the unbearable lightness of being twitter

Don’t look now but Twitter is having a crisis. 

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You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat.

Albert Freakin' Einstein

Full Moon Silhouettes

Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait has a great explainer on how this perspective — a real time, real motion perspective — is even possible.

Remains of the Day: Lost 500 Years, the Bones of Richard III Have a Tale to Tell

In a stunning bit of archeological detective work, folk from the University of Leicester have identified the remains of English King Richard III in a long lost and “clumsily cut” grave excavated from a parking lot. Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, from the University of Leicester, told a press conference to applause: “Beyond reasonable doubt it’s Richard.” Richard III is both a fascinating and polarizing historical figure. Popular understanding of him today (or, what passes for it) is unfairly influenced by Shakespeare’s casting of Richard III as a fatalistic and unscrupled anti-hero, which makes sense as — given his Tudor patrons — ol’ Will’em Shakes wasn’t likely to paint a sympathetic portrait of the house of York, now was he? Still, even his more ardent and clear-eyed supporters might admit… Richard was just a little bit ruthless. In any case, awesome timing for the find. Big win for science. And Game of Thrones enthusiasts everywhere might tune in for the stories of the *real* scheming, backstabbing, child-murdering genesis of George R.R. Martin’s royal...

Tell Me a Story

“Tell me a story,” she says, her eyes bright in the light of the campfire.
“About a pirate ship with crimson sails, billowing in a gale…”

The God Shop

I’ve had a bit of a mental paper jam, in that it appears I’m not to write anything of particular substance without first I should relieve myself of a play that’s been taking space in my head for the better part of two years, now. And so — tadaa! — I’m writing a play.

The Best Time to Stop Censorship is Before it Starts

Freedom of speech is fundamental to the American experience and a bedrock of our way of life. So why is Congress so eager to do away with it? Two bills — SOPA, and PIPA — both purport to shore up copyright law and end online piracy. They were written by content industry lobbyists with no input from the technology industry. As a result, as written they would place overly broad powers in the hands of content owners — those same content owners have already proved to be unworthy of the more basic trusts afforded them with the DMCA. More, these bills meddle with the fabric of the Internet — with DNS, with linking and embedding of content, with Fair Use. Free, unabridged speech and the robust exchange of ideas on the Internet has become central to my every day life: my work experience, my ability to write, to create, to share neat stuff I’ve found online with friends, family and wide-ranging communities of interest. It’s become ever more important to how we get our news, and shapes our political process. Inhibiting speech in the pursuit of commercial interests is wrong. Congress shall make no law abridging the rights of free speech… no matter how much the lobbyists pay...

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

— Steve Jobs, 2005 Commencement, Stanford University

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Goodbye, Steve Jobs

Perhaps it’s my Internet Attention Disorder showing, but lately I despair of links that lead to The Atlantic. It would seem their essayists have little more to say than writers anywhere else, and yet they possess so many more words with which to say it.

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In so many words…

— deCadmus

“I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.”

— Nathaniel Hawthorne

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It’s Autumn!

Happy Birthday, Jim Henson

On the event of what would have been his 75th birthday I had intended to write a tribute to Jim Henson and the profound and imaginative contributions he’s made in places you know, and places you might never suspect… and then I found this piece by Bridget McGovern at Tor.com and realized she’d already done it, and better and more comprehensively than I’d have been able to do. … even if I try to stick to my absolute favorites, the sheer number of favorite Henson-inspired characters and moments (some touching, some hilarious, some just goofy and bizarre and wonderful) are far too numerous to list. To be completely serious for a moment, there’s no way of knowing what Henson might have done over the course of the last two decades if he’d had the opportunity, but when I think of all the lives he’s touched, all the people he’s inspired and entertained, and the fact that he managed to always do what he loved and left the world a better place for it, all I can think is how lucky we were to have Jim Henson in our lives. I sure miss that...

I have reached the conviction that the abolition of the death penalty is desirable. Reasons: 1) Irreparability in the event of an error of justice, 2) Detrimental moral influence of the execution procedure on those who, whether directly or indirectly, have to do with the procedure.

—  Albert Einstein

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Let’s please abolish our barbaric death penalty.

It’s Science!

I find this news — a waypoint in the progression of our environment — more than a little poignant: Researchers at Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon have spent the past two years documenting the park’s natural sound. Often, microphones will pick up the sound of falling trees, elks snacking and coyotes howling. In even the most remote parts of the park, however, researchers are also hearing airplane noise 15 percent of the time. Setting up temporary recording stations in 20 different locations, technicians say that there’s virtually no place left in America that’s untouched by ambient human noise — and that this may be stressful to wildlife.1 Seems to me this is something that’s happened in my lifetime. I can clearly remember stomping around the woods of Missouri in my youth, undisturbed by anything remotely like trains or planes or automobiles. Whether or not the inescapable sound of human technology is stressful to wildlife, I’ve little doubt it’s stressful to people. Sometimes you just wanna get away, right? And, briefly noted: Fifty more earth-like planets on the list! How are we to know which the little green men are coming from? Oh, crap. Seagulls are pooping resistant bacteria on beaches. Emphasis mine....

A Visit from the Tree Guy

The single sugar maple tree in my back yard — for some weeks clearly stressed — is a lost cause, says the tree guy, and is soon to be a pile of wood for autumn bonfires. Acer S., the tree guy notes… Acer saccharum. We have other maples… Red maples (Acer rubrum) and black (Acer nigrum). We have a massive ash tree (Fraxinus) and a picturesque stand of birches (Betula). We have cedar and spruce and hemlock trees (Juniperus, Picea, Tsuga) but only the single sugar maple. I’d planned to tap that tree to try my hand at backyard sugaring, but hadn’t gotten around to it, and in retrospect I’m awfully pleased I didn’t; I’m sure I’d worry it was me what killed that tree. Maybe it was lonely. I think I’ll replant another sugar maple when all is said and done. Not a single sugar maple, but two. Just in...

Raise a Glass to Michael S. Hart, Founder of Project Gutenberg

This week Project Gutenberg announced that its founder, Michael S. Hart, had died at the age of 64. You may not know the name… but you are probably familiar with Michael’s work, particularly if you’ve ever read an eBook. Michael believed that the great written works of the world should be freely available, and freely accessible, regardless of device. Project Gutenberg — founded on his philosophy — this week published his obituary: Hart was best known for his 1971 invention of electronic books, or eBooks. He founded Project Gutenberg, which is recognized as one of the earliest and longest-lasting online literary projects. He often told this story of how he had the idea for eBooks. He had been granted access to significant computing power at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. On July 4 1971, after being inspired by a free printed copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, he decided to type the text into a computer, and to transmit it to other users on the computer network. From this beginning, the digitization and distribution of literature was to be Hart’s life’s work, spanning over 40 years. Hart was an ardent technologist and futurist. A lifetime tinkerer, he acquired hands-on expertise with the technologies of the day: radio, hi-fi stereo, video equipment, and of course computers. He constantly looked into the future, to anticipate technological advances. One of his favorite speculations was that someday, everyone would be able to have their own copy of the Project Gutenberg collection or whatever subset desired. This vision came true, thanks to the advent of large inexpensive computer disk drives, and to the...
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