Cancer deaths have been falling since 1990

May 9, 2013

Via Suzanne — on the meme of cancer, if such a thing exists. Boing boing has a short blurb about cancer.

A new study suggests that cancer deaths for people under age 75 have been on the decline since 1990 and are now at levels lower than when the War on Cancer began in 1971. But rather than amazing new treatments, the big key seems to be prevention—both through an increase in screening, and a decrease in risky behaviors, especially smoking.

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Bloggers now eligible for press passes in NYC

March 19, 2013

I made a note to myself to write about this article on Slashdot about bloggers being given press passes, an interesting note in the story of the evolution of journalism. Of course, now it’s three years later. I’m not even sure I’ve ever heard of anyone getting one of these passes, but then, I don’t hang out in bloggers’ circles.

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August 30, 2010

Saw this image while reading about Punk Rock Mathematics:

Apparently this was part of a project called Superstruct, which is apparently now quite defunct, but at the time was some kind of experimental game, aiming to (as far as I can tell) brainstorm solutions to the world’s problems in some form of social networking/alternate reality schema.

Q: How do I play Superstruct?

A: Superstruct is played on forums, blogs, videos, wikis, and other familiar online spaces. We show you the world as it might look in 2019. You show us what it’s like to live there. Bring what you know and who you know, and we’ll all figure out how to make 2019 a world we want to live in.

It’s really interesting to look at some of the entrails of this particular beast. They put up a wikia, with a page called Superstruct Powers, which begins:

Note: By necessity this page will start out with crackpot theories, wrong ideas, and untested hypotheses. The goal is to identify the difference between theories that should be tested, and case studies of actual superstructing that can be evaluated. It’s fine to theorize, but try to protovate your theories as much as possible. Remember your scientific method: 1) Observe, 2) Make a hypothesis, 3) Make a prediction, 4) Test, and back to 1) Observe.

I personally love this kind of future-dialect that assumes you know more than you can know. Also interesting are the Plot Updates, which reflect the above image:

Under pressure from its largest client, Google, the leaders of the energy haven of SeaStar, which offers a combination of abundant clean energy (from wave, wind, and solar power), year-round aquaculture, and high-bandwidth connections to the global Internet, voted today to end efforts to declare SeaStar an autonomous national entity, accepting instead a status of protectorate of the United Kingdom.

The wiki has another page called Screaming 3D Bootstrappers, apparently an in-game clan.

All of this makes for utterly wonderful flavor text — but it isn’t clear what the game mechanics, if any, are. Sure, we can brainstorm solutions. But to see which solutions are the easiest to implement, or the most effective, or the most cost-effective? There’s a video, but right now my bandwidth is not sufficient to watch it. Anyone want to clue me in?

Also, be aware that there’s a "sequel", called Evoke, which is a little easier to grok.

The goal of the social network game is to help empower young people all over the world, and especially young people in Africa, to come up with creative solutions to our most urgent social problems….Players who successfully complete ten game challenges in ten weeks will be able to claim their honors: Certified World Bank Institute Social Innovator – Class of 2010.

The missions (here’s one) tend to encourage exploration of problems and a focus on "innovation".

Your objective: Describe the biggest challenge to food security in your own local community or country — and an innovative solution that is already underway.
Document your local insight with a blog post, video, or photo.
Your objective: Take action to increase someone’s food security near you.
Document your effort with a blog post, video, or photo.

But it’s hard for me to feel like this would be 1. fun (since it feels like a junior-high-school homework assignment) or 2. impactful (since solutions and ingenuity do not seem to be in short supply in the world). Nevertheless, it’s better than underage drinking.

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Raj, Bohemian

March 31, 2010

Seen via JWZ: this story, called "Raj, Bohemian".

"Is someone paying you to say that stuff?"

She giggled. "Sorry, babe, it just pops out sometimes. I didn’t mean to pitch you. I’m supposed only to do it to my girlfriends."


"Ignore me. You know how hard it is to keep track of one’s placements."


"Placements. Why are you making that face? You’re looking at me like I’m some kind of freak."

"You have a lot of — placements?"

"Oh, don’t get on your high horse. You don’t work, either. What do you do for cash? If a girl doesn’t want a straight job, she has to monetize her social network."

This sounds a little reminiscent of a piece that aired once on Wemmick’s Temporary Sanity (beware: aggressive ads that got spidered by; you’re gonna need to stop your browser from completely loading the page).

After kissing the wife and kids, I headed off to work. Ninety percent of the population now shares my job, but I can proudly say I was one of the first viewers. Viewers are people who are paid to watch enormous video walls that run commercials all day long. We are allowed to eat, work out, and even play games while we watch, but we must pass a comprehension test before we are allowed to leave at the end of the day.

Is this a real problem as we move into the post-scarcity economy? I’m not sure.

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Study finds that 55 percent of newspaper stories are placed

March 31, 2010

Via Suzanne, an article on Boing Boing about journalism as we know it.

A study in Australia found that more than half of stories in mainstream newspapers were fed to them by PR entities: "Many journalists and editors were defensive … Most refused to respond, others who initially granted an interview then asked for their comments to be withdrawn out of fear they’d be reprimanded, or worse, fired."

Regardless of whether this was an effect of the Internet, or whether newspapers have been dead for a long time, this sure does have an impact on the idea that the blogosphere cannot replace quality investigative journalism. What’s there to replace?

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What’s the Matter With Sweden?

March 30, 2010

And closing out this Intellectual Impropriety hat trick, an article on Pitchfork called "What’s the Matter With Sweden?", seen here via JWZ. The article starts with covering the Swedish Arts Council, which grants public funds to musical artists, and goes from there into a survey of other countries with public funding for music and how they interact with the concept of a "social democracy".

The article doesn’t have a strong message and is about a half-hour to read, but does make some interesting points:

  • Lots of countries have programs like this to subsidize their own "homegrown" culture "in the face of American cultural dominance".
  • A major stumbling block for professional musicians is health care.
  • "Dave Hickey, in his 1997 book Air Guitar, argues that art truly worthy of public patronage would most likely be unworthy as art." One commenter on JWZ’s post, however, mentions that lots of funding distributed by arts councils tends to go, rather predictably, to "uncomfortable and edgy impotent commentary on society".
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Warner Bros. looking for a student intern to spy on torrent

March 30, 2010

Via Chiz, an article on Boy Genius Report about a Warner Bros. UK job posting.

During the 12 month internship, duties will include: monitoring local Internet forums and IRC for pirated WB and NBCU content and in order to gather information on pirate sites, pirate groups and other pirate activities; finding new and maintaining existing accounts on private sites; scanning for links to hosted pirated WB and NBCU content and using tools to issue takedown requests; maintaining and developing bots for Internet link scanning system (training provided); preparing sending of infringement notices and logging feedback; performing trap purchases of pirated product and logging results; inputting pirate hard goods data and other intelligence into the forensics database; selecting local keywords and submitting local filenames for monitoring and countermeasure campaigns and periodically producing research documents on piracy related technological developments. Various training will be provided.

Relatedly, this story about lawsuits against 20,000 BitTorrenting downloaders on Slashdot. The referenced article says that this action was taken "on behalf of an ad hoc coalition of independent film producers and with the encouragement of the Independent Film & Television Alliance", but then they cite Uwe Boll as one of the plaintiffs, so who knows?

"We’re creating a revenue stream and monetizing the equivalent of an alternative distribution channel," says Weaver…

The difference between the MPAA’s past approach and the new one being offered by the US Copyright Group could come down to numbers. Weaver says the MPAA took a less targeted approach going after a smaller sampling of infringers in a single suit for multiple films, to send a message that would hopefully resonate to a much larger crowd.

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Judge Nullifies Gene Patents

March 30, 2010

Via Suzanne and Slashdot, this story on a judge nullifying gene patents. Interesting to see the evolution of patents as part of the "intellectual property" meme.

U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet agreed with the civil rights group that the patents were invalid because they covered the most basic element of every person’s individuality. “Products of nature do not constitute patentable subject matter absent a change that results in the creation of a fundamentally new product,” Sweet wrote in a 152-page opinion.

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March 21, 2010

I realized recently that my impression of the sanctity of marriage has been damaged most by anti-gay activists attempting to limit marriage to heterosexual couples. The message seems to be, "Marriage isn’t for EVERYBODY who is in love, since some people who are obviously in love can’t be married. Ergo, what else can it be besides a legal mechanism, a tax break/health insurance arrangement we give to some couples but not others?" Of course, as the child of an open marriage maybe I’m predisposed to think something like that.

So then what to make of this story about a man marrying his body pillow in Korea, via Suzanne? One commentator writes, "As long as the guy and the pillow are happy together who cares? I suspect that this is just another ‘look at stupid johnny foreigner’ photo opportunity. If the pillow had a Ph. D. they never would have published it."

Or how about the related stories I found when I was digging up that one: man marries a Barbie doll to appease the spirit of his dead wife, man in Japan weds video game character?

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German ‘Fleshmob’ Protests Airport Scanners

February 24, 2010
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This story on Wired is pretty cool: with regard to the evolution of political parties, it’s interesting to see the Pirate Party rise to the party of personal liberty and trust.

The underwear bomber’s Christmas Day attack has prompted calls for the increased use of full-body scanners at airports that would strip-search passengers down to their naked bodies.

So to protest the use of the so-called Nacktscanner (naked scanner), members of the Pirate Party in Germany organized a "fleshmob" of people who stripped down to their skivvies last Sunday and converged on the Berlin-Tegel airport. They posted a video of their protest to YouTube, with soundtrack provided by Muse’s song "Uprising." The lyrics articulated their protest: "They will not force us. They will stop degrading us. They will not control us. We will be victorious!"…

The protesters marked their bodies with a number of messages such as, "Something to hide?" and "Be a good citizen — drop your pants."

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