Old News

Within a year of the terrorist attack, the nation’s leader determined that the various local police and federal agencies around the nation were lacking the clear communication and overall coordinated administration necessary to deal with the terrorist threat facing the nation, particularly those citizens who were of Middle Eastern ancestry and thus probably terrorist and communist sympathizers, and various troublesome “intellectuals” and “liberals.” He proposed a single new national agency to protect the security of the homeland, consolidating the actions of dozens of previously independent police, border, and investigative agencies under a single leader.

He appointed one of his most trusted associates to be leader of this new agency, the Central Security Office for the homeland, and gave it a role in the government equal to the other major departments.

February 27, 2003, was the 70th anniversary of the bombing of the German Parliament (Reichstag). Thom Hartmann wrote about this back in March. Some things are worth remembering.


Dispersed to the Wind

A Washington Post article about the 75th Exploitation Task Force — the main US weapons search team — preparing to go home after finding not a damn thing. They seem a little upset about the difference between what they were told they would find and what they actually did:

McPhee, an artillery brigade commander from Oklahoma who was assigned to the task force five months ago, reflected on the weapons hunt as the sun set outside his improvised sleeping quarters, a cot and mosquito net set down in the wreckage of a marble palace annex. He smoked a cigar, but without the peace of mind he said the evening ritual usually brings.

“My unit has not found chemical weapons,” he said. “That’s a fact. And I’m 47 years old, having a birthday in one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces on a lake in the middle of Baghdad. It’s surreal. The whole thing is surreal.

“Am I convinced that what we did in this fight was viable? I tell you from the bottom of my heart: We stopped Saddam Hussein in his WMD programs,” he said, using the abbreviation for weapons of mass destruction. “Do I know where they are? I wish I did . . . but we will find them. Or not. I don’t know. I’m being honest here.”

Later in the conversation, he flung the unfinished cigar into the lake with somewhat more force than required.

“I don’t think we’ll find anything,” said Army Capt. Tom Baird, one of two deputy operations officers under McPhee. “What I see is a lot of stuff destroyed.” The Defense Intelligence Agency officer, describing a “sort of a lull period” in the search, said that whatever may have been at the target sites is now “dispersed to the wind.”

Isn’t that a pretty image? If there ever were any deadly nerve agents or maybe a nice genetically modified virus, they’ve all wafted away on a gentle desert breeze, along with all the looted nukular waste. Looking on the bright side, maybe it was all just a massive lie. Hopefully.

In totally unrelated news, the current crop of colonial overlords are being tagged out (marking the first time I remember seeing Barbara Bodine prominently mentioned in the news) which has nothing to do with the diplomatic skill and nation building expertise being exercised by our occupying forces in the newly free Baghdad, as described in this NY Times story with further wafting imagery:

“Unless we do something in the near future, it is likely to blow up in our face,” one official said.

Today, black smoke billowed over Baghdad’s skyline as looters set fire to the city’s former telephone communications center, apparently as a distraction for others who tried to steal cars nearby.

Update: Daily Kos comes to a similar conclusion


Commemoration

All conspiracy theories aside, governor Bush has given seven different descriptions of what he was doing when he first heard of the attack on the World Trade Center. In several of these, he claims he watched the first plane hit the tower on television live. (No one saw the first plane hit the tower on live TV). I suppose this is could be interpreted as only as a massive embarrassment for our interim chief executive. But reading the full timeline of the morning of September 11, 2001, it seems much much worse than simplemindedness.

With the facts in such total confusion, the Bush regime should want to put their full backing behind a far-reaching examination of 9/11, just in the name of their own self-interests, right? Right??

[see Tom Tomorrow for more]

Conspiracy theories not aside, how is it that a passport which was inside an incinerated building, presumably on the body of an incinerated person, who was inside an airplane which was so incinerated than not even the black box survived — how is it that this passport fluttered to earth unscathed several blocks from the rubble which was the WTC? This is a pretty major piece of evidence, and it looks so… unlikely.

I’m sure all of this will be clarified by the ’04 Republican National Convention so that the delegates can dance on the bones of the dead with a clear conscience.


Hit Clusters and Catalunia

Hit Song Science is a high-tech music analysis system that compares new songs to a massive database of chart-topping singles and predicts hit potential based on shared attributes.

In other words, the more your song has in common with Usher’s “U Don’t Have To Call” or Santana’s “Smooth,” the better your prospects for stardom.

All five of the major record companies – BMG, EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. – are currently using the service, founded last year by Barcelona-based Polyphonic HMI. A modified online version, geared toward songwriters, was introduced this week at www.hitsongscience.com.

“Our technology is to music what X-rays are to medicine,” says Polyphonic HMI’s chief executive, Mike McCready. “We help the record industry see their market and their music in a way they were previously unable to do.”

Hit Song Science technology isolates sonic patterns in a song, ranging from tempo and chord progressions to melody, harmony and pitch, and then compares the song to “hit clusters” gleaned from its database of 3.5 million songs. The system is updated weekly with new releases in order to effectively predict a song’s potential for success in the current market.
[article]

The Hit Song Science FAQ also links to a discussion of the logarithmic scales they use for their ranking system (something which a childhood of earthquake drills has instilled a deep inexplicable fondness in me.)

Which leads to the subject of psychophysics and what scale is used to measure subjective value. In this case, the database is comprised of “hits” of a particular commercial caliber. It’s not clear if the database is at all populated with “good” songs, or if they remain value neutral on this.

The company that started this service, Polyphonic HMI, is based in Barcelona. They sure are kooky in Barcelona. Something about Catalunia seems to encourage abstract thinking about scale and value.


War of the Unseen Spam Lords

In the Oregonian today, a former spammer talks about the biz. He claims that after a few months, he was making $1000 a week. The hidden spam gurus he learned from claimed to make $10,000 a week.

The slashdot thread discussing this story focused on how 4LL SP4MM3RZ MUST D13 (with a side discussion of $52k a year as chump change (???) ).

I’m more intrigued by the terrorist cell structure for accessing the pro grade spam software and advice, and how this secrecy is shaped by the universal hatred of spam:

As with most cases in the seedy world of bulk online advertising, many spam clubs aren’t “legitimate,” Shiels said. But he found two that offered many business leads and spamming tools.

“There’s a lot of people in there that are generous to help you out and give you information based on their experience,” he said. “But you have to probe it.”

Shiels slowly gained the anonymous spamming gurus’ trust.

He even spoke on the phone with some, though Shiels noted “they won’t usually give you their real name.”

Shiels would not reveal the companies that make the proprietary software, and he said they are difficult to track down. They only accepted payments through wire transfers, Shiels said.

“I could tell you the name right now, and you wouldn’t be able to find them,” he said.

The former spammer Shiels also pointed out that being a pro spammer was an evolutionary process requiring constant innovation. This evolutionary pressure is what shapes the spam biz, with it’s divisions of labor and proprietary tools, and carefully maintained structures to keep the death threats from easily reaching their targets (death threats, along with Darwinian pressure, are what convinced Shiels to change jobs.)

The shadow world of pro spammer as well-paid terrorist is also shaped by the structure of the Internet, a system designed to route information packets around damage. A system imagined for a civilization-destroying apocalypse, re-imagined as a tool for open communication, with something of the original grim intentions is resurfacing in the spam / counterspam dialectic.

Shiels described it as a war. And although he’s refering to the high cost of ammo (software and databases), it’s also a war in terms of being a period of intense and violent technical innovation which will shape future society.


Sounds better than a junkie dolphin

William Gibson stands up for the Johnny Mnemonic that could have been:

I’ll tell you something you may not believe: Dolph Lungren can actually do *comedy*. I mean, like, who knew? But he can, and did, with great gusto. The nature of his character was anchored in a scene in his church (he’s the local Panawave-equivalent) in which he preaches, buck nekkid and skin-studded with creepy nano-gizmos, to a congragation of adoring female NAS victims. He delivers a bombastic, faux-Sterlingesque, literally balls-out *sermon* on the virtues of posthumanity. It came off sort of like Fabio as the Jesus you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. It *rocked*. Hilarious. So Sony cut.

Sony told Gibson that they were afraid of offending the religious right (who do indeed strive to be scary-ass mutherfuckers). But it sounds like they had more justification to fear getting the extropians into a blood frenzy. Which means it’s really too bad there doesn’t seem to be a chance for getting this scene released. Extropians in a blood frenzy are almost as wacky as a naked aryan Jesus.


Hard America

Michael Barone writes in US News about Hard America and Soft America, suggesting that the squishy helpless 18 year olds oozing out of the gentle womb of public schools are trained to be the greatest fighting machine the world has ever seen due to the powerful forces of boot camp and McDonalds. No really. According to Barone, America was in danger of losing its hard, threatening to “go soft” but then (thank god) “In the 1980s and 1990s Hard America fought back.”

Right. Fought back. Well at least America got hard again, right?

As Matthew Yglesias points out, Barone has absolutely nothing to back up his “down with softie” argument except what I assume must be a very dog-earred copy of Lord of the Flies which he’s been cuddling since adolescence. The least he could do is be a little more honest about his zero-sum perversions. Especially now that America has openly declared a diplomatic policy of “there can be only one” (a statement of political philosophy which–not coincidentally–comes from the 80’s movie Highlander)

So it’s left to NWA to sum up Barone’s vague ideas and offer a more succinct example of “Hard America” fighting back:

With a right left, right left you’re toothless
And then you say goddamn they ruthless!
Everwhere we go they say [damn!]
N W A’s fuckin’ up tha program
And then you realize we don’t care
We don’t just say no, we to busy sayin’ yeah!
To drinkin’ straight out the eight bottle
Do I look like a mutha fuckin role model?
To a kid lookin’ up ta me
Life ain’t nothin but bitches and money.
Cause I’m tha type o’ nigga that’s built ta last
If ya fuck wit me I’ll put a foot in ya ass
See I don’t give a fuck ’cause I keep bailin
Yo, what the fuck are they yellin

Gangsta, Gangsta! That’s what they’re yellin
“It’s not about a salary, it’s all about reality”
Gangsta, Gangsta! That’s what they’re yellin
“Hopin you sophisticated motherfuckers hear what I have to say”


No, look at the floor

Charles Eicher at Disinfotainment has a wonderful story about and the fauna of LA’s Chinatown.

As we approached, I saw about 30 cats standing around the back of the store, yowling, scrambling around by a fence, keeping them from the dumpster which was overflowing with waste. I’d never seen anything like it. We tried to avoid that scene, I told my friend to peek in the front window. He looked through the grimy window and started screaming and freaking out. He asked me if it was always like this. I said, “what? It’s just some chickens in cages.”…

It ends in a scene of medieval warfare. Yeah, I know that feeling. But this sort of thing is more well-hidden these days. Hopefully, Yee Mee Loo’s is also just very well-hidden, but I fear that a bar this good must have met same fate as those poor chickens yearning to be free.


Marketing as Narrative

There’s an old conspiracy theory/secret history/urban legend narrativized in the form of a book catalog.

(Oh yeah, it’s true — disinfo has all the dirt on Ong’s Hat , if you’re sure you want to know. But that’s a whole other story. )

Using epiphenomenal commercial structures to create an ambient narrative through accretion. That was the genre used by Henry Raddick, star Amazon Reviewer, who became a famous [123] for being tangental in review comments. For example his take on the book God, Why Did Dad Lose His Job?

A truly wonderful guide which has enabled me to explain my recent sacking for vandalising company property to my children in terms of a minor act of redemption. First rate.

Stories told through marketing ephemera and graffiti. Stories told in the background through an accretion of evidence and seemingly random misdirection….


Statistics of a Drinky City

With renowned Bay Area modesty, the San Francisco Chronicle proclaims: “There are more well-read drinkers in San Francisco than anywhere else in the land.” [via boing boing]

They base this on Bureau of Labor Statistics data which ranks San Francisco highest in per capita spending on alcohol and books. Each resident there spent an average of:

$744 on booze and $266 on books, out of an annual income of $70,237. The average resident of Los Angeles, by comparison, spent only $412 and $148 for the same items, out of an annual income of $53,514.

That means a San Franciscan spent 1.1 percent of his money on booze. An Angeleno spent only 0.77 percent.

Bar owner Ed Moose of the bar North Beach bar “Moose’s” had these thoughts on the alcohol issue:

“All through history San Franciscans have been drinkers,” he said. “The Gold Rush, the lack of women, the boom and bust times, the devil-may-care attitude, all of that is here.”

Los Angeles is a more sober and a more sobering place, Moose said.

“Nobody drinks in public down there, nobody stays out after about 8 o’clock, ” he said. “Everyone pretends he has to get up early in the morning.”

(Obviously just a little projection going on in terms of people pretending to have a reason to get up in the morning….)

LA may be more sobering — in the 2000 census, 22.1% of the population were below the poverty line compared to 11.3% in SF. But sober seems like a strange accusation.

So then what valid facts might lie behind this statistical ranking? Several of the high spending booze cities do have good daytime drinking weather (SF, Portland, Seattle, New York) but Honolulu is number 3, so that interpretation gets skewed. The top five cities in per capita alcohol spending also have populations less than a million people, which seems odd. Citoes like Chicago, New York, and LA surely spill more liquor than the sleepy village by the Bay. All in all, these statistics seem to just indicate that things are kind of expensive in San Francisco. In which case Moose can be forgiven his irrational bias — you gotta keep your spirits up while dealing with such a tiny concentration of the wealthy-yet-unemployed.

So all this got me looking at demographic data on drinking, which the Feds have also helpfully supplied. The consumer expediture survey java-based public data querey generated the following charts of drinking expenditure based on education. The vertical axis is the average number of dollars spent on alcoholic beverages per year by a person with the corresponding degree.

high school diploma

bachelor’s degree

masters, PhD or professional degree

What does it all mean? The obvious data points:

  • Book lernin’ aside, in 1999 everybody partied like it was 1999.
  • More school = more money spent on drinks.

One interpretation is that people who go to college learn to drink more. Which is of course true. But these charts could also indicate that more college means more expensive drinks. Lacking solid empirical data on the cost-per-sippy of the expensively degreed, this loose end remains naggingly untied.

We also need to factor in the new New Economy and the massive layoffs that began around 2000-2001: people with a high school education and a presumably crappy job had a one year drop in drinking expenditures of about 10%. People with a graduate degree, presumably with a mediocre job which they abruptly lost along with their entire savings, had a major drop in booze expense — almost 25%.

This drop might be single-handedly accounted for by the patrons of Moose’s, one quarter of whom moved to Los Angeles en masse when they all lost their information architect gigs in SoMa, in spite of their master’s degrees. Most of these people are now stuffed into the once comfortable bars of LA, loudly complaining about how much this so-called city sucks and how hard it is to land a good commercial. What’s especially irritating is that they always take up an extra bar stool with their carpetbags, which are inevitably filled with copies of their sexy yet theoretically deep action-adventure-romance screenplays, “cause that’s what you do in LA.”

Call to them, Moose. Howl to them through the foggy night! Cause if they ever stop yelling into their cell phones about how cool the Mission used to be, maybe they’ll hear you and come home. And I’ll be able to get a bar stool again.

Meanwhile, people with just a bachelor’s degree appear to have spent a little more on alcohol over the 2000-2001 period. They are the Honolulu or the Portland of this data set? In either case, kudos!

Opening a souvenir can of fog whilst awaiting further testing…

Statistics of a Drinky City

With renowned Bay Area modesty, the San Francisco Chronicle proclaims: “There are more well-read drinkers in San Francisco than anywhere else in the land.” [via boing boing]

They base this on Bureau of Labor Statistics data which ranks San Francisco highest in per capita spending on alcohol and books. Each resident there spent an average of:

$744 on booze and $266 on books, out of an annual income of $70,237. The average resident of Los Angeles, by comparison, spent only $412 and $148 for the same items, out of an annual income of $53,514.

That means a San Franciscan spent 1.1 percent of his money on booze. An Angeleno spent only 0.77 percent.

Bar owner Ed Moose of the bar North Beach bar “Moose’s” had these thoughts on the alcohol issue:

“All through history San Franciscans have been drinkers,” he said. “The Gold Rush, the lack of women, the boom and bust times, the devil-may-care attitude, all of that is here.”

Los Angeles is a more sober and a more sobering place, Moose said.

“Nobody drinks in public down there, nobody stays out after about 8 o’clock, ” he said. “Everyone pretends he has to get up early in the morning.”

(Obviously just a little projection going on in terms of people pretending to have a reason to get up in the morning….)

LA may be more sobering — in the 2000 census, 22.1% of the population were below the poverty line compared to 11.3% in SF. But sober seems like a strange accusation.

So then what valid facts might lie behind this statistical ranking? Several of the high spending booze cities do have good daytime drinking weather (SF, Portland, Seattle, New York) but Honolulu is number 3, so that interpretation gets skewed. The top five cities in per capita alcohol spending also have populations less than a million people, which seems odd. Citoes like Chicago, New York, and LA surely spill more liquor than the sleepy village by the Bay. All in all, these statistics seem to just indicate that things are kind of expensive in San Francisco. In which case Moose can be forgiven his irrational bias — you gotta keep your spirits up while dealing with such a tiny concentration of the wealthy-yet-unemployed.

So all this got me looking at demographic data on drinking, which the Feds have also helpfully supplied. The consumer expediture survey java-based public data querey generated the following charts of drinking expenditure based on education. The vertical axis is the average number of dollars spent on alcoholic beverages per year by a person with the corresponding degree.

high school diploma

bachelor’s degree

masters, PhD or professional degree

What does it all mean? The obvious data points:

  • Book lernin’ aside, in 1999 everybody partied like it was 1999.
  • More school = more money spent on drinks.

One interpretation is that people who go to college learn to drink more. Which is of course true. But these charts could also indicate that more college means more expensive drinks. Lacking solid empirical data on the cost-per-sippy of the expensively degreed, this loose end remains naggingly untied.

We also need to factor in the new New Economy and the massive layoffs that began around 2000-2001: people with a high school education and a presumably crappy job had a one year drop in drinking expenditures of about 10%. People with a graduate degree, presumably with a mediocre job which they abruptly lost along with their entire savings, had a major drop in booze expense — almost 25%.

This drop might be single-handedly accounted for by the patrons of Moose’s, one quarter of whom moved to Los Angeles en masse when they all lost their information architect gigs in SoMa, in spite of their master’s degrees. Most of these people are now stuffed into the once comfortable bars of LA, loudly complaining about how much this so-called city sucks and how hard it is to land a good commercial. What’s especially irritating is that they always take up an extra bar stool with their carpetbags, which are inevitably filled with copies of their sexy yet theoretically deep action-adventure-romance screenplays, “cause that’s what you do in LA.”

Call to them, Moose. Howl to them through the foggy night! Cause if they ever stop yelling into their cell phones about how cool the Mission used to be, maybe they’ll hear you and come home. And I’ll be able to get a bar stool again.

Meanwhile, people with just a bachelor’s degree appear to have spent a little more on alcohol over the 2000-2001 period. They are the Honolulu or the Portland of this data set? In either case, kudos!

Opening a souvenir can of fog whilst awaiting further testing…

Boba

hey, you know what I only just realized?
Boba the Fett and boba the tasty tapioca-ball beverage.
Surely just one of those things…

Here’s an MP3 about the former.

Say my name is boba fett I know my shit is tight
Start not acting in right, you’re frozen in carbonite
Got telescopic sight, flame throwers on my wrist
You still don’t get the jist, spiked boots are made to kick
Targets are made to hit, you think I give a shit
Yer mama is a bitch, I see you in the sarlaac pit
You just flipped my switch integrity been dissed


Hot Pants

e-paper is almost here. Video screen clothing is apparently only a matter of refresh rate, so it won’t be long until clothes go live. [possible job description: fashion videographer?]

Bright abstracts will probably be in for a while, crawling anime slimemolds and the like. Nude scenes, obviously. Lots of nasty close ups. Maybe some animal skin? Plucked chicken. Lizard belly… And combined with tiny cameras, there’s always the old hole-in-the-body effect. Combine that with someone in the same get-up, and there’d be the seizure-inducing joys of video feedback dancing.

Already I can feel my gums start to bleed.


You’re In Control

MIT wizz kids have finally replaced the a pink soap cake with a urinal video game.

Sensors in the back of a urinal detect the position of a stream of urine, enabling people to play interactive games on a screen mounted above the urinal.

[via memepool]