MonthDecember 2008

The BacterioSphere

The savage simplicity of the bacteria is not a sign of its stupidity but a token of its long term commitment to survival. When looking at the tree of life in terms of creative ability it is clear that it is not the bacteria that are primitive; it are the branches ‘above’ them that are caged in an ancient, conservative, over-elaborate and fragile textual heritage. The lichen, that many-coloured plant-like coat of nothingness, that centrifugal furry Mandelbrot cloak spreading-out in search for a minimal splash of sunlight across otherwise lifeless mineral surfaces underscores the point that the vortex may be the ideal but that the bacterial condition is above strict obedience to even its own principles.

Full Story: Social Fiction

(Thanks Algomantra)

How I Work

Todo list

Borrowed from the “Getting Things Done” crowd, I keep a plain text “todo” list separated into “Next Actions” “Projects” and “Someday/Maybe”. Next actions are then broken down by context, mine are currently @home and @anywhere but many people have many more (@phone @errands @chores etc.). Currently, I keep my todo file in Google Docs so I can access it anywhere.

I try to keep my inbox at “zero,” but my “todo” and “follow-up” folders became black holes. So my inbox ends up being a secondary todo list – nothing goes out of the inbox until it’s been dealt with, and nothing stays in the inbox that has been dealt with.


Also from GTD, I have a calendar (Google Calendar) that I use only for the “hard landscape.” The calendar should not be a todo list, it should be used only to put reminders and information for particular days.

On the go

When on the go, I don’t find that I need access to my full todo list, but sometimes I want to add stuff to it. So I just e-mail notes to myself with my Blackberry. I do sync my BB calendar with Google Calendar.


I love taking notes and brainstorming on yellow legal pads, but a lot of this goes in Google Docs as well.

I’ve been considering installing FCK Editor on my own server if I can’t find a simlple way to backup my Google Docs (this is just about the only automated method I’ve found). But for right now having something easy exportable or copy and paste-able is good enough.


GTD doesn’t encourage having a list of stuff to do for a particular day. I don’t like this. One common hack I’ve seen a lot of places and works well for me: get a pile of index cards. Before bed or first thing in the morning, list things you want to get done. Complete projects or a particular milestones in projects, chores, etc. Leave some space to add stuff throughout the day. If you get something done that wasn’t on the list, write it down and cross it off. Carry over unfinished items to the next card in the stack. An index card has just enough lines to put about one day’s worth of “stuff” on , so it works out.

That’s it. Fairly simple. It’s taken me years to distill things down to this.

2008 good news round-up

Radley Balko looks at the year’s good news:

Crime rates are still falling
Sex crimes are down, too
Divorce rate is at its lowest point in four decades
Life expectancy is up
We’re beating our biggest killers (cancer and heart disease)
The kids are all right
We have more leisure time

Full Story: Fox News

Webb Sets His Sights on Prison Reform

This spring, Webb (D-Va.) plans to introduce legislation on a long-standing passion of his: reforming the U.S. prison system. Jails teem with young black men who later struggle to rejoin society, he says. Drug addicts and the mentally ill take up cells that would be better used for violent criminals. And politicians have failed to address this costly problem for fear of being labeled “soft on crime.”

It is a gamble for Webb, a fiery and cerebral Democrat from a staunchly law-and-order state. Virginia abolished parole in 1995, and it trails only Texas in the number of people it has executed. Moreover, as the country struggles with two wars overseas and an ailing economy, overflowing prisons are the last thing on many lawmakers’ minds.

But Webb has never been one to rely on polls or political indicators to guide his way. He seems instead to charge ahead on projects that he has decided are worthy of his time, regardless of how they play – or even whether they represent the priorities of the state he represents.

Full Story: TruthOut

(via The Agitator)

Oregon to pursue mileage tax

Terrible idea for so many reasons…

“As Oregonians drive less and demand more fuel-efficient vehicles, it is increasingly important that the state find a new way, other than the gas tax, to finance our transportation system.”

According to the policies he has outlined online, Kulongoski proposes to continue the work of the special task force that came up with and tested the idea of a mileage tax to replace the gas tax. […]

A GPS-based system kept track of the in-state mileage driven by the volunteers. When they bought fuel, a device in their vehicles was read, and they paid 1.2 cents a mile and got a refund of the state gas tax of 24 cents a gallon.

Full Story: Albany Democrat Herald

(via Cryptogon)

The Six Nations of 2010

In what sounds to be very obviously an act of wishful projection, a former KGB intelligence analyst turned public intellectual named Igor Panarin has explained to the Wall Street Journal that the United States only has about 18 months left to live. In the summer of 2010, it will “disintegrate” into six politically separate realms – and, conveniently for a thinker who clearly leans to the right, the borders of these realms will coincide with a new racial segregation. The fantasy of living amidst people who don’t look like you will come to an end.

Best of all, from Panarin’s perspective, Alaska – Sarah Palin included, looking out with alarm from her office window – will “revert” to Russian control.

Full Story: BLDG Blog

Interview with Mac Tonnies of Posthuman Blues

Richard: Human beings seem to find it hard enough to get on with other humans, never mind post-humans. What sort of relationship do you think will exist between us and post-humans? Will they be our slaves or will we be their pets?

Mac Tonnies: Neither. A posthuman civilization will probably have enough to think about without harassing its neighbors — especially if they pose no threat. When I see the Amish, I’m tempted to speculate along similar lines. Almost invariably, some of us will eschew transhumanism for various philosophical or metaphysical reasons, but that doesn’t necessarily entail antagonism or hostility.

Richard’s Room 101

Photos from Derinkuyu, the underground city of Turkey


Full Story: The Corner of Mystery

(Thanks Mac!)

Chocolate, Wine And Tea Improve Brain Performance

All that chocolate might actually help finish the bumper Christmas crossword over the seasonal period. According to Oxford researchers working with colleagues in Norway, chocolate, wine and tea enhance cognitive performance.

The team from Oxford’s Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics and Norway examined the relation between cognitive performance and the intake of three common foodstuffs that contain flavonoids (chocolate, wine, and tea) in 2,031 older people (aged between 70 and 74).

Participants filled in information about their habitual food intake and underwent a battery of cognitive tests.Those who consumed chocolate, wine, or tea had significantly better mean test scores and lower prevalence of poor cognitive performance than those who did not. The team reported their findings in the Journal of Nutrition.

The role of micronutrients in age-related cognitive decline is being increasingly studied. Fruits and beverages such as tea, red wine, cocoa, and coffee are major dietary sources of polyphenols, micronutrients found in plant-derived foods. The largest subclass of dietary polyphenols is flavonoids, and it has been reported in the past that those who consume lots of flavonoids have a lower incidence of dementia.

Full Story: Science Daily

(via Steven Walling)

As Economy Dips, Arrests for Shoplifting Soar

Police departments across the country say that shoplifting arrests are 10 percent to 20 percent higher this year than last. The problem is probably even greater than arrest records indicate since shoplifters are often banned from stores rather than arrested.

Much of the increase has come from first-time offenders like Mr. Johnson making rash decisions in a pinch, the authorities say. But the ease with which stolen goods can be sold on the Internet has meant a bigger role for organized crime rings, which also engage in receipt fraud, fake price tagging and gift card schemes, the police and security experts say.

Full Story: New York Times

(via Cryptogon)

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