Shared posts

30 Apr 22:00

Sugar skull spoons for sale

by Cory Doctorow


Remember the kickstarter for the sugar skull spoon? They not only completed successfully, but are now in full production, and are available retail through the Colossal store for $13.






29 Apr 20:15

The Lost Art of Dress: A Conversation with Historian Linda Przybyszewski

by Grace Bello
by Grace Bello

In The Lost Art of Dress, historian and dressmaker Linda Przybyszewski explores how American women's fashion went from floor-length dresses to bloomers to shirtwaist dresses to, yes, flour sack dresses. Before ready-to-wear and before fast fashion, American women created affordable clothing for themselves and their families with help from the Dress Doctors—the thrift experts, home economics professors, and fashion guide authors who advised women how to craft the most appropriate looks for less. Style changed with every step forward for women: gaining the vote, entering the world of work, heading academic departments. Recently, Przybyszewski and I talked about the evolution of American style, the fraught subject of home economics, the lack of fashion and beauty advice for black women, and how to dress like a streetwalker in the 19th century.

You wrote that “the Dress Doctors were eager to prepare women for new roles in American life.” So can you describe the cultural and economic climate these Dress Doctors were in? Why did American women want to and need to change the way they dressed?

There were several things going on at different levels and different arenas of life. One was, by the late 19th century, more and more women were getting educated at college—middle-class women. They needed something to wear because dresses then could be very fancy and frilly. Essentially, women started wearing suits instead of dresses.

World War I, which didn't affect the United States as much as it affected, say, Britain, did require women to go into jobs that men had formerly held. And women who were volunteering for the ambulance corps, etcetera needed really practical clothing to do their jobs. They needed shorter skirts, things like that. Lots of working class women and some middle-class women were moving into wage work in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They needed clothing that they could keep clean if they were working in factories, for example. So there was a big increase in the popularity of what they called the shirtwaist and what we call the blouse.

In the late 19th century, there was also a move to get young women to exercise. In the 19th century, dresses went all the way down to the ground. So if they were going to exercise, they needed new things to wear. So they came up with divided skirts with bloomers underneath for bicycle riding or golf and slightly shorter skirts for tennis.

Also, women had the vote in various Western states in the late 19th century but didn't gain the vote nationwide until 1920 with the 19th amendment. A lot of the Dress Doctors saw this as a new phase, full citizenship for women. Obviously, women had participated in civic life. But to actually have the vote guaranteed by the Constitution was a big step forward. And the ways in which women would need to act in public life, they needed to look serious if they were going to take on important, civic issues.

Can you tell us about the home ec movement? It was about thrift, but it was also a way for women to make money at a time when not a lot of jobs were open to them.

Home economics started in the 19th century as a movement to bring a more systematic way of running the home to all American women. It's interesting because the women who taught home ec and wrote the books, they were professionals. They were carving out a space for themselves in a world that pretty much divided the public world and the private world.

Via Maryland State Archives. 

Men functioned in the public world mostly, and women functioned mostly in the private world. Well, the home falls into the private world, but teaching home ec means you need to look into textiles, chemistry, nutrition, and food science. So home ec became the way in which women created a safe space for themselves at universities. Which is why, startlingly, by 1960, out of the about 475 women at universities teaching science, 300 of them were in home economics departments. So it did give them an entryway in the sciences, it gave them an entryway into the university in a space that was supposed to be only for women. Women were the deans of home economics colleges. So that meant women got into higher administration in the universities as well.

We can criticize them in the long-run by saying that safe space ended up becoming a ghetto. But at the time they started it, it was a very effective way to allow women into higher education without having to argue with men about how much space they could have.

That's fascinating.

I think most of us think of home economics as sort of backwards. [laughs] But this whole world of work opened up for women through home economics.

Can you talk about some of your favorite bizarre fashion trends? You mentioned the flour sack dress.

I love the flour sack dress! It's the epitome of thrift. The idea that farm women will go into a feed store and buy feed for their chickens but make sure that the big bags it came in were in an attractive, floral print—I find that the most thrifty story in American clothing history. A lot of these things were actually really pretty. You can go onto eBay and other sites and find people selling bits of these cotton prints. They're actually very attractive.

Via. 

I tell you this because I'm a dressmaker myself. I went to graduate school and was self-supporting, which really means I was poor. [laughs] I went to Stanford. Palo Alto, Menlo Park are very nice suburbs that I couldn't really afford to live in. But that also means their Junior League [thrift store] has great stuff. So I would take stuff that was too big—beautiful, wool crepe that I could never afford to go buy the yardage for—but I could take it apart and cut it down and make something completely different.

So flour sack dresses are an old tradition. Recycling, upcycling—it's been going on for a long time.

In the book, you say of the Dress Doctors' advice, “How valuable would this advice be today when American women are mired in credit-card debt, urged to shopping frenzy.” What do you think the Dress Doctors would say about our fast fashion habits?

Fast fashion is so interesting because I think the Dress Doctors would think that we're all shopping like teenagers now. They expected women to have different values or energy levels at different points in their lives. So they realize, here are young people full of energy and enthusiasm liable to chase one fad after the other—and that's fine. As long as they don't get into debt. Getting into debt for clothing was horrifying to the Dress Doctors.

Source: Nina Leen—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images Teenage fashions, 1944

So I think they would think two things: One, they would dislike debt itself, especially for clothing because clothing wears out. You're in debt for something that is slowly losing value as you use it. And secondly, they would not expect us to be overly excited about new and novel looks when we're older. Not that women shouldn't be interested in fashion. But you need to choose what really suits your life and what suits your body.

Novelty was not the goal. Beauty was the goal.

The Dress Doctors often overlooked black women. Can you explain a little bit about that conflict?

Almost all of the Dress Doctors were white. When they laid out the range of complexions—they get no darker than a light-skinned Hispanic coloring. The reason they even got that dark was because, in the 1930s when many of the Dress Doctors started writing their most elaborate textbooks, there were Hispanic movie stars like the woman who played Dolores del Rio in Flying Down to Rio.

There are just a few textbooks that talk about women of color. What actually happened was, there were at least a couple of black women who got degrees in Home Economics who wrote their own books in order to offer young African American women the same sort of knowledge about color and complexion that white girls just took for granted. And at least one of those books, which was first published in the 1930s, got reprinted over and over. I think it probably got pretty good play in the black community.

Howard University Queen contestants, 1947, via.But otherwise, for the Dress Doctors who were working with the really big publishers, it wasn't until the civil rights movement came along that they realized that they had simply defined African American women as outside of those standards. And some of the very last of the Dress Doctors started modifying their textbooks to try to make up for what had been decades of complete neglect.

I love this part of the book: “Since the whore was the most public working woman of the nineteenth century, respectable middle-class women had long avoided the styles she wore to advertise her wares.” Can you tell us more about this? What was the difference, style-wise, between a so-called respectable woman and one who was considered vulgar?

I don't think anyone's managed to, how do I put this, curate a prostitute's wardrobe from the 19th century. All we have is commentary from middle-class writers.

It's clear that middle-class women didn't want to wear anything flashy. Bright colors worn in public was definitely considered vulgar. Good women should not be wearing them. Everything that they would associate with the whore or the woman of the town or street worker were things that said, "Yoohoo! Notice me!" So, bright or bare or flashy or loud, these are the kinds of words that they would refer to.

Realize, too, that men were wearing dark suits. In the 18th century, it was basically court wear: bright colors, embroidered things. That's what you would have seen in Britain. And the colonists who had money wore those kinds of things, too. And then with the American Revolution, you get a sort of emphasis on plain dressing men, brown suits because they're not aristocrats. That anti-aristocratic urge gets confirmed in the early 19th century with these dark suits.

The contrast between men on the streets in dark suits and women of the streets in bright clothing would have been particularly noticeable. So if the middle-class woman was in the street, she wanted to wear dark, unobtrusive clothing because she was not trying to get men's attention.

That leads me to another question. I don't know if you've heard of this term normcore?

Oh my God! I saw that in The New York Times!

What's interesting is you just said there was this movement to not look aristocratic, and I wonder if you think that that's maybe a driving force behind normcore? We're trying not to look elite?

I don't even know. I just read the one article, so I couldn't tell you.

I remember reading about how in Silicon Valley, you're not supposed to dress up. So some men, one thing they can do is wear fun socks. Even if you're a multimillionaire in Silicon Valley, and you can appreciate a beautifully tailored suit from Milan, you're not allowed to. Which I think is fascinating. It tells you, though people say you can wear whatever you want, you actually can't. If you wear a hat today, people really do notice it. If you're in Silicon Valley, and you wear a beautiful suit, apparently they won't take you seriously anymore.

What are some of fashion trends that you wish would come back?

It's weird because this is during The Great Depression, but the day dresses of the mid-1930s were wonderful. They moved away from that 1920s waist-at-your-hip look. That didn't look good on most women. Then in the '30s, the waist was at the natural waist. This is really when they put a lot of attention on bringing interest up to the neckline so that the bodices of a lot of the dresses have such creative, inventive collars. Even the sleeves and the cuts were so interesting. As a dressmaker, I'm amazed. I've never seen anything like that. They're very attractive. They don't look outlandish. They look like they have a lot of thought put into them. Those dresses, I think we could learn a lot from.

 

Previously: How Your Sweet Valley High Gets Made

Grace Bello is a freelance writer based in New York. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_land.

4 Comments
29 Apr 14:00

MC Hammer Watch: Beneath The City Is Turn-Based Thief

by Nathan Grayson

Well now, here is a brilliant little surprise. Who’d have thought the best game set in the Thief universe this year would be an itsy bitsy isometric Ludum Dare 29 entry? Maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement, but Beneath The City really is a smart (though sadly brief) execution of a really fun idea. In short (but undeniably stout), it’s a real-time turn-based stealther set in Thief’s City. Each time you dash in any direction with a lithe tap of an arrow key, so too does every guard on the map. There’s also light sources to account for, water arrows to fling, and a mystery to partially unravel. Garrett – the real Garrett – would be proud.

… [visit site to read more]

30 Apr 00:58

Exploding corpse in Florida

by Bryan Alexander

Florida offered another bit of real-life Gothic this week, as bad things happened around a dead body.

It begins with one of those sad stories about neglected people dying alone:

The deceased elderly woman, who apparently passed away from natural causes, lived alone with her dogs. After she died, her body went undiscovered for two weeks before a noxious odor began to fill the adjacent units.

Then some body-eating by beloved animals:

Explosion_KevinDooleyAfter complaints from neighbors, maintenance workers entered the apartment and found that the dogs had eaten her remains, according to Courthouse News.

Then, well, the exploding corpse:

The undiscovered body went through its normal decaying process and eventually bloated to the point that the gasses inside the corpse built enough pressure that it caused its abdomen to burst. This released gases and fluids, which is what leaked down into Rodrigo's apartment.

Followed by a Florida-style legal battle:

"The plain meaning of the term 'explosion' does not include a decomposing body's cells explosively expanding, causing leakage of bodily fluids," they court stated, per the New York Post.

The court went on to say that Rodrigo failed to establish that the woman's corpse was "tantamount to an explosion."

Florida: Infocult needs only observe to share the horror.

(link via Naked Capitalism; photo by Kevin Dooley)

30 Apr 13:10

Where are the stolen girls of Nigeria? And why don't we care more?

by Xeni Jardin
Photo: Reuters. Families of kidnapped schoolgirls attend a meeting with the local government in the remote town of Chibok, Nigeria.


Photo: Reuters. Families of kidnapped schoolgirls attend a meeting with the local government in the remote town of Chibok, Nigeria.

_74516199_nigeria_chad_cameroon Three weeks ago in the remote northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok, over 200 girls were kidnapped from their boarding school dormitories in the middle of the night. By some reports, as many as 275 children may have abducted; more than 40 escaped. The militants who abducted the mostly 16-18 year old girls are from Boko Haram -- a group whose name means "Western Education is Forbidden." As the name implies, they are on a murderous campaign to eliminate education in West Africa.

Reports are surfacing this week that the militants are treating the girls as sexual slaves, "marrying" them to soldiers who have carried them off to neighboring states including Chad and Cameroon. In plain words, this means the girls are being raped and impregnated against their will -- and who knows what additional forms of torture and abuse, or how many have died.

Why has this story received so little attention in the West? For example, the New York Times has published exactly one reported piece, on April 17. Perhaps if the girls were on a ferry in Korea, a jet liner in the Indian Ocean, in the owner's box at a Clippers basketball game, or if they were white, we'd care more.

Today in Nigeria, women are marching to demand more resources to find the young women.

In the New Yorker, the voice of a girl who escaped and survived.

From NPR:

"It's a situation of present, continuous agony. Everybody is terrified at the thought of what they might be going through. There's just no reason why these girls could have been targeted. They're so innocent, so harmless," [Author Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani] says. "They're probably Muslim and Christian. It's frightening. They're not being seen as Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo [three of Nigeria's major ethnic groups]. They're not being seen as northerners or easterners. They're just seen as children."

Some of the women who'd gathered (7hrs) early at Unity Fountain for the rally. #Bringbackourgirls #Nigeria #Abuja pic.twitter.com/PFQN2FnFDv

— Nkem Ifejika (@nkemifejika) April 30, 2014

By joining the March today, you are make a statement that these our Girls' MOTHERS are not ALONE in their pain. pic.twitter.com/ikdeU043VY

— oby ezekwesili (@obyezeks) April 30, 2014







29 Apr 16:45

"In the Dead Girl Show, the girl body is both a wellspring of and a target for sexual wickedness"

by Jia Tolentino
by Jia Tolentino

Alice Bolin has a terrific essay up at the LA Review of Books right now:

The Dead Girl Show’s most notable themes are its two odd, contradictory messages for women. The first is to cast girls as wild, vulnerable creatures who need to be protected from the power of their own sexualities. True Detective demonstrates a self-conscious, conflicted fixation on strippers and sex workers. [...] “How does she even know about that stuff?” Hart asks in 1995 when he and his wife discover sexual drawings his elementary-school-age daughter did. “Girls always know first,” his wife replies. This terrible feminine knowledge has been a trope at least since Eve in the Garden. Marcus compares Twin Peaks’s victim Laura Palmer to the teenage “witches” in Puritan New England who were burned to purge and purify their communities. In the Dead Girl Show, the girl body is both a wellspring of and a target for sexual wickedness.

The other message the Dead Girl Show has for women is more simple: trust no dad. Father figures and male authorities hold a sinister interest in controlling girl bodies and, therefore, in harming them. In True Detective, the conspiracy goes all the way to the top, involving a US senator and his cousin, a powerful minister. [...] Externalizing the impulse to prey on young woman cleverly depicts it as both inevitable and beyond the control of men.

"All Dead Girl Shows betray an Oedipal distrust in male authority figures, but in Twin Peaks and True Detective, the central characters are male authority figures," writes Bolin. Every other line in here has something fascinating to hang onto, so let me just recommend to all Dead Girl Show lovers/haters (Pretty Little Liars is the one that actually wins this, I gather?) that you go on and read the rest at LARB.

6 Comments
28 Apr 18:45

Attention All Roleplayers, Fanfic Authors, and Simmers: Drop What You’re Doing And Play Storium

by Becky Chambers

I’m no stranger to group storytelling. In high school, I wrote fanfic with a friend, swapping a spiral-bound notebook back and forth. During that same time I was working at a renaissance faire and my inbox overflowed with email threads of in-character letters. When I was in college, I was an active participant in a Star Trek sim. My World of Warcraft guild forums had a section dedicated to roleplaying. And in recent years, after I moved countries, my previously-local friends and I went through a short period of playing Parsely and Dungeons & Dragons via Google Hangouts.

So believe me when I say — if you like to roleplay, if you like collaborative storytelling, if you have gaming friends you can’t meet in person, Storium is what you’ve been looking for. 

I went into this one blind. April has been a hectic month for me, and though I had given the game a cursory look before I agreed to dig deeper, I didn’t have a solid understanding of what Storium actually was. “It’s a…simming game, kind of,” I said to my partner over dinner, after she asked what I was going to play that night. “With action cards, I think.” I shrugged, and took another bite of pasta. “It looks promising.”

It’s very promising. It’s also one of those games that’s difficult to condense into a pithy description (”online storytelling game” doesn’t do it justice). After I’d logged into Storium (it’s browser-based), watched the video, and skimmed through the instructions, I still didn’t have a good feel for it. That’s more on me than the developers — I learn by doing. I needed to dive in.

As I quickly figured out, Storium is essentially an elegant framework for simming, with the added kick of card game-ish mechanics. For the uninitiated, a play-by-post game (also called a sim) traditionally takes place on a message board or through an email list. There’s a basic premise, and a host who wrangles the players. Depending on the game, players either create whatever characters they fancy, or are given clearly defined roles (such as in the Star Trek sim I played — I was cast as the first officer, but was allowed to build my own character within that role). The players then take turns writing chapters or scenes, typically tagging other characters to pick up where they left off.

Storium operates similarly, but it’s got a structure more like a pen-and-paper RPG. Each story is a world, and every world has a narrator (read as: game master). Now, I imagine Storium is most fun when writing your own story from scratch, but it’s also got a set of pre-built templates you can use right away (which was perfect for me, as I lacked an abundance of time). The templates can serve as a customizable jumping-off point, or you can use them as-is. There’s a whole bunch of template worlds available — Urban Fantasy, Steampunk, Occult Horror, and so on. Me being me, I went with Space Adventure.

The narrator’s first task is to set the stage. Write your premise. Find a pretty picture to go with it. Specify whether this game will be public (which anyone can read and/or request a spot in) or private (just for you and your buddies). Specify how much of a time commitment your game will require (for example, 2-3 scenes per week). Line it up, and let it go.

If you don’t have specific players in mind, this is the point where you sit back and wait for folks to sign up. Otherwise, you can send email invites to friends. The narrator has complete control over who joins their game. If someone submits a character who doesn’t fit, you can send the request back, asking for revisions. You have this kind of control over invitees as well. As someone who has watched many an RP session crash and burn due to nonsensical characters, trust me, this is an awesome feature.

I enlisted my partner as my guinea pig. Side by side on the couch, we oooh-ed over how smooth the whole process was. I sent an invite. She got a tidy little character creation form, which she filled out and submitted. A minute or so later, I got an email notification letting me know someone wanted to join my game. Easy peasy.

Once I had a player on board, I was free to post a scene. The narrator can sow a scene with cards — challenge cards which will affect the narrative, item cards which can be required for later challenges, goal cards which behave like side quests. My partner had cards of her own, which she selected during character creation. Strengths and weaknesses (I was somewhat reminded of GURPS in this respect), assets, and a subplot (!), which gave her extra flavor. Each of my challenges required her to play a set amount of cards to overcome them, but she also had to describe the action taking place.

I could give her a setup, and I could try to guide her actions, but the decisions she made were ultimately her own, and they affected the way I wrote subsequent scenes. It’s a dynamic that’s instantly recognizable to anyone who’s ever roleplayed around a table. We were both delighted by it.

“This is exactly what we’ve needed,” she said. “We need to get our stateside friends in on this.”

Because, see, the reason the G+ Parsely and D&D sessions were short-lived is that my friends and I are busy. We all have various combinations of jobs and spouses and families, and as much as these things interfere with in-person gaming sessions, it’s exponentially worse when you factor in four different time zones. Storytelling games wither without the momentum generated by regular sessions, and preventing that wasn’t practical for us.

But an online game people can play on their own time, which automatically sends email updates when there’s something new to read, which requires you to check in just a couple times a week — that’s ideal for me. I bet it’s ideal for a lot of people. Not to mention this game’s presentation is slick. A friendly, easy-on-the-eyes user interface. An unobtrusive sidebar for out-of-character conversation. The means to nudge players that need to get moving (players can nudge the narrator, too). Storium streamlines everything that is messy about group roleplay. It’s like the Ikea closet organizer of online storytelling — simple, effective, uncomplicated.

Storium’s currently in open beta, though it requires a Kickstarter backing to play (they hit their funding goal in twenty-four hours, so yes, this is happening). To sweeten the deal, they’ve got an impressive roster of authors and game designers slated to create worlds (Mur Lafferty, Elizabeth Bear, and Nancy Holder, to name a few). I highly recommend that you check this one out.

Becky Chambers writes essays, science fiction, and stuff about video games. Like most internet people, she has a website. She can also be found on Twitter.

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24 Apr 04:21

Nendoroid Sakura Kinomoto

by gsckahotan
Clarissa

Aaaaaah, so adorable~

I know everyone has been waiting for this one!! ♡

Hello everyone, Kahotan here! (@gsc_kahotan)

Today there is no time for stories, I need to get straight into the review!

Nendoroid Sakura Kinomoto! ♪

From the anime masterpiece ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’ comes a Nendoroid of the main character, Sakura Kinomoto! She comes with three expressions including a gentle smile, a more serious expression to pose her sealing cards as well as the adorable face she made whenever she saw something she liked! She also comes with her Sealing Wand and a Clow Card to bring out the story of the series!

Alternate lower body parts are also included together with a special version of her wand allowing you to display her using the ‘Fly’ spell, and Keroberos (Kero-chan) is also included to display by her side! Sakura has jumped back from the past as a Nendoroid, ready to be loved by all her fans once again! ♪

Sakura-chan!! (*´▽`*)

She’s finally here!! Nendoroid No.400!
Dressed up in her most well-known pink and white outfit!

The giant ribbon has been faithfully kept in Nendoroid form! (`・ω・´)

Her frilly, layered skirt and all the smaller ribbons scattered around her outfit have also been beautifully sculpted!

She also comes with her Sealing Wand… and even a Nendoroid-sized version of Kero-chan (Keroberos) to display beside her!

The shape of his stomach is somehow so adorable!! (*´Д`)

How could anyone not fall in love with Kero-chan’s cute, fluffy appearance! ♡

His cute little wings are also faithfully sculpted, down to the little twist at the center! ♪ Not to mention that his neck and tail are articulated allowing you to alter his pose to match however you choose to pose your Sakura-chan!

Now that I think about it… I actually still have a talking Kero-chan plushie at home… ( -ノェ-)

As I’m sure everyone has noticed, she also comes with a Clow Card to hold… but look at how detailed the design on the reverse side is! ヽ(*・ω・)人(・ω・*)ノ

It’s a bit hard to tell from my photo… but I’m sure many of you already know which card it is! ε=(。・д・。)

She even comes with an alternate lower body part and wand to display her in a flying pose to match the card!! (`・ω・´)

I’ve always wanted to pose Sakura like this!! (´;ω;`)

I just had to include the option for the Nendoroid!

Even now the episode where she flies with wings on her back sticks in my mind… and seen ‘The Fly’ Clow Card was also included… these parts simply had to be included too! ( -ノェ-)

The flying parts give the Nendoroid an amazing presence too!

The alternate lower body also allows for other poses such as sitting with bent legs! Speaking of Clow Cards… she can also be displayed in this very special pose!

\ RELEASE!! /

Sakura-chan is well known for her lovely smile, but she has a more serious side as well! ♡

The sealing scene was another scene I really wanted to see in Nendoroid size! There are so many wonderful possibilities with Sakura-chan!! The tip of the Sealing Wand comes in an replaceable form with the Clow Card on the end to recreate this pose! (`・ω・´)ゞ

This pose keeps her cute side but also has such an epic feeling to it! I love it!! Not to mention that if you look at her feet… you’ll notice the magic circle from the series is also included!

We really strived to get the circle looking just like it did in the series! There is a hole in the circle allowing it to be attached to the center of her Nendoroid stand with ease!

Combining the serious expression with the flying parts also makes for a more combat-orientated pose! She looks ready for anything! We got a load of help from Kodansha with regard to getting Sakura-chan as perfect as possible – from various checks to providing us with original designs from the series – they were a great help in helping us perfect Nendoroid Sakura-chan!

A big thanks to them for all the support!!

There is still a lot more that I’d like to point out to everyone with regard to the smaller sculpting details and more… but I think I’ll wait for her release to really get into the details! (`・ω・´)

Keep the timeless heroine my your side to love forevermore! ♡

Nendoroid Sakura Kinomoto!

She will be up for preorder from tomorrow!!

Those who order from the GOOD SMILE ONLINE SHOP will also get a little bonus! ♡

The Sealing Wand… in Key Form! ★

This photo is actually of the coloring prototype, but the final version is planned to be a charm to attach to your keys, phone, bag or anything else! Be sure to check the GSC Online Shop tomorrow for more info! (σ・∀・)σ

But wait… are there only two expressions?

Of course not! There is one more expression that I haven’t revealed anywhere except for the live broadcast last night!

If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ll have to check the official product page tomorrow!!

゚・*:.。..。.:*・゚゚・*:.。..。.:*・゚ ゚・*:.。..。.:*・゚゚・*:.。..。.:*・゚ ゚・*:.。..。.:*・゚゚・*:.。..。.:*・゚

/Kahotan’s Inner Voice\


  ∧_∧
 ( o・ω・).。0   (Catch you, catch you, catch me, catch me~!)
 ( つ⊂ )
 と_)_)

Anyway, I hope to see you all again tomorrow!

Planning Team / Kahotan
Twitter ID: gsc_kahotan

 

ⓒ CLAMP・ShigatsuTsuitachi CO.,LTD./講談社

23 Apr 22:52

In a Bizarre 1976 Comic Book, Spider-Man Fought the Villain of Misleading Sex Education

by Sarah Mirk

Last week, I came across a very strange comic book: in 1976, Planned Parenthood teamed up with Marvel to publish a one-off comic in which Spider-Man defends America's youth from misleading sex education.

read more

24 Apr 07:00

FTL Meets Dwarf Fortress: Universe Edge

by Adam Smith
Clarissa

This is probably one of those games that I will appreciate the existence of, but never actually be able to play with any facility.

When we asked readers how they had chosen to spend their eggstra long weekend (for those in countries without a Holiday Eggfest, my apologies), I learned one thing – with the release of the expanded edition, FTL has ensnared the crew of the good ship RPS once again. I enjoy the game – Captain’s Edition, naturally – but I crave a more complex ship management and construction component. Universe Edge may have me covered. Citing Gnomoria, The Sims and EVE Online as inspirations, the space exploration simulation is seeking Kickstarter funding right now.

… [visit site to read more]

23 Apr 15:59

Here’s Why This City’s Businesses Love Its Paid Sick Days Law

Paid sick days banner

CREDIT: Flickr

The majority of Seattle businesses support the paid sick leave requirement that went into effect in September of 2012 and report few, if any, costs or challenges, according to a new audit from the Seattle Office of the City Auditor with help from the University of Washington.

Seattle’s paid sick days law requires employers with more than four employees to provide leave for those who are sick or need to deal with a critical safety issue to all workers, including those who are full time, part time, and temporary.

The audit found that 70 percent of employers in the city support the law, with 45 percent saying they are very supportive. This held true for businesses of all sizes. “These business owners, managers, and human resources professionals view paid leave as a valuable and important benefit for their workers,” the report says.

It’s not hard to see why they might feel so supportive. The costs and impacts “have been modest and smaller than anticipated,” the audit notes. The majority report no effect on profitability or customer service, with just 17 percent believing that it made them less profitable. The average reported cost of implementing it was about one eighth of a percent of their annual revenue and providing the leave for the first year was on average four tenths of a percent. To deal with any costs, 8 percent raised their prices or otherwise passed the cost on to consumers, 6 percent decreased raises or bonuses, 5 percent decreased vacation time, and just 2.7 percent reduced employment while only 0.7 percent said they closed or relocated.

Businesses also didn’t find it hard to put into practice. Most didn’t find it difficult to implement the various aspects, although the biggest challenge was record keeping, which almost a third said was difficult. Less than a third found it difficult to reassign the work, but for most, they had absent employees either do the work later or other employees cover it, with about 20 percent saying the called in other employees and just 1.4 percent hiring an outside replacement. And despite fears of widespread abuse, “workers used far less paid leave than employers had anticipated,” the audit notes, and most have no concerns or moderate ones about abuse. “Overall, employers judged the impact of the Ordinance as small or negligible.”

Besides the individual impacts, the audit found that the paid sick days law didn’t harm business, job, or wage growth in the city. All three measures grew over the first year after it took place. The number of employers grew more in Seattle than nearby cities. “If anything, the Ordinance seems to have had a positive effect on the hiring sector,” the report notes. While total wages grew more slowly in Seattle than the other cities after it took effect, the report notes, “This effect is not strong statistically and should be interpreted cautiously.” Wages grew both before and after the ordinance, and the researchers found weak correlations between the law and the slower wage growth.

Past preliminary data had come to the same conclusions. It found that job growth, new businesses, and business sales in Seattle weren’t negatively impacted by the law. Job growth was actually stronger, including in retail and food service.

And it’s not the only place to have this experience. In Connecticut, which has had a paid sick leave law in effect for two years, employers have experienced few costs and difficulties and little to no abuse. There, more than three-quarters of them support it, with nearly 40 percent very supportive. San Francisco has had a law in effect since 2007 and business growth increased after it was implemented while jobs weren’t harmed and businesses saw little impact. A majority of employers support it. And in the time since Washington, D.C.’s law went into effect in 2008, business owners haven’t been discouraged from opening up in the city or encouraged to relocate. There are now four other paid sick days laws in effect in the country, and more may soon join.

The post Here’s Why This City’s Businesses Love Its Paid Sick Days Law appeared first on ThinkProgress.

19 Apr 13:06

Japanese ghost stories, blogged

by Bryan Alexander

The Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai blog does a fine job of posting Japanese ghost stories and related creepy tales.

Mizuki_shigeru_yuki_onna

(thanks to Randy McCall)

16 Apr 16:30

“I learned that keeping players on the field was a priority.”

by Maya
Clarissa

In case you forgot that things culturally associated with men's concerns, and things that make a lot of money, are more important than silly things like women's human rights and safety.

Jameis Winston

(Photo credit: Phil Sears/Associated Press)

If you want your head to explode with rage this afternoon, go read The New York Times in-depth report on the investigation — or rather, lack thereof — into the rape accusation against Florida State University football star Jameis Winston. As the Times reports — and then methodically and devastatingly documents — “there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university.” It will be one of the more infuriating things you read this month, I promise.

14 Apr 18:00

Lovecraftian Freeware Pick: The Rats in the Walls (Shilov)

by John Polson

rats in walls.pngPartially based on H.P. Lovecraft's work, Shilov's The Rats in the Walls is a short experimental horror adventure. Players make their way through a seemingly deserted mansion, haunted by many things, but none seem more maddening than the rattling rats.

[Download The Rats in the Walls at Game Jolt]

14 Apr 19:33

Donationware Pick: Horror Vacui (Skelefactor)

by John Polson

horrorvacui.jpgSkelefactor's Pac-Man-like game Horror Vacui requires patience to trick enemies that roam and lasers that surround the grid you try to claim as blue. Each death resets the grid and yourself to gray, and in the case of fiendish boss fights, their health bars reset, too.

You slowly gain up speed as you claim the grid, until you get a dash of invincibility you can use to crush enemies. As long as you are blue, at any speed, you can take down the enemy spawn portals.

I would prefer to have some of the stages cut before the first boss fight, as they don't feel too varied. Those that hang in there might feel like the game was child's play up to that battle, though. It's super tough! As the trailer below shows, even crazier challenges await:

While this shares the title of Shaun Inman's Horror Vacui, a quick glance will let you know the two games are different. If you're not sure how much you want to pay for Skelefactor's Windows and Mac game, you can download it for free first and then return to pay what you want.

[Pay what you want to download Horror Vacui]

14 Apr 13:00

How Bookstores Survive

by Choire Sicha
by Choire Sicha

Here's a look at how six great independent bookstores make it in the big city, which is actually a question I have always wanted answered. The Park Slope Community Bookstore has done it in part by catering to Park Slope's child-related needs, which seems obvious; BookCourt did it by buying their building and, eventually, the building next door. PowerHouse Arena, as anyone who goes to things knows, does it by tirelessly having things to go to (and lots and lots of space rental). The lovely Greenlight books did it through canny investment and fundraising and by being a bookstore where a bookstore was needed. And Sarah McNally of McNally Jackson does it by selling a crapload of books:

She attributes more than $4 million in sales last year to an obvious factor: volume. “Instead of getting rid of shelf for display,” she says, “we’ve gotten rid of display space for shelf space.” So 65,000 books have been squeezed into 7,000 square feet (along with a café), while creative organizing keeps them compulsively browsable.

My only complaint about these bookstores is that, with the exception of BookCourt's cat (pictured!), there aren't enough cats in them.

14 Comments

The post How Bookstores Survive appeared first on The Awl.

10 Apr 16:00

This List Reveals the Heartbleed-Affected Passwords to Change Now

by Melanie Pinola

This List Reveals the Heartbleed-Affected Passwords to Change Now

By now you've probably heard about the massive Heartbleed security bug that may have compromised the majority of the world's web sites. Everyone should change their passwords on the affected sites—but only after those sites have patched the issue. Mashable is maintaining and updating a list of the most popular sites you should change your passwords for ASAP.

Read more...








08 Apr 18:10

Free access to Oxford online resources the week of April 13th

by Lisa Gold

To celebrate National Library Week, Oxford University Press is providing free access to their online resources from April 13th through 19th:

Username: libraryweek
Password: libraryweek

Go here to see the full list (with links) of online resources you can access. A few highlights:

  • Oxford English Dictionary
  • Oxford Bibliographies Online
  • Oxford Reference
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online
  • American National Biography Online
  • Grove Art Online
  • Grove Music Online
  • Berg Fashion Library
  • Oxford African American Studies Online
  • Electronic Enlightenment

 

28 Mar 11:00

How to Buy Ebooks From Anywhere and Still Read Them All in One Place

by Eric Ravenscraft

How to Buy Ebooks From Anywhere and Still Read Them All in One Place

Most ebook sellers try to lock you into a particular ecosystem. If you don't mind buying from the same company every time, this isn't too bad, but you lose the ability to comparison shop, as well as making it difficult to switch apps. Fortunately, there's a way around this problem.

Read more...


    






28 Mar 13:01

Why Won't Anybody Say That "Noah" Is Terrible?

by Choire Sicha
by Choire Sicha

Noah is getting the strangest good reviews. "I’m not sure who exactly this often grimly rapturous movie was made for, but I find myself surprisingly glad that it was made," wrote Richard Lawson in Vanity Fair. A.O. Scott went with: "Mr. Aronofsky’s earnest, uneven, intermittently powerful film, is both a psychological case study and a parable of hubris and humility. At its best, it shares some its namesake’s ferocious conviction, and not a little of his madness."

These are all incredibly charitable. This is not a good movie. I wanted to bite off my fingers. From the opening sequence, which explains the silly state of the world and some fallen angels by means of text that looks suspiciously like the unholy Papyrus font, to the senseless howling and weeping and gnashing of teeth and stomping around that proceeds over the next two hours, Noah looks all around like a film gone seriously wrong. In terms of emotional pitch, it makes Black Swan look like Breakfast at Tiffany's. It's tiresome, exhausting, bizarre and self-serious. Aronofsky is pretty close to being a great director who's never actually made a great film.

In anyone else's hands, the story of grim old stick-in-the-mud Russell Crowe saving the beasts of the world from the evils of men would be extremely camp. And there are times that the movie looks like claymation or the performances turn just a bit too histrionic. But there's never anything laughable, really—ever—in even Aronofsky's most ridiculous situations. That's what makes Noah so tiring. And yet… visually captivating? I guess the upside is, it's refreshing to see a movie where you literally cannot imagine what will happen, even though you assume there's going to be, like, a big flood, and an eventual yacht collision with Mount Ararat.

I always start to suspect that it all goes wrong with his collaborators. Noah has the wonderful Clint Mansell's worst score to date (and I say this as a huge, huge Mansell fan), and Aronofsky's stuck by his production designer and editor from Black Swan and his costume designer back to The Wrestler. But that's not it: they all do great work over and over. Thérèse DePrez also did the impeccable production designs for Stoker and I Shot Andy Warhol and Happiness, and Amy Westcott did costumes for The Squid and the Whale and "Entourage" and the delightful What's Your Number? (She has the craziest job of all here: "pretend there was actually a first iron age before the one we know about and also there were magical animals and angels and stuff and they'd discovered indigo dye and invented really sophisticated looms but nothing else." You end up with a kind of Bottega Veneta as reimagined by al Qaeda members.) Likewise Noah's editor did Moonrise Kingdom, The East and Fantastic Mr. Fox. So everything wrong with this movie is Aronofsky's fault.

From the east coast, this looks like the insanely expensive end of Darren Aronofsky, with the production budget plus the marketing budget teetering quickly towards $200 million. But the studio, after some early wrestling for control of the film, gave it up and gave in, and are now 100% on-board. Probably their testing shows something we can't see for the vast multiplexes of America. A Dances with Wolves for the last of the Billy Graham set? God, it could be just the beginning.

20 Comments

The post Why Won't Anybody Say That "Noah" Is Terrible? appeared first on The Awl.

28 Mar 18:00

Kickstarting board games adapted for blind people

by Cory Doctorow
Clarissa

Accessibility is still a big issue in games, physical and digital, so this is a cool idea.

Emily sez, "Working in the blindness field, my husband, Richard and I have many blind friends. We are gamers at heart and have always been dismayed that our friends couldn't play our favorite games. When Richard began pursuing game publishing our first inclination was to make all games blind accessible. However, this proved to be nigh on impossible. We discovered if we wanted our games to be accessible, we had to make accessible games ourselves."

Our plan with this campaign is to buy a braille embosser. With the embosser we can create braille stickers that will be compatible with a huge range of existing card games. This will allow blind people to play games alongside their sighted friends. If we make the goal of an embosser, we have stretch goals planned that would allow us to make braille dice as well. We even have dreams of being able to modify game boards. We know how to do it and we are hoping you and kickstarter can help us make it happen.

I am a Teacher of the Visually Impaired with 10 years experience and special certification in braille. Previously I managed national blindness education programs. Richard is a Special Education teacher with a passion for board game design. One of his designs was a finalist this year in the Hippodice Spielclub game competition. Together we have the knowledge, passion, and experience to make this a success.

Board Games: Now Blind Accessible (Thanks, Emily!)

    






28 Mar 21:00

Pinterest board full of nostalgic D&D art

by Cory Doctorow


Brad sez, "Trusty Sword, an Olympia, WA-based RPG developer, has posted hundreds of scanned D&D cover art from dndclassics.com [a site where you can buy all the classic D&D modules and books as ebooks, though some are larded with DRM] to Pinterest. It's awesome."

D&D 1.0 (AD&D) Cover Art on Pinterest (Thanks, Brad!)

    






22 Mar 13:00

Lost Bakshi Lord of the Rings footage found

by Ethan Gilsdorf

If you remember the first film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, the 1978 animated version by Ralph Bakshi–the legendary outsider director behind Fritz the Cat, Wizards, American Pop and Fire and Ice–you’ll recall the experience was a mixed bag.

The movie was a dark, moody, oversaturated vision of Tolkien’s world, with stunning design and many memorable scenes. Bakshi used rotoscoping to trace live footage for animation, and posterization to give it a rough, hand-made look. Both techniques allowed many corners to be cut, but at the time, the film’s PR claimed Rings was the “the first movie painting.”

Sadly, Bakshi’s 133-minute film left viewers stranded after the battle at Helm’s Deep, just as Gollum is about to lead Sam and Frodo into Mordor. Roughly two-thirds through Tolkien’s three-part story, Bakshi didn't get to make the final installment. Rankin-Bass, the studio behind the 1977 TV adaptation of The Hobbit, churned out The Return of the King as a “sequel” in 1980, with little artistic resemblance to Bakshi’s vision.

Now, quietly, some of the scenes from that 1978 classic have been rescued from the “cutting room floor,” Bakshi, now 75, said when I reached him via email this week.

Eddie Bakshi, Bakshi’s son, has been busy scanning in original “cel” artwork from Bakshi's archives, timing them to the cartoon’s original exposure sheets, and posting the scenes on Bakshi’s Facebook page. (The Facebook page also includes clips from Bakshi’s other films, though it appears none of these are new.)

The particular Rings footage that has been restored comes from the Gandalf vs. Balrog fight sequence, and it is brief. One clip is a three-shot, 12-second sequence of the two characters falling into the void, titled “Gandalf recalls fighting the Balrog.” The other is a 10-second shot described as “Gandalf duels with the Balrog and smashes into the endless staircase.” In the film, the Balrog battle was recounted via minimally-animated still images.

“If you’re getting close to delivery, it’s better to cut the animation out to make the scene work, than racing to reanimate it to make the cut work,” Bakshi said, recalling the hectic atmosphere as the film’s deadline loomed.

Asked why Gandalf and the Balrog look quite different in these new scenes, compared to the rotoscoped Gandalf and Balrog seen on The Bridge of Khazad-dûm, Bakshi said, “Well, it’s hazy, but I was trying to make memories different than the real time story. I was wrestling with trying to separate the styles.”

It’s unclear what other lost scenes from The Lord of the Rings might be found, shot and posted. Due to low budgets and little wiggle room to fix, reanimate or make cuts, “Very little or nothing ended up on the floor,” Bakshi said. If any gems are discovered, Eddie Bakshi will decide whether they are worthy of reshooting. For the elder Bakshi, it’s “been there, done it.”

Bakshi fans should feel nostalgia for this old footage, which evokes the days of hand-drawn animation: “It was great to see it again,” he added, “but I got aggravated at the animator again for making the mistake 30 years later.”

Still, Bakshi was effusive in his praise for his team of artists who made the movie, which included a young Tim Burton, in his first job out of college.

“My animators–old school–were the greatest ever," Bakshi said, "barring none.”

    






19 Mar 17:30

Tolkien's 1926 Beowulf Translation Will Be Published This May

by Jia Tolentino
Clarissa

Nice! I have his translations of Sir Orfeo and The Pearl, will be cool to get a hold of this one.

by Jia Tolentino

Almost 90 years after JRR Tolkien translated the 11th-century poem Beowulf, The Lord of the Rings author's version of the epic story is to be published for the first time in an edition which his son Christopher Tolkien says sees his father "enter[ing] into the imagined past" of the heroes. [Guardian]

0 Comments
18 Mar 21:00

UK Sunday paper won't review books marketed "to exclude either sex"

by Cory Doctorow


Writing under the rallying cry "Gender-specific books demean all our children," Katy Guest announces that the Independent on Sunday -- one of the UK's great weekend papers -- will no longer review any books that are marketed to "exclude either sex." It's tied to the Let Toys Be Toys/Let Books Be Books campaign, which petitions companies to stop tying their products to specific gender-identities. Guest characterises the segregation of products by gender as a means of "convincing children that boys and girls can’t play with each other's stuff, is forcing parents to buy twice as much stuff."

I remember being surprised when someone told me that Little Brother was a "boy book." Yes, its protagonist is a boy, but every protagonist has to have some kind of gender identity, and it's a weird world when we're only allowed to read fiction in which the lead character has the same gender identity as us. I once co-wrote a novella whose major characters are galaxy-spanning AI hiveminds -- it would have a rather small audience by that standard.

Good on the Independent on Sunday for this!

There are also those who argue that children are set upon their boyish and girly courses from conception, and that no amount of book-reading is going to change them. In fact, there is no credible evidence that boys and girls are born with innately different enthusiasms, and plenty of evidence that their tastes are acquired through socialisation. Let’s face it, any company with a billion dollar advertising budget could convince even Jeremy Clarkson to dress up as a Disney princess if it really wanted to, and probably would if his doing so could double its income. So what hope is there against all this pressure for an impressionable child?

I wouldn’t mind, but splitting children’s books strictly along gender lines is not even good publishing. Just like other successful children’s books, The Hunger Games was not aimed at girls or boys; like JK Rowling, Roald Dahl, Robert Muchamore and others, Collins just wrote great stories, and readers bought them in their millions. Now, Dahl’s Matilda is published with a pink cover, and I have heard one bookseller report seeing a mother snatching a copy from her small son’s hands saying “That’s for girls” as she replaced it on the shelf.

You see, it is not just girls’ ambitions that are being frustrated by the limiting effects of “books for girls”, in which girls’ roles are all passive, domestic and in front of a mirror. Rebecca Davies, who writes the children’s books blog at Independent.co.uk, tells me that she is equally sick of receiving “books which have been commissioned solely for the purpose of ‘getting boys reading’ [and which have] all-male characters and thin, action-based plots.” What we are doing by pigeon-holing children is badly letting them down. And books, above all things, should be available to any child who is interested in them.

Gender-specific books demean all our children. So the Independent on Sunday will no longer review anything marketed to exclude either sex [Katy Guest/The Independent]

(Image: Modern Book for Girls, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from snigl3t's photostream)

    






21 Feb 14:45

2700 Years of Female Silence

by Jia Tolentino
by Jia Tolentino

Mary Beard, at the London Review of Books, has written a phenomenal essay on women and speech in the public sphere. "I want to start very near the beginning of the tradition of Western literature, and its first recorded example of a man telling a woman to ‘shut up’," she writes, discussing the Odyssey, and the moment when Telemachus tells his mother Penelope to "go back up into your quarters, and take up your own work, the loom and the distaff… speech will be the business of men."

Right where written evidence for Western culture starts, women’s voices are not being heard in the public sphere; more than that, as Homer has it, an integral part of growing up, as a man, is learning to take control of public utterance and to silence the female of the species.

Beard takes a "very long view" on the subject of women who speak up "in order to help us get beyond the simple diagnosis of ‘misogyny’ that we tend a bit lazily to fall back on… if we want to understand – and do something about – the fact that women, even when they are not silenced, still have to pay a very high price for being heard, we have to recognise that it is a bit more complicated and that there’s a long back-story." She goes back through public record:

One earnest Roman anthologist of the first century ad was able to rake up just three examples of ‘women whose natural condition did not manage to keep them silent in the forum’. His descriptions are revealing. The first, a woman called Maesia, successfully defended herself in the courts and ‘because she really had a man’s nature behind the appearance of a woman was called the “androgyne”’. The second, Afrania, used to initiate legal cases herself and was ‘impudent’ enough to plead in person, so that everyone became tired out with her ‘barking’ or ‘yapping’ (she still isn’t allowed human ‘speech’). We are told that she died in 48 BC, because ‘with unnatural freaks like this it’s more important to record when they died than when they were born.’

There are only two main exceptions in the classical world to this abomination of women’s public speaking. First, women are allowed to speak out as victims and as martyrs – usually to preface their own death. [...]

The second exception is more familiar. Occasionally women could legitimately rise up to speak – to defend their homes, their children, their husbands or the interests of other women.

The whole piece is long and fascinating and disturbingly familiar, and ends on this somewhat timeless note: "For a start it doesn’t much matter what line you take as a woman, if you venture into traditional male territory, the abuse comes anyway. It’s not what you say that prompts it, it’s the fact you’re saying it." [LRB]

2 Comments
19 Feb 19:00

Survivors of the Florida School for Boys return to the site of legal kidnapping, torture and murder of children

by Cory Doctorow


Mother Jones has published a heartbreaking story about the survivors of the Florida School for Boys; children who were, basically, kidnapped by southern cops and sent to a hellhole where backbreaking labor, torture, and murder were the order of the day. A state court has finally given the go-ahead to exhume the graves of the children who were killed and buried in anonymous, unmarked graves by their jailers. The survivors returned for a press-conference, but found themselves with almost no press to speak to.

Mike Mechanic writes, "Johnny Gaddy, 68, still doesn't understand how he landed at Florida's Dozier reform school. When he was 11, the police showed up at his front door. 'They told me the judge wanted to talk to me,' he recalls. 'I'll never forget it as long as I live. I was watching 'The Lone Ranger' on TV. My mama said, 'The officer going to take you down, the judge going to talk to you.' I said, 'Mama, why's he going to talk to me?' She said, 'Go ahead.' He took me to the police station, told me to get in a cell. I never saw a judge. I wasn't sentenced for anything as far as I know. I was handcuffed all the way to Marianna.'

There's been a lot of press about the alleged horrors that took place at the Florida School for Boys, a.k.a. the Arthur G. Dozier reform school, but not a lot about how blacks and whites were treated differently on the campus, which was segregated until 1967. Last August, around the time of a state hearing that granted scientists permission to exhume dozens of graves on the grounds to find out what had happened to those boys, five elderly black men returned to the site of their nightmares with photographer Nina Berman. This multimedia story chronicles their visit back, and some of what they experienced at the school.

"It Was Kind of Like Slavery" [Nina Berman and Michael Mechanic/Mother Jones]

(Photo: Nina Berman)

    






25 Feb 06:00

Forgotten placeholder text

by Cory Doctorow


There's nothing wrong with using placeholder text. It's hard to imagine design without it. But it creates the unique danger that you forget your text and leave it behind. Here's a rather good roundup of forgotten placeholders in contexts ranging from newspaper headlines to error messages to bottles of wine. Alas, the images appear to be uncredited ganks from around the Web (the headline above, from Cape Town, may have come from this 2011 article, though that credits a tweet as its source).

One of the many things I do that prove that I need to get out more is collect examples of placeholder text that ends up in a final interface. But I’ve also noticed that the issue happens more and more in the offline world as well. As I looked through my folder this morning I realized that, in the interest of science, I should post some of my favorites here. If you have any other good examples, please let me know!

What happens when placeholder text doesn’t get replaced [Rian/Elezea]

    






26 Feb 04:00

Chicago PD's Big Data: using pseudoscience to justify racial profiling

by Cory Doctorow


The Chicago Police Department has ramped up the use of its "predictive analysis" system to identify people it believes are likely to commit crimes. These people, who are placed on a "heat list," are visited by police officers who tell them that they are considered pre-criminals by CPD, and are warned that if they do commit any crimes, they are likely to be caught.

The CPD defends the practice, and its technical champion, Miles Wernick from the Illinois Institute of Technology, characterizes it as a neutral, data-driven system for preventing crime in a city that has struggled with street violence and other forms of crime. Wernick's approach involves seeking through the data for "abnormal" patterns that correlate with crime. He compares it with epidemiological approaches, stating that people whose social networks have violence within them are also likely to commit violence.

The CPD refuses to share the names of the people on its secret watchlist, nor will it disclose the algorithm that put it there.

This is a terrible way of running a criminal justice system.

Let's start with transparency, because that's the most obviously broken thing here. The designers of the algorithm assure us that it is considering everything relevant, nothing irrelevant, and finding statistically valid correlations that allow them to make useful predictions about who will commit crime. In an earlier era, we would have called this discrimination -- or even witchhunting -- because the attribution of guilt (or any other trait) through secret and unaccountable systems is a superstitious, pre-rational way of approaching any problem.

The purveyors of this technology cloak themselves in the mantel of science. The core tenet of science, the thing that distinguishes it from all other ways of knowing, is the systematic publication and review of hypotheses and the experiments conducted to validate them. The difference between a scientist and an alchemist isn't their area of study: it's the method they use to validate their conclusions.

An algorithm that only works if you can't see it is not science, it's a conjuring trick. My six year old can do that trick: she can make anything disappear provided you don't look while she's doing it and don't ask her to open her hands and show you what's in them. Asserting that you're doing science but you can't explain how you're doing it is a nonsense on its face.

Now let's think about objectivity: the system that the CPD and its partners have designed purports to objectivity because it uses numbers and statistics to make its calculations. But -- transparency again -- without insight into how the system runs its numbers, we have no way of debating and validating the way it weighs different statistics. And what about those statistics? We know -- because of transparent, rigorous scholarship, and because of high-profile legal cases -- that police intervention is itself not neutral. From stop-and-search to arrest to prosecutorial zeal or discretion, the whole enterprise of crime statistics is embedded in a wider culture in which human beings with social power and representing the status quo can and do make subjective decisions about how to characterize individual acts.

Put more simply: if cops, judges and prosecutors are more likely to give white people in rich neighborhoods in possession of cocaine an easier time than they give black people in poor neighborhoods in possession of crack (and they do), then your data-mining exercise will disproportionately weight blackness and poorness as being correlated with felonies. Garbage in, garbage out -- there's nothing objective and scientifically rigorous about using flawed data to generate flawed conclusions.

But even assuming that this stuff could be made to work: is it a valid approach to crimefighting?

Consider that the root of this methodology is social network analysis. Your place on the heat-list is explicitly not about what you've done or who you are: it's about who your friends are and what they've done. The idea that people's social circles tell us something about their own character is as old as the proverb "A man is known by the company he keeps." Certainly, it wasn't a new idea to the framers of the Constitution (after all, the typical framer was both a member of a secret society and had recently participated in a guerrilla revolution -- they knew a thing or two about the predictive value of social network analysis).

But the framers explicitly guaranteed "freedom of association," in the First Amendment. Why? Because while "birds of a feather stick together," the criminalization of friendship is a corrosive force that drives apart the bonds that make us into a society. In other words: if the Chicago PD think that crime can only be fought by discriminating against people based on their friendships, they need to get a constitutional amendment before they put that plan into action.

Finally, this program assumes that its interventions will be positive, and this assumption is anything but assured. The idea that being told that you are likely to commit crimes will prevent you from doing so is no more obvious that the idea that being treated as a presumptive criminal will lead you to commit crimes. What's more, well-known, well-documented cognitive biases (theory blindness, confirmation bias) are alive and well in the criminal justice system: if someone on the blacklist is suspected of doing something minor, we should expect the police, prosecutors and judge to treat them more harshly than they would someone plucked from off the street. If you're already in a machine-generated ethnicity of pre-criminals, society will deal with you accordingly.

What's more, this will lead to more arrests, harsher charges and longer sentences for pre-criminals -- seemingly validating the methodology. It's the Big Data version of witchburning, a modern pseudoscience cloaked in the respectability of easily manipulated statistics and suspicious metaphors from public health.

The minority report: Chicago's new police computer predicts crimes, but is it racist? [Matt Stroud/The Verge]

(Woodcut-1598-witch-trial, Wikimedia Commons)

    






19 Feb 16:21

Tell Congress to legalize unlocking your phone

by Cory Doctorow


Sherwin from Public Knowledge writes, "The Copyright Office and the Library of Congress think that copyright law and the DMCA make it illegal to unlock your phone and take it to a new carrier. This is plainly ridiculous: a year ago, 114,000 Americans wrote the White House to tell them that, and the White House agreed. So did the FCC. And, eventually, so did the phone companies, who say they'll work to unlock most consumers' phones for them. But the law has stayed the same. It's still illegal for you, even if you've paid off your entire contract, to take it upon yourself to unlock your own phone."

It's time to change that. A bipartisan bill (H.R.1123, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act) has been proposed to reverse the decision that made phone unlocking illegal, and it's coming up for a vote in the House soon. We're asking you to support it.

We want Congress to get the message that copyright law and the DMCA aren't all-purpose tools to be whipped out anytime someone needs a way to restrict consumers. That message can start with this simple ask.

Act Now : Tell Congress to Support the Unlocking Consumer Choice & Wireless Competition Act! (Thanks, Sherwin!)

(Image: Unlocked Cell Phone Shack, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from consumerist's photostream)