Archive for October, 2011

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Occupy 101 – We Got 99 Problems But The Rich Ain’t One

[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 30, 2011 by admin in Politics

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Some facts about the origin of OWS that even occupiers seem unaware of, and some thoughts about what and what not to wear, and what and what not to say.

Guy Fawkes Mask
We have a strict policy of not criticizing
Anonymous around here, so if you’re with
Anonymous, wear what you like. But for
the rest of you, this is not recommended
. It’s licensed property, so every
mask you buy puts money in media
conglomerate Time Warner’s pockets.

As the Occupy Wall Street movement enters its sixth week, I find it remarkable that the most basic facts about it remain a mystery to many. And perhaps more remarkable that so many who complain daily about the issues that the Occupy movement seeks to address sit on the sidelines, still bellyaching. I personally have been bellyaching about the banksters since 2008. After writing a few dozen articles about bailouts, corporate capture of government , and pork-bellied politicians and having even my best friends shrug nonchalantly, I sort of gave up. But my interest in social justice was revived in early September of this year, when I first read of plans for protesters to assemble in NYC. I wasn’t surprised when the media ignored them the first week, but before the end of the second week, I told like-minded friends that if they made it past the second weekend, I might have to go join them. When 700 protestors were arrested on October 1, I knew it was “on”, and also knew there was no way I’d get to New York within the next several weeks. So that day, I set up simple site at, and started looking locally for other people who were interested. Don’t believe everything you read about social networking enabling civil protest. It may work in some situations, but in many areas, the multitude of conflicting Facebook and postings actually caused as much confusion as solidarity. And in my opinion, Facebook discussions tend to do more damage than good – intellectual liberals engage in wheel-spinning debate that makes them feel like they’re actually DOING something, things get factionalized, and as I’ve felt compelled to point out – clicking “Like” won’t change the world. So, in spite of the fact that this hardly qualifies as a revolution yet,  Alexis de Tocqueville’s statement that “In a revolution, as in a novel, the most difficult part to invent is the end” is relevant all the same. We’re mostly going to stick to history and a little opinion here. As this clip about the 1946 Oakland strikes makes clear, things can change on an epic scale in a single day when people who just want a decent living for a day’s work are deprived of that simple luxury. Read the rest of this entry »

Things Are Gettin’ Greener On The Server Farm

[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 26, 2011 by admin in Clean & Green

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Did you know that two Google searches generate as much CO2 as boiling water on your stovetop? Big tech companies are finally taking bigger steps toward addressing their data center’s environmental impact, which often rivals that of entire cities.

A couple of years ago, we talked about your Facebook Footprint, pointing out that two Google searches produce the same amount of CO2 as boiling water on your stovetop, and that Facebook has a carbon footprint equal to half of New York City. So have things changed much? You’d like to think that the brightest minds at innovative companies like Google would have a solid forward vision as they build the massive data centers that power the things that you do every day on the web, but do they? Well, it’s hard to tell. In spite of the fact that large tech companies like Google and Facebook don’t think YOU deserve much privacy, they treat information about their data centers like state secrets. None of the major tech firms in a Greenpeace roundup fared especially well, primarily because of a lack of transparency on the part of the companies in question. But it appears big tech firms are finally making SOME kind of effort. AMD and HP are partnering to explore the potential of solar-only distributed data centers. After considerable pressure, Facebook installed solar panels at their Oregon operation earlier this year, and suggesting maybe there’s some kind of financial sense to the idea (although this is a common argument against green energy) even Standard & Poors is getting in on the action. And Apple – in spite of being such an innovative company when it comes to devices and the revenue streams attached to them, is one of the late joiners in the game. For more comprehensive roundups if you’re interested, check out this special report from or this one from EcoFriend  .

Dude Man, You Stole My Link, You Nazi

[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 22, 2011 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

The death of netiquette and the decline of quality of life on Facebook.

Face Book Is Not Dead
Facebook may never actually die, but
the neighborhood sure has gone to hell.

One of the interesting things about social networking is that one of its key components – threaded discussion or comments – has been around since before the web even existed, beginning with the CBBS’s of the late 70′s. Like so many of the fine things in life though – like espresso drinks, literature, and proper grammar – once the commoner got involved, it all went to hell. I personally first noticed a serious decline in the quality of internet life around 2005. This of course was the year that MySpace first rose to prominence, but we can’t blame it all on sparkly animated unicorn graphics. It was also the year that “blog” became a household word (it was Merriam-Webster’s word of the year in 2004), the year that broadband access surpassed 50% of the US population, and the year that Google achieved near-total dominance of search, and made AdSense the most popular method of easy revenue generation on the web. This meant that at exactly the point where all the mouth breathers were finally getting on the web, they also had a readily-available way to self-publish, and two incentives to do so. First, an arrogant confidence in their ill-conceived beliefs fueled by watching Bill O’Reilly, and second, the ability to monetize their mindless rants by sticking ad content in their sites and spamming Google with SEO tricks (we’ve talked about content farms before). When you begin to look at the numbers for all the available ways to self publish – 800 million Facebook users, 200 million Twitter users, 150 million blogs (growing rapidly, by the way), and presumably another few hundred million Tumblr, LiveJournal, Flickr, and YouTube accounts – you realize that we now have as many content creators as consumers amongst the web’s 2 billion or so users. NO WONDER the whole concept of web courtesy known as netiquette has gone out the window. WE’RE ALL EXPERTS, goddamit, so SFTU LOL. Tell me you haven’t experienced one of the following things on Facebook: You share a really cool link, and your “friend” reposts it without a “via” or “hat tip” and gets more comments than you did, leaving you a little grumpy. You get engaged in a dynamic political dialogue, and suddenly find your blood boiling as it devolves down to a two or three person argument with massive paragraphs of polarized ranting. You post the coolest link that’s ever been posted on the web, and not a single person comments. Or maybe you share a link to an article about starvation in Somalia, and people “Like” it instead of commenting. These are all examples of things that I think have diminished the quality of the Facebook experience for many of us, and they all could have been easily avoided if people understood the basic principles behind the archaic concept of netiquette. And I realize that addressing “the Facebook experience” in a serious way seems almost comical, but let’s face it – millions of us check Facebook as or more often than we check email, and it’s a small but significant part of what may shape your mood in the morning. But it’s probably too late now; people more than ever are far more interested in their own thoughts than others’, and the analogy of Facebook and a civilized threaded discussion has one big weakness: good discussion boards have moderators, and the only moderators on Facebook are 400 million morons. I think I’m being kind here, I’m saying that more than half of Facebook users AREN’T morons, and I think you can agree that’s being pretty generous. So it’s probably too late for Facebook, but just in case you get sucked into the NEXT social network – assuming there is one – below are a few of the old netiquette terms and principles that might make the experience a little more enduring and enjoyable. Me, I’m boycotting Facebook until they enable sparkling animated GIF’s. Read the rest of this entry »

Problema – The Film

[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 19, 2011 by admin in Popular Media

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

What has 224 legs, 336 eyes, takes 5 years to mature, and lives for 95 minutes? One of the most thought-provoking films you’ll ever see, Problema.

Aerial view of the shoot of Problema
An aerial view of the “set” of Problema

What would happen if you rounded up thought-provoking questions from people all over the world, then gathered about a hundred thoughtful people together in a huge circle, pointed cameras at them, and asked the questions one by one? Well, a cacophonous murmur would probably ensue, until you edited the results into some kind of cohesive whole, as director Ralf Schmerberg did with his epic film project Problema. The project was inspired by the Dropping Knowledge project, a global information sharing and media project founded in 2003. On a single day in September, 2006, over a hundred individuals – artists, scientists, writers, business people, and other thinkers – took their place around a huge circle in Berlin’s Bebelplatz. This was a powerfully symbolic choice – the Bebelplatz was the location of the infamous Nazi book burnings of 1933. With digital cameras pointed at each guest, hosts Willem Dafoe and Hafsat Abiola (founder of Nigeria’s Kudirat Initiative for Democracy) asked 17 of 100 questions that had been selected from the thousands that were submitted worldwide via the Dropping Knowledge project. The guests then responded in their own time, with the cameras all running continuously, all framing the guests in a tight headshot. Guest Wim Wenders – director of the film Wings of Desire – astutely pointed out the similarity between the resulting murmur and the way the angels in his film had no choice but to hear the thoughts of humans everywhere, which created much of the lush sonic backdrop of Wings of Desire. Schmerberg – Problema’s director – managed to capture much of this live feeling of the event by interspersing compelling, sometimes tear-inducing images with a lively mixture of both concise, eyes-at-the-camera answers, and almost out-take-like moments of verité in which the attendees fumbled with their thoughts or spoke in asides to the guests sitting next to them. The result is a thought-provoking documentary unlike any you’ve seen before. If you’re a caring person who lives in the so-called “First World”, a question like “Does our wealth depend on the Third World being poor?” might make you think “Well of course, and it’s a shameful tragedy”.  But you’ll suddenly be forced to ponder things like what a bogus concept the “Third World” is in the first place, or how much freedom you have if you live in a powerful western capitalist country, when a sophisticated, educated person from Colombia points out that he for instance is only able to visit a place like Berlin because of a four day visa connected with the making of the film. He otherwise is barred from our “first world” as a second-rate global citizen who “has no right to enter our paradise” as he puts it. Although you may find Problema quite watchable on your own, you might find it a lot more interesting if you watch it with some intelligent friends, so you can discuss the world of questions it is likely to raise in your heart and your head. To view the film as a particapatory event, the Problema website offers a screening  page that allows you to publicize the event, but you can just download it and watch it with friends if you like – it’s free, provided in multiple file formats, and can be downloaded by bittorrent or as a direct file.

Why Am I Writing eBooks When I Don’t Even Own A Kindle?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 16, 2011 by admin in Popular Media

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

The publishing world is going through a massive paradigm shift. Just in time to confuse the hell out of me.

This might have SOMETHING to do with it.

Me and eBooks go way back. Not quite as far back as the first time I used the wrong first-person pronoun on purpose, but at least back to about 1992, when I worked in one of the coolest bookstores ever: AfterWords, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was a store that mostly sold remainders, quality reprints, and small press stuff that was hard to find. One day while pricing a huge stack of of the hardcover version of I’m Only One Man, Regis Philbin’s biography, I casually mentioned something about how I’d just read in Wired magazine about the still-only-imagined eBook, and what a cool idea I thought it was. It took me a moment to notice the sudden silence around me. I looked up to find myself being stabbed through with a dagger-like look in the five eyes of my co-workers (one had just injured their eye and was wearing an eye-patch). The look in their eyes made it clear that they were collectively pondering the idea of paper-cutting me to death. “What, what, WHAT?”, I said. But I knew that it was just the book lover in them all that was causing this reaction. It was like suddenly I was the fireman from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and I was there to burn all their books. As much as I agreed with them about the feel and smell of a comforting bound book, they really just didn’t seem to care about the number of trees left in the world, the idea that you could carry every book you’ve ever owned in a notebook-size device, or the idea that it would never wear out, and could be highlighted repeatedly without devaluing it. Well, we’ve come a long way since then. So far that not only is AfterWords long-since defunct, but even the corporate monsters that destroyed them are dying. This has not impacted my reading habits a lot, in spite of the fact that I don’t own a Kindle or an iPad. Although I have to say the Kindle Fire is very tempting, and who doesn’t want an iPad? Well, me, for the moment. But in any case, if I really want to read a particular book, I buy it or get it from the library. And far and away I do more short-form reading on the web. But this whole traditional book vs. eBook issue just became of critical importance to me. Why? Because I have a more or less finished book that I’m getting ready to peddle, and I just co-authored another book with a development partner. We’re developing a series of personal transformation products (we also maintain a sort of sandbox site called which will include a variety of books. So we submitted this first co-authored book to a publisher where my partner has been published before, and as we did so, Read the rest of this entry »

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