The Null Device


The sad, poignant story of Barbara Newhall Follett:

By the age of 16, Barbara Newhall Follett had published two books and written countless poems. Her 1927 debut novel, The House Without Windows, received glowing reviews from The New York Times and words of encouragement from the writer H.L. Mencken.
"My dreams are going through their death flurries. I thought they were all safely buried, but sometimes they stir in their grave, making my heartstrings twinge. I mean no particular dream, you understand, but the whole radiant flock of them together — with their rainbow wings, iridescent, bright, soaring, glorious, sublime. They are dying before the steel javelins and arrows of a world of Time and Money."
On Dec. 7, 1939, a friend reported that a then-married Barbara Follett left her house after quarrelling with her husband. She was 26 years old, and she was never seen again.
To this day, nobody knows what happened to her.

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The British government has confirmed its high-speed rail plans. HS2, the first high-speed line not going to France, will go from Euston (and not, thankfully, a new terminus out at Heathrow) to Birmingham. Trains will run at up to 250mph (i.e., faster than the Eurostar/TGV), putting Birmingham within 49 minutes of London. The line will also connect to HS1, allowing trains to run between Paris and Birmingham, and will later be extended north to Leeds and Manchester, and possibly further north. The first segment is expected to open in 2026, assuming that the residents in the well-heeled Tory heartland it will run through don't succeed in scuppering it.

Moving tens of thousands of daily travelers to the new line will allow the West Coast Main Line to be freed for local, regional, and freight services. The creation of new terminals in London, Birmingham, and the other cities served will encourage more downtown development. The government recognizes the economic benefits of increased spending on mobility infrastructure.
I wonder what the new Euston will look like. I imagine it'll have to be an improvement over the current one, a squat, 1960s-vintage box whose platforms have all the charm of an industrial loading dock. Perhaps they'll even rebuild the magnificent Doric arch which stood at the front of it before someone at British Rail decided to demolish it. (Apparently they found parts of it recently.)
If a Conservative government in the United Kingdom is willing to fund its project, in spite of massive cuts to the rest of the public budget, it’s hard to understand why bipartisan agreement in favor of investment in U.S. infrastructure in the form of high-speed rail cannot be assembled.
Oh, there are rightwingers in Britain who would want to scrap rail projects and stop the "politically correct war on motorists". The thing is, they're only represented by fringe parties such as the UKIP, the editorials of the Daily Mail and Jeremy Clarkson.

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Bruce Sterling (who, of course, wrote The Hacker Crackdown) places the WikiLeaks situation in context:

Part of this dull, icy feeling, I think, must be the agonizing slowness with which this has happened. At last — at long last — the homemade nitroglycerin in the old cypherpunks blast shack has gone off. Those “cypherpunks,” of all people.
Now, I wish I could say that I feel some human pity for Julian Assange, in the way I do for the hapless, one-shot Bradley Manning, but I can’t possibly say that. Pity is not the right response, because Assange has carefully built this role for himself. He did it with all the minute concentration of some geek assembling a Rubik’s Cube.
If the Internet was walking around in public, it would look and act a lot like Julian Assange. The Internet is about his age, and it doesn’t have any more care for the delicacies of profit, propriety and hierarchy than he does.
Even though, as major political players go, Julian Assange seems remarkably deprived of sympathetic qualities. Most saintly leaders of the oppressed masses, most wannabe martyrs, are all keen to kiss-up to the public. But not our Julian; clearly, he doesn’t lack for lust and burning resentment, but that kind of gregarious, sweaty political tactility is beneath his dignity. He’s extremely intelligent, but, as a political, social and moral actor, he’s the kind of guy who gets depressed by the happiness of the stupid.

bruce sterling cyberculture cypherpunks history julian assange wikileaks 2