Urban Studies

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Considering that predictive searching is within reach of our fingertips at all times, and Amazon’s warehouses are data-rich operations, I assumed the “anticipatory ordering” was already a highly developed thing–that the company moved products around the country (and the world) based on prognostications made by previous ordering patterns. But apparently it’s only the newest thing, and it may ultimately go a very aggressive step further than I thought it would. From Kwame Opam at the Verge:

“Drawing on its massive store of customer data, Amazon plans on shipping you items it thinks you’ll like before you click the purchase button. The company today gained a new patent for ‘anticipatory shipping,’ a system that allows Amazon to send items to shipping hubs in areas where it believes said item will sell well. This new scheme will potentially cut delivery times down, and put the online vendor ahead of its real-world counterparts.

Amazon plans to box and ship products it expects customers to buy preemptively, based on previous searches and purchases, wish lists, and how long the user’s cursor hovers over an item online. The company may even go so far as to load products onto trucks and have them ‘speculatively shipped to a physical address’ without having a full addressee. Such a scenario might lead to unwanted deliveries and even returns, but Amazon seems willing to take the hit.”


While it seems a stretch that the Mars One project will actually deliver a handful of earthlings to our neighboring planet by 2023, more than 150,000 people, even very young ones, have applied to “die on Mars.” Whether the colony becomes a reality or not, it still makes for a fascinating experiment in psychology. From a Guardian interview with ready-to-launch 20-year-old student Ryan Macdonald:


Why did you sign up?

Ryan Macdonald:

The main reason for me is that I think that on Mars I can accomplish more than I could on Earth. In three weeks, a single person on the surface of Mars could accomplish all of the science that all of the rovers over the past five years have already managed to achieve. If we want to ever prove definitively whether there is life on Mars, we will have to send someone there.


What are your expectations for the Mars One project?

Ryan Macdonald:

The real thing that encourages me is the inspiration factor: what the impact would be back on Earth of my going to Mars. Remember, the Apollo programme is what inspired the generation of scientists and engineers back on Earth who developed computers and smartphones and all the technology that improved our lives. Similarly, a mission to Mars would inspire a whole new generation of scientists on Earth, which would make life better for everyone.


What are you expecting when you first land on Mars?

 Ryan Macdonald:

Survival will have to be the first priority. Initially for the first year or so, it’ll mainly be construction; linking everything together, establishing the equipment, maintaining the solar panels, and things like that. We’ll be bringing some basic canned food to keep us going until we start actually growing our own food. In the long term it’ll be hydroponically grown vegetables and insects for protein. Potentially, later on you could bring some frozen fish eggs and start a little pond. I’d like to find a way to grow some tea on Mars. I think that’s very important for the sanity of all the people there. Once the tea is sorted out, the science would then begin properly.


Are you worried or scared at all?

Ryan Macdonald:

There’s risk in everything we do in life. I say I’ve applied to go to live on Mars, not to go to die on Mars. We all die eventually, of course. Actually the fact is that because things are going to be so strictly controlled, for example the diet of the people who go and the air they breathe, assuming that there is no major equipment failure, people will live longer on Mars than on Earth.”•


In the 1960s, long before Boston Dynamics was creating robotic men and their best friends for the military (and now for Google), GE offered up an elephantine machinery to the Army. It could do some heavy lifting but was a cumbersome thing and not autonomous as an operator was required in the carriage.

From “They’re Robots? They’re Beasts!” Scott Kirsner’s 2004 New York Times article which shows just how much investment in the sector has grown in a decade:

Replicating biology isn’t a breeze, and some think that despite the well-publicized introduction of Sony’s toy dog, Aibo, in 1999, useful biomimetic robots may still be many years off.

‘What has been a surprise to me is how hard it has been to make progress,’ said Shankar Sastry, a professor at the University of California who has been helping to design robotic flies, fish and the wall-climbing gecko.

Another challenge is the sporadic nature of project financing, which predominantly originates with government agencies like the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as Darpa.

‘I hate to gripe, but funding is hard to get these days,’ said Dr. [Howie] Choset, designer of snakebots that can slither up stairways or down drainage pipes.”

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For the past six years or so, Jeffrey Wright, one of the best actors on the planet, has been trying to extract precious minerals from the earth in Sierra Leone, hoping to aid the impoverished region. It’s an uncommon, perhaps quixotic, quest. It’s real life and it’s a movie. The opening of “Jeffrey Wright’s Gold Mine,” an article in the New York Times Magazine by Daniel Bergner:

‘This is a relationship that could bring us all the things we desire,’ Jeffrey Wright said. He was sitting with Samuel Jibila under an awning rigged from rusty metal sheets in front of Jibila’s decrepit house in Sierra Leone. Jibila is the traditional ruler — the paramount chief — of Penguia, a little domain of jungly hills and dusty villages 250 miles from the capital. Wright is an actor who lives in Brooklyn. He has won a Tony, an Emmy and a Golden Globe and most recently appeared as Beetee in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. And for the last decade, he has been traveling to this isolated area near the Guinea border to run his small gold-exploration company, Taia Lion Resources. He wanted to maintain Jibila’s faith in his company, in his plans, but Jibila, who was surrounded by lesser chiefs in glossy robes, wasn’t feeling faithful.

Since 2003, Wright has brought in geologists to sample Penguia’s soil and streams. He leases the exploration rights here from the national government. The gold deposits at the site he and Jibila were discussing may be worth billions of dollars. He says that mining will be a boon to everyone; that the operation will put many hundreds of people to work, not counting the small shops and other businesses that will bloom; that company employees will have a real chance to rise; that paved roads will replace cratered tracks. Transformation will come to a territory so undeveloped that when the rare vehicle needs to cross a river not far from Jibila’s home, the driver pulls onto a raft and ferrymen tug the vessel across with a rope.

But despite this vision and these promises, no metamorphosis has come to Penguia.”


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I guess if I could truly know one thing that seems presently unknowable it would be why a person can believe something that is extreme–even completely untrue–and then that same person can believe, at a different time, something that is completely opposed to the original thought. How can we be programmed, deprogrammed and then programmed again? We may now the chemistry behind it, but why are some people more prone to these reactions than others? Why are we more susceptible at certain stages of our lives? Memory isn’t elastic for most of us, but it seems like the part of the brain that governs belief systems is. When I think about those questions it feels to me like AI that truly operates with the understanding of a human being is so far away. It seems that though we know more than nothing, we only know very little.

An example: To the Manson Family members, it seemed perfectly reasonable to follow the orders of a pathetic little man who wanted them to invade homes, murder the occupants in brutal fashion and scrawl horrifying messages on the walls using their victims’ blood. These were the children of good homes who, if circumstances were different, if they came of age in a less-turbulent time, probably would have been filing law-school applications or joining the Peace Corps. Sure, there was a ton of drug use that threw their chemistry out of whack, but plenty of people who haven’t used drugs join cults and or accept cultures with preposterous rules and structures. They enter into a delusion and embrace it. The human brain is such a complex and mysterious thing that it staggers me. I feel bankrupt when trying to comprehend it.

In 1976, former Manson acolyte Susan Atkins, a murderer who died in prison in 2009, who threw her life away and took the lives of others for no good reason, discussed the horrors she’d committed. She had changed her mind by then, but it was far too late.


No old technologies were harmed in the making of Elio Motors’ $6,800, three-wheel car, an automobile that uses pre-existing tech but is able to get 84 MPG (highway) because of its unique design and size. It’s set to reach the market in 2015. From Rob Lever at Yahoo! News:

“An engineer by training, [Paul] Elio began the firm in 2008 and recently took over an abandoned General Motors plant in Louisiana — one which had been producing the gas-guzzling Hummer.

In order to deliver the best fuel economy, the car has a cockpit wide enough only for the driver, with a passenger seat in the rear. It has two wheels in front and tapers in the rear to a single wheel.

‘Front-to-back seating, that’s the key to mileage,’ Elio told AFP.

This makes it principally a one-person car, but Elio said the vehicle is a good solution for the millions who drive along to work or leisure events.

Elio readily admits there is no special technology in the car — it has a three-cylinder internal combustion gasoline engine, power windows, air conditioning and anti-lock brakes. While it does not have some of the on-board electronic gadgety found in other vehicles, drivers can connect their smartphones for navigation, apps and more.”

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I interviewed the now-deceased lady wrestler The Fabulous Moolah some years ago, and I was glad it was a phoner so she couldn’t gouge my eyes. I was fascinated by someone who did what was then considered a very unladylike thing beginning in the harsh years of the Great Depression, though I knew going in that her stories would largely be bullshit. Wrestlers who came of age when the entertainment still had one foot inside the carnival tent never really told the truth because they were so committed to selling a ruse–that something fake was real. They were actors who never exited that stage. The things she did say that were true, however, were stranger than fiction. For instance: “When I was known as ‘Slave Girl,’ I managed the wrestler Elephant Boy, and he’s a priest in Ohio now, you know?” No, I did not know. This was new information.

I asked Moolah (real name: Lillian Ellison) if she considered herself a feminist, and she got a little flustered–perhaps annoyed. It occurred to me later that she thought I was asking her if she was a lesbian. I quickly explained what “feminist” meant, and things moved forward again. Moolah’s close friend, housemate and fellow ferocious wrestler Johnnie Mae Young just passed away at 90. From her obituary by William Yardley in the New York Times:

Before thongs and silicone and spray tans made women’s wrestling the overtly sexualized spectacle that is now orchestrated by W.W.E., Ms. Young was among the most famous in a colorful cast of women who first rose to prominence in the 1940s, in part because World War II reduced the number of men who wrestled professionally. They were known as lady wrestlers, and many people found them hard not to watch.

‘When I first started wrestling professionally, the men didn’t like the girls,’ Ms. Young said, ‘because we would go out and steal the show.’

Crowds loved to hate her. Organizers sometimes shielded the ring with chicken wire to help protect her from the rotten eggs and vegetables people would throw. Other wrestlers were intimidated by her techniques and her titles.

By the late 1960s, she had become the National Wrestling Alliance’s first national women’s champion. In the late 1990s, W.W.E. hired her and her longtime friend Lillian Ellison, better known as the Fabulous Moolah, whom she had trained.

Ms. Young fought much younger wrestlers and starred in campy skits with young male wrestlers that suggested that her prowess went beyond the ring. Some of her older opponents said the work tainted the legacy of women in wrestling. Ms. Young paid no attention.”

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Mets first baseman Ike Davis caught Valley Fever in Arizona two years ago during the offseason, and he hasn’t been the same player since, though that may have more to do with a long swing than a lung illness. But those in the West who don’t have to worry about hitting a slider are also catching the fungal disease, in increasingly scary numbers, and the sinister spores have compromised not just their job performances but their very lives. From “Death Dust,” an article by Dana Goodyear in the New Yorker, a description of a disease aided in its spread by real-estate development and changes in demographics:

Cocci is endemic to the desert Southwest—California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas—and to the semi-arid parts of Central and South America. Digging—building, drilling, tilling, clearing—stirs it up, and dry, hot, windy conditions, a regional feature intensified by climate change, disperse it. In recent years, infections have risen dramatically. According to the Centers for Disease Control, from 1998 to 2011 there was a tenfold increase in reported cases; officials there call it a ‘silent epidemic,’ far more destructive than had been previously recognized. Its circumscribed range has made it easy for policymakers to ignore. Though it sickens many times more people than West Nile virus, which affects much of the country, including the Northeast, it has received only a small fraction of the funding for research. ‘The impact of valley fever on its endemic populations is equal to the impact of polio or chicken pox before the vaccines,’ John Galgiani, an infectious-disease physician who directs the Valley Fever Center for Excellence, at the University of Arizona in Tucson, says. ‘But chicken pox and polio were worldwide.’

In 2012, valley fever was the second-most-reported disease in Arizona; two-thirds of the country’s cases occur in the state. There is no vaccine to protect against it and, in the most severe cases, no cure. The population of Phoenix has grown by ten per cent in the past decade, and newcomers have no acquired immunity. The elderly and the immune-compromised—including pregnant women—are most susceptible; for unknown reasons, otherwise healthy African-Americans and Filipinos are disproportionately vulnerable to severe and life-threatening forms of the disease. (In one early study, Filipino men were estimated to be a hundred and seventy-five times as likely as white men to get sick from cocci, and a hundred and ninety-two times as likely to die from it.) But, as one specialist told me, ‘if you breathe and you’re warm-blooded, you can get this.'”

From the September 26, 1909 New York Times:

Paris–Jules Bois believes that motor cars will in a hundred years be things of the past, and that a kind of flying bicycle will have been invented which will enable everybody to traverse the air at will, far above the earth. Hardly any one will remain in the cities at night. They will be places of business only. People of every class will reside in the country or in garden towns at considerable distances fron the populous centres. Pneumatic railways and flying cars and many other means of quick transit will be so developed that the question of time will enter but little into one’s choice of a home. Transportation will be immensely cheaper than it is at present. As there will be less crowding, realty values and rentals will less exorbitant.”


Jeffrey Sachs is depicted by some as a dependency-creating subsidizer and by others as an extreme free-marketer–neither seems particularly apt. In a Reddit AMA to promote a free online course on sustainable development, the Columbia professor answers some critics (Angus Deaton, Naomi Klein, Dambisa Moyo) and questions about the global war on poverty.



I’m fascinated by the new environmental technologies like billboards pulling drinking water from the air, or Mexico City’s smog eating paint. What technology do you look at as having great potential?

Jeffrey D. Sachs:

Probably the single most important breakthrough in recent years has been the dramatic decline in price of photovoltaics, which have fallen by a factor of 100X since 1977. 1 Watt of PV now costs less than $1 dollar. This will make possible an enormous upscaling of solar power in many parts of the world.



I read The End of Poverty and I have to say, I am a huge fan of that book. I often cite your work to support ideas like that sweat-shops aren’t necessarily the evil they’re portrayed to be. Since the book, how much, in your eyes, has changed in the world? Do you feel like leaders sat up and took notice? 

Jeffrey D. Sachs:

The most important thing that’s happened since 2005 is that the idea of ending extreme poverty has actually begun to take hold. People see the success of China in ending poverty, the start of real poverty reduction in Africa, and the power of the new ICT technologies. Because of this optimism, the World Bank Development Committee voted in April to take on the goal of ending extreme poverty globally by 2030. So the idea is there, step by step.



I’ve always argued that if agricultural subsidies were cut around the world it would be more effective in lifting people from poverty than all aid combined. It seems that lately developing countries have also gotten into the ag subsidy trap. Is it possible we’ve reached a point where reducing global ag subsidies might hurt the poor more than it helps them?

Jeffrey D. Sachs:

Ending AG subsidies, while generally a good idea, won’t solve as much as one might think, because the main beneficiaries will be large food-exporting countries, such as Brazil, not the poorest countries. Still, it’s typically a good thing to do. The subsidies are rarely fair or effective.



When the government or culture in an area does not support elimination of poverty, have you seen other ways to make substantial progress, or is the government/leadership really the key to success or failure?

Jeffrey D. Sachs:

Government is necessary. The tools of policy (taxes, regulation, public subsidies of science, public investment) are indispensable. They are not the only things that matter, but without government, broad-based and sustained development is not really possible. Of course, governments do not need to be perfect. Thank goodness!!!•


Billy James Hargis was a twentieth-century American evangelical entrepreneur writ large: charismatic, ultra-conservative, segregationist, anti-communist, anti-feminist, anti-gay, McCarthy supporter, charged with abusing tax-exempt status, accused of sexual misconduct by male and female students at the Christian college he founded, etc. He sat for an interview with Tom Snyder in the late 1970s to address a number of topics, including his sex scandal. A polished TV presenter, the “hillbilly preacher” comes across well. During the conversation, the two refer to Pat Robertson as the “Johnny Carson of Evangelism.”

From Hargis’ 2004 obituary in the Economist:For four years, starting in 1953, he launched a million hydrogen balloons from West Germany towards the east. They contained verses of Scripture, sent ‘to succour the poor starved captives of communism.’ Rather less lightly, he himself hit the pulpit across America and in ‘foreign lands,’ perfecting his own style of shouting, flailing and sweating with an energy alarming in a man of his girth.

As televangelists do, he also set up courses and centres of learning: the National Anti-Communist Leadership School, the Christian Crusade Anti-Communist Youth University and, in Tulsa, the American Christian College. A naive reporter once asked him what was taught there. Why, Mr Hargis answered, ‘anti-communism, anti-socialism, anti-welfare state, anti-Russia, anti-China, a literal interpretation of the Bible and states’ rights.’ As if he had needed to ask.

After a while the authorities, stirred up by the Evil One, got interested in him. The Christian Crusade was a supposedly religious charity with tax-exempt status; yet Mr Hargis’s work seemed mostly political. Its purposes were allegedly altruistic; yet Mr Hargis drew a salary of $25,000 from it, besides his utility bills, his house, his clothes, his colour TV, his travelling expenses and his dry-cleaning bills. In 1964 the tax-exemption was withdrawn by the Internal Revenue Service, and his reputation spoiled.

Seven years later, sex reared its head. For Mr Hargis, adopted and brought up in crushing Christian poverty in Texas, fun had meant daily Bible-readings and, once a week, gospel choir. He gave the impression that nothing had ever changed. The targets of his daily wrath were not only homosexuals and women’s libbers but the blatantly sexual pop-gods of the day: ‘When the Beatles thrust their hips forward while holding their guitars and shout, ‘Oh Yeah!!’ who cannot know what they really mean?’

Yet in 1974 both male and female students at the American Christian College, and three male members of the college choir, the All-American Kids, claimed Mr Hargis had deflowered them.”

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Richard Feynman famously asked the seminal nano question: Why can’t we write the entire 24 volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the head of a pin? But the past isn’t the only thing that can get small; the same holds true for what’s unfolding this very day, this very instant. And what will become of us when drones are the size of fleas and you can barely see them, can’t see them at all? From Kathryn A. Wolfe at Politico:

“Sen. Dianne Feinstein says she once found a drone peeking into the window of her home — the kind of cautionary tale she wants lawmakers to consider as they look at allowing commercial drone use.

The California Democrat offered few details about the incident when speaking about it Wednesday afternoon, during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on drone policy at which she appeared as a special witness. But she used the episode to implore lawmakers to ‘proceed with caution.’

Feinstein said she encountered the flying robot while a demonstration was taking place outside her house. She said she went to the window to peek out — and ‘there was a drone right there at the window looking out at me.’

She held her hand inches from her face to indicate how close it was.”

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I was neither awed nor upset by Edward Snowden’s NSA leaking for a few reasons: 1) From the moment the Patriot Act passed, we had given our government a “by whatever means necessary” standard, 2) I think most Americans have embraced being watched and feel safer that way (though I don’t), 3) The technological tools of today (and certainly those of tomorrow) cannot be controlled by legislation, 4) Technology is a doubled-edged sword, and the government will be spied on as much as it spies. The power has been disseminated and it will be used, if not always well. To paraphrase Chance Gardner: “We like to watch.”

I have a great fear of imprisoning whistleblowers. We need those who will risk themselves to stop Watergates and Abu Ghraibs. And while Snowden may have stated the obvious and ironically ended up living in Russia, the ultimate surveillance state, he wasn’t wrong.

In a new Ask Me Anything at Reddit, Pentagon Papers leaker and staunch Snowden supporter Daniel Ellsberg answers an oft-asked question: Why should those with nothing to hide fear surveillance?


I’m curious how you respond when people tell you that ‘they have nothing to hide.’ How do you help them see that this isn’t a valid argument for why they shouldn’t be concerned?

Daniel Ellsberg:

Do they want to live in a democracy, with checks and balances, restraints on Executive power? (They may not feel that they care, though I would say they should; but if they do, it’s relevant to the question that follows). Do they really believe that real democracy is viable, when one branch of government, the Executive, knows or can know every detail of every private communication (or credit card transaction, or movement) of: every journalist; every source to every journalist; every member of Congress and their staffs; every judge, at every level up to the Supreme Court? Do they think that every one of these people ‘has nothing to hide,’ nothing that could be used to blackmail them or manipulate them, or neutralize their dissent to Executive policies, or influence voting behavior? Is investigative journalism, or aggressive Congressional investigation of the Executive, or court restraints on Executive practices, really possible with that amount of transparency to the Executive of their private and professional lives and associations? And without any of those checks, the kind of democracy you have is that of the German Democratic Republic in East Germany, with its Stasi (which had a miniscule fraction of the surveillance capability the NSA has now, but enough to turn a fraction of the population of East Germany into secret Stasi informants).

Might these ‘good, honest citizens’ with nothing to hide ever imagine that they might feel a challenge to be a whistleblower, or a source to a journalist or Congressperson, or engage in associations or parties critical of the current administration? As The Burglary recounts, it was enough to write a letter to a newspaper critical of the FBI to get on J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI list for potential detention or more active surveillance. And once on, hard or impossible to get off. (See ‘no fly’ lists today ).”

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“There was literally SHIT everywhere.”

“I think my cat sitter died in my house” or “The worst cat sitter ever”

Are you okay? Are you alive? Are you in a diabetic coma somewhere?? I was worried because when I returned home on Tuesday, my apartment looked like someone possibly left in a hurry, and the only explanation I could think of was maybe there was an emergency! An emergency so great you left the windows open on a day that never reached over 9 degrees with wind gusts below -12 degrees, all lights on, and your shit scattered everywhere.

It’s been long enough now that I assume you will never return to claim your property, offer an explanation as to why you destroyed my home, or provide me compensation for the four hours it took to clean my home of your filth and for the amount it cost me to change my locks and get replacement keys from my landlord because of your inability to follow simple instructions such as leaving keys inside the apartment so I would not be charged $150 to replace them. The changed locks was my choice because you appear so unstable I fear you might return in two months looking for the live (well, now dead) Betta fish you left behind. By the way, it was really sweet of you to leave food for me to feed him with but I’m going to go ahead and guess that the abominably cold weather had a part in freezing the poor guy to death after you abandoned him in the apartment with my cat.

Let me reiterate our agreement: In exchange for you caring for my cat for three weeks while I visited my family in California, I offered you my lovely one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side for FREE to stay in and relax after finals and finally receiving your hard earned MA from Columbia. How kind of me-you’re welcome. If someone had offered me a free place to stay and the only caveat would be playing with a sweet little kitty named Eloise, you would be damn sure I would treat their home like a fucking palace. You on the other hand treated my apartment like a motel 6.

"Did you know trash goes in the trash bin?"

“Yesterday I found a fungus covered toenail clipping.”

Here’s a list of the damage you caused in case maybe you went blind as a consequence of untreated diabetes from all the shit you ate while obviously not moving from my bed (your hypodermic needle wrappers and insulin bottles scattered around the apartment gave that one away). Maybe diabetes induced blindness was a cause for all of this? Maybe! Here it goes: Let’s start with the shit. There was literally SHIT everywhere: shit on the carpet from the cat whose litter box was so full from your failure to clean it, she resorted to shitting elsewhere; shit all over the toilet from what I assume was a shit explosion after you binged on coca-cola and fast food for three weeks straight. It took me thirty fucking minutes, THIRTY MINUTES, to scrub the toilet to remove the shit stains. I didn’t even know it was possible to clean a toilet that long.

Moving on to the kitchen: did you know trash goes in the trash bin? Do you know what a trash bin is? It’s the silver box thing in the kitchen with a convenient foot lever that you step on so the top opens and you can easily deposit your garbage into it, hopefully with a bag in there so your crap doesn’t soil the entire bin. I take it you know what bags are, because those were scattered all over the damn kitchen (and the rest of the house) with rotting food from your many food deliveries leaked all over them. Somehow none of those bags made it into the trash bag in the trash bin, along with a bag full of trash just sitting open on the floor (and only two inches from the actual trash!) where my cat and all sorts of other critters seeking rotting food might poke around. In the actual trash bin was a trash bag, but rather then open the trash bag to deposit trash, you just threw it ON TOP of the bag. Maybe there’s something to this approach, but I haven’t figured it out yet. Oh, let’s not forget the counter and sink! The counter, I don’t even want to know what you spilled all over it, because it took me twenty minutes to scrub off. The sink was another interesting find. At this point, I wasn’t surprised it was piled full of dishes. What did surprise me was despite every single dish I own crammed into the sink filthy and unwashed, an entire bottle of dish soap somehow disappeared. I put out a fresh Mrs. Meyers rhubarb scented dish soap bottle for you to use while I was away, imagining the joy you might get out of the aromatic scent while washing your plates in my lovely little apartment while it snowed outside, but no, it was emptied when I returned, and alas no dishes had been washed during the snowstorm. Maybe in your diabetic induced blindness you became confused and drank it or washed your hair with it. God only knows.

"WASH YOUR HANDS! It prevents disease."

“WASH YOUR HANDS! It prevents disease.”

And now my favorite part, the bedroom: As I walked in I was almost relieved when I saw you stripped the bed. Maybe she washed my sheets, I thought. No, no you didn’t. Of course you didn’t. They were at the foot of my bed, covered in food stains like I have never seen. I lived in the Tenderloin in San Francisco for the past couple of years before moving to NYC and I have seen cleaner sheets on beds left outside because of a bed bug infestation that homeless people have slept on for two weeks while waiting for garbage men to dispose of them. Did you literally not leave my bed while I was away? Were you bed-stricken from disease? Was using my $200 duvet as a napkin necessary? If you used my dish soap as shampoo or body wash, how in the hell did you leave behind a visible yellow body-sized stain on the mattress cover that could only be explained by never washing oneself? Maybe you died in my bed…I almost hoped for this as this too might explain the mess. Well, I threw out the sheets. I couldn’t remove the hot cheetos colored stains on the duvet despite using more SHOUT than is environmentally safe. I actually had to BLEACH the walls where you spilled coke, indian food, and cupcakes off the side of the bed. I think you confused the space under my bed as a trash bin. It was like digging for treasure in the 12 inch space under my bed! After removing 4-5 to-go food containers, candy bar wrappers, coke bottles, more needle wrappers, and a cupcake wrapper so glued to the floor I had to leave some frosting behind after sweeping and mopping (twice!), I still continue to find shit you left behind in my room! Yesterday I found a fungus covered toenail clipping, a used bandaid and a oil stained paper bag under my radiator. On Sunday, I found a place on the wall I missed where you wiped your hands of more hot cheetos stains. WASH YOUR HANDS! It prevents disease. And me having to clean up after your for weeks after you’ve vanished.

And last but not least, let’s not forget that you left behind a live fish. That was really the icing on the cake. What kind of monster leaves behind a pet? How did you manage to keep it alive at all? The fact that you’re still walking the earth upright is a miracle in itself. I Googled your name hoping to find any sign of you, dead or alive, and I came across your LinkedIn profile.

My favorite part was this:

“Causes I care about:

  • Animal Welfare
  • Children
  • Civil Rights and Social Action
  • Education
  • Health
  • Human Rights
  • Politics”

What. Animal Welfare? I can’t. I ain’t got time for these lies!

You have zero empathy for animals so cross that right off the list. Children? Here’s hoping nothing ever pops out of your vagina that has the ability to cry. Civil rights and social action? The most you’ve ever engaged in fighting for civil rights is expressing your freedom to chose to sit in bed all day and eat. Education? You must be one of those people who paid your way in, never went to class, and paid people to write papers and take tests for you in order to pass Health? Obviously not high on your list of priorities…

The fact is you don’t care about anything but yourself. You took advantage of me and violated my home and the things I care about. You should be ashamed of yourself. You are disgusting. You are despicable. You are a monster. You knew there would be no consequences if you came into my home and trashed it. I knew going into this that could very well be a possibility. And frankly, you give off a shady vibe. You and your creepy little friend you brought by when I introduced you to my cat and my home. But I trusted you anyways because why would anyone want to harm someone else’s home and pet? So maybe I am mostly to blame but it was YOU and your belligerent and uncaring existence that did the damage. So fuck you. Karma is coming your way. Someday someone is going to literally diarrhea all over the things you love. Good luck.

“You are a monster.”


“A remarkable feature of this dancing floor is that though it is situated fifty feet above ground no railing has been placed about it.”

A wealthy Pennsylvanian who maybe drank on occasion decided to spend a fortune building a garish pavilion with trees lit up by gas fires and a dance floor without railing 50 feet above the ground. An excerpt from an article about the dreamer pleasure park in the September 1, 1907 New York Times, which at the time spelled “Pittsburgh” without the “h”:

“PITTSBURG, Penn.–A small paradise is the hill back of the home of Thomas McDermott, at Glenfield, ten miles below Pittsburg, on the banks of the Ohio. It is because of McDermott, who is said to be wealthy, is spending so much money beautifying the little park, making it a Luna Park and World’s Pavilion combined, that his wife, Catherine McDermott, has entered court, asking that he be declared an habitual drunkard. Mrs. McDermott tried to have her husband a lunatic because of his reckless expenditures on landscape, but failed, and now she wants to cut off his drinks.

THE TIMES correspondent has had an interview with McDermott,and has also looked through his wonderful pleasure park, which he is building, his wife says, for himself. He says that he is a recluse. This is what makes McDermott so angry. He admits that for the time he does not want the public to know much about his queer venture, nor would anything have been known about it until he was ready had it not been that Mrs. McDermott became suspicious and entered suit to obtain control of his estate. 

McDermott says he is and has been for some time preparing a treat for his neighbors; that it was and is his intention to invite every one to a grand ball and opening as soon as his monster pavilion is completed. McDermott, who is an Irishman, is very angry at his woman neighbors, whom he charges with having led his wife into wrong ways of thinking. He denies the allegation of Mrs. McDermott that he hasn’t been sober in thirty-nine years.

It is safe to assume that if McDermott is the real designer of the great pavilion, Mrs. McDermott will have great trouble proving her assertion. No inebriate ever designed and carried out the massive work now under way. It is a massive toy being erected by a man who has the money and who says he doesn’t care a blank what the public thinks; that it is his own money; he made it honestly, and will spend it as he sees fit. …

The pavilion is shaped like a woman’s hat, which, according to a certain humorist, is ‘anything with any shape at all.’ There just isn’t any shape to the McDermott pavillion. It wanders about, dodging trees here and encircling other trees, while in some places the roof and sides have been so constructed as to avoid hurting some favorite branch of a favorite tree. The whole thing is in the centre of a woody space which McDermott calls his ‘park.’

Rider Haggard never conceived of anything half so grotesque as that park when illuminated at night. There are at least sixty large trees, and from some point in each there springs a tongue of flame. The flame may come from a point high up or burst from near the base of the tree. Weird and uncanny the thing appears until one is told how it is done. It is natural gas which has been piped to each tree and the pipe cunningly concealed. In some cases the pipes are run up the tree quite a distance and out to the end of a branch. In other cases the pipes are run into old-fashioned chandeliers in the top branches of trees. This work was done by McDermott personally in spite of his sixty-odd years, and it was one of his delights to lead a visitor into his park and have his big trees lighted one by one. 

On top of the pavilion is a dancing floor, through which immense poplar trees break here and there, for McDermott has been most careful of his trees. On account of the many trees included in the make-up of the dancing floor it will scarcely ever be popular with the waltzers. A remarkable feature of this dancing floor is that though it is situated fifty feet above ground no railing has been placed about it, nor will one be placed there. A couple might easily two-step off the dancing floor.”

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At Medium, Walter Isaacson posted a new excerpt (which awaits your crowdsourcing) from his forthcoming book on Silicon Valley creators. His latest segment concerns the famed Homebrew Computer Club, the original cult of the microprocessor, which was spread across the country with a Johnny Appleseed approach several years before there was an Apple Computers. The first two paragraphs: 

The Homebrew Mentality

In June 1975, the month that Gates first moved down to Albuquerque, Ed Rogers decided to send the Altair or the road showing off its marvels as if it were a carney show exhibit. His goal was to create computer clubs in towns across America, preferably filled with Altair loyalists. He tricked out a Dodge camper van, dubbed it the MITS Mobile, and sent it on a sixty-town tour up the coast of California then down to the Southeast, hitting such hotspots as Little Rock, Baton Rouge, Macon, Huntsville, and Knoxville. Gates, who went along for part of the ride, thought it was an amazingly neat marketing ploy. ‘They bought this big blue van and they went around the country and created computer clubs everyplace they went,’ he marveled. ‘Most of the computer clubs in America were created by MITs.’ Gates was at the shows in Texas, and Allen joined for the ride when they got to Alabama. At the Huntsville Holiday Inn, sixty people — a mix of hippyish hobbyists and crew-cut engineers — paid $10 to attend, then about four times the cost of a movie. The presentation lasted three hours. At the end of a display of a lunar landing game, doubters came and looked under the table assuming there were cables to some bigger minicomputer hidden underneat. ‘But once they saw it was real,’ Allen recalled. ‘the engineers became almost giddy with enthusiasm.’

One of the stops that summer was Rickeys Hyatt House in Palo Alto. There a fateful encounter occurred after Microsoft BASIC was demonstrated to a group of hackers and hobbyists from a newly-formed local group known as the Homebrew Computer Club. ‘The room was packed with amateurs and experimenters eager to find out about this new electronic toy,’ the club’s newsletter reported. Some of them were also eager to act on the hacker credo that software, like information, should be free. This was not surprising given the social and cultural attitudes — so different from the entrepreneurial zeal of those who had migrated up from Albuquerque — which had flowed together in the early 1970s leading up to the formation of the Homebrew Computer Club.”

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From the October 27, 1897 New York Times:

Providence–The Coroner in that portion of South Kingston known as Gould’s Crossing decided to-day, after holding an autopsy upon the carcass of the favorite Jersey cow of Charles C. Allen, that the animal had been killed by a football. The animal became wheezy last Saturday and in the evening at milking time she had kicked and punted so desperately that weakness knocked her out and she fell in a heap.

Farmer Allen sent for a veterinary surgeon, and the two sat up all night and tried unsuccessfully to diagnose that puzzling disease. The veterinary declared that the trouble was a new one to him. He applied all sorts of remedies, and occasionally the distressed animal would arise and kick like a mule, driving her attendants before her. The appetite of the cow failed on Saturday night, and Sunday and Monday she wanted no fodder at all. Then death followed, and Farmer Allen determined to learn the nature of the strange and fatal illness.

The football was found in the stomach and was still partially blown up. It appears that the boys living about Gould’s Crossing went over to one of the fields of the Allen farm Saturday to have a line up, and that in some mysterious manner one of their footballs disappeared. The autopsy explained it all.”


In addition to a 1987 edition of Omni featuring Bill Gates and Dr. Timothy Leary opining on the future of technology in America, the publication also invited the economist Robert Heilbroner to speculate on the U.S. economy in 2007. He was spot-on about income inequality, the creative disruption of technology and the threats to American exceptionalism, though he whiffed on Japan’s place in today’s global marketplace. His forecast:

“There is an alarming possibility that our economy is moving in the direction of what some people call a two-tier society — a large population of people with middle-class or higher incomes and values, with a considerable bulge at the top. and a large number of people who have been economically and culturally uncoupled from the main society.

What’s most alarming is that the ladder that has connected the bottom to the top is now missing some important rungs. There were certain industries, like the steel and auto industries, that provided more or less continuous ladders of jobs from the bottom to the top. You could enter as an unskilled person, acquire new skills, and move up the ladder to secure, unionized, better-paying jobs. But now these industries have been seriously imperiled, and their place as employers has been replaced by what I call the McDonald’s employers. More people work for McDonald’s than work for U.S. Steel, but McDonald’s has no ladders. The problem is serious.

A great many economists, myself included, feel uneasy about the fact that 70 percent ol the economy does what is called service work and only 30 percent does what is called goods-related work. New technology keeps entering the economy and disrupting employment. When you look back at how the American economy developed, you see a migration off the farm into the factory and out of the factory into the office. The main push has come from technology. There has been relatively little new machinery to push people out of the office, but that’s changing now. If the computer creates jobs in the office, the service sector will increase and there will be no squeezing of employment. But if technology bumps service people out of work, I don’t know where they are going to go.

Personally. I think American optimism is in for a very severe challenge. We have always considered ourselves virtually to have a right to be number one in the world. But of course we don’t have any such right or assurance. And we have to resign ourselves to the unsettling fact that we are number two, or three, or four in many ways. In terms of health, for instance, we have fallen seriously behind, and that’s a big blow to our self-image.

In the next 20 years the government will have to take active steps in providing work and income tor the bottom one third of the population. The government grudgingly provides some sort of income, but it doesn’t provide work. And work is essential for people’s self-esteem and also for the building of many kinds of infrastructures that are needed in the country.

It is quite possible, it seems to me, that America will emerge from its present, wholly unaccustomed struggle for world position very worse off than it is today; that we will not find the right combination of talents and the right distribution of workforce in various occupations; that we will not develop the right technologies and will end up with a seriously disadvantaged economy. Not so long ago England was still regarded as one of Ihe most remarkable economies in the world, but it is now slightly less productive than Portugal. I think it is quite possible that the day of unquestioned American preeminence may be finished.

We could suddenly find that the way Americans live, their chances for life expectancy, their amenities of life are not as. good as, let’s just say, the Germans’ or the Swedes’. We might fail to produce the necessary output to bring our living standards and quality of life up to an acceptable level.

In the old days we tended to think about political possibilities in terms of left and right. Since Iran we’ve realized there is another dimension ‘up and down.’ There is potential for a great deal of political mischief and sabotage in ‘underdeveloped’ countries, and anyone who tries to think about the future has to consider that. There is going to be lots of trouble.

It is clear which countries are emerging as economic powers. It is entirely possible that Japan is going to be the England of the future — I mean the 1850’s England. Japan may be the organizer for a ‘Pacific Rim’ economy — as England was for Europe a century ago. Japan may combine its leadership and technology with the inexpensive manpower and the intelligence of the Chinese, the Malaysians, the Taiwanese, the Indians, the Koreans. It is quite possible that there will be a new world economic ‘empire’ out there, which will severely challenge the formerly undisputed hegemony of the West. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union, as far as I can see, will continue to be very bureaucratic and will be very unlikely to make any economic changes.

Sooner or later this terrific debt problem has to be resolved, and there is only one possible way to resolve it, and that is to ‘forget’ it. The debt is unrepayable, and it is going to be swallowed by a number of people taking their lumps— banks, corporations, and governments. And some of the borrowers will have to swallow bitter pills. The decks have to be cleared. I suspect that under international agreements the old debts are going to be washed away, forgiven, or rephased — such wonderful jargon words!

I think everyone recognizes now that the achievement of a better world is more complicated and difficult than some of us thought 20 years ago.”


In an addendum of sorts to his recent Wired article, “How the NSA Almost Killed the Internet,” Steven Levy, who wrote one of my favorite books ever, has published some takeaways from his recent conversations with the embattled government organization. One example about a certain freelancer:

They really hate Snowden. The NSA is clearly, madly, deeply furious at the man whose actions triggered the biggest crisis in its history. Even while contending they welcome the debate that now engages the nation, they say that they hate the way it was triggered. The NSA has an admittedly insular culture — the officials described it as almost like a family. Morale suffers when friends and neighbors think that NSA employees are sitting around reading grandma’s email. Also, the agency believes that the Snowden leaks have seriously hurt national security (though others dispute this). NSA officials are infuriated that all this havoc was caused by some random contractor. They suggest that had Snowden been familiar with the culture and the ethos of the agency, understood the level of training undergone by its employees, seen the level of regulations and oversight, he would have been less likely to abscond with all those documents. (Snowden’s interviews indicate otherwise.) Still, they are stunned that someone ‘inside the fence’ would do what Snowden did. Even if Snowden is eventually pardoned, he’d do well to steer clear of Fort Meade.”

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Tom Easton, American Finance Editor at the Economist, just did an Ask Me Anything at Reddit about what a big honking mess the U.S. is financially. A few exchanges follow.



You’ve commented that the US economy is moving towards the state-run model used in China and you’ve seen the effect of that first hand. There are many people in the US who think that’s not a bad thing. Can you briefly summarize the top 3 benefits and top 3 disadvantages to this model?

Tom Easton:

The Chinese economy functions because of a vibrant semi-legal market built around companies that do not pay taxes or follow national laws. At a certain point of maturity, they come under the system and lose their vitality. This is becoming sort of true in America as well, in as much as even though companies follow laws, the laws themselves are Orwellian – all equal, but more equal for some entities then others. Ones falling into this category include the various branches of private equity companies, master limited partnerships, real estate investment trusts, and business development companies. They largely avoid paying taxes on a corporate level, and are growing components of the American economy. When they get extremely large (and perhaps they are nearing this point), pressure will lead to change (maybe). The good part of this facet of America is that allows economic dynamism. The bad part is that it is extremely unfair. That is just like what occurs in China.



Treasury Secretary Lew–and the current Administration more broadly–recently began to promote the idea that Dodd-Frank and related Basel III capital and liquidity reforms have solved the problem of Too Big to Fail.

What are your thoughts on the metrics economists and analysts use to measure TBTF, specifically the existence of a “subsidy” in the form of cheaper debt financing as a result of implicit government support. Does the subsidy accurately measure TBTF? And if not, how can we know when we have addressed one of the core symptoms of the financial crisis?

And what do you think of the glaring holes in financial regulatory reform that the TBTF debate seems to ignore, i.e., securities financing transactions, money market funds, and other shadow banking entities.

Tom Easton:

I think the notion we have contained too big to fail is ludicrous. In many ways, during the crisis we merely shifted risks from private institutions to the government, and governments can still fail. Student loans, medicaid and social security are all structurally unsound, as are numerous large public pension plans. Nobody understands Dodd Frank, and I say this having read it, heard incoherent blather from its named authors, and spoken to numerous lawyers making a fortune from its nuances. Worse, perhaps the one uncontroversial ingredient of the financial crisis was its tie to improperly backed housing loans, and there is every indication the administration is pushing in this direction once again. Risk can not be eliminated and to suggest otherwise is to deceive. At best, it can be channeled and made more transparent. Consider one key plank of Dodd Frank: the stress test by the Fed. No one really understands what is in the test, and to the extent there is opacity, good credit will be curtailed and credit broadly will be provided by other sorts of entities that aren’t exposed to the same bureaucracy. There are already signs that it will come through companies which themselves are backed by bank, merely making the system more convoluted. The end of this questions suggests the author, bae8, clearly understands the limitations of the rules. We may have gotten the worst of both worlds – a “safety” net full of holes that nonetheless asphyxiates virtuous economic activity.



Do you think there will be any economic repercussions down the road due to the late start young adults are having in terms of jobs, starting careers, settling down etc?

Tom Easton:

At the Economist we have meetings in the editors office. Ideas are debated and often research cited. Sometimes I feel that what I hear is exactly contrary to what I have experienced. This is one of those areas. In a meeting I attended, one of our economic writers cited a piece that said the damage caused by a delayed or adverse start to a career will cause profound long-term damage to a career, and the reverse is true as well – there are golden moments to begin work. I have certainly seem anecdotal evidence of the latter – business school graduates from the late 1940s controlled vast swathes of the American economy. That said, I found that many of the most talented, driven and open people I have encountered were hit hard early on by adverse economic circumstances. When I began my career, the most extraordinary people I encountered had lived through bitter times during the Depression. It is no secret that Apple and Microsoft were founded in the 1970s. I think the key is how miserable the person is about their late start. The more miserable they are, the happier they will be.



What do you think is the biggest danger to the world economy that isn’t talked about in the media or intellectual circles today?

Tom Easton:

The single biggest danger is that there is no consensus, and perhaps no understanding, on underpins a viable economic system. In America, I think we are at a point where there is no agreement – and again maybe no understanding – of what defines the structure of a company, the role of the state, illegal activity, and even ownership. People often refer to the “american system” but whatever this may be is currently in great flux. That is a huge challenge to the rule of law – meaning clear demarcations of what is right and just, and what constitutes appropriate activity. The result is that there a movement toward cronyism – success is tied to who you know and the friends that can be purchased. The good news is that I believe many in America are aware of this, and it is not illegal to discuss it (untrue in much of the world) and consequently, I anticipate the emergence of better ideas and conditions.•


“Gradually he widened his teachings to his little band until he openly advocated the drinking of blood for all diseases.”

“Gradually he widened his teachings to his little band until he openly advocated the drinking of blood for all diseases.”

A 19th-century American religious cult became convinced that drinking human blood was the way to cure all ills, as evidenced by an article in the January 27, 1890 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Kansas City, Mo.–For some time rumors of the existence of a new religious sect which has gained a foothold in the territory adjacent to the Blue River, just east of Kansas City, have been afloat, and they have reached the ears of the police. The secretary of the Humane Society recently received a letter from a man living in that neighborhood telling him that if the authorities did not interfere the people would take matters into their own hands. According to the reports the practices of the sect were founded upon the Biblical injunction to do good to the sick, but this injunction had been carried to such an extent that the sect had degenerated into a band of blood suckers–those who were well allowing themselves to be bled for those who were ill.

Officer Marrau’s investigation of the matter proved to the letter to Secretary Hackett had not told half of the horrible practices in vogue among the people who believed in the savage rites. About a year ago there appeared among the people of that neighborhood a man named Silas Wilcox, who went about the country preaching the doctrine of doing good for the sick. It was not long until he had sufficient number of converts to his theories to warrant him in founding a sect, which he called the Samaritans. Gradually he widened his teachings to his little band until he openly advocated the drinking of blood for all diseases, giving as authority for such action the fact that the Bible taught that blood was the life.

At the home of John Wrinkle were found two emaciated children. On the bed lay Wrinkle, who apparently was in the last stages of consumption. When questioned about the drinking of blood of the children he strenuously denied having done so. The children also denied it. Their bloodless appearance, however, excited the suspicion of the officer and he compelled them to show their arms. The limbs were in a terrible condition, being covered with sores inside of the elbow joint, showing plainly the effects of the bleeding. When confronted with the evidence of the truth of the accusation, Wrinkke acknowledged that he had availed himself of the opportunity, and asserted that the children had willingly given their blood to restore him to health.

The man was in such a condition that he could not be moved, but the children were taken from the house and placed in the Children’s House. Chief Spears is anxious to put a stop to the practice of the blood drinkers, but it appears there is no law which covers the case and nothing can be done.”

San Francisco is ground zero in the tech-driven divide of haves and have-nots, with gourmet cafeterias and private transportation for the those inside the ‘plex and diminishing returns for the unlucky on the outside looking in. It’s not that corporations are responsible for curing all of society’s ills, but they can be held to account for making them worse through dodging taxes and privatizing basic services–by disengaging from a bustling city into a gated community. It’s a utopia; it’s an earthquake.

There have been a torrent of articles on the topic recently, but Katharine Blake McFarland’s 3 Quarks Daily essay is particularly good. The opening:

Something is happening in San Francisco. It’s nothing new, exactly; the widening gap between rich and poor is a story unfolding across the nation and the world and San Franciscans are growing weary of the spotlight. But the story here is hard to keep quiet about because it’s unfolding dramatically, at an accelerated pace and on an exaggerated scale. The numbers speak for themselves: in the city of San Francisco, the median price for a two-bedroom apartment is now $3,875, the highest in the country, and eviction notices are up 40 percent since 2010. On the one hand, the city counted 6,436 homeless people, more than half of whom suffer from mental illness, earning San Francisco fourth place in the nation for its homeless population. On the other, if all Stanford-alumni-founded companies formed a nation, its economy would be the 10th largest in the world, creating 5.4 million jobs and generating an annual revenue of $2.7 trillion.

It’s more than statistical extremity that accounts for the drama: characters here play their roles with pizzazz. In December, at one of the private bus protests, Union organizer Max Apler pretended to be a Google employee and his rant went viral: ‘This is a city for the right people who can afford it…Can’t afford it? You can leave.’ Residents’ willingness to believe the gag points to the problem. Then realer villains took the stage. AngelHack CEO Greg Gopman posted a Facebook tirade about ‘the degenerates’—San Francisco’s ‘crazy, homeless, drug dealers, dropouts, and trash … [who] gather like hyenas, spit, urinate, taunt you, sell drugs, get rowdy…’ He wrote:

The difference is in other cosmopolitan cities, the lower part of society keep to themselves. They sell small trinkets, beg coyly, stay quiet, and generally stay out of your way. They realize it’s a privilege to be in the civilized part of town and view themselves as guests. And that’s okay…

You can preach compassion, equality, and be the biggest lover in the world, but there is an area of town for degenerates and an area of town for the working class. There is nothing positive gained from having them so close to us. It’s a burden and a liability having them so close to us. Believe me, if they added the smallest iota of value I’d consider thinking different, but the crazy toothless lady who kicks everyone that gets too close to her cardboard box hasn’t made anyone’s life better in a while.



“I’m in search of small animals that have died.”

Wanted: animals that have “passed” naturally for taxidermy

Hi there, I am learning the art of taxidermy and right now working on skeletal articulation, wet preservation, and traditional mounting. I’m in search of small animals that have died due to natural or accidental causes. I am not looking for, nor believe in, animals being killed for artistic purposes. Also, no illegal species please! I am looking for donated/purchasable/trades for whole bodied specimens from breeders/pet stores that they may not have a need for.

In 1987, two software moguls, Bill Gates and Dr. Timothy Leary, were asked by Omni to make predictions about life 20 years in the future. Gates was more accurate in his prognostications, though Leary provided some gems like this one: “What will you be? A performer. Everyone will be performing.”


Bill Gates, Chairman of the Board, Microsoft Corporation:

The processing of digital information is improving very quickly. In ten years you’ll have 30 to 40 times as much computational power, and you’ll be able to manipulate the images and sounds that you now receive just passively from TV — you’ll insert yourself into a game or even change the outcome according to your wishes. So in 20 years your ability to get information will be expanded exponentially.

Take one example; You’re sitting at home. You’ll have a variety of image libraries that will contain, say, all the world’s best art. You’ll also have very cheap, flat panel-display devices throughout your house that will provide resolution so good that viewing a projection will be like looking at the original oil. painting. It will be that realistic.

In 20 years the Information Age will be here, absolutely. The dream of having the world database at your fingertips will have become a reality. You’ll even be able to call up a video show and place yourself in it. Today, if you want to create an image on a screen — a beach with the sun and waves— you’ve got to take a picture of it. But in 20 years you’ll literally construct your own images and scenes. You will have stored very high-level representations of what the sun looks like or how the wind blows. If you want a certain movie star to be sitting on a beach, kind of being lazy, believe me, you’ll be able to do that. People are already doing these things.

Also, we will have serious voice recognition. I expect to wake up and say, “Show me some nice Da Vinci stuff,” and my ceiling, a high-resolution display, will show me what I want to see — or call up any sort of music or video. The world will be online, and we’ll be able to simulate just about anything. Let’s say you want to go out to a racetrack. When you wake up you’ll say, “Hey, rent me one of those formula cars in Daytona,” and with some local controls, a little steering wheel you pull out of your drawer, you’ll be able to get the image and feel like you’re driving the car.

There’s a scary question to all this: How necessary will it be to go to real places or do real things? I mean, in 20 years we will synthesize reality. We’ll do it super-realistically and in real time. The machine will check its database and think of some stories you might tell, songs you might sing, jokes you might not have heard before. Today we simply synthesize flight simulation.

A lot of things are going to vanish from our lives. There will be a machine that keys off of physiological traits, whether it’s voiceprint or fingerprint; so in 2007 Mick Jagger will be onstage, and when Mick feels heat, you’ll feel heat. If a spray of water hits Tina on the back, you’ll feel that, too. I hope passive entertainment will disappear. People want to get involved. It will really start to change the quality of entertainment because it will be so individualized. If you like Bill Cosby, then there will be a digital description of Cosby, his mannerisms and appearance, and you will build your own show from that.

People will like the idea that the machine really knows them and that the machine can create experiences formed around the events in their lives to fulfill their particular needs and interests. But there’s a danger, too. It will be easy to feel worthless or overwhelmed by the amount of data. So what we’ll have to do is make sure the machine can tailor the data to the individual.

Probably all this progress will be pretty disruptive stuff. We’ll really find out what the human brain can do, but we’ll have serious problems about the purpose of it all. We’re going to find out how curious we are and how-much stimulation we can take. There have been experiments in which a monkey can choose to ingest cocaine and the monkey keeps on pushing that button until he dies. Well, we are going to create some pretty intense experiences through synthesized video-audio. Do you think you’ll reach a point of satisfaction when you no longer have to try something new or make something better? Life is really going to change; your ability to access satisfying experiences will be so large.

Take the change in movies in the last few years. Just a few years ago you had to find out where the movie was playing, then go to a certain neighborhood and stand in line to see the movie. Now you can go two blocks and find 10,000 titles. You feel inadequate. It’s going to be intimidating.

Twenty years ago I was ten years old. We already had color TV. I didn’t have theories about what the world might be like. But in the next 20 years you won’t be able to extrapolate the rate of progress from any previous pattern or curve because the new chips, these local intelligences that can process information, will cause a warp in what it’s possible to do. The leap will be unique. I can’t think of any equivalent phenomenon in history.•


Timothy Leary, President, Futique Software Company:

By 2007 the problem of scarcity will be solved. Because most work will be done by robots and computers, you won’t have to work. Material possessions won’t mean as much to us as they do now, If there are nine Porsches in your garage. you’re going to say, “Take them away.” We’ve done that with wheat and grain, and we can do it with other things if we put our minds to it.

The way we define human beings will change. You won’t be a serf, a slave, or a worker. What will you be? A performer. Everyone will be performing. Passive listening, passive observing, passive watching will disappear. Of course, Big Brother, both of the Reagan and Ihe Gorbachev type, want us to be passive. They don’t want us to think for ourselves.

In 2007 you’ll be living in an information society in which information will be what money and machinery were in the Industrial Age. Everyone is going to be a psychologist, computer whiz, philosopher. Mind play, mind performance, psychological skill are going to be the equivalent of land, money, and power in the earlier ages.

Now to the nuts and bolts of this stuff: Every kid will learn how to communicate at a very young age; every kid will have his own computer — like a pair of sneakers, a pair of Nikes. No one will steal a computer, because you’ll throw them away. And everyone will learn how to chart his thoughts and his mental performance — like a baseball player’s stats. Even kids will plot their thoughts like they plot their batting average. The name of our species is Homo sapiens. That means we’re the organism that thinks, and our species finally will be proficient in thinking.

The biggest effect will be on blacks and members of other minority groups in this country. In the Information Age, to keep any poor kid from having a computer would be like keeping him from having food, medicine, shelter, or clothing now.

Within 20 years we’ll have scrapped the current system of partisan politics. Partisan politics belongs back in an age of feudalism, or at most the Industrial Age. It is insane to run a highly complicated, technological, pluralistic society like America when you have in the cabin of the spaceship a Democratic and a Republican candidate kneeing and gouging and beating up each other to see who’s going to be president for four years. In an electronic society an intelligent person would no more send Tip O’Neil to Washington to make his laws than you’d send Tip O’Neill to the wine shop to pick out a good wine for you.

Everyone is going to be responsible for government. It will be done by televoting, perhaps every Sunday between, say, twelve and one. But we’ll be voting on major issues — not parties, people, or a glamorous candidate who will play on our superstitions and emotions. You’ll educate yourself on the issues by using your own thought-processing appliances, the new computers. So you’ll be continually teaching yourself, continuously learning.

Right now there is a great deal of concern about the drug problem. In 20 years there will be hundreds of neurotransmitters that will allow you to boot up and activate your brain and change mental performance. There are going to be what I call brain radios — hearing aids you put in your ear— that will pick up and communicate with the electricity in your brain. You will be able to tune in any brain aspect, like sex, that you want. You will speed up or slow down your thinking. Anything you can do with chemicals you can do with brain waves, and they are so much healthier.

Drugs will be old-fashioned. No one will be addicted because you can just turn on the ultimate orgasm and keep it going for an hour. But how long are you going to do that? You’ll get bored. You’re going to want to turn it down or off. The criminality of drugs is what is causing the so-called drug crisis, but if you legalize a brain radio — and you’re going to have to — everyone will have the ability to dial into any emotional, mental, or sensual experience. We will use these radios to think more clearly and, above all, to communicate more clearly. The key to the twenty-first century will be five words: “think for yourself,” and “question authority.”

People will become more intelligent. I am really bored with the level of intelligence on this planet. There’s no one to talk to, and there is so much superstition. I am just waiting for people to smarten up. In 20 years I’ll have more fun, and I’ll have more people to talk to. People will be teaching me, and life is going to be more exciting. Twenty years ago — 1967 — the summer of love was just beginning, and I was busy performing the rituals that had to be performed then. The computers were IBM business machines that were used to de- personalize and control us. I frankly was too dumb to look ahead.•

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From Hope Landsem’s WSJ review of David Kilcullen’s new book about the future of warfare, a passage about the heat of the battle potentially shifting to areas of population density:

Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla is his attempt at a study of future threats. The author says he was alerted by ‘a sense of dissonance about our reliance on ‘pure’ or binary theories that are framed around the nature of a specific threat group.’ Mr. Kilcullen worries that previous counterinsurgency theories, his own included, don’t adequately address current or potential problems, including global trends like population growth, urbanization, and the ready dissemination of military expertise and technology such as cellphones and drones.

These trends, Mr. Kilcullen says, will have a profound effect on the future of warfare. Take Libya, where anti-Gadhafi rebels in 2011 were able to use their technical expertise to modify weapons in factories near Benghazi—despite their lack of prior military experience. In Syria, urban areas became breeding grounds for dissatisfaction following years of diminishing water supplies. Social networks and social media helped fuel Syria’s 2011 uprising, which subsequently devolved into a sectarian civil war centered around cities.

As these examples show, the next global conflicts are more likely to be fought in tightly packed urban areas rather than in mountain environs. Coastal regions present extremely likely future threats, Mr. Kilcullen says—fitting, given that coastal regions contain more than 80% of the world’s cities.”

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