foxtongue: (26th birthday)
Sally Adee, a science writer lucky enough to try a DARPA experiment that uses targeted electrical stimulation of the brain during training exercises to induce flow state for a New Scientist article, has some really fascinating things to say about what it was like:
The experience wasn't simply about the easy pleasure of undeserved expertise. When the nice neuroscientists put the electrodes on me, the thing that made the earth drop out from under my feet was that for the first time in my life, everything in my head finally shut the fuck up.

The experiment I underwent was accelerated marksmanship training on a simulation the military uses. I spent a few hours learning how to shoot a modified M4 close-range assault rifle, first without tDCS and then with. Without it I was terrible, and when you're terrible at something, all you can do is obsess about how terrible you are. And how much you want to stop doing the thing you are terrible at.

Then this happened:

The 20 minutes I spent hitting targets while electricity coursed through my brain were far from transcendent. I only remember feeling like I had just had an excellent cup of coffee, but without the caffeine jitters. I felt clear-headed and like myself, just sharper. Calmer. Without fear and without doubt. From there on, I just spent the time waiting for a problem to appear so that I could solve it.

It was only when they turned off the current that I grasped what had just happened. Relieved of the minefield of self-doubt that constitutes my basic personality, I was a hell of a shot. And I can't tell you how stunning it was to suddenly understand just how much of a drag that inner cacophony is on my ability to navigate life and basic tasks. [...]

Me without self-doubt was a revelation. There was suddenly this incredible silence in my head; I've experienced something close to it during 2-hour Iyengar yoga classes, but the fragile peace in my head would be shattered almost the second I set foot outside the calm of the studio. I had certainly never experienced instant zen in the frustrating middle of something I was terrible at. There were no unpleasant side effects. The bewitching silence of the tDCS lasted, gradually diminishing over a period of about three days. The inevitable reintroduction of self-doubt and inattention to my mind bore heartbreaking similarities to the plot of Flowers for Algernon.

I hope you can sympathize with me when I tell you that the thing I wanted most acutely for the weeks following my experience was to go back and strap on those electrodes. I also started to have a lot of questions. Who was I apart from the angry little bitter gnomes that populate my mind and drive me to failure because I'm too scared to try? And where did those voices come from? Some of them are personal history, like the caustically dismissive 7th grade science teacher who advised me to become a waitress. Some of them are societal, like the hateful ladymag voices that bully me every time I look in a mirror. Invisible narrative informs all my waking decisions in ways I can't even keep track of.

What would a world look like in which we all wore little tDCS headbands that would keep us in a primed, confident state free of all doubts and fears? Wouldn't you wear the shit out of that cap? I certainly would. I'd wear one at all times and have two in my backpack ready in case something happened to the first one.
foxtongue: (Default)
How Companies Learn Your Secrets:

The only problem is that identifying pregnant customers is harder than it sounds. Target has a baby-shower registry, and Pole started there, observing how shopping habits changed as a woman approached her due date, which women on the registry had willingly disclosed. He ran test after test, analyzing the data, and before long some useful patterns emerged. Lotions, for example. Lots of people buy lotion, but one of Pole's colleagues noticed that women on the baby registry were buying larger quantities of unscented lotion around the beginning of their second trimester. Another analyst noted that sometime in the first 20 weeks, pregnant women loaded up on supplements like calcium, magnesium and zinc. Many shoppers purchase soap and cotton balls, but when someone suddenly starts buying lots of scent-free soap and extra-big bags of cotton balls, in addition to hand sanitizers and washcloths, it signals they could be getting close to their delivery date.

As Pole's computers crawled through the data, he was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a "pregnancy prediction" score. More important, he could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.

One Target employee I spoke to provided a hypothetical example. Take a fictional Target shopper named Jenny Ward, who is 23, lives in Atlanta and in March bought cocoa-butter lotion, a purse large enough to double as a diaper bag, zinc and magnesium supplements and a bright blue rug. There's, say, an 87 percent chance that she's pregnant and that her delivery date is sometime in late August. What's more, because of the data attached to her Guest ID number, Target knows how to trigger Jenny's habits. They know that if she receives a coupon via e-mail, it will most likely cue her to buy online. They know that if she receives an ad in the mail on Friday, she frequently uses it on a weekend trip to the store. And they know that if they reward her with a printed receipt that entitles her to a free cup of Starbucks coffee, she'll use it when she comes back again.

"We have the capacity to send every customer an ad booklet, specifically designed for them, that says, `Here's everything you bought last week and a coupon for it,' " one Target executive told me. "We do that for grocery products all the time." But for pregnant women, Target's goal was selling them baby items they didn't even know they needed yet.

"With the pregnancy products, though, we learned that some women react badly," the executive said. "Then we started mixing in all these ads for things we knew pregnant women would never buy, so the baby ads looked random. We'd put an ad for a lawn mower next to diapers. We'd put a coupon for wineglasses next to infant clothes. That way, it looked like all the products were chosen by chance.

"And we found out that as long as a pregnant woman thinks she hasn't been spied on, she'll use the coupons. She just assumes that everyone else on her block got the same mailer for diapers and cribs. As long as we don't spook her, it works."


And they're hostile about it, too:

When I sent Target a complete summary of my reporting, the reply was more terse: "Almost all of your statements contain inaccurate information and publishing them would be misleading to the public. We do not intend to address each statement point by point." The company declined to identify what was inaccurate. They did add, however, that Target "is in compliance with all federal and state laws, including those related to protected health information."

When I offered to fly to Target's headquarters to discuss its concerns, a spokeswoman e-mailed that no one would meet me. When I flew out anyway, I was told I was on a list of prohibited visitors. "I've been instructed not to give you access and to ask you to leave," said a very nice security guard named Alex.
foxtongue: (canadian)
Google has expanded its search blacklist to include many of the top file-sharing sites on the Internet, including The Pirate Bay.
The changes were quietly processed and appear to be broader than previous additions. Google's blacklist prevents the names of sites appearing in their Instant and Autocomplete search services, while the pages themselves remain indexed.

Google users searching for terms like "torrent", "BitTorrent" and "RapidShare" will notice that no suggestions and search results appear before they type the full word. As a consequence, there's sharp decrease in Google searches for these terms. Initially only a handful of "piracy-related" terms were censored, but a recent update to the blacklist includes nearly all the top file-sharing websites. [...]

There is currently no clear definition of what Google considers to be piracy-inducing, but Google claims that the blacklist helps to reduce online piracy. "While there is no silver bullet for infringement online, this measure is one of several that we have implemented to curb copyright infringement online," Google spokesman Mistique Cano previously told TorrentFreak. [...]

"It's a lot more subtle than the censorship attempts made possible by the pending PROTECT IP and SOPA bills, but it's still censorship and it starts small. Google is increasingly becoming a self-righteous Big Brother of the Web. So much for `Do no evil'," Fung told us.

A Pirate Bay insider also told TorrentFreak that Google doesn't live up up to its famous motto. ""It's just another step towards censoring their search engine altogether -- without a legal basis. We're also wondering why this happens at almost the same time as they've released Google Music -- a service where they sell music which in some cases might be found on The Pirate Bay," he added.

foxtongue: (Default)
Wave Glider Self Propelled Robots Have Begun a Historic Swim Across the Pacific:

"Yesterday, four Wave Gliders—self propelled robots, each about the size of a dolphin—left San Francisco for a 60,000 kilometer journey. Built by Liquid Robotics, the robots will travel together to Hawaii, then split into pairs, one pair heading to Japan, the other to Australia. Waves will power their propulsion systems and the sun will power the sensors that will be measuring things like water salinity, temperature, clarity, and oxygen content; collecting weather data, and gathering information on wave features and currents. It’s not going to be an easy journey—the little robots will face rough weather and have to dodge big ships. [...]

The data from the fleet of robots is being streamed via the Iridium satellite network and made freely available—in an accessible form on Google Earth’s Ocean Showcase, and in a more complete form to researchers who register. Liquid Robotics is eager to see what the scientific community does with all the data—so eager, that it’s asking for project abstracts, and will give a prize to the top five proposals—six months use of a Wave Glider optimized to collect whatever information the winner needs."
foxtongue: (misery)
The news just went from ugly to horrific:
"When Fox arrived at the hospital, doctors told her that the baby had no heartbeat.

“They diagnosed that I was having a miscarriage. They said the damage was from the kick and that the pepper spray got to it [the fetus], too,” she said.

“I was worried about it [when I joined the protests], but I didn’t know it would be this bad. I didn’t know that a cop would murder a baby that’s not born yet… I am trying to get lawyers.”

The Scoville heat chart indicates that U.S. grade pepper spray is ten times more painful than the blistering hot habanero pepper, according to Scientific American. While law enforcement officials regulary claim that the spray is safe, researchers at the University of North Carolina and Duke University found that it could “produce adverse cardiac, respiratory, and neurologic effects, including arrhythmias and sudden death.”


Here's a photo of Jennifer being hustled to an ambulance after being sprayed. This is from the same event that pepper sprayed Dorli Rainey, the now iconic senior citizen.

EDIT: It is possible the miscarriage report has been fabricated, but this has yet to be verified.
foxtongue: (danger)
Democracy Now quotes New York Supreme Court Judge Karen Smith:
I was there to take down the names of people who were arrested… As I’m standing there, some African-American woman goes up to a police officer and says, ‘I need to get in. My daughter’s there. I want to know if she’s OK.’ And he said, ‘Move on, lady.’ And they kept pushing with their sticks, pushing back. And she was crying. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he throws her to the ground and starts hitting her in the head,” says Smith. “I walk over, and I say, ‘Look, cuff her if she’s done something, but you don’t need to do that.’ And he said, ‘Lady, do you want to get arrested?’ And I said, ‘Do you see my hat? I’m here as a legal observer.’ He said, ‘You want to get arrested?’ And he pushed me up against the wall.

via bOINGbOING.
foxtongue: (see the sky)
To celebrate my insanely exciting travel/adventure news, I've been blasting my facebook with the good times virus. Here's a round-up of some of the cheerful links, as well as a few extras:

  • A video of Mariachi Connecticut serenading a beluga whale at the Mystic Aquarium.

  • A video of a plane to plane skydive, taken by one of the skydivers.

  • A Swedish man was arrested for trying to split atoms in a home kitchen reactor. "Mr. Handl, 31, said he had tried for months to set up a nuclear reactor at home and kept a blog about his experiments, describing how he created a small meltdown on his stove. Only later did he realize it might not be legal and sent a question to Sweden's Radiation Authority, which answered by sending the police."

  • Revival, Beats Antique's brand shiny new music video.

  • One of the best sci-fi trailer-teasers ever made. (I wish it were for a new favourite television show, but no, it's for a terrible video game).

  • According to Gawker, Newt Gingrich might have paid for the majority of his Twitter followers.

  • Art installation: books rupturing through a wall of an advertising agency in a building that used to be a library.

  • Starting next August, U.S. insurance providers will be required to cover all FDA-approved birth control methods.

  • Timelapse of 3D printout of Stephen Colbert’s head.

  • Explain like I'm five, simply worded answers to complicated questions.

  • Fastest Shave Ever.
  • foxtongue: (Default)
    Why I Quit My Job, an important piece by Kai Nagata, formerly CTV’s Quebec City Bureau Chief.

    Human beings don’t always like good nourishment. We seem to love white sugar, and unless we understand why we feel nauseated and disoriented after binging on sweets, we’ll just keep going. People like low-nutrition TV, too. And that shapes the internal, self-regulated editorial culture of news.
    foxtongue: (have to be kidding)
    As if more evidence was required to show that vaccines don't cause autism, the British study that linked childhood vaccines to autism was recently proven to be a complicated fraud:

    An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study -- and that there was "no doubt" Wakefield was responsible.

    "It's one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors," Fiona Godlee, BMJ's editor-in-chief, told CNN. "But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data."


    The full paper from BMJ is here.
    foxtongue: (have to be kidding)
    What could be more festive than spending a night locked in an art gallery with a dozen reindeer and a fridge full of psychedelic drugs?
    A pen running the length of the Hamburger Bahnhof, now the city's contemparary art museum, contains 12 reindeer, 24 canaries, eight mice and two flies. Giant toadstool sculptures are planted on a mushroom clock that the reindeer can turn with their antlers, and at the centre is a mushroom-shaped "floating hotel" – a bed on a platform complete with minibar, yours for €1,000 a night. (There's also a raffle giving away free places.) [...]

    The urine is collected by handlers and stored in fridges by the walls, which also hold both dried and fresh fly agaric mushrooms. By day they're locked, but at night the fridges are opened, allowing people staying over to sample the contents. However, because only half the reindeer are fed the mushrooms, it's impossible to know which bottles, if any, contain hallucinogenic urine. [...]

    One side of the hall is the "test", the other the "control". Reindeer on the test side are fed the mushrooms. ("At least in principle," says Höller, helpfully.) On each side, the reindeer urine is spread on the food of the other animals. From observation posts, visitors watch the behaviour of the canaries, mice and houseflies for signs of intoxication and form their own conclusions. [...]

    Dorothée Brill, the museum's lead curator, says: "As far as we can tell, nobody's done anything they shouldn't have." Staff at the restaurant, however, report that some guests "drink the minibar dry".
    foxtongue: (Default)
    German physicists create a "super-photon":

    Physicists from the University of Bonn have developed a completely new source of light, a so-called Bose-Einstein condensate consisting of photons. Until recently, expert had thought this impossible. This method may potentially be suitable for designing novel light sources resembling lasers that work in the X-ray range.
    foxtongue: (have to be kidding)
    For the First Time, the TSA Meets Resistance
    "Yes, but starting tomorrow, we're going to start searching your crotchal area" -- this is the word he used, "crotchal" -- and you're not going to like it."
    "What am I not going to like?" I asked.
    "We have to search up your thighs and between your legs until we meet resistance," he explained.
    "Resistance?" I asked.
    "Your testicles," he explained.
    'That's funny," I said, "because 'The Resistance' is the actual name I've given to my testicles."

    Full Frontal Nudity Doesn’t Make Us Safer: Abolish the TSA 
    Bipartisan support should be immediate. For fiscal conservatives, it’s hard to come up with a more wasteful agency than the TSA. For privacy advocates, eliminating an organization that requires you to choose between a nude body scan or genital groping in order to board a plane should be a no-brainer.

    Man opts out of porno scanner and grope, told he'll be fined $10K unless he submits to fondling 
    He opted out of showing his penis to the government, so they told him he'd have to submit to an intimate testicle fondling. He told the screener, "if you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested." After faffing around with various supervisors and supervisors' supervisors, he opted not to fly, collected a refund from the American Airlines counter, and started to leave the airport. But before he could go, the supervisor's supervisor's supervisor told him he wasn't allowed to leave the checkpoint once he entered it, that he was already in for up to $10,000 in fines, and that he would have to return and allow the man's minons to palpate his genitals before he'd be allowed to leave the airport.

    Lobbyists join the war on terror 
    The degradations of passing through full-body scanners that provide naked pictures of you to Transportation Security Administration agents may not mean that the terrorists have won -- but they do mark victories for a few politically connected high-tech companies and their revolving-door lobbyists. [...] But this is government we're talking about. A program or product doesn't need to be effective, it only needs to have a good lobby. And the naked-scanner lobby is small but well-connected.

    National Opt-Out Day
    It's the day ordinary citizens stand up for their rights, stand up for liberty, and protest the federal government's desire to virtually strip us naked or submit to an "enhanced pat down" that touches people's breasts and genitals in an aggressive manner. You should never have to explain to your children, "Remember that no stranger can touch or see your private area, unless it's a government employee, then it's OK."

    The goal of National Opt Out Day is to send a message to our lawmakers that we demand change. We have a right to privacy and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we're guilty until proven innocent. This day is needed because many people do not understand what they consent to when choosing to fly.

    TSA Opt-Out Day, Now with a Superfantastic New Twist!
    By the way, it is the official position of Goldblog that everyday is opt-out day. There's no need to wait until November 24th. But come November 24th, here's an idea you might try to make the day extra-special. It's a one-word idea: Kilts.

    Rape Survivor Devastated by TSA Enhanced Pat Down
    Coming back from Chicago, Celeste, like increasing numbers of travelers, was forced to make a difficult choice – either allow strangers to see her naked or allow strangers to touch and squeeze her breasts and groin in full view of other travels and TSA agents. “This was a nightmare come to life,” Celeste says, “I said I didn’t want them to see me naked and the agent started yelling Opt out- we have an opt here. Another agent took me aside and said they would have to pat me down. He told me he was going to touch my genitals and asked if I wouldn’t rather just go through the scanner, that it would be less humiliating for me. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I kept saying I don’t want any of this to happen. I was whispering please don’t do this, please, please.”

    Stop the TSA's Nude Scanners!
    Bold legislators in New Jersey and Idaho have introduced bills stopping the new porno-scanners, but that's not enough -- we need to pass these bills in every state! So I set up a thing to make it super-easy to contact your state legislator about it. Just add your name and zip code to our petition and we'll automatically email your state rep.

    Fly With Dignity
    An organization seeking advocacy and recognition of the TSA’s and DHS’s actions against our privacy and right to refuse unwarranted search.

    Complete List of Airports with Whole Body Imaging/Advanced Imaging Technology Scanners

    sad

    Nov. 9th, 2010 02:32 pm
    foxtongue: (Default)
    via Scott:


    Deaths in Iraq from January 2004 to December 2009. Blue is friendly/coalition forces deaths (3,771), teal is Iraqi government/military deaths (15,196), orange is Iraqi civilians (66,081), grey is insurgents and partisans (23,984). The lefthand chart is sorted by total, the righthand chart is sorted by date.

    Source: 1 and 2
    foxtongue: (the welsh got you)
    Aside from all the other amazing things that life consists of, this evening I am made happy by passionfruit gelato, chickie nobs, and the line, "Someone's being attacked by a platypus bear!", upon which, indeed, a platypus bear appeared onscreen, truly one of nature's more creative miracles.

    Also, the incredible people and technology involved in the Chilean miner rescue. That too.
    foxtongue: (have to be kidding)
    A new name for high fructose corn syrup:

    The Corn Refiners Association, which represents firms that make the syrup, has been trying to improve the image of the much maligned sweetener with ad campaigns promoting it as a natural ingredient made from corn. Now, the group has petitioned the United States Food and Drug Administration to start calling the ingredient "corn sugar," arguing that a name change is the only way to clear up consumer confusion about the product.

    "Clearly the name is confusing consumers," said Audrae Erickson, president of the Washington-based group, in an interview.

    "I’m not eager to help the corn refiners sell more of their stuff," Dr. Nestle wrote in an e-mail. "But you have to feel sorry for them. High-fructose corn syrup is the new trans fat. Everyone thinks it’s poison, and food companies are getting rid of it as fast as they can."

    Although food label changes aren’t common, the F.D.A. has allowed name changes in the past. The ingredient first called “low erucic acid rapeseed oil” was changed to “canola oil” in the 1980s. More recently, the F.D.A. allowed prunes to be called “dried plums.”
    foxtongue: (femme)
    Anime director Satoshi Kon dies, aged 46.
    Kon passed away passed yesterday after losing a battle with pancreatic cancer.

    The filmmaker's work includes Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress and Paprika.

    Kon was working on fantasy-adventure animation, "Yumemiru Kikai (Dream Machine)", due for release in 2011, at the time of his death. Featuring a futuristic adventure starring a robot, it would have been his first work aimed at children after he produced a series of what he called "animations which adults can enjoy".
    foxtongue: (Default)
  • Documentary 'Gasland' shows flaming tap water caused by gas drillers 'fracking.' Industry speed dials its PR flaks. Most of the PR push-back on Gasland appears to be coming from an oil and gas lobby group calling itself "Energy In Depth" whose anonymous website lists other oil and gas lobby groups, like American Exploration and Production Council, the Indiana Oil and Gas Association and the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, as their members.

  • Toxic Oil Spill Rains Warned Could Destroy North America. The super toxic dispersants that have been pumped into the Gulf of Mexico could potentially chemically bind with oil in such a way that it could evaporate and fall as rain. I say potentially, but it's apparently already started.

  • Scientists Warn Gulf Of Mexico Sea Floor Fractured "Beyond Repair". Most important to note about Sagalevich's warning is that he and his fellow scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences are the only human beings to have actually been to the Gulf of Mexico oil leak site after their being called to the disaster scene by British oil giant BP shortly after the April 22nd sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform.
  • foxtongue: (Default)

    Oily waters breaking on Orange Beach, Alabama, more than 90 miles from the BP oil spill, cannot distract from the mess 4 to 6 inches deep on parts of the shore.


  • Video: A Possible Rain of Oil in Louisiana.

  • If It Was My Home, trying the spill on where you live for size. Worth revisiting as the disaster progresses. When I first took a look, it was half the size of what it is now. Also see their HOW TO HELP section.

  • BP Burning Sea Turtles Alive. A rare and endangered species of sea turtle is being burned alive in BP's controlled burns of the oil swirling around the Gulf of Mexico, and a boat captain tasked with saving them says the company has blocked rescue efforts.

  • Judge who overturned drilling moratorium reported owning stock in drilling companies. U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman issued a preliminary injunction today barring the enforcement of the president's proposed six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling, arguing that the ban is too broad. According to Feldman's 2008 financial disclosure form the judge owned stock in Transocean, (which leased the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig to BP prior to its April 20 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico), as well as five other companies that are either directly or indirectly involved in the offshore drilling business.

  • As oil continues to gush from a BP wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico, critics say the company has quietly broken ground on a controversial project in B.C.'s Rocky Mountains.

  • BP Is Pursuing Alaska Drilling Some Call Risky. BP’s project, called Liberty, has been exempted as regulators have granted it status as an "onshore" project even though it is about three miles off the coast in the Beaufort Sea. The reason: it sits on an artificial island — a 31-acre pile of gravel in about 22 feet of water — built by BP.

  • BP spill response plans severely flawed. Professor Peter Lutz is listed in BP's 2009 response plan for a Gulf of Mexico oil spill as a national wildlife expert. He died in 2005. Under the heading "sensitive biological resources," the plan lists marine mammals including walruses, sea otters, sea lions and seals. None lives anywhere near the Gulf.

  • 'Reasonably High' Chance BP Files for Bankruptcy. The specter of Chapter 11 bankruptcy terrifies Gulf residents because it could allow BP to delay, or even avoid, paying billions of dollars to businesses and individuals affected by the Gulf spill.

  • Nigeria's agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill. The US and Europe ignore it. In fact, more oil is spilled from the delta's network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico, the site of a major ecological catastrophe caused by oil that has poured from a leak triggered by the explosion that wrecked BP's Deepwater Horizon rig last month.
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