AND a music show. These costs, while invisible, are real, and unfortunately, unmeasured, too.

Problem 2: Sticky Keys

On Yamaha (Korg) weighted keyboards, "sticky" keys can be a symptom of a few potential issues:
  • Warping in the keyboard's main bottom board
    • this can be caused by wetness or uneven placement
  • Debris between the counterweight and felt rests
  • Lubricant displacement / dirt buildup
    • Yamaha uses a specific grease that does not harm plastics. (UPDATE: The white grease is Yamaha part # V6274301)
    • Several places require lubrication:
      • Rubber absorbers/stoppers under keys
      • Keypost foot
      •  Hammer sliding mechanism
  • Displaced return spring
  • Broken hammer.
I hope this post helps you.

Today's Takeaways:
  • Salvage warehousing is a lonely trade.
  • Local economies are built on relationships
  • A policy that makes perfect sense internally (restricting parts sales to authorized repair centers) has reverberating consequences that are both invisible and non-intuitive.
  • Do NOT blow compressed air blindly between the keys. You'll blow grease all over everything. Just take a day and open the thing up and clean your keys.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Your blog will soon be an eBook

"You used to think that it was so easy
You used to say that it was so easy
But you're tryin'
You're tryin' now"

- "Baker St."
The Web is dead. Mobile and apps are king.

Stat: in 2013, the activation rate for new mobile devices outpaced the birth rate.

You can't read on a handset. If the bulk of mobiles are handsets, the bulk of people aren't reading.

Writing is an arcane niche, like crochet. So, too, is reading: relegated to the few that care to learn. For everyone else there's YouTube and oversized fonts.

iPads and tablets? They're our new cash registers. (Android is also a surveillance network).

Google is going to kill Blogger as a web service.

So what will writers/bloggers do?

One idea - automate our writing/posting as eBooks. Post them on Amazon/iTunes/PLAY for a fee (this is critical - Amazoogle can't make money on 'free' anymore).

Our readership will drop, but the few that remain will pay. This will force (hopefully) a change in writing style/tone/topic. Maybe we'll get a lot better (and make more money than via AdSense).

Maybe we'll give up.

Thought experiment: There are ten thousand people in the world that would spend $1 a month on our blog, netting $120k/yr (gross) income. What circumstances best affect this outcome?

1) That 10k need to know about us,
2) That 10k need a way to pay us,
3) that 10k need to be able to read/listen to our creativity, which means
3a) a reader device/app with enabled purchasing, and/or
3b) an account with reseller (Amazon, iTunes, etc), and/or
3c) a web browser/pc/laptop, which means..
3ci) stationary, sedentary activity (reading), most likely indoors
3cii) prone to easy distraction (low priority activity)
4) that 10k need the time, too

These are high barriers to entry, and most people who've made the upfront investment in technology and access have little patience for paying for content (even premium). I don't think this is the best arrangement, but I also think it will be very temporary.

I don't know what comes next.

Update: a friend sends me a link about an eBook platform:
Writers price their Snippets between 99 cents and $4.99, and receive 50 percent of sales. Writers pay $99 per Snippet to get their piece on the platform.
The expectation is that readers will appreciate a platform that pares down and organizes only the best content.

Steubenville Must Be Talked To

“We must talk to girls about their responsibility in situations like this.” - CNN
I'm supposed to be writing songs.

If you've been sober enough (and really, why bother anymore?) to open Facebook in the last 48 hours, you've no doubt been bombarded with (mostly) female friends posting highly opinionated links  handwringing about a young woman who was raped in some small town we'll all forget about next week anyway, much to the relief of people who moved to small towns to avoid being seen/noticed/exposed in the first place.

The particulars of the case are non-specific enough to be a perfect canvas for people to project themselves: girl, drunk at party, passes out, pictures taken, penises, internet, football, small town, "swept it under the carpet." "Oh, and now here's what I think:"

Invariably, what they "think" is a repeat of some meme that's already in play, most often a variation of needing to "talk" about "rape culture", as if A) talking had some history of solving anything, and B) as if "rape culture" was some definable aspect of their own cultural ecosystem that can be coaxed out far enough for a precision surgical circumcision.


There's some controversy over CNN's framing of the story, specifically that they empathized with the rapists instead of the victim. Hello, you do understand the concept of a "power dynamic", yes? Which side is CNN on? (Hint: The power.)

Which would be remarkable if this were an episode of Law&Order....

But that's not the story CNN is telling, and that's why their reporter is confused that people are pissed at her.

Remember, CNN didn't "break" this story - they picked it up from somewhere else.

There is only one reason you and I have even heard of this: Anonymous. Men.

Anonymous’ motives are already in the open: 4 teh lulz. In other words, they didn’t go after these guys because they wanted ‘justice’ for the victim - they just thought it would be funny.

Why is outing some random small town football players 'lulz?'

He would've gotten away with it
if not for those meddling kids!

If the story CNN was telling was a good ole-fashioned Law and Order story, of course we'd be hearing nothing but tears and violins for the victim. CNN is telling a story not about the consequences of a rape conviction, but the consequences of being outed by hackers.

The "damange to these young men's lives" is not due to the justice system, it's the outing by Anonymous. The real message: "Anonymous is a bunch of troublemakers, and look, they wear masks."

Like clowns.

This is so critical to understand, but once you do, you can grasp why CNN chose this rape (vs thousands of others) to "talk" about (read: generate revenue), because it provides a context to establish Anonymous as both powerless AND complicit.

Game over.

The "members" of Anonymous are even playing their part, appearing on TV interviews in Guy Fawkes masks. And nobody even breathes about actual anonymous sourcing or asks why someone with a mediocre opinion feels it necessary to hide their identity, much less, why a news outlet would allow it in the first place (hint: central casting is involved.)

In this analysis, the "real" agenda of CNN has never been the expose of a small-town injustice, instead it's the establishing of a power narrative, namely "We have it" and hackers don't.

You girls don't stand a chance.


I am working on a followup discussing themes of power, real vs imagined power, and why these deeper narratives deserve consideration.

IMHO, every person's responsibility in "situations like this" is to put your life in danger for your fellow human. Period. The culture's predominant female programming is the avoidance of conflict at all costs (conflict is not just "masculine"; it's un-feminine) and until this changes, women are already at a significant power disadvantage due to cultural incentives. Women's burden is higher, as is their personal risk. 

Ladies, grow a pair, will ya?

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Coming War: A Military Doctor's Field Guide To Masturbating

The Coming War: A Military Doctor's Field Guide To Masturbating In Afghanistan: Climax is imminent. Where will you deposit your knuckle babies?
Absolutely hilarious.

Anatomy of a heroin ring | Feature | Chicago Reader

Anatomy of a heroin ring | Feature | Chicago Reader: A man who survived the shooting told police the perpatrator was a guy everyone knew as "Bird." The witness said he didn't share the information sooner because "he was afraid that 'Bird' or his gang would kill him."

Life imitates Art imitates Life imitates.....


dangerousmeta!: I was enjoying one of my free days - I worked six days a week for $2.65 an hour. That one day off a week became precious, because we were around 100 miles from the nearest town of any significance, and none of us had cars. Around nine of us would bargain for the one available seat on the supply truck. So it wasn’t often we’d get into town. I was sitting in my Manhattan Project war-surplus hut in the cool of evening after a long day of bushwhacking. I’d turned on the radio, and was surfing for any stations that might be listenable (dubious, because of the Chisos Basin’s ring of mountains). I finally caught, on the AM band, a thready elderly voice. A Christian radio station, an old man pleading for donations to keep his station open. He talked of how he’d ploughed all of his money into his equipment, how he couldn’t afford his electric bills anymore, but he still wanted to do the Lord’s service. His plaintive wails and cries for help convinced me he’d constructed a personal Hell with his own two hands. Eventually his signal weakened, his hoarse cries dwindled into the AM static, then died. I never heard him on that band again. I was horrified.

Dangerousmeta! on the (potential) end of his blogging. I wonder if blogging hasn't passed into that canon of arcane activities (passion writing) soon to be occupied only by the Few That Still Do.

Related: Gordon's Notes thinks Blogger is the next service on on Google's chopping block. I concur - the service, like Amazon's "eBooks", is wholly the domain of automated spamming systems (most of them employed by SEO trying to create "organic" traffic). It makes sense for them to shut it down as it no longer garners (IMHO) enough AdSense revenue to justify the amount of monitoring the click traffic requires.

ProPublica: Data Brokers

Everything We Know About What Data Brokers Know About You - ProPublica
But that's just the beginning: The companies collect lists of people experiencing "life-event triggers" like getting married, buying a home, sending a kid to college — or even getting divorced.
Credit reporting giant Experian has a separate marketing services division, which sells lists of "names of expectant parents and families with newborns" that are "updated weekly."
The companies also collect data about your hobbies and many of the purchases you make. Want to buy a list of people who read romance novels? Epsilon can sell you that, as well as a list of people who donate to international aid charities.
A subsidiary of credit reporting company Equifax even collects detailed salary and paystub information for roughly 38 percent of employed Americans, as NBC news reported. As part of handling employee verification requests, the company gets the information directly from employers.

You're participating even if you don't want to. Nothing in the system doesn't get recorded...

Probably worth a read.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Victor Keegan: Will MySpace ever lose its monopoly? | Technology | The Guardian

Victor Keegan: Will MySpace ever lose its monopoly? | Technology | The Guardian: Will MySpace ever lose its monopoly?
Never thought I'd see the day when a 2007 byline was OLD....


SFGate: Morford: Thinking is Elitist

37 percent of people completely lost | Notes & Errata by Mark Morford | an blog: It is a wicked conundrum that you and I can debate the definition of elitism, whether or not it’s fair to criticize those who believe that, say, gay marriage means kids will be indoctrinated into homosexuality, or that evolution is still a theory, or that Jesus literally flew up out of a cave and into the sky, when the discussion itself is, by nature, elitist, exclusionary, requiring fluid, abstract thinking the very people we’re discussing simply do not possess, and therefore cannot participate in.
Same for the blogsphere - do any of the people that incessantly forward long-since-debunked emails read/write blogs? (Hint: No.)

Blogging, too, is elitist.

Good read.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Death of Google Reader

I told you so.
But I'm worried about Reader. Reader is, IMHO, the app with the most transformative potential. It has been my experience that Reader usage correlates (and may I say, predicts) with an overall ability to construct an lucid argument. Acquaintances that don't use or know of Reader are *weeks* behind news cycles, and consistently lack insight or the depth of available knowledge/opinion on most topics.
Which is precisely why it's not a very popular product. Eventually, another Reader user will creep into your shares and start schooling you. The majority of us do not react well to this, and even few actively seek out that kind of interaction. Additionally, RSS, the technology that Reader is dependent on, is facing its own hurdles as competing standards and frameworks emerge in the mobile world.
- July, 2011
 Google's ruthless when it comes to monetizing its apps. With the exception of products still under the "Labs" moniker, everything Google produces must make money from their search products. This is one of the reasons I fear Reader, IMHO their product with the best chance of affecting social change, will be retired soon. It can't be monetized.
It bears repeating that ALL of Google's products are built on the back of your user data - what you searched for, what you clicked, what you eventually bought, and if Google can capture it, everything about your computer's browser, etc. Is there a behavior Google wants to analyze and market? They'll write an 'app' that gets it, and sell the data. Apps that don't/can't collect lots of sellable data won't stick around.
 - July 2011
It seems Google is moving from being a knowledge-services (read: search) organization to an social/advertising org, and I hope I'm wrong about that.
In its place a pale imitation having taken the form of a marketing company.
- November, 2011

Google is Evil.

 They built the world's most prolific (and profitable!) domestic surveillance system.  That's Google's business.

There really was a Golden Age. If you were a 'sharebro' then you know how good it was. Some bloggers think this opens up a market for Reader-like apps, but I don't. Google had the scaleable tech to make Reader work, and the upfront investment required to replicate it can't be supported by the number of customers (I'd like to be wrong about this.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Monsanto and The Farmer

David the Good Farmer on the lookout for Cyclops.
If you've been on the internet for longer than ten minutes, no doubt you've either clicked on a blog or received a forwarded email (aren't they always?) telling you a story about Monsanto and a farmer that was "just trying to save his seeds." A few details vary depending on who's telling the story, but the general narrative goes like this:

Good Farmer works hard in his fields. One day, the wind blows pollen (seed? depends on the writer's comfort with invoking biological fictions...) from adjoining field of Bad Farmer who's using the seeds made by Evil Corporation.

Good Farmer believes this is "natural", and sees no problem keeping the seeds from his Good Strain of "crops" (wheat? maize? rice?) and replanting them the following season. This is a Good Tradition.

In Season 2, the Evil Corporation confronts the Good Farmer claiming he must either pay up or plow under. Worse, this is by design. The Evil Corporation has set these events in motion to achieve it's Evil ends.

If you've spent any time thinking about narrative analysis, you can instantly recognize this setup as a David v. Goliath story arc, with all its attendant implications: Evil Corporation is the Cyclops, a single-focus giant with all the power, while Good Farmer is David. What's curious is why this framing is invoked when David has completely failed to fell his Cyclops...

The details of the actual case, however, differ enough that the disparity deserves some examination, and I think it's helpful to write the actual story using the characters of David and Goliath.

This story actually begins with David taking something that belonged to Goliath - his bag of seeds. Goliath asked for something in return, but David refused, instead challenging the giant to a fight. As soon as Goliath accepts, David makes an appeal to the populace: "Help me, look how big this giant is! He'll crush us all!"

So for ten years, the Good People throw small rocks at Goliath until finally, David admits he's just a small-town bumpkin who picked a fight with a giant because "Hey, look, a giant!"

We close the book, so to speak, but David's still a farmer and Goliath's still a giant. What was the point of this story, again?


It's critical to note the tendency to substitute narrative for knowledge: fiction for fact, as it were. Anti-GMO crusaders invoke this story not for its facts but for its character shorthand and narrative suggestion(s). We invoke David v. Goliath because we want to talk about power, specifically a perceived disparity in its distribution, but more specifically, by setting up the conflict, we agree that power exists in the first place.

Because someone's got to have it, right? "What else could explain this soul-crushing pressure I feel everyday? Some one or some thing must be doing this!"


Corporations represent an existential threat. They are powerful as a summary of their activities, yet can be strangely ephemeral - our most common contact with a corporation is via its lowest-paid employees, and many of us have immediate family/friends that work for major brands. So they are both threatening and insulated from violence (you can't 'hurt' them.)

In this examination, people invoke this story about Monsanto not because they want to discuss biology or patent law, but because they want to deal with the idea of power, specifically the feeling of powerlessness, more specifically, the feeling of being put upon by someone/thing more powerful while being unable to assert oneself or influence circumstances.

THE PROBLEM with using this framing is it only serves to set up the (losing) fight - it's better to find a framing that suggests a resolution or path to change.


(in part 2 I will explore some ideas about picking narrative frames to describe/affect one's worldview.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Postmodern Zen


The Illusive Bonanza: Oil Shale in Colorado

The Illusive Bonanza: Oil Shale in Colorado: Hyping oil shale is nothing new. As geologist Walter Youngquist once wrote, “Bankers won’t invest a dime in ‘organic marlstone,’ the shale’s proper name, but ‘oil shale’ is another matter.”
In a ham-and-egg breakfast, the chicken is involved but the pig is committed. Half the world’s oil shale resources lie near Grand Junction, Colorado. With respect to oil shale, citizens in this region are committed. The durable myth of this “enormous treasure” ensures that in any energy crisis, oil shale will be proposed as a solution, and that Colorado and Utah will bear the brunt of development.
Dreams and hype aside, oil shale is the poorest of the fossil fuels, containing far less energy than crude oil, much less even than hog manure, peat moss, corn pellets, household garbage, or Cap’n Crunch.
via the author's own comment on The Oil Drum, which I'll exerpt here:
Let's try a redneck experiment.
Winter's coming, and I'm willing to pay $1,000 to the first Coloradan who decides to heat their house with oil shale. I'll deliver it in October, free of charge.
Such an experiment would teach you a lot. First, you'd learn that there's three times more energy in a pound of split pine or recycled phone books or cattle manure or Cap'n Crunch than in a pound of oil shale.
Next, you'd learn that 85 percent of oil shale is inert mineral matter. This means that on a cold winter day you'd have to shovel about 700 pounds of rocks into your oil shale furnace and remove 600 pounds of ash.
If, during the course of the winter, you burned 40 tons (about what you'd need), come spring you'd have 36 tons of hazardous waste, enough to fill three dump trucks.
I'll pay for the dump trucks, you deal with the EPA.
 Worth a read.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Corporations and Emotional Labor

Pret A Manger: When corporations enforce happiness | New Republic: Back when she wrote her book, Hochschild estimated that about one-third of all jobs entailed "substantial demands for emotional labor." Today, she figures it's more like half. This is, among other things, terrible news for men, who (unlike women) are not taught from birth how to make other people happy. Perhaps that explains why men are losing ground in the service economy.
A thousand times "YES!"

via Metafilter.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Simon Rich's Sell Out, part three of four. : The New Yorker

Simon Rich's Sell Out, part three of four. : The New Yorker: Screaming over money is what makes the market fun. Sarah used to threaten to kill the potato man whenever his prices went up. She would take out her knife and say, “I will kill you with this knife for robbing me.” He would curse her in Hungarian and then the two of them would wave their fists around. It was good times for everyone. These days, though, nobody has that kind of will. It is all please and thank you and have a nice day.
Start with Part 1. This is a great read.

Salmonella kills people but not corporations

Path to Illnesses and Deaths Began Five Years Before Salmonella Outbreak | Food Safety News: As dangerous as those conditions were, the indictment makes a strong case that what put PCA at fault was its fraudulent practices that left no space for food safety.

The indictment portrays a company that was too busy lying to its customers, pretty much day-in and day-out.

Fraud was being practiced by PCA as early as June 2003, more than five years before people started getting sick, according to information contained in the indictment. The picture U.S. attorneys paint in the indictment is one where PCA promised to deliver on food safety standards and customer specifications while putting a system in place to do neither.
I am 99% positive most of my dear readers have heard about federal charges against Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) for shipping 'tainted' (read: normal) food to its customers. I've highlighted a passage from "Food Safety News", the blog credited with the most extensive investigation yet (and by "extensive investigation" I mean someone sat down with both a copy of the indictments AND a biology textbook -imagine that!!)

I've bolded a few key terms in my quote, but I'll go long-form to get this across.

PCA's customers are NOT American consumers (people). PCA is not in trouble for poisoning people - they're in trouble for lying to Kellogg's, and by proxy, putting Kellogg's in a position of potential liability - the thing all corporations avoid by design. Kellogg's is customer #1

So go ahead - celebrate this "victory" for food safety. And by "food safety" I mean to say that corporations are safely insulated from any liability arising from their food.

Window Tint and Gun Culture

Want to tie together a couple of seemingly disparate ideas...

In California, it is technically illegal to tint your driver and passenger windows. The main rational is that it presents a danger to law enforcement. That danger being.... firearms.

The backup rational is a physics argument: interior light reflections can cause misleading visuals potentially increasing accidents.

The light problem could be solved by the application of a gradient tint that allows the driver to see their mirrors untinted, but cuts the amount of solar energy entering the vehicle's cabin. (Update: I'm informed it is legal to coat windows with a UV blocker provided it's completely opaque. Most manufacturers do this as a matter of practice.)

The arguments in support of tint reform are twofold: primary is an climate/environmental/comfort argument. Tinted cars use less energy running AC, means less air pollution.

The second is an easy one: JOBZ! (film manufacture/sale, installers, etc).

There is an aspect that will have a curious opponent: a security state apparatus that will not easily accept having its view curtailed.

I don't think there's a practical political path to simply change the Vehicle Code to allow tinted windows without increasing the regulation of firearms. So, will gun owners endure greater regulation in exchange for tinting their windows a darker shade?

It turns out there are few aftermarket manufacturers of gradient-tint films, and they tend toward egregious styles. This makes me wonder if a mandatory tinting scheme (compliance and economic incentives) would lead to development of this form of tint (think of a window that's tinted except around the area where you view your mirrors - that would remain clear, but get gradually darker the farther up and back on the window.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Nation:The Phony 'Fix the Debt' Campaign

Stacking the Deck: The Phony 'Fix the Debt' Campaign | The Nation: Meet the Campaign to Fix the Debt, the billionaire-funded project that uses Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles as figureheads for a fearmongering campaign to convince Americans that the deficits the United States has run throughout its history have suddenly metastasized into “a cancer that will destroy this country from within.” It is the latest incarnation of Wall Street mogul Pete Peterson’s long campaign to get Congress and the White House to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid while providing tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.

Everything's Niche

"How much experience do you have?" asks the hiring manager at the yard care service.

"Experience?" I stare dumbfounded. "You mean, with yardwork? Like, raking leaves?"

He stares back.

"Ok, honestly, not much, but I think its a skill I could pick up really quick. What with it being.. y'know, raking leaves and all..."

"No," he interrupts.

"Nobody in this business "rakes leaves". Every one of my guys can install sprinklers, PVC, trenching.. all of that. They got trucks with all the tools and blowers.... shit, whatever it takes. I don't got a spot on my team for someone to just show up and do what they're told. You have to be able to do almost every job. That's my 'entry level' job."


Replace "yard care" with just about any job that you associate with manual labor. Everyone's a specialist now.

There may have been a period of time in this country's history when lots of transitional jobs existed - i.e., yard work -  but no more. Even "entry level" jobs require specialty.

This means two (bad) things:
1) there is no fallback for people who want to work but have no current skills,
2) remaining jobs tend toward permanence, or low social mobility. This creates social stress.

Friday, February 22, 2013

End of Days

What's the difference between Sacramento and a gallon of milk?

You leave milk out in the sun this long, even it develops culture....

Sad to see this go (says a guy who never booked a day in the room....)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

TanteMaries: Potato Chip Frittata

This looks delicious. Her channel is wonderful - I recommend subscribing.

Here's her recipe best I can interpret:

6-8 eggs
leftover cheese (feta), olives , leftover bacon/ham (cooked), scallions, roasted red peppers (not pickled), potato chips (BBQ flavor FTW, IMHO.)

Crush the potato chips and let them soak in the eggs for 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.

Add some butter or olive oil to pan and heat. Pour mixture into hot pan and cook until mix is golden brown on bottom. Finish in broiler, 1-2 minutes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The End of Cats: An Interview With the New Zealand Economist Calling to Eliminate All Kitties - Derek Thompson - The Atlantic

The End of Cats: An Interview With the New Zealand Economist Calling to Eliminate All Kitties - Derek Thompson - The Atlantic: Because we have virtually no obligations on cat owners (bit like you guys with your guns) and so people own them, abandon them, and generally take no responsibility for the unintended consequences of their actions. The most oft-heard and erroneous utterance we get here from cat owners is, "Oh but my pussy only kills rats and mice, he'd never harm a native bird." As you can see this denial verges on explicit stupidity.
I believe circumstances are similar here in CA. Human activities are probably the greatest evolutionary pressure(s) ever.

Unintended consequences, indeed.

(Note: I appreciate he's making an economic proposition here, but I don't think that alone is a sufficient indictment of it.)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

SocImages: The Poor Pay More Taxes

Politics, Discourse, and the Real Tax Rate on the Rich and Poor:
The current political discourse is so focused on a single form of government revenue, that the word taxes has become essentially synonymous with just one tax in particular; the federal income tax.

The non-profit, non-partisan Institution on Taxation and Economic Policy recently released its research on the taxes families in the United States paid in 2010.  These findings reveal when the focus is taken off the federal income tax and the entire tax system is examined, cumulative household taxes in nearly every state are regressive because the less money a family makes, the larger proportion they pay to the different levels of government.  As the graph below shows, the cumulative tax system is regressive because sales, excise and property taxes offset progressive income taxes at both the state, and federal levels.

Notice this was not written by anybody who's last name is "Paul."

I can only hope our next election cycle will feature more nuanced discussions about taxes, that is to say, none at all.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

YouTube: Meteor Enters Earth's Atmosphere in Russia


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fashion Film

Excellent. Love this kind of humor.

My Top Ten Posts since 2007

Looked at my extended stats for the first time in a long time. This really surprised me. Wanted to remember it.

Since 2007, my top ten posts:

2361 visits - Wedding Videography and Copyright Law
938 visits - Brain Dump: Aphids and Artichoke Plants
709 visits - Brain Dump: embedding fonts in OpenOffice PDF's
361 visits - How Salmonella contaminates tomato plants
331 visits - Not an Atheist - an Alltheist
259 visits - Jaw Drops Open: Lydia Van De Meer
239 visits - Google Plus
233 visits - Brain Dump: Lake Berryessa, California
149 visits: Brain Dump: BizAdSplash Pyramid Scam
135 visits: Music Business: What do I do now?

I realize there are so many blogs out there that get more traffic than this every day, but I have to remember: I am not a measure of my blog traffic.


[in reply to this post at Dangerousmeta]

The thing about Facebook... magnifies the tension between Change and Stasis.

Walk with me...

We all hate Change, and we all complain about Stasis. If Facebook had been designed by someone *not* autistic, it may have included built-in means for firewalling our social networks.

Y'know, like we used to. Can we even remember what that's like?

Instead, all these social networks are suddenly laid bare (to some extent.) Getting into new networks is the recipe for Change.
Many academics and career counselors observe this inertia and conclude
that the problem lies in basic human motives: We fear change, lack readiness,
are unwilling to make sacrifices, sabotage ourselves. [...]
Indeed, the conventional wisdom on how to change careers is in
fact a prescription for how to stay put. The problem lies in our methods, not
our motives. [...]
To make a break with the past, we must venture into unknown networks –
and not just for job leads. Often it is strangers who are best equipped to help
us see who we are becoming. [...]
Trigger events don’t just jolt us out of our habitual routines,they are the necessary
pegs on which to hang our reinvention stories. Arranging life events
into a coherent story is one of the subtlest, yet most demanding, challenges of
career reinvention. To reinvent oneself is to rework one’s story.
Herminia Ibarra: How to Stay Stuck in the Wrong Career - Harvard Business Review

Ibarra is writing about careers, but she really means "life."

Joe Rogan touches on this concept of one's story, too:

Facebook collapses all the investments we have in multiple identities to multiple groups (again look who developed the application in first place...) which means the moment we start adding friends, we have to start rewriting our story, and by proxy, reinvent ourselves.

Worse, every time we look at the site, we're confronted with others reinventing themselves more successfully than we are.

This is incredibly stressful, and if we're not equipped to perceive/discuss this phenomenon, we're carrying some invisible anxiety.

TL;DR: Some loners with Aspergers created a website that makes money by inventorying the behaviors of narcissists.


Here's an experiment: Count the number of surfaces his hands touch before he touches the lid where  your lips will be. How many times does he touch money? A doorknob? Then the lid to your coffee...

(Answer: 116.)

Prediction: Coffee lids of the near future will include a plastic "safety" wrapper that's peeled after the lid is secured to the container.

Lesson: Wash your damn hands.

via Reddit.

Monday, February 4, 2013


Free Cars

Thought experiment:

Imagine you're in the mood to buy a new car (notice I said "in the mood" and not "in the market") and you've heard about a dealer a few blocks away that's practically giving them away. Your first reaction is "Wow, that doesn't sound quite right, but I'll check it out."

As you're walking down the sidewalk to the dealer, you start to notice there are cars everywhere. "My god," you think. "Everybody's got one!" You walk past a large strip mall parking lot, full of gleaming cars, reinforcing the notion of their ubiquity.

Finally, you get to the dealer, who's got the biggest lot you've seen yet with even more cars on it. The cars are packed in so tight you can barely open the doors or drive a car off the lot. Transport trucks with even more cars are waiting at the entrance to the dealer. "So many cars!" you think.

The moment you're within sight, the sales team surrounds you, but none of them asks you about your financial condition. Instead. they simply beg you to buy your car from them, at any price. "We'll make it work!" they say.

So you reluctantly pick a young, quiet woman thinking she'll be the least of a bully.

"Follow me!" she chirps, elated to have been chosen.

"These are the cars I have today!" she beams. For some unexplainable reason, all the cars she's selling are at the farthest end of the lot. You scan the choices in front of you, but nothing seems quite right for you. None of the cars come in your favorite colors, nor do any of the trim packages appeal, but a couple of the interiors are really nice. And they probably run just fine, although long-term dependability is something that simply cannot be divined. You're just guessing, really.

"Do these have a warranty?" you ask sheepishly, already kind of knowing the answer. "Oh," the saleswoman answer casually, "all our cars are sold 'as is'."

"Well, what if I don't like the car?"

She hesitates as if the idea has simply never occurred to her. "Well, just come back and try another one! Everybody is going to have a different opinion of each car, so just keep buying one until you find five or six (or more!) that you love!"

"Wait a minute!" you interrupt indignantly. "What in the world makes you think I can afford to keep buying cars I don't like?"

She pauses, undefeated, and leans in. "Tell you what," she whispers, "I'll give you any car of mine you want. All I ask is you tell people how much you like the car and where you got it."

"Wait, WHAT?!" you gasp. "Where... where do these cars come from?"

Without a hint of irony she answers: "I build them."

You step back, stunned. You'd walked on this lot expecting to pay a reasonable price for a reasonable car only to find out not only are the salespeople giving them away, they're building them, too!

Suddenly all the cars you saw on your way here rush through your mind. The nice sports coupe, that forest-green SUV..they were practically given away in exchange for some word of mouth advertising. "So that's how they they all  bought cars!" you think.

"Ok, how long will this thing last?"

She stares again as if nobody has ever asked this question. "As long as you need it to, I guess!" she smiles back, anticipating the confused look on your face. "Look, if I promise to call you the moment a better one is available will you take one of these today?" She's pressing her game, now.

You capitulate. "Fine, I'll take..... that one. Do you need my phone number?"

"No," she says flatly. "There's a phone in the car."

A few moments after you drive off the lot, she calls with news that she'll have a couple new models for you to check out on Thursday night, 8:30 pm at some dealer you've never heard of in a part of town you haven't visited in 15 years. But this time she wants $10 up front to see the debut. She'll call you again on Thursday morning.

Your heart sinks completely.

You pull over and abandon the free car. "Maybe somebody else will find it and fall in love with it."

You start walking home. On your way, you can't help but notice there are cars everywhere...


Friday, February 1, 2013

Gotta Get It Done!


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Last Psychiatrist: Hipsters On Food Stamps, Part 2

The Last Psychiatrist: Hipsters On Food Stamps, Part 2: So start with an interesting hypothetical: does everybody need to work anymore? I understand work from an ethical/character perspective, this is not here my point. Since we no longer need e.g. manufacturing jobs-- cheaper elsewhere or with robots-- since those labor costs have evaporated, could that surplus go towards paying people simply to stay out of trouble? Is there a natural economic equilibrium price where, say, a U Chicago grad can do no economically productive work at all but still be paid to use Instagram? Let me be explicit: my question is not should we do this, my question is that since this is precisely what's happening already, is it sustainable? What is the cost? I don't have to run the numbers, someone already has: it's $150/mo for a college grads, i.e. the price of food stamps. Other correct responses would be $700/mo for "some high school" (SSI) or $1500/mo for "previous work experience" (unemployment). I would have accepted $2000/mo for "minorities" (jail) for partial credit.
Another blogger thinking along the same lines as J Gordon (pseudonym) at Gordon's Notes:
Would Stephen Hawking have been disabled in 1860? Yeah, for the short duration of his 19th century life.
Disability is relative to the technological environment. Once a missing leg meant disability, now it rules out only a small number of jobs. Once a strong back meant a job, now it means little.
Technology changes the work environment; it makes some disabled, and others able. It's an old trend, automated looms put textile artisans out of work 200 years ago.
This idea of 'mass disability' is a really good one, but maybe a better label could be invented for discussing the fluidity of the worth of labor and knowledge. The internet made the near cost-less replication of ideas very profitable for the few owners of the nation's communication systems. (Every idea that leaves your brain is profitable to Google.)

This is a minor divergence - the article at the first link is really worth reading in all its parts.

The Last Psychiatrist: How To Be Mean To Your Kids

The Last Psychiatrist: How To Be Mean To Your Kids: All of this comes down to a very important point: the country's economy understands these issues on an unconscious level, and it has created a system to absorb 10% of the unemployment, i.e. pay them off so they don't riot, exactly like Saudi Arabia buys off its people. Yes, America is a Petrostate, but instead of oil money it's T-bills. However, as is evident throughout history, rich white people riot too, hell, they'll overthrow a King because the rum prices fell too much or shoot a President because he wanted a third term; and they'll for damn sure John Galt the Senate if they think poor people are getting free handouts, so the system pretends to offer benefits based on medical disability, just as it pretends on your behalf to be appalled by Mexican illegal immigration even as every restaurant in Arizona employs illegals, and everyone knows it, including the politicians and the Minutemen who eat at every restaurant in Arizona, not to mention California, not to mention America. Dummy, the sign says "Authentic Mexican Food"--oh, never mind.

Fantastic read. More gold from my 2011 Reader shares.

Proposal For A New Constitutional Amendment: A Separation of Corporation and State | Nova Spivack - Minding the Planet

Proposal For A New Constitutional Amendment: A Separation of Corporation and State | Nova Spivack - Minding the Planet: Today our American democracy faces a new threat to its integrity, a threat even greater than terrorism in the long-term. This threat is the corporation. In this essay I propose that it may be time to introduce a new principle into our democracy and a new amendment to our Constitution – a formal “Separation of Corporation and State.”

Very much worth a repost.

My Most Favorite Venn Diagram Evar!

No more need be said.

The Marketing Tactics of Firearm Manufacturers � Sociological Images

The Marketing Tactics of Firearm Manufacturers � Sociological Images: In other words, guns are not evenly distributed across the U.S. population, they are concentrated in the hands of a minority. Most people that don’t own a gun are never going to buy one, so the best strategy for gun manufacturers is to convince people that they need lots of guns. Differentiating the technical attributes of one from another is their way of telling the buyer that any given gun will do something different for them than the guns they already have, enticing the gun owner to own a range of guns instead of just one.
As a former target of said advertising, I think this is true.

Bullshit on the Internet

It's 2013 and you'd think I'd need to use this less these days...

Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world

Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world - physics-math - 19 October 2011 - New Scientist: When the team further untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a "super-entity" of 147 even more tightly knit companies - all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity - that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in the network. "In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network," says Glattfelder. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group.
JP Morgan makes a ton of money issuing debit cards to people receiving gov't assistance:
Why, you may be wondering, would one of the nation’s biggest banks benefit from a bill meant to feed poor children? A closer look at the legislation reveals the answer. The bill mandates that “all state agencies implement Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) systems by October 1, 2020” for those receiving money through the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. And which company administers nearly half of all states’ EBT programs? You guessed it: JP Morgan Chase.
 Maybe Matt Taibbi's "vampire squid" analogy wasn't that far off.

50 of the World’s Best Breakfasts

50 of the World’s Best Breakfasts � Design You Trust – Design Blog and Community: 12. A Brazilian breakfast – mmmm a delicious selection of meats, cheeses and bread is the normal breakfast fare here. Jazzy rosething crafted out of I don’t know what, optional.

Don't read this on an empty stomach.

CSM: How Religion and Politics Can Blend

How Religion and Politics Can Blend / The Christian Science Monitor - For religions and civil democracy to live together, what must be graciously accepted is that the political expression of one's religious faith does not have secular validity simply because individuals who hold these beliefs think they are divinely endorsed.
One of my all-time favorite quotes.

Daily Kos: First they came for your pensions...

Daily Kos: First they came for your pensions...: What put the pension funds in trouble wasn't an "overly generous" model or competitive pressure. Companies weren't going broke because of promises made to unions. They weren't weighed down by obligations to retirees who were living longer. It was the corporations who poisoned the pension system, and they did it on purpose.
Finding gold in my 2011 Reader shares.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Women in Tech and Empathy Work | Lauren Bacon

Women in Tech and Empathy Work | Lauren Bacon: This wouldn’t be a problem in and of itself – and I’ll be the first to admit that it is damned hard to hire women into technical roles, as I learned first-hand when hiring coders myself – except that there are a couple of complicating factors:

Coders are lionized in the tech sector, and are compensated for their technical skills with higher wages and positional power – so women without coding chops are automatically less likely to advance to senior positions or command the highest salaries.
There is a culture in tech companies that simultaneously reveres the “user” (at least as a source of revenue and data) and places low expectations on coders to empathize with users (or colleagues, for that matter) – creating a disconnect that can only be bridged by assigning user (and team) empathy responsibilities to another department. An extreme example of this is the frequent labeling of brilliant coders as having Asperger’s Syndrome – and the simultaneous absolution of unskillful communication as par for the course.
I’ve long engaged in a hobby where, whenever I visit a tech company’s website, I head straight to their “Team” page, and scan for the women. More often than not, I have to scroll past four or more men before I see a woman – and very frequently, her title places her in one of the “people” roles: human resources, communications, project or client management, user experience, customer service, or office administration.

Fantastic post. via Sarah Pavis.

Google on SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Webmaster Tools Help: No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.

Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a "special relationship" with Google, or advertise a "priority submit" to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever.
Worth a read (and then a read-over.) Direct from Mt. Olympus, at it were.  I tell my clients now: search is basically 'over'. All that matters is your address.

"SEO" is why you can't find a sane website if you search for "9/11 attacks" or "are vaccinations safe?"  I'm supposed to rely on this algorithm to make myself  'seen' in search results?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Science-Based Medicine � Vaccines and infant mortality rates

Science-Based Medicine � Vaccines and infant mortality rates: A false relationship promoted by the anti-vaccine movement: Whenever I see a paper like this, I ask myself: What would I say about it if it had been sent to me as a peer reviewer?
The fringe anti-vax crowd is at it again.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Infographic: Spending to Defend the Indefensible

Infographic: Money Pit Politics: Spending to Defend the Indefensible | Center for American Progress

Thursday, January 24, 2013

WMFU: Thurl Ravenscroft: The Story Continues!

Thurl Ravenscroft: The Story Continues! - WFMU's Beware of the Blog: On the A-side Thurl and the gals sing about the thrilling story of "Pocahontas", with a downright goofy chorus built out of the repetition of part of the name of that "Indian maid". The b-side is a more typical 1950's love ballad, "My Love For You", but Thurl's delivery is great, and there is also a very nice, unusual instrumental section halfway through the record, where individual horns play one note of the melody in succession, sort of like a big band version of The Chordettes.

Fun post via WMFU.  For those of you into Disney ephemera, Ravenscroft is one of Disney's trademark voices, from Haunted Mansion to films and TV. (fun fact: his son plays the immortal sax solo on Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street.")

Why You Never Truly Leave High School -- New York Magazine

Why You Never Truly Leave High School -- New York Magazine: “I cannot emphasize enough the amount of skewing there is,” says Pat Levitt, the scientific director for the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, “in terms of the number of studies that focus on the early years as opposed to adolescence. For years, we had almost a religious belief that all systems developed in the same way, which meant that what happened from zero to 3 really mattered, but whatever happened thereafter was merely tweaking.”
It turns out that just before adolescence, the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that governs our ability to reason, grasp abstractions, control impulses, and self-­reflect—undergoes a huge flurry of activity, giving young adults the intellectual capacity to form an identity, to develop the notion of a self. Any cultural stimuli we are exposed to during puberty can, therefore, make more of an impression, because we’re now perceiving them discerningly and metacognitively as things to sweep into our self-concepts or reject (I am the kind of person who likes the Allman Brothers). “During times when your identity is in transition,” says Steinberg, “it’s possible you store memories better than you do in times of stability.”
In adolescence, the brain is also buzzing with more dopamine activity than at any other time in the human life cycle, so everything an adolescent does—everything an adolescent feels—is just a little bit more intense. “And you never get back to that intensity,” says Casey. (The British psychoanalyst Adam Phillips has a slightly different way of saying this: “Puberty,” he writes, “is everyone’s first experience of a sentient madness.”)

Gem after gem in this NYMag article. via A&L Daily.

Harvard Magazine: Placebos

Ted Kaptchuk of Harvard Medical School studies placebos | Harvard Magazine Jan-Feb 2013: All the patients had joined the study hoping to alleviate severe arm pain: carpal tunnel, tendinitis, chronic pain in the elbow, shoulder, wrist. In one part of the study, half the subjects received pain-reducing pills; the others were offered acupuncture treatments. And in both cases, people began to call in, saying they couldn’t get out of bed. The pills were making them sluggish, the needles caused swelling and redness; some patients’ pain ballooned to nightmarish levels.
The pills his team had given patients were actually made of cornstarch; the “acupuncture” needles were retractable shams that never pierced the skin. The study wasn’t aimed at comparing two treatments. It was designed to compare two fakes.

Excellent article at Harvard Mag about how to research placebos. The brain is complicated.

Moon Landing and Conspiracy Thinking

Excellent video.

SciAm: Liberals! War! Science!

The Liberals' War on Science: Scientific American: The left's war on science begins with the stats cited above: 41 percent of Democrats are young Earth creationists, and 19 percent doubt that Earth is getting warmer. These numbers do not exactly bolster the common belief that liberals are the people of the science book. In addition, consider “cognitive creationists”—whom I define as those who accept the theory of evolution for the human body but not the brain.
 This terrible article - again with the false-equivalence and false-dichotomy: Left and Right engaged in an otherwise equal ideological tug of war. Of course, "Democrats=Liberals", as these are simply a monolithic entity devoid of any nuance. At least he admitted to inventing "cognitive creationists" to describe a thing that didn't exist until it needed to for the purposes of fake equivalence in his article.

SciAm should be ashamed for posting this tripe under their banner.

Their web design says their not ashamed at all.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why Times Square Needs a McWorld | The Awl

Why Times Square Needs a McWorld | The Awl: "It is a cornmeal quenelle, extruded at a high speed, and so the extrusion heats the cornmeal 'polenta' and flash-cooks it, trapping air and giving it a crispy texture with a striking lightness. It is then dusted with an 'umami powder' glutamate and evaporated-dairy-solids blend."

It's a Cheetoh.

NYT: Bittman - Food News

Food News From All Over - News on obesity: New WIC food packaging designed to promote healthier eating choices for children is making a dent in reducing childhood obesity. Obesity and HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) are the next wave of cancer threats. Big Food is enabling the country’s obesity epidemic, as food companies spent 19.5 percent less on television ads between 2006 and 2009 — but 60 percent more in online marketing. (Scary: 2.1 billion of these ad impressions were placed on “child-oriented” Web sites). Also, in an analysis of nearly 100 studies, obesity was associated with a significantly higher all-cause risk of death, while being overweight was associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality. So, while obesity is quite devastating, those extra five pounds may not be not as bad as we thought. (In fact it’s more complicated, but later for that.)
Great collection of links from NYT's Mark Bittman.

A close look at how Oracle installs deceptive software with Java updates | ZDNet

A close look at how Oracle installs deceptive software with Java updates | ZDNet: Summary: Oracle's Java plugin for browsers is a notoriously insecure product. Over the past 18 months, the company has released 11 updates, six of them containing critical security fixes. With each update, Java actively tries to install unwanted software. Here's what it does, and why it has to stop.
Between this and recent revelations about zero-day exploits, this may be the time to say goodbye.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Longform Reprints: Wild Things by David Samuels

Longform Reprints: Wild Things by David Samuels by David Samuels: The beguiling sleight of hand that allows visitors to the Bronx to believe that they are somewhere else is performed by human beings who are masters of their chosen arts; the animals are simply props. Ray Oladapo-Johnson, the only native African working at any higher level of the zoo when I visited, is the curator of horticulture. Born in Nigeria, he was educated in England before returning to Lagos to create artful landscapes for the wealthy children of the dictator Sani Abacha’s regime. He is a kind and loving guide to the ways in which plant life can be used to fool the eye. “The key thing here is to create a feel that transcends the exact specifics of what you would find growing in the Congo, simply because we can’t,” he explains. Honey locust trees look like acacia trees, and give you the feeling of the Serengeti. The density, height, and types of available foliage are equated, flipped, and transformed according to grammatical laws that only a lifelong wanderer could hope to master.
Great post via MeFi.