February 6, 2009
On the Militant Trail [Most recent of four articles with links to preceding pieces] Renowned Asia Times correspondent Syed Saleem Shahzad visits Peshawar, capital of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province and takes a journey with the Taliban through the Swat valley. His four-part series of articles examines the differing natures and strategies of various Taliban groups, describes a government counter-insurgency campaign gone seriously awry and finds indications that "a major battle will be fought in Pakistan before the annual spring offensive even begins in Afghanistan this year."
The Lecture System in Teaching Science "Meanwhile, back at the classroom, the lecture is drawing to a close. Just as the bell rings, the lecturer, if he's a really smooth operator, comes to the end of a sentence, a paragraph, a nice neat unit. He lays down his last piece of chalk — he knows exactly how many pieces the lecture will take — picks up his precious lecture notes, and goes out. The students, tired but happy, rise up and follow after him. Their heads are empty, but their notebooks are full. Their necks are a little tired; it's been like a sort of vertical tennis match: board, notebook, board, notebook. But other than that, everything is all right. Any student will tell you, "I never had any trouble with the course until the first examination."" [via]
"Today we destroyed BoB." The giant sandbox-galaxy of EVE-Online (previously) was rocked this week by a defection from Band of Brothers, the largest alliance in the game (and no stranger to controversy), to the Something Awful-related alliance Goonswarm. The Mittani, the goon spymaster, explains what happened, after all of BoB's assets were given over, the alliance disbanded, and the name reincorporated by goons. Via [more inside]
"The Lord’s Resistance Army is now on the loose, moving from village to village, seemingly unhindered, leaving a wake of scorched huts and crushed skulls. Witnesses say the fighters have kidnapped hundreds of children and marched them off into the bush, the latest conscripts in their slave army." [more inside]
Yet another study says the middle class are fleeing New York City. What happened to the previous studies and solutions? Bloomberg to Middle Class, "Get Out."
Paper cutout animation is repetitive, time consuming work. Results, however, can be well worth it. (SLYT)
How We Kill Geniuses. "[Elizabeth Gilbert recalls] a story that musician Tom Waits told her years ago. One day he was driving on a Los Angeles freeway when a fragment of a melody popped into his head. He looked around for something to capture the tune -- a pencil or pen -- but had nothing to record it. He started to panic that he'd lose the melody and be haunted by it forever and his talent would be gone. In the midst of this anxiety attack, he suddenly stopped, looked at the sky, and said to whatever force it was that was trying to create itself through the melody, 'Excuse me. Can you not see I'm driving? Do I look like I can write down a song right now? If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment ... otherwise go bother somebody else today. Go bother Leonard Cohen.'" Gilbert explores the idea that we might stifle genius by demanding that creative people be somehow larger than life and something more than human.
Roto-Spheres were dramatic animated neon signs, with 16 spikes projecting from a central ball; the left and right hemispheres rotated in opposite directions, and the whole thing rotated as well. Only 234 were made, and not many are still working, but despite their rarity, they are somehow instantly recognizable as the ultimate signs of the atomic age.
IBM solves the outsourcing problem by firing American employees then offering to re-hire them in India. "The pitch to employees who might consider shifting to IBM's operations in developing economies seems to be the low cost of living, warmer climate and variety in cuisine and exotic places."
Obama reverses Bush administration on mercury pollution standards. With all the focus understandably being on the global financial crisis lately, it can be easy to forget that President Obama has other problems to contend with. But then, as other's are quick to point out, the unfortunate thing is it's all interrelated. (Newsfilter) [more inside]
Everyone and his or her uncle has griped about the mediocre official inaugural poems heralding recent new U.S. presidencies. Meanwhile, poets Arielle Greenberg & Rachel Zucker have put together a blog, STARTING TODAY, commissioning a poem a day from many of those they consider the best contemporary poets writing today, documenting in verse life under the new ruling paradigm.
"To make off with hubby's fortune, yea, I think I heard of that happenin' once or twice around L.A. And… you want me to do what exactly?" He found the paper bag he'd brought his supper home in and got busy pretending to scribble notes on it, because straight-chick uniform, makeup supposed to look like no makeup or whatever, here came that old well-known hard-on Shasta was always good for sooner or later. Does it ever end, he wondered. Of course it does. It did. Thomas Pynchon's next novel, the 416-page Inherent Vice, is described by Penguin Press as "part noir, part psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon — private eye Doc Sportello comes, occasionally, out of a marijuana haze to watch the end of an era as free love slips away and paranoia creeps in with the L.A. fog." While we wait for its August 4 publication, we can read an essay on the dystopian musical he co-wrote at Cornell or watch a clip of that movie they made of Gravity's Rainbow. [more inside]
Science & technology funding has an enormous long term impact on the economy, a fact that has not escaped China. Yet, Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have proposed cutting all National Science Foundation and Department of Energy Office of Science funding from the Senate American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, along with almost all other proposed funding of the sciences and technological development, as a part of a $77.9B reduction effort. Why? Well, you'll notice that Nebraska & Maine don't contribute much to science & technology in the United States, nor win many grants, and hence no bacon for Nelson and Collins. [more inside]
Great achievements in American socialism: A slide show of two dozen excellent things the federal government bought with your money.
Following panic about a now-discredited study on the MMR vaccine, measles cases in the UK are on the rise. Radio host Jeni Barnett hosted a phone-in about it (transcript), defending parents' rights to choose not to vaccinate their children. Bad Science blogger Ben Goldacre had a thing or two to say about Barnett's argument. When the broadcaster of the radio show threatened legal action, bloggers of bad science responded...
New Extreme Sports. Mega ramp skateboarding, ostrich racing, underwater golfing, pole dancing and pillow fighting are just a few of the innovative new sports you may see in future X Games. (via SpoFi)
overclockblocked, by Sumit Dan. short story told in speculative chippy dialect. Fucken AIbrid think he so fucking cool with he retrofleshy stylen. Like you don’t already know he dealin double-helix, not just some two-bit qubit.
"The Beydanes, also known as White Moors, are the ruling caste in Mauritania. They are Arab Berber tribesmen whose ancestors established control in the seventeenth century. The Haratin, also known as Black Moors, are the descendants of black West Africans conquered and enslaved by the Beydanes centuries ago." from the New Yorker story, A Slave in New York, about a former slave who escaped in 1978, came to live in America and now works with the American Anti-Slavery Group. [more inside]
Five Dials is a free, downloadable literary magazine published by Hamish Hamilton (UK publisher of McSweeney's) and featuring so far texts by writers and artists, old and new, including Noam Chomsky, Alain de Botton, Gustave Flaubert, Bob and Roberta Smith, Iain Sinclair, Jean Paul Sartre, Roger Deakin, Raymond Chandler and Jonathan Safran Foer.
The player auctions and trades for the Indian Premier League are underway, with some players signing contracts for record sums. This is the first year that ECB-registered players can play in the IPL, and the ECB and county cricket clubs are watching the auctions closely. Tensions between players on the England team and county clubs with IPL players have been noted. With the growth of Twenty20 and concerns about its impact on playing style, the injection of so much money and spectacle, it might be fair to ask is this cricket?