Archive for September 12th, 2003

That Old Wrong Chong Bong Song

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PITTSBURGH, Sept. 11 – Comedian Tommy Chong
has been sentenced to nine months in federal prison and fined $20,000
for selling bongs and other drug paraphernalia over the Internet. Chong
will be told in a few weeks where he’ll have to report to prison.

Chong, who’s 65, pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell drug
paraphernalia and pleaded guilty on behalf of his company, Nice Dreams
Enterprises. The company will be sentenced later today.

There’s no word
on how this will affect Chong’s reunion with Cheech Marin. The two
reportedly have been writing a script for a movie.

from
MSNBC

Disney and Dali – Dead Can Colaborate

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In 1946, Walt Disney and Salvador Dali, in one of cinema’s oddest
collaborations, teamed up on a short film called Destino. But Disney’s
studio ran into financial trouble and put the unfinished film on the
shelf. Now, 57 years later, a team of Disney animators has finished what
Dali started.

Destino combines some of Dali’s iconic images — the melting
clock , the tower of babble, a nightmarish beach, a pyramid with a clock
embedded in its base — and adds motion. Images morph into one another,
everything unfolding with a haunting, dreamlike serenity.

article from
Wired News

Scare Tactics Fail: File Sharing UP

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The RIAA has certainly been getting a lot
of press in their campaign to intimidate millions of downloaders via
seemingly random subpeonas of 12-year-olds and grandfathers.  So
how is that stratedgy working out for them? According to the BBC, "There’s
no mass exodus, that’s safe to say. Ironically, usage this week and this
month is up."

from
the BBC

Personal Pyramids Wave of the Future

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The rising number of overweight, inactive
Americans is shaking the Food Guide Pyramid to its foundation. As the
U.S. Department of Agriculture prepares to revamp the pyramid in 2005,
it is proposing tailoring its advice to sedentary Americans
to help
them avoid overeating. The current pyramid, an at-a-glance portrayal of
federal nutrition advice unveiled in 1992, assumes most Americans are healthy
and active.

from
the Atlanta Journal Constitution

Oh yes, this looks much more intuitive

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This handout is the first place winner of the National Science
Foundation and Science magazine inaugural Science & Engineering
Visualization Challenge, illustration category, entitled ‘Innolab 3D
File Manager’ by Adam Miezianko, Kristopher Rambish, Karen Fung and Zavnura
Pingkan illustrating that a three-dimensional interface organizes computer
contents by their relationships rather than their physical position on
a hard drive.

article from
the National Science Foundation

CIA: Bin Laden Tape Authentic

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 – A C.I.A. technical
analysis has concluded that the voice on an audiotaped message broadcast
this week and represented as that of Osama bin Laden is probably authentic,
an official at the intelligence agency said today.

from the New York Times

Approaching Critical Mass

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Soon after I started blogging this year, I had the good fortune to be taken
in by the group of bloggers at Harvard’s
Berkman Center
under the visionary
leadership of Dave Winer. I got the impression very early that Dave seemed
to be working towards a world in which EVERYBODY had a blog. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration (sorry Dave),
but I got the definite impression that he was on a crusade to get as many
people as possible to start their own blogs.

At first I didn’t really understand why. I had read quite a few blogs in preparation
for starting Dowbrigade, and quite frankly, most of them seemed not worth the
time. Should we not, I wondered, push for quality rather than quantity, and
try to teach people to write better and more interesting blogs? What was the
sense in creating more blogs just to have more blogs, if they were all saying
more or less the same thing?

Slowly, over the past few months, my whole perception of the blogging phenomena
has undergone a paradigm shift. I now see that blogs are part of an authentic
revolution in information distribution and represent a new way in which the
web is organizing itself to facilitate contact between real people in the real
world. As part of series of revolutionary updates in information distribution
beginning with the printing
press
, when blogs are adopted by a sufficiently
large number of people they will achieve critical mass and set off profound
and far-reaching changes in our society, politics, and the direction in which
the global information infrastructure is evolving.

As mentioned in an
earlier essay
, the main advantage of the blogosphere as an
alternative to the Major Mass Media is its ubiquity, its ability to be on the
scene instantly, to know the principals and the principles involved in a story
first-hand. One of its main
vulnerabilities
is the ability of the entrenched
power structure to apply pressure or even shut off any individual blogger or
group which threatens its primacy. Both of these issues could reach a tippling
point in favor of the new media when the sheer number of blogs reaches critical
mass.

For the Blogosphere Brain to act as a viable alternative to the existing Mass
Media Mind, it needs innumerable cells in every corner of the globe, and in
every niche of human expertise. Would the developed world’s ignorance of the
million-man massacres going on right now in the Congo continue if there were
a blogger in every village in Central Africa? Would our understanding of the terrible
dynamics of the Columbine school shootings not have been enhanced if a few
fifteen and sixteen year old sophomores and juniors at Columbine High School
had been bloggers, and had known the shooters and victims personally? When the number
of blogs hits critical mass the question will become, How can CNN, with their
47 bureaus in major world capitals, compete with the Blogosphere, with 50 MILLION
bureaus in every backwater, two-bit crossroads on the planet?

As to the questions raised in my paranoid ramblings (The
Darker Side of Blogging)
,
eventually the sheer number of bloggers, the very redundancy which made me
question the wisdom of merely multiplying the number of bloggersin the first
place, can protect them from outside pressure. Sure, the government could probably
shut down
any
individual
blog, or server, or
even
ISP. But when there are a hundred or a thousand bloggers ready to step into
the gap in the chain, and tens of thousands of copies of every posting circulating
in the internet bloodstream, there will be no way to control or contain it.
Massively parallel blogging will overcome any attempts to stem the tide.

When will critical mass be achieved? Is it even inevitable that it will, at
this stage of the game. Dave says he half expects the storm troopers to march
down Mass Ave and put the kibosh on BloggerCon. I tend to think that the die
is cast, and its too late to stop it now. Trying to stop the blog revolution
would be like the Pope declaring the printing press illegal in 15th century
Europe because it was a threat to the jobs of illuminated manuscriptors.

Furthermore, I believe that when Critical Mass is achieved, it will set off
a series of changes that we cannot even begin to imagine or predict. Personally,
I hope they include the chance to wrest away control of the global stream of
consciousness from the cabal of suits who currently direct it hither and thither
from glass and steel palaces in New York and LA. And at the risk of sounding
like a sci-fi wacko, in my heart of hearts, I suspect that if allowed to develop
sufficient cells and synapses, the world-wide blogosphere and the infrastructure
that underlies it may evolve a completely new kind of collective consciousness.

Note: This is the last in a series on the future of blogging which began
with

Can Truth Trump the Big Lie
and continued with
The Darker Side of Blogging

The Other September 11

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Those were the days. When the CIA could meddle with impunity,
blogs and the internet didn’t exist, and the White House could change
a regieme faster and easier than changing the sheets in the Lincoln Bedroom.
The word
at the
time
was
that President
Allende
had comitted suicide, pausing only twice to reload his machine gun.

article from
the New York Times

Record Cold in Cambridge – half a billionth of a degree above absolute zero

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A team of physicists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has created the coolest thing in the world. Using a labyrinth of lasers, lenses, and magnetic fields, the scientists chilled sodium gas to the lowest temperature ever recorded, half a billionth of a degree above absolute zero.

“Sometimes your strategy is just to go for the record,” said Wolfgang Ketterle, one of the team’s leaders, a long-distance runner who compared breaking the record to when he ran a marathon in less than three hours. “Just for the heck of it — going for the record brings out the best in you.”

The guy should know. Ketterle shared a Nobel Prize in 2001 for cooling gas to a temperature so cold that its atoms entered a never-before-seen state of matter: They moved in unison instead of jumping around randomly at varying speeds as they usually do.

from the Boston Globe

Invisible Police Officers Ruled Illegal

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An interesting
case out of Olympia, Washington. Police suspected William Bradley Jackson  of
the murder of his 9-year-old daughter, but had no evidence. So they
planted a GPS tracker in his vehicle and followed it until it led them
to the victim’s shallow grave.  The police said this was the same
as following a suspect in an unmarked car.  The court disagreed.

Police cannot attach a Global Positioning System tracker
to a suspect’s vehicle without a warrant, the Washington Supreme Court
declared yesterday in the first such ruling in the nation.

”Use of GPS tracking devices is a particularly intrusive method of
surveillance, making it possible to acquire an enormous amount of personal
information about the citizen under circumstances where the individual
is unaware that every single vehicle trip taken and the duration of every
single stop may be recorded by the government,” Justice Barbara Madsen
wrote in the unanimous decision. She raised the prospect of citizens
being tracked to ”the strip club, the opera, the baseball game, the
`wrong’ side of town, the family planning
clinic, the labor rally.”

Attaching a GPS device to a car is ”the equivalent of placing an invisible
police officer in a person’s back seat,” said Doug Honig, a spokesman
for the ACLU.

from the
Boston Globe