Save the Canadian National Archives

Readers will remember that Canada's national archives are in trouble: they've undergone a $9.6M cut, with more to come. The collections are being sold off to private collectors, many outside of the country. Now the Documentary Organization of Canada has weighed in: "Lisa Fitzgibbons, Executive Director of the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC), succinctly states a case for continuance of sustainable funding of Library and Archives Canada."

Library and Archives Canada advocacy message from DOC

Pussy Riot's lawyers address NYU law

Here's a video of Pussy Riot's lawyers lecturing at NYU Law.

Joly sez, "September 21 2012: Having in the morning received the John Lennon Peace prize from Yoko Ono on behalf of the band, Petya Verzilov, husband of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and the group's Russian attorneys speak at NYU School of Law."

Pussy Riot's Russian Attorneys at NYU Law School - Sep 21 2012 (Thanks, Joly!)

How DRM screws people with visual disabilities: a report from the front lines

ZDNet's Rupert Goodwins is going blind. Most of us will lose a substantial fraction of our visual acuity, should we live long enough. As a service to his readers, Goodwins is documenting the way that technology can be adapted for people with visual disabilities. It's a fascinating story: as he says, "there's never been a better time to go blind: we are busy converting the world to digital, and digital is supremely easy to convert."

But that's only true as long as there's no DRM in the mix. Once DRM gets into your information stream, your ability to adapt what's happening on your screen to work with your disability is severely curtailed. As Goodwins discovered, the world of ebooks is especially hard on people with visual disabilities.

...[I]t turned out I needed Adobe Digital Editions to 'manage my content'. Some fun later — you have to download it from a particularly brain-dead web page with teeny-tiny dialog boxes that were broken in Chrome and invisible in Firefox — and I had a large blob of code to install on my Windows box.

It tried, of course, to force me to give Adobe my email and other details for the 'Adobe ID' that it assured me I needed to get full functionality. I demurred... and was confronted by a user interface that was tiny white text on a black background. Unreadable. Options to change this? If they exist, I couldn't find them.

Getting this far had taken me half an hour fighting my way through a nest of misery and frustration with broken eyes and a sinking heart. Along the way, I'd been bombarded by marketing messages telling me to "enjoy the experience" and "enjoy your book".

Reader, I wept. Marketing departments, here's a top tip: if your customer is reduced to actual, hot, stinging tears, you may wish to fine-tune your messaging.

This is the reward you get for being disabled and wanting to do the right thing. This is how the world's most splendid machine for freeing our minds from our physical shackles is itself being shackled. This is what will happen to all of you reading this as you get old. I know this, I've done the research: most of you will start to go blind before you die.

Going blind? DRM will dim your world

HOWTO make a machete wrench


EV Builder and friends were in the midst of refitting a vehicle to be of use in a zombie apocalypse when it occurred to them to turn a machete into a variable hex wrench. They liked the result so much that the published the HOWTO on Instructables.

Perhaps one of the more useful tools I have ever owned was a flat bar with a series of hexagonal cutouts in it. While minimally useful as a wrench because of its long length, it proved invaluable as backstop for holding nuts in place while I was tightening them down. Not to mention that when my wrench set was annoyingly missing just the size I needed, my hard to misplace flat bar always had me covered.

It therefore stood to reason that a Katana with a similar series of hexagonal cutouts would be valuable both for taking down Zombies/Mutant wildlife and complementing any set of tools used for post apocalyptic DYI projects. However, after a bit of research it became apparent that in addition to being expensive to make, “Katanas are notoriously high maintenance”* and at ApocalypsEV we hate the idea of high cost high maintenance (www.ApocalypsEV.com).

So seeking a simpler more affordable concept, we created the Mechanics Machete. It combines the Zombie fighting power of a machete with the utility of a set of wrenches. Also when using stainless steel for the blade, it eliminates the maintenance hassle of trying to keep the blade rust free.

Every time I see a hex-wrench made by cutting a shape out of a piece of metal, I remember the time Gatwick airport security stole my belt-buckle, including the little loop that held the belt's tongue, because the loop had a hexagonal cutout that was a "wrench."

Apocalypse Mechanics Machete (via Neatorama)

Pharmaceutical companies deliberately mislead doctors into prescribing useless and even harmful meds

Writing in the Guardian, Ben Goldacre reveals the shocking truth about the drugs that doctors prescribe: thanks to aggressive manipulation from the pharmaceutical companies and passivity from regulators, doctors often don't know that the drugs were ineffective (or harmful) in a majority of their clinical trials. That's because pharma companies set up their trials so that they the right to terminate ones that look unpromising (or stop them early if they look promising and report on the result partway through as though it reflected the whole trial), and to simply suppress the results of negative trials.

As a result, doctors -- even doctors who do their homework and pay close attention to the published trials, examining their methodology carefully -- end up prescribing useless (or harmful) medicines. And according to Goldacre, this is true of all doctors in every country, because every country's regulators allow pharmaceutical companies to cynically manipulate research outcomes to increase their profits. As Goldacre points out, a 2010 Harvard/Toronto study showed that "85% of the industry-funded studies were positive, but only 50% of the government-funded trials were" -- and in another analysis, industry-funded trials of statins "were 20 times more likely to give results favouring the test drug."

What's more, when scientists blow the whistle on this life-threatening criminality, they're smeared and hounded by the pharma companies, as happened when Danish scientists published a study critical of industry-funded trials in the Journal of the American Medical Association. After the study was published, Lif, the Danish pharmaceutical industry association, called for professional misconduct investigations into the researchers, though they couldn't provide any evidence of the alleged misconduct. Though the researchers were cleared of all wrongdoing, their employers were given copies of the accusations of scientific dishonesty, as did "the Danish medical association, the ministry of health, the ministry of science and so on."

This long piece is an excerpt from Goldacre's forthcoming book, Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients.

Sometimes trials are flawed by design. You can compare your new drug with something you know to be rubbish – an existing drug at an inadequate dose, perhaps, or a placebo sugar pill that does almost nothing. You can choose your patients very carefully, so they are more likely to get better on your treatment. You can peek at the results halfway through, and stop your trial early if they look good. But after all these methodological quirks comes one very simple insult to the integrity of the data. Sometimes, drug companies conduct lots of trials, and when they see that the results are unflattering, they simply fail to publish them.

Because researchers are free to bury any result they please, patients are exposed to harm on a staggering scale throughout the whole of medicine. Doctors can have no idea about the true effects of the treatments they give. Does this drug really work best, or have I simply been deprived of half the data? No one can tell. Is this expensive drug worth the money, or has the data simply been massaged? No one can tell. Will this drug kill patients? Is there any evidence that it's dangerous? No one can tell. This is a bizarre situation to arise in medicine, a discipline in which everything is supposed to be based on evidence.

And this data is withheld from everyone in medicine, from top to bottom. Nice, for example, is the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, created by the British government to conduct careful, unbiased summaries of all the evidence on new treatments. It is unable either to identify or to access data on a drug's effectiveness that's been withheld by researchers or companies: Nice has no more legal right to that data than you or I do, even though it is making decisions about effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness, on behalf of the NHS, for millions of people.

In any sensible world, when researchers are conducting trials on a new tablet for a drug company, for example, we'd expect universal contracts, making it clear that all researchers are obliged to publish their results, and that industry sponsors – which have a huge interest in positive results – must have no control over the data. But, despite everything we know about industry-funded research being systematically biased, this does not happen. In fact, the opposite is true: it is entirely normal for researchers and academics conducting industry-funded trials to sign contracts subjecting them to gagging clauses that forbid them to publish, discuss or analyse data from their trials without the permission of the funder.

Just read it. There's so much more. Paroxetine, a drug that was known to be ineffective for treating children, which had a risk of suicide as a side-effect, widely prescribed to children, because GlaxoSmithKline declined to publish its research data after an internal memo stated "It would be commercially unacceptable to include a statement that efficacy had not been demonstrated, as this would undermine the profile of paroxetine."

The drugs don't work: a modern medical scandal

HOWTO use a phone (1917)


The 1917 Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company publication "How to Use the Telephone, 1917" is a clear, sensible guide to managing your "delicately adjusted instrument," including useful tips like finishing your calls with "good-bye" so that the other party doesn't suppose that the operator has cut them off.

How to Use the Telephone, 1917

Molly Crabapple-illustrated Warren Ellis short story in five fits, limited edition


Molly Crabapple and Warren Ellis collaborated on "Ariadne and the Science," five short-short stories with accompanying illustrations. Each is available in a limited edition of 25 giclee prints, signed by Crabapple, for $100 each through Etsy. Here's number II (and here's a link to number I).

There was lots of names for the thing Ariadne made: computational flora, iGrass, memory trees, That Damned Stuff. There were lots of names for Ariadne, too, because when she got tired of nobody being able or willing to answer her questions, she just released Ariadne’s Meadow into the world. Fields began thinking, and forests began processing, and the world discovered that Ariadne’s Meadow was actually quite a nice place that just wanted to help. So much so that seven years later, when everyone discovered that Meadow probes had begun to break up Mercury, Venus and Mars for power, living space and computing strata, nobody really minded very much.

Ariadne and the Science II- Collaboration with Warren Ellis (via Die Puny Humans)

Design Thinking for Social Good: An Interview with David Kelley

David Kelley is the founder of IDEO and the Stanford d.school

David Kelley shares the IDEO Design Process

Avi Solomon: Were the seeds of your future career planted in your childhood?

David Kelley: I don't know, I feel I was just a lucky kid. So many kids are not allowed to flourish their creativity. But I was the kind of kid that would take apart the family piano. I can remember I had a perfectly good bicycle I got for Christmas and a few days later I had sandblasted it and painted it a different color. Not that my parents understood why I was always ripping things apart and redesigning them but I was certainly tolerated. So I think it did contribute in a lot of ways. I wish for a lot of other kids that they could tinker like I did.

Read the rest

A video in which a pig rescues a goat

Daww.

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Molotov cocktail in the shape of a heart


"Armament" is Francis Baker's Arab Spring-inspired Molotov cocktail in the shape of a glass heart: "I created this work, inspired by the Egyptians and the so called Arab spring. The visual starting point is the Molotov cocktail that has been the weapon of choice for the protesters. There is a connection in any conflict between the combatants."

armament (via Richard Kadrey)

Great Graphic Novels: Ménage à Bughouse by Steve Lafler

GreatgraphicnovelsLast month I asked my friends to write about books they loved (you can read all the essays here). This month, I invited them to write about their favorite graphic novels, and they selected some excellent titles. I hope you enjoy them! (Read all the Great Graphic Novel essays here.) -- Mark

Ménage à Bughouse by Steve Lafler

NewImageEveryone who is into comics knows what the acclaimed graphic novels are. I have most of 'em and I recognize that they are magnificent achievements. On the other hand I haven't read many of them all the way through because despite their greatness they wore me out or bummed me out or left me out in some other way... like Moby Dick did. I never could get through that indisputably great book.

And so I'm going to recommend a graphic novel that is great because it is good, solid and delivers in spades what I most enjoy in a comic book; a comfortable mastery of the form, fun, surprises, a story I can get into and a light touch. In short its the kind of book you can flop down on the couch with of an afternoon, lie back and enjoy.

It's Ménage à Bughouse by Steve Lafler, published by CO2 and available here.

Archie comic from 1972 about 2012

NewImage Reportedly snipped from an Archie comic from 1972 in which he time travels to 2012. Even if the 1972/2012 bit is off, it's a great panel anyway. (via @coseyfannitutti)

Cool Mint Chocolate Clif Bars are basically giant crunchy Thin Mints

I'm not much of one for energy bars, and I don't think I've ever had a Clif Bar before, but I just bought a Cool Mint Chocolate Clif Bar on a whim and let me tell you: Wow. It's basically a giant oatmealy crunchy Thin Mint. I realized that as soon as I cracked the wrapper, it smells so good. And apparently it has a little caffeine in it.

Get one. Then do what I'm doing and go on Amazon Prime and get two dozen.

Clif Bar Energy Bar, Cool Mint Chocolate, 2.4-Ounce Bars, (Pack of 24)

PokitDok: helping sick people find out cash cost for treatments

Peter Biddle sez,

Some friends of mine are up and running on a web startup called PokitDok. I'm on their tech board and the Facebook, blog and Twitter posts I did while I was dealing with my father's illness and death over the past year became part of their VC pitch materials.

Ted and Lisa and I have been talking for years about how we can use social media and math to link concentrations of organically acquired expertise in specific areas of health (eg cancer survivors or supporters, or people like me with ankylosing spondylitis, or who have had to get a loved one out of involuntary commitment...) with people who have suddenly found themselves immersed in similar situations.

Along the way to solving those problems (and I think they will!) they discovered that there are also some very immediate problems to solve - on Pokitdok they help people find out the actual cash cost for treatments with specific doctors, which in the US is extremely hard for normal people to discover because of regulations and insurance. They also let people look at alt medicine (like acupuncture) and modern medicine in the same place and context, which really is an "it's about time" social integration.

PokitDok (Thanks, Peter!)

The Kairos Mechanism: a half-sequel to The Bone Shaker


Back in 2010, I reviewed Kate Milford's dreamy, Bradburian YA novel The Bone Shaker. And back in April, I blogged Kate Milford's Kickstarter pitch to fund a print-on-demand half-sequel to act as a bridge between Bone Shaker and its direct sequel The Broken Lands.

That Kickstarter was fully funded, and Milford used the money to produce a beautiful little print-on-demand paperback (printed and sold by the excellent McNally-Jackson bookstore in Manhattan) called The Kairos Mechanism. As with Boneshaker, Kairos is a haunting and inspiring young adult story set in 1913 small-town Missouri, and it tells the story of what happens when two boys appear out of a corn field with a stretcher bearing the freshly shot body of a man who died in the Civil War, 50 years previous. Filled with mystery, canonfire and the horrors of war and a villain who's nightmare-scary, Kairos Mechanism is a great interlude and a fine way to tide readers over after we finish the just-published Broken Lands.

The Kairos Mechanism