The Null Device


Famous New York rock venue CBGB may soon be forced to close by rising property rents. Now where have I heard that before? (via bOING bOING)

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This week's A Softer World struck me as particularly lovely. (JPEG link).

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Every so often, it seems, some stuffed shirt at Time-Warner decides that maximising shareholder value requires them to "update" their Looney Tunes brand to make it "more relevant" to today's 12-year-olds. In the 1990s, they gave Bugs & Co. a ghetto makeover, dressing them in hip-hop street fashions and posing them like gangsta rappers, and undoubtedly moving quite a few Tweety-the-thug T-shirts. Now, the classic properties are getting an extreme makeover, redrawn to look more edgy and hardcore and techno-tough for a new generation of kids. Oh, and they live in a spaceship and fight crime. Nobody will accuse this Bugs, I mean Buzz Bunny of being sexually ambiguous.

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Popular Science looks at how hard it would be for terrorists to build a nuclear bomb. The answer: not too hard, if they could obtain some uranium, settled for a simple, Hiroshima-type device, and could find a way of getting such a device weighing several tonnes into position without it tripping radiation detectors. As far as radioactive mayhem goes, a dirty bomb would be considerably easier, and capable of turning Manhattan into Pripyat.

On a tangent: the UK Atomic Energy Authority says that 30kg of plutonium that went missing from Sellafield (i.e., 7 nuclear bombs' worth) is just a "paper loss", and nothing to be worried about.

A BNG spokesman said: "There is no evidence to suggest that any of the apparent losses reported were real losses of nuclear material.

That's good to know; all of us here in London are very relieved to hear that.

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In Israel, life imitates a Monty Python skit:

An indignant Israeli is suing a pet shop that he says sold him a dying parrot, reports the Ma'ariv newspaper. Itzik Simowitz of the southern city of Beersheba contends the shop cheated him because the Galerita-type cockatoo not only failed to utter a word when he got it home, but was also extremely ill. Mr. Simowitz adds that the shop owner assured him the parrot was not ill but merely needed time to adjust to its new environment.

(via bOING bOING)

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Tonight, I went along to the Open Knowledge Forum, which Cory Doctorow posted about on bOING bOING. It was fairly interesting.

They had several speakers, most of them originators of various projects to make civic data accessible to and easily navigable by the people who have a stake in politics (read: you and me); there was one of the authors of the genuinely awesome They Work For You and the connected Public Whip project, as well as someone from MySociety, the troublemakers behind FaxYourMP,, and the BBC's iCan project. And, toward the end, Cory spoke from behind his sticker-covered PowerBook and recounted his work with the EFF, recent happenings at the World Intellectual Property Organization (which he's in Europe to keep an eye on), new database copyright laws which allow organisations to own facts, and more.

Some interesting points came up: that non-profit projects in the public interest should not ask for permission before using government data (both for tactical reasons, namely, had they done so, they would have been kept waiting for much longer than it took to code the project and subjected to onerous restrictions, and moral reasons, i.e., a permission-based democracy not being a democracy), that such projects are not about "political reengagement" or restoring some lost state, but about reinventing democracy, and that a few Crown Copyrighted data sets, such as the (heavily monetised) Ordnance Survey geographic data and the Royal Mail's copyright on postcodes, are still impeding the ability to make civic information available freely (and free means free-as-in-speech, including the freedoms to syndicate, modify and incorporate information into other things).

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