Net Neutrality Wins: What Now?

Via Gizmodo:  ‘It’s a historic day for the internet. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) just passed the strongest net neutrality rules in this country’s history. This is great news! But let me repeat: The battle for net neutrality is still not over. In a sense, the real battle begins now.’


Three Men Receive Bionic Hands Controlled With Their Minds

Via IFLScience:  ‘The outlook used to be pretty bleak for those who had lost movement in their limbs due to severe nerve damage, but over the last year or so, some incredible advances have been made that are restoring shattered hope for many.

The amazing breakthroughs include spinal cord stimulation that allowed paralyzed men to regain some voluntary control of their legs, a brain implant that enabled a quadriplegic man to move his fingers, and a system that allowed a paralyzed woman to control a robotic arm using her thoughts. Science has definitely been on a roll, but this winning streak isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Now, the world’s first “bionic reconstructions” have been performed on three Austrian men to help them regain hand function. This technique enabled the newly amputated patients to control prosthetic hands using their minds, allowing them to perform various tasks that most people take for granted.’


The Story Behind Earth’s “Other” Moon And Its Completely Whacked Orbit

Via io9:  ‘As recently as 1997, we discovered that another body, 3753 Cruithne, is a quasi-orbital satellite of Earth.

This simply means that Cruithne doesn’t loop around the Earth in a nice ellipse in the same way as the moon, or indeed the artificial satellites we loft into orbit. Instead, Cruithne scuttles around the inner solar system in what’s called a “horseshoe” orbit.’


Why You Should Find This Plant Absolutely Terrifying

Via io9:  ‘…it look(s) as if it could be in anyone’s garden. A closer picture shows it to be not quite garden friendly. The thing is covered in spikes, especially on the outer edge of those long, thin, dense leaves that crowd around its base. What do you suppose it does with those? Here’s a hint: Puya chilensis has been informally given the name “the sheep-eating plant.” It’s not unusual to find hairy mammals or small birds trapped in the plant’s leaves.

The plant doesn’t eat them directly. It’s not carnivorous. It just lets them die. Their corpses rot (perhaps attracting more animals with their scent) and fertilize the dirt around the plant. Puya chilensis can then absorb the nutrients from the animals it trapped and slowly starved to death, and go on with its happy life.’


Annals of Emerging Diseases

Via CDC:  ‘What is Bourbon virus?

Bourbon virus belongs to a group of viruses called thogotoviruses. Viruses in this group are found all over the world. A few of these viruses can cause people to get sick.

How do people get infected with Bourbon virus?

We do not yet fully know how people become infected with Bourbon virus. However, based on what we know about similar viruses, it is likely that Bourbon virus is spread through tick or other insect bites.

Where have cases of Bourbon virus disease occurred?

As of February 12, 2015, only one case of Bourbon virus disease had been identified in eastern Kansas in late spring 2014. The man who was infected later died. At this time, we do not know if the virus might be found in other areas of the United States.

What are the symptoms of Bourbon virus?

Because there has been only one case identified thus far, scientists are still learning about possible symptoms caused by this new virus. In the one person who was diagnosed with Bourbon virus disease, symptoms included fever, tiredness, rash, headache, other body aches, nausea, and vomiting. The person also had low blood counts for cells that fight infection and help prevent bleeding.’


R.I.P. Sam Houston Andrew

Guitarist for Big Brother and the Holding Company Dies at 73 ( ‘His death was announced on the band’s website, which said Mr. Andrew had a heart attack 10 weeks ago and underwent open-heart surgery.

Big Brother and the Holding Company was among the first and most successful exponents of the so-called San Francisco sound, an adventurous mix of folk, blues and rock influences fueled by psychedelic drugs. (Others included Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead.)

Mr. Andrew, who founded Big Brother in 1965 with the bassist Peter Albin and shared lead guitar duties with James Gurley, referred to the band’s sound as a “progressive-regressive hurricane blues style.”

…Critics, even while praising Ms. Joplin’s singing, often dismissed Big Brother and the Holding Company in its late-1960s heyday as undisciplined and lacking technique. Mr. Andrew, not surprisingly, saw things differently.

“Big Brother and the Holding Company,” he once said, “was a prime example of a band where the chemistry was right, where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. You cannot buy or manufacture the natural feeling that was in that band.” ‘

Cheap Thrills (Big Brother and the Holding Com...

I tend to agree with Sam. Big Brother was not merely a backing band for Janis, as clear in the extended back and forth riffing between him and her on numbers such as ‘Ball and Chain’ or ‘Combination of the Two,’ both captured well on Cheap Thrills. Sam, I’m cueing up the LP now. You will be missed.

Our Greatest President-Poet

The Poetry of Richard Milhous Nixon, a slim volume compiled by Jack S. Margolis and published in 1974, stands as a seminal work in verse. Comprising direct excerpts from the Watergate tapes—arguably the most fecund stage of Nixon’s career—it fuses the rugged rhetoric of statesmanship to the lithe contours of song, all rendered in assured, supple, poignant free verse. Below, to celebrate Presidents’ Day, are four selections from this historic chapbook, which has, lamentably, slipped out of print.




The position is

To withhold


And to cover up

This is

Totally true.

You could say

This is

Totally untrue.



We are all

In it


We take

A few shots


It will be over.

Don’t worry.

I wouldn’t

Want to be

On the other side

Right now.



In the end

We are going

To be bled

To death.

And in the end,

It is all going

To come out anyway.

Then you get the worst

Of both worlds.

(via Paris Review)

Should We Be Trying to Make Contact with Extraterrestrials?

Via io9:  ‘Another debate popped again this week, one that’s been talked about and argued over for years now—whether we should be actively seeking out and sending messages to habitable planets in the search for life beyond Earth.

Known as Active Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), some researchers and scientists want to continually broadcast messages to known habitable planets in an effort to reach a new alien species. But many disagree. People like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk think a more measured and thought out approach makes more sense, and that historically, races of people who have happily greeted newcomers quickly found them to be conquerors.

The idea of Active Seti is to encode messages in powerful radio signals and send endlessly for centuries to solar systems with habitable planets. According to The Guardian, Seth Shostak, the director of the Seti Institute, wants to just beam the entire contents of the internet, porn and all, to other star systems.’


Join the Battle for Net Neutrality

Join the Battle for Net Neutrality. The most important FCC vote of our lifetime is about to happen.On Feb 26 the FCC will vote to save net neutrality or let Comcast and other ISPs create Internet slow lanes. Some members of Congress, on behalf of their Cable donors, are trying to stop the FCC from protecting the Internet we love. There isn’t much time to stop them, contact them now.


Why it’s brave to think like a coward

via Aeon: ‘The stigma attached to cowardice has caused terrible harm, most obviously to those who have been made to pay for the alleged ‘crime’. Less obvious, but more pervasive, is the damage done by people who, fearing the shame of cowardice, have acted in reckless, often violent ways. Remembering this should make us less ready to use the label of ‘coward’, especially in the case of someone refusing to use violence…’  – Chris Walsh

People Are Stamping Rising Sea Levels onto Dollar Bills for Climate Change

People Are Stamping Rising Sea Levels onto Dollar Bills for Climate Change | Motherboard

Via Motherboard:  ‘Starting this week, dozens of people will pull out $20 bills to find the White House on the back submerged in water: a striking image that comes as part of a new call to action over climate change.

The project is the last of three “currency interventions” by San Francisco-based artist Joseph DeLappe. In the past, he has call​ed attention to drone warfare and police brutality with similar projects.’


Shirley Manson perfectly nails what’s wrong with Kanye

Via  ‘…[W]hat has been largely missing so far from the whole Kayne vs. Beck conversation has been someone to call West out on his apparent need to take umbrage on Beyonce’s behalf. That, however, was taken care of Monday, when Garbage front woman posted an open letter on Facebook. “It is YOU who is so busy disrespecting artistry,” she wrote, adding, “You disrespect your own remarkable talents and more importantly you disrespect the talent, hard work and tenacity of all artists when you go so rudely and savagely after such an accomplished and humble artist like BECK. You make yourself look small and petty and spoilt. In attempting to reduce the importance of one great talent over another, you make a mockery of all musicians and music from every genre, including your own. Grow up and stop throwing your toys around. You are making yourself look like a complete twat.” But where she really nailed it was in her PS, when she observed, “I am pretty certain Beyonce doesn’t need you fighting any battles on her account. Seems like she’s got everything covered perfectly well on her own.”’



Here’s A Way To Stop Drones Flying Over Your House, Without A Shotgun

Parrot AR.Drone prototype flyingVia io9:  ‘The ambition of NoFlyZone, a consortium of (small) drone manufacturers, is to create a nationwide database of homeowners and flight permissions. If you don’t want drones to be able to overfly your residence, the solution is simple: enter your house in the online database, and after the next round of firmware updates, drones will be incapable of overflying your property, in the same way that they’re currently banned from the airspace around airports and, uh, the White House.’

Climate Change Threatens to Halt Alaska’s Sled Dog Races

Via Big Think:  ‘NPR’s Emily Schwing reports on some recent climate-change developments that are affecting Alaska’s Yukon Quest and Iditarod sled dog races. Officials and mushers are beginning to wonder how long the state sport will be able to survive these drastic changes with warm temperatures threatening food supplies and the landscape of the race.’


Giving Tea The Blue Bottle Treatment

Giving Tea The Blue Bottle Treatment | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

Via Fast Company:  ‘To understand third-wave tea, it’s helpful to understand third wave coffee, which you could characterize as an obsession with tiny, granular details. First wave coffee meant Folgers. At a second-wave establishment like Starbucks, a patron might request non-coffee additives like soy milk, two pumps of sugar-free vanilla, and their name spelled correctly. Third-wave coffee drinkers are more concerned with process, and the coffee beans themselves: What’s the best extraction method? A pour-over? A vacuum pump? What’s the ideal water temperature? Oh! And if you aren’t using a conical Burr grinder, what are you even doing with your life?

If first-wave tea was Lipton coming to the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century, and the second wave was the spread of mall emporiums like Teavana, third-wave tea in the U.S. is, like its coffee predecessor, a return to form, with an emphasis on purity and accessibility. It’s simply tea, unadulterated and directly sourced from farmers, usually from Asia.’


Prewar Japanese beer posters: the most beautiful ads ever made?

Via Boing Boing:  ‘Japanese beer culture has exploded over the past twenty years… But if we’ve entered the golden age of Japanese beer, we’ve missed the golden age of Japanese beer advertising. That came before the Second World War, a time when, if the advertising industry needed drawing, painting, or lettering, it was done by hand.

Asahi, Kirin, and Sapporo were not known for their richly flavorful product, but could command richly evocative imagery for the posters and postcards that promoted it.

A robust market now exists for these antique pieces of advertising and their suitable-for-framing reproductions. Spend enough time hunting for them, and you’ll start to notice that different brands often used the same pictures: what you’d thought of as “the Asahi girl” might well turn up on a Sapporo poster, and so on.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I seem to have developed a sudden thirst for an ice-cold beverage of some kind.’


What a beheading feels like: The science, the gruesome spectacle — and why we can’t look away

Via ‘Decapitation may be one of the least tor­turous ways to die, but nonetheless it is thought to be painful. Many scientists believe that, however swiftly it is performed, decapitation must cause acute pain for a second or two.

Decapitation in one single motion draws its cultural power from its sheer velocity, and the force of the physical feat challenges that elusive moment of death, because death is presented as instantaneous even though beheadings are still largely inscrutable to science…

Beheading is an extremely bloody business, which is one of the reasons it is no longer used for state executions in the West, even though it is one of the most humane techniques available. Decapitation is faster and more predictable than death by hanging, lethal injection, electric shock or gassing, but the spectacle is too grim for our sensibilities.’


Ray Kurzweil’s Mind-Boggling Predictions for the Next 25 Years

Via Singularity HUB:  ‘By the late 2010s, glasses will beam images directly onto the retina. Ten terabytes of computing power (roughly the same as the human brain) will cost about $1,000.

By the 2020s, most diseases will go away as nanobots become smarter than current medical technology. Normal human eating can be replaced by nanosystems. The Turing test begins to be passable. Self-driving cars begin to take over the roads, and people won’t be allowed to drive on highways.

By the 2030s, virtual reality will begin to feel 100% real. We will be able to upload our mind/consciousness by the end of the decade.

By the 2040s, non-biological intelligence will be a billion times more capable than biological intelligence (a.k.a. us). Nanotech foglets will be able to make food out of thin air and create any object in physical world at a whim.

By 2045, we will multiply our intelligence a billionfold by linking wirelessly from our neocortex to a synthetic neocortex in the cloud.’