A Raw Interview: Ruslan Tsarni, uncle of the Boston bombers.
Update: Dzokhar was captured alive, around 20:30 EST, after hiding in a boat in a Watertown backyard.
@Boston_Police: CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody.
This public interview from today with Ruslan Tsarni, uncle of the Tsarnaev brothers, is impressive. It seems to be from a conclave of media who turned up on his property; and highlights what the media look like as a herd without preptime, and what a family man looks like when stripped to his instinctive graces.
“Dzhokhar, if you are alive, turn yourself in. And ask for forgiveness, from the victims, from the injured, and from those who left, ask forgiveness from these people.” ᔥ Businessweek
Arrested Friday April 19, 20:40 EST
A Horrific Day in Boston – Death and Mayhem at the Marathon
Today was a horrifying day for Boston – our annual celebration of pride, unity, and Spring put on hold for bombs and ambulances. My thoughts are with those who have been injured or killed.
We have these strange interplays of increased safety and increased risk at large public events – it seems to me there is more we could do to shift the equilibrium towards safety in numbers. Even in the face of anonymous attacks from a distance.
But today we mourn.
Max Kennerly’s vote for doing something about Aaron Swartz’s death
The National Criminal Justice Commission Act (NCJCA) Spearheaded by Jim Webb (D-VA) is a first step towards high-level reform of our benchmarks for criminal justice – what is considerd acceptable, and what our justice system should be for in the first place. Most observers agree the system is broken in fundamental ways. It’s not clear to me why a review is controversial; but this act got only 57/100 votes in the Senate in 2011 and was filibustered. (The bill was Tracked over its history by the BulletPath Legislation Channel.)
Max Kennerly, one of the more level-headed critics of Aaron’s legal prosecution last year and this, suggests supporting the NCJCA this term. It was already very close to being passed.
Want to do something right now? Call up your Senators and Representative and tell them you’d like them to start moving again on the National Criminal Justice Commission Act. It failed in the Senate in late 2011, but it’s still bouncing around. Get it on Congress’ radar again.
ᔥ Max’s Blog
From a sysadmin: the perils of reporting trouble (from MeFi)
As a former sysadmin at MIT, I was very curious about this case and eager for the facts to come out, and I guess they can, but not like this. Definitely not like this. I also had the job of chasing intruders out of a segment of MIT’s network (fairly light duty, actually), and having been there I will state the following publicly, because I am pissed off today. Seriously pissed off.
These over the top prosecution of nuisance intrusions makes sysadmins like me highly reluctant to initiate communication with the feds. The threat of criminal prosecution was enough to make Mr. Swartz back off from his actions. That’s why MIT and JSTOR backed off. Someone at DOJ decided to keep going, and he just made life harder for federal investigators in countless other cases, who will not be getting that first phone call from a sysadmin.
When an intruder is on my network, before I call the authorities, I want to know that the authorities will exercise judgement and prosecute accordingly. If he’s a criminal trying to use my resources for crimes, that’s one thing. If he’s a kid or a kook being a nuisance, then the authorities have a duty to exercise precisely enough muscle to scare him off my network and call it a day. If I have reason to think that the authorities will throw the book at a someone who is a mild nuisance, then I won’t make the phone call. I will investigate the intrusiion myself, kick him off myself, and keep my fucking mouth shut. These prosecutions are a waste of money, and today one of them became a waste of a life.
Aaron Swartz, scholar, activist, and Internet hero, is dead.
Aaron took his life yesterday. I am still finding it hard to believe.
His ongoing court case overshadows his death, so let me get that out of the way:
He was living through a two-year federal case which had only become more nightmarish since last year. (JSTOR stated it did not want a trial, and has steadily been releasing the PD articles in question and more for free public use; yet the prosecution, continuing its outrageous abuse of discretion, declined to settle and tripled their felony charges to cover up to 35 years in prison.)
Friends and family were helping him plan a campaign to spread the word about the unreasonableness and inequity of the trial. Its uncertainty was intensely stressful, even for those of us who lived only the tiniest fraction of it. As Lessig notes, the prosecutors – Stephen P. Heymann (and at times Scott L. Garland), working in Carmen M. Ortiz‘s Cybercrime unit – should be taking a long hard look in the mirror and asking themselves what they are doing with their lives.
Aaron was a dear friend, and one of the most decent men I have known. The only times I have seen him truly angry was in response to some social wrong; and he actively looked for ways to find and eliminate injustice. He always considered how to act morally – even when this meant being at odds with local social norms – and regularly paused at forks in his life to think about how to live so as to benefit society.
He kindled ideas from those nearby, and freely passed on his own. Made mistakes often and tried to learn from them, usually publicly. His transparency was a useful meterstick for me. Ages ago, when we first met, I remember him brainstorming ideas about community and wiki design with Zvi and me; about learning and unlearning, society and ideals, civics and collaboration. Once his curiosity was piqued about a subject he would pursue it until he could write about and explain it.
~ ~~~ ~
I spent last night with mutual friends who live now in his old apartment, in a room that was once his; remembering the many great projects he started and inspired – especially the little gems, the personal quirks and insights, the inspiring ideas that became single-purpose services, or calls to arms. (We never did start a dog-walking service for data, but the idea abides.) Rereading some of his writings, I remember the many opportunities missed for synthesis, reframing, and clarity – about how life works, and how to live it.
Everyone has idealized dreams — what would you do with an unlimited wish? — about long-term projects worth devoting one’s life to, to transform the world. Dreams cherished but rarely attempted. Aaron was the only person I felt completely comfortable sharing mine with. We had a little game: a couple times a year we would meet in a nameless cafe, and he would ask for ‘rabbinical’ advice on moral quandaries, and I would ask for ‘professional’ advice on realizing societal dreams. I don’t know that he needed my advice, but I always looked forward to his. There was usually at least one book suggestion from his endless reading list that answered an open question of mine. And no matter how grandiose the dream, he would understand, clarify, laugh, counterpoint, help tune mental models, and remind me to get to it. And we never had quite enough time.
I miss him very, very, very much. Part of my own future has gone missing too.
Somewhere, celestials are being taught to tune the cosmos.
Quinn. TBL. Grimm. Cory. Larry (^2). Cyrus Farivar.
The court case.
Alex Stamos (on the wrongness of the case).
New York Times (front page).
The Guardian (front page + 4 more articles)
In his own words:
How to work.
How we stopped SOPA.
On feeling low and key limes.
From the Boston Wikipedia Meetup on August 18, 2009, by Sage Ross:
Boston to Amherst: 523 hours, across the ocean
I asked Google Maps how long it would take to get from Boston to Amherst, MA (actual distance: ~90 miles almost due West, under 2 hours by car.) The answer:
I-90 E 19,456 mi, 523 hours
Driving directions to Amherst, MA, USA
This route has tolls.
This route includes a car transport.
This route includes a ferry.
This route may have road closures.
The “E” in “I-90 E” was the first indication that something was wrong. Then I digested the distance and time… and scrolled down a few pages. Now any route planning that takes you literally more than halfway \ around the world had better take in some amazing sights along the way. Luckily, this was the case.
The map knew where I was heading, but decided I started in Boston, Lincolnshire in the UK. And then decided I would want to travel the long way round: West. Of course that lets me take in Hong Kong, Hawai’i, and California… maybe worth the 3 weeks of transit. Let’s take a look:
The route straight across southern Russia looks interesting. Also the curving route through China to Hong Kong.
329. Jet ski across the Pacific Ocean
330. Continue straight
331. Slight left onto 県道350号線
Now we’re talking! Apparently you can jet ski straight from HK to Japan… maybe your car can use the teleporter. Don’t miss the slight left just past the big landmass.
389. Sail across the Pacific Ocean
390. Turn right onto Kalakaua Ave
Note it took 60 directions just to cut across Japan before getting back into the ocean… welcome to Hawai’i! From here the rest was pretty straightforward: Sail across the Pacific once more, then drive across the US, picking up I-90 (remember that?) soon after making the mainland. All in all, an enlightening trip and look into the heart of the route-finder. Which clearly has good taste in beaches.
FOOF and A. G. Streng : furiously fulminating fun
Hydrogen sulfide, for example, reacts with four molecules of FOOF to give sulfur hexafluoride, 2 molecules of HF and four oxygens… and [1.8 MJ/mol]
(H2S + 4FOOF –> SF6 + 2HF + 4O2 + 1.8MJ/mol)
That’s a pretty good energy release for 300g of reagents at 200K. As an aside, other than scouring for pubs and citations, who follows up on work like this? Is there a way to track ongoing research by compound?
Via the excellent Derek Lowe.
Awkward deadpan rant: China reviews human rights within the US
This document is difficult to read. It is a Chinese government doc trying with awkward sincerity to review human rights in the US by our own standards, most of which the authors clearly find arbitrary.
It’s like a baby wikipedia article: full of random tidbits that happen to have been published somewhere online. With a mix of real issues and rumors, minimal context, axe-grinding, and undue weight to whatever attracted media attention. It lacks the measure and professionalism of the US report it is responding to (though it gets partial credit for making a handwave at its sources, which our reports should do much more of).
But it does point out one oversight in our list of country reports: we do not publish an internal report on developments within the US in the same format — though the relevant data is gathered by other parts of government. This made me wonder: what sorts of reports do we put out? Could we remedy that? I was also reminded that plans to set up an umbrella national human rights institution have come and gone… were any still under active consideration?
So I checked: the closest thing we have to such a report is the quadrennial self-assessment of human rights that we compile (as every UN member should) as part of the UNHRC’s ”universal periodic review” process. What I found was enlightening and surprising, though not always encouraging. It is worth its own review; stay tuned for a future recap.
Tracking local news: a case study
I passed a burning Bolt Bus this morning. I wanted to learn more about it, so I trolled some local news sites.
Then some hyperlocal news sites.
Then The Internetz, via various search engines.
Twitter? Came through after a fashion: people passing it, like me, on the NJ Turnpike. Some had cameras to match their rubber necks. (HT to LilianeHaub)
Someone also tweeted from another Bolt Bus that whose driver commented on the fire to them.
But no word from people on the bus, or involved with the event; and no actual coverage.
It’s locally newsworthy;
Are there any alternatives to find out more?
Alternatives that focus on certain subgenres?
If you really can’t find any information online, writing down your own interest and what information you’ve gathered is a poor second option. That at least gives others interested in the same topic a place to talk about it.
A fully operational time machine
Greg Brainos, Raleigh-area comic and Norrin Radd acolyte, recently posted on the Raleigh Craigslist looking for male time travellers with male friends. He tweeted about it a few days ago, and got 100 calls and two radio interviews about it before
the Time Lords Craig pulled the ad. The sketchy details gave it a certain appeal to… people who might take it seriously.
Date: 2011-07-20, 3:07PM EDT
TEST SUBJECT NEEDED FOR TIME MACHINE
I have successfully built a working time machine and need a human test subject that is willing to be the first person to ever travel back in time.
Due to the dimensions of the machine, you must be shorter than 6’3″ and weigh less than 230 lbs. Also, you must be male. That’s not due to the dimensions of the machine, it’s just a personal thing. I think a man should be the first to time travel, just like he was the first to fly an airplane and to walk on the moon.
The pay is $3,000 and, of course, you’ll reap the benefits of being the first person to ever travel back in time (media coverage, endorsements, etc.). You will have to sign a waiver that mainly states:
1. I am not responsible for anything that happens to you when you time travel.
2. You are forbidden from interfering in matters that would disrupt the current timeline (i.e. killing Hitler, warning Hitler about D-Day, etc.).
3. You are not allowed to travel back in time for the purposes of tearing up this waiver before it’s been signed, thereby negating this waiver you’re about to sign. I built a time machine, I’m no moron.
As far as the danger of time traveling in this machine, we sent a dog into the past yesterday and it went off without a hitch. He hasn’t yet returned, but that’s just because animals don’t know how to rendezvous. We would like for you to bring him back, if at all possible.
Lastly, you will need three personal references. I can’t take a chance sending some unscrupulous druggie into the past because you’ll mess everything up for us here in the present. The references must be male. Again, it’s just a personal thing.
If you would like to participate, call me on my cell phone <###>
“For most, I ask whether they’re calling from past or future. They say, ‘Present.’ I say, ‘Nevermind, it obviously didn’t work.’ ”
Google to cancel its translate API, citing ‘extensive abuse’
Google’s APIs Product Manager Adam Feldman announced on Thursday they will cancel the Google translate API by December, without replacing it, and that all use of it will be throttled until then. Any reusers or libraries relying on the translate API to programmatically provide a better multilingual experience will have to switch over to another translation service. (Some simple services will still be available to users, such as google.com/translate, but APIs will not be available to developers of other sites, libraries, or services.)
Ouch. This is a sudden shift, both from their strong earlier support for this API (I was personally encouraged to use it for applications by colleagues at Google), and from their standing policy of supporting deprecated services for up to 3 years. What could have spooked them? Why the rush? As of today, the Translate API page reads:
The Google Translate API has been officially deprecated as of May 26, 2011. Due to the substantial economic burden caused by extensive abuse, the number of requests you may make per day will be limited and the API will be shut off completely on December 1, 2011.
Most disappointing to me is the way this announcement was released: buried in a blog post full of minor “Spring Cleaning” updates to a dozen other APIs. Most of the other deprecated APIs were replaced by reasonable equivalents or alternatives, and were being maintained indefinitely with limits on the rate of requests per user. None of them is being cancelled within six months, and none of them are half as widely used!
I hope that this obfuscation was an unintentional oversight. There have been 170 irate replies to that post so far, almost all about the Translate API cancellation. But it has been three days already without any significant update from Feldman or any mention of the change on the Google Translate blog. Google’s response to a ZDNet inquiry was that they have no further information to provide on why they made this decision.
As we did last year, we are working from a remix of the Velveteen Rabbi’s Haggadah (now v. 7.1) – with some quotes, songs, and anecdotes of our own. We will endeavour to live up to Hezekiah’s standard for a memorable feast.