Sunday, September 21, 2014

Youth has no age - Pablo Picasso: So Hope your day is simply terrific! Happy Birthday Ruby

  • 50 years
  • 600 months
  • 2,609 weeks
  • 18,263 days
  • 438,312 hours
  • 26,298,720 minutes
  • 1,577,923,200 seconds
  • Age in Dog Years: 213.0
  • Age in Galapagos Turtle Years: 23.8
- Zippy and Pasha would have said Awooooouuu.... [Keep your friends close, but your birthday cake closer. (The Godfather)]

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing. MA

Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even...

You lose nothing when fighting for a cause ... In my mind the losers are those who don't have a cause they care about.
( Muhammad  Ali)

May your birthday and every day be filled with the warmth of sunshine, the happiness of smiles, the sounds of laughter, the feeling of love and the sharing of good cheer. May the kindness you always give come back to you doubled ... What we all need is more people who specialize in the impossible such as those outlaw brothers!

May you stay Forever Young - Bob Dylan (Sydney Opera House September 2014)

All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts. - William Shakespeare

You were born an original. Don't die a copy. - George Burns

“Above all, cultivate easy and sincere friendships with kindred spirits and enter into them with generous sympathy.” – W. V. O. Quine gives some life advice.

 It takes a long time to become as young as you are. May the Force be with you on your birthday. (Star Wars)

I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. - Jimmy Dean

CODA: Nice to be here? At my age it's nice to be anywhere. - brother-out-law Jozef

Sto lat! Sto lat!
Niech zyje, zyje nam.
Sto lat! Sto lat!
Niech zyje, zyje nam.
Jeszcze raz! Jeszcze raz! Niech zyje, zyje nam.
Niech zyje nam.

Niech ci? gwiazdka pomyslnosci nigdy nie zagasnie,
nigdy nie zagasnie! 
A kto z nami nie wypije,
niech go piorun trzasnie.
A kto z nami nie wypije,
niech go piorun trzasnie.

Sto lat! Sto lat! Sto lat!
Sto lat! Niechaj zyje nam.
Sto lat! Sto lat! Sto lat!
Sto lat! Niechaj zyje nam.
Niech zyje nam! Niech zyje nam!
Zdrowia, szczescia, pomyslnosci!
Niechaj zyj

100 years! 100 years!
They live, live (among) us!
100 years! 100 years!
They live, live (among) us!
Again, again! They live, live (among) us!
Live (among) us!
That for him the star of happiness never goes out, never goes out!
And those who do not drink with us, as lightning strikes!
And those who do not drink with us, as lightning strikes!

100 years, 100 years,
100 years, 100 years live (among) us!
100 years, 100 years,
100 years, 100 years live (among) us!
Live (among) us! Live (among) us!
In health, happiness, and the happiness he lives (among) us.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

If Books Can Change Your Life, Can They Also Make It Far Worse?

If Books Can Change Your Life, Can They Also Make It Far Worse?

“Novels might not make us worse, but they can unlock parts of us that were already there, already dark, already violent or ruthless or self-destructive.”

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pray For Media Dradons: Why study paradoxes?

“A lot of the reason why societies don’t become fairer is that those who benefit from current injustice are spared the need to think too hard about what it would have been like to be born in different circumstances. They resist change from ingrained bias and prejudice, from a failure of the imagination.” – John Rawls’s life and ideas are briefly surveyed at The Philosopher’s Mail.

In the Dust of This Planet: Horror of Philosophy, Volume 1, by Eugene Thacker, is, according to Radiolab, “an academic treatise about the horror humanity feels as we realize that we are nothing but a speck in the universe.” Who knows, but apparently it is kind of a big deal in some entertainment circles.

“In a new study, researchers used a smartphone app to track moral and immoral acts committed or witnessed by more than 1,200 people as they went about their days,” reports Wired and the New York Times.

Why study paradoxes? Roy Cook (Minnesota) answers.
Paul Bloomfield (Connecticut) lists 10 reasons why it is good to be good at the OUP Blog.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Story of Surveillance

Charles Ives only fitfully found an audience. His was a life of rejection, struggle, redemption. His big break: being weaponized in the Cold War... Velvet Tevolutions

The Transparency Trap

Why trying to make government more accountable has backfired

As time runs out. Rarely does a writer knowingly record his last words. And yet writing does tend to focus the mind on posterity... Scholars

Kim Dotcom, Glenn Greenwald, and New Zealand’s Intelligence Service, GCSB

As New Zealanders will know, Kim Dotcom, a resident of New Zealand, is a very, very imposing German tech entrepreneur with a shady past, who has lately been the subject of much official attention from the US and NZ authorities (including jail time), for his facilitation of large scale worldwide copyright breaches via the file sharing service, “megaupload”, now expropriated and closed down.
Here’s the sort of place one saw megaupload in its heyday; along with many other file sharers, it provided a great way to knock off bloggers’ e-books, such as Econned, by one Yves Smith:
Megaupload CaptureYou may assume that “Naked Capitalism” is not a massive fan of Kim Dotcom.
Dotcom, who now has a major bone to pick with the New Zealand authorities, has been promising election-influencing revelations about John Key, to be released on the 15th September. Just now, the pre-publicity went up many, many notches, with a huge assist from the redoubtable Glenn Greenwald, who is attending the Dotcom shindig on the 15th:
The Prime Minister has admitted for the first time that New Zealand spies did look into a form of mass surveillance on Kiwis, but never actually went through with it.
John Key was responding to the arrival of journalist Glenn Greenwald, with thousands of documents taken by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that he says prove New Zealanders have been subjected to wholesale spying by the Government.
Mr Key has always said that he would resign if that was proven, but tonight he’s launched a counterattack.
Mr Greenwald claims he will produce evidence that could take down the Prime Minister, but just a short while ago Mr Key hit back and upped the ante big time, promising to get ahead of Mr Greenwald and declassify top-secret documents that will prove him wrong.
Key is on the record with the resignation promise here. I suppose it’s not terribly surprising how suddenly the national security rationale for having those documents classified in the first place can evaporate, when a Prime Ministerial career might be at stake. Realistically, though, if there’s anyone left in New Zealand who thought national security issues ranked way ahead of party politics, they probably have funny ideas about Santa Claus too.
We now have a handy equivalent for the verb “leak”, as well: “declassify”.
In a day or two, New Zealanders will get to see whether they think John Key’s hasty declassification trumps Greenwald’s leak, and whether it matters. Greenwald, in this interview, sounds very confident, but then, that’s his style:
United States journalist Glenn Greenwald says there are serious questions about whether the New Zealand Government was truthful about the GCSB law change.
“What I can tell you is that the statement that the GCSB made to New Zealand citizens last year — ‘We do not engage in mass surveillance of New Zealanders’ — is one that is not truthful.”
The Government engages in “extraordinary amounts of analysis of metadata – meaning who’s talking to whom for how long, where they are when they speak – on a massive, indiscriminate scale, not just internationally but of New Zealanders as well”.
He says New Zealand is an active member of the Five Eyes Alliance and spends an extraordinary amount of resources on electronic surveillance.
“…Every single thing that the NSA does that we have been reporting on over the last year and a couple of months involves New Zealand directly.”
Eyes down for the 15th, then.
Updates: Clever interview with Greenwald in New Zealand.  TVbarnstorming about the Internet, the TPP, NZ democracy and Kim Dotcom, by Dotcom’s lawyer.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


“And out of the river, the mist,
and deep in the forest, the devil;
where the world’s just an eagle’s wing in the dusk, or
a cloud
or the moon growing pale. 

The devil entices the good man
who ventures too far.
The river’s too dark. You’ll lose your way, you’ll drown it is
even under the stars.” 
~ Cold River in Mittleurope

What is college for? To learn about history, science, culture. If students want to build a self, says Steven Pinker, they can do it on their own... Do it yourself Tools

Judge above the Law and it’s not looking good. Here’s the source. And here’s a follow up to this story

Teenager offers creative solution to California drought ABC7 
For more than 100,000 years, humanity has survived every natural disaster. Now the existential risk comes from our own creation:supersmart machines...Careful what we wish for ;-)

A philosophy of body art. A tattoo can be many things – testimonial, adornment, poignant reminder – but they all share a subtext: “Look at me”... Look look at

Silicon Valley Has Officially Run Out of Ideas Slate. A positive development. Time for funding for new ventures to move into other arenas besides that related to computers and communications technology ...

A Porpoise Ensnared by Criminals and Nets New York Times 
Letting the Rich Take All The Money masaccio, Firedoglake

100 Best Novels, in Translation, Since 1900 CounterPunch of Cold River
‘Sorry about the bomb’: Aussie police apologize for ‘training device’ left in Sydney airport RT 

The new chasm is not between science and art but between those who speak the language of money and those who don’t. John Lanchester explains... Abba of money

Bohemian Kobra

The Czech special police squad Kobra revealed tax evasion estimated at at least 25 million Kč in business involving toilet paper and tissues, representatives of the police and customs officers has told journalists.
The police seized 3.7 million toilet paper rolls from a businessman.
Czech Financial General Directorate Deputy Director Jiří Zezulka said the toilet paper circulated among firms in the European Union while only serving as “the carrier of tax fraud” and was not produced for any final customer.
No word on whether it had special absorbency to carry tax fraud.  I love that the toilet paper caper was uncovered by “Kobra.” Kobra was his name ;-)

A robot (coined by Karel Capek as robota means work in Czech) unveiled today at the British Science Festival will be loading dishwashers next year, its developers claim.
“Boris” is one of the first robots in the world capable of intelligently manipulating unfamiliar objects with a humanlike grasp.
It was developed by scientists at the University of Birmingham.
The team also work with “Bob”, an autonomous robot who recently completed work experience at security firm G4S.
“This is Boris’ first public outing,” announced Professor Jeremy Wyatt of the School of Computer Science. The robot took five years to develop at a cost of £350,000.
Boris “sees” objects with depth sensors on its face and wrists. In 10 seconds it calculates up to a thousand possible ways to grasp a novel object with its five robotic fingers and plans a path of arm movements to reach its target, avoiding obstructions.
“It’s not been programmed to pick it up – it’s been programmed to learn how to pick it up,” explained Professor Wyatt.  There is more here, including a video

Dylan Matthews summarizes the The Case for Open Borders drawing on an excellent interview with Bryan Caplan. Here is one bit from the interview:
Letting someone get a job is not a kind of charity. It’s not a welfare program. It’s just the government leaving people alone to go and make something out of their lives. When most people are on earth are dealt such a bad hand, to try to stop them from bettering their condition seems a very cruel thing to do to someone.
My elevator pitch has no economics in it, because the economics is actually too subtle to really explain in an elevator pitch. If I had a little bit more time, I would say, “What do you think the effects for men have been of more women in the workforce?”
Are there some men who are worse off? Sure. But would we really be a richer society if we kept half the population stuck at home? Isn’t it better to take people who have useful skills and let them do something with it, than to just keep them locked up someplace where their skills go to waste?

On the economics, David Roodman has a characteristically careful and comprehensive review written for Givewell of the evidence on the effect of immigration on native wages. He writes, “the available evidence paints a fairly consistent and plausible picture”: - See more at:

Monday, September 15, 2014

*The Shifts and the Shocks* A politician can influence voters even by opposing opinion

INK BOTTLE“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.” 
~ Steve Jobs, Stanford University commencement address (2005)

“Tell me something I don’t know” is looking for participants

*The Shifts and the Shocks*

That is by Martin Wolf and the subtitle is What We’ve Learned — And Still Have to Learn — From the Financial Crisis.  You can buy it here.
- See more at:

A politician can influence voters just by stating an opinion, even an opposing opinion

There is a new research paper by David E. Broockman and Daniel M. Butler (pdf), the abstract is this:
Politicians have been depicted as, alternatively, strongly constrained by public opinion, able to shape public opinion if they persuasively appeal to citizens’ values, or relatively unconstrained by public opinion and able to shape it merely by announcing their positions. We conduct unique field experiments in cooperation with legislators to explore how constituents react when legislators take positions they oppose. For the experiments, state legislators sent their constituents official communications with randomly assigned content. In some letters, the representatives took positions on salient issues these constituents opposed, sometimes supported by extensive arguments but sometimes minimally justified. Results from an ostensibly unrelated telephone survey show that citizens often adopted their representatives’ issue positions even when representatives offered little justification. Moreover, citizens did not evaluate their representatives more negatively when representatives took positions citizens opposed. These findings suggest politicians can enjoy broad latitude to shape public opinion.
I suppose Alex Salmond is one current leader who understands this, Putin is another.
For the pointer I thank the excellent Samir Varma, who also cites coverage from Wonkblog.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Price We Pay — Harold Crooks

From Cold River to Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics Michael Ignatieff, Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics.  A genuinely interesting book about why someone with tenure at Harvard might be crazy enough to run for high public office, and then what it is like to lose somewhat ignominiously.
Kofis  “They’re manipulating all of us.”

Under the federal Equitable Sharing Program, police have seized $2.5 billion since 2001 from people who were not charged with a crime and without a warrant being issued. Police reasoned that the money was crime-related. About $1.7 billion was sent back to law enforcement agencies for their use.
Often the cash is seized from motorists (carrying costs now exceed liquidity premium, I suppose).  There is this too:
  • Only a sixth of the seizures were legally challenged, in part because of the costs of legal action against the government. But in 41 percent of cases — 4,455 — where there was a challenge, the government agreed to return money. The appeals process took more than a year in 40 percent of those cases and often required owners of the cash to sign agreements not to sue police over the seizures.
  • Hundreds of state and local departments and drug task forces appear to rely on seized cash, despite a federal ban on the money to pay salaries or otherwise support budgets. The Post found that 298 departments and 210 task forces have seized the equivalent of 20 percent or more of their annual budgets since 2008.
There is much more here, by Michael Sallah, Robert O’Harrow Jr., and Steven Rich at The Washington Post, give them a Pulitzer.

Vale Harry Evans

Asked by the ABC's 7.30 program how he would like to be remembered, Mr Evans replied: "Probably as a troublemaker. I've been here longer than most senators, nearly all of them in fact."

POLITICIANS have paid tribute to the “fearless” Harry Evans, the Senate’s longest serving clerk, who has died, aged 68.
Mr Evans was head of the Department of the Senate for 21 years between 1988 and 2009, served the nation’s upper house for more than 40 years until his retirement.Tributes paid to longest serving senate clerk Harry Evans

The emails released by ICAC essentially involve a Liberal Party official seeking to pass on to Tony Abbott, via Credlin, encouraging comments from Brickworks chief Lindsay Partridge about Abbott’s already well-established scare campaign against the carbon price.
The email from Partridge says, “Tell Tony to stick to his guns on no carbon tax” and spurts a phrase tailor-made for sloganeering; “Business does want certainty. We want certainty that there is no new tax.”  Real politics of brickworks

Monday, September 08, 2014

Sat aka Sedem Roky with Sladka Malchkeon

How to see into the future FT. The Good Judgment Project looks at the next aeven years of blissful marriage :-)

The office is like God: It’s everywhere, including, of course, in your pocket. Is that a worse fate than a lonely cubicle? Leah Price wonders... God of Office

When we know too much. Jorge Luis Borges, a grand literary ambassador, has been transformed into “Georgie,” the impotentmama’s boy...Subject to Ignorance

With millennia of inventions and discoveries at our back, humans have never been more powerful. But were we happier in the Stone Age?... Combatting Stone Age

Friday, September 05, 2014

Metafors of Life

The player kicked the ball. 
The patient kicked the habit. 
The villain kicked the bucket.
The verbs are the same.
The syntax is identical.
Does the brain notice, or care,
that the first is literal, the second 
metaphorical, the third idiomatic?
- metadata of metafors by media dragons

Metaphor used to be a poetic ornament. Then neuroscientists got involved, and a nascenttheory of consciousnessemerged... Chronically Shaped ...

When writers get cancer, they write about it. But is there anything new to say? Jenny Diski, newly diagnosed, forswears the clichés of the genre... Kliszcezs

Water’s edge: the crisis of rising sea levels Reuters

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Bohemians Reeling Down Under in Cold River

The 2014 festival has the theme of "resistance", marking 25 years since the end of the Communist regime.  "Communism is still very much in the collective memory," Howard says, citing the mini-seriesBurning Bush - directed by Agneiszka Holland, a Pole who attended film school in Prague - as one of the new works being screened that confronts that history head-on.
The festival's retrospective component - including, this year, a tribute to Svankmajer - underlines the continuity between the old and the new.  "Surrealism has never died in that part of the world," Howard says, adding that the Czech and Slovak brand of surrealism tends to be darker and more pessimistic than its French equivalent.

Bohemians Down Under

Famous Feynman Free

Feynman was known in the physics community for his work in several areas, particularly  and superfluidy—he also came up with a way to pictorially diagram mathematical equations, which became known as Feynman diagrams. He also was part of the team that worked on the atomic bomb project and shared a Nobel Prize with Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and Julian Schwinger in 1965. To the rest of the world, however, Feynman was a bona fide scientist celebrity, sought out for his opinions and observations as new science discoveries or problems appeared. In later years he was a member of the panel that looked into the cause of the first space shuttle disaster
Famous Feynman lectures put online.  And Lena Learns a Lesson, children’s book by Mira Varma, daughter of long-time MR correspondent Samir Varma.

Trevor Paglen speculates:
Humanity’s longest lasting remnants are found among the stars. Over the last fifty years, hundreds of satellites have been launched into geosynchronous orbits, forming a ring of machines 36,000 kilometers from earth. Thousands of times further away than most other satellites, geostationary spacecraft remain locked as man-made moons in perpetual orbit long after their operational lifetimes. Geosynchronous spacecraft will be among civilization’s most enduring remnants, quietly circling earth until the earth is no more.... amen

Untouchable Insiders

Twenty-five years ago, Francis Fukuyama declared the end of history and the triumph of liberal democracy. Today it’s an ideal in tatters... Parliamentary library copy of this article is still in my archives ;-)
If you've ever looked in awe at smart skin being developed for robots, don't worry - your own is far more intelligent. Neurons in human skin perform advanced calculations scientists previously believed only the brain could carry out, it has been revealed. Researchers say that in fact our skin passes far more information to the brain that had previously been thought...
“Analyzing humor,” E.B. White wrote, “is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies.” Yet the study of funnyexpands... Reinventing Humour