The Null Device


Scans of ballpoint drawings from the sketchbook of a French artist going by the name of "Mad Meg"; gorgeous, surreal, often disturbing images combined with words and social/cultural commentary. If these were published in a book, I'd be tempted to buy a copy. (via bOING bOING)

The artist's site also has other works, including this modern updating of Hieronymus Bosch.

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PostSecret, an interactive mail-art project presented on a blog. It consists of postcards sent in by people anonymously telling secrets they have never revealed to anyone; most of these are confessions of dodgy things people did or bad habits they have, though they go up to people who believe they have talked friends into suicide and similarly weighty things. (via FmH)

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Science has found that monkeys are willing to pay for monkey porn; i.e., male rhesus macaques in possession of stocks of juice will trade juice for views of female monkeys' bottoms. This emerged from a study on how much monkeys would pay to see (G-rated) pictures of monkeys of various ranks (the answer: less than for porn for high-rating monkeys, though you'd have to actually pay them to look at low-ranking loser monkeys).

Now, an interesting question would be, would it be possible to put monkeys to work (useful or experimental, as long as it's something they wouldn't normally do without reward) and pay them in a currency that's useless in and of itself but useful only for buying things (juice or monkey pr0n).

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Former White House anti-terrorism czar Richard Clarke presents a frighteningly plausible scenario of the war on terrorism in 2001:

The US Government had predicted that future attacks, if they came, would likely be on financial institutions, noting that Osama bin Laden had issued instructions to destroy the US economy. Thus when the casinos were attacked, it was a surprise. It shouldn't have been; we knew that Las Vegas had been under surveillance by al-Qaeda since at least 2001. Despite that knowledge, casino owners had done little to increase security, not wanting to slow people down on their way into the city's pleasure palaces. Theme park owners were also locked into a pre-9/11, "it can't happen here" mindset, and consequently were caught off guard, as New Yorkers and Washingtonians had been in 2001. The first post-9/11 attacks on US soil came not from airplanes but from backpacks and Winnebagos. They were aimed at places where we used to have fun, what we then called "vacation destinations". These places were particularly hard to defend.
On this day neither the 160 security cameras surveying the mall nor the 150 safety officers guarding it were able to detect, deter or defend against the terrorists. Four men, disguised as private mall security officers and armed with TEC-9 submachine guns, street-sweeper 12-gauge shotguns and dynamite, entered the mall at two points and began executing shoppers at will. It had not been hard for the terrorists to buy all their guns legally, in six different states across the Midwest.
Most analysts now agree that Subway Day and Railroad Day not only caused the Senate filibuster to end, permitting the passage of Patriot Act III, but also finally triggered the withdrawal of some 40,000 troops from Iraq. The army was needed in the subways.
When Canada refused to allow US nuke squads to conduct warrantless searches at customs stations on the Canadian side of the border, we built the Northern Wall, which channelled trucks and freight trains to a limited number of monitored border crossings. Barbed wire, radar installations, and thousands of security workers made our border with Canada resemble our border with Mexico.

By the end of the story, terrorism abates (as the jihadis are too busy running what used to be Iraq and Saudi Arabia), though the US is an impoverished police state. Clarke paints this grim future as the result of several errors of judgment: invading Iraq (which simultaneously wasted resources and helped recruit many towards the anti-US jihad), failure to engage the Islamic world with ideas and not investing enough in becoming independent of Middle Eastern oil.

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Glyph Lefkowitz is not only the developer/prime mover of an impressively elegant Python-based network programming framework, but has also written some nuanced and insightful essays about various topics, including a good argument for extending Python rather than embedding it (i.e., there are many good reasons other than laziness for it), a righteous excoriation of the Ayn Rand Institute's take on the "War on Terrorism", and a very astute attempt at a framework for ethics in software development, which does a good job of unmuddying the waters. Go and read.

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Eurovision flashback of the day; check out the funky costumes, headgear and facial hair; they're like something from some roller-disco in outer space. Apparently they're the ones who did that "Moskau" song too.

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