Rusting Trawlers off Guinea
Greenpeace.org has an article on their blog about a flotilla of decaying chinese trawlers rusting off the coast of West Africa. The boats are floating wrecks with the crews stranded on board, sometimes for years, with those that still run being used for illegal fishing.[read on...]
The article focuses more on the crews and the companies responsible. Though the situation's tragic, I think the wrecks are just beautiful. I would love to go take pictures of these things. The color and textures are amazing.
Bigass Antarctic Iceberg
According to the NOAA this morning, a huge great chunk of ice has broken off the Fimbul Ice Sheet in Queen Maud Land. I know it sounds like I'm making these names up, but no: there is a place called Queen Maud Land. The souls of evil chidren spend dark, sunless winters there molesting the penguins.
It's a disturbing reminder of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series, when sea levels suddenly rise because an ice sheet breaks off Antarctica due (perhaps) to global warming, drifts into warmer water and melts.
(picture coutesy of the DMSC, click to enlarge)
Currently, D-16, which measures 15 nautical miles on its longest axis and 8 nautical miles on its widest axis, is located 69 22’ 48” South and 0 12’ 0” East.[read on...]
Iceberg names are derived from the Antarctic quadrant where they are first sighted. When they are first observed, the National Ice Center documents an iceberg's point of origin. The iceberg is assigned the letter of the quadrant, along with the sequential number.
Life of Satisfaction Expectation Ratio
Today on the Daily Show, Demitri Martin's Trendspotting looks at life coaches, what they do and whether you need one. At the end of the show he shares with us the only available tool to help you decide if life coaching is right for you, the Life Of Satisfaction Expectation index.[read on...]
You can calcualte yours now using this form.
''You just take the age you were when you moved out of your parents house, multiply by the age at which you lost your virginity, plus the square root of your monthly income, divided by the number of cats you have plus one''
12 Arguments Against Gay Marriage
From TruthCantSaveU's LiveJournal:[read on...]
Twelve Reasons Gays Should Not Be Allowed to Get Married
1. Homosexuality is not natural, much like eyeglasses, polyester, and birth control.
2. Heterosexual marriages are valid because they produce children. Infertile couples and old people can't legally get married because the world needs more children.
3. Obviously, gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.
4. Straight marriage will be less meaningful if Gay marriage is allowed, since Britney Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage was meaningful.
5. Heterosexual marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are property, blacks can't marry whites, and divorce is illegal.
6. Gay marriage should be decided by people, not the courts, because the majority-elected legislatures, not courts, have historically protected the rights of the minorities.
7. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That's why we have only one religion in America.
8. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.
9. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.
10. Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why single parents are forbidden to raise children.
11. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society. Heterosexual marriage has been around for a long time, and we could never adapt to new social norms because we haven't adapted to things like cars or a longer lifespan.
12. Civil unions, providing most of the same benefits as marriage with a different name are better, because a ''separate but equal'' institution is always constitutional. Separate schools for African-Americans worked just as well as separate marriages for gays and lesbians will.
Growers IP Review
The Councillor of the Exchequer has commanded a treasury-level review of the complicated mess that is the UK's intellectual property law, and you're invited to contribute. The Open Rights Group was asked to participate and have issued a call for evidence. If you have any war stories highlighting the failure of current system, please send them in.[read on...]
neworder.box.sk's EyeScream has an excellent article about hacking. If you want to learn more about it NewOrder is a good place to get rid of the media/teenager image of what a hacker is and read a thing or two about creative use of computers.
You wanna know what a *hacker* is?
Switch off your TV. I know its hard. Its been nurturing you since childhood, taught you right from wrong and all the rest, huh?
Now I know the TV told you that a *hacker* is the cyber bogeyman, an evil genius that sleeps with his eyes open in front of his computer just waiting for YOU to turn on your computer and then WHAM! steal all that is precious to YOU and destroy the rest. He may even sell some of the things he got from you – the TV hadn’t decided yet. You’ve also heard the stories about those little boys and girls that went playing in the Dark Codewoods without their friend McAfee…
What if I told you that the TV is WRONG?
Are you alright? You look kinda pale and sweaty, do you want me to bring you your inhaler?
No, then I’ll continue.
There have been hackers since the dawn of civilization. Yes, I know there weren’t any computers at that time, but who said that hacking is to do with computers exclusively… I told you to switch off that TV didn’t I!
The term *hacker* was first coined at MIT in the 50s. As we nowadays use the term *cool* to describe something or someone, the term hacker was at that time designed to describe a person who enjoyed playing with things (computers being one of them), by taking them apart, learning as much as possible about their inner workings, making original modifications and thus improving their performance or even coming up with different purposes for use altogether. The mentality behind all of this was good ol’ fashioned … *fun*. The hackers *enjoyed* thinking about new applications for existing tools. For them it was a *game* that never stopped and could be applied to anything be it an object or a hole field of art such as Physics, Computers, Mechanics or Literature. Thus this universally applicable activity became known as *hacking*.
So how come the TV says…?
Back in the 80s young teenagers who were fascinated by computers discovered that there is another world out there, one you couldn’t really see or touch but which was populating fast with like-minded people. In this world you could meet others through Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) even if they lived thousands of miles away. It was all very exciting...
Fun Timewasters: Google Video
Jazzz says:[read on...]
Bush and Blair: Read My Lips
Holy Crap! (Colin Vincent are you watching)
Carlsberg Ad, Carmina Burana
Have you got a WKD side?
M$ Redesigned iPod Package
US Declaration of Independence Wallpaper
My current wallaper, a scanned section from the US Declaration of Independence. [click to enlarge]. I'm no apologist for the Bush administration (or Republicans on general), but I do admire the principles on which the country was founded and I'm a big fan of the US Constitution. Now if only more Americans would read it...
Scan is from the US National Archives website.
Kickass little video clip and narration of a tropical bird doing a mating dance that involves moonwalking. Michael Jackson soundtrack. Enjoy. Link.
Shout to Jazzz for sending this in.
Gratuitous Monkey Photo
When the British first began to explore Africa, young monkeys were often captured and taken back on board the ship to entertain sailors. Some were later kept in zoos, many modern captive monkeys in the UK are descended from such Victorian era monkeys. In the Napoleonic Wars, the same practice is thought to have occurred. It is rumoured that one such monkey washed up ashore and, being mistaken for a Frenchman, was hanged in Hartlepool, England this caused the people of Hartlepool to be nicknamed the monkey hangers.
So there. Dont say I neva learned u nuthing. Wikipedia Link[read on...]
How do Porcupines Make Love
If I was a horny porcupine.... I guess I could invent some pretty tall tails about how two balls of poisonous spines go about making naughty ju-ju without painful damage occuring. I know know that if I was going to have sex with a porcupine... OK lets stop that train of thought. The reality turns out to be wierder anyway:
When the male encountered the female porcupine he smelled her all over, then reared up on his hind legs, his penis fully erect. If the female was not ready she ran away. If she is prepared for mating she also reared up and faced the male, belly-to-belly. In this position most males then sprayed the female with a strong stream of urine (In one case, urine was measured on the lab floor 6 foot 7 inches from the point of discharge), soaking her from head to foot. (Johnnie, a young male, would charge the female from this position, trying to wrestle her to the ground and make sexual contact ventrally. He was never successful.)
Read the whole story.[read on...]
Vintage WW2 Tampon Ads
Duke University Library has an awesome collection of newspaper ads from the early 20th century. Not only are they an old-timey reminder of the culture that defeated the Nazis and gave us Daffy Duck, you can learn about tampons as well. Yay!
Seems like the wikipedia's having a problem. Just when I was gearing up to do some scraping... bummer.[read on...]
In lighter news, the classic search engine Altavista was recently hacked. I visited night before last and their portal page had been blanked and replaced with a single heading 'do you yahoo?'.
This is genius. Unmitigated freaking genius. Mad props to whoever this is.[read on...]
Google based thesaurus
I was thinking today about language and grammar recognition by machines, as used for auto-translating, document rewriting, etc. I need a thesaurus of phrases for rewriting documents. I'm trying work out how a bot could compile one and it occurs to me that google has a huge database of English text from which to derive rules.[read on...]
Suppose you were to search for ''A banana is a'' (with the double quotes). Taking only the sentences which begin with that phrase. Google returns results containing:
a banana is a banana
a banana is a fruit
a banana is a tropical herbaceous plant
a banana is a good source of water
a banana is a tropical fruit
a banana is a phallic symbol
a banana is a monoecious plant
a banana is a healthy snack
If a bot trims out the rest of the sentences then this can be used to create relationships between nouns.
banana --> fruit
banana --> phallic symbol
If this is done for other nouns we might get:
apple --> fruit
apple --> computer
So having done this for a bunch of words we can make a list of things 'which are' fruit. So far we've got 'apple' and banana', and we can do some text substitutions. 'she was eating a banana' can be substituted with 'she was eating a fruit'. If we substitute 'she was eating a phallic symbol' it's still gramatically correct (and sounds kinda sexy) but we've lost the meaning of the original phrase. Which is no good if we're rewriting document that humans will read. So how's a computer going to know which is the better substitution?
It's a tough. My best answer at the moment is to have the bot see what humans use more often, ie, Google both terms and see which comes up more often.
'she was eating a fruit' => 95
'she was eating a phallic symbol' => 0
'she was eating a snack' => 164
'she was eating a monoecious plant' => 0
Now we have a score for each substituion. To make a general case for each word (so as not to have to search each time, and because many phrases will not exist at all) we could search nouns against verbs for proximity and the number of Google matches will be the score for how appropriate they are to each other.
''eat * banana'' OR ''banana * eat'' => 142,000
''eat * snack'' OR ''snack * eat'' => 269,000
We can also test verb substitutions from a regular thesaurus this way. For example Roget's lists nosh, chow and masticate as alternatives to 'eat'.
'eat * banana' => 124,000
'nosh * banana' => 13
'chow * banana' => 303
'masticate * banana' => 4
So 'chow' is the most likely substitute for 'eat' out of these three (personally I prefer masticate) but it's not a very common switch. If chow and eat had simmilar scores (say within 66% of each other) then that would likely be a better substitution.
Ultimately I'd like to be able to make a bot rewrite text into infinite permutations retainging the original English (human) meaning as well as some of its nuance.
I'm sure it's possible, I'm not sure how. Try 'He attended MIT to study' (remove object from sentence). Googling for 'He * MIT to study' gives:
he was at MIT to study
he was accepted at MIT to study
he came to MIT to study
he entered MIT to study
As well as a buch of bad substitutions, most of which can be filtered out by context. 'he returned to MIT to study' would be harder for a machine to spot as a bad substitution because it changes the meaning.
Thinking.... thinking.... thinking....
Any thoughts or ideas, email me!
National Gorilla Suit Day
National Gorilla Suit Day, which mysteriously falls on January 31 of each year, is perhaps the important holiday of the year. Every National Gorilla Suit Day, people of all shapes and colors around the world get their gorilla suits out of the closet, put them on and go door-to-door.
That's really all there is to it. You don't have to buy gifts. You don't have to fast, although some Orthodox Gorilla Suiters do. If you want to have a parade, fine. Just make sure all the marchers are wearing gorilla suits and that all the balloons are giant, inflatable gorillas.
– Mark Evanier
Now that's a holiday worth celebrating!
from the Daily Monkey [read on...]
The Warlike Percys
I just read something wonderful in the Wikipedia article for the town of Alnwick:
The history of Alnwick is the history of the castle and its lords, from the days of Gilbert Tyson, variously known as Tison, Tisson, and De Tesson, one of the Conqueror's standardbearers, upon whom this northern estate was bestowed, until the present time. After being held by the family of De Vesci (of which the modern rendering is Vasey — a name found all over south-east Northumberland) for over two hundred years, it passed into the hands of the house of Percy in 1309.
At various points in the town are memorials of the constant wars between Percys and Scots in which so many Percys spent the greater part of their lives.
Wars between the Percys and the Scots. I dont know about y'all, when I imagine someone called Percy the picture is of a small, effete man in a tuxedo. Someone with unfashionable glasses, a high nasal voice and a penchant for stamp collecting. Maybe I'm being terribly unfair.
Now imagine them at war. A green field under an overcast Northumberland sky. Stretched out across it is a single line of thousands of Percys, all in their tuxedos and clutching their fencing rapiers or whatever weapons they own. They're nervously singing the Percy family hymn and stuttering.
Charging down the hillside on the other end of the field are two thousand red haired, kilt wearing, half-drunk Scots. They're shouting and swearing in gaelic over the noise of fifty clan pipers on the hill behind them. A muddy, sweaty wave of wildmen sweeping onto the field, armed with rocks and sharpened poles.
It may have been a short battle. AaaarrrrrGH![read on...]
Yakima NSA Echelon Faclilty, Washington
For completeness I thought I'd find and add some images of Sugar Grove's twin facility outside Yakima, Washinton. Notice how many of the dishes are pointing inwards towards the United States, as well as West, to intercept traffic coming in off the Pacific. Images produced using Google Earth, click to enlarge.[read on...]
The gorge in these photos runs due west.
Google Maps Link
Sugar Grove NSA Echelon Facility, VA
This is a snip from a recent New York Times article about the NSA center to monitor communications coming into the US off the eastern seaboard:
DEEP in a remote, fog-layered hollow near Sugar Grove, W.Va., hidden by fortress-like mountains, sits the country's largest eavesdropping bug. Located in a 'radio quiet' zone, the station's large parabolic dishes secretly and silently sweep in millions of private telephone calls and e-mail messages an hour.
Run by the ultrasecret National Security Agency, the listening post intercepts all international communications entering the eastern United States. Another N.S.A. listening post, in Yakima,Wash., eavesdrops on the western half of the country.
Intrigued, I thought I'd look more closely, this is the best satellite photo I could get of the site (without paying, that is) from TerraServer:
Notice the large sattelite dish in the northenmost perimiter of the site. Below is an older photo of the facility from a conspiracy cook site. Cryptome.org wrote something about the place and suddeny and mysteriously has gone offline. Odd, huh?
update: cryptome.org is back online, photos of the Sugar Grove Echelon system aren't.
Turns out that it's illegal to eat your ballot card in Canada:
Q: Is someone allowed to eat a ballot?
A: Eating a ballot, not returning it or otherwise destroying or defacing it constitutes a serious breach of the Canada Elections Act.
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