Institutional Collapse

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Who lived in a pineapple under the sea?

SpongeBob! SquarePants!

Who died in an oil spill because of BP?

SpongeBob! SquarePants!

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/30/india-heatwave-deaths *I see the climate-crisis massacres are recommencing

*Maybe atmospheric scientists made up all those dead Indians for money, and invented the oil spill, too

http://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/press_releases/pr_869_en.html *Good thing a cold snap on K Street equals a cooler world

9-11, Enron, Iraq, Katrina, mortgage crisis, bailout, euro crisis, climate crisis, oil spill — we’re led by liars and sleepwalkers

Every major event that hits us is a fake, a fraud, a provocation, a panic or an organized denial — never anything we foresaw or averted

We’re way past the point of rationally managing events and into a business and politics of “lemming retention”

*And I’m not even angry — I’m saving my temper for the endless, ugly, Soviet-style ordeal of watching the Gulf Coast drown in tar

- tweets from @bruces (Bruce Sterling)

I’m not in the ‘it’s our (collective) fault’ camp. Yes, it’s impossible to argue that our oil addiction is not at the root of the Gulf disaster. But we, as a civilization, do a lot of things that involve risk – develop drugs, fly aircraft, drill and refine oil – and we have institutions/mechanisms in place that are supposed to mitigate these risks and ensure that there are good plans for when things go pear-shaped. The proximate cause of the Gulf spill (wrapping safety issues, inspection issues, lack or inadequacy of disaster planning into one package) is regulatory capture. Interior’s Minerals Management Service was not doing their job, to put it mildly. To paraphrase, power elites have always been with us, but it seems that in the past 15 years or so the world has gotten tougher to manage, while the (American, at least) power elite, aka Villagers, has become populated by nepotistically placed incompetents. If we’re going to make it through the crisis bottleneck that looms, we need to do better. My suggestions:

  • Go local. Though it’s like trying to change the course of a supertanker by hitting it with a feather, it needs to be done. Garden. Gather. Walk. Find your local farmer’s markets.
  • Learn whats up. One of the most dangerous trends of the past couple of decades has been the complete collapse/capture of the traditional media who are now fluffing power like there’s no tomorrow (with any luck, for many of them there won’t be – see Newsweek). There are people committing acts of journalism – mostly on the web. Seek ‘em out. Look for who can back assertions up with facts.
  • This one may get me in trouble – vote. The government (local, state, federal) is _our_ tool. Although corporations are people (a court decision I’ll never understand), they can’t vote. If your Senator represents Big Oil or Wall Street or the RIAA/MPAA more effectively than s/he represents your interests primary her (if D) or vote him out (if R). Sorry conservatives – if you are firm in your beliefs and honest about what’s going on , it’s third party (and NOT teatardism) for you. Although both parties are well integrated into the oligarchy, one (R) is a bought and paid for subsidiary of corporate power.

I’d love to see full cleanup costs extracted from, and Clean Water Act fines levied against, BP. If that means BP’s US assets are auctioned off and the company ceases to do business in this country, all the better. It would be a salutary lesson for many large entities.

Second shakedown ride

One nice thing about transitioning from ‘old guys who get fat in the winter‘ to just old guy out for a ride is that stopping to see the sights is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. I’m not in any particular hurry and if I see something I want to check out, I do.

Semi-hidden patch of flag iris. Sorry about the quality – I don’t know what was up with the cell.

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A BIG white oak. I’ve known about this tree for years, but today was the first time I stopped and said hi.

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I saw the Goggomobil Dart in town yesterday and popped by to make sure it was not for sale (it’s not). Out back there was a second Goggo.

Goggomobil Dart (Australian)

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Goggomobil TSxxx (Bavarian)

Low and Slow

-or-

Reduce, re-use, recycle

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The title of the post comes from a zine published back in the early 70s (called -anyone? anyone?- Low and Slow) covering the wild world of hang gliding. How wild? Folks were making gliders out of Visqueen and bamboo. I mailed off for a copy – because I wanted to build one – sadly, it’s long gone, though a post here suggests I can reread all the Low and Slows on a DVD. Enough of all that – the point of the post: my bike racing (venue = triathlons) days are done – I’ve found myself wanting a bike I can just jump on and ride (comfortably). My fast but twitchy road bike does not exactly fit the bill. My old mountain bike, however…

So, let the conversion to two-wheeled Vista Cruiser begin! IMHO, there are 2 things that determine 90% of overall bike ‘feel’: frame geometry and tires. You’re not going to do much about frame geometry – about the only thing you can alter is the front fork and that costs $$$. Tires can make a surprising difference and unless you’re racing (in which case, why aren’t you running tubulars?) fatter ones than current fashion dictates are what I suggest. Here’s the bike – after the pic I’ll run through current and planned mods.

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‘Fatter tires’ is relative – although they’re much thinner than the knobbies that I took off, these are fat road rubber. They’re Kenda Kwests (the 100psi variety) – a nice balance of volume and low rolling resistance. I also mounted a rear rack and put on new, longer grips – I like riding with my hands close together, as if I’m up on the flats on a drop bar. The shakedown ride today was a success – the bike rode like a dream.

I haven’t decided whether to move pedals over from the road bike to this beastie – I’m leaning towards yes. The road bike’s saddle will probably come over at the same time. After that, the next order of business will be handlebars. I have an On One Midge ready and waiting, but because road handlebars are not the same diameter as mountain bars I need to replace the brake levers (not too $$, and I wanted to do it anyway) and swap the thumb shifters for barcons ($$$, and though I LOVE bar-cons, I would have made do).  The other short-term priority are shopping bag panniers – the grocery store is within easy biking distance – ’nuff said.

Down the road a bit, I’d like to tweak the drive train a bit. I don’t know whether the chain stay will accommodate a significantly larger middle chainring, but if it will I’ve always been partial to half-step setups – with the triple it’d be a half-step plus granny (and contra Mr. Brown, I’ve used a half-step setup successfully).

Way down the road I’m thinking about fenders, lighting, a front rack – part of me says that I should just save my pennies for a Velo-Orange frame (or something similar) and build up a baguette hauler around it. We’ll see. First order of business is to re-integrate ‘just hopping on the bike’ into my life.

Update – the saddle and pedal switch happened this morning, before a second shakedown run (pics from which will be posted later today).

Big brass faux rivets!

Edward Quin’s Historical Atlas

Maps are metaphors.

An

Historical Atlas

In A Series Of Maps

Of The World As Known At Different Periods;

Constructed Upon An Uniform Scale, And

Coloured According To The Political Changes Of Each Period

Eden

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The Empire of Cyrus the Great

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At the time of the Death of Constantine.

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The Empire of Kublai Khan

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I love the David Rumsey Map Collection – this find is via a tweet from @bibliodyssey. Any map series that references the Massegetae and Sogdiana is a good one.

Tereshkova & Lucid

“Valentina Tereshkova orbited the Earth 48 times during her three day spaceflight in Vostok 6 in 1963. First woman in space! .”

“Born in Shanghai to missionary parents, Shannon Lucid became the eighth woman in space when she flew aboard the Shuttle Discovery mission STS-51-G in 1985. Shannon made four more spaceflights including the 1989 Atlantis mission to launch the Galileo probe to Jupiter, and a stay aboard the Russian Mir station saw her break the record for the longest time spent in orbit by a woman. 188 days in space!”

Flickrset here.

Via BruceS.

Waze, Foursquare and location based social media

I may have a chance to consult/volunteer/help out with a project that combines elements of social media, augmented reality, bar coding, street art, locational stuff and probably a couple other things. So… I figured I’d better take the plunge and get a Foursquare account set up. Foursquare is an app that let’s you check in from various venues (including bomb scare sites >grin<) – the idea is that if you’re out for a night on the town, friends can track you down easily. Once they’ve done that, the mini-mob shows up as being together and additional friends might be motivated to jump in. At least as important as the ‘find me’ aspect (based on what I’ve seen of real world use)  is, first, the game aspect of foursquare and, second, tweeting “I’m here” as part of your general tweetstream. Foursquare hands out badges (not real ones – for real Foursquare badges, Nerd Merit Badges has your back) – there’s a certain amount of competitive jockeying for Mayorships and the badges deliver some positive feedback for Foursquare use.

Foursquare is at its best when combined with a location-aware phone – you can check in with any phone that has either a data plan or text capabilities, but it’s a bit cumbersome. My phone (Nokia E71x) has a GPS, but there’s no native Foursquare app for the Symbian operating system. A quick google turned up Waze, which describes itself as “a social mobile application providing free turn-by-turn navigation based on the live conditions of the road.” Waze is a crowdsourced route and driving conditions system – fire up Waze on your phone, drive around and the Waze client uploads info about where you are, how fast you’re moving etc. It can then ‘see’ slowdowns, traffic jams etc. It also allows you to explicitly report accidents, speedcams, etc. and -important for my original purpose- you can use it to check in on Foursquare. Original purpose aside, it is a really cool idea – instead of some central authority issuing traffic advisories, the traffic itself does the monitoring.

A few thoughts/links:

  • “One relatively recent and very simple intervention, made possible by the lamination together of three or four different kinds of technology, has completely changed what a map is, what it means, what we can do with it.
    It’s this: that for the very first time in human history, our maps tell us where we are on them.
    The fact that such depictions can now also render layers of dynamic, real-time situational information seems almost incidental to me compared to this. This one development subtly but decisively removes the locative artifacts we use from the order of abstraction. By finding ourselves situated on the plane of a given map, we’re being presented with the implication that this document is less a diagram and more a direct representation of reality — and, what’s more, one with a certain degree of fidelity, one that can be verified empirically by the simple act of walking around. How is that not epochal?” *
  • More AG on video game rewards meet social media: “Schell’s argument (or one of them, anyway) is that the everyday environment is now sufficiently instrumented and internetworked that the psychological triggers and incentives developed by game designers to motivate in-game behavior can be deployed in real life. [...] And this is more than passing scary, because these motivators work. Just as food designers have figured out how to short-circuit our wetware with precisely calibrated doses of fat, salt and sugar, game developers trip the dopamine trigger with internally-consistent, but generally otherwise worthless, symbolic reward systems. That they’ve (knowingly or otherwise) learned how to play this primordial pathway like a piano is attested to by the untold gigahours gamers worldwide spend voluntarily looping out the most arbitrary actions, when most of them presumably have a choice of other pretty swell things they could be doing.” *
  • And, of course, the whole privacy-control thing (I’m linking those 2 concepts because I agree with others that the crux of the biscuit is control – my control over my info stream is the key). I don’t mind that twitter sees that I’m out having brunch (presumably the dogs, the array of automated claymores (“Front Toward Enemy”!) and the genetically engineered sentient whip-hawthorns will cause burglars to leave the house be), but I’d mind very much if state troopers had real-time location and speed data on me as I drove around.

An aside on privacy: Facebook has been -justifiably, in my opinion- getting pummeled for its approach to privacy. Partially in reaction, the Diaspora project has been getting a lot of attention – like receiving $174,339 towards a goal of $10,000 on kickstarter (you read that right). Enthusiasm for a Facebook replacement is high, but here’s a post arguing that Diaspora may be cursed by early success.