Judging a book by its cover

The Readerville book-cover reviews judge books by their cover. Genre writers spend a lot of time talking about covers, but it's never this highbrow -- it more frequently runs to, "Why the hell is there a badly-proportioned busty space-mercenary in an unzipped jumpsuit firing a laser on the cover of my damned book?"
There are a lot of obvious traps a designer could fall into designing a cover for John Szwed's So What: The Life of Miles Davis, but designer Massand Peploe avoids them all -- no faux retro jazz-cover styling, no hepcat winking design tricks. The simplicity of the concept could scarcely be improved upon. In reality, it's a little, um, jazzier than this scan reflects. The whole thing's glossy black and silver, like a darkened nightclub with a single spotlit musician. And what appears to be just a simple photo of one end of a trumpet actually wraps all the way around the spine to the back to reveal Miles himself on the other end. Simple, modern, low-key (but witty -- the lines get smaller and smaller, like notes fading away) typography underscores the final verdict on this one: it doesn't blow.
Link Discuss (via Kottke) Read the rest

Warren Ellis's alternate Tesla

Warren Ellis takes a break from scripting his new comic to rant about the alternate history posisbilities of Nicola Tesla.
You know Tesla patented something very like a solar panel in 1901? Do you even care?

I do, because it's going to make my spaceships fly. Tesla's solar panels, Tesla's wireless broadcast power, and the Biefeld-Brown Effect, an electrogravitational phenomenon that causes powered flight. (Tesla himself had also dicked around with electromagnetic field lift, to no great consequence. But if he'd gotten proper funding for broadcast power, things could have been different. He may have been a figure of greater stature in his later years, making Townsend Brown consider contact him. A success in broadcast power would make Tesla a more vital figure in his later years, to be certain.)

(I mean, can you imagine this? America, between the wars, was not the US of today. It did not recognise itself as a "superpower". That's one of the things that prevented a quick save of the Great Depression; America did not attempt to shape the international economic environment solely through its own actions, acting as the hegemony. It had retreated to its old policy of isolationism, as handed down by George Washington in his Farewell Address: "avoid entangling alliances". But imagine an America between the wars whose streets were lit, from coast to coast, by wirelessly broadcast power, and revolutionary ways of generating electricity. Imagine something as mad as signalling a way out of the Depression as sending men into space to photograph the world.)

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Moore's new movie: Farenheit 911

Michael Moore's new movie, called "Farenheit 911: The Temperature at Which Freedom Burns," will trace the economic ties between Bush administration officials and bin Laden, and chronicle the erosion of Consitutional freedoms in America in the wake of the 9-11 attack.
According to Moore, the former president had a business relationship with Osama bin Laden's father, Mohammed bin Laden, a Saudi construction magnate who left $300 million to Osama bin Laden. It has been widely reported that bin Laden used the inheritance to finance global terrorism.

Moore said the bin Laden family was heavily invested in the Carlyle Group, a private global investment firm that the filmmaker said frequently buys failing defense companies and then sells them at a profit. Former President Bush has reportedly served as a senior adviser with the firm.

"The senior Bush kept his ties with the bin Laden family up until two months after Sept. 11," said Moore.

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Facts don't violate trademarks

Remember the Taxes.com suit? The site had factual information that criticized one of its competitors, information that was valuable enough that it generated lots of inbound links, which gave it tons of googlejuice, so when you searched for "J.K. Harris" (the competitor's trademarked business name) you got taxes.com in the first results page.

So J.K. Harris sued taxes.com for violating its trademarks, and what's worse, they won -- the initial court held that factual information that contains trademarks was in violation of trademark law.

Luckily, human discourse was saved yesterday when the court changed its mind and ruled that facts don't violate trademarks. EFF filed an amicus brief on Taxes.com's behalf, and the court's findings drew heavily from the arguments we raised.

"The court's decision to reverse an earlier ruling on Taxes.com restores the balance between trademark law and the First Amendment right to publish truthful information," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann...

In its revised ruling, the court embraced EFF's arguments, holding that using a competitor's name in the course of conveying truthful information does not violate trademark law. The ruling pointed out that: "While the evidence submitted to the Court demonstrates that Defendants' web site does contain frequent references to J.K. Harris, these references are not gratuitous; rather, Defendants' web site refers to J.K. Harris by name in order to make statements about it."

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If Imagineers opened a furniture store

Straight Line Design makes incredible custom furniture that has very few straight lines indeed. If I were a squillionaire, I'd have these guys build half the furniture in my palatial estate, and get Roger Wood to build the other half. Link Discuss (Thanks, Grad!) Read the rest

KPMG makes hysterical, self-serving wardriving report

The clueless fucks at KPMG UK have decided to drum up a little security-hysteria consultancy biz by doing a "study" on open WiFi.

They created some open wireless nodes, and then logged what people who connected to these nets did. Sooprise, sooprise, most of them logged in and did nothing bad and then logged out, but 3.8/day apparently ran network probes, which KPMG characterized as an "attack."

Of course, KPMG also believes that linking to its site is an attack, too. Among the surprising risks identified by KPMG's crack squad of security consultants (available for $300/hour and up, no doubt) was that having more people on your network might reduce the bandwidth available to you. H0ly crap$0r! They are fsking 1337!

They also trot out the idea that open nets are "often" denoted with warchalking marks (something that is true only if "often" means "almost never, except as a kind of hipster joke or a marketing stunt").

The "attackers" they logged "attacked" at the same time every day, which suggests that this might have been the same person walking past on the way home from work and trying out the net. Link Discuss (via WiFi News!) Read the rest

Martian flu page scares my pants off

The CBC's roundup page for SARS, the Martian Flu, is impressively terrifying.
* Main Symptoms: High fever (>38° Celsius); * Dry cough; * Shortness of breath or breathing difficulties; * Changes in chest X-rays indicative of pneumonia also occur; SARS may be associated with other symptoms, including headache, muscular stiffness, loss of appetite, malaise, confusion, rash and diarrhea.
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SMS-psyops: CIA using cellphone spam in war on Iraq

G1V3 UP! W3 0WN J00! Okay, that's probably not *exactly* what the SMS spam allegedly issued by the CIA this to military leaders throughout the mideast said, but that was more or less the point. According to this story by Jack Kelley in USA Today, and this one a day later by Farhad Manjoo in Slate, the CIA has been bombarding Iraqi generals and other officials with mobile phone text-messages, e-mail, and voicemail encouraging them to abandon their support for Saddam Hussein in exchange for -- well, not being killed by the United States. An SMS offer they can't refuse. Like those CENTCOM leaflets dropped by the millions on Iraq, only in ASCII. From the Slate story:
Jack Kelley, a reporter for USA Today, wrote on Monday of Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abdul Qassab, who is apparently the object of intense wooing from the U.S. Every day for the past few months, the general has received an anonymous phone call telling him to "give yourself up. You cannot win. You will be saved if you defect."

Reuters has also reported the text of e-mails being sent to Iraqis asking them not to use weapons of mass destruction. One read as follows: "If you provide information on weapons of mass destruction or you take steps to hamper their use we will do what is necessary to protect you and protect your families. Failing to do that will lead to grave personal consequences."

Kelley reports that the campaign has been largely unsuccessful so far. Read the rest

Newsweek's Steven Levy on warblogging + big media (and, kevinsites.net)

Steven Levy tackles a much-blogged subject of late -- blogs, war, and conventional media -- with fresh insight in a Newsweek story today. He also coins a handy new term: embloggers. If you find this of interest, you may also want to check out this blog that Anil Dash recently built to document press coverage of the recently-suspended-by-CNN kevinsites.net. The items in that press clip archive are tracked because they reference Sites' blog, but they all explore broader issues of blogs as a tranformative force in modern media, as does Steven Levy's story below.
The role of professional reporters is another matter. One blogger, freelancer Chris Allbritton, used his site to solicit $10,000 from readers to fund a trip to blog from the northern front. (He's just arrived in Turkey and will be in-country soon.) The BBC has a blog, and a Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter has been using a blog to describe her stay on the USS Abraham Lincoln. But when CNN reporter Kevin Sites' bosses found out he’d been blogging his experiences on an unaffiliated site, they told him to stop.

CNN's response was seen in the Blogosphere as one more sign that the media dinosaurs are determined to stamp out this subversive new form of reporting. But judging from the television and print reports from journalists embedded in military units, there’s another way to look at things. Consider the reports from embedded journalists working for media institutions. They're ad hoc, using quick-and-dirty high-tech tools to pinpoint the reality of a single moment.

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Kelly Link interview on the WELL

Kelly Link, the brilliant short-story author (her collection, "Stranger Things Happen," is absolutely required reading -- I even got a spare copy to loan to co-workers), is being interviewed by her talented husband, Gavin Grant, on the WELL's public conference. Link Discuss Read the rest

Shirky: Why 3G is doomed

Clay Shirky's posted a great analysis about the inevitable failure of 3G (Going, Going, Gone) in the face of WiFi.
The reason the nearlynet strategy is so effective is that coverage over cost is often an exponential curve -- as the coverage you want rises, the cost rises far faster. It's easier to connect homes and offices than roads and streets, easier to connect cities than suburbs, suburbs than rural areas, and so forth. Thus permanet as a technological condition is tough to get to, since it involves biting off a whole problem at once. Permanet as a personal condition, however, is a different story. From the user's point of view, a kind of permanet exists when they can get to the internet whenever they like.

For many people in the laptop tribe, permanet is almost a reality now, with home and office wired, and any hotel or conference they attend Wifi- or ethernet-enabled, at speeds that far outstrip 3G. And since these are the people who reliably adopt new technology first, their ability to send a spreadsheet or receive a web page faster and at no incremental cost erodes the early use the 3G operators imagined building their data services on.

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Massive security haemmorhage at eBay?

I just got the following email from eBay:
From: "eBay, Sven" >sven@ebay.com< Date: Fri Mar 28, 2003 5:34:29 PM US/Pacific To: >doctorow@craphound.com< Subject: Urgent message from eBay SafeHarbor


In an ongoing effort to protect the security of your eBay account, eBay has reset your password and secret question. You will need to go to the eBay site to create a new password before you can bid on or list an item. Additionally, you should have received an automated email confirming this password reset...

3. If your old eBay password was also the password for any other online account you use (Paypal, Billpoint, etc.), we recommend that you immediately change those passwords as well. Good password security means that each one of your online accounts has a different password. Even a slight difference (one letter or number) offers substantial additional protection.

1. Be wary of emails appearing to be from eBay, providing links to sign in, as these are often attempts to collect your password information. Ensure the website you are directed to is in fact one that belongs to eBay. Please note this email does not provide a link, but asks that you go directly eBay. Always make sure that you're on an eBay page before giving out your eBay password or credit card information. The best way to be sure of this is to type www.ebay.com into your web address window of your browser...


Sven eBay SafeHarbor

The headers (possibly forged, of course) suggest that this email orginated with eBay. Read the rest

The Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists

What the name says, folks.
"The Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS) is a club for scientists who have, or believe they have, luxuriant flowing hair. The project was first announced in mini-AIR 2001-02. The initial list [was] assembled by a subcommittee comprised of seven members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science..."
Historical Honorary Members include Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Benjamin Franklin, and Isaac Newton. Link Discuss Read the rest

Retro porntech: Victorian-era nose-operated peepshow

"As the name suggests, this is a nose operated peep show. Originally made for an exhibition dedicated to embarrassment. When you look through the holes a rather boring picture of a Victorian naked lady is slowly revealed. What you do not realise is that the same time two 'decorative' cheek mirrors drop down unseen, two blusher pads come out and redden your face, thus guaranteeing embarrassment"
Link, from the Odd Objects Gallery which contains many similar weird gadgets of yesteryear. Discuss (Thanks, Cowgirl!) Read the rest

War headline moment of zen

Spotted on Fark:
Syria sets up Iraq the bomb. Rumsfeld: 'All Syria are belong to US.'
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Web Zen: An Ark of Critters

chipmunk rabbit bunny vs. bear sheep dogs kittens monkees squirrels

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American Military operation automatic name-generator

An oldie, but perhaps worth a revisit. Click this link for "20 Randomly Generated American Military Operation Names," via Dan Gillmor's blog. Here's a taste of what I got:

Operation Clambering Otter Operation Awesome Daisy Operation High-pressure Meerkat Operation It's Best to Avoid Our Supernova Operation Evangelical Python Operation Grab Your Ankles and Prepare for Our Rocket Operation Prepare to Be Destroyed by Our Uniform

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