Urban Studies

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The Russian famine which began in 1921 claimed six million people and placed many more at the brink of starvation, willing to do anything–anything–to avoid succumbing to the privations. This classic 1921 photograph shows the starving who had turned to cannibalism to survive. From the June 9, 1922 New York Times:

London–A shocking story of despair, death and cannibalism in Russia was narrated to The Associated Press today by William Shafroth, son of former Governor Shafroth of Colorado, who arrived in London after a year’s work with the American Relief Administration in the Russian famine regions.

The desperate people, he said, are eating human beings, diseased horses, dogs, and cats. Cemeteries are being dug up and long-buried bodies snatched as food. In their hunger-madness the people are stealing bodies from morgues and hospitals to eat. Mr. Shafroth, who had charge of 20,000 Russians working for the American Relief Administration in the Samara district, is emaciated after his arduous work among the starving, dying and shelterless. But he gave ample proof that the famine sufferers did not try to seize him for cannibalistic purposes, as had been reported while he was in Russia. He said, however, that a Russian member of the A.R.A., who died of typhus, was disinterred at night and eaten by crazed inhabitants. This gave rise to the report that Mr. Shafroth had been devoured.

In some respects the young American’s narrative is unequaled even by the tragic pictures in Daniel Defoe’s journal of the plague year.

‘I know one instance,’ said Mr. Shafroth, ‘where a distracted mother of five children killed the youngest in order to appease the pangs of the rest of the flock; but the oldest boy cried bitterly when he saw his mother sever his little brother’s head and place the body into a pot. He refused to eat the flesh.”

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From Rachel Hardwick’s new Vice interview with Dennis M. Hope, a man who claims to “own the moon”:

Vice:

How did you end up owning and selling off chunks of the moon?

Dennis M. Hope: 

I started in 1980 when I was going through a divorce. I was out of money and thought maybe I could make some if I owned some property, then I looked out the window, saw the moon, and thought, Hey, there’s a load of property! So I went to the library, looked up the 1968 Outer Space Treaty and, sure enough, Article 2 states: ‘No nation by appropriation shall have sovereignty or control over any of the satellite bodies.’ Meaning it was unowned land. 

Vice:

But how did you acquire it?

Dennis M. Hope:

I just filed a claim of ownership for the moon, the other eight planets and their moons, and sent it to the United Nations with a note stating that my intent was to subdivide and sell the property to anybody who wanted it. I told them that if they had a legal problem with it they should please let me know.

Vice:

Did they ever get back to you?

Dennis M. Hope:

They never responded. Shame on them! I’ve never had a challenge to my claim of ownership by any government on this planet, period. I’ve had a lot of people telling me I don’t have the right to do this, but that’s just their opinion.

Vice:

So how much land have you sold so far?

Dennis M. Hope:

Well, this is the only job I’ve had since 1995, which is when I started doing this full time. We’ve sold 611 million acres of land on the moon, 325 million acres on Mars, and a combined 125 million acres on Venus, Io, and Mercury.”

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A Nicholas Thompson post at the New Yorker blog looks at the peculiar state of Stanford University, which has administrators tacitly encouraging students to drop out of school to create riches for themselves and their elders. It’s not so much a sign of the decentralization of modern education as it is a contemporary tale of a gold rush and things that get lost in the haste. The post’s opening:

“Is Stanford still a university? The Wall Street Journal recently reported that more than a dozen students—both undergraduate and graduate—have left school to work on a new technology start-up called Clinkle. Faculty members have invested, the former dean of Stanford’s business school is on the board, and one computer-science professor who taught several of the employees now owns shares. The founder of Clinkle was an undergraduate advisee of the president of the university, John Hennessy, who has also been advising the company. Clinkle deals with mobile payments, and, if all goes well, there will be many payments to many people on campus. Maybe, as it did with Google, Stanford will get stock grants. There are conflicts of interest here; and questions of power dynamics. The leadership of a university has encouraged an endeavor in which students drop out in order to do something that will enrich the faculty.

Stanford has been heading in this direction for a while.”

 

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From a post at the great Paleofuture blog which recalls a 1969 prediction about the polarizing potential of narrowcasting, a term that had yet to be coined:

Imagine a world where the only media you consume serves to reinforce your particular set of steadfast political beliefs. Sounds like a pretty far-out dystopia, right? Well, in 1969, Internet pioneer Paul Baran predicted just that.

In a paper titled “On the Impact of the New Communications Media Upon Social Values,” Baran (who passed away in 2011) looked at how Americans might be affected by the media landscape of tomorrow. The paper examined everything from the role of media technology in the classroom to the social effects of the portable telephone — a device not yet in existence that he predicted as having the potential to disrupt our lives immensely with unwanted calls at inopportune times.

Perhaps most interestingly, Baran also anticipated the political polarization of American media; the kind of polarization that media scholars here in the 21st century are desperately trying to better understand.

Baran understood that with an increasing number of channels on which to deliver information, there would be more and more preaching to the choir, as it were. Which is to say, that when people of the future find a newspaper or TV network or blog (which obviously wasn’t a thing yet) that perfectly fits their ideology and continuously tells them that their beliefs are correct, Americans will see little reason to communicate meaningfully with others who don’t share those beliefs.”

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"Don't fuck with me."

“I live on a small farm, never left, don’t fuck with me.”

Japanese samurai sward – $10 (vancouver wa.)

if the family that came here to find there great grand fathers sward and was turned away by a big dumb ass gets this message if you remember when you came here you went to the white house your grandfather built and my grandfather sold then you walked right by me to another house and asked permission to dig any way all i know is i heard you were from new york and you never talked to the right person that would have been me. you walked by me two times once to get lied to and once to leave. i dont know your name or can i get any information because you did not leave any this was around 2002. it has been on my mind, if you get ahold of me and describe what you came here in and can verify you are the right people by the story of what happened because i do know the story but any way your time is getting short. you did not try hard enough you talked to the wrong people you would get better results by not giving up so easy. email me. 

note to others: if you are not the people that came here for the swards do not bother they are not for sale. i am trying to find the owners, besides me.i dont know new york & i may be posting in the wrong part i live on a small farm, never left, do not fuck with me, i dont care. thank you

At the excellent Marginal Revolution blog, economist Tyler Cowen takes on a thought experiment: What if we all died at forty? An excerpt from his answer:

“One question is how child-bearing norms will evolve.  There will be considerable pressure to have kids at age eighteen or so.  (It might be considered unethical to have a child at age thirty-five, although if the fertility rate falls enough the economy might shift heavily into orphanages and this could be considered virtuous nonetheless.) I predict many people would become much stricter in their morals and more religious, and they will have children quite early.

Other people would attempt to maintain a collegiate lifestyle through their death at age forty.  There would be a polarization of outcomes and approaches to life.  Old age as an equalizer, and as an enforcer of responsible savings behavior, would be gone.

The likelihood of warfare would rise, if only because the sage elderly won’t be around and male hormones will run rampant.” (Thanks Browser.)

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Mantis, a two-ton robot with room for a passenger.

From the October 19, 1911 New York Times:

Vancouver, B.C.–The Rev. J.G. Patton, who arrived to-day from Maleoules, New Hebrides, where he has been a missionary for nineteen years, said that shortly before he left a French trading vessel made a raid and a number of natives were kidnapped. 

The natives, in revenge, attacked the steamer and captured three of the crew, all natives. These were killed and eaten.”

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You have to have a lot of faith in humanity to be an anarchist. Have you met people? They’re awful.

The collapse of Wall Street, the sway of corporations that see us as consumers rather than citizens, grave concerns about our environment and the decentralization of communication have opened a door for anarchic movements in the form of Occupy Wall Street and beyond. If only I had more faith in people, the awful, awful people.

An excerpt from an excellent interview that Gawker’s Adrian Chen conducted with anarchist, author and scholar David Graeber:

Question:

One of the major themes of your book is that the current political structure is not at all democratic. I think among the people who would read your book, that’s kind of a given. But you go further in pointing out the anti-democratic nature of the Founding Fathers.

David Graeber:

Most people think these guys had something to do with democracy, but nobody ever reads what they actually said. What they said is very explicit: They would say things like ‘We need to do something about all this democracy.’

Question:

So as an alternative, you promote the model of consensus that Occupy used to organize, through its General Assembly.

David Graeber:

Yeah. What we wanted to do was A) change the discourse and then B) create a culture of democracy in America, which really hasn’t had one. I mean direct democracy, hands on, let’s figure out how you make this system together. It’s ironic because if you go to someplace like Madagascar, everybody knows how to do that. They sit in a circle and they do a consensus process. There is a way that you can do these things, that millions and millions of people over human history have developed and it comes out pretty much the same wherever they are because there are certain logical constraints and people being what they are.

Consensus isn’t just about agreement. It’s about changing things around: You get a proposal, you work something out, people foresee problems, you do creative synthesis. At the end of it you come up with with something that everyone thinks is okay. Most people like it, and nobody hates it.

Question:

This is pretty much the opposite of what goes on in mainstream politics.

David Graeber:

Yeah, exactly. It’s like, ‘People can be reasonable, I didn’t think it was possible!’ And that’s something I’ve noticed, that authoritarian regimes, what they do is that they always come up with some way to teach people about political decision making that says people aren’t basically reasonable, so don’t try this at home. I always point out the difference between the Athenian Agora and the Roman Circus. When most Athenians gathered together in a big mass it was to do direct democracy. But here’s Rome, this authoritarian regime. When did most Romans get together in the same place? If they’re voting on anything it’s like thumbs-up or thumbs-down to kill some gladiator. And these things are all organized by the elite, right? So all the people who are really running things throw these games where they basically organize people into a giant lynch mobs. And then they say, ‘Look, see how people behave! You don’t want to have Democracy!’”

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Hindustan Times report profiles the attempts of a Russian oligarch to create cyborgs by 2045, essentially defeating death. Even if he is successful (very unlikely), what he preserves won’t be exactly you or I. The opening:

“A Russian billionaire has unveiled plans to make humans immortal by converting them into ‘Terminator-style’ cyborgs – a creature that’s part human and part machine – within the next three decades.

Thirty two-year-old mogul, Dmitry Itskov has been pushing the project forward since 

His ultimate goal is to transfer a person’s mind or consciousness from a living brain into a machine with that its personality and memories intact, according to website Digital Trends.

The so called ‘Cyborg’ will have no physical form, and exist in a network similar to the Internet and be able to travel at the speed of light all over the Earth, or even into the space.”

 

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lincolnck

Louis C.K. has some new stuff he wants you to buy (his Oh My God HBO special), so he’s doing an Ask Me Anything on Reddit. Otherwise he would never talk to you. He doesn’t like you.

I love Louis C.K., but he should probably stop being so strict and self-righteous with people who do minor idiotic things in his presence (complimenting him during his routine, asking him for a photo on the street). You’ve done worse things than those in your life, Louis. You don’t get to be the moralistic one now. You get to be reluctantly patient with others because others were reluctantly patient with you. Don’t be a suckbag. A few exchanges follow.

______________________

Question:

Louie, what is pissing you off more than anything else this week? I hope it isn’t this question.

Louis C.K.:

Hope away, bitch. You just ruined my fucking month.

______________________

Question:

Many comedians, including yourself, sometimes joke or fool around about certain subjects that many people think is over the line inappropriate, My question is, Is there anything that you personally think goes over the line and you would never joke about or make fun of?

Louis C.K.:

Nope. I like joking about everything. This will sound too lofty because it is. This is going to an extreme to make a point: Saying a subject is too awful or painful to joke about is like saying a disease is too awful to be treated. Please do not take that out of context, the context being that I realize this is a crazy statement and I’m going to an extreme to make a point.

______________________

Question:

For funsies: What’s your favorite short joke/one-liner?

Louis C.K.:

Why does Pinocchio lie? Because he’s a fucking liar.

______________________

Question:

Who are some of your favorite stand up comedians? What’s your favorite Christmas movie and why is it Die HardHow many dicks were in the largest bag of dicks you’ve ever encountered?

Louis C.K.:

“What’s your favorite Christmas movie and why is it Die Hard?” made me laugh.

______________________

Question:

Who is your favorite female comedian?

Louis C.K.:

Don’t know. Maria Bamford is great. Tig Notaro. Laura Kightlinger. Kathy Griffin. Sarah Silverman. Jessica Kirson KILLS. Marina franklin can be inspired in moments. she’s not a comedian but Mellissa mccarthy is hilarious. I know i’m leaving some out. Going back Joan Rivers. Carol Brunette Phillis Diller Lilly tomlin. Margaret Smith had great jokes. Rosanne had some great stuff. Moms Mabley. I used to open for Paula Poundstone who is a phenomenal performer. Joy Behar, used to work with her in clubs in new york. She was GREAT in the clubs. Um… There’s a woman named Laura House who i don’t think does standup anymore. Susie Essman. Lots of great women comedians. Lots of shitty ones. More shitty men comedians.

______________________

Question:

How is Ewan McGregor?

Louis C.K.:

You’ll have to ask Ewan Mcgregor that. I can tell you that his cock is fine. Because it’s in my mouth right now. I am not joking. I am blowing Ewan Mcgregor right this second.

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There’s no better source for thought-provoking essays on the web than the remarkable Aeon site. There are several pieces each week that make me glad the Internet exists. The latest pair of examples are Leo Hollis’ exploration of future-proofing cities in an age of extreme weather and Jesse Gamble’s study of technological “remedies” for sleep. 

“We do not, however, need to rely on speculation to imagine the impact of extreme weather events on the city. We have seen this scenario unfold before.

On Thursday, 13 July, 1995, the temperature in downtown Chicago rose to a record 104ºF (40ºC), the high point in an unrelenting week of heat. Combined with high humidity, it was so hot that it was almost impossible to move around without discomfort. At the beginning of the week, people made jokes, broke open beers and celebrated the arrival of the good weather. But after seven days and nights of ceaseless heat, according to the Chicago Tribune:
Overheated Chicagoans opened an estimated 3,000 fire hydrants, leading to record water use. The Chicago Park District curtailed programs to keep children from exerting themselves in the heat. Swimming pools were packed, while some sought relief in cool basements. People attended baseball games with wet towels on their heads. Roads buckled and some drawbridges had to be hosed down to close properly.

Only once the worst of the heatwave had passed were authorities able to audit the damage. More than 739 people died from heat exhaustion, dehydration, or kidney failure, despite warnings from meteorologists that dangerous weather was on its way. Hospitals found it impossible to cope. In a vain attempt to help, one owner of a meatpacking firm offered one of his refrigeration trucks to store the dead; it was so quickly filled with the bodies of the poor, infirm and elderly that he had to send eight more vehicles. Afterwards, the autopsies told a grim, predictable tale: the majority of the dead were old people who had run out of water, or had been stuck in overheated apartments, abandoned by their neighbours.

It is easy to forget that cities are made out of people who live and thrive in the spaces between buildings

In response to the crisis, a team from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scoured the city for the causes of such a high number of deaths, hoping to prevent a similar disaster elsewhere. The results were predictable: the people who died had failed to find assistance or refuge. They had died on their own, without help. In effect, the report blamed the dead for their failure to leave their apartments, ensure that they had enough water, or check that the air conditioning was working.

These two scenarios offer a bleak condemnation of our urban future. Natural disasters appear to be inevitable, and yet we seem largely incapable of readying ourselves for the unexpected. What can we do to prepare, and perhaps prevent, coming catastrophe?”

Work, friendships, exercise, parenting, eating, reading — there just aren’t enough hours in the day. To live fully, many of us carve those extra hours out of our sleep time. Then we pay for it the next day. A thirst for life leads many to pine for a drastic reduction, if not elimination, of the human need for sleep. Little wonder: if there were a widespread disease that similarly deprived people of a third of their conscious lives, the search for a cure would be lavishly funded. It’s the Holy Grail of sleep researchers, and they might be closing in.

As with most human behaviours, it’s hard to tease out our biological need for sleep from the cultural practices that interpret it. The practice of sleeping for eight hours on a soft, raised platform, alone or in pairs, is actually atypical for humans. Many traditional societies sleep more sporadically, and social activity carries on throughout the night. Group members get up when something interesting is going on, and sometimes they fall asleep in the middle of a conversation as a polite way of exiting an argument. Sleeping is universal, but there is glorious diversity in the ways we accomplish it.

Different species also seem to vary widely in their sleeping behaviours. Herbivores sleep far less than carnivores — four hours for an elephant, compared with almost 20 hours for a lion — presumably because it takes them longer to feed themselves, and vigilance is selected for. As omnivores, humans fall between the two sleep orientations. Circadian rhythms, the body’s master clock, allow us to anticipate daily environmental cycles and arrange our organ’s functions along a timeline so that they do not interfere with one another.

Our internal clock is based on a chemical oscillation, a feedback loop on the cellular level that takes 24 hours to complete and is overseen by a clump of brain cells behind our eyes (near the meeting point of our optic nerves). Even deep in a cave with no access to light or clocks, our bodies keep an internal schedule of almost exactly 24 hours. This isolated state is called ‘free-running’, and we know it’s driven from within because our body clock runs just a bit slow. When there is no light to reset it, we wake up a few minutes later each day. It’s a deeply engrained cycle found in every known multi-cellular organism, as inevitable as the rotation of the Earth — and the corresponding day-night cycles — that shaped it.

Human sleep comprises several 90-minute cycles of brain activity. In a person who is awake, electroencephalogram (EEG) readings are very complex, but as sleep sets in, the brain waves get slower, descending through Stage 1 (relaxation) and Stage 2 (light sleep) down to Stage 3 and slow-wave deep sleep. After this restorative phase, the brain has a spurt of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which in many ways resembles the waking brain. Woken from this phase, sleepers are likely to report dreaming.

One of the most valuable outcomes of work on sleep deprivation is the emergence of clear individual differences — groups of people who reliably perform better after sleepless nights, as well as those who suffer disproportionately. The division is quite stark and seems based on a few gene variants that code for neurotransmitter receptors, opening the possibility that it will soon be possible to tailor stimulant variety and dosage to genetic type.

Around the turn of this millennium, the biological imperative to sleep for a third of every 24-hour period began to seem quaint and unnecessary. Just as the birth control pill had uncoupled sex from reproduction, designer stimulants seemed poised to remove us yet further from the archaic requirements of the animal kingdom.” 

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Truck-platooning, in which a single driver leads a convoy of automated delivery vehicles, is being tested in Japan. From Steven Ashley at the BBC:

“Imagine cruising down a three-lane highway and rounding a bend to find four trucks rolling along in single-file. They are all traveling close together – perhaps too close – but otherwise everything seems normal.

Yet as you pass the trailing truck, you look up through the sun roof to see the driver on a mobile phone. He should know better, you think as you slide by. Passing the next one, the driver appears to be sipping a cup of coffee and you could swear that he’s watching TV. That can’t be right, but you power on regardless. Then, coming alongside the third, there seems to be no driver at all. You must be mistaken, you tell yourself, as the truck stays in lane and otherwise rides as per usual.

By the time you glance up at the lead truck, you glimpse a driver concentrating on the road. Perhaps your mind was playing tricks on you after all.

Or maybe not. In February this year, a similar line-up of four large trucks circled an oval test track in Tsukuba City, Japan to help get so-called ‘truck platooning’ technology ready for real-world use.”

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Roger Ebert was one of the best newspaper writers ever–lucid, interesting, prolific, intelligent, inviting–in the same league as Breslin, Hamill or Royko. My interaction with him was minimal: I interviewed the critic once by phone and spoke to him another time at the Toronto festival about the Jessica Yu film, In the Realms of the Unreal, which we both loved. He was naturally argumentative and cantankerous but remarkably generous and open-minded and egalitarian and warm. And he was steadfastly progressive in regards to women and minorities, to people who didn’t have the kind of platform he had carved for himself. Ebert was truly the King of All Media, and I’m constantly amazed at how such an ink-stained wretch found his way not only through the world of television but through all areas of the new communication platforms. 

The odd thing is that outside of his early years, Ebert had pretty lousy, hit-or-miss taste in film. He wasn’t a blurb whore like, say, Jeffrey Lyons (who used to loudly mock Ebert’s appearance in vicious, personal terms at New York screenings). He just lost his critical compass by the late 1970s. Sometimes Ebert’s aforementioned progressive politics seemed to get in the way of his critical eye: He disliked Blue Velvet in part because of how Isabella Rossellini’s character was treated, and he named Eve’s Bayou, a good film, the best film of 1997, the same year that saw the release of Boogie Nights, Fast, Cheap & Out of Control, L.A. Confidential, etc. But often he just seemed to make odd choices (e.g., hating Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man) that someone with his intelligence shouldn’t. 

But if Ebert’s taste faltered, his writing and soul never, ever did. He was an amazing guy who left the world a better, smarter place because of his presence. He was loved and will be missed.

In the New York Times, David Carr, who is Ebert’s equal as a writer, examines the Chicagoan’s empire-building skills. The opening:

At journalism conferences and online, media strivers talk over and over about becoming their own brand, hoping that some magical combination of tweets, video spots, appearances and, yes, even actual written articles, will help their name come to mean something.

As if that were a new thing.

Since Roger Ebert’s death on Thursday, many wonderful things have been said about his writing gifts at The Chicago Sun-Times, critical skills that led to a Pulitzer Prize in 1975, the first given for movie criticism. We can stipulate all of that, but let’s also remember that a big part of what he left behind was a remarkable template for how a lone journalist can become something much more.

Mr. Ebert was, in retrospect, a very modern figure. Long before the media world became cluttered with search optimization consultants, social media experts and brand-management gurus, Mr. Ebert used all available technologies and platforms to advance both his love of film and his own professional interests.

He clearly loved newspapers, but he wasn’t a weepy nostalgist either. He was an early adopter on the Web, with a CompuServe account he was very proud of, and unlike so many of his ink-splattered brethren, he grabbed new gadgets with both hands.

But it wasn’t just a grasp of technology that made him a figure worthy of consideration and emulation.

Though he was viewed as a movie critic with the soul of a poet, he also had killer business instincts. A journalist since the 1960s, he not only survived endless tumult in the craft, he thrived by embracing new opportunity and expanding his franchise at every turn.”

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A current teacher and retired male stripper answered questions about his former profession in an Ask Me Anything on Reddit. A few exchanges follow.

_____________________________

Question:

Craziest party you worked?

Answer:

Craziest party: a swingers wedding. I got the job from a friend who had hired 5 girls/5 guys to dance. The entire reception broke out into this massive orgy. There were probably close to 60 people straight out fucking, being fucked, sucking dick and clit, and doing crazy shit all over the room. Girls were being fucked while the guys that were fucking them were being fucked. Just insane stuff. The craziest thing was seeing the bride fucking a double ended dildo with another girl while sucking her husbands dick WHILE he was sucking some other guys dick. That was definitely the highlight or my career.

_____________________________

Question:

Is there any real difference between performing for a male vs. female party?

Answer:

Yes there is a HUGE difference when performing for males vs females, although the venue does play a part in how crazy it can get. Performing for women is absolutely crazier. Girls let everything out that they normally can’t when in public. They go absolutely nuts. It’s impossible to describe it unless you’ve seen it in person. They scream, throw money, try and rush the stage, and typically get away with stuff that a guy would get thrown out for.

Question:

Why do you think women lose their shit like that?

Answer:

They’re just able to let loose easier than guys are I guess. Women are expected to behave a certain way in public. One they get to the revue, it’s a place they can go wild without looking like a slut. It’s the ultimate girls night out. I’ve seen women doing shit in the club that their boyfriends and husbands would absolutely flip over. Having your cock grabbed and junk pulled out is a regular night.

_____________________________

Question:

Was the flow of drugs around you constant?

Answer:

There’s definitely a lot of drugs in the industry. A lot guys pop pills, do coke and smoke. Surprisingly roids aren’t as prevalent as you might think. I only ran into a few guys who were taking them.

_____________________________

Question:

Did any girls ask if they could have sex with you and they will pay you for it?

Answer:

Any given night, although the ones that want to pay for it aren’t the girls you want to sleep with. And no, I never accepted $ for sex.

The Orion Project, brainchild of Freeman Dyson and other scientists from more than five decades ago, which aimed to make far-flung space travel possible in the short term via nuclear-fueled rockets, was collateral damage of non proliferation treaties. (See here and here.) But NASA is now trying to make travel times brief with a new fusion engine. From Iain Thomson in the UK Register:

“NASA, and plenty of private individuals, want to put mankind on Mars. Now a team at the University of Washington, funded by the space agency, is about to start building a fusion engine that could get humans there in just 30 days and make other forms of space travel obsolete.

‘Using existing rocket fuels, it’s nearly impossible for humans to explore much beyond Earth,’ said lead researcher John Slough, a UW research associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics in a statement. ‘We are hoping to give us a much more powerful source of energy in space that could eventually lead to making interplanetary travel commonplace.’

The proposed Fusion Driven Rocket (FDR) is a 150-ton system that uses magnetism to compress lithium or aluminum metal bands around a deuterium-tritium fuel pellet to initiate fusion. The resultant microsecond reaction forces the propellant mass out at 30 kilometers per second, and would be able to pulse every minute or so and not cause g-force damage to the spacecraft’s occupants.”

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From Oliver Burkeman’s Guardian column about the Helsinki Bus Station Theory, which stresses the importance of persistence, rather than originality, in creativity:

“There are two reasons this metaphor is so compelling – apart from the sheer fact that it’s Finland-related, I mean. One is how vividly it illustrates a critical insight about persistence: that in the first weeks or years of any worthwhile project, feedback – whether from your own emotions, or from other people – isn’t a reliable indication of how you’re doing. (This shouldn’t be confused with the dodgy dictum that triggering hostile reactions means you must be doing the right thing; it just doesn’t prove you’re doing the wrong one.) The second point concerns the perils of a world that fetishises originality. A hundred self-help books urge you to have the guts to be ‘different’: the kid who drops out of university to launch a crazy-sounding startup becomes a cultural hero… yet the Helsinki theory suggests that if you pursue originality too vigorously, you’ll never reach it. Sometimes it takes more guts to keep trudging down a pre-trodden path, to the originality beyond.”

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From the June 11, 1894 New York Times:

“A new society of cranks has been started by a former Lieutenant in the German Army. His name is Wäthe. He is the leader of a new ‘ism,’ and as such has sailed from San Francisco to Honolulu. The ‘Fruitarians’ is the name of the new society he represents, and their belief–or rather notion–is, that modern civilization is full of vanities and strange motions, and greatly needs reforming. The members eat nothing but ripe fruit, eschew cooked food of any kind, and drink only water. They are to live in huts, bare of the comforts of civilization, and go naked. Ex-Lient. Wäthe intends to buy a large tract of land in the Sandwich Islands, or perhaps, a small island outright, for the purpose of founding a colony.”

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"Think of me as an organizer of fun."

“Think of me as an organizer of fun.”

problem solver??? this is for you! (Midtown)

I am born and raised in NY I live and breath NY. Nothing is home like walking around Manhattan. Well for the reason for the ad. I’be been unemployed for sometime now and not sure if I’m willing to get back in the rat race again looking for something more life satisfying. Really taking a good look at my desires and abitities and come to a few conclusions. Life is way to short and if not everyone most people feel like their in whole you just can’t escape. I want to make your goals my goals. I know tons of talented and not so talented people but we all have a talent we excell at. For me I love people the more time and variety of personalities I reach the more fulfilled I fell. I want to hear from you let me know what you would like out of life and I want to help from the mundane to the crazy 1 hour 1 NIGHT a trip with a friend. 

Don’t misunderstand I will not perform any services myself. What I’m asking is maybe to have lunch ill pay I want to hear your fantasy and help you follow thru and ill put all the players to action.

You have a party, anniversary, looking to propose I’ll make you feel like the star you should be. 

Want to hang with friends have a exotic night,male, female, gay, bi, swingers just a regular man/women and not sure how to get what you want. 

I know how I’m in NYC and NJ I want to help you go to that place that you feel fulfilled and satisfied place. I don’t bite I’m not joking and it wont cost you to email and start some dialogue with me its free worst case you’ll meet a straight forward visionary who sees everyone as a person with desires just like me.

From the thug in the street to the matrede in the finest restaurant if I don’t know them I have a friend that will. Limos, boat rides, house party, DJ’s clubs, restaurants, strippers, you name it call me? I can only handle sooooo much need to shuffle thru the talkers to find some real honest people out there. By the way this is not free think of me as an organizer of fun. I want to hear from you. Tourist welcome I would also like to see real NYers like myself. Also always looking to meet new friends and associates email me with your talents and Lets talk.

I’m currently working with a limo company that has alot of there vehicles sitting Monday thru Thursday and will put together interesting treats for those days so if you have a restaurant, hall or room in manhaattan contact me I have some potential business for you Lets talk. 

"Matrede."

“Matrede.”

Steve Allen, in 1964, visited by Bob Dylan 1.0, before the singer-songwriter’s fame and the decade itself became a gathering storm.

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The opening ofThe Rise of the Small and Narrow Vehicle,” Brad Templeton’s blog post about how car design will be transformed when (if) we eventually live in a world of driverless, automated taxis:

“Many of the more interesting consequences of a robotic taxi ‘mobility on demand’ service is the ability to open up all sorts of new areas of car design. When you are just summoning a vehicle for one trip, you can be sent a vehicle that is well matched to that trip. Today we almost all drive in 5 passenger sedans or larger, whether we are alone, with a single passenger or in a group. Many always travel in an SUV or Minivan on trips that have no need of that.

The ability to use small, light vehicles means the ability to make transportation much more efficient. While electric cars are a good start (at least in places without coal-based electricity) the reality is today’s electric cars are still sedans and in fact are heavy due to their batteries. As such they use 250 to 350 watt-hours/mile. That’s good, but not great. At the national grid average, 300 wh/mile is around 3000 BTUs/mile or the equivalent of 37mpg. Good, and cleaner if from natural gas, but we can do a lot more.

Half-width vehicles have another benefit — they don’t take up much room on the road, or in parking/waiting. Two half-width vehicles that find one another on the road can pair up to take only one lane space. A road that’s heavy with half-width vehicles (as many are in the developing world) can handle a lot more traffic. Rich folks don’t tend to buy these vehicles, but they would accept one as a taxi if they are alone. Indeed, a half-width face-to-face vehicle should be very nice for 2 people.”

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The problem with pundits is that it almost doesn’t matter if they are right or wrong, provided that they have a forceful personality and can put on a show. The news keeps cycling, its white noise drowning the wrong-headed shouts that should have been embarrassing, that should have carried consequences. In a new GQ postmortem, Michael Wolff points out that despite popular opinion, Christopher Hitchens was just as much of a toolbox as he is. An excerpt:

“This transformation from political irregular and zealous polemicist to towering moral figure was curious, if not amazing, to many people (perhaps all of us) whose careers had intersected with his. How did the character actor become a leading man? How did the fool become a sage? And what about the bad stuff? Not just his full-throttled embrace of the Bush war but, before that, his casual and convenient betrayal of his friend, Hillary Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal, back in the Monica Lewinsky days. Or his take on Bill Clinton, as virulent as that of the most kooky right-wingers. Or his weirdly tolerant relationship with some of the era’s most infamous Holocaust deniers. These are the kind of epochal contretemps that, in the chattering class, usually make for deep enmity rather than enduring love.

Then, too, this sui generis British figure, full of British class issues, British political hair-splitting, British literary conceits, and plummy accent to boot, became, in his transmutation, a super-American – a gunslinger journalist.

What was the nature of Hitchens’ alchemy?

He was, self-styled, a writer engaged with his time, a bookish man called to join the day’s great and bloody battles of conscience. But really his issues were largely of another era: internecine squabbles on the left; a Cold War attention to the world’s geo-sectarian divisions; God’s existence… or not. He never much grappled with technology, or money, or media, or the developing world’s rising middle class – influences that, surely, were remaking the world a lot faster and a lot more profoundly than his long- time preoccupations.

He saw himself as a Sixties guy, even making the case that he was a significant figure in the tumultuous period from 1966 to 1968: ‘I did my stuff in helping my American comrades discredit first President Johnson and then President Nixon.’ Although, in fact, he was still a teenager in 1968. (‘If you remember the Sixties,’ in Robin Williams’ famous formulation, ‘you weren’t there.’) His was a nostalgic show.”

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While Charles Blondin gained fame by crossing over Niagara Falls on a tightrope, and Steve Brodie gained even greater notice by pretending to go over it in a barrel, only “Professor” Alphonse King tried to traverse its channel with tin shoes of his own invention. His results were mixed. From the December 12, 1886 New York Times:

Buffalo–An attempt was made to-day to outrival the feats of Donovan, Graham, Hanslitt, Potts and Allen in braving the terrors of Niagara, which though a failure in one way, was a success in another. Mr. Alphonse King, who is the inventor of a water shoe, gave exhibitions some years ago in this country and Mexico and not long ago in Europe. He gave one in the Crystal Palace in London, and while there attracted the attention of Harry Webb, an old-time manager, who made him an offer of a year’s engagement to come to this country. While here some time ago Mr. King had looked over Niagara River below the Falls and believed that he could walk across the channel on the patent shoes. He came to this country four weeks ago and has since that time been in New-York City practicing for the trip. While there, Thomas Bowe, hearing of King’s determination to attempt the trip, made a wager of $1,500 with Webb that King could not walk 100 feet in the current. The money was deposited with a New-York newspaper, and on Friday afternoon Messrs. King and Webb, accompanied by A.C. Poole, of Poole’s Eighth Street Theatre, reached the Falls.

The trip to-day gave King two cold water baths, and demonstrated that while he could walk with or against the current all right it was impossible to walk across the river because of the eddies, which twice upset them. He retired confident that what he set out to do could not be done. King’s ‘shoes’ are of tin, 32 inches long, 8 inches wide, sloping at the top, and 9 inches deep. Each weighs 30 pounds. They are air-tight and have in the middle an opening large enough to admit the feet of the wearer. At the bottom are a series of paddles, which operate automatically as fins.”

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From a new WBUR interview with cell-phone inventor Martin Cooper, who was inspired to his invention by Star Trek communicators, a passage about his very hopeful prognostication for the future of the cell:

“Cooper sees other revolutions coming as a result of cell phone technology.

‘Just suppose that you could do a physical examination, not every year, which people do and which is almost worthless, but every minute, because you’re connected, and because we have devices that you can put on your body that measure virtually everything on your body. If you could be sensing your body all the time and anticipate a disease before it happens,’ Cooper said.

A computer would process the data, Cooper said, and detect illness and disease before they took hold. It could then instruct a patient on what to do to stop the illness.

‘If you extrapolate that thought, we are going to eliminate the concept of disease. And I think that’s going to happen within the next generation or two,’ he said.

In addition to health care, he sees changes in education, as learning tools become more mobile and students are able to spend more time out in the world learning.

‘If we don’t blow ourselves up, this is going to be a really wonderful world,’ Cooper said.”

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I guess the essential question for Time Inc. and Time magazine in particular is this: No matter how good a job the current editors and managers do, can it be enough for the brand to survive, let alone thrive? There has always been amazing talent there (and still is), but a monolith has trouble adapting, regardless of how much cash at hand or head start it has. The company’s first foray into digital in the mid-1990s, Pathfinder, was a huge flop because editors at the various publications were reluctant to give away their content. And as media decentralization broadened as cable TV gave way to the Internet, where everyone has a channel or 200 of their own, a behemoth with large fixed costs has trouble keeping the “barbarians” at the gates. Rick Stengel has proven a very good choice as Time‘s editor at the moment of digital do or die, but has too much terrain already been ceded? Is the war even winnable?

From “Running Out of Time,” Joshua Macht’s very good Atlantic article with a very bad title:

The newsweekly’s long slide has been blamed on pretty much everything from lack of investment to the AOL merger. And of course there’s the notion that the newsweekly category itself is simply no longer viable–that in the age of the Internet, the weekly rhythm is just too long. But then why the success of The Week or the Economist? For Time, the challenge wasn’t just the weekly print cycle; it was the weekly print cycle plus a crushing load of fixed costs. It’s expensive to support a model that demands reporters around the world, big name columnists, and massive distribution. The high costs means that there’s virtually no room for Time to stumble.

Unfortunately, the brand would fall hard. I joined Time magazine in the summer of 2002 just after the bursting of the dot-com bubble. The largest project during my tenure as editor and general manager of Time.com was to digitize the entire archive going back to March of 1923 – which pushed me deep into Time magazine lore. I tracked the early days when the magazine first took flight to the WWII era when Time could sell more than 400,000 copies in a week even with some little-known Italian general on the cover.

It kept on growing after that. At its zenith the brand could reach more than 20 million people around the world each week. Time practically defined what it meant to be mass media. It was a brand for pretty much everybody. Television and then cable news (CNN in particular) eventually began to chip away at its position, and Time went though struggles and repeated attempts at reinvention through the years. But it took the arrival of the Internet to truly endanger it.”

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