Submit a link Features Reviews Podcasts Video Forums More ▾

RIP, Jeanne Robinson

Sincere condolences to Spider Robinson and family on the passing of his wonderful, talented wife: the dancer, writer and choreographer Jeanne Robinson, after a long struggle with cancer. The human race has lost one of its finest members. Spider and Jeanne's family -- including their grandchild -- were able to be at her deathbed when she went, and by Spider's account, it was a sweet and gentle moment for them all.

Obituary: Jeanne Robinson

(Image: Spider_and_Jeanne_Robinson.jpg, Wikimedia Commons/C. A. Bridges; Creative Commons ShareAlike)

MDs ask patients to assign copyright in any web-posting that mentions their care, to simplify censorship

Jason sez, "Doctors are being urged to give their patients a legal form that transfers a patient's copyright over web postings if they mention the doctor or practice online. The doctor can then send a DMCA takedown notice and have the criticism removed from the web without filing a lawsuit. As a fiction writer this worries me greatly, especially since the organization pushing this copyright transfer says it can also be used for fictional posts."

Medical Justice, who came up with this ridiculous scheme, also seriously misrepresents Wikipedia's position on anonymous editing.

When Online Gripes Are Met With a Lawsuit

Go to the doctor, lose the copyright to your writings (Thanks, Jason!)

Toronto's main reference library hosts punk gig


David sez, "I thought you might be interested in this fantastic article about Toronto punk darlings, Fucked Up, playing a free show at the Toronto Reference Library last night. I love the quote in the article, 'Fucked Up admit to getting most of their album artwork from the Reference library and give props to its "solid microfiche collection".'"

When I was 14 years old, I "de-enrolled" myself from the high-school I'd started out at, stopped going to classes, and took the subway to Metro Ref every day, burying myself in a dozen subjects (and yes, seriously raiding the microfiche). It really warms my heart to see these pics.

Fucked Up Make Some Mosh at the Reference Library (Thanks, David J!)

Guatemala: First, volcanic eruption; then, devastating tropical storm

Update, 2pm PT: HOW TO HELP, after the jump. Above, this photo just posted to the Guatemalan Government’s Flickr feed shows a spontaneous sinkhole (“hundimiento”) 20 meters deep and 15 wide that appeared today in Zone 2 of Guatemala City, after overwhelming saturation of rains from tropical storm Agatha.

Read the rest

McRefugees in Shanghai find refuge in fast food joints

mcrefugees-thumb-500x747-512699.jpg Shanghaiist points us to an interesting article (in Chinese) about McRefugees, residents of Shanghai who spend their nights sleeping in McDonalds because they don't have enough money to pay rent.
...[McDonald's] spokesperson Mr. Lu said the store "doesn't explicitly allow it, but doesn't explicitly disallow it." But for all the stores in the Tianyaoqiao Lu area, KFC has the most serious McRefugee problem. "Because there's sofas there, [McDonalds] only has hard stools. In the winter, people will even bring their blankets and bedrolls into the restaurant."

< This is a loosely connected group. Every night after 10pm, they gradually gather here. All they have is a backpack or a canvas bag, or sometimes nothing at all. They usually sit at the farthest booth from the ordering station, and never order a drink. To entertain themselves, they bring kung fu novels, financial or educational books, and leftover newspapers from other customers. After midnight, they are scattered around every corner of the restaurant. Some in the sofaed partitions, using their books or newspapers as pillows, leaning over tables or even using rows of seats as beds.

A similar phenomenon exists in Japan's internet cafes and fast food joints, too. I once met an internet cafe refugee in Tokyo; he used to wait tables at a bar but was having trouble finding work and didn't want to go home to his parents', so he spent most of his evenings sleeping in internet cafe booths or riding around the Yamanote train line.

The "flotilla video": Israeli troops storm boat with aid supplies bound for Gaza Strip

flotilla.jpg In the news today, worldwide controversy around an Israeli commando attack on a "Free Gaza Movement" flotilla carrying aid supplies to the blockaded Gaza strip. NYT story here. Varying reports on how many were killed: 10 according to Israel, and 19 or more according to the activists and some news organizations. Some 600 people were aboard the flotilla including a Nobel Peace Prize recipient and an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor. The attacked ship was some 100km (70 miles) off the coast, in international waters. Above, video of the event.

Analysis and reactions around the web: The Wikinews article is interesting, in part for the clash of perceptions from those who condemn and those who support the actions of Israel's military. This Jerusalem Post article touches on the resulting PR and media offensive out of Israel, and the government's rationalization for what it maintains was a justified and defensive event (and pointed to ties with Turkey and alleged "Islamist" groups). More reading: "Why the Gaza boat deaths are a huge deal," Blake Hounshell in Foreign Policy. Condemnation from South African Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. "A Lesson in Information Operations," Center for a New American Security. Ha'aretz: "Israel Lost at Sea." Top Israeli official when Gaza blockade was imposed several years ago: "The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet."
(some links via @ggreenwald @ethanz @NickKristof @seanbonner)

Woman sues Google after being hit by a car while using walking directions

route4-500x489.pngA woman named Lauren Rosenberg is suing Google for $100,000 after she walked onto a highway and got hit by a car while following Google Maps directions on her Blackberry. She disregarded, or didn't see, the warning that says: "Walking directions are in beta. Use caution - This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths." She also apparently didn't use common sense.

From Fortune:

Defendant Google, through its "Google Maps" service provided Plaintiff Lauren Rosenberg with walking directions that led her out onto Deer valley Drive, a.k.a. State Route 224, a rural highway with no sidewalks, and a roadway that exhibits motor vehicles traveling at high speeds, that is not reasonably safe for pedestrians.

The Defendant Google expects uses of the walking map site to rely on the accuracy of the walking directions given....

As a direct and proximate cause of Defendant Google's careless, reckless, and negligent providing of unsafe directions, Plaintiff Laren Rosenberg was led onto a dangerous highway, and was thereby stricken by a motor vehicle...

Woman Follows Google Maps "Walking" Directions, Gets Hit, Sues [SearchEngineLand via Fortune]

Update: Danny Sullivan, who discovered and covered the story, has an interesting follow-up about how mainstream news outlets avoided mentioning his scoop in its own rewritten coverage. I've replaced our link to Fortune with a link to his original item. -- Rob

Julian Assange profiled in New Yorker

Julian-Assange-Nyp

Julian Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks.org, a Web site that “collect[s] documents and imagery that governments and other institutions regard as confidential and publish[es] them.” He is profiled by Raffi Khatchadourian in the June 7, 2010 issue of The New Yorker.

Assange is an international trafficker, of sorts. He and his colleagues collect documents and imagery that governments and other institutions regard as confidential and publish them on a Web site called WikiLeaks.org. Since it went online, three and a half years ago, the site has published an extensive catalogue of secret material, ranging from the Standard Operating Procedures at Camp Delta, in Guantánamo Bay, and the “Climategate” e-mails from the University of East Anglia, in England, to the contents of Sarah Palin’s private Yahoo account. The catalogue is especially remarkable because WikiLeaks is not quite an organization; it is better described as a media insurgency. It has no paid staff, no copiers, no desks, no office. Assange does not even have a home. He travels from country to country, staying with supporters, or friends of friends–as he once put it to me, “I’m living in airports these days.” He is the operation’s prime mover, and it is fair to say that WikiLeaks exists wherever he does. At the same time, hundreds of volunteers from around the world help maintain the Web site’s complicated infrastructure; many participate in small ways, and between three and five people dedicate themselves to it full time. Key members are known only by initials–M, for instance–even deep within WikiLeaks, where communications are conducted by encrypted online chat services. The secretiveness stems from the belief that a populist intelligence operation with virtually no resources, designed to publicize information that powerful institutions do not want public, will have serious adversaries.
Julian Assange profiled in New Yorker

Photo by New Media Days / Peter Erichsen licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 License.

China sets new rules banning confessions by torture

Following the reappearance of a supposedly murdered man in China a couple of weeks ago, the Chinese courts have announced new rules that will discount evidence gathered through torture and intimidation. If implemented right, this could be a big deal. From the NYTimes:
Confessions gained through torture are thought to be common in China, though rights advocates and defense lawyers say such mistreatment gains public notice only when a defendant dies in custody. In some recent cases, jailhouse deaths have spurred protests and alarmed the authorities, who are eager to maintain social stability.

In a rare admission of the problem, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, which carries out investigations and prosecutions, issued a report in 2003 acknowledging that what it characterized as forced confessions had led to the deaths of 460 people and serious injuries for 117 others.

The stakes are high in China, which puts to death more people than all other countries combined. The government does not release figures on executions, but Amnesty International estimates the number exceeded 1,700 last year.

Of course, the passing of such a law doesn't necessarily mean that the new rules will be properly implemented, but it's a start.

Chinese courts to bar confessions gained by torture [NY Times]

Microsoft opens Windows 7 restaurant in Taiwan

Microsoft just opened a restaurant in Taipei dedicated to Windows 7. It's called "77 Concept Store," and sells dishes like electronic beancurd for 77 Taiwanese dollars.

Audio clip of prayer time at Dubai airport

Joi Ito took this short audio clip of prayer time at Dubai Airport. He says: "For a lot of people, the first time they hear the call to prayer at the airport it's a weird thing; once you get used to it, it makes you feel like you're actually in an Arab country. And for me, it makes me feel like home." I was also in Dubai recently, and although I'm not religious, I find that the sounds of prayer often give me a sense of peace and regularity.

Spongebob, age 50

11-14-06---spongebob.jpg

via Gary Draws

Beep-it optical theremin in Boing Boing Bazaar

Screen Shot 2010-05-17 At 2.04.18 Pm

Michael Una's Beep-it optical theremin is $29 $35 in the Makers Market / Boing Boing Bazaar.

Beep-it is a handbuilt optical theremin designed by Michael Una.

It outputs a squarewave whose pitch is controlled by the amount of light striking a photoresistor. A single button turns it on or off.

It has a 1/4" out jack for connecting to audio equipment like amplifiers, filters, recording, etc.

Beep-it optical theremin

Installing a swing on the Paris Metro

LaGrotteDuBarbu Saison 02 Episode 1E - MetroQuiBalance from babozor on Vimeo.

Olivier sez, "Last week end, we gently hacked the Parisian subway, modifying the global UI of the subway train by trying to add a swing... it was a semi-fail but at the end an EPIC WIN"

LaGrotteDuBarbu Saison 02 Episode 1E - MetroQuiBalance (Thanks, Olivier!)

Maggie Thatcher performs the Dead Parrot sketch

Here's Margaret Thatcher at the 1990 Conservative Party conference making fun of the Liberal Democrats' new mascot (a parrot), by performing the Monty Python "Dead Parrot" sketch.

The ironies are, of course, glorious. First, because the Tories and the LibDems have just formed the government of the UK. But second, because the Tories voted heavily in favour of the Digital Economy Act, which takes as its premise that this sort of cultural use of creative material is theft and should be vigorously punished (except, presumably, when the villainous Ms Thatcher does it).

Margaret Thatcher does the Dead Parrot Sketch (Thanks, Ethan!)