Urban Studies

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Automation is a great thing for society and wealth creation if we’re able to figure out the new normal politically, which we seem unable to do presently. I mean, we can laugh (for now) at the redundancies when a McDonald’s test restaurant duplicates service with both computer tablets and humans taking orders, but it’s obvious which of those servers will soon be eliminated. From Will Oremus at Slate:

“Score one for the machines. On Tuesday, Applebee’s announced plans to install a tablet at every table in its 1,860 restaurants across the United States. Customers will be able to use the devices to order food, pay the bill, and ignore their dining companions by playing video games.

Chili’s unveiled basically the same plan three months ago. But that doesn’t mean Applebee’s hasn’t been plotting this move for years. In fact, Applebee’s was the name that came up when my former Slate colleague Annie Lowrey first wrote about the tablets-for-restaurants idea in April 2011. Her story focused on Palo Alto-based startup E La Carte, which is in fact Applebee’s partner on the just-announced deal. Chili’s opted for a rival vendor, Ziosk.”

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"A more repulsive sight to any lover of the 'human form divine' it would be difficult to imagine."

“A more repulsive sight to any lover of the ‘human form divine’ it would be difficult to imagine.”

Isaac Sprague was a nineteenth-century dime museum performer who was billed as the “Living Skeleton.” He had some sort of progressive muscular disease and was invited into classrooms as well as sideshows, so that medical students could study his malady. Such a visit to academia was covered by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in truly insulting fashion in its November 25, 1883 issue, which was published four years before his death. An excerpt:

“Isaac Sprague, who is usually advertised in museums or traveling shows as the living skeleton, was exhibited yesterday to the students of the Rush Medical College, and was made the subject of a lecture by Dr. Henry M. Lyman. Several hundred students filled the tiers of seats that rose above each other to the roof of the amphitheatre, and in the small semicircle below sat the skeleton. A skeleton he was, indeed, for there did not appear to be a single vestige of flesh on his body, and the skin was drawn tightly over the bones. He wore a pair of trunks, leaving his legs, chest and arms nude, and a more repulsive sight to any lover of the ‘human form divine’ it would be difficult to imagine. The man’s spine was curved to one side and there was a tremulous pulsation in the neck over the right shoulder that produced an irritating effect upon an observer’s nerves. Sprague’s face is not attenuated in comparison with his body, and his neck seems to preserve some muscular tissues, but all the remainder is a mass of living articulated bones.

The skeleton said that he was forty-two years old and had been suffering from progressive muscular atrophy for thirty years. ‘Cases such as this,’ said the lecturer, ‘generally run their course in five years, and few have been known to exceed twenty years. It is safe to say that there is no case like the present one on record.’

‘Have you suffered much?’ the doctor asked.

‘No,’ said the skeleton in a voice almost as thin as his legs. ‘I have had almost no rheumatic pains; have suffered no loss of sleep; I can eat three hearty meals a day, and have been married twice and now have three children.’

The skeleton, in conclusion, told the students that he now weighs fifty pounds, which was half what he weighed when the disease began. He said, in an incidental and humorous way, that his wife weighed 172 pounds. He himself is five feet five and one half inches in height, and his boy, weighing 125 pounds, can carry his father about like a child.”

Long before patenting an early drone system in 1915, Nikola Tesla was enabling a method for push-button war, which he envisioned as a way to scare the world into an endless state of ceasefire. Of course, it hasn’t worked out that way. The opening of a post by Steven Beschloss at the New Yorker blog:

“In September, 1898, at Madison Square Garden, Nikola Tesla revealed a new invention: a radio-controlled torpedo boat. It was the first demonstration of wireless remote control in history, and it caused, in Tesla’s words, ‘a sensation such as no other invention of mine has ever produced.’ Some witnesses believed that the Croatian inventor was using mind control.

Detailed in his patent, No. 613,809, a ‘Method of and Apparatus for Controlling Mechanism of Moving Vessels or Vehicles,’ Tesla demonstrated how radio signals can remotely trigger switches and direct a vehicle’s movement without ‘intermediate wires, cables, or other form of electrical or mechanical connection with the object save the natural media in space.’ While Tesla recognized a wide list of applications for his remote-controlled robots, including transporting objects to distant locations and establishing communication with and exploring ‘inaccessible regions,’ he presciently, albeit optimistically, zeroed in on the military potential of his invention. ‘The greatest value,’ he wrote in his patent application, will be its use in armaments and warfare, ‘for by reason of its certain and unlimited destructiveness it will tend to bring about and maintain permanent peace among nations.’

Less than two decades later, during the First World War, the Germans employed a remote-controlled motorboat packed with explosives and attached to an unspooling wire.”

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The opening of a spot-on open letter from Carl Bernstein to Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger as the latter was preparing to be questioned at parliamentary hearings:

“Dear Alan,

There is plenty of time – and there are abundant venues – to debate relevant questions about Mr Snowden’s historical role, his legal fate, the morality of his actions, and the meaning of the information he has chosen to disclose.

But your appearance before the Commons today strikes me as something quite different in purpose and dangerously pernicious: an attempt by the highest UK authorities to shift the issue from government policies and excessive government secrecy in the United States and Great Britain to the conduct of the press – which has been quite admirable and responsible in the case of the Guardian, particularly, and the way it has handled information initially provided by Mr Snowden.

Indeed, generally speaking, the record of journalists, in Britain and the United States in handling genuine national security information since World War II, without causing harm to our democracies or giving up genuine secrets to real enemies, is far more responsible than the over-classification, disingenuousness, and (sometimes) outright lying by a series of governments, prime ministers and presidents when it comes to information that rightly ought to be known and debated in a free society. Especially in recent years.”•

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Bernstein + Woodward + Buckley in 1974:

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One hundred driverless Volvos are soon to be deployed in Sweden in a large-scale pilot program. From Trevor Mogg at Digital Trends:

“Volvo is about to take its biggest step yet towards bringing a self-driving car to market with a pilot project that’ll put 100 such vehicles onto public roads in the Swedish city of Gothenburg.

The project, called ‘Drive Me’, will involve the autonomous cars using around 30 miles (50 km) of selected roads in the city, dealing with everyday driving conditions and situations.

The initiative, described by the car maker as ‘the world’s first large-scale autonomous driving pilot project,’ will kick off next year with customer research and technology development, with the self-driving vehicles expected to take to the roads in 2017.

‘Our aim is for the car to be able to handle all possible traffic scenarios by itself, including leaving the traffic flow and finding a safe ‘harbor’ if the driver for any reason is unable to regain control,’ Erik Coelingh, technical specialist at Volvo, said in a release.”

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help me find a shrinking potion (reno nv)

i’m looking for a real working way to shrink. i know its very strange, but i’m serious, and i know that there must really be a way. i would like to shrink myself to 3 inches tall. no joke. lol. i’m a 24 year old male. i’d do anything, anything to get a hold of something that really honestly works. thank you!

Here’s an oddity: In 1991, Doris Tate, mother of actress Sharon Tate who was among those murdered by the Manson Family, appeared on To Tell the Truth hosted by Alex Trebek. The elder Tate became a campaigner for the rights of crime victims. This short-lived iteration of the venerable game show, which had a harder, more provocative edge than such fare usually has, provided a platform for Tate’s work. She passed away the following year as a result of a brain tumor. Begins at the 8:18 mark.

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Sometimes what we think is the end of the world is actually just the end of an era. We’re certainly going through a foundational change now as the Computer Age disappears one stalwart after another of the Industrial Age. But the sinking feeling isn’t just about cultural transition. Reports from one NASA scientist after another tells us that something is seriously amiss environmentally.

Todd Gitlin has a TomDispatch piece about the latest plague and one that could “infect” us all simultaneously: climate change, which is slow and insidious, until it is brutal and devastating. The opening:

“Apocalyptic climate change is upon us. For shorthand, let’s call it a slow-motion apocalypse to distinguish it from an intergalactic attack out of the blue or a suddenly surging Genesis-style flood.

Slow-motion, however, is not no-motion. In fits and starts, speeding up and slowing down, turning risks into clumps of extreme fact, one catastrophe after another — even if there can be no 100% certitude about the origin of each one — the planetary future careens toward the unlivable. That future is, it seems, arriving ahead of schedule, though erratically enough that most people — in the lucky, prosperous countries at any rate — can still imagine the planet conducting something close to business as usual.

To those who pay attention, of course, the recent bursts of extreme weather are not ‘remote’ or ‘abstract,’ nor matters to be deferred until later in the century while we worry about more immediate problems. The coming dystopian landscape is all too real and it is already right here for many millions.”

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From a recent L.A. Review of Books essay by Steffie Nelson about the Los Angeles experience of Aldous Huxley, who enjoyed one final hit of acid and died the same day that JFK was assassinated:

“Huxley freely admitted that the novel as a form may not have been the best container for his prodigious flow of ideas – this is an author who was contracted, during his peak years, to produce three books a year. But Brave New World’s setting in a future where control is exerted through the monitored supply of mindless, artificial pleasure sounds uncomfortably close to our present reality. As recently as 2010, it was number three on a list of books Americans most want banned from public libraries.

I would argue that it wasn’t until Huxley moved to America — specifically, to Los Angeles — that the seeds of his lifelong fascinations with technology, pharmacology, the media, mysticism and spiritual enlightenment fully blossomed and bore fruit. It’s often said ‘The Sixties’ officially began with the death of JFK and America’s ‘loss of innocence.’ But without the dedicated and well-documented cosmic explorations of Aldous Huxley and his cohorts, the decade would have looked very different. It’s not an exaggeration to say that, without Huxley, Timothy Leary might never have tuned in and turned on, and Jim Morrison might never have broken on through.”

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Mike Wallace questions Huxley, 1958:

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Newt Gingrich, a tawdry and horrible man, would turn the moon into a strip mall, into a tourist trap. Some government or corporation could conceivably do just that, as there are few binding rules governing space. This point is particularly tricky right now because as China prepares to land a lunar rover, we’re at the dawn of an age which will see a slew of space projects from both the public and private sectors. Or will they actually be stymied by a lack of regulation? From Derek Mead at Vice:

“In two weeks’ time, we’ll likely cheer the third country to successfully make a soft landing on the Moon. In the next decade or two, we’re likely to welcome a whole lot more, along with the first companies to reach the Moon on their own. While it’s highly doubtful that a country would set out to build a Moon base without first figuring out if it’s legal, it’s a chicken-egg scenario.

The lack of legal clarity could hamper efforts before they solidify enough to bring about a legal review in the first place. Who’s going to fund a Moon hotel if there’s no guarantee a firm could own the property it’s built on? Given the strange history of Moon ownership claims, why would the UN make a sweeping ruling on a nascent plan? One thing is certain: As space becomes more crowded, the question of who can own it is coming ever closer to being forced.”

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Clive Thompson of Wired is one of those blessed journalists who’s as much of a joy to read for his lucid prose as his good ideas. In a new piece, he interviews multifaceted Canadian academic Vaclav Smil, a prolific author and a favorite of Bill Gates. An excerpt about manufacturing in America, which has been outsourced to a great degree in recent decades and in the next few will be increasingly lost to automation:

Clive Thompson:

Let’s talk about manufacturing. You say a country that stops doing mass manufacturing falls apart. Why?

Vaclav Smil:

In every society, manufacturing builds the lower middle class. If you give up manufacturing, you end up with haves and have-nots and you get social polarization. The whole lower middle class sinks.

 Clive Thompson:

You also say that manufacturing is crucial to innovation.

Vaclav Smil:

Most innovation is not done by research institutes and national laboratories. It comes from manufacturing—from companies that want to extend their product reach, improve their costs, increase their returns. What’s very important is in-house research. Innovation usually arises from somebody taking a product already in production and making it better: better glass, better aluminum, a better chip. Innovation always starts with a product.

Look at LCD screens. Most of the advances are coming from big industrial conglomerates in Korea like Samsung or LG. The only good thing in the US is Gorilla Glass, because it’s Corning, and Corning spends $700 million a year on research.

 Clive Thompson:

American companies do still innovate, though. They just outsource the manufacturing. What’s wrong with that?

 Vaclav Smil:

Look at the crown jewel of Boeing now, the 787 Dreamliner. The plane had so many problems—it was like three years late. And why? Because large parts of it were subcontracted around the world. The 787 is not a plane made in the USA; it’s a plane assembled in the USA. They subcontracted composite materials to Italians and batteries to the Japanese, and the batteries started to burn in-flight. The quality control is not there.”

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From the July 12, 1901 New York Times:

Albany, Mo.–An accident in which three children, a pet frog, and some dynamite figure here to-day resulted in one death, the injury of two persons, and the partial wrecking of a dwelling. The three children of George McCurry, a contractor, found some dynamite in the cellar of their home, and, thinking it was putty, fed it to their pet frog. The pieces of dynamite resembled insects and the frog ate them. A large tool chest fell on the frog and exploded the dynamite. A chisel pierced the temple of youngest child and killed it.

Another child and Mrs. McCurry, in the kitchen above, were seriously hurt and that part of the house was wrecked.”

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The opening of Dan Lyons’ post which pushes back at last night’s Amazon drone-delivery reveal on 60 Minutes, which he sees as hoopla for Cyber Monday marketing and also as damage control against Brad Stone’s unflattering Bezos book, The Everything Store

“Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos runs one of the world’s most notoriously secretive organizations. Yet last night he went on national TV and showed off a bunch of dazzling delivery drones that he says won’t realistically arrive in the real world for another four or five years, which in realspeak means they’re a decade or more away. 

Why is this incredibly tight-lipped company suddenly showing off prototypes? The answer is that these drones were not designed to carry packages, but to give a lift to Amazon’s image.

For one thing, today is Cyber Monday, the day when everyone goes shopping online. Amazon somehow got CBS and 60 Minutes to create a 14-minute free ad spot for Amazon on the eve of this huge shopping day.”

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Why the Internet Won’t Be Nirvana” is a 1995 Newsweek article which astronomer Clifford Stoll would no doubt like to have back. Check out the last two lines in particular of the excerpt below:

“After two decades online, I’m perplexed. It’s not that I haven’t had a gas of a good time on the Internet. I’ve met great people and even caught a hacker or two. But today, I’m uneasy about this most trendy and oversold community. Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic.

Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth in no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.

Consider today’s online world. The Usenet, a worldwide bulletin board, allows anyone to post messages across the nation. Your word gets out, leapfrogging editors and publishers. Every voice can be heard cheaply and instantly. The result? Every voice is heard. The cacophony more closely resembles citizens band radio, complete with handles, harassment, and anonymous threats. When most everyone shouts, few listen. How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it’s an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet. Uh, sure.”

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Reports about two new uses for the domestic drone, hunting feral pigs and delivering Amazon goods, from, respectively, the Economist and 60 Minutes

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“WILD pigs are rooting around in a field in the dark. Partly hidden by tall grass, their tails wag happily as they snuffle around for roots and insects. A shot rings out and the biggest pig is down. The rest scatter quickly; yet a shooter picks them off one by one with uncanny accuracy.

Pigs are clever and hard to hunt; it can take a day to stalk one. But they are no match for an aerial drone such as the ‘dehogaflier’ operated by Louisiana Hog Control, a pest-extermination firm. It is a remote-controlled aircraft with a thermal-imaging camera and a laser pointer. It easily spots the pigs’ warm bodies from 400 feet and points them out to a hunter on the ground wearing night-vision goggles, who then shoots them.”

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Strong female leads have long been limited in Hollywood because the unwritten rule said that too many movies featuring them wouldn’t sell. But hearts and minds can change generationally, and it looks like the film business is catching up to that shift. From Mike Fleming Jr. at Deadline Hollywood:

“The performance of Catching Fire and Frozen are all the more remarkable if you consider that both of these films are squarely driven by female heroines. Conventional wisdom is that the marketplace could never support more than one female-driven film, because while gals will see guy movies, it doesn’t work the other way. Well, it worked big time — both films crushed the 5-day Thanksgiving domestic gross record – and it happened shortly after another female driven film, Gravity, crossed the $500 million mark in global gross.”

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Filip Bondy has an article in the New York Daily News calling for NYC to ban boxing. It’s a funny venue for such a fierce op-ed because it would never have been published while that paper’s legendary boxing writer Bill Gallo was alive. For all his good qualities, Gallo was an apologist for boxing while railing angrily against against MMA. seemingly because his career was invested in the former and not the latter. MMA is just as bad as boxing but no worse, really. I think anyone honest would be for allowing both or banning both.

While I don’t personally support either, I’m really not for prohibiting anything consenting adults want to do. But I don’t believe children should be permitted to box, which would obviously further doom a sport in steep decline. From Bondy:

“Boxing has seen its time, and thank goodness that primitive era is done. In a more enlightened age now, we are concerned with concussions and other head injuries in sports. It is therefore absurd to sanction a competition in which the chief aim is to knock the opponent into unconsciousness. Yes, car racing is dangerous, but intent matters. Yes, a few rare fighters make a fortune from boxing, but they pay a huge price. The vast majority of professional boxers are just poor, desperate minorities getting their heads ripped apart internally, synapse by synapse.

It is hypocritical for the state to allow these events to continue while banning MMA, which at least offers the possibility of victory by submission, a more humane finish. Whenever a boxer gives up, like Sonny Liston or Roberto Duran, he is mercilessly mocked for the rest of his career.

I have no doubt that in my grandson’s lifetime, professional boxing will be banished in most parts of America, as it has been, on and off, in several other countries.”

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New York Times newsroom, 1942.

New York Times newsroom, 1942.

There might not always be Broadway, but they’ll always be theater. Certainly, there won’t always be printed newspapers–not as the primary product, anyhow–but there will always be journalism. Divining the formula to support important work that doesn’t produce money is the rub, of course. But I do believe it will happen, even if the transition is painful.

In 1975, in a New Yorker piece, “P-1800″ (which is paywalled), John McPhee looked at that moment when the New York Times was first trying to transition from typewriters to computers, to create a work environment that was portable and largely paperless, even before that last term was coined and there became little choice in the matter. It involved not only word processing but being able to send the work via telephone line and save it to disc. The opening:

“Joseph Martin, a computer methodologist at the Times has been pursuing for years what he describes as ‘the ideal philosophy of creating a newspaper.’ According to the ideal philosophy, you start by ‘capturing the keystroke at the origin.’ Keystroke? The reporter, at the typewriter, hits the original keystrokes of a story. Martin aims to absorb them electronically, retain them in a computer, and eliminate all the laborious and manifold retypings that now occur as a piece of writing makes its way, typically, from reporters through bureaus to the home office to the desks of editors and eventually to linotype machines. The ideal philosophy also calls for the elimination of the typing paper that writers write on, which is regarded as an unnecessary and archaic encumbrance. Following suggestions of reporters and editors, and with the help of an electronics firm in Westchester, Martin has coaxed into being a device that can actually do this. The Times is just up the street from us. We went over there the other day to have a look.

In the third-floor newsroom, we found routine cacophony: a large open space as aswarm with bodies as the floor of a stock exchange, copy paper in motion everywhere, copy editors looking like physicists with crooked cigarettes and feral eyes, reporters hugging telephones or already down in the trenches–sporadic bursts of typing. The machine that was going to tranquilize this scene was locked away in a quiet cubicle. We were led to it by Joe Martin, a slim and somewhat solemn man with graying crewcut, and by Socrates Butsikares, an editor of decades’ experience on various news and feature desks, who now coordinates editorial-staff interests with those of the rest of the company and is thus deeply involved in the electronic innovation. A big man, Butsikares wore a bright-yellow shirt, and there were lemons on his tie. We were joined as well by Israel Shenker, who is an old friend of ours and is one of the Times’ bright-star reporters and most skillful writers. Shenker had not previously seen the machine that was designed to change the world.

At thirty-two pounds, it rested heavily on a table. Resembling a small blue suitcase, it was eighteen inches by thirteen by seven. It would fit under an airline seat. Its name was Teleram P-1800 Portable Terminal. Butsikares unpacked it. Its principal components were a TV-like cathode-ray tube and a freestanding keyboard that had the conventional ‘qwertyuiop’ arrangement of a typewriter keyboard plus flanking sets of keys that had designations such as ‘SCRL,’ “HOME,’ ‘DEL WORD,’ ‘DEL CHAR,’ ‘CLOSE,’ ‘OPEN,’ and ‘INSRT.’

Butsikares plugged the keyboard unit into the TV-screen unit, sat down, and began to write. As his fingers fluttered, words instantly surfaced on the screen, up to forty-four characters per line:

WASHINGTON, D.C.–President Ford said today that he would no longer ask the Congress to soak the poor while his fat-cat rich friends take away the wealth of the Republic.

‘Now, suppose you want to get a little color into this,’ Butsikares said, and he began tapping keys–marked with arrows pointing up, pointing down, pointing sideways–around the word ‘HOME.’ A tiny square of light known as the ‘cursor’ began to move up the face of the tube. It was something like the bouncing ball that used to hop from word to word in song lyrics on movie screens. It climbed to the first line, then moved left until Butsikares stopped it in the space between ‘Ford’ and ‘said.’ He tapped the ‘INSRT’ key. He then wrote:

, who was wearing his faborite blue suit and his soup-stained blue tie,

The new words came into the space after ‘Ford,’ and to accommodate them the cursor kept shoving to the right all the other words in the sentence. They went around corners and down the screen. Busikares moved the cursor until it rested upon and illuminated the ‘b’ in ‘faborite.’ He pressed the ‘DEL CHAR’ (delete character) button, and the ‘b’ vanished. He replaced it with a ‘v.’ ‘Now, suppose you want to take a word out,’ he said, and moved the cursor to the word ‘away.’ ‘All the cursor has to do is touch any part of the word,’ he went on. ‘Then you hit the ‘DEL WORD’ key, and it’s gone.’ Away went ‘away,’ and the words to either side moved to within a space of each other. Similarly, the cursor could–if directed to–eat whole lines, whole paragraphs. ‘What you have written is not set in cement,’ Butsikares said. ‘You can change anything easily. If I had my druthers, I’d rather write on this thing than on any typewriter I’ve ever seen.”

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“Mirror!!!”

“Mirror!!!”

A Fat Guy Called Me Fat. (Sad Chubby Guy)

I could not believe a guy fatter than me had the nerve to call me fat. I also always see this happening in TV talk shows. Mirror!!! 

In a fascinating Science interview, Emily Underwood spoke with DARPA’s Geoffrey Ling about two of the agency’s proposed brain-related projects: 1) Wireless devices that can cure neurological disorders such as PTSD, depression and chronic pain, and 2) A wireless device that repairs brain damage and restores memory loss. One exchange:

Question:

For RAM, why did DARPA choose to focus on memory, and what kinds of memory do you hope to restore?

Geoffrey Ling:

All these [injured] guys and gals want to go back into the service. A lot of them can go back because we’ve got good prosthetic legs, and now we’ve got the prosthetic arm that’s really close to being FDA [Food and Drug Administration] approved. But the thing with brain-injured guys—the thing that really keeps them out—is they can’t remember how to do certain motor tasks like drive a car or operate machinery. Now I don’t know if we are at that point, but if we can fix hearts, and we can fix badly broken bones, why can’t we fix part of the brain? If you had to pick an area of the brain that you can fix, the memory area is the most obvious because motor-task memory is really pretty well-worked out in preclinical models. Declarative memory is very different than associative memory and emotional memory—that stuff, nobody even knows anything about it—but when you look at the work in rodents with memory motor tasks, you say ok, it’s still a big step but it’s rational.”

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“For a time, all lived in one large house.”

Heber Z. Ricks had twelve wives, though it’s really not polite to count. He was a Mormon who really, really believed in the teachings of Brigham Young. The family man was profiled in an article in the January 29, 1900 Brooklyn Daily Eagle. An excerpt:

“In the Valley of the Snake River, near where that stream forms the boundary line between Wyoming and Idaho, lives the father of the largest family on the American continent, and probably the world. The owner of this unique distinction is Heber Z. Ricks, one of the faithful followers in religion and practices of the late Brigham Young. Reliable persons who have known Ricks for many years say he has 12 wives and 66 children. Many of his sons and daughters have long since taken unto themselves helpmates for life and to these have been born 218 children, thereby bringing the number of souls in the Ricks family, exclusive of the venerable father, up to 296.

The members of the Ricks family are scattered over a stretch of country fourteen miles long by two miles wide. Heber Ricks has an even dozen ranches, which, with those of the sons and daughters, make quite a good size settlement. In the center of this settlement, a town called Ricksville has been established. Here are located a general store and a church. During week days the church is transformed into a school room, and a regularly employed teacher (usually one of the Ricks daughters) labors with the descendants of Heber Z. On Sundays, and not infrequently of an evening, services, which are, of course, strictly Mormon, are held. These religious meetings are usually presided over by the elder Ricks, and are very interesting, being conducted in that manner peculiar to the Mormon faith. In the absence of the ‘bishop,’ as the head of the family is known in the settlement, as is frequently the case when he makes a visit to one of his wives living in the extreme upper or lower ends of the colony, one of the sons will fill the pulpit and preach the doctrine of his father, says the Chicago Inter-Ocean. 

ricks456When Ricks left Missouri, it is said, he was a single man, but when he and his party reached Salt Lake valley, he was the possessor of five better halves. Settling near Salt Lake, Ricks continued to take unto himself additional wives until he had ten. In the year 1856, with the number of his wives increased to twelve, Ricks pulled up stakes and moved across the mountains through eastern Idaho to the valley of the Snake River. There, upon one of the most fertile spots to be found on the continent, he established himself. The first few years were ones of great activity for Ricks and his already large family. For a time, all lived in one large house, which was hastily erected, but later twelve houses, composed of roughly hewn logs, were constructed at different points along the river. To these were added, in due time, corrals and other outbuildings, and in a few years Ricksville was something more than a name.”

 

George Carlin is my favorite comic of all time, and Russell Brand has a lot of Carlin in his brain. In a new Guardian piece, Brand eviscerates Rupert Murdoch, the Scrooge McDuck of media titans who has the gall to fancy himself as a champion of the people while protecting the interests of those who despise them. An excerpt:

“Rupert Murdoch, an animatronic al-Qaida recruitment poster, in his private letter to Sun staff, after the News of the World was briefly closed for a makeover (not through remorse, or shame, no, because they couldn’t sell advertising space and because he wanted to launch the Sun on Sunday anyway because it’s cheaper to run one title than two – some guys get all the luck) referred consistently to his pride in the Sun as ‘a trusted news source’. Trusted is the word he used, not trustworthy. We know the Sun is not trustworthy and so does he. He uses the word ‘trusted’ deliberately. Hitler was trusted, it transpired he was not trustworthy. He also said of the arrested journalists, ‘everyone is innocent until proven guilty.’ Well, yes, that is the law of our country, not however a nicety often afforded to the victims of his titles, and here I refer not only to hacking but the vituperative portrayal of weak and vulnerable members of our society, relentlessly attacked by Murdoch’s ink jackals. Immigrants, folk with non-straight sexual identities, anyone in fact living in the margins of the Sun‘s cleansed utopia.”•

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Rupert Murdoch, in 1968, about to gain control of News of the World:

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Billionaire Ted Lerner and his family don’t seem like awful people, not the kind of wealthy folks who are lobbying on behalf of politicians who want to punish the poor. But they should stop trying to rip off the taxpayers of Washington D.C. The district already financed a stadium for the Nationals baseball team that the Lerners own, which cost locals close to a billion dollars with interest factored in, and now the patriarch is requesting a retractable roof on the stadium to also be paid for by taxpayers. Building sports stadiums for billionaires to improve the economy is a fool’s errand to begin with, but this roof business is even more egregious. This project will create zero permanent jobs and will enhance no one’s financial standing but the Lerners. It’s corporate welfare at its ugliest. If the Lerners want to enhance the value of their holdings, they should invest in them themselves. Thankfully, Mayor Gray is holding firm against this preposterous request. From the Washington Post:

“Mayor Vincent C. Gray said Tuesday that Washington Nationals owner Theodore N. Lerner pitched him earlier this year on a pricey plan to have the city build a retractable roof over Nationals Park — a proposal, Gray said, that he swiftly but politely rejected.

The private one-on-one meeting took place in the John A. Wilson Building in mid-July and lasted about 15 minutes, Gray said.

What Lerner wanted to talk about was the possibility of a roof on Nationals Park,’ the mayor (D) said. ‘That was it. There was no discussion about how much it was going to cost and no further details. I’ve had no further discussions.’

An administration official familiar with the matter but not authorized to comment publicly on it confirmed that there have been no recent talks about improvements of that scope for Nationals Park, which was built with well more than $600 million in taxpayer financing and opened in 2008.

‘The mayor was polite but unequivocal,’ the official said. ‘We are not going to spend taxpayer money to put a roof on the stadium, regardless of the cost.'”

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It’s great that we’re starting to harness the sun’s energy on Earth, but it still amazes me that we haven’t tried to build a remote solar farm closer to the star. In the wake of Fukushima, Japan is aiming to do something similar, but with the moon. From Timon Singh at Inhabitat:

“Man hasn’t been back to the moon since 1972, but that hasn’t stopped a team of Japanese engineers from developing a plan to turn our celestial neighbor into a massive solar power plant. The disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power station has made Japan think more seriously about alternative energy, and as a result Shimizu Corporation‘s crazy plan has been gaining traction. The plan calls for a massive 12 mile-wide, 6,800 mile long ‘Luna Ring’ of solar panels to be constructed on the moon’s surface. The solar belt would then harness solar power directly from the sun and then beam it straight to Earth via microwaves and lasers.

Shimizu Corporation’s plan would see 13,000 terawatts of continuous energy sent to receiving stations around the Earth, where it will be then distributed to the planet’s population. With NASA’s plans to return the moon currently on hold, Shimizu is planning on building the massive lunar construction project with robots. In fact, humans will barely be involved and will only be present in an overseeing capacity.”

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From the August 22, 1895 New York Times:

Camden, N.J.–Charles Atkinson, aged eight years, is in the Cooper Hospital, his eyes being nearly burned out with acid. One eye is very badly eaten. Frank Schuck, a clerk in Shuster’s grocery, is under bail, awaiting the action of the court, charged with having inflicted young Atkinson’s injuries.

Young Atkinson went into Shuster’s store to make some purchases. The boy was waited on by Schuck, and he and Atkinson started fooling. Schuck, in a joke, picked up a glass containing what he supposed to be water, and threw it into young Atkinson’s face. It turned out to be acid that was in the glass.”

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