February 1, 2011
February 2, 2011
[guardian] Their Questions Answered … a blog that attempts to answer the rhetorical questions posed on the letters page of the Guardian Weekend magazine every week … ‘No rhetorical questions were posed in the Letters page of the Guardian Weekend magazine, Saturday 15 January 2011. As a result we are going to spend the next week reassessing our lives and purposes.’
February 3, 2011
[tech] How to disable Building Font Cache Dialog of VLC Player … great tip to stop a very annoying feature of VLC.
February 4, 2011
[movies] Why The King’s Speech Is A Gross Falsification … Christopher Hitchens On Winston Churchill, Edward VII, and The King’s Speech … ‘[Edward VII] remained what is only lightly hinted in the film: a firm admirer of the Third Reich who took his honeymoon there with Wallis Simpson, the woman for whom he forfeited the throne, and was photographed both receiving and giving the Hitler salute. Of his few friends and cronies, the majority were Blackshirt activists such as the odious “Fruity” Metcalfe. (Royal biographer Philip Ziegler tried his best to clean up this squalid story a few years ago but eventually gave up.) During his sojourns on the European mainland after his abdication, Edward, then the Duke of Windsor, never ceased to maintain highly irresponsible contacts with Hitler and his puppets and seemed to be advertising his readiness to become a puppet or “regent” if the tide went the other way. This is why Churchill eventually had him removed from Europe and given the sinecure of a colonial governorship in the Bahamas, where he could be well-supervised.’
February 7, 2011
[crime] The Case Of The Vanishing Blonde … engrossing true-life story about the brutal rape of a woman in Miami and the private detective who followed the leads hunting down a serial rapist … ‘It was about weighing the detective’s fee against a chance to limit their exposure. Brennan didn’t care what their reasons were; he just wanted to keep going. Old instincts had been aroused. He had never even met the victim, but with her attacker in his sights, he wanted him badly. Here was a guy who was walking around almost a year later, certain he had gotten away with his crime. Brennan wanted what all detectives want: the gotcha! He wanted to see the look on the guy’s face.’
February 8, 2011
[wikileaks] The Blast Shack … Bruce Sterling on Julian Assange, Wikileaks, Bradley Manning and more…
Bradley Manning believes the sci-fi legendry of the underground. He thinks that he can leak a quarter of a million secret cables, protect himself with neat-o cryptography, and, magically, never be found out. So Manning does this, and at first he gets away with it, but, still possessed by the malaise that haunts his soul, he has to brag about his misdeed, and confess himself to a hacker confidante who immediately ships him to the authorities.
No hacker story is more common than this. The ingenuity poured into the machinery is meaningless. The personal connections are treacherous. Welcome to the real world.
So Private Manning, cypherpunk, is immediately toast.
February 9, 2011
[comics] Respect Due: former 2000AD editor Steve MacManus … ‘Writers like Wagner, Mills, Grant and Alan Moore blossomed. New scribes such as Grant Morrison and Peter Milligan emerged. Great artists like Gibbons, Gibson, Bolland and McMahon did some of their finest work in this period on 2000AD. Amazing new talents like Simon Bisley, Glenn Fabry and Steve Dillon were nurtured in the comic.’
February 10, 2011
Is Facebook Making Us Sad? … ‘Facebook is, after all, characterized by the very public curation of one’s assets in the form of friends, photos, biographical data, accomplishments, pithy observations, even the books we say we like. Look, we have baked beautiful cookies. We are playing with a new puppy. We are smiling in pictures (or, if we are moody, we are artfully moody.) Blandness will not do, and with some exceptions, sad stuff doesn’t make the cut, either. The site’s very design—the presence of a “Like” button, without a corresponding “Hate” button—reinforces a kind of upbeat spin doctoring.’
February 11, 2011
February 12, 2011
[history] The London Pedestrian Crossing of Doom … the place where one man’s thoughts later caused the deaths of a quarter of a million Japanese citizens …‘We’re on the corner of Southampton Row and Russell Square in leafy Bloomsbury. There’s no plaque to mark the event but this is the unlikely spot where the nuclear chain reaction was first conceived.’
February 15, 2011
[internet] Cyberspace When You’re Dead … ever wondered what happens to the stuff you uploaded to the internet after you die? …
Lustig pointed me to a recent corporate study that identified “chief memory officer” as a kind of unofficial role taken on by someone (often mom) in many families — the person who is paying attention to the idea that there may be no physical scrapbook or set of journals to hand down to future generations and that bits-and-bytes memory objects need to be preserved somehow.
February 16, 2011
[space] Space Stasis … Neal Stephenson takes a fascinating look at path dependence and lock-in within the business, idea and design of rockets… ‘To employ a commonly used metaphor, our current proficiency in rocket-building is the result of a hill-climbing approach; we started at one place on the technological landscape – which must be considered a random pick, given that it was chosen for dubious reasons by a maniac – and climbed the hill from there, looking for small steps that could be taken to increase the size and efficiency of the device. Sixty years and a couple of trillion dollars later, we have reached a place that is infinitesimally close to the top of that hill. Rockets are as close to perfect as they’re ever going to get. For a few more billion dollars we might be able to achieve a microscopic improvement in efficiency or reliability, but to make any game-changing improvements is not merely expensive; it’s a physical impossibility.’
February 17, 2011
[space] James Burke On Thermos Flasks … ‘You see, all three men had understood that certain gases ignite and that the thermos flask permits you to store vast quantities of those gases safely in the frozen liquid form until you want to ignite them; at which point, you take the top off the flask, the gases evaporate, you apply a light, and boom! Now, two gases do that better than any other. It was Oberth’s assistant, who put them together most efficiently. His name was Wernher von Braun…’
February 18, 2011
[anime] Neon Genesis Evangelion: (Hideaki Anno) Reborn Again (and Again) … huge Metafilter post on Neon Genesis Evangelion … ‘What makes Eva so good is that as the series goes on, the deeper frameworks behind it become more and more apparent. It goes from a fairly standard ‘plucky teens in mechas vs giant monsters’; to a drama with explorations of growing up, shyness, cowardice, love, heroism etc; through a conspiracy reveal with betrayal and intrigue; to an all-out, reason-defying, biblically-proportioned eschaton.’
[internet] Egypt’s Autocrats Exploited Internet’s Weaknesses … some patchy details on how Egypt pulled the plug on the Internet …
‘After the Internet collapsed, Mr. ElShabrawy, 35, whose company provides Internet service to 2,000 subscribers and develops software for foreign and domestic customers, made urgent inquiries with the Ministry of Communications, to no avail. So he scrambled to re-establish his own communications.
When he, too, noticed that domestic fiber-optic cables were open, he had a moment of exhilaration, remembering that he could link up servers directly and establish messaging using an older system called Internet Relay Chat. But then it dawned on him that he had always assumed he could download the necessary software via the Internet and had saved no copy.
“You don’t have your tools — you don’t have anything,” Mr. ElShabrawy said he realized as he stared at the dead lines at his main office in Mansoura, about 60 miles outside Cairo. ‘
February 21, 2011
February 22, 2011
[movies] The Decade’s Best In Film Villiany … a list of great movie villains from the Noughties … ‘The Joker reminds Batman exactly how close he is to madness, but he also reminds him why he does what he does. The two need each other. They are what happens when “an unstoppable force meets an immovable object”, and they are “destined to do this forever,” if we’re lucky.’a
February 23, 2011
[food] Consider Baked Beans … ‘All your life, you’ve been lied to. Turns out they’re not bloody baked beans, they’re stewed beans.’
[internet] 7 Chrome Annoyances and How to Fix Them … some useful tips for Google Chrome.
February 24, 2011
[comics] Your Barista Is Rorschach …
February 25, 2011
[books] The Bobby Fischer Defense … Garry Kasparov On Bobby Fischer … ‘[Fischer’s] paranoia was far beyond the more calculated, even principled, “madness” of his playing years, well described by Voltaire in his Philosophical Dictionary: “Have in your madness reason enough to guide your extravagancies; and, forget not to be excessively opinionated and obstinate.” That is, purposeful and successful madness can hardly be called mad. After Fischer left chess the dark forces inside him no longer had purpose.’
February 28, 2011
[crime] The Monster of Florence … a compelling true crime story …
People have often asked me if the Monster of Florence will ever be found. I once believed that Spezi and I could find the truth; now I am not so certain. Any crime novel, to be successful, must contain certain basic elements: there must be a motive; evidence; a trail of clues; and a process of discovery that leads, one way or another, to a conclusion. All novels, even Crime and Punishment, must come to an end.
But life, I have learned, is not so tidy. Here were murders without motive and a trail of clues apparently without end. The process of discovery has led investigators so deeply into a wilderness of falsehood that I doubt they will ever find their way out.