Ramblings & ephemera

The cochineal insect’s gift of red

From Allen Abel and Madeleine Czigler’s “Scandal, communism, blood” (National Post: 27 June 2008): The blood-red allure of lipstick is a gift of a parasitic insect that infests cactus plants, principally in Mexico and Peru. It has been known since Aztec and Mayan times that, when boiled, the body of the cochineal insect dissolves into […]

Bush, rhetoric, & the exercise of power

From Mark Danner’s “Words in a Time of War: Taking the Measure of the First Rhetoric-Major President” (Tomgram: 10 May 2007): [Note: This commencement address was given to graduates of the Department of Rhetoric at Zellerbach Hall, University of California, Berkeley, on May 10, 2007] … I give you my favorite quotation from the Bush […]

Gottman on relationships

From THE MATHEMATICS OF LOVE: A Talk with John Gottman (Edge: 14 April 2004): So far, his surmise is that “respect and affection are essential to all relationships working and contempt destroys them. It may differ from culture to culture how to communicate respect, and how to communicate affection, and how not to do it, […]

A single medium, with a single search engine, & a single info source

From Nicholas Carr’s “All hail the information triumvirate!” (Rough Type: 22 January 2009): Today, another year having passed, I did the searches [on Google] again. And guess what: World War II: #1 Israel: #1 George Washington: #1 Genome: #1 Agriculture: #1 Herman Melville: #1 Internet: #1 Magna Carta: #1 Evolution: #1 Epilepsy: #1 Yes, it’s […]

How it feels to drown, get decapitated, get electrocuted, and more

From Anna Gosline’s “Death special: How does it feel to die?” (New Scientist: 13 October 2007): Death comes in many guises, but one way or another it is usually a lack of oxygen to the brain that delivers the coup de grâce. Whether as a result of a heart attack, drowning or suffocation, for example, […]

A Russian man with perfect memory

From Jonah Lehrer’s “Hell is a Perfect Memory” (The Frontal Cortex: 2 December 2008): This isn’t the first case report of a person with perfect memory. In the masterful The Mind of A Mnemonist, the Soviet neurologist A.R. Luria documented the story of a Russian newspaper reporter, D.C. Shereshevskii, who was incapable of forgetting. For […]

A woman who never forgets anything

From Samiha Shafy’s “An Infinite Loop in the Brain” (Der Spiegel: 21 November 2008): Price can rattle off, without hesitation, what she saw and heard on almost any given date. She remembers many early childhood experiences and most of the days between the ages of 9 and 15. After that, there are virtually no gaps […]

Ted Williams’ fishing story

From Richard Ben Cramer’s “What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?” (Esquire: June 1986): Few men try for best ever, and Ted Williams is one of those. There’s a story about him I think of now. This is not about baseball but fishing. He meant to be the best there, too. One day he […]

Protected: Students, schools, civil rights, & the f-word

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One group files 99.9% of all complaints about TV content

From Christopher M. Fairman’s “Fuck” (bepress Legal Series: 7 March 2006): The PTC [Parents Television Council] is a perfect example of the way word taboo is perpetuated. The group’s own irrational word fetish – which they try to then impose on others – fuels unhealthy attitudes toward sex that then furthers the taboo status of […]

Protected: American courts and government and the f-word

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Protected: Taboo acts and language and how they work together

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Protected: Etymologies & the dictionary definitions of the f-word

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Protected: FCUK, a special trademarked logo

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Denver International Airport, home to alien reptilians enslaving children in deep dungeons

From Jared Jacang Maher’s “DIA Conspiracies Take Off” (Denver Westword News: 30 August 2007): Chris from Indianapolis has heard that the tunnels below DIA [Denver International Airport] were constructed as a kind of Noah’s Ark so that five million people could escape the coming earth change; shaken and earnest, he asks how someone might go […]

CopyBot copies all sorts of items in Second Life

From Glyn Moody’s “The duplicitous inhabitants of Second Life” (The Guardian: 23 November 2006): What would happen to business and society if you could easily make a copy of anything – not just MP3s and DVDs, but clothes, chairs and even houses? That may not be a problem most of us will have to confront […]

An analysis of Google’s technology, 2005

From Stephen E. Arnold’s The Google Legacy: How Google’s Internet Search is Transforming Application Software (Infonortics: September 2005): The figure Google’s Fusion: Hardware and Software Engineering shows that Google’s technology framework has two areas of activity. There is the software engineering effort that focuses on PageRank and other applications. Software engineering, as used here, means […]

Richard Stallman on why “intellectual property” is a misnomer

From Richard Stallman’s “Transcript of Richard Stallman at the 4th international GPLv3 conference; 23rd August 2006” (FSF Europe: 23 August 2006): Anyway, the term “intellectual property” is a propaganda term which should never be used, because merely using it, no matter what you say about it, presumes it makes sense. It doesn’t really make sense, […]

More problems with voting, election 2008

From Ian Urbina’s “High Turnout May Add to Problems at Polling Places” (The New York Times: 3 November 2008): Two-thirds of voters will mark their choice with a pencil on a paper ballot that is counted by an optical scanning machine, a method considered far more reliable and verifiable than touch screens. But paper ballots […]

Matthew, the blind phone phreaker

From Kevin Poulsen’s “Teenage Hacker Is Blind, Brash and in the Crosshairs of the FBI” (Wired: 29 February 2008): At 4 in the morning of May 1, 2005, deputies from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office converged on the suburban Colorado Springs home of Richard Gasper, a TSA screener at the local Colorado Springs Municipal […]