I'm not always the biggest fan of Amazon's recommendations, buying books and toys for my daughter frequently leaves me with a screen of Dora the Explorer and Strawberry Shortcake titles. I was skeptical when I bought Wool by Hugh Howey but figured .99 was a small risk.
This story is terrific. I was completely immersed, watching Howey slowly paint a picture of a society gone wrong through the eyes and discovery of some truly compelling characters. I really don't want to give so much away as each short novella adds more clarity and resolution to the questions of "What the heck is going on here?" and "How did this get so screwed up?" It is compelling in its anthropological analysis of human development and became harder and harder to put down as the you learned, along with the characters, how and why their society performs as it does.
You can buy the Kindle eBook of Howey's first installment via the link above or buy the entire collection of 5 stories (the later ones are much longer than the first) here: Wool 1-5 Omnibus by Hugh Howey
In 1983, Alan Bishop of avant-garde freak rock band Sun City Girls was traveling through Morocco when he became obsessed with all of the unusual and "exotic" sounds coming from his transistor radio. He recorded hours of broadcasts and later collaged them into "Radio Morocco," a very strange and compelling CD that was the birth of Bishop's Sublime Frequencies record label. Since then, he's released dozens of recordings and videos of psych rock, traditional folk, ritual, and combinations of those from Indonesia, China, Thailand, Myanmar, Syria, and dozens of other locales. The trailer above is from a film by Bishop and Mark Gergis titled "Sumatran Folk Cinema." I recently raved about the label's new collection of Erkin Koray's pioneering Turkish rock from the 1970s. Another great point-of-entry into Sublime Frequencies is the just-reissued Princess Nicotine: Folk and Pop Sounds of Myanmar (Burma) Vol 1, first released in 1994. The Sublime Frequencies releases are available in the US via Forced Exposure. On a recent episode of the fantastic Expanding Mind podcast, BB pal Erik Davis and Maja D'Aoust spoke with Bishop about extreme travel, otherness, and the "archaeology of global sounds."
Writing in the NYT's BITS section, Brian X. Chen and Nick Bilton describe a disturbing design-flaw in Android: apps can access and copy your private photos, without you ever having to grant them permission to do so. Google says this is a legacy of the earlier-model phones that used removable SD cards, but it remains present in current versions. To prove the vulnerability's existence, a company called Loupe made an Android app that, once installed, grabbed your most recent photo and posted it to Imgur, a public photo-sharing site. The app presented itself as a timer, and users who installed it were not prompted to grant access to their files or images. A Google spokesperson quoted in the story describes the problem, suggests that the company would be amenable to fixing it, but does not promise to do so.
Ashkan Soltani, a researcher specializing in privacy and security, said Google’s explanation of its approach would be “surprising to most users, since they’d likely be unaware of this arbitrary difference in the phone’s storage system.” Mr. Soltani said that to users, Google’s permissions system was ”akin to buying a car that only had locks on the doors but not the trunk.”
I think that this highlights a larger problem with networked cameras and sensors in general. The last decade of digital sensors -- scanners, cameras, GPSes -- has accustomed us to thinking of these devices as "air-gapped," separated from the Internet, and not capable of interacting with the rest of the world without physical human intervention.
But increasingly these things are networked -- we carry around location-sensitive, accelerometer-equipped A/V recording devices at all times (our phones). Adding network capability to these things means that design flaws, vulnerabilities and malicious code can all conspire to expose us to unprecedented privacy invasions. Unless you're in the habit of not undressing, going to the toilet, having arguments or intimate moments, and other private activities in the presence of your phone, you're at risk of all that leaking online.
It seems to me that neither the devices' designers nor their owners have gotten to grips with this yet. The default should be that our sensors don't broadcast their readings without human intervention. The idea that apps should come with take-it-or-leave-it permissions "requests" for access to your camera, mic, and other sensors is broken. It's your device and your private life. You should be able to control -- at a fine-grained level -- the extent to which apps are allowed to read, store and transmit facts about your life using your sensors.
This fantastic video reveals how Agama lizards use their tails to balance as they leap through the air. The footage, combined with analysis of a "robot lizard" made from an R/C car outfitted with a mechanical tail and gyroscope, helped UC Berkeley scientists understand the physics of how the reptile controls its movement mid-jump. Their work supports a long-held theory that velociraptors used their tails as "dynamic stabilizers" when launching into an attack. Apparently, Jurassic Park had it right. "Measuring the leap of a lizard"
HR437, "the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011" makes it illegal to protest in the vicinity of anyone who rates a Secret Service detail (even if you aren't aware of the person's presence), thus sparing politicians and VIPs the ugly and unseemly spectacle of having to confront voters who disagree with their policies. Only three Congressmen voted against it.
On top of that, the punishment can be pretty severe. You can get up to a year in jail for being found guilty of these things, and that jumps up to 10 years if you are carrying a "deadly or dangerous weapon."
As Amash notes, there are legitimate safety concerns to be aware of, and there are issues with doing something that significantly impedes government regulations. But it's really not difficult to see how this bill could very, very easily be stretched to be used against those doing standard protesting against significant political figures.
Yesterday Kodak announced that it will no longer produce any slide film. Having ended production of the legendary Kodachrome in June 2009, they will now cease production of their 2 remaining products Ektachrome and Elite Chrome. Kodak's lovely Ektar line, as well as Portra (sadly, I don't take people pictures) will continue.
Slowly but surely, time marches on.
"Warning over watermelon-sized pine cones" (ABC.net.au, via Fortean Times)
Teaming up with The Lorax and HP isn't just a chance to help clear the Earth of environmentally voluminous trees: print your sustainability stories with the latest PhotoSmart, where each color comes in its own plastic ink cartridge to save cash! [Hp MagCloud via Matt Haughey]
(Video Link) In which a baby sloth is shaved and swaddled.
Sloth milk is hard to come by.
There's an art to swaddling slippery sloths.
Jon Lebkowsky sez, "Former bOING!bOING! 'cyborganic jivemeister' interviews 21st century cyborg anthropologist Amber Case. A discussion of cyborganic mind and memory and the new world of digital tribes. In the SXSW Interactive issue of the Austin Chronicle."
Case spends a lot of time studying and thinking about how digital extension affects our brains and behaviors. "The brain doesn't really need that much stimulus in order to create a virtual reality," she says. In early computing, "we thought it would take much more to incite people into these realities," but text and good two-dimensional interfaces are enough to absorb us totally in virtual worlds. "It's mixed reality, where you can be anywhere and you have different virtual realities going on around you – the different tabs in a browser window, text messages you get, Facebook messages, Twitter messages. All of those are different realities in simultaneous time zones that people are living in all the time, and we switch rapidly between these contexts all the time. People are living multiple virtual realities while existing in one reality at a time."
I asked about the overhead for all the virtual switching we do as we bounce from one to another reality, referring to it as "virtual jet lag." "To be fully aware of an environment and take something in that is not fragmented is important for learning and embodying knowledge," she says. "But the problem on the Internet is, say you learn something on Wikipedia; you're not embodied in that knowledge. Rather than learning in a lab, you're reading something about biochemistry on Wikipedia, learning it there. And halfway through the article, you may be checking your email or looking at Facebook; it disrupts the writing of that memory to your brain." This leads to greater fragmentation of memory than we might otherwise experience. "By the time you've finished loading that memory, you've only loaded part of it," she notes. "And if you stay up late, don't get enough REM sleep, your brain can't get through the natural defragmentation process. And you wake up with a sloppy hard drive of a brain."
Sony's double-screened Vaio P Tablet comes with "4G" internet via AT&T, dual 5.5" touchscreen displays, and a selection of apps optimized for the new format. Running Android 3.2, the data plan costs $35 a month for 3GB and $50 for 5GB. At $550, though, it'll be a difficult sell. With a two-year contract--itself a thousand dollar proposition--it's $400. Product Page [Sony]
Bully is a documentary on bullying that follows the lives of bullied teenagers. By all accounts, it is a brilliant and important film, the sort of thing that young people should see. Except that they won't, because the MPAA's secretive, unaccountable ratings board has given it an R rating for "language." Despite widespread calls to reconsider (including 165,000 signatures gathered by a Katy Butler, a 17-year-old Michigan high school student) the MPAA is standing pat.
Redditor awertz23 suggests that people following this should go watch Kirby Dick's funny-but-horrifying documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated, which investigates the MPAA ratings board. Dick hired a private investigator and determined the identities of the MPAA raters (a closely held secret) and discovered that the panel was not composed of parents of young children, frequently rotated through -- rather, it was mostly composed of studio insiders who served extended tenures. Dick documents the complicity between the ratings board and the major studios and the crummy deal that indies get, and the systemic bias towards violence (including sexual violence) and against consensual sex, especially gay sex.
Ben Sellon submits Red Moon, a short film about a werewolf aboard a Russian sub. An Official Selection at the 2011 Atlanta Film Festival, Hollyshorts Film Festival, St. Louis International Film Festival, and 2012 Oxford Film Festival, it stars Ben as Capt. Alexei Ovechkin and was directed by Jimmy Marble.