- The Guardian's Ian Sample reports a claim that the older a father when a son is conceived, the geekier the son is likely to be.
- Pew Research Group's Abigail Geiger reports a study's claim American millennials are likelier than other generations to use libraries.
- This Longreads essay by Adam Greenfield examining the significance of the smartphone in human life is enthralling.
- Universe Today's Fraser Cain considers whether suspended animation, hibernation, is possible. (Note that this is not cryonics.)
- This Elon Musk sketch at New Space of the case for colonizing Mars and how Mars is to be reached is ambitious, at least.
- The Dragon's Gaze looks at what, exactly, is going on at Boyajian's Star. Does KIC 8462852 have a large ringed exoplanet with Trojans?
- The Frailest Thing considers modernity as something that has its own sort of enchantments.
- Language Hat examines how Arkansaw was mutated into Arkansas.
- Language Log looks at the etymology for "coral reef" in Chinese.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money notes Krugman's subtweet.
- Neuroskeptic considers ketamine as an anti-depressant.
- Torontoist describes two local startups, Partial and Wandervoic, that are trying to connect local artists with non-traditional art buyers.
- Language Log reports on the transliterations of "Trump" into Chinese and Chinese social networks.
- Marginal Revolution shares Jill Lepore's argument that modern dystopian fiction deals with submission to the worst, not resistance.
- At the NYRB Daily, Tim Flannery notes how Trump's withdrawal from Paris is bad for the environment and for the American economy.
- Peter Rukavina's photo of stormclouds over Charlottetown is eye-catching. (I have not heard of "dark off" myself.)
- Savage Minds announces a MOOC ANTH 101 course starting tomorrow.
- Window on Eurasia argues that Putin can afford to be aggressive because he is not constrained by Communist ideology.
- Bloomberg looks at the recent surge of Chinese investment in Southeast Asia.
- Culture.pl looks at why Nietzsche falsely claimed Polish ancestry.
- Foreign Policy suggests that this is a new age of German prominence in the West.
- The New Yorker finds Amazon's new brick-and-mortar bookstores lacking.
- The Toronto Star shares claims that learning a second language provides mental benefits.
- Universe Today notes the discovery of potentially habitable super-Earth Gliese 625 b.
- Vice's Motherboard notes how the popularization of ayahuasca-driven spirit quests has actually hurt traditional users.
- Vox notes the latest Russia-Ukraine history fight on Twitter.
- Beyond the Beyond notes an image of a wooden model of Babbage's difference engine.
- James Bow talks about the soundtrack he has made for his new book.
- Centauri Dreams considers ways astronomers can detect photosynthesis on exoplanets and shares images of Fomalhaut's debris disk.
- Crooked Timber looks at fidget spinners in the context of discrimination against people with disabilities.
- D-Brief notes that Boyajian's Star began dimming over the weekend.
- Far Outliers reports on a 1917 trip by zeppelin to German East Africa.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money argues that there is good reason to be concerned about health issues for older presidential candidates.
- The NYRB Daily reports on Hungary's official war against Central European University.
- The Russian Demographics Blog notes the origins of modern immigration to Russia in internal Soviet migration.
- Savage Minds shares an ethnographer's account of what it is like to look to see her people (the Sherpas of Nepal) described.
- Strange Maps shares a map speculating as to what the world will look like when it is 4 degrees warmer.
- The Volokh Conspiracy argues that the US Congress does not have authority over immigration.
- Window on Eurasia suggests Russia's population will be concentrated around Moscow, compares Chechnya's position vis-à-vis Russia to Puerto Rico's versus the United States, and looks at new Ukrainian legislation against Russian churches and Russian social networks.
- Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell notes how Evelyn Waugh's writings on the Horn of Africa anticipate the "Friedman unit", the "a measurement of time defined as how long it will take until things are OK in Iraq".
Almost two hours ago, I deleted my LiveJournal. User rfmcdpei is no longer active on this site.
I do allow for the possibility that I might change my mind. Maybe I will bring it back temporarily, so as to convert it to some kind of personal docment via BlogBooker, or perhaps I will restore it in the name of minimizing link rot on the Internet and to continue to be able to read what few (ever fewer) people still write only on LiveJournal. This post, however, is the first post that I will not be crossposting from Dreamwidth over to LiveJournal, and no other post shall follow.
I did join the rush on account of the new user agreement unleashed earlier this week, of course.
Any number of news sources, like the Daily Dot and Boing Boing and Gizmodo and Charlie Stross at Autopope, have written at great length about the new terms of service agreement. That this agreement is not available, not in a legally binding form and not in a well-translated form, in the English language made the exodus inevitable.
Russia, as a classical dictatorship, wants to be able to restrict what people write about within its sphere, to do away with anonymity and to limit the range of permissible subject matter. LiveJournal, which happens to be based in Russia as a consequence of a long series of business decisions (bad decisions, I would argue, ones which kept LiveJournal from emerging as a lasting social network of worldwide scope), is subject. Therefore, anyone who is not dependent on LiveJournal is leaving a social network that appears to be fatally compromised.
(What is the opposite of soft power?)
I have had alternatives ready. Back in October 2012, I blogged about how I had moved away from LiveJournal as a primary blog, towards Dreamwidth for LiveJournal-like social networking and to WordPress for the more blog-like functions. I am losing nothing as a consequence of this. My regrets about this are not especially profound ones, characterized much more by wistfulness and nostalgia than by serious regret.
rfmcdpei has been around for a month short of fifteen years. It's amazing.
LiveJournal was always been there for me. I remember reading Tom's LiveJournal, and the LiveJournals of others, back in early 2002 when I was so desperate to connect with anyone. I remember how excited I was when I got an invite code from Darren back in June of 2002. I remember writing an online diary of my life there, and then, first slowly then with speed, transforming this diary into a blog. I know that I met all sorts of people who I know nd like even know there, came to learn all kinds of things there, helped other people learn through LiveJournal. In my life, LiveJournal was a huge net positive.
And now it's over. It's an era that was bound to end, I know, and what an era it was. Thank you, LiveJournalers and LiveJournal founders, too, for making this so good and fun.
In a great Wired article, Charley Locke describes how a photo taken on the New York City subway system by Instagram user subwaycreatures ended up going hilariously viral.
Samuel Themer never planned to be a symbol of everything that’s right or wrong with America. He just wanted to go to work. But when he hopped on the subway to head into Manhattan on February 19, the Queens resident was in full drag—he performs as Gilda Wabbit. He also ended up sitting next to a woman in a niqab, a fact he initially didn’t even notice. “I was just sitting on the train, existing,” he says. “It didn’t seem out of the ordinary that a woman in full modesty garb would sit next to me.”
Someone on that W car with them, though, thought otherwise. Boubah Barry, a Guinean immigrant and real estate student, wanted to document what he saw as a testament to tolerance, so he took a photo of the pair and posted it to Instagram. “It’s diversity,” says Barry, who says he doesn’t identify as liberal or conservative but does oppose President Trump’s refugee ban. “They sit next to each other, and no one cares.”
But someone did care. After the post was shared by Instagram account subwaycreatures, the photo drifted across the internet until /pol/ News Network attached it to a tweet on Wednesday with the message “This is the future that liberals want.”
/pol/ News Network, which also recently declared Get Out to be anti-white propaganda, probably intended the post to be a warning about the impending liberal dystopia. But as soon as actual liberals saw it, they flipped the message on its head—and began touting the message as exactly the future they wanted. They filled /pol/ News Network’s mentions with messages endorsing the photo and adding their own visions of a bright future. By Thursday, it was a full-blown meme. Soon images of a future filled with interspecies companionship, gay space communism, and Garfield flooded onto social media.
- In July 2009, I wrote about my reaction to the photography of Nan Goldin, as seen in a 2003 exhibition at Montréal's Musée d'art contemporain and in book format in The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, noting how her impulse to preserve the people around her in photographs is one I got.
- In November 2010, I linked to a blog post by Andrew Barton talking about how film photography, unlike digital photography, imposed a certain discipline owing to the relative expense of film.
- In February 2012, I noted in an article on the power of social media to drive the mass media Zeynap Tufekci's essay wondering if social networking technologies and ubiquitous video and photography will help preserve bad memories as well as the good.
- In April 2012, I linked to an article arguing that Instagram was ultimately good for photography.
- In January 2014, I linked to an io9 article predicting the imminent end of cameras as standalone devices.
- In June 2015, I linked to an Open Democracy essay talking about how photography can lend structure to a chaotic world.
- In December 2015, I defended the practice of taking photographs in art galleries, even selfies, as actions perfectly compatible with caring about the artworks that would be subjects or even backgrounds to photographs.
- In December 2016, I linked to an article in Wired noting how the power of photographs helps spread fake news.
- On that same day in December, I shared Burhan Ozbilici's stunning photograph of Mevlut Mert Altintas, assassin of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, praising Ozbilici's skill.
In the latest issue of Toronto Life, Lauren McKeon examines the short and sad life of Aaron Driver, a small-town Canadian who became so lost after family traumas--a mother's early death, a stillborn child--that he managed to join up with ISIS online, eventually to die in a confrontation with police.
Aaron Driver was a sunny, easygoing kid with knobby knees and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles obsession. Born in Regina in 1991 to Wayne, a long-haul trucker, and Linda, a stay-at-home mom, he was a late addition to his family. His sister, Eileen, was already 12, and his brother, Rob, was 10. Wayne often spent weeks on the road, and, in his absence, Aaron became inseparable from his mom. He’d do anything to make her happy—clean his room, do his homework, take out the garbage.
Wayne, a devout Christian, had always planned to become a pastor, but he never finished divinity school. Instead, he worked a succession of contract jobs. The Drivers moved around constantly, jumping across Canada from Regina to Kitchener to Port Colborne. On Sundays, they would go to church, then pack a picnic lunch and head to a nearby beach on Lake Erie.
Everything changed when Aaron was seven. Doctors discovered an inoperable tumour in his mom’s brain. Aaron didn’t understand how sick she was until his dad brought him to the hospital to see her undergo radiation. That’s when it sunk in: she wasn’t going to be okay. Aaron grew quiet and withdrawn, spending entire days in the hospital room with his mom.
A few months after Linda was diagnosed, she fell into a coma and never woke up. Aaron was inconsolable. He and his father were suddenly on their own—his older siblings had already moved out—and Aaron found the loneliness unbearable. In the following months, he often refused to get out of bed to go to school. He stopped eating his lunches, telling Wayne that, if he starved himself to death, he could be with his mom in heaven.
When Aaron was nine, his dad met a woman named Monica on a Christian dating site. Aaron seemed to like her at first, but that changed when, several months later, she and Wayne announced they were getting married. Aaron snapped. He raged and screamed, telling his dad nobody would ever replace his mom—and that he wished Wayne had died instead. Wayne took Aaron to a Christian bereavement counsellor, but his son refused to participate. He tried again with a psychiatrist and had to drag Aaron into the office; he sat through the entire appointment in silence. When Wayne brought a family counsellor in for home sessions, Aaron would storm out of the room. Eventually, Wayne stopped trying altogether.
The Toronto Star's Martin Regg Cohn argues that the online arguments between Kathleen Wynne and Kevin O'Leary may help the former, by giving her a highly public exchange with a political opponent who can be proved wrong.
When [Kevin O’Leary] trash-talks Ontario, it’s music to [Kathleen Wynne's] well-worn ears — those ears having been bent out of shape by angry voters, and pinched by her provincial opponents.
The premier can’t push back against senior citizens with quavering voices, and it’s tough to pin down her invisible opposition rivals — akin to fighting phantoms.
O’Leary, however, is right out of central casting. The long-running TV personality is now running for the federal Tory leadership, but he went off script by taking a run at Ontario with the usual pot shots.
Not just high hydro bills, but high taxes allegedly driving away auto plants.
Which is why the premier couldn’t resist engaging him — not on a Tory campaign stage, but on the Facebook platform that now hosts fake news and faux debates. The better to bend our ears and bait our eyeballs.
There are many reasons to criticize the government of Ontario's Liberal premier, Kathleen Wynne. There are many ways to criticize her. The personal abuse described in Mike Crawley's CBC News report is not one of these ways.
The replies to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on Twitter are not for the faint of heart.
The tweets at Wynne predominantly express anger about her record and most stay within the bounds of fair comment, not crossing the line into personal abuse. Such calls as "Resign!" "You're incompetent!" and "Worst premier ever!" are now simply part of the deal for a politician in the era of social media.
But Wynne also draws a significant number of abusive, sexist and homophobic tweets. [. . .]
The comments on Wynne's Facebook page are equally nasty, but her communications team filters out posts that contain the most abusive words so the public can't view them.
A member of the premier's staff showed CBC News nearly 40 Facebook posts filtered out from just the past week, including ones calling Wynne a "wrinkly bitch" (by a Facebook user named George Onock) a "subhuman, dirty dyke" (Frank Yurkowski) and a "lying cheating c--t."
That Donald Trump is set for a confrontation with China and that this was not a surprise is the dominant theme in Tom Phillips' article in The Guardian, which notes how the state media has muted criticism of Trump in an effort to prevent too bad a deterioration. Liu Zhen's South China Morning Post article looking at the reactions of netizens is also worth reading for a take on how ordinary Chinese once pro-Trump are changing their minds.
China has urged Donald Trump to be its friend not its enemy, amid fears the tycoon’s inauguration could set the world’s two largest economies on a calamitous collision course.
Since his shock election last November Trump has repeatedly put Beijing’s nose out of joint, challenging it over the militarisation of the South China Sea, alleged currency manipulation and North Korea and threatening to up-end relations by offering greater political recognition to Taiwan.
The billionaire has also handed jobs to several stridently anti-China voices including one academic who has described its rulers as a cabal of despicable, parasitic, brutal, brass-knuckled, crass, callous, amoral, ruthless totalitarians.
But on the eve of Trump’s swearing in, China’s government and state-run media struck a conciliatory tone with the man about to become the United States’ 45th president.
“Both sides should try to be friends and partners, rather than opponents or enemies,” Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, told reporters.
The Financial Post shares Chris Graham's article from The Telegraph suggesting Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is trying to set up a political career for himself. Oh, why not?
Mark Zuckerberg has announced that he is to spend 2017 travelling to every U.S. state he has not yet visited, in a personal challenge that is fuelling speculation he plans to enter politics.
The Facebook CEO has set himself various challenges in recent years, such as learning to speak Mandarin. But, writing on Facebook, he said his new aim was to visit and meet people in every state. “I’ve spent significant time in many states already, so I’ll need to travel to about 30 states this year to complete this challenge,” he wrote.
“After a tumultuous last year, my hope for this challenge is to get out and talk to more people about how they’re living, working and thinking about the future.”
The tech mogul’s decision to sit out a high-profile meeting with President-elect Donald Trump and other Silicon Valley bosses in mid-December also fuelled speculation about a possible run for office.
When 13 tech bosses, among them some of the world’s richest entrepreneurs, were summoned for the meeting with Trump, Zuckerberg was conspicuously absent.
Instead, he sent his trusted deputy and chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, making Facebook the only company at the meeting without its CEO in attendance.
- The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly writes about the importance of showing up for major events.
- Crooked Timber looks at e-publishing for academia.
- Dead Things notes that the evolution of the human brain and human teeth were not linked.
- The Dragon's Gaze links to two papers about ocean worlds and greenhouse effects.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at the hopeful seasteaders of French Polynesia.
- Towleroad looks at the life of a trans man in the mid-20th century.
- Window on Eurasia shares a Catalonian linguists' argument that linguistic diversity helps minority languages.
- Arnold Zwicky reflects on the gay cowboy scene.
Dwight on Facebook linked to a Metafilter feature noting that the servers of Livejournal--the social networking and blogging platform I got started on, the social networking and blogging platform that I still use--has moved to Russia. In light of that country's issues with basic freedoms, it's probably worth considering ending blogging on this platform.
As of a few days ago, the IP addresses for blogging service LiveJournal have moved to 81.19.74.*, a block that lookup services locate in Moscow, Russia. Now users -- especially those who do not trust the Russian government -- are leaving the platform and advising others to leave.
For years, the online blogging community LiveJournal -- popular in Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine -- has served as a key communications platform for Russian dissidents (the Committee to Protect Journalists earlier this month called on Russian authorities to release a LiveJournal user who has been sentenced to 2 years in prison for a critical blog post). Even after Russian company SUP bought it from California-based Six Apart in 2007 (previously), the fact that SUP continued to run the servers in the US meant that users felt relatively safe; a 2009 press release specifically said that LiveJournal, Inc.* would continue to run technical operations and servers in the United States (and claimed that 5.7 million LiveJournal users were Russia-based).
[. . .]
Tracerouting livejournal.com now points to a Moscow location and an ISP operated by Rambler Internet Holding LLC, the company that also owns SUP. (Former LiveJournal user Gary McGath says that a few days ago, he checked the IP location of livejournal.com, and it was in San Francisco.) LiveJournal's official news posts do not mention the change; users have begun to ask questions there and on their own journals.
Vice hosts Jonathan Parks-Ramage's article looking at the desire and apparent ability of Grindr to move beyond being a hookup app to being a broader social networking tool, a brand even.
To most gay men, Grindr is known as the world's premiere dick pic delivery service. But lately, the company's executives, programmers, and PR soldiers have been hard at work to shift the app's image from "hookup helper" to "lifestyle brand." When I visited the startup's new Los Angeles headquarters, an 18,000-square-foot workspace located on the 14th floor of the Pacific Design Center Red Building, change was all anyone could talk about. The panoramic view of Los Angeles provided by floor-to-ceiling windows was inescapable. A diverse and attractive staff buzzed throughout the workplace, coding at large computers or lounging on modernist furniture. Morale was high, and conversations hummed with possibility. One thing was certain: This is far more than just the dick pic Death Star. This is the nerve center of a global tech company, and thanks to a recent majority investment by a Chinese gaming company, Beijing Kunlun Tech, it's one that's poised for major expansion.
The investment, which was announced in January, put Grindr's valuation at $155 million. But though Beijing Kunlun has acquired 60 percent of the company, the investor allowed Grindr to keep its current operating team and structure. In short, Grindr has an influx of cash and a significant degree of autonomy to guide plans for global proliferation.
A motivating factor behind Beijing Kunlun's investment was likely Grindr's rapidly growing user base. A little over a year after CEO Joel Simkhai launched the app in 2009, Grindr had racked up more than one million users. The app now boasts more than seven million, with the highest concentration of members in the US. Users are also highly engaged: More than two million people use Grindr daily, and spend an average of 54 minutes on the app. Simply put: Grindr has the gay community by the balls. It wants to take this massive, highly attentive audience and, per press materials, "become the preeminent global gay lifestyle brand."
The company has a variety of plans to achieve this. Some of the app's initial rebranding plays include Slumbr, a celebrity-studded Pride party hosted at The Standard hotel in New York this year; Grindr Varsity, a clothing line benefiting Athlete Ally, a nonprofit fighting homophobia in sports; and Grindr For Equality, a gay rights advocacy initiative. Leaders in the company also hope to expand the functions of the app in coming years, to transform Grindr into something closer to a "gay social network."
CBC News' Amara McLaughlin describes a location in Hamilton that is apparently the locus for dangerous selfies. What does it say of me that my first reaction is happiness at learning of this spectacularly scenic place?
(I'll be safe, don't worry.)
(I'll be safe, don't worry.)
A small, rocky outcropping above Hamilton's Tews Falls that is twice as high as the American side of Niagara Falls has become the city's go-to spot for shareable snapshots and selfiies.
Known as the Dundas Peak, the spot is attracting a steady streams of amateur photographers, dangling their feet off steep cliffs, hanging over ledges with sheer drops, climbing fences and pushing the boundaries of safety, all to get closer to the edge of the escarpment for the quintessential shot.
The peak has long been a popular local destination.
But in recent years, influenced by the desire to see breathtaking panoramic views of Spencer Gorge and capture them for social media, hundreds of people are putting themselves at risk trying to recreate what they see on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
A search of the hashtag #dundaspeak on Instagram turns up more than 10,000 pictures. Some are actual "selfies," others use friends to help get the ideal angle, but it is always about sharing a dramatic picture of yourself.
NOW Toronto's Jonathan Goldsbie examines how Toronto journalist Craig Silverman helped expose the existence of the phenomenon of fake news.
It’s generally irresponsible to attribute an election result to any one thing – but in a presidential race as close as the one the U.S. just had, any one thing could conceivably have made the difference.
In addition to especially alarming factors such as apparent Russian intervention and the resurgence of white nationalism, another theme has dominated the post-election narrative: the ascendant influence of fake news. All of a sudden, it has become difficult to consider American political dynamics without wading in to questions of epistemology – how do people know the things they know, and how do those beliefs shape not only their positions on issues but understandings of reality at large?
Unlike an election result, however, this shift in political discourse can be credited to a discrete cause: the work of Toronto-based BuzzFeed reporter Craig Silverman, whose investigations into the propagation and effects of accidental propaganda have rippled through the world’s most powerful institutions.
Late last month, for example, The New Yorker reported that U.S. President Barack Obama “talked almost obsessively” about Silverman’s pre-election story (co-authored with British researcher Lawrence Alexander) that exposed the fake-news racket centred in the small town of Veles, Macedonia, where teenagers discovered that tricking American Facebook users into clicking and sharing pro-Trump hoaxes could be a ridiculously profitable enterprise. Another of Silverman's pieces, showing that fake election news had outperformed legitimate stories on Facebook, had such thorough penetration into the zeitgeist that Reuters reported even Pope Francis had characterized the spreading of fake news as a sin. (The Vatican's English-language transcript of his remarks, translated from the original Spanish, however, leaves some doubt as to whether he was actually alluding to the same phenomenon.)
When BuzzFeed News named Silverman its media editor at the start of December – promoted from his former role as founding editor of BuzzFeed Canada – the site’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, told Fortune that fake news is the type of story that "Craig has been kind of preparing for for some time – maybe his whole life."