I, for one, welcome our new indescribably cute cephalopod overlords

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Gang of 4

Gang of Four are coming back: Warfield on Tue Oct 18.

I'm sad that they're at the Warfield instead of the Fillmore, but let me re-emphasize that if you miss this show, you are a god damned fool!


I, for one, welcome our new fundamentalist web filter overlords

giantlaser says:
Just in case any of you are curious, this is a mirror of the page that is displayed when you try to browse "objectionable" sites from any terrestrial ISP in the U.A.E.

I am tempted to replace all of my 404 pages with that.

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I, for one, welcome the Long Now lecture series

Tonight at 7:30 is the Long Now lecture series with Ray Kurzweil talking about, presumably, the Singularity or our new robot overlords or something. Herbst Theatre in the Veterans Building at Civic Center (not Fort Mason this month.) I've gone to most of these talks, and they're usually pretty interesting.
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Current Music: L7 -- Bad Things ♬

the ski jump is back on!

SF panel votes 8-0 to approve event next week:

Backers of a much-ballyhooed ski jump in San Francisco's Pacific Heights won city approval today to stage the event next week.

More than 70 people -- homeowners, lawyers, skiers and Hindu monks and nuns -- packed a small conference room to support the youthful spirit of the event, or lambaste it as a violation of city safety codes.

After almost two hours of public comments, the Interdepartmental Staff Committee on Traffic and Transportation decided that ski and snowboard wax company Icer had satisfied all safety requirements and voted 8-0 to grant the permit, which will close Fillmore Street between Broadway and Green and Vallejo Street between Webster and Steiner streets Sept. 28-29.

(Previously, previously; official site.)

Thursday, 2pm-4pm here.

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The Grim Meathook Future

People have been asking about the origin of the phrase "Grim Meathook Future" that I've been tagging posts with for a while now; it is the creation of one Joshua Ellis, who wrote the following. This isn't on his site, and I like it, so I might as well paste it here for posterity: Update: Joshua put the longer version on his site: Update 2: And then he changed the URL, because he doesn't know what the "U" stands for:

I think the problem is that the future, maybe for the first time since WWII, lies on the far side of an event horizon for us, because there are so many futures possible. There’s the wetware future, the hardware future, the transhumanist future, the post-rationalist (aka fundamentalist) future.

And then there’s the future where everything just sort of keeps going on the way it has, with incremental changes, and technology is no longer the deciding factor in things. You don’t need high tech to change the world; you need Semtex and guns that were designed by a Russian soldier fifty-odd years ago.

Meanwhile, most of the people with any genuine opportunity or ability to effect global change are too busy patting each other on the back at conventions and blue-skying goofy social networking tools that are essentially useless to 95% of the world’s population, who live within fifteen feet of everyone they’ve ever known and have no need to track their fuck buddies with GPS systems. (This, by the way, includes most Americans, quite honestly.)

You can’t blame them for this, because it’s fun and it’s a great way to travel and get paid, but it doesn’t actually help solve any real problems, except the problem of media theory grad students, which the rest of the world isn’t really interested in solving.

Feeding poor people is useful tech, but it’s not very sexy and it won’t get you on the cover of Wired. Talk about it too much and you sound like an earnest hippie. So nobody wants to do that.

They want to make cell phones that can scan your personal measurements and send them real-time to potential sex partners. Because, you know, the fucking Japanese teenagers love it, and Japanese teenagers are clearly the smartest people on the planet.

The upshot of all of this is that the Future gets divided; the cute, insulated future that Joi Ito and Cory Doctorow and you and I inhabit, and the grim meathook future that most of the world is facing, in which they watch their squats and under-developed fields get turned into a giant game of Counterstrike between crazy faith-ridden jihadist motherfuckers and crazy faith-ridden American redneck motherfuckers, each doing their best to turn the entire world into one type of fascist nightmare or another.

Of course, nobody really wants to talk about that future, because it’s depressing and not fun and doesn’t have Fischerspooner doing the soundtrack. So everybody pretends they don’t know what the future holds, when the unfortunate fact is that — unless we start paying very serious attention — it holds what the past holds: a great deal of extreme boredom punctuated by occasional horror and the odd moment of grace.

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situation normal

One of these stories is true. Can you guess which?

FEMA Sends Trucks Full Of Ice For Katrina Victims To Maine

The trucks started arriving this weekend, and they're expected to keep coming through Sunday. City officials say they have no idea why the trucks are here, only that the city has been asked to help out with traffic problems. But the truck drivers NEWSCENTER spoke to said they went all the way down to the gulf coast with the ice -- stayed for a few days -- and then were told by FEMA they needed to drive to Maine to store it.

The truck drivers, who are from all over the country, tell us they were subcontracted by FEMA. They started arriving over the weekend, and city spokesperson Peter Dewitt says as many as 200 trucks could come to the city by the end of the week. No one NEWSCENTER talked to has any idea when, or even if the ice will go back to the gulf coast.

Reporters Comb New Orleans For Heartwarming Story

NEW ORLEANS -- Journalists and TV-news crews continued to comb the wreckage of New Orleans for a heartwarming story last week. "We thought we found a cute lost puppy on a rooftop, but when I tried to retrieve him, he chewed me up pretty good," CNN reporter Gary Tuchman said. "At least we did better than those guys from WGN -- they thought they'd reunited an elderly married couple, but they just happened to have similar last names, and the guy raped the old lady to death in the Superdome basement." Many reporters have abandoned the heartwarming angle, instead concentrating on looting houses in the exclusive Port Charles neighborhood.

Also, Ask Father Hardon.

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Bridge to Nowhere

Downtown Ketchikan, Alaska: Future home of the $223 million Bridge To Nowhere! "Alaska Republican Don Young (R-Pure Evil), overlord of the GOP transportation committee, who insists that no, the money would not be better spent helping Hurricane Katrina victims."

"Yet due to funds in a new transportation bill, which President Bush is scheduled to sign Wednesday, Sallee and his neighbors may soon receive a bridge nearly as long as the Golden Gate Bridge and 80 feet taller than the Brooklyn Bridge. With a $223 million check from the federal government, the bridge will connect Gravina [population less than 50] to the bustling Alaskan metropolis of Ketchikan, pop. 8,000.

Included in the bill's special Alaska projects is $231 million for a bridge that will connect Anchorage to Port MacKenzie, a rural area that has exactly one resident, north of the town of Knik, pop. 22. The land is a network of swamps between a few hummocks of dry ground."

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This guy stuck 50,000 speech bubble stickers on posters around NYC and then took pictures of what people wrote in them:

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How far should fingerprints be trusted?
The so-called "50K study" took a set of 50,000 pre-existing images of fingerprints and compared each one electronically against the whole of the data set, producing a grand total of 2.5 billion comparisons. It concluded that the chances of each image being mistaken for any of the other 49,999 images were vanishingly small, at 1 in 1097.

But Meagher's study continues to be severely criticised. Critics say that showing an image is more like itself than other similar images is irrelevant. The study does not mimic what happens in real life, where messy, partial prints from a crime scene are compared with inked archive prints of known criminals. [...]

He wrote that critics misunderstood the purpose of his study, which sought to establish that individual fingerprints are effectively unique - unlike any other person's print. "This is not a study on error rate, or an effort to demonstrate what constitutes an identification."

[...] From these Cole estimates that false matches occurred at a rate of 0.8 per cent on average, and in one year were as high as 4.4 per cent. Even if the lower figure is correct, this would equate to 1900 mistaken fingerprint matches in the US in 2002 alone.

But on CSI, the evidence is never ambiguous, and they always get a confession before the end of the episode! Real life is so unfair!