Saturday, August 31, 2013

An opportunity presents . . .

YOU CAN BECOME PART OF THE PROBLEM, from the perspective of the NSA. MOTHERBOARD runs a site that generates keywords that they suggest the NSA will find magnetic. HELLO, NSA is a kind of oblique, my-hovercraft-is-full-of-eels buzz-word generator that you can click on for a new chunk of jabberwocky.
The government is listening to your internets. Generate a sentence with some of the keywords they're looking for. Tweet or share and you could earn a new follower in Washington.

“They don't bust balls in Juarez. They bust Mexicles.” Now, that's funny, and they say the NSA gets excited about Jarez, bust and Mexicles. Mexicles. Go figure.

Caveat: Now, if you do a lot of travelling into the US, you might reconsider. Look at it this way: if the US government puts you on a list, you might be thankful you were just denied entry, rather than get into their building for a deep cavity search and an orange perp-suit fitting — and that's just for starters.

Caveat surfer . . .

SOME SITES ARE RUN BY WEASELS. We've all encountered them, sites that are designed to force you to do something, most often at your expense. THE VERGE has a fascinating outline by Harry Brignull, “Dark Patterns: inside the interfaces designed to trick you”, which explores some of these foul constructs. And it's not just sites; Apple does the same thing with iOS 6 and they're not the only outfit, that's for sure.
When Apple released iOS 6, one of the few new features not enthusiastically promoted by the company was Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) ad tracking. It assigned each device a unique identifier used to track browsing activity, information advertisers used to target ads. Even though IDFA is anonymous, it's still unsettling to people who worry about privacy.
Fortunately, Apple included a way to disable the feature. You won't find it in the privacy settings, however. Instead, you have to go through a series of obscure options in the general settings menu. Now, "General” is a crappy name for a menu item. It’s mainly a bucket of miscellaneous stuff that they didn’t know what to do with. In the "General" menu, select "About." Down at the bottom of this menu, next to the terms of service and license items, there's a menu item listed as "Advertising." 
If you haven't been here before, the only option in the advertising menu, "Limit Ad Tracking" is probably selected "Off."
But let's take a closer look at the way this is worded. It doesn’t say “Ad Tracking – Off” it says “Limit Ad Tracking – Off”. So it’s a double negative. It’s not being limited, so when this switch is off, ad tracking is actually on.
Off means on! 
This is actually a great example of what I define as a "dark pattern."

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hot Shots . . .

— Just like Peter —
iPOLITICS has a post by Michael Harris, “MacKay’s credibility gap: pot, meet kettle” that is a delight. A cheerful read, also with a possible complication for Petey, thanks to a prof at the U of Ottawa.

I began to suspect that Peter MacKay was not Reach for the Top material in 2011.
That’s when he told former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that California and British Columbia “shared” a border. He apparently forgot that Oregon and Washington stand between beautiful BC and the Golden State.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Maher musings . . .

Reality is relative . . .

The path of progress . . .

HOW DO YOU GET TO CARNEGIE HALL? Like the old joke goes, practice! Malcolm Gladwell, who brought the term “Outlier” to the public consciousness, has a fascinating article in the New Yorker, “Complexity and the Ten-Thousand-Hour Rule” that is worthy of pondering in a world that uses Attention Deficit Disorder as an excuse for intellectual laziness. Never underestimate the power of human inertia.
Forty years ago, in a paper in American Scientist, Herbert Simon and William Chase drew one of the most famous conclusions in the study of expertise:
There are no instant experts in chess—certainly no instant masters or grandmasters. There appears not to be on record any case (including Bobby Fischer) where a person reached grandmaster level with less than about a decade's intense preoccupation with the game. We would estimate, very roughly, that a master has spent perhaps 10,000 to 50,000 hours staring at chess positions…
In the years that followed, an entire field within psychology grew up devoted to elaborating on Simon and Chase’s observation—and researchers, time and again, reached the same conclusion: it takes a lot of practice to be good at complex tasks.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A glowing future . . .

THE GENIE IS OUT OF THE BOTTLE with DNA, and Martin Lukacs, who posts on the TRUE NORTH blog created by The Guardian, is rightly concerned, with a post, “Kickstarter must not fund biohackers' glow-in-the-dark plants” about what is called biohacking, in this case, a Kickstarter effort to get fluorescent plants created. But the US Department of Agriculture says it's OK, so fasten your seatbelts. Martin's right, but unfortunately, the genie is out of the bottle, no pun intended. Even if crowd-funding sites refuse "biohacking", the cost of engaging in it as a pastime has dropped and will continue, for precursor materials and equipment and computers. The future could be very funky . . . this is just about futzing with fluorescence.

According to a post on NATURE, “Glowing plants spark debate” the biohackers are just one of a number of visible efforts:

The Glowing Plant project is not the only foray into publicly available genetically modified organisms. Transgenic zebrafish (Danio rerio) that produce a fluorescent protein have been on the market since 2003, although their sale is not permitted in the European Union, Canada, Australia or California. And BioGlow, a commercial venture in St Louis, Missouri, informed the US agriculture department last year of plans to produce light-emitting plants, but the company has made few details public.

Google is our friend, and voila! — GloFish®. Fluorescent fun for the whole family, I suppose. Like they exhort, Experience the Glo!®.

— Starfire Red® DANIOS by GloFish® —
  — GloFish® TETRAS —

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Lies with a tee-emm . . .

REALLY. From Michele Bachmann's Facebook page “Christians For Michele Bachmann”, an oeuvre apparently paid for by Christians for Michele Bachmann. Love the tee-emm. The FB slogan is “Changing lives, one BachFann™ at a time”. More tee-emm.

If you haven't seen it . . .

GO GET A COPY of “Iron Sky”. It's about a Nazi Flying Saucer invasion from the dark side of the Moon. At least, that's what the trailers show.

Set in 2018, it is actually a sizzling satire on the GOP and US presidential politics. Ya gotta see it, I don't want to tell you any more, because the MacGuffin arrives in the first 5 minutes.

Marvelous. The flick even takes a parody on the “Hitler tantrum” scene that you have probably seen parodied on YouTube, like this one, which has some delightful copywriting:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Paper bag time . . .

MAYOR FORD BECOMES a world-wide joke. Here's the latest on YouTube, titled “Rob Ford's drunk Greek life, and the Toronto mayor's trip to jail”. done by an outfit called Taiwan Animation. The people who posted have some acerbic comments to go with it. Click on the link to read the whole epistle.

Published on Aug 13, 2013
Toronto's walking facepalm of a mayor, Rob Ford, has made his city proud yet again. In a video taken on Saturday while he was gettin' down in Greektown, Rob Ford can clearly be heard yelling "You want some blow, I'll give ya some blow, I have it seriously." Unless you listen to him twice and decide he's clearly yelling "You want some cologne..."

Monday, August 12, 2013

Old Fort Mac . . .

AS SEEN BY Corin Raymond, the Stevie Paradise, where any job is a good job — just ask the hookers.

Bertolt's Blues:

In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing
About the dark times.

Running scared . . .


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Creative Kiwis . . .

DESIGNER DRUGS ARE BIG in New Zealand, according to a post on The Economist, “A New Prescription”, and the Kiwi government has had to come to terms with the situation. Unlike Stevie and the CONs, for whom prisons are perfection, the Kiwis have decided that regulation and taxation is the only sustainable policy.
Sick of trying to keep up with drugmakers, the government is trying a new tack. Last month a law was passed which offers drug designers the chance of getting official approval for their products. If they can persuade a new “Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority” that their pills and powders are low risk, they will be licensed to market them, whether or not they get people high. Drugs will have to undergo clinical trials, which the government expects to take around 18 months—much less than for medicines, because the drugs will be tested only for toxicity, not for efficacy. Drugs that are already banned internationally, such as cocaine and cannabis, are ineligible. Only licensed shops will sell the drugs, without advertising and not to children.

Reality is relative . . .

REAL Women vs. Real Women, as seen by Sonya Bell & Jessie Willms on iPOLITICS. Love it.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

A cavalcade of Kafka . . .

LAVABIT IS OFF-LINE FOR NOW. They are-were a pro-privacy email service long used by NSA leaker Edward Snowden. The owner of Lavabit published a letter you should read, in a WIRED article by Kevin Poulson, “Edward Snowden’s Email Provider Shuts Down Amid Secret Court Battle”. From the standpoint of civil rights, this well and truly sucks. America, I mourn for your Republic. Justice for the people by the people has been replaced with a solid-state Star Chamber.
I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Improvements . . .

SOME THINGS DO get better. In a Stevie world, it's hard to believe, but just check out the video. Sure is a lot safer to see the-yoooo-esssss-ayyyyy-in-yer-shevrolay these days, in spite of the road rage and the drive-by ordnance.

Below, Dina Shore, sixty years ago. The boys were home from the Korean war, and Eisenhower was getting the Interstate highway system completed, and it was time to see the yooo-esss-ayyy, to the benefit of the nascent motor lodge industry that by the 90’s had grown and matured to the point that it was said that Howard Johnsons had put the “Ho” in “Hotel”.

It's a copy, right?

— The original 1959 dry toner Xerox —
COPIERS USED TO BE ANALOG, now they are digital. Faster, better, cheaper. Well, ARS TECHNICA has an interesting report, “Confused photocopiers randomly rewriting scanned documents” that shows that sometimes, you might not get copies that are identical to the original.

Photocopiers exist to produce close enough replicas of original documents. Traditionally, they just spit out the result onto paper. Most copiers these days can operate as (generally rather large) scanners, generating PDFs, TIFFs, or other electronic representations. But some Xerox copiers have recently been found to produce scans that, well, aren't that close to the originals at all. The copiers are producing documents that look superficially similar to the originals but switch around numbers apparently at random.

Now, numbers are important, so do check your copies — or you might wish you had.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Firearm fixations . . .

— Original issue, milled receiver. —
IT'S NOT JUST THE N.R.A. and American trailer park slobs who salivate over guns. Guys from other cultures obsess too, which is explored by a post on Tablet, “How Sweet, Smart Kids Under Occupation Come To Worship Militants” by Haroon Shah who states, “In the heart of Kashmir, where happiness was a warm AK-47, the weapon was my voice, and my dream”.

— Today's 12-gauge —

Popularly known as Kalashnikov, AK-47 was the dream of every Kashmiri boy and the nightmare of every Indian soldier. The gun fired. It killed. It announced the dawn of a new age in Kashmir. What Kalashnikov did in Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Liberia, India dreaded it would do here. Muslim-dominated Kashmir was annexed by India in 1947 after signing a controversial accession pact with its Hindu ruler, with the promise of a plebiscite and greater autonomy. War soon erupted between India and Pakistan and both countries wound up occupying a part of Kashmir. India never carried out the promised plebiscite, and autonomy was slowly eroded as India aimed to gain absolute control of what it now saw as an Indian state or province.

It was not the lethality of the AK that India feared, for it had a million-strong army to counter it. It was the psychological change that the assault rifle unleashed everywhere it went.

And the ol' AK's been everywhere, to the misery of millions, and the extinction of African wildlife. According to Wiki, there's something like 100 million of 'em. The Russkies even make a 12-gauge version for gerbil-blasting, or something. 

Ralphie nails it . . .

I've always thought Ralph Nader was somewhat wonky, but this observation of his is a rather incisive summation of the Gopper psychopathy, IMHO. Thanks to Reader Supported News, for giving him the space, with a posting worthy of your contemplation, "Love, Corporate-Style".

Mitt Romney famously said during his most recent bid for the presidency: "Corporations are people, my friend." Perhaps nothing else better surmises the state of our country -- even the state of our culture -- than a prominent politician running for the presidency openly advancing such a flawed opinion. It is no secret that corporations now wield immense power in our elections, in our economy, and even in how we spend time with our friends and families. Corporate entities, in their massive, billion dollar efforts to advertise and "brand" themselves, not only want consumers to think of them as people, but even as "friends." If a corporation could hit the campaign trail itself, one could imagine it uttering the phrase: "Corporations are friends, my people."

BUT MOST IMPORTANT, is Ralph's call to the digital dugouts in the web-war for people's hearts and minds:

So let's conduct an experiment. The goal is to send a message to some of these giant corporations who are so obsessed with establishing themselves as your "friends" while taking advantage of our health, our workers, our electoral system, our government, our justice system and our economy. Take to the social media ramparts. Send out a tweet directed at the corporations you feel are the worst perpetrators of this snake-oily style of branding and question their worst offenses. Use the hashtag #corporatelove.

Don't forget Facebook. Go visit Nestlé or Monsanto and say hell-o.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Creative silliness . . .

LOVE THE SLEDGEHAMMER and the TV set, myself. Maybe we could do a reprise, with Duffy et al?