Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Make up your mind

This column will change your life:

The energy needed to obtain information when required has diminished to almost nothing, so why bother learning stuff?

Oliver29A couple of years ago, a neuroscientist at Trinity College Dublin noticed what seemed to be an unexpected byproduct of the digital age: a third of the under-30s he questioned didn't know their own phone numbers. They were worse than their elders, too, at remembering relatives' birthdays. It's tempting to wonder what else they didn't know: the formula to convert feet to metres? The prime minister of France? Why bother, after all, when the energy needed to obtain the information when required, from a hard drive or the internet, had diminished to almost nothing? "The line between where my memory leaves off and Google picks up is getting blurrier by the second," one Wired magazine writer observed. "Almost without noticing it, we've outsourced important peripheral brain functions to the silicon around us." Me, too. Until recently, I had to check my mobile to remember my home phone number. (Apologies to readers under 30 who've probably never heard of a "home phone". Why not look it up on the web?)

I've previously sung the praises of organisational guru David Allen's insight that getting stuff out of your head is a path to mental calm. Everyday stress, he theorises, results from your mind trying not to forget everything that's on your plate. So keep your to-dos in a "trusted system" – a notebook, a computer file – and you will gradually relax, knowing there's no chance of anything slipping through the cracks. But must relaxation come at the cost of an atrophying brain? Besides, not every form of outboard storage is equally trustable. When a friend recently revealed she had stored weeks of work only online, using Google Docs, my involuntary response bore a strong resemblance to Edvard Munch's The Scream. I know Google won't lose her work, whereas my laptop, where I keep similar things, may well get stolen. But my anxiety wasn't based on the probabilities. It felt more existential than that.

The real point here, I think, isn't primarily about technology. Rather, it's the way we're invested in the things in the world that we think of as ours. I'd be nervous giving Google sole stewardship of something I was writing, because somehow it's a bit of me. Maybe the aversion I feel towards Twitter is that I don't want part of me in yet another location online. I'd feel scattered, overextended. (It's a good excuse, anyway.) There's a connection here to the cult of "decluttering". Your stuff and yourself are linked: the former contains part of the latter. Perhaps that's why people who radically streamline their possessions report feeling physically lighter.

I'm not suggesting trying to reverse the technological tide, nor giving all your belongings away. But it's worth thinking hard about the forms in which we store bits of ourselves in the outside world; it may affect us, emotionally, more than we realise.




In 1929, a group of historians found an amazing map drawn on a gazelle skin.

Research showed that it was a genuine document drawn in 1513 by Piri Reis, a famous admiral of the Turkish fleet in the sixteenth century.  

His passion was cartography. His high rank within the Turkish navy allowed him to have a privileged access to the Imperial Library of Constantinople.

The Turkish admiral admits in a series of notes on the map that he compiled and copied the data from a large number of source maps, some of which dated back to
the fourth century BC or earlier.  

The Controversy 

The Piri Reis map shows the western coast of Africa, the eastern coast of South America, and the northern coast of Antarctica. The northern coastline of Antarctica is perfectly detailed. The most puzzling however is not so much how Piri Reis managed to draw such an accurate map of the Antarctic region 300 years before it was discovered, but that the map shows the coastline under the ice. Geological evidence confirms that the latest date Queen Maud Land could have been charted in an ice-free state is 4000 BC. 

The official science has been saying all along that the ice-cap which covers the Antarctic is million years old.

The Piri Reis map shows that the northern part of that continent has been mapped before the ice did cover it. That should make think it has been mapped million years ago, but that's impossible since mankind did not exist at that time.

Further and more accurate studies have proven that the last period of ice-free condition in the Antarctic ended about 6000 years ago. There are still doubts about the beginning of this ice-free period, which has been put by different researchers everything between year 13000 and 9000 BC.

The question is: Who mapped the Queen Maud Land of Antarctic 6000 years ago? Which unknown civilization had the technology or the need to do that?


Time lapse videos of the LA fires

The Los Angeles fires

Video: Time Lapse Test: Station Fire, a haunting little piece put together by Eric Speigelman.

Timelapse - Los Angeles Wildfire from Dan B. on Vimeo.


How to Draw an Ugly Health Plan and Make it Pretty

By Daryl Cagle

I know how you all like to see my sketches and I get lots of requests to explain my cartoons, so here is the latest one.

The goal with this one was to comment on the speculation that the Democrats would use sentiment about Teddy Kennedy's death to push health care legislation, possibly by attaching Kennedy's name to the bill.  I started by making the health care character a generic ugly creature, but it occurred to me that a warthog is a better choice, because a warthog is understood to be ugly and it has the aspect of being a pig, to signify waste. Making the health plan a female is a little sexist, I suppose.  I think of a woman wanting her photo to look pretty, so making the wart hog a female made the gag work a little better for me.

Next I had to deal with the mask that actually makes the warthog pretty, and I thought that using a photo of Kennedy rather than drawing his face made the cartoon more interesting.  The mask was a little tricky because it had to have some perspective and Kennedy's face is defined by its width, so squishing it makes it look less Kennedylike.  I found this photo that seems to be everywhere, and it looks pretty good, even squished, so that was the first hurdle to cross.  Nice photo, I like his eyes.

I did my usual quick pencil sketch.  The donkey didn't look good so I drew a new one on top with a Sharpie marker.  That usually works for me; if I don't like what I do after a Sharpie marker I'll start over.  Here's the sketch:

After that, I drew the finished line art on a vellum overlay.  In Photoshop I squashed the Kennedy photo into the sign, and drew outlines around it with a wider facing edge to make it look more two dimensional.  And I added gray tone to the rest of the drawing, so it would live in the same world as the photo.

That's how to draw an ugly health plan, and make it pretty.


The Iranian Opposition's Second Life


by Max Burns

On July 22, a week into Iran's foreign media reporting ban, a group of Iranian protesters gathered on a grassy hill to speak out against Supreme Leader Khamenei's continued support for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Some wore black T-shirts with a blood-spattered slogan: "Where Is My VOTE?" By midday, the protest had attracted several hundred attendees. One woman arrived wearing little more than a thong swimsuit and a pair of purple angel wings.


second lifeIran's security forces, however, were absent. In a nation with a frighteningly effective intelligence service, Supreme Leader Khamenei was entirely unaware of this protest because it took place in cyberspace. The protesters were concerned citizens from dozens of countries who logged into a synthetic world called Second Life, where millions of users worldwide share one virtual landscape. The protest, planned several days before, traveled around the world by way of virtual word-of-mouth. Those who wanted to voice outrage only needed Internet access.

Second Life is one of many synthetic worlds, places that exist only on computers, where users create avatars — virtual representations of themselves — and interact with users worldwide as easily as if they were in a single room. The technology behind Second Life makes its synthetic world flexible enough to fit any interest. There are thousands of unique worlds-in-miniature in Second Life, all created by individual users who pay Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life, for the privilege of creation.

One of the most active Iranian protest and discussion worlds is Club Habibi, described as a "Middle Eastern Oasis" where avatars can purchase region-themed clothing and command their characters to dance a virtual version of an Arab belly dance. Over 9,200 avatars pass through Club Habibi every hour. Some merely explore for a few minutes and fly off, while others meet up with virtual friends from places as far-flung as Damascus and Denver. Unsurprisingly, conversation often leads to Iran's electoral problems, where real-life Iranians can express themselves and carry their message beyond the locked-down borders of Khamenei's temporal dominion.

While places like Club Habibi provide a free virtual forum for Iranians to spread their message, other Second Life venues provide a more somber experience. Hundreds of Second Life players captured international media attention as early as June 25 after announcing plans for a "Virtual Vigil" in memory of anti-Ahmadinejad protesters killed by Iranian security forces. The vigil, which lasted nearly two hours, relied entirely on word-of-mouth to sustain the flow of virtual candle-holding mourners.

The vigil proved so successful that its organizers, a Second Life group named "Support Iran," announced ambitious plans to continue the vigil indefinitely. Nearly two months later, a casual visitor can still find several Second Life avatars diligently holding candles and placards in support of Iran's nascent democratic movement.


Rep. Frank: House will pass Ron Paul’s ‘audit the Fed’ bill this year

By Stephen C. Webster

Powerful House Financial Services Committee chairman says central bank's lending powers to be 'curtailed'

Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), one of the most unabashed liberals in the U.S. House of Representatives, told a Massachusetts town hall recently that Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul's bill to audit the Federal Reserve will clear his chamber by October.

Over half of the House members, most of them Republican, have signed on to the bill, H.R. 1207.

Though Frank disagrees — as many proponents of the bill contend — that the Fed is the cause of the U.S. dollar's shrinking value, he told a Massachusetts audience that he's been a proponent of greater transparency at the nation's central bank for some time.

"Here's what we plan to do: I want to restrict the powers of the Federal Reserve in a number of ways," he said. "First of all, they will be the major losers of power if we're successful, as I believe we will be, setting up that, uh, financial product protection committee."

The committee Frank mentioned was proposed by President Barack Obama during the campaign, as a way of protecting consumers. It was formally presented to Congress in the President's financial regulatory reform white papers in July, noted law firm Wiley Rein LLP.

"The Federal Reserve is now charged with protecting consumers," continued Frank. "They were supposed to do sub-prime mortgage restricted … Congress in 1994 gave the Federal Reserve the power to adopt rules to ban bad sub-prime mortgages. … They have the power to ban credit card abuses. They have the power to do most of it. They, under Greenspan, did nothing.

"Under Bernanke, they started to do things, but only after Congress started, when I became chairman of the [House Financial Services Committee], we began to act on these things: Sub-prime mortgages, credit cards, overdraft … And after we started, the Fed did. So, that's why one of the reasons why in the new consumer protection agency we will take away from the Federal Reserve the power to do consumer protection."

Frank added that Congress will reverse an action by the Democratic Congress of 1932 that gives the Fed authority to lend money at will.

"Under section 13.3 of the Federal Reserve Act, they can lend money to whoever they want," he said. "We are going to curtail that lending power. We are going to put some constraints on it."

He concluded: "Finally, we are going to subject them to a complete audit. I've been working with Ron Paul, the main sponsor of that bill …" Several in the audience applauded. "He believes that we don't want to have the audit appear as if it is influencing monetary policy because that would be inflationary … One of the things that will show you is what the Federal Reserve buys and sells. That will be made public, but not instantly. If it were instant, you would have a lot of people trading off that and it would have too much impact on the market. Again, Ron agrees with that. So, we will probably have that data released after a time period of several months — enough time so it won't be market sensitive."


Introduction to Right Wing Logic

Mason Tvert bamboozles his way onto the Amazon bestseller list

mason tvert.jpgMason Tvert, executive director of SAFER (Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation), which ran a successful 2005 campaign to legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana in Denver, has long been the merry prankster of Colorado weed activists -- a prankster who knows how to have serious impact. When photos surfaced of Governor Bill Ritter's son hitting the booze at a governor's mansion party, Tvert and his posse threw a media-grabbing kegger on the mansion lawn to prove the point that the encouragement of alcohol but not pot was a total party foul. He was also responsible for arguably the most successful billboard that never actually existed: In 2005, as part of the Denver pot legalization campaign, SAFER proposed a billboard celebrating Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams, who'd been suspended for marijuana use. The billboard attracted national attention -- even though Tvert never actually put it up.
Now Tvert, with the help of two other pot activists, has distilled his central argument into book form -- Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? -- and, true to style, he's found a way to upend the publishing industry. Yesterday, Marijuana is Safer hit number 14 on Amazon's bestselling book list, beating out heavyweights like Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and the newest installment of the Twilight saga -- even though Tvert's straight-to-paperback tome won't actually be released until September 15.

The secret to Tvert's success was a little something he cooked up called "The Great Marijuana Book Bomb of 2009," in which as many people as possible flooded Amazon.com with orders for the book to boost it up the charts. It's just another token Tvert move to attract attention to his cause -- though he would have preferred the event be on 4/20 instead of 8/20.

George Will calls for pull-out

George Will looks at the camera.
George F. Will, the elite conservative commentator, is calling for U.S. ground troops to leave Afghanistan in his latest column.

"[F]orces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters," Will writes.

President Obama ordered a total of 21,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan in February and March, and casualties have mounted as the forces began confronting the Taliban more aggressively. August saw the highest monthly death toll for the U.S. since the invasion in 2001, the second record month in a row.

Will's prescription – in which he recalls Bismarck's decision to halt German forces short of Paris in 1870 - seems certain to split Republicans. He is a favorite of fiscal conservatives. The more hawkish right can be expected to attack his conclusion as foolhardy, short-sighted and na├»ve, potentially making the U.S. more vulnerable to terrorist attack.

The columnist's startling recommendation surfaced on the same day that Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, sent an assessment up his chain of command recommending what he called "a revised implementation strategy." In a statement, McChrystal also called for "commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort."

In the column, Will warns that any nation-building strategy could be impossible to execute given the Taliban's ability to seemingly disappear into the rugged mountain terrain and the lack of economic development in the war-plagued nation.


Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, USA

http://eternal-earthbound-pets.com/images/dog.jpgYou've committed your life to Jesus. You know you're saved.  But when the Rapture comes what's to become of your loving pets who are left behind?   Eternal Earth-Bound Pets takes that burden off your mind. 

We are a group of dedicated animal lovers, and atheists. Each Eternal Earth-Bound Pet representative is a confirmed atheist, and as such will still be here on Earth after you've received your reward.  Our network of animal activists are committed to step in when you step up to Jesus.

We are currently active in 20 states and growing.  Our representatives have been screened to ensure that they are atheists, animal lovers, are moral / ethical with no criminal background, have the ability and desire to  rescue your pet and the means to retrieve them and ensure their care for your pet's natural life.  

We currently cover the following states:
Maine,New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana ... and growing. 

Our service is plain and simple; our fee structure is reasonable. 
For $110.00 we will guarantee that should the Rapture occur within ten (10) years of receipt of payment, one pet per residence will be saved.  Each additional pet at your residence will be saved for an additional $15.00 fee.   A small price to pay for your peace of mind and the health and safety of your four legged friends.

“We don’t want your tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to trash the planet” The Federal Reserve, 2009

By Robert Singer

Having trouble understanding the events since the October 2008 financial crisis?

Any of this sound familiar:

  • Banks hoarding their TARP funds

  • Gas prices going up when they should be going down

  • Automobile dealerships closed without regard to profitability

  • Health Care reform: The Kevorkian is out of jail early
  • What's going on?

    Bush Sr. said our way of life wasn't negotiable in 1992 but as of October 2008, it's all over but the weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    And in one of those coincidences that don't happen very often: like all four financial meltdowns in history occurring in October, the October 2008 financial meltdown guaranteed Barack Obama, an unknown senator 4 years ago, would be the 44th president of the United States.

    October 2008, to anyone not in denial, marked the last day the men behind the Federal Reserve, all connected to the House of Rothschild, gave up what's left of their wealth so the huddled middle class can trash the planet.

    In 1910 these men already controlled one-sixth of the world's real wealth—gold, silver and raw materials—not the fiat currency we call money.

    Trashing the planet began when the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, one of the most important domestic acts in the nation's history, took the power to create money from the people and gave it to the swindlers and scoundrels (robber barons) of our filtered history for profit.

    One of the more absurd notions that found its way into the writings of economic experts, is that the Federal reserve took away the peoples right to create money so they could make a "profit."

    If exchanging $500 trillion of real wealth: raw materials, commodities, copper, iron ore, petroleum, lead, silver and gold for fiat currency so the middle class (former members of the Third Estate i.e. serfs and slaves) could have houses, cars, RVs, TVs and DVDs—is profitable, then Econ 101 is for dummies and the robber barons are now Robin hood Barons.

    During the last 100 years those swindlers were able to distort the structure of relative prices; generate misallocations of labor and capital throughout the economy; rationalize new governmental interventions in the face of the market "instability" manipulate the patterns of and the profits from international trade which resulted in the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, the stagflation of the 1970's, the dot-com and the housing market bubbles…all of which created unprecedented prosperity for the middle class, $500 trillion of Monopoly money for the House of Rothschild and ecocide for the Planet.

    Banks Don't Make Loans To People Living In Tent Cities

    The Robinhood Barons are now making generous interest payments to the banks for "parking" their TARP and other government taxpayer bailout money instead of making loans to struggling Americans living in their cars and in tent cities.

    Oil prices are on the rise, which is driving up prices at the pump. Economics for dummies would dictate they should be falling.

    Out-of-work, out-of-hope homeless people living in Bushvilles no longer need cheap gasoline to go shopping for all that affordable "stuff" the Fed financed so we could trash the planet.

    And those Americans who are still employed will find it harder to get that sweet deal on a new car because auto dealers won't be competing with each other now that Brian Deese, special assistant to president Obama for economic policy made the decision (not the Chrysler bankruptcy judge), to close dealerships without regard to profitability.

    Deese, age 31, in his first government position, shuffles back and forth from the West Wing to the Treasury Department dismantling the US Auto Industry and rewriting the rules of American "capitalism".

    Deese's first rule: Withdraw Credit and Liquidity.

    Result – Catch 22:

    The pullback in spending causes companies to cut back on inventory and staff - Creating unemployment.

    Which causes spending to fall and companies to cut back on inventory and staff -Creating more unemployment.

    Causing spending to fall even further, forcing companies to cut back on inventory and staff - Creating even more unemployment…


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