Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How hard can flying a kite be? [Video]

Watch a team of kite flyers control 30 kites in different formations for more than 12 minutes of high winds. The video is from the Cerfs-Volants Berck 2013. Incredible control!!!!!!!

Tears in Heaven [Video]

No, not the song by Eric Clapton. This is a demo by Cdr Chris Hadfield on the International Space Station whose only job - it seems from his Internet activity (and also a very wrong notion if you do feel that way!!) - is to post on social media!!. He explains in this video what happens when (if) you cry in space.

Giving meaning to work [Article]

Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote "If one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely, to mete out to him the most terrible punishment … all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely and utterly devoid of usefulness and meaning."  Maria Popova shares the wisdom on How to find fulfilling work by the philosopher Roman Krznaric (a prize if you can pronounce that on the first try!)
...The message of the ‘grin and bear it’ school of thought is that we need to accept the inevitable and put up with whatever job we can get, as long as it meets our financial needs and leaves us enough time to pursue our ‘real life’ outside office hours. The best way to protect ourselves from all the optimistic pundits pedaling fulfillment is to develop a hardy philosophy of acceptance, even resignation, and not set our hearts on finding a meaningful career. I am more hopeful than this, and subscribe to a different approach, which is that it is possible to find work that is life-enhancing, that broadens our horizons and makes us feel more human.

Guantanamo prison library books for detainees [Photoblog]

A photoblog by Pulitzer prize winning journalist Charles Savage - about the library in the Guantanamo bay prison.  Charles' blog was part of his report into the hunger strike by the Gitmo prisoners - now numbering 93 inmates on strike.
..both military officials and lawyers for the detainees agree about the underlying cause of the turmoil: a growing sense among many prisoners, some of whom have been held without trial for more than 11 years, that they will never go home. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Hop, skip & win [Video]

Cirque de Soleil performer Adrienn Banhegyi demonstrates why she won a few world records why skipping her way to success. 

The coolest chick in the world [Letters]

Robert Fulghum is one of my favourite authors - and this letter he wrote to a friend of his who recently lost a child recently proves why.
PS: This is the Em he talks about, if you are interested.

A letter to his daughter from William James [Letters of Note]

A letter of advice from American psychologist William James to his 13-year old daughter Peggy, who was finding it difficult to adjust to life at school in England, Time & the hour run through the roughest day

Where do we bury homeless people [Article]

This may be a first world problem (although I think it unlikely) - Christopher Robbins investigates Where Do We Bury Homeless People? This is an older article, written just before the last year ended

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A balanced perspective - [video]

Hand balancer Jaakko Tenhunen inspires with both his actions & his words in this incredible video
“Effort, not comfort, is what gives the most tangible sense of satisfaction"

Tiny Details Exaggeration Syndrome [Article]

Despite all the good things you already have in your life, if you find yourself worrying about a few inconsequential ones, Mr. Money Moustache has an idea to Cure Yourself of Tiny Details Exaggeration Syndrome. The context is being able to live within your income.
One of the stranger patterns that I’ve noticed ever since reaching adulthood, is the tendency of humans to zoom in on increasingly irrelevant details as their material wealth increases.  Despite their advantaged position, people seem to become unaware of the wide variety of conditions in the world and their own ability as a human to deal with them. The results are both tragic and amusing.

Data Science of the Facebook world [Article]

Stephen Wolfram makes mathematics sexy. In a recent article on his blog, Stephen explains how he used the anonymised data that people contributed to Wolfram Alpa, to understand their facebook connections & some interesting observations from these analysis.
I’ve always been interested in people and the trajectories of their lives. But I’ve never been able to combine that with my interest in science. Until now. And it’s been quite a thrill over the past few weeks to see the results we’ve been able to get. Sometimes confirming impressions I’ve had; sometimes showing things I never would have guessed. 

Excelling in Economics [Article]

Carmen Reinhart & Ken Rogoff, the two economists who influenced the "austerity drive" that most Western governments, predominantly the US, have been enforcing in the last three or so years, made an error in their calculations in a spreadsheet. "How much unemployment did Reinhart and Rogoff's arithmetic mistake cause? asks Dean Baker, in the Guardian
If facts mattered in economic policy debates, this should be the cause for a major reassessment of the deficit reduction policies being pursued in the United States and elsewhere. It should also cause reporters to be a bit slower to accept such sweeping claims at face value.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Machine readable news & the stock market [Article]

Robert N Charette writing for the IEEE spectrum is surprised that it took so long for a media hacking to take down Wall Street. If you had not heard yet, on the 23rd of April, an AP tweet said that there were two explosions in the White House & that Barack Obama was injured. In the three minutes that it took get the message repudiated, Wall Street had lost 143 points.  The reason?
Partial blame for the rapid sell-off of stocks is being given to computer-driven trading algorithms that depend on machine readable news.

Want to share your office jokes to the world? [Article]

If you have a skype ID and are in the middle of a boring office meeting, which you think will be a great Dilbert cartoon, you're in luck. Scott Adams wants you to add "Dogbertiswatching". Seriously!
Okay, I decided to go ahead and set up a Skype ID called Dogbertiswatching. Add that to your contact list and Skype me if you're in a particularly ridiculous meeting. I'll usually be looking for comic fodder between 6:30 AM and 8:30 AM Pacific Time. But please don't expect me to be chatty because I'll be working. I'll just send a "hi" message and listen in.
And start lining up your next job now. You might need it.

Manufactured Landscapes [Video]

Ed  Burtynksy is a photographer - and shares a view of the world of the impact of the "Big" things on the "little" ones. I watched in awe.
I feel like I'm living in contradiction with myself. But I don't know any other alternative to how I live…. It's a dilemma of our times, in that there's no easy prescription for our ailment.

Terrorism & Guns [Article]

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bombino - African guitar [Music]

Jesse Kornbluth (Headbutler) is a great source of discovery of things (books, music, stuff) that are not popular but should be. He writes this about Bombino, an African guitarist:
What are you getting? “Nomad,” 40 minutes of music by an African guitarist who’s called Bombino. It’s protein-rich: great for parties (you will come to be bored by friends asking “What is that?”), a lifesaver on rainy mornings when you don’t want to get out of bed, a good candidate for serious listening, a caffeine hit for long sessions of work when your friends are getting buzzed on Adderall, and, so far from least, an essential ingredient for ecstatic couplings at midnight.
Hearing is believing. Crank the volume. See if this doesn’t haul you out of your chair.
Here's my instant playlist compilation. I promise you'll be hooked. Go on, turn up the volume!

14 ways to acquire knowledge [Book]

Maria Popova shines light on a book by James Mangan, called "You can do anything'. 14 ways to acquire knowledge is a section of the book that shares exactly how to do that. A couple of excerpts:
Desire is the foundation of all learning and you can only climb up the ladder of knowledge by desiring to learn.
To learn, experiment! Try something new. See what happens. 

A Qualitative Study of Regrets on Facebook [Article]

Ever post something to facebook (what, you have a facebook account??) & immediately (or a bit later) regretted it? A Qualitative Study of Regrets on Facebook - This must be the most entertaining research paper ever written! (pdf download).
..little is known about the problematic aspects of Facebook usage. Our research fills that gap by showing that regrettable postings are not unusual. We devised a detailed taxonomy of regrets and discovered that they are mainly centered around sensitive topics, emotional content, and unintended audience. Furthermore, our results agree with many news stories that report that regrettable postings on Facebook can yield serious ramifications for users.

How fast can you type? [Article]

Well, you may need to learn a new keyboard, if you want to type faster, especially on the now nearly ubiquitous touch-screens! (and come to think of it, you probably need to, whatever your current speeds are!) GigaOm highlights a new keyboard layout called KALQ that promises to take over from the legacy of the typewriting keyboard, which was designed to ensure that the typewriter was as efficient as possible.
 KALQ was designed so the most commonly used letters are clustered, which means the travel distances are short and both hands work roughly equally and alternately. Most of the vowels are positioned near the space bar and are handled by the right thumb, while the left thumb takes care of most of the consonants and most of the first letters of words.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The irony in violence - [article]

Writing in the Scientific American, John Horgan wonders how Americans can condemn Boston murders but excuse US bombing of civilians.
..consider this irony: We treat child killers here in the U.S. with more care than we treat children in Afghanistan and other war zones. We excuse the killing of civilians by U.S. troops by saying that in war bad things happen–as if war is like a plague or natural disaster, for which we are not responsible. Killing innocent people is inexcusable, whether they live in Boston or in Afghanistan. Terrorists and criminals and deranged maniacs kill civilians. A civilized nation doesn’t. Or shouldn’t. Ever.

In Praise of Emotion [Article]

Uri Avnery attended a meeting of Israeli's & Palestinians to mourn their dead together. He writes:
What was so special about the event was that the Israeli-Arab fraternization took place on a purely human level, without political speeches, without the slogans which have become, frankly, a bit stale.
For two hours, we were all engulfed by human emotions, by a profound feeling for each other. And it felt good.

Texting while flying is dangerous, if you didn't already know that -[Article]

An investigation into the crash of a Eurocopter AS350 B2 helicopter run by LifeNet says texting was one of the factors responsible.
 “An examination of cell phone records showed that the pilot had made and received multiple personal calls and text messages throughout the afternoon while the helicopter was being inspected and prepared for flight, during the flight to the first hospital, while he was on the helipad at the hospital making mission-critical decisions about continuing or delaying the flight due to the [low] fuel situation, and during the accident flight.” The pilot violated company policy by texting while airborne,

Monday, April 22, 2013

Ignore the news [Article]

Charlie Stross, in the wake of the Boston bombing, reminds us to ignore the news, & with very good reason.
..publicly available news media in the 21st century exist solely to get eyeballs on advertisements. That is its only real purpose. The real news consists of dull but informative reports circulated by consultancies giving in-depth insight into what's going on. 
Here's a previous link I shared with the same sentiments

How New Zealand passed the same sex marriage law [Video]

The New Zealand parliament passed same sex marriage law 77-44 a few days ago. This is the scene after the announcement.

The curious experience of middle age [Article]

Linda Nagata, age 52, had her curiosity about ageing piqued when she heard an interview.
When I was growing up, "middle aged" was a synonym for "boring." Looking ahead across the gulf of years it appeared to me to be a time of life inhabited by people content with a dull routine, with little interest in the new.
She shares the discovery Profesor Simonton mentions in a separate interview..
"Usually the people who keep going are the ones who are open to new experiences... Do something different. Take a risk. Try to believe in the future tense."

Not just a human problem [Article]

On the following morning they were very cross and dismal; they held their aching heads with both hands, and wore a most pitiable expression: when beer or wine was offered them, they turned away with disgust, but relished the juice of lemons.
You could be forgiven for thinking this was a description of yourself with a group of friends, but those words were written by Charles Darwin in The Descent of Man, his observations about a group of monkeys who he saw waking up after a hard night of drinking. NPR's Robert Krulwich shines light on a few more examples of  the problem that seems to affect not just humans: "We just can't control our appetites".

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A desire for ordinary superpowers [Article]

Scott Adams posits that there is a correlation between one's fear of embarrassment and the level of success he/she achieves.
 I would nominate for my preferred ordinary super power the ability to not feel embarrassment.

The Internet: A Warning from HIstory [Video]

This could almost be true:  The internet was one of the greatest disasters to befall mankind. 50 years on, its survivors share their experiences of the tragedy.

What is energy & why are we constantly searching for new sources of it? [Video]

PBS has this interesting video on Energy - some are useful & efficient while others are not. [via The kids should watch this]

The Digital Public Library of America [Links]

Here is a link to a wealth of knowledge. The Digital Public Library of America is now open for business.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Blues of people [Video]

A Playing for change video - Blues of People. 50 other Playing for Change videos here.

Firefly - a car that is a bike [Video]

If you could mix your bicycle with your car, you might get something like the Firefly by Geospace Studio. With a protective shell that illuminates with LEDs for knight night riding, could the Firefly become a fun, environmentally-friendly alternative to a car, and a warmer, more visible, all-weather option to a bike? Find out in this cool video

On the state of the world - North Korea, China & the US [Article]

Scott Adams askswhy North Korea is not China's problem - and the responses in comment thread are as interesting as his observations on the subject. Here's one:
I can't help but think North Korea is to China what Israel is to the USA. I mean...
Israel doesn't have the support of the United Nations, just like North Korea doesn't. The UN is constantly condemning Israel (or trying to) and the only people backing them up is the USA. Not too unlike China and North Korea.
Israel probably has nukes, and we turn a blind eye to the possibility. All of their neighbors are terrified, angry, and want something done about it. Everyone else in the world is against this. Not much different from China and North Korea.
The main difference is that Israel is OUR ally, so we think it's okay and like them anyway. The rest of the world dislikes them and thinks we should get them under control.

Gitmo Is Killing Me - Opinion

A Guantanamo Bay inmate,  Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, who has been incarcerated for the last 11 years, without having ever been charged with a crime, or having had a trial, expressed his anguish in an opinion column published in the NYTimes recently. 
..no one seriously thinks I am a threat — but still I am here. Years ago the military said I was a “guard” for Osama bin Laden, but this was nonsense, like something out of the American movies I used to watch. They don’t even seem to believe it anymore. But they don’t seem to care how long I sit here, either.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Very young Bruce Lee in "The Kid" (1950) - Video

Watch Bruce Lee in his first role as a movie star - when he was 10 years old. The movie "The Kid" was shot in 1950. He plays the role of a wily, slum-dwelling orphan in the thrall of a gangster named Flash Blade Lee.

Goodbye - Steve Earle & Emmy Lou Harris [Video]

Steve Earle & Emmy Lou Harris performing "Goodbye"

The Art of Public Speaking [Article]

Maria Popova shares this quote from "How to use the power of the printed word" stuck a chord, while providing tips on how to overcome stage fright in the course of public speaking:
The more you sweat in advance, the less you’ll have to sweat once you appear on stage. Research your topic thoroughly. Check the library for facts, quotes, books, and timely magazine and newspaper articles on your subject. Get in touch with experts. Write to them, make phone calls, get interviews to help round out your material.

Architecture of Density [Photoblog]

With a population of over 7 million people packed into an area of 426 square miles, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated places in the world. As with other places where development cannot expand horizontally, apartment buildings tend to get taller and taller in order to provide living space for all the inhabitants.
German photographer Michael Wolf decided to capture this population density through a series of photographs studying the architecture of these high rises. The project is titled “Architecture of Density.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Marimba ringtone, improvised [Video]

Today's links are a selection of videos I came across the last week. (the real reason for a lack of reading material: I have been reading Nate Silver's The Signal & The Noise, and have barely read anything else!)

You've heard the iPhone marimba ring many times.. but have you heard it like this? Awesome improvisation by France's KIZ Musique duo (I should rip this to be my ring tone, me thinks!).

Separation Blues - [Video]

A superbly done music video by Andre Chocron for the song "Separation Blues" by Real Ones.

Lip Syncing - and happiness [Video]

Never too late to be happy - as this lady proves while lip syncing her favourite song "Happy days are here again" by Annette Handshaw.

35 - [Video]

What would you do / what did you do at age 35?
After all these years, I refuse to believe that joy costs something, that we have to get on a plane to find it, that it has to happen on our vacation, and that dreams can't come true on a Tuesday.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Shoemaker who mends souls [Video]

How to deal with nosy store clerks [Humor]

T Rob shares his tips to handle nosy store clerks. 
....The store thinks of them as loss prevention.  I think of them as a captive audience provided by the store for my amusement.  Of course, I only abuse the ones whose friendly banter crosses the line into mind-yer-own-bizness-bub territory.

What business is Wall Street in these days? [Article]

Exasperated with high frequency algorithm trading that now makes up a bulk of financial market transactions, entrepreneur Mark Cuban wonders what business Wall Street is in.
Wall Street is no longer serving the purpose  what it was designed to .  Wall Street was designed to be a market to which companies provide securities (stocks/bonds), from which they received capital that would help them start/grow/sell businesses. Investors made their money by recognizing value where others did not, or by simply committing to a company and growing with it as a shareholder, receiving dividends or appreciation in their holdings.  What percentage of the market is driven by investors these days ?

News is bad for you - Rolf Dobelli [Article]

Rolf Dobelli, in a blog post quoted by the Guardian, says that news is bad for you -- and giving up reading it will make you. (I personally gave up reading "newspapers" a few years ago - instead news, if important to me, finds me.) You can download Rolf's essay here.
We are not rational enough to be exposed to the press. Watching an airplane crash on television is going to change your attitude toward that risk, regardless of its real probability. If you think you can compensate with the strength of your own inner contemplation, you are wrong. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The map is not the territory [Article, video]

Elizabeth Bear shares a link to a very rare recording of a nuclear bomb going off - watch & listen to it here - to remind us that the map is not the territory 
..the media we consume produces our map of the world. We process our understanding of reality through those filters: the human brain deals with a world of unrelenting complexity by finding patterns and filtering out input deemed to be irrelevant. 

5 Steps to Separate Science from Hype, No PhD Required

Gabrielle Rabinowitz and Emily Dennis provide some resources to separate science from hype. Also known as the BS thermometer. There are additional links at the bottom of the page too - Google's using the right search terms,  or on using Wolfram Alpha to get simpler ways to describe obscure technical measurements, and a bunch of others.

The Pre-History of MS Excel - in a video

I am a heavy user of MS Excel, & definitely a fan [it's the glue that holds most companies together, & when poorly designed models fail, a global recession follows]. This video of the very first incarnation of the spreadsheet, called VisiCalc is a great primer if you're interested. "VisiCalc: The First Electronic Spreadsheet" on YouTube

Around the Corner - a 1930's video about how gears work in a car [Video]

Around the Corner is a great 1930s video that clearly describes how the differential gear works and why we need them in our cars. Bonus: motorcycles ride in formation to victorious band music.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why BItCoin scares banks & governments - [Article]

John Naughton, writing as in the Observer, explains Why Bitcoin scares banks and governments
Bitcoin offers an alternative to the conventional, state-sanctioned banking system. Maybe that's why powerful institutions are so wary of it

Don't be typical - [Article]

Rapitude is  fast becoming one of my favorite blogs. Author David explains why we should not be typical
We use what’s typical to calibrate our expectations for how much we ought to earn, how much time off is reasonable to insist on, how much frustration our relationships and obligations should create for us, the scale of our goals, and how happy we ought to be to be.

Treating people as things [article]

Nicholas Carr worries that we're beginning to see conversational pleasantries as unnecessary, even annoying. In a recent blog article, Conversation points, Carr points out that
allowing the mechanism of communication to determine the terms of communication could also be seen as a manifestation of what Adorno termed “an ideology for treating people as things.”

Evgeny Morozov- To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism [Article]

James Temple advocates why we need more like Evgeny Morozov, the 28 year old author who has been a vocal opponent of the tech industry's simplistic view of the world. For eg. Here's Google's Eric Schmidt ""The Web will be everything, and it will also be nothing. It will be like electricity. ... If we get this right, I believe we can fix all the world's problems."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Money, Satisfaction, & Happiness - [Article]

Dave Winer had an interesting post, triggered by Barbara Streisand's money: 
I have opinions about what money does to people because I have been lucky enough to have money do it to me. Having money is nice, but not nearly as nice as poor people (which I have also been) imagine it is. But then I wondered how other people deal with money, and I wondered if they all reach this conclusion.
Now, I'm sure I'm right that money doesn't buy happiness, but when you first get that message, what's your response? I think perhaps some people go into denial, and insist that it must.
There are some exceptional links in that post - enjoy yourself.

Why the Euro is doomed - [Article]

Mathew O'Brien, in the Atlantic, reasons on why the Euro is doomed:
The euro zone doesn't have the fiscal or banking unions it needs to make monetary union work, and it's not close to changing that. In the meantime, the euro's continuing flaws continue to suck countries into crisis. And their politics get radicalized.
RA, in The Economist blog had similar thought too..

Singing in the rain [Video]

A clip of Gene Kelly singing in the rain

Exporting Hollywood Protectionism - A Hollywood Ambassador [Article]

The Electronic Frontier Foundation makes a case about why a "Hollywood Ambassador" is a bad idea.
An US Senator has introduced a bill in the US Senate to create a new position "Chief Innovation & Intellectual Property Negotiator".
 The USTR has negotiated dozens of agreements and official publications with no true public consultation, upholding the one-sided concerns of Big Media and its allies. The U.S. copyright system is broken, yet we are exporting and reinforcing this broken system through these misguided treaties.
In other words, an Ambassador from Hollywood, paid for by the general public.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Have thank you notes gone out of fashion? [Article]

Evan Sellinger weighs the social consequences of the collision between technology & etiquette in an information-overloaded world.  He says that etiquette norms are not just about efficiency. They're actually about building thoughtful & pro-social character.
Relationships are fragile, and they require effort to preserve. Shortcuts won’t do; you often have to say more than just the essential facts. Viewing personal communication in overly reductive terms makes tenuous connections even more fragile.

Company profits depend on the 'welfare payments' they get from society [Article]

Ha-Joon Chang, writing in the Guardian, demonstrates that the free market is a myth.  Company profits depend on the 'welfare payments' they get from society.
It is time that we dispensed with the myth that the market is a force of nature that should not be meddled with. Markets are social creations that can be, and have been, modified for social purposes

"Using the Internet makes you a criminal" - Article

First Aaron Schwartz, now Andrew Auernheimer. Andrew, a broke & bankrupt geek, has been jailed for 41 months for releasing the email addresses of hundreds of thousands of iPad owners - demonstrating that Apple hosting these confidential details on a public & unsecured server. He's been live-tweeting his jail term.
And if you'd like to know how revered this fellow is in the Internet community, read his interview with Asher Wolf, an activist.
 Andrew Auernheimer – or Weev, as much of the Internet knows him – was found guilty of incrementing a number on a url – doing basic arithmetic – and has been ceremoniously chucked behind bars for the next 41 months of his life – as a result of speaking up to point out a security problem.

Afghan villagers flee their homes, blame US drones [Article]

Kathy Gannon discovers Afghan villagers flee their homes, and blame US drones.
"These foreigners started the problem," Rasool said of international troops. "They have their own country. They should leave."
These incessant drone attacks don't impact those living thousands of miles away. All we see is text or an occasional graphic about the tragedy that's unfolding there (as well in other places around the world). Will we ever care?

Monday, April 8, 2013

A primer on Bitcoin [Article]

You may have noticed that Bitcoin is in the news a little more these days - the state of affairs in Cyprus has thrust it into the limelight, with it becoming a more valued currency than either the Euro or the US Dollar. The value of a Bitcoin has gone from $5 (Jan 2012) to currently around $140. If you'd like to understand what Bitcoin is really about, read this primer (pdf file)
The Bitcoin system is unique because it is the first digital store of value which can be safely and securely saved and transacted by individuals, without having to rely on a trusted third party. Once acquired and properly secured, Bitcoins can't be taken from their owner, by a thief, a bank, or a government. Neither can any entity freeze any account, nor prevent the owner from performing (essentially free) transactions on the Bitcoin network.

Creative typographic science posters [Designs]

Kapil Bhagat is a Mumbai, India based designer whose creative typographic science posters are catching the  design world's attention
 Newton drops an “O” to illustrate gravity, a massive “C” in Copernicus reminds us that he figured the Earth wasn’t the center of the universe and placed the Sun, rather than the Earth, at the center. Not only do the posters look great, but they also allow you to memorize who did what.

The origins of the design of the modern chess pieces [Article]

Jimmy Stamp takes us through the design of the modern chess set:
Prior to 1849, there was no such thing as a “normal chess set.” At least not like we think of it today. Over the centuries that chess had been played, innumerable varieties of sets of pieces were created, with regional differences in designation and appearance. As the game proliferated throughout southern Europe in the early 11th century, the rules began to evolve, the movement of the pieces were formalized, and the pieces themselves were drastically transformed from their origins in 6th century India. 

America's hottest export - [Article]

The demand for American sperm is increasing around the world, & not because of what you think:
 It’s not about the superior fitness of American males, exactly. One reason is that the US’s immigration history means lots of ethnic diversity. For some would-be mothers from other parts of the world, this can give US product a leg up over places like Denmark, another sperm exporting powerhouse.
Another is all that tracking and testing: the U.S. has some of the world’s highest standards for disease testing and donor screening. The FDA defines sperm as human tissue, and regulates it much as it does the donation of organs. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

John Cleese explains the human brain [Video]

John Cleese almost explains the brain. Turn on the captions at the bottom of the video if you think you're having trouble understanding any of what he's saying.

On the differences between copyright, patents, and trademarks [Article]

Richard Stallman strongly advocates against lumping the three terms to mean "intellectual property".
Copyright law was designed to promote authorship and art, and covers the details of expression of a work. Patent law was intended to promote the publication of useful ideas, at the price of giving the one who publishes an idea a temporary monopoly over it—a price that may be worth paying in some fields and not in others.
Trademark law, by contrast, was not intended to promote any particular way of acting, but simply to enable buyers to know what they are buying. Legislators under the influence of the term “intellectual property”, however, have turned it into a scheme that provides incentives for advertising.

The 9 year old philosopher [Video]

A 9 year old ponders the meaning of life. No wonder they call this child "The philosopher".

Shell Shocked by the Sounds of the Seas [Article]

SteStefan Helmreich discovers the mysteries of the sounds of the sea:
For generations, people who live by the sea have held that, when pressed to the ear, seashells resound with something like the roar of the ocean—a sensation whose explanation has offered a puzzle pleasurable and provocative to scientists and lay listeners alike.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Spam origin experiment - [Article]

T Rob shares the story, and a couple of tricks, of his experiment to control spam mail:
The problem with spam is you can’t really tell where it comes from.  If you have an email address that you never use, you probably don’t get too much spam there.  But if you use the same email address for everything, it gradually gets more and more spam until you are forced to abandon it.  That suggests that the address leaks out with some specific activities online, but which ones? 

A step by step guide to mindfulness - How to sit in a chair & drink tea [Article]

David Cain has an exercise for all of us busy folks who can barely enjoy our daily cuppa. 
It’s actually an indulgence. That’s not to say, however, that you’re taking from yourself more than you’re giving. Most indulgences are pleasures borrowed from your health or sanity — mindless entertainment, processed food, booze or needless shopping. But not in this case. You’re making your pleasure from the cleanest ingredients: leaves, water, and time.
David blogs at www.raptitude.com 

the Pharma companies drug war in India [Article]

The Indian Supreme Court's decision to allow Indian makers of generic drugs to continue making copycat versions of the drug Gleevec (manufactured by Novartis) is lauded by Richard Stallman who has this to say:
Novartis responded to the decision by threatening to arbitrarily withhold other drugs from India, causing sick people there to die. Presumably these will be drugs which are in fact patented, drugs not affected by this decision. That shows this is not a self-protective reaction, but a murderous threat. In the absence of free exploitation treaties such as the WTO, India would respond to the threat by making those drugs locally. Novartis' death threats are mere bluster, unless the WTO gives them force; and that reveals the murderous nature of the WTO. As for the pretense that the abuse of medical patents is "necessary" for the sake of research, we already know this is bogus. The big pharma companies spend more on advertising and corrupting doctors than on research, and little of their research goes into life-saving drugs anyway. Patents on drugs should be banned except in the wealthiest countries. There is a very simple solution: get rid of the WTO. It undermines democracy and it does harm to people in many other ways

David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) sings Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 [Video]

For your rock music lovers, listen to some Shakespeare, sung by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, recorded aboard his floating studio houseboat, the Astoria

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A flash mob in Spain - viral video repeat from 2012

Banco Sabadell - a street musician plays Beethoven's Ode to Joy - and then something magical happens.

A Petition for the Nobel Prize to Bradley Manning [Article]

30,000 have asked the Norwegian Nobel Committee to give the Nobel Peace Prize to Bradley Manning.
It would correct the absurd mistake of giving one to Obama.
You can sign the petition here. There is also a link at the bottom of the page to the audio of Bradley Manning's statement in court.

Albert Einstien on Personal Liberty [Video]

Albert Einstein became a refugee from his native Germany after the Nazi's rose to power. Listen to this rare recording of him speaking on individual liberty - a pertinent topic of our times.
We are concerned not merely with the technical problem of securing and maintaining peace, but also with the important task of education and enlightenment. Without such reason there would have been no Shakespeare, no Goethe, no Newton, no Pasteur"

Mel Brooks & Anne Bancroft, Polish rendition of Sweet Georgia Brown [Video]

If you enjoy music, here's Mel Brooks & Anne Bancroft performing their Polish rendition of Sweet Georgia Brown

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

the Overview Effect [Video]

Richard Branson shares his amazement of the "overview effect" on the Virgin corporate blog.
a perspective-altering phenomenon that many people experience after visiting space.  They noted: “Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.”


Robert Fulghum warmly welcomes everyone of us as a member of the Society of the Pill Chasers of the World and the Spring Allergy Division of the Fellowship of the Late Night Sink Eaters.  No spoilers - read the whole thing in full.

Digital identity vs physical identity [article]

T.Robert Wyatt explores the question of identity: "Is your digital identity a separate self  or is it identical to your real-world self?", and how it impacts our lives:
Our legal and social framework for  identity insists that me in high school and me today are the same person when there is a world of difference between the two. Me then and me now would have very little in common, including friends, opportunities, philosophies, quality of life or future prospects. 

Hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay [Article]

Guantanamo's hunger strike story is not in the media. As Amy Davidson points out in the New Yorker, the US Administration seems intent on hiding the fact that 1 in 5 of the 166 inmates of the illegal prison are on a hunger strike. More than half of the inmates have been cleared for release (there is no evidence to legally hold them in prison), yet are being held without reason.
The numbers strike one as all wrong—not incorrect, that is, but proof that something has gone very wrong at Guantánamo. The right numbers—the ones one would expect from a prison run by a country of laws—are a hundred and sixty-six facing trials, and zero held for no good reason. ........... Taking a dozen prisoners a day to a room where they are force-fed with tubes stuck into their noses should not be part of the normal routine at Guantánamo, or at any American prison.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Free Market Mythologies and the Future of Public Ownership [Article]

Thomas M Hanna has this interesting post about the alternative if we reject the mythical ideal of the "free market"
The free market utopia is in fact a banana republic, an individualistic Randian society in which a small group of extremely wealthy individuals, hidden away in gated communities and protected by their disproportionate influence of key functions of the state (the courts, political parties, and so on), control the vast majority of productive wealth and property while the rest of the population is forced to fight for an ever shrinking share of whatever scraps are left on the table. 

April Fools news - Dave Winer [Article, LInk]

Dave Winer is scathing of the Internet's tradition of April Fools news articles. Like for instance, this TechCrunch post about YouTube shutting down.

The only good idea is an unoriginal idea [Article]

James Altucher has some advice on what makes an idea great:
Take an idea from 100 years ago. From yesterday. From 1000 years ago. From your friend. Tell a story around it in modern terms. Make it uniquely yours.

Railing against Drone Warfare [article]

Rev. Dr. Paul F M Zahl argues against the US's increased use of drones in warfare from a moral perspective:
Our use of drones are out of “proportion” because it uses the most advanced technology in the world to assassinate people who can basically only throw the equivalent of sticks and stones back at you. Moreover, it gives these people no chance to surrender. It is like capital punishment without an arrest, a charge, a trial, or a right of appeal.
Our use of drones is not humane, because it totally objectifies the enemy by making them into a picture on a screen. There is not the faintest possibility, in the conduct of drone warfare by means of remote control, that you can regard the enemy as a fellow human citizen of the planet.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The whistled language of Oaxaco, Mexico [Documentary]

Whistled language is a rare form of communication that can be mostly found in locations with isolating features such as scattered settlements or mountainous terrain.  Watch this documentary of Dr. Mark Sicoli conducting field studies among speakers of this language who live in northern Oaxaco in Mexico.

An Alan Watts Lecture [Video]

It all goes together, says Alan Watts, on coming to terms with being one with the universe
I am a living organism in a world of dead junk

Posner on business ethics [Article]

Posner dissects the concept of free-market self regulation, & business ethics (to me, the term is an oxymoron) - and lays it bare for what it really is
Competition is doubtless essential to the efficient production and distribution of goods and services. But it is not an antidote to unethical practices by producers and distributors.
The question is whether his advocacy for more regulation is actually a solution at all?

The Monty Hall Problem and Schrodinger's Cat [Article]

Scott Adams discusses the Monty Hall Problem & Schrodinger's Cat, and our brains inability to understand reality at its most basic level.
Monty Hall is a game show host. You are given a choice of three doors. One has a car behind it, the other two have goats. If you pick the door with the car, you win it. Your odds are 1-in-3.
So you pick a door, but before it opens, Monty opens one of the other two doors to reveal a goat. He asks if you want to switch from the door you initially picked to the other closed door. Your brain says the odds are the same for any closed door, so you stay. But in fact, the odds are twice as good if you switch doors.