We’ve done a cool $50 million of R & D on the Apple Human Interface. We discovered, among other things, two pertinent facts:
* Test subjects consistently report that keyboarding is faster than mousing.
* The stopwatch consistently proves mousing is faster than keyboarding.
This contradiction between user-experience and reality apparently forms the basis for many user/developers’ belief that the keyboard is faster.
People new to the mouse find the process of acquiring it every time they want to do anything other than type to be incredibly time-wasting. And therein lies the very advantage of the mouse: it is boring to find it because the two-second search does not require high-level cognitive engagement.
It takes two seconds to decide upon which special-function key to press. Deciding among abstract symbols is a high-level cognitive function. Not only is this decision not boring, the user actually experiences amnesia! Real amnesia! The time-slice spent making the decision simply ceases to exist.
While the keyboard users in this case feels as though they have gained two seconds over the mouse users, the opposite is really the case. Because while the keyboard users have been engaged in a process so fascinating that they have experienced amnesia, the mouse users have been so disengaged that they have been able to continue thinking about the task they are trying to accomplish. They have not had to set their task aside to think about or remember abstract symbols.
Hence, users achieve a significant productivity increase with the mouse in spite of their subjective experience.
My friend Eli does an excellent liveblog of last night's debate, which is worth reading here.
Why They Called It the Manhattan Project - New York Times:
By nature, code names and cover stories are meant to give no indication of the secrets concealed. “Magic” was the name for intelligence gleaned from Japanese ciphers in World War II, and “Overlord” stood for the Allied plan to invade Europe.
Many people assume that the same holds true for the Manhattan Project, in which thousands of experts gathered in the mountains of New Mexico to make the world’s first atom bomb.
Robert S. Norris, a historian of the atomic age, wants to shatter that myth.
In “The Manhattan Project” (Black Dog & Leventhal), published last month, Dr. Norris writes about the Manhattan Project’s Manhattan locations. He says the borough had at least 10 sites, all but one still standing. They include warehouses that held uranium, laboratories that split the atom, and the project’s first headquarters — a skyscraper hidden in plain sight right across from City Hall.
Violent Media is Good for Kids:
We send the message to our children in a hundred ways that their craving for imaginary gun battles and symbolic killings is wrong, or at least dangerous. Even when we don't call for censorship or forbid "Mortal Kombat," we moan to other parents within our kids' earshot about the "awful violence" in the entertainment they love. We tell our kids that it isn't nice to play-fight, or we steer them from some monstrous action figure to a pro-social doll. Even in the most progressive households, where we make such a point of letting children feel what they feel, we rush to substitute an enlightened discussion for the raw material of rageful fantasy. In the process, we risk confusing them about their natural aggression in the same way the Victorians confused their children about their sexuality. When we try to protect our children from their own feelings and fantasies, we shelter them not against violence but against power and selfhood.
Monkey Disaster: "I'm On To You,...":
I was at a Starbucks a few days ago and they were playing that kind of music they always play. This time it was Joss Stone. I'm sure she's a lovely person and of course many people like her music. But I said to myself, "I'm on to you, Joss Stone". I felt like she was putting one over on people and I wanted her to know that I was not fooled. What was her deceit? Being a young English woman trying to sing with more soul than her life experiences could have possibly afforded her? Maybe. But it was broader than that. I just felt like, "you're not pulling the wool over my eyes, Joss Stone. You can't hoodwink me, Joss Stone. I've done the MATH, Joss Stone."
Have you been interested in traditional Japanese storytelling mixed with pillow fighting?
Then click here.
More information here.
Scissor spiders made from TSA confiscata - Boing Boing:
Christopher Locke makes spider-sculptures out of confiscated scissors bought at TSA auctions ("The larger ones are made from barber scissors, and the smaller ones are made from cuticle scissors.")
PC World - In Pictures: The Most Notable Notebooks of 2007:
Fastest: Apple MacBook Pro
The fastest Windows Vista notebook we've tested this year is a Mac. Try that again: The fastest Windows Vista notebook we've tested this year--or for that matter, ever--is a Mac. Not a Dell, not a Toshiba, not even an Alienware. The $2419 (plus the price of a copy of Windows Vista, of course) MacBook Pro's PC WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 88 beats Gateway's E-265M by a single point, but the MacBook's score is far more impressive simply because Apple couldn't care less whether you run Windows.
Sexoteric Blog: Indecent?:
Really, it is just a picture of a couple of young girls playing and dancing innocently, and one of them just happens to have taken her clothes of. But in the U.S. if you had taken such a picture of your kids, and left it at your local photomat store, you might well be locked away for years as a child pornographer. For people in many other parts of the world, it is simply an ordinary picture of two kids having fun. Of course, the moment you put it up on the wall in an art gallery, it starts becoming something else. I must admit, I don't see anything that justifies calling it art. It is just a snapshot in the kitchen for the family album, which the kids can be slightly embarrassed about when they grow up.
I Work Retail: Working At American Apparel Is All It's Coked Up To Be:
I thought cocaine was kind of scandalous when I started working at American Apparel. And so I naturally found it kind of scandalous that a major coke dealer actually served as a kind of informal HR chief for many of the American Apparel stores in New York. He happened to be this guy I knew from a completely different set of circumstances in a completely different city, and he had gotten into the business at, like, 13, so unlike your coke dealer or your best cokehead friend's coke dealer this was a guy who actually knew, like, how to use weapons. He had what I thought at the time was an ingenious setup: he lived down the street from the American Apparel store in the Lower East Side and would find hipster cokehead girls jobs at the chain's various outlets and then, in turn, find clients among the other employees, which worked really well until everyone got so coked-out they had to blow it up their asses and a girl stole $14,000 from the till and everyone sort of left town after that.
ThinkMac Software - Blog:
In the accessibility control panel Apple thoughtfully made all the text huge and bold to help people with visual disabilities. In the Time Machine preference pane they randomly decided your sight might be going a bit so they stuck in a giant on/off button. I'm kind of disappointed you don't have to flip up a little protective cover over the button and turn a key to activate it though. There should be flashing lights and sirens too, you know, just so you're sure it's on.
Gothamist: Young Frankenstein Limps This Way:
Status-conscious tourists coughing up over $450 a ticket are bound to feel a little burned if they get stuck with an understudy in the lead role. Adam Feldman at Time Out NY recently performed a colonoscopy of sorts on Young Frankie’s record-setting ticket prices and pointed out that producers are only giving ammo to the stagehands’ union as they prepare to strike. TONY also got funny testimonials from three audience members who paid a premium to see the show in previews. Filthy rich Mel Brooks enthusiast/sucker Michael Platt snorted, “You just gotta bite the bullet and get great seats – it’s worth it. I paid $800 a seat for ten seats, through a broker, so it was either that or pay for my son’s bar mitzvah.” (Platt was kidding about that last bit – of course he also paid for the bar mitzvah, which we imagine taking place at Bungalow 8 with the New York Knicks dancers performing water ballet in a fountain of Veuve Clicquot, to a live performance by Maroon 5.)
Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard: the Ars Technica review:
At the end of my Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger review, I wrote this.
Overall, Tiger is impressive. If this is what Apple can do with 18 months of development time instead of 12, I tremble to think what they could do with a full two years.
That was exactly two and a half years ago, to the day. It seems that I've gotten my wish and then some. Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard has gestated longer than any release of Mac OS X (other than 10.0, that is). If I had high expectations for 10.5 back in 2005, they've only grown as the months and years have passed. Apple's tantalizingly explicit withholding of information about Leopard just fanned the flames. My state of mind leading up to the release of Leopard probably matches that of a lot of Mac enthusiasts: this better be good.
nytheatrecast » Blog Archive » Episode # 169 - Mike Daisey:
This episode of the nytheatrecast features playwright, monologist, and solo performer Mike Daisey, whose new show, Great Men of Genius - which is actually four separate solo pieces about P.T. Barnum, Bertolt Brecht, Nikola Tesla, and L. Ron Hubbard - opens at Joe’s Pub in early November. Mike talks to nytheatre.com contributor Michael Criscuolo about his new show, his fascination with these four men, and the ties that bind them all together.
Mike also talks at length (and with great insight) about his process of developing a piece and working on it with his director and collaborator, Jean-Michele Gregory. He and Jean-Michele are also married to each other, and Mike shares some tidbits about how that influences both their professional and personal lives.
Sorry for the absence--a hard drive failure at the hosting company, followed by serious errors on the backups led to 72 hours of craziness, but we appear to be back up and online now.
Humans not evolved for IT security - Security - www.itnews.com.au:
Human beings aren't evolved for security in the modern world, and particularly the IT security world, according to security guru Bruce Schneier.
He told delegates at the 2007 RSA Conference that there is a gap between the reality of security and the emotional feel of security due to the way our brains have evolved. This leads to people making bad choices.
"As a species we got really good at estimating risk in an East African village 100,000 years ago. But in 2007 London? Modern times are harder."
Parabasis: A Story We Should All Be Paying Attention To:
The FBI forced a man to confess (Falsely it turned out) to terrorist activities when they threatened to torture his family. Once the man was proven innocent, the section about how the FBI forced a false confession out of him was redacted for national security reasons. Read all about it here. If this doesn't get your blood boiling, what will?
Respectful Insolence: Homeopathy debate at the University of Connecticut: Is it ever wise for scientists to debate pseudoscientists?:
While I admire salute Steve Novella for no doubt answering the call of the organizers of this event and being willing to step on the same stage, along with Donald Marcus, to go toe-to-toe homeopaths like Iris Bell, Andre Saine, not to mention water über-woomeister Rustum Roy, I hope they're ready for the sheer number of logical fallacies, cherry-picked studies, and examples of science twisted beyond recognition that are likely to be thrown at them during the two hours that they're on the stage. As much as I understand the impetus that sometimes makes scientists agree to them, I've said before that in general, like Phil Plait, Eugenie Scott, P. Z. Myers, Richard Dawkins, and Lawrence Krauss, I consider such debates between pseudoscientists and scientists to be usually a bad idea, even though I realize that, all reservations taken into account, it's sometimes very difficult to abstain from them.
As someone who detests seeing pseudoscientific quackery like homeopathy go unanswered and with enough pride to be stung by criticism of "cowardice" over refusals to debate, over time I've come to the conclusion that such staged events inherently favor the pseudoscientist so much that it's rarely worth it to try to overcome this.
I have a few events coming up over the next two weeks that folks may want to be aware of, before launching GREAT MEN OF GENIUS at Joe's Pub.
First off, this Friday I'll be hosting Tekserve's LEOPARD RELEASE PARTY at Tekserve, your old reliable Mac shop--they'll be raffling off iPods all evening, playing live jazz, food and drink, contests and more. Full details are here.
Tekserve's Leopard Release Party
Friday, October 26th at 6pm
119 W. 23rd Street
On November 3rd I'll be performing at the Liar Show, Andy Christie's fabulous show about truth, lying and their consequences.
4 storytellers. 3 true stories. 1 pack of lies.
Saturday, November 3th @ 6:00 pm
CORNELIA STREET CAFE
29 Cornelia Street (bet W 4th & Bleeker)
$12 - includes one drink.
Mike Daisey ("The master storyteller." - New York Times)
Mark Katz (Former Bill Clinton speechwriter)
Ophira Eisenberg (Comedy Central; US Magazine's Fashion Police)
James Braly (NPR; 2007 Edinburgh Fringe)
Russia's Space City Frozen in Time:
Rockets still pierce the heavens in a halo of smoke during launches, and engineers and military men still crack open bottles of vodka to celebrate a successful launch. What has changed are the passengers. Nowadays Baikonur embraces the world, from wealthy space tourists to the world's first Malaysian cosmonaut, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, who blasted off for the international space station on Oct. 10.
The city itself is a rusting relic of the golden age of Russian rocketry, yet if anything, its place in the space industry is heading toward expansion. For at least four years after the space shuttle program ends in 2010, the U.S. will completely depend on Russia - and Baikonur - to send its crews to the international space station.
Enough Already: Media Loses Their Minds; Colbert's Cult Out Of Control:
Okay, so we love ourselves some Stephen Colbert, we're only human. However! There's something seriously amiss when NBC' s major Sunday news show get is the Comedy Central performer, who is "running" for President in character. "Meet the Press" anchor Tim Russert devoted nearly half of his broadcast this weekend to a fake back-and-forth with a fake candidate.
NBC isn't the only one buying into the Colbert Craze; The New York Times lent Maureen Dowd's spot last week to Colbert, and the Atlantic's Josh Green spent 1,772 words (we know—so close!) trying to impress Colbert's "people" in South Carolina (three P.A.s and an exiled intern living it up on the College of Charleston's palm-trimmed quad, come on people) into yet more stunt-topping by hiring him as his campaign manager.
Now, we don't want to sound all imperious and shit, and we get the idea, add a little levity to the race, distract the cranky reporters, take everyone down a peg or two. It's good clean fun. But there's a $46 billion war on, we hear. And! Wildfires! Drought! Our mayor is under attack! Britney has once again taken two children hostage! Chuck Norris is voting!
The Nazis invented the sex doll:
The Nazis invented the worst thing ever: the assembly-line death factory. But they also invented something else, perhaps the only legacy of theirs that endures to this very day. During World War II, Hitler's war machine created the world's first sex doll: Borghild.
The "field-hygienic project" was an initiative of Himmler, who regarded the doll as a "counterbalance" for the sexual drive of his stormtroopers. In one of his letters, he mentions the "unnessessary losses" the Wehrmacht had suffered in France, inflicted by street prostitutes. "The greatest danger in Paris are the wide-spread and uncontrolled whores, picking up clients in bars, dancehalls and other places. It is our duty to prevent soldiers from risking their health, just for the sake of a quick adventure." One assumes Himmler also wanted to stop any racial dilution of the great German army.
TidBITS Blog Post: The Best (and Worst) of Leopard:
Now, I'm still under a non-disclosure agreement that says I can't talk about anything Apple hasn't told you. But since Apple has told you about the 300 features, I can talk about them. I can't add any new information, of course; but I can tell you how I feel about them (Apple doesn't own my feelings, as far as I can tell). Here, then, are my favorite (and least favorite) new Leopard features.
Let me start with the bad news - what I don't like. There is just one thing, really, but it's quite a big thing, namely: the Desktop's new look.
It's like the emperor's new clothes. A menu bar that's hard to read because what's behind it shows through? Why is that a good idea? And stacks in the Dock are a solution in search of a non-existent problem; the way folders behave in the Dock now (just click and the folder opens, click and hold to see a hierarchical menu of the folder's contents) is great and doesn't deserve to change. Not to mention the whole distracting silly way the Dock is now being drawn. I already dislike the Dock and do all I can to keep it hidden all the time; in Leopard, I'll have twice as much reason to do so. The new Finder window sidebar is awful too; you can see in Apple's own screen shot that the icons and text are tiny and all the colors are converging on basic gray.
A little preview of things to come: this is for a new show which we'll be creating in early 2008:
I'm hoping that by next Halloween it will be ready for a theater near everybody.
The House Next Door: Close-Up Blog-a-thon: Khaaaaan!:
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan contains my favorite Star Trek moment and my favorite close-up of all time, when a seemingly shell-shocked Admiral Kirk listens to his nemesis, Khan Noonian Singh (Ricardo Montalban), describe how much he will enjoy abandoning Kirk and his crew in the center of a dead planet, then screams “Khaaaan!” into his communicator.
Ouch! Hillary Clinton's softer image is clawed over dumped cat - Times Online:
AS THE “first pet” of the Clinton era, Socks, the White House cat, allowed “chilly” Hillary Clinton to show a caring, maternal side as well as bringing joy to her daughter Chelsea. So where is Socks today?
Once the presidency was over, there was no room for Socks any more. After years of loyal service at the White House, the black and white cat was dumped on Betty Currie, Bill Clinton’s personal secretary, who also had an embarrassing clean-up role in the saga of his relationship with the intern Monica Lewinsky.
Some believe the abandoned pet could now come between Hillary Clinton and her ambition to return to the White House as America’s first woman president.
N-word, please | Radosh.net:
Here's a new twist in our continuing crusade against banning offensive words from newspapers.
Nas confirms album title will be epithet
The rapper told MTV News that he would indeed be naming his new album after the N-word. And he denied earlier reports that the album's title would be spelled "N---a," considered in some circles a less inflammatory epithet.
What I want to address is not whether Nas or anyone else ought to use the word nigger in the first place. The issue is, once the word nigger becomes part of a news story, should the media avoid using it in its reporting?
One could argue that the AP doesn't really need to use the word for readers to know what it's talking about. But at the same time, it's hard to see how the media can conduct a serious, adult conversation about an album title when it can't even bring itself to say what the title is. I'm not all that familiar with the Nas, so I'm only taking his word for it that he has a serious intent here, but if that is indeed the case, it seems to me that the press needs to deal with this intellectual provocation in the form in which it actually exists, not in some sanitized form in which Jesse Jackson would prefer that it exist. To put it terms the baby boomers who run the media can understand, imagine trying to discuss John Lennon's "Woman is the N-Word of the World" or Sly Stone's "Don't Call Me N-Word, Whitey." It's simply not the discussion the artist wants to have. The power of the word is the whole damn point.
MacNN | Comcast caught throttling BitTorrent traffic:
Comcast has been deliberately slowing down traffic for customers using file sharing apps on its network, the Associated Press confirmed today. Beginning an investigation after speaking with a Broadband Reports user who discovered the practice shortly after Comcast began testing the platform in August, the journalist group has learned that Comcast is using technology from Sandvine that interjects itself between users running specific peer-to-peer software, including BitTorrent clients as well as programs accessing the Gnutella file sharing network. The Sandvine software can detect when complete files are being traded and breaks the connection between peers, forcing a downloading user to look for an alternative.
The service does not completely eliminate such traffic but is enough to substantially hinder download speeds on a standard connection; users can partially avoid the issue by encrypting the data packets to prevent a Sandvine scan but are rarely able to regain full speed for those files, according to the report. Comcast has officially denied implementing any performance-altering software beyond optimizations but has been unable to account for the contradictory results.
village voice > people > Pucker Up: Tristan Taormino Runs a Sex Camp and Lives To Tell About It by Tristan Taormino:
I had 37 presenters, 78 classes, and 17 events to keep track of. Every morning, while participants woke up with hard-ons, I'd rise with thoughts like: "Where the fuck did I pack the dental dams for the safe-sex supply stations? What size gloves does Felice need for her vaginal-fisting class? Will the barn be warm enough for the people in the Fucking Machines Show tonight? God knows it would suck to be cold while getting rammed with a Sawz-All dildo." There's a lot to do at sex camp! That sling you fucked your brains out in? Someone assembled it and made sure it was sturdy enough to withstand the ride you gave it. When you strolled into the orgy room, you saw fresh sheets and clean floors. That's because someone did the laundry, someone else made the beds, and I personally picked up used condoms from off the floor so you wouldn't have to step on them.
Let me tell you a secret about people at sex camp: They are vibrant, alive, immersed in the unique experience, and have very high expectations. Not all of them, but enough to keep us staffers busy. Sometimes, they have needs that are petty ("I don't like my cabin, why can't I be closer to the dungeon?") and minor ("The food for vegetarians sucks!"). Other times, their needs are serious or complicated. It is an intense, emotionally-charged event for many people, and the environment is a double-edged sword: It can be thrilling and life-changing for some and overwhelming and button-pushing for others (or, in some cases, both for the same person). There are complaints and crises, a lot of them come my way, and some of them stress me out.
Big, Small Media Create Colluding Copyright Cartel on Threat Level:
Some of the biggest and smallest media names announced Thursday the formation of what best can be described as a copyright cartel.
Disney, CBS, Microsoft, Fox, NBC, Viacom, Dailymotion, MySpace and Veoh Networks announced so-called User Generated Content Principles that appear aimed at stifling fair use. The announcement calls for the "implementation of state of the art filtering technology with the goal to eliminate infringing content on (user-generated content services), including blocking infringing uploads before they are made available to the public."
While the plan calls for "implementation" of filtering technology, it suggests "cooperating to ensure that the technology is implemented in a manner that effectively balances legitimate interests, including fair use."
THREAT LEVEL points out that Google, the owner of YouTube, is conspicuously absent from the cabal.
HOWTO Find out why your flight is REALLY delayed - Boing Boing:
Here's a great tip from Consumerist: airlines' cargo-tracking websites often give the real explanation for flight delays on their passenger jets. The next time your flight gets delayed, try looking up the story on the airline's cargo site and see if the problem is the airline's fault (mechanical failures and so on), and then use that as evidence to get refunds/miles/tickets out of the airline.
How to board a plane without ID -- be a pageant queen - Boing Boing:
New York airports are now making security exceptions for graceful girls with big smiles. A tipster who saw the first episode (airing tonight) of MTV’s new reality show, “Pageant Place,” told us that when Miss Universe Riyo Mori forgot her ID while trying to board a flight from JFK to Bloomington, Ind., she convinced a TSA agent to let her through - by flashing her sash. “First she showed her head shot, but it didn’t work . . . so then she just pulls out her sash and the agent sent her through to security,” gasped the snitch.
Slashdot | White House Wins On Spying, Telecom Immunity:
EllisDees sends in a Washington Post report that Senate Republicans have outmaneuvered Democrats, who withdrew a more stringent version of legislation to control the government's domestic surveillance program. The legislation that will go forward includes a grant of legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have assisted the program.
Gawker and the Rage of the Creative Underclass -- New York Magazine:
To be enticed, as these writers were, by the credentials extended by an old-media publication is a source of hilarity at the Gawker offices, where, beneath a veneer of self-deprecation, the core belief is that bloggers are cutting-edge journalists—the new “anti-media.” No other form has lent itself so perfectly to capturing the current ethos of young New York, which is overwhelmingly tipped toward anger, envy, and resentment at those who control the culture and apartments. “New York is a city for the rich by the rich, and all of us work at the mercy of rich people and their projects,” says Choire Sicha, Gawker’s top editor (he currently employs a staff of five full-time writers). “If you work at any publication in this town, you work for a millionaire or billionaire. In some ways, that’s functional, and it works as a feudal society. But what’s happened now, related to that, is that culture has dried up and blown away: The Weimar-resurgence baloney is hideous; the rock-band scene is completely unexciting; the young artists have a little more juice, but they’re just bleak intellectual kids; and I am really dissatisfied with young fiction writers.” Sicha, a handsome ex-gallerist who spends his downtime gardening on Fire Island, is generally warm and even-tempered, but on this last point, he looks truly disgusted. “Not a week goes by I don’t want to quit this job,” he says, “because staring at New York this way makes me sick.”
Fuck moving. We can't wait, of course. If only we could get started.
We have this diseased bath mat that looks like Maenads fucked on it, ate it, and then shat it out. The wife has assured me that she is pitching it. We need to embrace this particular line of thought. This bath mat is where hope goes to die, and it is doomed. I must become ruthless about these terrible things that possess us even as we possess them.
I'm looking at you, pestilent houseplant. You're in my sights, dingy hand towels. Sleep lightly, belts I hate.
You're all on notice.
Interim Heads Increasingly Run Federal Agencies - New York Times:
With only 15 months left in office, President Bush has left whole agencies of the executive branch to be run largely by acting or interim appointees — jobs that would normally be filled by people whose nominations would have been reviewed and confirmed by the Senate. In many cases, there is no obvious sign of movement at the White House to find permanent nominees, suggesting that many important jobs will not be filled by Senate-confirmed officials for the remainder of the Bush administration. That would effectively circumvent the Senate’s right to review and approve the appointments. It also means that the jobs are filled by people who do not have the clout to make decisions that comes with a permanent appointment endorsed by the Senate, scholars say.
Gothamist: Phone Etiquette Vigilante:
A retired cop who can't abide cell phone users or loud talkers on his daily LIRR commute to and from Manhattan has made it his business to intimidate fellow riders into being quiet. Standing six foot four inches, John Clifford can be an imposing figure, especially if he's yelling at you, slapping a phone out of your hand, or throwing food or a beverage on you. Clifford's been arrested a number of times, but he's never been convicted because the people he rides to and from work with every day have never appeared in court to testify against him. The New York Post refers to him as a "trainiac."
Cowering commuters on the 8:02 a.m. from Long Beach to Penn Station say they've witnessed Clifford scream, punch and poke, swat cellphones, pour coffee over heads, and even throw an egg sandwich - an incident he denies but which earned him the nickname "The Eggman" among fellow travelers.
Clifford is unapologetic about his bullying behavior, claiming that it's his first amendment right to berate people who annoy him and laughing as he describes the time he punched a woman in the face. The lawyer who got his degree after retiring from the NYPD on disability says "If I look like an ass, I look like an ass. I can't change who I am."
With Tight Grip on Ballot, Putin Is Forcing Foes Out - New York Times:
Nearly eight years after Mr. Putin took office and began tightening his control over all aspects of the Russian government, he will almost certainly with this election succeed in extinguishing the last embers of opposition in Parliament.
Strict new election rules adopted under Mr. Putin, combined with the Kremlin’s dominance over the news media and government agencies, are expected to propel the party that he created, United Russia, to a parliamentary majority even more overwhelming than its current one.
The system is so arrayed against all other parties that even some Putin allies have acknowledged that it harks back to the politics of the old days. Sergei M. Mironov, a staunch Putin supporter and the chairman of the upper house of Parliament, suggested recently that United Russia seemed to have been modeled on a certain forerunner.
“I think that the television broadcasts from the United Russia convention reminded a lot of people of long-forgotten pictures from the era of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union,” said Mr. Mironov, leader of another pro-Putin party, Just Russia.
The living room is the size of Delaware; we're going to have to buy a bunch of crap from Crate and Barrel just to prevent unpleasant echo effects when we speak. When I opened one of the kitchen cabinets, Henry Kissinger was in there. He hissed, "Leave me be! I come here to practice necromancy! You don't need the space! What will you put in here? A box of cereal as large as a toilet? Go! Go! Here is one thousand dollars." Fine with me, war criminal. Your money spends just like anyone else's. We'll never use up this absurd cabinet space.
At Army Base, Officers Are Split Over War - New York Times:
As the war grinds through its fifth year, Fort Leavenworth has become a front line in the military’s tension and soul-searching over Iraq. Here on the bluffs above the Missouri River rising young officers are on a different kind of journey — an outspoken re-examination of their role in Iraq.
Discussions between a New York Times reporter and dozens of young majors in five Leavenworth classrooms over two days — all unusual for their frankness in an Army that has traditionally presented a facade of solidarity to the outside world — showed a divide in opinion. Officers were split over whether Mr. Rumsfeld, the military leaders or both deserved blame for what they said were the major errors in the war: sending in a small invasion force and failing to plan properly for the occupation.
But the consensus was that not even after Vietnam was the Army’s internal criticism as harsh or the second-guessing so painful, and that airing the arguments on the record, as sanctioned by Leavenworth’s senior commanders, was part of a concerted effort to force change.
LA Weekly - News - The Life and Death of Jesse James - Josh Olson - The Essential Online Resource for Los Angeles:
So I hear it through Tania that Audrey has decided to move to Colorado to be with Jesse. She’s quitting her job. Packing her stuff. Leaving her home. To be with a guy . . . that she’s never actually met.
I point out to Tania that pheromones have a lot to do with mutual attraction — what if the smell’s off?
“Oh, they thought of that,” Tania tells me. They exchanged “special pieces of clothing,” she says.
I imagine two people, one in L.A., one in Colorado, sniffing each other’s underpants to see if they can handle living together, and I say, “Jesus, that’s fucking insane.”
“You shouldn’t judge,” says Tania.
I beg to differ. This is why we have judgment.
TNR Online | What the F***?
The FCC's decision raises another mystery about swearing: the bizarre number of different ways in which we swear. There is cathartic swearing, as when we slice our thumb along with the bagel. There are imprecations, as when we offer advice to someone who has cut us off in traffic. There are vulgar terms for everyday things and activities, as when Bess Truman was asked to get the president to say fertilizer instead of manure and she replied, "You have no idea how long it took me to get him to say manure." There are figures of speech that put obscene words to other uses, such as the barnyard epithet for insincerity, the army acronym snafu, and the gynecological-flagellative term for uxorial dominance. And then there are the adjective-like expletives that salt the speech and split the words of soldiers, teenagers, and Irish rock-stars.
But perhaps the greatest mystery is why politicians, editors, and much of the public care so much. Clearly, the fear and loathing are not triggered by the concepts themselves, because the organs and activities they name have hundreds of polite synonyms. Nor are they triggered by the words' sounds, since many of them have respectable homonyms in names for animals, actions, and even people. Many people feel that profanity is self-evidently corrupting, especially to the young. This claim is made despite the fact that everyone is familiar with the words, including most children, and that no one has ever spelled out how the mere hearing of a word could corrupt one's morals.
Progressive writers have pointed to this gap to argue that linguistic taboos are absurd. A true moralist, they say, should hold that violence and inequality are "obscene," not sex and excretion. And yet, since the 1970s, many progressives have imposed linguistic taboos of their own, such as the stigma surrounding the N-word and casual allusions to sexual desire or sexual attractiveness. So even people who revile the usual bluenoses can become gravely offended by their own conception of bad language. The question is, why?
BUS STORY # 49 (Ain’t That America):
In this month’s KUNM public radio newsletter, General Manager Richard S. Towne grouses about the rapidly expanding phenomenon of product placement. “There’s that bottle of Heinz ketchup on the table during the dinner scene of your favorite movie. Then there’s the long, lovely, lingering shot of the shiny new Lexus during your favorite, weekly crime drama on cable. You love the great new song on the radio by the singer Akon about his Lamborghini Gallardo.”
Towne goes on to reference a blog that reports Fergie (a “mega-popstar chanteuse with the best-selling band Black-Eyed Peas”) has signed a lucrative deal with a “hip” clothing company to feature its brand name in future songs. Those of us of a certain age and countercultural sensibility might deplore this new evidence of the corporate corruption of all that is sacred -- but then we'd have to laboriously (and probably futilely) explain why it’s not the same thing when Janis Joplin sings “O Lord, won’t you buy me/A Mercedes-Benz.”
Facebook is like MySpace except designed and operated by people who appear to have actually ever seen a computer. In social networking sites, Facebook is like a big mysterious condo building where you may be either working or living. MySpace is like the bad part of town and it's getting dark and your phone doesn't work.
Seattlest: Get Out Friday: "Lost in Translation" with Mike Daisey:
The Hugo House Literary Series kicks off Friday night with "Lost in Translation," and the program features Seattlest-favorite and monologist Mike Daisey, novelist Randall Keenan and historian Lesley Hazleton.
We don't know why Seattle ever lets Daisey leave, once we've got him here. He's ours! We should just band him or do that thing like with dogs where they are electronically forbidden to leave the yard.
Although riddled with some inaccuracies (the Trinity site is not in Los Alamos, etc.) there's good-sized piece on my performance tomorrow night, my fellow authors and the efforts of the Hugo House to create a new kind of literary series here.
MacNN | AT&T backpedals, updates internet TOS:
AT&T on Thursday clarified its disconcerting internet terms-of-service, completely reversing its stance with a much more progressive policy that it says underscores "the company's commitment to freedom of speech and open dialogue...whether that be via the Internet or elsewhere on the AT&T network." The world's largest telecom company -- and US largest wireless carrier -- apologized for the confusion and reiterated it would not terminate or suspend a customers' Internet access service based upon their political views or criticism of AT&T. Previously, the company TOS said the company could terminate service for any behavior it deemed detrimental to the company or subsidiaries, as noted earlier this month by weblog Gizmodo:
A Reporter at Large: The Jefferson Bottles: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker:
Studies suggest that the experience of smelling and tasting wine is extremely susceptible to interference from the cognitive parts of the brain. Several years ago, Frédéric Brochet, a Ph.D. student in oenology at the University of Bordeaux, did a study in which he served fifty-seven participants a midrange red Bordeaux from a bottle with a label indicating that it was a modest vin de table. A week later, he served the same wine to the same subjects but this time poured from a bottle indicating that the wine was a grand cru. Whereas the tasters found the wine from the first bottle “simple,” “unbalanced,” and “weak,” they found the wine from the second “complex,” “balanced,” and “full.” Brochet argues that our “perceptive expectation” arising from the label often governs our experience of a wine, overriding our actual sensory response to whatever is in the bottle.
Thus there is a bolder kind of forger who actually substitutes one type of wine for another. He often works with genuine bottles bearing genuine labels, obtaining empties from restaurants or antique shops, filling them with another type—or types—of wine, and replacing the cork and the capsule, assuming that the status-conscious buyer will never taste the difference. And, in many cases, this assumption is right. Sutcliffe believes that the vast majority of fake wines are happily enjoyed. Rajat Parr, a prominent wine director who oversees restaurants in Las Vegas, told me that several years ago some of his customers ordered a bottle of 1982 Pétrus, which can sell in restaurants for as much as six thousand dollars. The party finished the bottle and ordered a second. But the second bottle tasted noticeably different, so they sent it back. The staff apologetically produced a third bottle, which the diners consumed with pleasure. Parr closely examined the three bottles and discovered the problem with the second one: it was genuine.
San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders, a Reupublican, puts his career on the line in this moving statement about changes in his position on same-sex marriage.
Is.Man - Theater - Notebook - New York Times:
I don’t know how Muslims who believe in honor killings usually talk, but I’m pretty sure they don’t say, “That’s what Britney would do.” Yet that’s what the lead actor in the Dutch writer Adelheid Roosen’s “Is.Man,” a play about such murders, said at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn on Sunday, breaking character and speaking to the audience as he took off the head mike that had been crackling and creating problems.
That actor, Youssef Sjoerd Idilbi, had earlier asked someone in the audience to turn off a cellphone. And soon after the Britney remark, as scurrying technicians gestured to him that they were getting a new headset, he had evidently had enough and simply walked offstage.
It always takes a while to know when an exit is unplanned, but the performers left behind were vamping for a little too long: a musician sang and played, and a white-robed dervish who had been sitting quietly in the background got up and started whirling. But you knew Mr. Idilbi was leaving the building when he popped in from the wings wearing street clothes and carrying a plastic bag from Foot Locker. He retrieved something he had left at the rear of the stage and walked away, carrying any hope of a dazzling American debut for Ms. Roosen with him. The playwright herself took over the role, but it wasn’t the same.
There are other strange elements: Mr. Idilbi had probably been unsettled because the previous night’s performance, the first, had been canceled when the sound system failed altogether. A few audience members from that night who had returned on Sunday were overheard to be a little disgruntled too. But the worst part is that Mr. Idilbi, a professional actor in the Netherlands, had been giving such a strong performance before his unscripted departure.
MacNN | Rocks replace iPods in Texas Target stores:
Two Texas Target stores have served as scenes of embarrassment for the brick-and-mortar retail chain after an angry mother discovered rocks inside the box that was supposed to contain a shiny new $350 iPod. The box, which weighed as much as the iPod it was supposed to contain, was destined as a birthday gift to her teenage daughter. Upon returning to the store, Target employees believed the story but said they were sold out of that particular iPod model and that the woman was not allowed a refund in cash because she had purchased the device on her Target card. Driving with her daughter to another Target store in Grand Prairie, they used their store-only credit to purchase another iPod after Target employees forbid them to open the box before purchasing the device. Opening the supposed iPod in front of Target employees revealed yet another helping of rocks with no portable player in sight.
The mother was again refused a refund in cash, so instead told her daughter to pick out $350 worth of Target merchandise. Target said it is working with local law enforcement to resolve the issue but gave no details about the ongoing investigation, according to Star-Telegram.com.
The Associated Press: Court Leaves Ala. Sex Toy Ban Intact:
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to hear a challenge to Alabama's ban on the sale of sex toys, ending a nine-year legal battle and sending a warning to store owners to clean off their shelves.
An adult-store owner had asked the justices to throw out the law as an unconstitutional intrusion into the privacy of the bedroom. But the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, leaving intact a lower court ruling that upheld the law.
Sherri Williams, owner of Pleasures stores in Huntsville and Decatur, said she was disappointed, but plans to sue again on First Amendment free speech grounds.
"My motto has been they are going to have to pry this vibrator from my cold, dead hand. I refuse to give up," she said.
Harold Pinter - Sleuth - Film - New York Times:
“I don’t make judgments about my own work, and I don’t analyze it; I just let it happen,” Mr. Pinter said in an interview here recently. “That applies to everything I’ve done. I do tend to think that I’ve written a great deal out of my unconscious because half the time I don’t know what a given character is going to say next.”
Secret U.S. Endorsement of Severe Interrogations - New York Times:
When the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations.
But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.
The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.
Mr. Gonzales approved the legal memorandum on “combined effects” over the objections of James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general, who was leaving his job after bruising clashes with the White House. Disagreeing with what he viewed as the opinion’s overreaching legal reasoning, Mr. Comey told colleagues at the department that they would all be “ashamed” when the world eventually learned of it.
This professor has been given the news that he will die in a few months. This is his final lecture.
Wal-Mart Era Wanes Amid Big Shifts in Retail - WSJ.com:
Today, though, Wal-Mart's influence over the retail universe is slipping. In fact, the industry's titan is scrambling to keep up with swifter rivals that are redefining the business all around it. It can still disrupt prices, as it did last year by cutting some generic prescriptions to $4. But success is no longer guaranteed.
Rival retailers lured Americans away from Wal-Mart's low-price promise by offering greater convenience, more selection, higher quality, or better service. Amid the country's growing affluence, Wal-Mart has struggled to overhaul its down-market, politically incorrect image while other discounters pitched themselves as more upscale and more palatable alternatives. The Internet has changed shoppers' preferences and eroded the commanding influence Wal-Mart had over its suppliers.
Macworld: First Look: First Look: iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store at Starbucks:
The Starbucks/Apple partnership does live up to the simplicity of browsing and purchase that were promised, but only at the expense of a lot of friction—first in the lack of superb execution at a launch store; second, in the poor execution of how Wi-Fi and at least portable devices work for connections.
Slashdot | AT&T Welcomes Programmers for All Phones Except the iPhone:
"Apple's reasoning for keeping the iPhone a closed platform is that they don't want to 'potentially gum up the provider's network'. An article in the New York Times, though, points out that there are hundreds of phones out there working on open platforms that don't seem to be causing network interference. AT&T and Palm, in fact, welcome experimentation on their platforms. In AT&T's case ... on every phone but the iPhone. 'Hackers who have explored the workings of the phone say it uses the frameworks and structures that Apple uses on its other platforms to enable development; it just hasn't been documented. So if Apple is going to allow applications later, is there any reason -- other than vindictiveness or obsessive interest in control -- that it would want to cut off those developed by the pioneers who figured things out ahead of the official launch?'"
TidBITS iPod & iPhone: Staff Roundtable: Apple Should Do No Harm to iPhones:
Unlocking a phone is not illegal in the United States (nor in most countries). The Librarian of Congress extended an existing right by carving an exemption out of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the awful DMCA, which I hope the Supreme Court strikes down one of these days) that allows individuals to reverse-engineer the encryption in a phone specifically to unlock it. Even though unlocking is allowed, cell carriers aren't required to make it easy for you. They can use every tool at their disposal to lock the phone.
The FCC has expressed concerns about how hard it is to unlock phones on a number of occasions, and despite its control by an administration that ostensibly supports less regulation, the FCC doesn't favor locking. In a complaint about the rules for an upcoming auction in the 700 MHz band for future cellular networks, Verizon Wireless proposed that if the FCC prohibited it from locking devices in this new band, that would be tantamount to violating the company's First Amendment rights.
Now, I hold no truck with the notion that companies have constitutional rights. That's part of the erosion of personal liberty in favor of so-called corporate rights that began in earnest in the 20th century. (You can read Peachpit Press founder Ted Nace's book "Gangs of America" on this topic; it's a free download.) But you have to admire the chutzpah that lets a cell carrier assert a constitutionally guaranteed right to prevent choice among its consumers as a matter of "speech."
“If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be too cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”
Cult of Mac » Blog Archive » Steve Jobs Motivates…Yahoo?:
He told the gathering of 300-odd Yahoo (YHOO) vice presidents that they can do anything. The company with one of the largest Internet user bases can do and achieve anything, he apparently told them. (I am channeling a handful of VPs.) He talked about how Apple (AAPL) was down on its luck and made a comeback. Yahooligans were pretty inspired! Now if they made more of their products Mac friendly!
Malik promises more detail on Steve’s speech soon, but in the meantime, ponder this: Yahoo has 300 VICE-PRESIDENTS! No wonder they need motivation from Steve.