7. Old Christmas Traditions; New Christmas Toys

Dec-20-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: xkcd looks at popular Christmas songs, and finds it’s all the Boomers’ fault. Brilliant research. Meanwhile David Sedaris has a very funny 15 minute monologue on the Netherlands strange traditions. A wonderful site (Thanks, Wilder!) called Know Your Meme will let you look up the latest trends and their history (look at what they do with the hip new phrase “yolo” for further enlightenment!) And David Pogue lets you find new gadgets under $100 to buy yourself  your beloveds, if you’re still searching.

* Xmas Tradition xkcd

* Six to Eight Black Men David Sedaris  YouTube

* December 21st, 2012  Know Your Meme

 Learn about why some people have been predicting the end of the world on 12/21/12 for over 56 years, and who the authors were who popularized the story.

* David Pogue’s 12 Days of Gadgets

Why can’t somebody invent a little beeper for your key ring? If you walk away from your smartphone (iPhone, Android phone or BlackBerry), your key chain beeps to alert you.

And it could work the other way, too. If you leave your keys somewhere, the phone beeps to alert you as you walk away!

That’s exactly the point of the Cirago iAlert Tag



5. Online Life and Confrontation

Oct-05-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Confrontations in cyberspace? No! Read an amazing story of compassion from the Guardian, the backstory to Wikileaks; and why Assange is far from the end of the story, whatever his fate may be; and the look at the world of online debate, and why we aren’t all getting wiser (except for Tikkunista  readers.)

* “The Day I Confronted My Troll” The Guardian

When I left Twitter numerous people thought it was as a result of an overreaction on my behalf. That my departure was a knee-jerk reaction to a couple of “trolling” or “flaming” incidents or that I was attention seeking. The reality of the situation is that my wife and I were targeted for over three years.

It started in July 2009. I’d been on Twitter for over two years at that point, having joined in May 2007, and I’d never had a problem. My account was followed by a fairly innocuous looking one which I followed back and within 10 minutes I had received a direct message (DM) calling me a “Dirty fucking Jewish scumbag”. I blocked the account and reported it as spam. The following week it happened again in an identical manner. A new follower, I followed back, received a string of abusive DMs, blocked and reported for spam. Two or three times a week. Sometimes two or three times a day. An almost daily cycle of blocking and reporting and intense verbal abuse. So I made my account private and the problem went away for a short while. There were no problems on Twitter but my Facebook account was hacked, my blog was spammed and my email address was flooded with foulmouthed and disgusting comments and images. Images of corpses and concentration camps and dismembered bodies. 

* “This Machine Kills Secrets,” about Wikileaks   Boing Boing

Here’s the video trailer for my new book “This Machine Kills Secrets” about the history and future of anonymous information leaks. The book, which started when I interviewed Julian Assange in London two years ago, aims to trace how the Cypherpunk movement used cryptography and anonymity tools to alter the act of spilling secrets and bring create a world where anyone can leak secrets with impunity.

* The Hysteria That Threatens To Erode Public Debate Peter Beaumont The Observer

The internet, it was once claimed by theorists such as Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, was supposed to be democratizing and empowering, giving a voice to those marginalized by the elite of opinion formers dominating the media and politics. These days, even Shirky has moved to distance himself from that earlier utopian idealism, telling Journalism.co.uk three years ago he feared that he, like others, had got it wrong and that public pressure via the internet, far from leading to “democratic legitimation”, could be seen as “just another implementation layer for special interest groups”.

All of which leads to an inevitable question – whether our new developing public discourse, largely mediated online, has made our conversation more open, democratic and accountable? Or, instead, more fragmented and poisonous? Among the pessimists has been the US academic Cass Sunstein, who was early in proposing a more dystopian picture of how debate was being shaped online, noting a fundamental contradiction. “New technologies,” Sunstein has suggested, “including the internet, make it easier for people to hear the opinions of like-minded but otherwise isolated others.”



5. Good News

Sep-28-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Yes, Virginia (and the rest of you!) there is a sanity clause. Some things are improving and the media’s focus on bad news sometimes obscures that. A woman is made fun of on the internet, she speaks out, and her mocker apologizes. Surgical intervention is getting better. And two stories about improvements with cars.

* The Sikh Woman Who Stood Up To Online Abuse About Her Facial Hair The Guardian

Earlier this week, an unidentified man surreptitiously took a picture of Ohio State University student Balpreet Kaur and posted it on Reddit, in the Funny section, with the caption: “I’m not sure what to make of this.” Implicit in his words was the invitation that we all gawp at Kaur because she is a woman who has facial hair. Kaur, a student of neuroscience and psychology, was unaware that her picture had been taken until a friend mentioned it on Facebook, by which time her looks, outfit and turban were all being mocked anonymously on the internet.

With a humbling display of maturity, Kaur joined the thread and explained: “I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body – it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being (which is genderless, actually) and [we] must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will.”

…Well, that shut the “douchebags” up. In their place, the thread was flooded with positive comments, backslaps and a fair amount of personal body image sharing in support of Kaur. Even more impressive, the man responsible for posting the picture offered a tail-between-the-legs mea culpa. “I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture. Put simply it was stupid. Making fun of people is funny to some but incredibly degrading to the people you’re making fun of. It was an incredibly rude, judgmental, and ignorant thing to post.”

* Odds Of Surviving Surgery Up Dramatically Vancouver Sun

The risk of dying during or shortly after surgery has declined dramatically over the past five decades, with the rate now about one-tenth what it was before 1970, a new study shows.

And that improvement occurred at a time when patients who were undergoing surgery were, in general terms, sicker, and the surgeries increasingly more complex….Bainbridge and his group explored the issue by amalgamating data from 87 studies other researchers had done to try to get a global picture of what had been happening over the past few decades to rates of deaths during or immediately after surgery. The patient pool in the combined studies represents 21.4 million times people were administered general anesthetic for surgery.

* Driving Safety, in Fits and Starts – Graphic – New York Times

* Solar Power Supercharging Stations – “fills up your tank” for free via Reddit

Constructed in secret, Tesla revealed the locations of the first six Supercharger stations, which will allow the Model S to travel long distances with ultra fast charging throughout California, parts of Nevada and Arizona. 

The technology at the heart of the Supercharger was developed internally and leverages the economies of scale of existing charging technology already used by the Model S, enabling Tesla to create the Supercharger device at minimal cost. The electricity used by the Supercharger comes from a solar carport system provided by SolarCity, which results in almost zero marginal energy cost after installation. Combining these two factors, Tesla is able to provide Model S owners free long distance travel indefinitely.

Each solar power system is designed to generate more energy from the sun over the course of a year than is consumed by Tesla vehicles using the Supercharger. This results in a slight net positive transfer of sunlight generated power back to the electricity grid. In addition to lowering the cost of electricity, this addresses a commonly held misunderstanding that charging an electric car simply pushes carbon emissions to the power plant. The Supercharger system will always generate more power from sunlight than Model S customers use for driving. By adding even a small solar system at their home, electric car owners can extend this same principle to local city driving too.



6. Neil Gaiman (and his website)

Sep-14-2012 | Comments (1)

Bird’s Eye: It’s bird’s eye all the way down on this one. This is what I found when I was exploring authors’ blogs, and got to Neil Gaiman. It’s worth a (guided) exploration)

Start at Neil’s Work, as you are now trying to remember what exactly did he write.  Notice how the “You are here” next to live links makes it so easy to navigate?

Now click across the menu bar at the top to get a sense of the range of the web site. Note the way the shots of Neil in upper right echo each other. When you get to the “Message Boards” scroll down the page, to look at the numbers of posts and think of that community.

Finally, read a short short story, (1141words) Cinnamon, a charming fable of an exotic princess who refuses to speak. This currently exists only on Neil’s website and has never been published in print or any other format.

Want some more? Read either his bravura Hugo nominated How To Talk To Girls At Parties, or watch him reading The Graveyard Book (yes, the entire book) on tour. The Graveyard Book won both the British Carnegie Medal and the American Newbery Medal recognising year’s best children’s books, the first time both named the same work. It also won the annual Hugo Award for Best Novel from the World Science Fiction Convention and Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book selected by Locus magazine subscribers. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

Three interesting Gaiman nuggets from his Wikipedia entry

* For his seventh birthday, Gaiman received C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia series. He later recalled that “I admired his use of parenthetical statements to the reader, where he would just talk to you … I’d think, ‘Oh, my gosh, that is so cool! I want to do that! When I become an author, I want to be able to do things in parentheses.’ I liked the power of putting things in brackets.”

* Gaiman generally posts to his blog describing the day-to-day process of being Neil Gaiman and writing, revising, publishing, or promoting whatever the current project is. He also posts reader emails and answers questions, which gives him unusually direct and immediate interaction with fans. One of his answers on why he writes the blog is “because writing is, like death, a lonely business.”…Gaiman is an active user of the social networking site Twitter with over 1.6 million followers as of January 2012, using the username @neilhimself.

* Gaiman is married to songwriter and performer Amanda Palmer. The couple publicly announced that they were dating in June 2009, announced their engagement on Twitter on 1 January 2010, and confirmed their engagement on their respective websites two weeks later. On 16 November 2010, Amanda Palmer hosted a non-legally binding flash mob wedding for Gaiman’s birthday in New Orleans.



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