A flawed but intriguing essay on the nature of solitude in the modern age. Intriguing, because he takes the typical complaint about modern social networking — i.e. that we’re all becoming narcissists, and competing to amass the hugest collection of faux-friends — and tips it on its side: The real problem, Deresiewicz argues, is that we’re becoming incapable of enjoying solitude. The best part of his work here is his survey of philosophic attitudes towards solitude throughout history. The “flawed” part of the essay, however, is that once he finishes with this excellent historical survey, his argument slowly decomposes into a slurry of “the world is going to hell” critiques — surburbanism! consumerism! tiny attention spans! narcissism! Still, his overall question is great: What role does solitude play in the formation of our spirits?
“Many of you are staring at your laptops, multitasking. Although you will only remember a fragment of this talk, you will probably tell me that you remembered the important part or that you were practicing your continuous partial attention. Some of you may already be ninja masters at this, but the majority of you are probably paying poor attention to both the computer task and to me. But you *want* to be a continuous partial attention ninja master because you’ve been told that all of the cool kids are.”—From "Autistic Social Software", a wonderful speech/essay by Danah Boyd.
“A whopping 70,000 questions poured into Change.gov over the past week, in response to the Obama transition team’s call for citizen queries to the President-Elect. After votes from about 100,000 people, the top ranked question asks Obama whether he will appoint a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of torture and illegal surveillance by the U.S. government.”—An interesting essay pointing out how Obama’s open-to-the-public Web 2.0 flava is now posing some political difficulties for him.
“Why Apple didn’t just build the iPhone with a replaceable battery. I’m convinced the answer is that the chief executive, Steven P. Jobs, and Apple’s design chief, Jonathan Ive, are design snobs, who care more about form than function. Larry Keeley, the president of the design firm Doblin Inc., wrote me an e-mail message after he’d seen the innards of the iPhone, which several Web sites have now published. The battery, he told me, lacks the normal metal jacket, making it ”thinner and lighter, while also making it more difficult for consumers to handle or dispose of.” He added: ”This is clear evidence that they are optimizing the INSIDES of the phone to the OUTSIDE form factor that they have designed. It is far more common and much cheaper to design the other way: pile up all the components you have to stuff inside, then figure out the sexiest box that can contain them.”—TALKING BUSINESS; Baseballs, Batteries And Bad Ads - New York Times
“Him: “I find it funny that ur crowdsourcing an answer when u have 2 ppl in a room who know about it” Me: “But I can’t click on your words!”—Wonderful tweet by Ariel Waldman. Reminds me of how, when someone mentions something new to me in face-to-face conversation, I often find myself mentally preparing a Google query …
“[gossip] interests me. So that’s a good place to start from, and it’s having a huge effect on how we communicate. It’s related to what I find so interesting about Twitter. You just send out these little messages about what you’re doing, and for me there’s an impulse of trying to figure out why you want to tell somebody something. … If Amy Winehouse or Britney spent as much time blogging about themselves, would you be able to gossip about them?”—A really interesting thought from Heather Gold.
“The movie’s title sequence story (Soft Landing) begins with an astronaut named Grimaldi descending through Earth’s atmosphere in a futuristic automobile based on a 1960 Corvette.”—I had forgotten the plot details of the 80s movie Heavy Metal.
One of the cultures you celebrate in Light at the Edge of the World is the Inuit. What do you most admire about them?
Davis: The Inuit didn’t fear the cold; they took advantage of it. During the 1950s the Canadian government forced the Inuit into settlements. A family from Arctic Bay told me this fantastic story of their grandfather who refused to go. The family, fearful for his life, took away all of his tools and all of his implements, thinking that would force him into the settlement. But instead, he just slipped out of an igloo on a cold Arctic night, pulled down his caribou and sealskin trousers, and defecated into his hand. As the feces began to freeze, he shaped it into the form of an implement. And when the blade started to take shape, he put a spray of saliva along the leading edge to sharpen it. That’s when what they call the “shit knife” took form. He used it to butcher a dog. Skinned the dog with it. Improvised a sled with the dog’s rib cage, and then, using the skin, he harnessed up an adjacent living dog. He put the shit knife in his belt and disappeared into the night.
“Video from a camp north of Toronto in December 2005 shows a car spinning around in a nearby, snow-covered parking lot. Prosecutors characterized that as special driver training but the defense, and many outsiders, said it was nothing more than “cutting doughnuts,” a favorite winter pastime of young Canadian motorists.”—A key piece of evidence submitted in the trial of a gang of alleged young Canadian terrorists.
“Good teachers know that now, in what’s called the civilized world, the great enemy of knowledge isn’t ignorance, though ignorance will do in a pinch. The great enemy of knowledge is knowingness. It’s the feeling encouraged by TV and movies and the Internet that you’re on top of things and in charge. You’re hip and always know what’s up.”—The Way We Live Now - Geek Lessons - NYTimes.com
The Black Market Code Industry By: Adam L. Penenberg Inside the shadowy underworld where rogue employees sell holes in their companies’ software. The buyers: security firms, mobsters, and — surprise — the U.S. government.
We constructed a guild specifically to play World of Warcraft in a reasonable way, with a focus on five-man instances and a schedule that was compatible with human lives. The trouble is that the rewards for doing the more elaborate raids are almost nonsensical by comparison, ridiculous. I’m not talking about bosses, or middle management, or whoever is being gutted tonight. Even their undead pool man, a Goddamned civilian, drops a ancient, spiked crown that peers deep the future.
So, you build your organization out to grasp that fruit. For a time, you aren’t jiggered for five mans, because now you have eight. And once the tens have arrive, you have thirteen. It’s some magical Goddamned ratio, written into existence, that ensures human suffering.
Fuck the rest of this shit. I want our next President to have managed a guild.
“Dollar a day. Teenage pregnancy is a serious problem, and girls who have one child, at, say, 18, often become pregnant again within a year or two. Several cities, including Greensboro, North Carolina, have experimented with a “dollar-a-day” program, by which teenage girls with a baby receive a dollar for each day that they are not pregnant. Thus far the results have been extremely promising. A dollar a day is a trivial amount to the city, even for a year or two, so the plan’s total cost is extremely low, but the small recurring payment is just enough to encourage some teenage mothers to take steps to avoid getting pregnant again. And because taxpayers end up paying a significant amount for many children born to teenagers, the costs appear to be far less than the benefits.”—GOOD Magazine | Goodmagazine - Tricking People into Doing the Right Thing