As Swiss police once again raid the comically-corrupt international Soccer organiation FIFA, its disgraced and banned former president, Sepp Blatter, is to join a panel to discuss how it could be reformed.
Blatter will appear with former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno Ocampo at the University of Basel on April 15th for a discussion on how FIFA can transition through its current crisis. The very crisis he himself presided over and helped create. Makes sense!
The University of Basel seems to know just how outrageous an idea this is. Their description of Blatter is as follows:
"From 1981 to 1998 Joseph S. Blatter was FIFA's secretary general and acted as its president from 1998 until his resignation. Blatter initiated reforms to fight corruption within the FIFA, while at the same time he was repeatedly confronted with allegations of corruption and misconduct."
It's a win-win. There aren't enough TV celebrity panel shows for all the folks who want to be on them, and colleges and conventions are desperate to get people who will actually generate attendance for their events.
Read the rest
There's at least 33 things you should do, see and eat before climate change turns them into sad memories, from Kennedy Spaceport to Las Vegas to the Sydney Opera House.
Read the rest
The first time I had a proper conversation with Jay Lake, it was after the 2006 Los Angeles World Science Fiction convention; I was invited to a dinner with a bunch of other Campbell Award winners from years gone by. It was the year John Scalzi won the award, and I want to say it was me, him, Jay and Elizabeth Bear, though these dinners do blend together and I may be missing a name.
The last time I had a proper conversation with Jay Lake, it was last July, at the San Diego Comic Con, where Jay was in a wheelchair, and when I asked him how he was, he said he was dying, and that he wasn't going to last more than about six months. He was frank about this, and seemed to have made some peace with it. His daughter, the other people around him, we all knew he was dying. He didn't let us get maudlin. But every conversation I had with him meant something, because I had gotten to know Jay by then, and to know what a fantastic person and what a fantastic writer he was. I made a conscious effort to fix every interaction in my mind. I hugged him goodbye when I left. He was still a bear of a man, but unmistakably frail.
Jay died today.
He'd had cancer for years, and had been brave about it, and had fought. He even beat it for a while. Not long ago, though, it became clear that he was going to lose. Read the rest
Lucius Shepard, one of science fiction's great writers, has died. He was 66 70. I had met Lucius on several occasions and found him to be just as you'd hope from his novels: smart and witty (but lots of writers are smart and witty), and kind, and weird in the most delightful ways. I watched a chess-boxing match with Lucius and I have never seen someone more delighted. Shepard was involved in many good causes, and we had brainstormed many ideas for helping friends of his who were eking out a living in Central America as skin-divers and facing grave physical peril. It had been a few years since I'd seen him in the flesh, and I knew his health was often poor, but this was sudden and terrible news out of the blue.
Tor.com's obit does a good job of getting at the facts of his career:
Shepard began publishing short stories in 1983 and his first novel, Green Eyes, appeared in 1984. In 1985 he won the John Campbell Award for Best New Writer; over the course of his career he won the Nebula for his novella “R&R,” the Hugo for his novella “Barnacle Bill the Spacer,” and the Shirley Jackson Award for his novella “Vacancy” in 2008.
But to stop there is to miss how Shepard's fans and friends reveled in his work -- its originality, its dazzling language, its hardbitten and hard-won verisimilitude. He was a writer who changed the readers who found him, and I miss him already. Read the rest
It's been nearly a year since my friend Aaron Swartz killed himself, and it's a year his friends and family have passed by trying to make sense of his death and trying to decide what to do about his legacy. His father, Bob, and I have spoken several times since then, and I've often returned to his insights when I've thought about Aaron.
Bob has done a long interview with Boston Magazine about Aaron and the aftermath of his death. He's especially damning of MIT's role in Aaron's death, and in the inadequacy of MIT's internal investigation following it.
Read the rest
It's a sad day: the photoshopping remix site Worth1000 is shutting its doors, victim of being "technologically orphaned" after refactoring its codebase and then losing its programmer. The site's owner, Avi Muchnick, can't make any changes or updates to the site. He's looking for buyers, or suggestions for turning the site into "a static browsable museum." I've blogged plenty of great stuff from Worth1000 over the years and it will be sorely missed. Our commiserations to Avi and the W1K community.
Read the rest
Now you can play Cyberball
— a computer game that psychology researchers use to study the effects of social ostracism and hurt feelings. Normally, the game is played by test subjects who are hooked up to some kind of brain scanning system and who are told that they are playing against other test subjects in other rooms. In reality, they (and now you!) are playing against a computer program that is designed to exclude you and make you feel unwelcome. Why would someone design such a thing? For science! Of course. (Via Rowan Hooper) Read the rest
While you were eating Thanksgiving turkey, surrounded by loving family and friends, one whale was all alone, swimming through the Pacific Ocean with no one to talk to and no one to care.
Since 1989, researchers have been tracking this specific whale based on its distinct vocalizations. Baleen whales — a category of cetaceans without teeth, separate from their toothy dolphin/beluga/orca relations — are famous for producing eerie, underwater songs and scientists think those sounds are probably an extremely important aspect of participation in whale society. Baleen whales lack keen eyesight and sense of smell underwater, so sounds are probably how they recognize one another, help each other navigate, and even find mates. But these vocalizations happen in very specific frequency range — between 10 and 31 hertz, depending on the species. The Christmas Whale, on the other hand, speaks at 52 hertz. Imagine brining a piccolo to a tuba party. That is analogous to the awkward position that the 52-hertz whale is in.
Scientists usually pick up the call of the 52-hertz whale sometime between August and December, as it makes its way through a Cold War-era network of underwater microphones in the North Pacific. Although this whale has apparently survived for many years and seems to have grown and matured during that time (based on its voice deepening slightly), it also appears to exist outside of whale social systems. It travels alone. Nobody answers its high-pitched pleas for love. Every so often, non-scientist humans remember that it exists and write sad stories about it. Read the rest
Here's some very sad news: Glitch, the innovative and playful virtual world from Stewart Butterfield and his friends at Tiny Speck, is shuttering. The letter from Tiny Speck is very bittersweet.
Read the rest
This is a horrible day. This is a horrible thing to have to say: Glitch is closing. The live game/world will be closed on December 9th at 8pm Pacific time (see when this is in your time zone). The website and forums will remain available until the end of the year, so players can still communicate and find each other. Glitch HQ, the Glitch API and third party applications which rely on the Glitch API will become unavailable at the same time as the website closure.
Automatic refunds for recent purchases will begin immediately. Refunds for older transactions will need to be done manually and will be processed as quickly as possible, from most recent to oldest. For details on your payments, to request a refund, or to see the status of your refund, please visit the refund information page.
Unfortunately, Glitch has not attracted an audience large enough to sustain itself and based on a long period of experimentation and our best estimates, it seems unlikely that it ever would. And, given the prevailing technological trends — the movement towards mobile and especially the continued decline of the Flash platform on which Glitch was built — it was unlikely to do so before its time was up. Glitch was very ambitious and pushed the limits of what could be done in a browser-based game ...
I'm not sure even Chris Ware could have done it any better.
In context, this illustration comes from a recently published paleobiology paper examining a cache of animal bones and pottery found in a sinkhole near China's Jiangdong Mountain.
One of the key things the researchers are taking away from this site: The range of the Giant Panda must have once been a lot larger than it is today.
Here's a link to the paper (which is behind a pay wall)
Via Ed Yong Read the rest
On Sunday evening, US Army private first class Isaac Lawrence Young, 22, was drinking and watching football with his buddies when he got the hiccups. His pal Pfc. Patrick Edward Myers, 27, pulled out a gun to scare him and cure the hiccups, but he accidentally shot Young in the face and killed him. Myers has been charged with manslaughter. (CNN) Read the rest
Back in May, I posted about how the Smithsonian National Zoo took another shot at inseminating Mei Xiang, a female giant panda. Female pandas are only fertile once a year, for 24-72 hours, and the zoo had already tried unsuccessfully to get Mei Xang pregnant for eight years in a row. This year, though, they pulled it off, and Mei Xiang gave birth just a little over a week ago. The bad news, which you may have already heard, is that the baby died last weekend. Nobody really knows why just yet.
Reading the stories about the baby panda's death, I noticed that zookeepers had tried to revive the baby using CPR. And that got me curious. Just how, exactly, do you give a panda CPR. At Slate, L.V. Anderson tackles this question. Turns out, the process isn't all that different from resuscitating a human.
Read the rest
CPR is appropriate when a patient’s heart has stopped (whether or not the patient is human), and the goal is to maximize the amount of blood flowing out of the patient’s heart into other vital organs and to get some air into the patient’s lungs so the patient’s blood will be oxygenated. Some animals, including humans and baby pandas, have bodies shaped in such a way that the best way to pump the heart is to directly compress the chest. Other animals, Iike most dogs and cats, have much rounder chests, which makes it harder to directly compress the heart. With these animals, vets recommend compressing the chest from the side, which puts secondary pressure on the heart.
This short film, "Zombie in a Penguin Suit," is a very high-production-value, often scary, and ultimately very touching seven-minute short film by Chris Russell. It's a good example of how a gimmick played for laughs -- the titular penguin suit -- can become a real emotional touchstone because it seems like such a lightweight gag at first.
Read the rest
Not sure of the origin of this footage, or the mission in question. The quail chicks on the space station apparently didn't live long. (via Heather Goss) Read the rest
In this sweet, melancholy, raucous video, several of Jim Henson's Muppeteers perform Henson's favorite songs at his 1990 memorial service.
(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)
Read the rest
Winter is coming. And Scientific American's Bora Zivkovik has a detailed explanation of the biological basics behind seasonal affective disorder
. Read the rest
As Mark posted yesterday
, Project Gutenberg founder Michael S. Hart, who invented ebooks when he keyed in the text of the Declaration of Independence in 1971, has died. He was 64. He was a copyfighter and a hero of the Internet revolution. Michael honored me by including my books in the Gutenberg archive, and was a challenging and invigorating correspondent.
Michael S. Hart left a major mark on the world. The invention of eBooks was not simply a technological innovation or precursor to the modern information environment. A more correct understanding is that eBooks are an efficient and effective way of unlimited free distribution of literature. Access to eBooks can thus provide opportunity for increased literacy. Literacy, and the ideas contained in literature, creates opportunity.
E-book pioneer Michael Hart dies
In July 2011, Michael wrote these words, which summarize his goals and his lasting legacy: “One thing about eBooks that most people haven't thought much is that eBooks are the very first thing that we're all able to have as much as we want other than air. Think about that for a moment and you realize we are in the right job." He had this advice for those seeking to make literature available to all people, especially children:
"Learning is its own reward. Nothing I can
say is better than that."
Michael is remembered as a dear friend, who sacrificed personal luxury to fight for literacy, and for preservation of public domain rights and resources, towards the greater good.
(Image: The Outlaw Michael Hart, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from benchilada's photostream)
Read the rest