MonthApril 2009

Photos: World Sand Sculpture Festival 2009

ganesh sand sculpture

“Fairy tales and legends” is the theme of this year’s World Sand Sculpture Festival now underway at the Tottori Sand Dunes in Tottori prefecture. On display (until May 31) are 19 massive works crafted by world-class sculptors from ten nations. The artists used around 2,700 tons of sand and took about two weeks to complete their works. Can you identify the fairy tales and legends depicted in these sand sculptures?

More Pics: Pink Tentacle

Save energy by using Blackle instead of Google

In January 2007 a blog post titled Black Google Would Save 750 Megawatt-hours a Year proposed the theory that a black version of the Google search engine would save a fair bit of energy due to the popularity of the search engine. Since then there has been skepticism about the significance of the energy savings that can be achieved and the cost in terms of readability of black web pages.

We believe that there is value in the concept because even if the energy savings are small, they all add up. Secondly we feel that seeing Blackle every time we load our web browser reminds us that we need to keep taking small steps to save energy.

Blackle

(via Wadester23

SubGenius mom still needs money for legal fees

Lesson: if you ever really want to fuck with someone (especially a parent), question the morality of their religion in court. You could cause this to happen to them:

But to lose my firstborn and only son, that was not fair. To be burdened with more debt than I could pay with ten years of my salary, that is not fair. To have been forced to leave my home and husband, and live alone in another state in order to attend endless court proceedings for nearly two years, that was not fair.

Now, thankfully, our family is finally back together, but the financial burden that remains is devastating, especially as the proceedings grind through their final appeals. No matter how hard we work, we just barely make it each month.

Read up on the history of the case, and donate

Magdalen’s latest letter

After Losing Freedom, Some Immigrants Face Loss of Custody of Their Children

When immigration agents raided a poultry processing plant near here two years ago, they had no idea a little American boy named Carlos would be swept up in the operation.

One of the 136 illegal immigrants detained in the raid was Carlos’s mother, Encarnación Bail Romero, a Guatemalan. A year and a half after she went to jail, a county court terminated Ms. Bail’s rights to her child on grounds of abandonment. Carlos, now 2, was adopted by a local couple.

In his decree, Judge David C. Dally of Circuit Court in Jasper County said the couple made a comfortable living, had rearranged their lives and work schedules to provide Carlos a stable home, and had support from their extended family. By contrast, Judge Dally said, Ms. Bail had little to offer.

“The only certainties in the biological mother’s future,” he wrote, “is that she will remain incarcerated until next year, and that she will be deported thereafter.”

New York Times: After Losing Freedom, Some Immigrants Face Loss of Custody of Their Children

(via The Agitator)

No episode tonight – smoke monster theories instead

Getting back to the more occult roots of this blog:

lost smoke monster egyptian

Popular Mechanics has an Egyptologist weigh in on the hieroglyphics from “Dead is Dead

Allen agrees that the animal-headed human in the hieroglyphic Ben is fixated on is probably based on Anubis, though he says in actuality, no Egyptian scene looks like what’s shown on Lost. “I suspect that the colossus is also meant to be Anubis, too,” he says. But he points out, it’s actually more of a hybrid of Anubis and Taweret, the demon-wife of the Apep, the Egyptian’s original god of evil. (It’s said that Apep was only present at night, and therefore any evil happenings during the daytime were attributed to Taweret). “The thing on the head definitely looks like Taweret’s, but she never wears a kilt, which is clearly there in the back shot of the colossus. The colossus is probably holding two ankh-signs, like the one Anubis holds in this image, but he’s holding them like Taweret holds the two signs she holds, which are ‘protection’ signs, not ankhs.” Allen also notes that “the four toes on the statue fragment are more Taweret than Anubis, who has a human body and therefore five toes.”

Popular Mechanics: Lost Channels Ancient Egyptian Legend to Explain Smoke Monster (via Electric Children)

Pretty interesting, no? Danny Chaoflux was actually the first person who suggested to me that the Monster might be Apep:

apep

So perhaps the Others are a Taweret & Apep
cult. This is supported by the possibility that the four toed statue is Taweret:

Taweret lost four toed statue

(Image from Lostpedia)

From the Monster theories page of Lostpedia comes an alternate theory:

In Egyptian mythology, Ammit was the personification of divine retribution for all the wrongs one had committed in life. She dwelt in the Hall of Ma’at, who was the personification of the concept of truth, balance, and order.The hearts of the dead were weighed by Anubis against a feather from Ma’at’s headdress. The hearts of those who were heavy with wrongdoing failed the test were given to Ammit for her to devour. Those whose souls were devoured were not permitted to enter Aaru, having to be restless forever—effectively dying a second time. If the heart was lighter than a feather then the soul was judged by the god of the underworld, Osiris. With the strong Egyptian undertones, especially this season, the monster could be a personification of Ammit. When the monster poses as Yemi, it asks Eko if he is sorry for the wrongdoings in his life. When Eko says no, the monster kills him. We saw in “This Place is Death” that the monster lives in the Temple with the hieroglyphics on it. This temple, which goes underground, could represent the Hall of Ma’at where souls are judged.

I have another idea: the creators of LOST might be creating its own set of Egyptian deities.

Until “Dead is Dead” I was thinking that the Dharma Initiative might have been using Egyptian hieroglyphs as a code (the way the Others use Latin). But the hieroglyphs in the temple in “Dead is Dead” seem to rule that out.

It might also be worth noting that in “Some Like it Hoth,” the lesson Jack erases from the chalk board is on Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Bush administration encouraged torture to find justification for Iraq War

“While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not being successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq,” Army psychiatrist Maj. Paul Burney is quoted in the Senate report as saying about Guantánamo. “The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish this link … there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”

Apparently, one of the individuals applying pressure for results was then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, a major advocate of the Iraq invasion. Wolfowitz called the man in charge of Guantánamo at the time, Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey. Wolfowitz called “to express concerns about the insufficient intelligence production” at Guantánamo, the report says. Wolfowitz suggested the use of more aggressive interrogation techniques. The report cites the Guantánamo interrogation chief at that time, David Becker, as the source of this information about Wolfowitz. Dunlavey, however, told the Senate investigators he could not recall the Wolfowitz call.

The Agitator: Put Them in Prison. Really.

Balko writes:

So they tortured Gitmo detainees to get information, which turned out to be false, to build support for a war they had already made up their mind they would wage.

And keep in mind, these decisions were made by political appointees. Not JAGs, not military generals, not even veteran CIA agents (most people in all three positions actually opposed these policies). They were made by neocon warmongers with little to no actual military or interrogation experience who hadn’t the slightest idea what they were doing.

These people belong in a prison cell. To excuse them is to say that no abuse of power should be punishable so long as you can come up with some tortured justification about how you were only trying to protect the country.

I fully agree.

Cities increasingly turning to private police

Facing pressure to crack down on crime amid a record budget deficit, Oakland is joining other U.S. cities that are turning over more law-enforcement duties to private armed guards.

The City Council recently voted to hire International Services Inc., a private security agency, to patrol crime-plagued districts. While a few Oakland retail districts previously have pooled cash to pay for unarmed security services, using public funds to pay for private armed guards would mark a first for the city.

Hiring private guards is less expensive than hiring new officers. Oakland — facing a record $80 million budget shortfall — spends about 65% of its budget for police and fire services, including about $250,000 annually, including benefits and salary, on each police officer.

In contrast, for about $200,000 a year the city can contract to hire four private guards to patrol the troubled East Oakland district where four on-duty police officers were killed in March. And the company, not the city, is responsible for insurance for the guards.

Wall Street Journal: Cash-Strapped Cities Try Private Guards Over Police

(via Cryptogon)

Researchers use brain interface to post to Twitter

Just 23 characters long, his message, “using EEG to send tweet,” demonstrates a natural, manageable way in which “locked-in” patients can couple brain-computer interface technologies with modern communication tools.

A University of Wisconsin-Madison biomedical engineering doctoral student, Wilson is among a growing group of researchers worldwide who aim to perfect a communication system for users whose bodies do not work, but whose brains function normally. Among those are people who have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), brain-stem stroke or high spinal cord injury.

Some brain-computer interface systems employ an electrode-studded cap wired to a computer. The electrodes detect electrical signals in the brain – essentially, thoughts – and translate them into physical actions, such as a cursor motion on a computer screen. “We started thinking that moving a cursor on a screen is a good scientific exercise,” says Justin Williams, a UW-Madison assistant professor of biomedical engineering and Wilson’s adviser. “But when we talk to people who have locked-in syndrome or a spinal-cord injury, their No. 1 concern is communication.”

In collaboration with research scientist Gerwin Schalk and colleagues at the Wadsworth Center in Albany, N.Y., Williams and Wilson began developing a simple, elegant communication interface based on brain activity related to changes in an object on screen.

The interface consists, essentially, of a keyboard displayed on a computer screen. “The way this works is that all the letters come up, and each one of them flashes individually,” says Williams. “And what your brain does is, if you’re looking at the ‘R’ on the screen and all the other letters are flashing, nothing happens. But when the ‘R’ flashes, your brain says, ‘Hey, wait a minute. Something’s different about what I was just paying attention to.’ And you see a momentary change in brain activity.”

Wilson, who used the interface to post the Twitter update, likens it to texting on a cell phone. “You have to press a button four times to get the character you want,” he says of texting. “So this is kind of a slow process at first.”

WisBusiness: Researchers use brain interface to post to Twitter

(via Richard Metzger)

Renegade Futurist t-shirts on sale now!

renegade futurist

Buy Renegade Futurist t-shirts

Starting at $14.95, you can now order Renegade Futurist t-shirts from Spreadshirt.

The t-shirt design, and new logo, are by Portland artist and designer Ogo.

I got my sample shirts yesterday, and they look great!

Do Lap Dances and Humiliation Treat ADHD — and Should Public Schools Pay?

Mount Bachelor Academy regularly uses intensely humiliating tactics as treatment. For instance, in required seminars that the school calls Lifesteps, students say staff members of the residential program have instructed girls, some of whom say they have been victims of rape or sexual abuse, to dress in provocative clothing — fishnet stockings, high heels and miniskirts — and perform lap dances for male students as therapy. […]

But because the programs are privately run, what happens within their walls is largely a mystery. No one knows whether the programs succeed or fail. […]

Mount Bachelor’s executive director, Bitz, says her school uses widely accepted psychological treatments to help children overcome their problems. “We also use a psychodrama-treatment approach designed to do one or both of two things,” said Bitz in her statement, “get a student to embrace qualities of their character (such as beauty or courage) about which they have doubt or assist them in recognizing qualities that are unproductive (such as selfishness or conceit) about which they have little insight.” […]

“They told me I was dirty and I had to put mud on myself for being raped,” she said in reference to another Lifesteps session. “They basically blamed me for getting raped.”

Bitz dismissed Jane’s story and called it “very suspect” in an interview with the Bend Bulletin, which also spoke with Jane. “We know that some current students have made a conscious decision to lie about our school, hoping that it will be closed as a result, and that they would then be sent back home,” Bitz told TIME. […]

Synanon began as a drug-rehabilitation program before morphing into a controversial cult and is credited with putting forth the idea that confrontation and boot-camp-style breakdown tactics could cure teen misbehavior and addiction. Synanon’s confrontational techniques influenced est and LifeSpring, which began selling weekend seminars designed to prompt emotional breakthroughs in participants.

Time: An Oregon School for Troubled Teens Is Under Scrutiny

Interesting article on a number of levels:

1) The potential Synanon-inspired abuse of kids right here in Oregon.

2) The implications of the court case for students and school districts.

3) Problems with private schools in general.

4) Problems with public schools, education, and therapy in general.

There’s a follow-up form the author of the article at HuffPo.

(via Metafilter thanks to Trevor Blake)

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