Shared posts

21 Nov 14:47

Minnesota not on track to meet proposed emissions reductions


Follow-on to the Google post about climate change yesterday. More proof that nothing is happening.

Even with its renewable energy standard and new solar law, Minnesota is not on track to meet federal emissions reductions aimed at addressing climate change, state officials said Thursday.

Minnesota would need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than a third by 2030 under proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules. But the state is on track to reduce emissions only by 3 percent by then, said David Thornton, an assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

"The policies in place have made some difference up until now, and the major difference they're going to be making into the future is offsetting the growth that we're going to be seeing," Thornton told a group of policy makers and business representatives during a forum held by the Environmental Initiative.

That means Minnesota needs a variety of new or expanded strategies to reduce emissions, he said.

Between now and February, state agencies led by the Environmental Quality Board will work with a consultant, the Center for Climate Strategies, to analyze current emissions and determine which policy options would give the state the most bang for its buck. Environmental Initiative, a nonprofit group that builds partnerships, will organize meetings for industry, agriculture and other sectors of the economy to provide input.

Ideas like expanding the renewable energy standard, retiring coal plants and planting urban forests will be analyzed based on three criteria: expected emissions reductions, cost and job creation.

So far, it appears an expanded renewable energy law, improving energy efficiency and retiring or repowering at least one of the coal generators at Xcel Energy's Sherburne County Generating Station would give the state the biggest reductions. Thornton said even though the consultants have already come up with some estimates, the process has merely begun.

"They can come up with some good ideas but figuring out how to implement them is the big barrier," he said. "That's one of things we're looking for in the next phase of input."

20 Nov 05:00

November 20, 2014


Still haven't read Moby Dick, but this was an excellent TL;DR.

21 Nov 00:07

31262: Russian Arktika-class nuclear powered Icebreaker Yamal

by theburnlab

via GN. Nuke beat.


Russian Arktika-class nuclear powered Icebreaker Yamal

19 Nov 21:00

Why Google halted its research into renewable energy

by Brad Plumer

Today in We're-Fucked news.

Back in 2007, Google had a very simple idea for addressing global warming — we just need to take existing renewable-energy technologies and keep improving them until they were as cheap as fossil fuels. And, voila! Problem solved.

Google realized its clean-energy project wasn't nearly ambitious enough

That was the logic behind the company's RE-C project, which aimed to produce one gigawatt of renewable electricity for less than the price of coal. The hope was to do this within years, not decades. Among other things, the company invested in new geothermal drilling R&D and put $168 million toward Brightsource's Ivanpah solar tower in the Mojave Desert.

By 2011, however, Google decided that this "moon shot" energy initiative wasn't going to work out as planned and shut things down. So what happened?

In a long essay at IEEE Spectrum, two Google engineers on the project — Ross Koningstein and David Fork — explain the thinking behind the closure. It's not that Google has given up on renewable energy. (The company still spends many millions of dollars buying wind energy for its servers.) Partly it's that they simply weren't on track to achieve their specific goals.

But, more interestingly, the project also made the engineers realize that their original clean-energy goal wasn't nearly ambitious enough.

'Today's renewable energy technology won't save us'

How did they figure? The two engineers calculated what would happen if Google actually achieved its dream of creating a renewable electricity source (say, geothermal or solar) that was cheaper than coal. A major breakthrough.

That would be a huge deal for climate. More and more electric utilities would switch over to this cleaner source over time. By 2050, the Google engineers' modeling suggested, US carbon-dioxide emissions would be 55 percent lower than what we're currently on pace for.

But they also found that this new technology would still be adopted too slowly to avert significant global warming — in part because the technology wouldn't be cheap enough to displace all the existing coal and gas plants out there that have already been paid for. As a result, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would keep rising sharply (the purple line below). And note that this is a best-case scenario for Google's original dream:

Data Sources: "The Impact of Clean Energy Innovation," Google-McKinsey, 2011; "Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?," James Hansen et al., 2008 (IEEE Spectrum)

That's why the two engineers ultimately concluded that "Today's renewable energy technologies won't save us." Clean-energy technology needs to get much, much, much better — not just so that it's competitive with natural gas and coal, but good enough that everyone will readily start switching over within the next 40 years. Here are some rough sample numbers:

Residential customers in the contiguous United States pay from $0.09/kWh to $0.20/kWh, a significant portion of which pays for transmission and distribution costs. And here we see an opportunity for change.

A distributed, dispatchable power source [i.e., something that could be installed anywhere and turned on and off whenever needed] could prompt a switchover if it could undercut those end-user prices, selling electricity for less than $0.09/kWh to $0.20/kWh in local marketplaces. At such prices, the zero-carbon system would simply be the thrifty choice.

Unfortunately, most of today's clean generation sources can't provide power that is both distributed and dispatchable. Solar panels, for example, can be put on every rooftop, but can't provide power if the sun isn't shining. If we invented a distributed, dispatchable power technology, it could transform the energy marketplace and the roles played by utilities and their customers.

So, for example, if we had incredibly cheap solar panels with batteries that could store electricity during cloudy or dark periods and power an entire home for less than current utilities can — well, everyone would rush out to buy them and there'd quickly be little need for existing coal and gas plants. Carbon pollution would drop very, very quickly.

But we're still far from that point. To get there, the new clean energy sources can't just be comparable to fossil fuels. They have to be clearly superior.

Is Google's view too pessimistic?

We're going to need more power. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

We're going to need more power. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Now, this view of what it takes to solve global warming might seem overly pessimistic — and perhaps too Silicon Valley-centric — to some. After all, other groups like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have calculated that we can drastically cut carbon emissions with today's technologies. We'll just likely need to layer on additional policies like carbon taxes, efficiency regulations, subsidies, and so forth.

There's a long debate about the degree of tech innovation needed to solve climate change

Here's the rationale for the policy-heavy view: Many clean-energy technologies aren't competitive with coal and gas and oil right now, but that's largely because fossil-fuel plants and cars can emit as much carbon-dioxide as they want without paying for the damage it causes. So what if we had, say, a carbon tax that leveled the field? Or regulations that required older, dirtier power plants to shut down early? Then clean energy would have a leg up.

Koningstein and Fork, for their part, sound pessimistic about policy. They're skeptical that governments around the world are ever going to be able to penalize fossil fuel usage sufficiently. "Rather than depend on politicians' high ideals to drive change, it's a safer bet to rely on businesses' self interest: in other words, the bottom line." Make clean energy irresistible, and the problem will solve itself.

This harkens back to an old dispute among people thinking about how best to tackle climate change — between those who think we need major technological revolutions to solve the problem and those who think that existing technology plus incremental progress plus better efficiency plus the right mix of policy can curtail emissions quickly and drastically. (Obviously it's also possible to believe both things would help, but people seem to enjoy splitting into camps.)

On the question of R&D, Google's engineers ultimately settle for a bit of a hybrid view. They propose that governments and energy companies should consider a 70-20-10 rule of thumb for investing in energy:

The bulk of R&D resources could go to existing energy technologies that industry knows how to build and profitably deploy. These technologies probably won't save us, but they can reduce the scale of the problem that needs fixing. The next 20 percent could be dedicated to cutting-edge technologies that are on the path to economic viability. Most crucially, the final 10 percent could be dedicated to ideas that may seem crazy but might have huge impact.

That's a bit different from the way the US government invests, where upwards of 90 percent of energy R&D goes toward established tech and probably around 0.1 percent goes to crazy high-impact stuff. (Note also that the United States, other governments, and the private sector all spend remarkably little on energy R&D in any case.)

That might not be an entirely satisfying answer — it's partly a hope that something incredible, like cheap fusion power, will come out of that 10 percent. But their essay is a good way of thinking about the scale of the problem.

Further reading

Solar power keeps getting cheaper — but not for the reasons you'd expect

How to solve global warming, in 7 steps

Is there a free-market solution to global warming?

20 Nov 20:38

Journey to the Center of the Earth


Shitty. The link at the bottom goes to a russian site. You can read about it in english with google translate. Basically, it says a mine flooded with brine, and a sinkhole formed because of it. I can't really follow it, but I think it happened today. So perhaps we'll know more later. But it seems unrelated to the methane gas sink hole/explosion that happened awhile back.

19 Nov 06:03

Here's what a year's worth of carbon dioxide looks like

by Jon Fingas

It's so great to see the difference between winter and summer months. I was pretty amazed until I realized that the color scale change is on the order of +/- 10ppm. But still, good stuff.

It's easy to talk about carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and their effect on our planet, but visualizing them? That's hard. Thankfully, NASA has stepped up to the plate with a computer model that shows how CO2 travels across Earth's atmosphere in the...
13 Nov 15:02

The truth about cast iron

by Jason Kottke

At Serious Eats, Kenji López-Alt sets the record straight about some misconceptions people have about cast iron pans.

The Theory: Seasoning is a thin layer of oil that coats the inside of your skillet. Soap is designed to remove oil, therefore soap will damage your seasoning.

The Reality: Seasoning is actually not a thin layer of oil, it's a thin layer of polymerized oil, a key distinction. In a properly seasoned cast iron pan, one that has been rubbed with oil and heated repeatedly, the oil has already broken down into a plastic-like substance that has bonded to the surface of the metal. This is what gives well-seasoned cast iron its non-stick properties, and as the material is no longer actually an oil, the surfactants in dish soap should not affect it. Go ahead and soap it up and scrub it out.

I have two cast iron pans, including this skillet I use almost exclusively for making the world's best pancakes. Although, after hearing from Kenji that vintage cast iron pans can be slight better than modern pans, I might seek a replacement on Etsy. See also how to season a cast iron pan.

Tags: cooking   food   Kenji Lopez-Alt
14 Nov 13:55



Good summary. So embarrassed that my local news station is making national news this way.

10 Nov 10:33

RT @crulge: let's take a moment to remember the best advice column ever written,...

by Osias Jota

A guilty pleasure to read.

Author: Osias Jota
Source: Twitter Web Client
RT @crulge: let's take a moment to remember the best advice column ever written, from Seattle's @cmkshama
11 Nov 00:49

Lost in space


Anxiety inducing, but still cool. Try to get past the insufferable dubstep beat.

08 Nov 03:09

The Best Thinkpiece About Millennials And Potatoes


"“To stay relevant and increase demand for potatoes,” the Board wrote, “it will be critical to understand Millennials and how potatoes fit into their lives—now and in the future.”" I learned the term "phablet" from this article.

The takeaway for American potato growers and distributors is clear: “In fact, potatoes rate highest on what’s most important to Millennials.”
05 Nov 21:02

maxistentialist: Maciej Cegłowski: In 1952, an American...




Maciej Cegłowski:

In 1952, an American attaché in Moscow was innocently fiddling with his shortwave radio when he heard the voice of the American ambassador dictating letters in the Embassy, just a few buildings away. He immediately reported the incident, but though the Americans tore the walls out of the Ambassador’s office, they weren’t able to find a listening device.

When the broadcasts kept coming, the Americans flew in two technical experts with special radio finding equipment, who meticulously examined each object in the Ambassador’s office. They finally tracked the signal to this innocuous giant wooden sculpture of the Great Seal of the United States, hanging behind the Ambassador’s desk. It had been given as a gift by the Komsomol, the Soviet version of the Boy Scouts.

Cracking it open, they found a hollow cavity and a metal object so unusual and mysterious in its design that it has gone down in history as ‘The Thing’.

‘The Thing’ had no battery, no wires, no source of power at all. It was was just a little can of metal covered on one side with foil, with a long metal whisker sticking out the side. It seemed too simple to be anything.

That night the American technician slept with ‘The Thing’ under his pillow. The next day they smuggled it out of the country for analysis.

The Americans couldn’t figure out how ‘The Thing’ worked, and had to ask the British for help. After a few weeks of fiddling, the Brits finally cracked The Thing’s secret.

That little round can was a resonant cavity. If you shone a beam of radio waves at it at a particular frequency, it would sing back to you, like a tuning fork. The metal antenna was just the right length to broadcast back one of the higher harmonics of the signal.

The resonator sat right behind a specially thinned piece of wood under the eagle’s beak. When someone in the room spoke, vibrations in the air would shake the foil, slightly deforming the cavity, which in turn made the resonant signal weaker or stronger.

As the attaché discovered, you could listen to this modulated signal on a radio just like a regular broadcast. ‘The Thing’ was a wireless, remotely powered microphone. It had been hanging on the ambassador’s wall for seven years.

Today we have a name for what ‘The Thing’ is: It’s an RFID tag, ingeniously modified to detect sound vibrations. Our world is full of these little pieces of metal and electronics that will sing back to you if you shine the right kind of radio waves on them.

But for 1952, this was heady stuff. Those poor American spooks were up against a piece of science fiction.

Today I want to talk about these moments when the future falls in our laps, with no warning or consideration about whether we’re ready to confront it.

Another amazing talk by the creator of Pinboard. I first heard Maciej speak at XOXO, he blew me away. This transcript of his Webstock talk was also amazing.

Technically outside the scope of this blog, but this was way too interesting/cool not to share.

03 Nov 15:49

How many states will legalize marijuana and how soon?


The article is here:
Seems well reasoned. "So, if recreational marijuana does follow this pattern—and there is little reason to expect otherwise—we very well may see national marijuana legalization within seven years, in 2021."

How many states will legalize marijuana and how soon?
10 Nov 09:55

картинки от ВладС


clever. not sure it's true, though.

05 Nov 21:44

What Powers the Sudden Legalization of Cannabis in the US?

by david

This week, Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. joined Colorado and Washington State on the list of US states to legalize or decriminalize cannabis (marijuana).

What powers this sudden and dramatic U-turn in drugs policy? Humanistic sense dawning on the authorities? The artful lobbying of the pro-campaigners? Or are local legislators just smoking some serious green?

Well, they’re definitely getting on high on one kind of green…

» See our visualisation

08 Jul 11:30

Antibiotic Resistance

by david

A lot of fear and furore around the increasing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics. We took a look at the numbers.

See our visualisation.

The datasheet has more info:

Taken from the forthcoming infographic mega-tome, Knowledge is Beautiful (HarperCollins, Sep 2014)
Pre-order Amazon US & UK.

08 Nov 03:53

Preliminary Benefit-Cost Assessment of Final UN Open Working Group Post-2015 Development Targets


This article was highlighted in a recent Freakonomics Radio podcast:

This report assesses the targets in the OWG’s Final Outcome Document from 19 July 2014. This builds upon the information presented in similar documents which the Copenhagen Consensus Center released in the lead up to the 11th and 12th session of the OWG. From the first report to this one, we have updated ratings as the targets have been reformulated, and we have added new explanation and suggestions for better wording.  


High Level Panel

  11th OWG

 12th OWG


# total targets

140       →

212     →


# Phenomenal

13          →

27        → 


# Poor

10         →

23        →

# words in all targets^



2360     →

4389    →


The number of targets suggested by the Final OWG document is 169, substantially down from the 212 targets for the 12th session. However, the text is only 20 words shorter, from a total word count of 4389 to one of 4369. Thus, while the number of targets has decreased, the number of words within each target has increased almost as much. Overall, it is unlikely we can implement all these proposed interventions to reach all of these targets simultaneously, and completely. Therefore, the international development community will need to prioritize which targets to strive for first, or to devote more resources towards. This decision will rest on a number of factors, not just economics - but knowing the costs and benefits provides an important piece of information. 

Of course, the Post-2015 goals have yet to be finalized, and it is our hope this document will help UN representatives prioritize the final list of targets for replacing the Millennium Development Goals.

The assessments were put together by interviewing 32 of the world’s top economists in their respective fields. The benefits and costs do NOT solely reflect money. In line with standard welfare economics principles, all benefits and costs have been considered (such as improved health and improved environmental impacts) – which have subsequently been converted into a dollar value.

The key for assessments are:

PHENOMENAL – Robust evidence for benefits more than 15 times higher than costs
GOOD – Robust evidence of benefits between 5 to 15 times higher than costs
FAIR – Robust evidence of benefits between 1 to 5 times higher than costs
POOR – The benefits are smaller than costs or target poorly specified (e.g. internally inconsistent, incentivizes wrong activity)
UNCERTAIN – There is not enough knowledge of the policy options that could reach the target OR the costs and benefits of the actions to reach the target are not well known

07 Nov 21:43

Installation to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the...


Wow that's cool, wish I could see it in person.

AP Photo/Steffi Loos

Hannibal Hanschke / Reuters

Pawel Kopczynski / Reuters

Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters

Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters

AP Photo/Steffi Loos

Installation to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Lightgrenze, goes live.

07 Nov 15:30

‘Metal is Beautiful’, Hypnotic Super Slow Motion Video of Drill Creating Metal Shavings

by Brian Heater

via GN.

“Metal is Beautiful”
is a strangely hypnotic short video by YouTube channel 1stVideoChannel that features super slow motion video of a power drill creating metal shavings. The effect is strangely hypnotic.

via Digg

06 Nov 19:00

A Really Bad Month

by Jessica Olien


by Jessica Olien





Jessica Olien is a writer and illustrator who moves a lot.

05 Nov 09:00

What Are Literature, Philosophy & History For? Alain de Botton Explains with Monty Python-Style Videos

by Josh Jones

Saving for later.

Once upon a time, questions about the use-value of art were the height of philistinism. “All art is quite useless,” wrote the aesthete Oscar Wilde, presaging the attitudes of modernists to come. Explaining this statement in a letter to a perplexed fan, Wilde opined that art “is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way.” But if you ask Alain de Botton, founder of “cultural enterprise” The School of Life, art—or literature specifically—does indeed have a practical purpose. Four to be precise.

In a pitch that might appeal to Dale Carnegie, de Botton argues that literature: 1) Saves you time, 2) Makes you nicer, 3) Cures loneliness, and 4) Prepares you for failure. The format of his video above—“What is Literature For?”—may be formulaic, but the argument may not be so contrary to modernist dicta after all. Indeed, as William Carlos Williams famously wrote, “men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found” in poetry. How many people perish slowly over wasted time, meanness, loneliness, and broken dreams?

Like de Botton’s short video introductions to philosophers, which we featured in a previous post, “What is Literature For?” comes to us with Monty Python-like animation and pithy narration that makes quick work of a lot of complex ideas. Whether you find this inspiring or insipid will depend largely on how you view de Botton’s broad-brush, populist approach to the humanities in general. In any case, it’s true that people crave, and deserve, more accessible introductions to weighty subjects like literature and philosophy, subjects that—as de Botton says above in “What is Philosophy For?”—can seem “weird, irrelevant, boring….”

Here, contra Ludwig Wittgenstein’s claims that all philosophy is nothing more than confusion about language, de Botton expounds a very classical idea of the discipline: “Philosophers are people devoted to wisdom,” he says. And what is wisdom for? Its application, unsurprisingly, is also eminently practical. “Being wise,” we’re told, “means attempting to live and die well.” As someone once indoctrinated into the Byzantine cult of academic humanities, I have to say this definition seems to me especially reductive, but it does accord perfectly with The School of Life’s promise of “a variety of programmes and services concerned with how to live wisely and well.”

Lastly, we have de Botton’s explanation above, “What Is History For?” Most people, he claims, find the subject “boring.” Given the enormous popularity of historical drama, documentary film, novels, and popular non-fiction, I’m not sure I follow him here. The problem, it seems, is not so much that we don’t like history, but that we can never reach consensus on what exactly happened and what those happenings mean. This kind of uncertainty tends to make people very uncomfortable.

Unbothered by this problem, de Botton presses on, arguing that history, at its best, provides us with “solutions to the problems of the present.” It does so, he claims, by correcting our “bias toward the present.” He cites the obsessive jackhammering of 24-hour news, which shouts at us from multiple screens at all times. I have to admit, he’s got a point. Without a sense of history, it’s easy to become completely overwhelmed by the incessant chatter of the now. Perhaps more controversially, de Botton goes on to say that history is full of “good ideas.” Watch the video above and see if you find his examples persuasive.

All three of de Botton’s videos are brisk, upbeat, and very optimistic about our capacity to make good use of the humanities to better ourselves. Perhaps some of the more skeptical among us won’t be easily won over by his arguments, but they’re certainly worthy of debate and offer some very positive ways to approach the liberal arts. If you are persuaded, then dive into our collections of free literature, history and philosophy courses highlighted in the section below.

Related Content:

78 Free Online History Courses: From Ancient Greece to The Modern World

55 Free Online Literature Courses: From Dante and Milton to Kerouac and Tolkien

Download 100 Free Online Philosophy Courses & Start Living the Examined Life

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

What Are Literature, Philosophy & History For? Alain de Botton Explains with Monty Python-Style Videos is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The post What Are Literature, Philosophy & History For? Alain de Botton Explains with Monty Python-Style Videos appeared first on Open Culture.

03 Nov 16:30

28 Important Philosophers List the Books That Influenced Them Most During Their College Days

by Dan Colman

@CC & @LD


The web site Demasiado Aire recently asked “some of the world’s most important philosophers which three books influenced them the most while undergraduate students.” And, from what we can tell, they got a good response. 28 influential philosophers dutifully jotted their lists, and, for at least the past day, Demasiado Aire has been offline, seemingly overwhelmed by traffic. Thanks to Google’s web caching technology, we can recover these lists and provide you with a few highlights. (Note: The original post is here.) We have added links to the texts cited by the philosophers. The free texts have an asterisk (*) next to them.

Charles Taylor (McGill University):

Phénoménologie de la Perception, Maurice Merleau-Ponty

The Brothers Karamazov*, Fyodor Dostoevsky

Jalons pour une théologie du Laïcat, Yves Congar

Daniel Dennett (Tufts University):

“That’s easy:

Word and Object, Quine.

The concept of mind*, Gilbert Ryle

Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein

“I got to study with Quine and Ryle, but Wittgenstein had died before I encountered his work”.

Alexander Nehamas (Princeton University):

Apology of Socrates*, Plato

Nicomachean Ethics*, Aristotle

Ethics*, Spinoza

“Also, I should point out that Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality* had a huge effect on me when I was a graduate student and had a formative influence on my philosophical development”.

David Chalmers (Australian National University):

“I was an undergraduate student in mathematics rather than philosophy, but the answer is”:

Gödel, Escher Bach, Douglas Hofstadter

The Mind’s I, Douglas Hofstadter & Daniel Dennett

Reasons and Persons, Derek Parfit

You can view lists by other philosophers, including Alain de Botton, Wendy Brown, Peter Millican, and more here: live pagecached page. The image above comes via by MjYj.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Google Plus and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox.

Related Content:

44 Essential Movies for the Student of Philosophy

Download 100 Free Philosophy Courses and Start Living the Examined Life

Philosopher Portraits: Famous Philosophers Painted in the Style of Influential Artists

28 Important Philosophers List the Books That Influenced Them Most During Their College Days is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The post 28 Important Philosophers List the Books That Influenced Them Most During Their College Days appeared first on Open Culture.

30 Oct 16:30

​Find Your Vocal Range in 2 Minutes With This Video

by Tori Reid

Knowing how to use your voice is important for any aspiring musician or hobbyist. One of the first steps to developing your voice as an instrument is learning your vocal range, and this video helps you do it in just under 2 minutes.


07 Oct 04:00

October 07, 2014


Democracy works!

Woop! Sorry for the late update. Server issues.
30 Oct 15:52

Frozach Submitted


Definitely takes my mind in other directions for WWJD. "Start a cult." "Get arrested." So fun out of context, as the bible generally is.

28 Oct 10:43

Time lapse of a river over 28 years.


Looks like water running down a windshield.

27 Oct 05:47

карты слов


at risk of outing myself.









23 Oct 18:15

The Poorer Silence Now

by Sarah Wanenchak at Cyborgology

This is a pretty damning indictment of the nature and tenor of online discussions. Fortunately for me, i'm pretty left wing and, according to Pew, I unfriend the shit out of people that I find are wasting my time.

image by Anna Piovani

image by Anna Piovani

I don’t remember exactly when I got into my first argument online. I don’t remember who I was fighting with or what it was about. I was probably angry. I don’t ever remember being afraid.


I’ve written before about how the process of saying things online was liberatory. That the expression of self in this space was the very cliche of spreading new wings. That’s not a radical statement. It’s not revolutionary. A lot of us were the weird kids – everyone is the weird kid, in one way or another, but some of us feel it so much more keenly. Some of us are cut by it. Some of us are cut literally. Do you remember how it was then? The word floating around was that awkward, uncooperative bodies wouldn’t matter here. We could all be beings of pure intellect and engage on the edge of some kind of new and more enlightened frontier.

And implicit in that was that when someone tried to hurt you, it wouldn’t work.

Being a child is a nearly constant process of being lied to. By adults. By each other. By ourselves.


I don’t remember exactly when someone said something that truly hurt me online. I don’t remember who it was or what they were saying. I know I got angry; I might have cried. I don’t remember ever being afraid.


For a tremendous number of us – it seems – speech is not just surface levels of political. It’s deeper than what we usually imagine by politics. It’s in the viscera. Speech is the assertion of self, of agency when all other forms of agency seem elusive and impossible to grasp. We all, all of us, regardless of whether or not we have any conscious understanding of privilege and power, have some understanding of what it means to be able to speak and to be prevented from doing so. No history class had to teach us. We fight for it, we’ll ride and die for it, and when we perceive that anyone intends to take it away from us we’ll rear up like startled cobras and strike.

Not in all places or at all times or all people in the same ways, but bear with me.

What I’ve come to see and what I’ve come to understand I was and am a part of is a raging torrent of voices, of people screaming over each other, people boring through mountains of interference to deliver a message that might be meaningful and important to someone or might be utter incoherent drivel. It can be very difficult to tell the difference and probably no one person or persons should be permitted to adjudicate. I think of an ant hill, ants crawling all over each other, intent on whatever they’re doing but also keenly aware of each other at all times.

It’s loud, is what I’m saying. I’m not sure exactly how that figures in here but it’s very loud.

Sometimes there’s one voice apart from the others, one voice marked by a very precise element of difference in tone and content, and the ants turn and as one they swarm.


I don’t remember exactly when someone I knew was threatened online. I don’t remember who it was or what it was about, or who threatened them or what they did in response if anything. I’m sure I was angry. I was probably afraid for them. But I don’t remember being afraid for myself.


I hold very firmly to the belief that a significant number of the people who write do so because, on some level, they really want attention. I want attention. I absolutely do. Obviously I want that attention to be positive, so I try to do what I do as well as I can under the assumption that, if I do well enough, positive attention will result. So far that’s generally holding true. There are always critics, but you know. That’s fine. There should be.

But I also write because I don’t know what I would do or what I would be if I didn’t. I can’t imagine not writing. I can’t imagine a world in which stories weren’t battering their way out of me, tearing literal holes in my skin. Fucking with my head in ways you wouldn’t believe. Or maybe you would. The point is, silence isn’t an option. Silence is terrifying. Silence is unimaginable. I have a story; I write it. I have an opinion; I write it. Once we were confined in terms of who saw these things and how many of them there were, but now sharing is a fundamental component of how we move through the world, of how we understand the disparate elements of who we are and how we live. We share. That’s how we make things a real part of all of our real stories. I imagine not doing that anymore and it feels like being locked in a very small closet.

Fear was never part of that for me. Not really. Or if it was, it was fear of rejection. Which is a real fear, legitimate and painful, but come on.



I don’t remember exactly when I first learned about stalking online. I know it hadn’t happened to me, and so far as I know it still hasn’t. I do know that it was during the initial to-catch-a-predator panic of AOL chatrooms and who-is-talking-to-your-kid-on-ICQ. I heard all about not meeting people you met online in “real life”, I heard about not going along with suggestions to perform sexual acts, I heard about all of it. It was all about kids. Just kids.

No one warned me about what would come after that all died down. I don’t think anyone warned any of us. I don’t think anyone knew.

I genuinely wonder, if we had known then, how much of the world would have cared.


When I was asked to start writing here, I was terrified, and that terror never really went away. It’s the kind of terror that’s always with me, generated by a background hum of abusive internal voices. You’re not good enough. You’re not smart enough. You’ll never be able to come up with interesting things to say on that regular a basis. They don’t really like you. They’ll kick you out when they realize the mistake they made. Next Monday I’ll be writing about how this last year on Cyborgology has been for me and where I want to go in the future, what I’m excited about doing and the things about which I want to write, but the truth is that I’m scared, still, for all of those reasons.

But today is about something else.


This last year has been very instructive where fear is concerned.

I’ve watched people stalked, people threatened, people killed. Women, trans people, queer people, people of color. For speaking. For saying things. About the most innocuous stuff, on the face of it. For just being themselves. People I know, people I care for, people I don’t know at all. People I’ll never have the chance to know, because someone ripped them away from the world. I’ve seen brave, amazing people shouted down and intimidated into silence, driven into hiding, for doing something I’ve come to take for granted. I’ve seen men – some of them close to me – write it all off, insist that this is all a fluke, that it’s a few bad apples, that it’s not actually about racism or transphobia or misogyny, and I’ve wanted to grab them and shake them and scream do you even see what’s happening, do you even care about any of this, do you care about the fact that people you supposedly love are in danger. I’ve watched men speaking out against this, and that’s great and I’m glad for it, but I want to grab them and shake them and scream do you understand why you can do this, why you can laugh at them, what it means that you don’t have to be afraid.

Do you understand that we’re afraid all. the. time.

I wasn’t afraid. I’ve learned to be. A lot of us have learned to be. We’ve had very good teachers.


Over the last few months I’ve had to make some hard choices. For the first time I can remember, I’ve had to consider what I say and how I say it, not out of fear of being disliked or rejected but out of fear for my safety and the safety of my family. And the decision I’ve come to is to be silent. This is will be the last post I make on Cyborgology about this stuff. This will be the last post I make anywhere about this stuff. At least for a while.

I know I’m angry. Of that much, I’m very sure.

I’m not going to forget.


Sarah is on Twitter – @dynamicsymmetry

11 Oct 17:00

Stephen Campbell - Trance Bass

by (Joanne Casey)

via cooper griggs.

17 Oct 21:46

LiartownUSA has always celebrated ONLINE SOCIAL JUSTICE...



LiartownUSA has always celebrated ONLINE SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIORS. Now, spurred by popular demand and a deep desire to properly honor the internet’s bravest, most productive heroes, I am very pleased to announce the very first LiarTown item to consensually enter the physical world.

First appearing in a December 2013 post and honored by rave reviews from (“The absolute best cat calendar!”) this now-100% real publication is officially available for sale. 

This full-color, 12” x 12” grid-style wall calendar is presented and shipped in plenty of time for the holidays. Each month features a charming kitten professionally photographed in a heroic pose appropriate to a small cat defiantly speaking out on the hottest social justice issues of the day. A sassy, uncompromising declaration erases any doubts about each precious cat’s passionate convictions, sense of humor, and tough-as-nails attitude! 

Each of these twelve adorable kittens was subject to a week-long, grueling interview process to ensure there was absolutely nothing problematic in its beliefs. Unlike bland, privileged garbage kittens chosen for nothing more than shallow good looks, Social Justice Kittens radiate fierce strength in the face of untold adversity, and all are gifted with a dazzling array of genders and orientations to go with their tiny, oh-so-kissable faces! The patriarchy WILL NEVER accept these kittens! 

After thousands of years of CIS-HET BULLSHIT, here at last is a calendar that DARES YOU to speak truth to power. A calendar which boldly announces to the world that you aren’t going to sit back and let others speak for you. A calendar that holds you up high so others can see you’re able to stand proudly on your own!

It comes down to this: Do you want to financially support the ideals embodied by this unique, functional gift, or refuse to purchase a copy and become a hateful fake ally who actively embraces injustice and the murder of innocents? The choice is yours.

One more time, to be clear: This is a genuine 2015 calendar, printed on big machines and then mailed out by mid-November.

To visit the online store, click here. 

Last but not least, a huge THANK YOU to everyone who supported this project during its formation!