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26 Nov 01:33

If You Ever Move To This Island, There's A Big Chance That You'll Find These Creatures In Your Yard.

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Ah, nature. So relaxing and refreshing. Maybe you like to unwind by daydreaming about a warm and tropical beach island, imagining the wildlife. 

Maybe some crabs? That sounds nice, right?


whologwhy

Nonononono


Imgur

This horror is called a coconut crab because of their love of tearing apart coconuts with their terrorist claws.


Imgur

These creepers climb to the top of lushly tropical, beautiful palm trees, snatch the coconuts off and descend back to earth with them.


Imgur

And then they rip the coconuts apart. Although their penchant for coconuts earned this monster, the Coconut Crab, its name, it doesn't end there.


Imgur

The Coconut Crab eats fruits, nuts, seeds and the nightmares of men.


Imgur

They are vegetarians, but if they ever change their minds... watch out.


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This guy knows he could take you. He won't, but he could.


Drew Avery

Here they are extorting a dog.


Imgur

They have nefariously adapted to life on land and are overtaking the islands around the Indian Ocean and some parts of the Pacific Ocean.


Drew Avery

Credit: Wired

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26 Nov 13:30

Ilustração mostra quanto espaço reservamos para os veículos nas ruas

Albener Pessoa

The real space cars get and what is left for us

Que a maioria das ruas em nossas cidades foram projetadas para carros e não para pedestres, nós já sabemos. Só que o ilustrador sueco Karl Jilg resolveu escancarar a situação em um de seus trabalhos.

Encomendado pela agência que administra o trânsito da Suécia, o desenho mostra um quarteirão em que as faixas de rolamento para veículos foram subistituídas por grandes abismo. Quem anda a pé fica restrito a espaços pequenos em calçadas apertadas e faixas de pedestres que nem sempre garantem a segurança. Veja a ilustração:

Divulgação/Swedish Road Administration

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pedestres, faixa de pedestres
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26 Nov 12:22

12 sinais de que você está criando seu filho para ser escravo

Você parou para observar o que está passando na televisão quando o seu filho a está assistindo? Ou já parou para refletir nos motivos que levaram um novo shopping a ser erguido perto da sua casa? Ou mesmo já se questionou sobre a real razão para a pré-escola dizer que está preparando o seu filho para o mercado de trabalho?

Não é novidade para ninguém que a organização da sociedade possui o formato de uma pirâmide onde os que estão na base sustentam aqueles que estão no topo. Enquanto no topo existem poucos lugares, na base existem muitos para serem ocupados, sendo natural que quem esteja em cima queira manter aqueles que estão em baixo onde estão para não perderem suas posições no topo.

Apesar de nascermos livres, durante a construção da nossa personalidade (da infância a fase adulta) vamos nos identificando progressivamente com essa lei e ficando cada vez mais “parados” conforme ela se torna a realidade do nosso modo de agir.

Não importa se nossa origem é uma família com muito ou pouco dinheiro. O que define se uma pessoa é escrava ou não é a maneira como ela lida com o mundo: se obedecendo a lei da escassez ou a lei da abundância.

Obedecendo a lei da escassez, nós temos medo e culpa. Medo do desconhecido (futuro, relações ou oportunidades) e culpa pelo passado (o que não foi feito, o que deu errado ou o que fizeram conosco). Agimos como vítimas e sempre estamos sofrendo por algo. Por isso precisamos atacar. Quem está em cima ataca quem está embaixo e quem está embaixo ataca quem está em cima.

Mas o que importa para o desenvolvimento pleno do ser humano e da humanidade não é que nossos filhos escalem a pirâmide social, se tornem pessoas ricas habitando o topo da pirâmide e mantenham as pessoas que estão embaixo afastadas das suas posições. O importante é que eles se libertem dessa pirâmide e das “regras naturais” contidas na sua estrutura.

Abaixo, fica o convite para reflexão sobre 12 sinais de que você está criando seu filho para ser escravo:

12 sinais de que você está criando seu filho para ser escravo

Você matriculou seu filho em uma escola que o prepara para o mercado de trabalho

Ou uma que vai do maternal ao vestibular. Não importa. Se o seu filho está matriculado em uma escola que o prepara para o mercado de trabalho, você está preparando o seu filho para o passado e não para o futuro, para o mundo que vai existir daqui a 20 anos quando ele sair da escola. Você está preparando seu filho para se encaixar no mundo e não para criar um mundo para ele.

Você leva seu filho no shopping para passear

Shopping não é para passear. Shopping é para comprar ou então se distrair para comprar ainda mais. O objetivo do shopping é vender mais e por isso é tão importante para seus proprietários agregar serviços como praças de alimentação e espaço para as crianças com brinquedos eletrônicos e pequenos parques dentro dos seus estabelecimentos. Quanto mais próximas dos shoppings as crianças estiverem, melhor retorno financeiro o shopping terá no longo prazo. O impacto deste mau hábito pode levar seu filho a sempre querer consumir para se manter feliz.

Você permite que ele tenha mais coisas que o necessário

Presentes são as distrações do presente. Com milhares de roupas, tênis e brinquedos seu filho começa a perceber que fica feliz sempre que recebe alguma coisa nova e molda a sua cultura para isso. Desta forma, quando ele ficar triste novamente e não enxergar nada de novo à sua volta, acreditará que está com esse mau humor porque não tem nada novo para se distrair. Desde cedo eduque seu filho a compreender que ele não depende de coisas para ser mais feliz. No dia que seu filho fracassar e não tiver coisa alguma, se sentirá ainda mais infeliz por não tê-las e levará ainda mais tempo para retomar seu rumo.

Você acredita que ajuda seu filho quando executa tarefas simples pra ele

Dar comida na boca, amarrar o sapato, abotoar a camisa, dar banho, entre outras tarefas simples são coisas que os pais estão fazendo por mais tempo pelos seus filhos. Quando eles crescerem e estiverem adultos o mundo cobrará deles independência e disposição para realizar tarefas fora de suas zonas de conforto se eles quiserem se libertar. Tendo sido criado em uma redoma seu filho terá que lutar ainda mais para conquistar as coisas que deseja.

Você ensina seu filho a valorizar as coisas pelas marcas que elas carregam

Não basta comprar um caderno, precisa ser um caderno de uma determinada marca ou com um determinado motivo daquele desenho animado ou daquele filme que ele tanto adora. Não seja tolo. Você está agindo justamente da forma que o dono da marca daquele filme quer que você aja. Que tal explicar para o seu filho que o caderno sem marca nenhuma tem a mesma utilidade que o caderno com marca e que ele pode ser até melhor em qualidade que o outro. Ensine-o a valorizar as coisas pelo real valor delas e não pela marca que a coisa carrega. O significado de sucesso não é medido pela capacidade de adquirir acessórios das marcas mais caras como se fossem badges da vida real.

Você não ensina seu filho a receber doações

Conheço pais que não admitem que seus filhos recebam uma peça de roupa ou um tênis de uma outra criança só porque aquilo que era recebido já tinha sido usado. Não existe coisa mais digna e natural do que aprender a receber. Isso, inclusive é até mais importante que aprender a dar porque para receber você precisa ser humilde e nobre. Ensine-o a receber doações e ele se tornará livre por acreditar que o mundo dá as coisas para ele ao invés de visualizar um mundo cheio de perigos e apuros onde todos só pensam em tirar-lhe as coisas.

Você faz da alimentação por frutas e legumes algo pontual

O natural para o ser humano é comer frutas, legumes e verduras, enquanto refrigerantes, doces e outras guloseimas não é natural. Estes últimos “alimentos” é que devem ser apresentados ao seu filho como um evento pontual. Não há problema comer doces, biscoitos e bolos uma vez ou outra se o hábito da criança for comer coisas saudáveis, mas fazer da alimentação saudável algo esporádico é transformar o próprio filho em colecionador de problemas de saúde no futuro.

Você o deixa ver televisão

Assista televisão com o seu filho durante uma hora e notará nas entrelinhas uma série de comerciais educando-o a permanecer escravo do sistema. Enquanto mulheres feministas brigam pelos seus direitos nas ruas, um comercial de um brinquedo infantil, treina meninas para o consumo vendendo uma caixa registradora que aceita cartão de crédito de brinquedo onde sua filha pode fazer compras à vontade na lojinha da amiga. Desligue a televisão e veja o seu filho libertar a imaginação com amigos imaginários, pistas de corrida feitas com caixas de papelão ou simplesmente cantando a esmo dentro de casa.

Você não educa seu filho com uma medicina preventiva

Medicina preventiva é alimentação somada ao conhecimento do próprio corpo. Além de receberem alimentos ruins para o corpo, os pais não incentivam seus filhos a conhecerem suas dores e seus próprios males, curando toda e qualquer perturbação com algum medicamento invasivo que inibe o sintoma, mas não acaba com o problema. O autoconhecimento começa pelo conhecimento do nosso próprio corpo.

Você incentiva que seu filho tenha ídolos

Ter ídolos nos escraviza tanto quanto ter algozes. Tendo ídolos, seu filho começa a competir com outras crianças para medir se aquilo que idolatra é melhor ou pior que aquilo que os outros idolatram, seja uma personalidade, um atleta, um time de futebol, um músico, etc. Ele coloca todas as suas expectativas naquela pessoa, saindo de si para querer se tornar o outro o que normalmente termina em uma grande frustração quando ele verifica que o outro possuía as mesmas idiossincrasias que ele.

Você ensina as suas crenças para ele

Religião, trabalho, riqueza, modo de vida, enfim, você deposita no seu filho toda a sorte de crenças e medos cultivadas em você tirando a capacidade dele mesmo refletir sobre o que serve e o que não serve para ele. Você não ensina filosofia para ele e não o faz questionar e observar que talvez você e ele estejam errados a respeito das suas certezas. Que existem outras religiões diferentes da sua no mundo, assim como outros tipos de trabalho, outras formas de gerar riqueza e também outras maneiras de viver. Esclareça para o seu filho que a forma como você vive e a maneira como você pensa é a sua maneira, mas não a mais correta. Não ate-o a amarras que o deixem presos em qualquer área da vida. Leve-o a sua religião, ensine-o sobre ela, mostre a forma como você trabalha e a sua maneira de gerar riqueza. Traduza tudo isso e o seu modo de vida como apenas mais um modo de se viver, mas fortaleça-o para que ele faça a sua própria busca, deixando claro que irá lhe abraçar no caminho de volta pra casa.

Você não coloca em prática o que ensina para ele

E o principal e mais violento sinal de que você está criando o seu filho para ser escravo acontece quando você demonstra para ele que não se esforça para se libertar colocando em prática aquilo que ensina para ele.

  • Você continua indo ao shopping para passear.
  • Você continua vendo televisão.
  • Você continua torcendo para o seu time do coração com fanatismo.
  • Você cultua marcas, nomes e famosos.
  • Você se coloca como vítima da vida.

Você pode ter errado em tudo, mas não pode se dar o direito de errar em não assumir os próprios erros para acertar. Temos que ensinar esta nobreza para os nossos filhos se quisermos que eles se libertem desta pirâmide social na qual a maior parte da sociedade está inserida para viver a sua própria vida da maneira que ele acredita ser a ideal.

Entendo que alguns sinais colocados aqui afetam estruturalmente as suas crenças, mas te convido a fazer um exame em cada uma delas para verificar porque elas realmente existem em você e como elas podem estar moldando a vida que você tem hoje. Se você está preso, liberte-se e leve seus filhos junto, pois se todos os pais fizerem isso, libertaremos o mundo.

Por Marcos Rezende

Fonte indicada: Insistimento

(Recomendo a visita ao artigo de origem para a observação dos mais de 500 comentários gerados pelo texto além, é claro, do conhecimento de outros artigos do autor)

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26 Nov 12:23

Vidente volta atrás e diz que avião não vai cair na Paulista

Rubens Cavallari/Folhapress
Condomínio que, segundo vidente, seria atingido por avião no dia 26 de novembro
Condomínio que, segundo vidente, seria atingido por avião no dia 26 de novembro

Após provocar medo com a previsão de que um avião cairia nesta quarta-feira (26) em um prédio entre a avenida Paulista e a alameda Campinas, na região central da capital paulista, o vidente Jucelino Nóbrega Luz, 54, voltou atrás e disse nesta terça (25) que não há mais risco de a tragédia acontecer.

Luz afirma que a premonição sempre foi verdadeira. "Só mudou porque a companhia aérea trocou o avião, que cairia por problemas na turbina. A empresa ligou para mim na segunda-feira (24) para avisar a troca", afirmou.

A TAM, empresa apontada nas supostas previsões do vidente, não confirmou a informação. Na semana passada, a companhia aérea havia alterado o número do voo.

O prédio que seria atingido, o edifício Bonfiglioli, fica no número 1.048 da Paulista. "Estou assustado com a repercussão que isso gerou, só fiz o comunicado porque sou responsável pelo prédio, não queria alarmar ninguém", disse o vidente.

Luz diz que agora as pessoas poderão trabalhar com tranquilidade. Ele diz estar feliz pelo desfecho da história. "Não me considero responsável por salvar a vida dessas centenas de pessoas, foi Deus quem salvou. Sem ele eu não teria o sonho."

Luz afirma que, em 2005, sonhou com a imagem do avião chocando-se contra o prédio. Desde então, diz, alertava a companhia aérea.

DOCUMENTO

No mesmo ano, segundo o vidente, foi feito um registro do sonho em cartório. O documento, divulgado por ele em seu site, possui selo de reconhecimento de firma e autenticação de cópia.

De acordo com o presidente do IRTDPJ-SP (Instituto de Registro de Títulos e Documentos e de Pessoas Jurídicas do Estado de São Paulo), Robson Alvarenga, o registro do vidente pode ser falso.

"Ao fazer o registro no tabelião, a pessoa pode colocar somente o cabeçalho e a assinatura em uma folha, que recebe o reconhecimento de firma. Depois, pode colocar qualquer informação na folha, sem registrar novamente", afirma Alvarenga.

25 Nov 17:45

http://exame.abril.com.br/marketing/noticias/conar-investiga-diletto-e-suco-do-bem

Albener Pessoa

*atualizado em 25/11, às 13h

São Paulo - O Conar (Conselho Nacional de Autorregulamentação Publicitária) está investigando as empresas Diletto (sorvetes) e Do Bem (do Suco do Bem).

Os processos, abertos no dia 3 de novembro, investigam as histórias contadas sobre as marcas, criadas por elas próprias - o chamado "storytelling".

Eles citam a reportagem publicada na revista Exame "Toda empresa quer ter uma boa história. Algumas são mentira", da jornalista Ana Luiza Leal.

Os consumidores reclamam que há informações nas embalagens e em peças publicitárias que não são verdadeiras.

A Diletto diz, por exemplo, que os picolés da marca nasceram com Vittorio Scabin, avô do fundador da marca. Dizem que ele fabricava sorvetes na Itália e veio para o Brasil fugindo da Segunda Guerra Mundial.

Mas, como a reportagem de Exame mostra, o tal Nonno Vittorio nunca existiu. “Reconheço que posso ter ido longe demais na história", disse Leandro Scabin, fundador da empresa.

Essa técnica de criar ou divulgar histórias envolvendo a empresa e a marca é conhecida como "storytelling". As narrativas criam tons humanizados para as marcas, comovem consumidores, promovem valores - assim, elas se destacam no mercado entre tantos concorrentes.

A Do Bem também está sendo investigada por suas histórias. A empresa diz que as laranjas são fresquinhas e vêm, por exemplo, da fazenda do senhor Francesco, do interior de São Paulo. Muitos consumidores se identificam com o lado "orgânico" e "familiar" da marca. "Eco-friendly".

Exame mostra, contudo, que gigantes como Brasil Citrus fornecem as laranjas para a Do Bem - e também para várias outras empresas do ramo.

Os consumidores, nesse caso, reclamam que a propaganda é enganosa, porque parece que pequenos agricultores estão sendo diretamente beneficiados pela Do Bem.

Diletto e Do Bem serão notificadas e terão dez dias para encaminhar suas defesas, que devem ser julgadas na reunião de 11 de dezembro.

Caso o resultado seja positivo para o consumidor, ambas serão notificadas com "recomendações", para se adequarem. Por exemplo, mudança na embalagem e nas ações de marketing.

Mas o Conar não tem poder judicial. As empresas seguem o conselho por estarem associadas à instituição, que promove a autorregulamentação do mercado.

A Diletto se defendeu em uma nota oficial, dizendo que divulga uma história "lúdica" para transmitir os valores da empresa.

A Do Bem diz que os agricultores que fazem parte da comunicação da Suco do Bem de fato existem e são colaboradores atuais. Mas, pelo crescimento nos últimos anos, outros fornecedores foram incorporados.

25 Nov 17:42

Artista mostra personagens de desenhos agredidas | Mundo

Albener Pessoa

Precisa clicar para ver as imagens

Branca de Neve, Cinderela, Marge Simpson e Olívia Palito, além de outras famosas dos desenhos animados, com narizes e bocas sangrando, olhos roxos e um olhar muito infeliz. Carimbadas com a palavra coward (“covarde”, em inglês), elas têm nas mãos imagens de quem as agrediu: seus companheiros nas histórias de fantasia infantil.

Esse foi o jeito que o artista italiano Alexsandro Palombo, conhecido pelas versões adultas e provocadoras de personagens das animações, encontrou para denunciar a violência sofrida por milhares de mulheres diariamente. Em seu blog, o "Humor Chic", ele também já mostrou como seriam as princesas da Disney com deficiências físicas e após uma mastectomia.

“Desvirtuar as clássicas personagens dos cartoons é uma característica típica do meu trabalho, os transformo para contar histórias que dizem respeito a realidades da nossa sociedade. Desde sempre me ocupo de temáticas sociais importantes”, explicou o artista em entrevista ao Portal da Band.

A série de desenhos, iniciada em março deste ano pelo italiano, está alinhada com o alerta do Dia Internacional para a Eliminação da Violência contra a Mulher, que é celebrado nesta terça-feira (25). Segundo a ONU, que criou a data, uma em cada três mulheres no mundo já foi alvo de violência física ou psicológica, na maior parte das vezes cometida pelos seus parceiros. Das vítimas de feminicídio, metade foi morta por seus companheiros ou familiares.

Palombo está ciente dos números assustadores e cita que uma mulher é morta na Itália a cada dois dias – segundo dados de 2013 do Ipea, no Brasil são 15 assassinadas a cada 24h. “É um mal social inaceitável, me envergonho como homem do comportamento daqueles que usam de violência contra as mulheres, eles não são homens, mas seres desprezíveis”, afirma o desenhista. “Cabe aos homens verdadeiros perseguir e combater estes covardes.”

O artista não se preocupa que os pequenos possam ficar chocados ao verem as personagens desfiguradas pela violência. “Acho terrível imaginar o que veem as crianças na família, porque é muito mais forte e cruel da que as minhas obras mostram. Em muitos casos, quando um homem mata a própria companheira, faz isso em casa e frequentemente na frente dos próprios filhos", justifica Palombo, que ressalta a necessidade de que os pais ensinem os meninos a respeitatem as meninas desde cedo. "Desse modo, existiriam mais homens de verdade", argumenta.

Questionado sobre qual é sua personagem nascida no mundo dos cartoons preferida, ele não tem dúvidas. "Com certeza Marge Simpson, porque representa perfeitamente todas as mulheres. Em cada mulher existe uma Marge Simpson."

21 Nov 13:26

Resenha – E Se?

by Igor Santos

“É provável que bifes sobrevivam ao romper a barreira do som. Se o bife estivesse só parcialmente congelado, ele iria se estilhaçar muito fácil. Contudo, se ele aterrissar na água, na lama ou em folhas, talvez fique ok.[1]

Plasma incandescente, petabits por segundo, gotas de chuva de um quilômetro de diâmetro, escala Richter negativa, cozimento gravitacional, quantos mortos existem no Facebook, o sinal UAU! e um secador de cabelos indestrutível. Este livro é, sem sombra de dúvidas, o meu filão.

Sem se manter numa mesma linha de raciocínio por mais de dois parágrafos, Randall Munroe, autor do sempre (estatisticamente) excelente XKCD, responde perguntas hipotéticas (e algumas aparentemente nem tanto) de seus leitores com um rigor científico encontrado apenas nas mais bem conceituadas instituições de publicação de webcomics. Afinal, apesar de ser roboticista, Randall é um cartunista humorista (ou “roboticisto”, “cartunisto” e “humoristo”, como o jornalisto Jô Soares acredita ser correto).

Foto do autor

Foto do autor

Um dos melhores capítulos é o que fala sobre o que aconteceria com a órbita terrestre se todas as pessoas se juntassem num mesmo lugar e pulassem ao mesmo tempo. E não digo isso porque o Scienceblogs é citado (é a matriz, afinal, mas está valendo) mas pela reviravolta épica que me pegou de surpresa. Pensamento lateral daqueles que caem para fora da página. E ainda me lembrou um texto épico meu.

Um livro extremamente divertido, fácil de ler (para mim foram três ou quatro horas de pura empolgação) e de acompanhar (as contas mais pesadas ele guarda para si e não “mostra o trabalho”, só dá a resposta). Divulgação científica de primeira com inúmeras piadinhas discretas espalhadas por todo lugar (incluindo no verso da folha de rosto que, quando trabalhei num jornal, chamavam de “serviço”) que certamente causarão gargalhadas em quem as encontrar dentre as 300 e poucas paginas.

Eu achei muito erro de tradução[2] e até alguns de gramática (e uns mistos, como muito uso de vírgula que sobrou do original mesmo não existindo em português). Mas não acho que a maioria das pessoas realize ou se incomode, com essas coisas.

e se

A minha cópia é da primeira edição e tem uma diagramação esquisita no inicio, onde um mapa com os oceanos do mundo esvaziados ficou praticamente sem África e Europa, que se perderam dentro da lombada. Mas, como sou gente boa, eis aqui o desenho original.

Em E Se?, lançado aqui pela Companhia das Letras, você também vai descobrir uma nova solução para a máxima do copo meio vazio, quanto custaria morrer num quebra-molas e, com a ajuda de girafas empilhadas, como uma criança de cinco anos pode destruir a lógica de um físico e a força de um arremessador profissional.

Minha cópia me foi enviada pela editora, mas é o tipo de livro que eu compraria sem hesitar. Recomendo fortemente para você que lê o 42. e não volta para casa com confusão mental. E, se você é fã do XKCD, nem sei porquê está lendo isto.

Ah, e para quem estiver lendo isto a tempo e precisar saber até sexta-feira:

Participe do Hangout com Randall Munroe, autor de "E se?" e criador do xkcd, dia 25/11 às 18h http://t.co/r07S8UH0YE pic.twitter.com/JzPaa3EoSk

— Companhia das Letras (@cialetras) November 18, 2014

Sweet.

———

[1] Intacto, no caso. Não ok para comer.

[2] Porém, preciso parabenizar o tradutor que teve a ideia de traduzir “flyover state” para “estado janelinha”. A melhor manobra tradução que vi desde que “blaster” virou “explosor” nos anos 70.

25 Nov 02:02

Projeto prevê o fim das ligações por números não identificados

  • Brasil

  • Telecomunicações

  • Telefone

  • Telefonia

A Comissão de Ciência, Tecnologia, Inovação, Comunicação e Informática (CCT) do Senado tem reunião marcada para as 9h de terça-feira, 25. Entre outras propostas, o colegiado pode votar projeto que torna obrigatória e gratuita a identificação do código de acesso originador das chamadas telefônicas.

O objetivo é evitar a prática de crimes por meio das redes de telefonia e coibir abusos nas práticas dos serviços de telemarketing e de cobranças. De acordo com a Agência Nacional de Telecomunicações (Anatel), o código de acesso é o conjunto de números que permite a identificação de assinante, de terminal de uso público ou de serviço a ele vinculado.

PLS 433/2013, apresentado pelo senador Vital do Rêgo (PMDB-PB), estabelece que as prestadoras de serviços de telefonia fixa ou móvel oferecerão aos usuários, sem custo adicional, o serviço de identificação do código de acesso originador da chamada. Também proíbe a oferta de serviços ou equipamentos que impossibilitem ou obstruam a identificação dos códigos de acesso telefônico pelos usuários.

Mais projetos 

Outro projeto que pode ser votado pelos senadores é o PLS 54/2014, que permite a dedução de valores investidos nas chamadas start-ups - empresas inovadoras, com alto potencial de crescimento e geralmente criadas por jovens  - da base de cálculo do Imposto de Renda das Pessoas Físicas. A ideia do senador José Agripino (DEM-RN) é ampliar as possibilidades de investimentos nas start-ups , para aumentar sua competitividade e chance de sucesso.

A CCT examina ainda o substitutivo ao PLS 18/2012, do senador Ciro Nogueira (PP-PI), que impõe nova regra à oferta de descontos nas tarifas e preços dos serviços de telecomunicações, como telefonia, banda larga e TV por assinatura. Conforme o projeto, os usuários beneficiados com descontos deverão ser informados sobre o término do incentivo com antecedência mínima de 30 dias.

Na pauta do colegiado, constam ainda 63 projetos de decreto legislativo (PDL) com outorgas ou renovação de outorgas a serviços de radiodifusão em várias cidades do país. A reunião da CCT ocorrerá na sala 7, da Ala Alexandre Costa.

Via: Agência Senado 

23 Nov 07:13

Claims about cetaceans (speculative)

by Tyler Cowen

…cetacean brain size, relative to body size, increased substantially about thirty-eight mill years ago when the odontocetes evolved from the ancient archaeocetes…

What drove these changes? It does not seem to have been the transition to an aquatic existence itself as that occurred about fifty-five million years ago and brains stayed at roughly the same relatively small size relative to body weigt as the archaeocetes made their gradual entry into the ocean.  A better hypothesis is that the increased brain size of the odontocetes thirty-eight million years ago was driven by the evolution of echolocation.  The early odontocetes had inner ear bones that were good at picking up high frequency sound, which suggests that they had developed a form of sonar.  Lori Marino thinks “that echolocation came on line and then got co-opted for social communicative purposes.”  In this scenario, the odontocete brains increased in relative size to deal with the acoustic information itself, as well as, perhaps, a new perceptual system based on the data from the returning echoes.  But…the change may have been even more profound: “This may indicate that the large brains of early odontocetes were used, at least partly, for processing this entirely new sensory mode [echolocation] that evolved at the same time as these anatomical changes and perhaps for integrating this new mode into an increasingly complex behavioral ecological system.”

That is from the new and notable The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins, by Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell, previously covered on MR here.  And here is my earlier post on the economics of dolphins.

24 Nov 17:13

Religious identity and economic behavior

by Tyler Cowen

While cruising the internet I ran into this recent working paper (pdf) by Daniel Benjamin, James J. Choi, and Geoffrey Fisher:

We randomly vary religious identity salience in laboratory subjects to test how identity effects contribute to the impact of religion on economic behavior. We find that religious identity salience causes Protestants to increase contributions to public goods. Catholics decrease contributions to public goods, expect others to contribute less to public goods, and become less risk averse. Jews more strongly reciprocate as an employee in a bilateral labor market gift-exchange game. Atheists and agnostics become less risk averse. We find no evidence of religious identity-salience effects on disutility of work effort, discount rates, or generosity in a dictator game.

In the recent hullaballoo, it has been forgotten that perhaps the best paper on whether religion is good for you was written by Jonathan Gruber.

24 Nov 21:24

Does crime increase on game day? (football)

by Tyler Cowen

David E. Kalist and Daniel Y. Lee report:

This article investigates the effects of National Football League (NFL) games on crime. Using a panel data set that includes daily crime incidences in eight large cities with NFL teams, we examine how various measurements of criminal activities change on game day compared with nongame days. Our findings from both ordinary least squares and negative binomial regressions indicate that NFL home games are associated with a 2.6% increase in total crimes, while financially motivated crimes such as larceny and motor vehicle theft increase by 4.1% and 6.7%, respectively, on game days. However, we observe that play-off games are associated with a decrease in financially motivated crimes. The effects of game time (afternoon vs. evening) and upset wins and losses on crime are also considered.

Is it that a game works up everyone’s excitement, but the playoff games the criminals actually watch?  That is via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

18 Nov 17:19

Cats recognise their owners' voices but never evolved to care, says study

A new study from the University of Japan has confirmed this, showing that although pet cats are more than capable of recognising their owner’s voice they choose to ignore them - for reasons that are perhaps rooted in the evolutionary history of the animal.

Carried out by Atsuko Saito and Kazutaka Shinozuka, the study tested twenty housecats in their own homes; waiting until the owner was out of sight and then playing them recordings of three strangers calling their names, followed by their owner, followed by another stranger.

The researchers then analysed the cats’ responses to each call by measuring a number of factors including ear, tail and head movement, vocalization, eye dilation and ‘displacement’ – shifting their paws to move.

When hearing their names’ being called the cats displayed “orientating behaviour” (moving their heads and ears about to locate where the sound was coming from) and although they showed a greater response to their owner’s voices than strangers’, they declined to move when called by any of the volunteers.

“These results indicate that cats do not actively respond with communicative behavior to owners who are calling them from out of sight, even though they can distinguish their owners’ voices,” write Saito and Shinozuka. “This cat–owner relationship is in contrast to that with dogs.”

The study, published by Springer in the Animal Cognition journal, suggests that the reason for cats’ unresponsive behaviour might be traced back to the early domestication of the species, contrasting this with the relationship of humans to dogs.

Recent genetic analysis has revealed that the common ancestor of the modern housecat was Felis silvestris, a species of wildcat that first came into contact with humans around 9,000 years ago. As early societies developed agriculture, these cats moved in to prey on the rodents that were attracted to stores of grain. In the words of the paper’s authors, they effectively “domesticated themselves”.

“Historically speaking, cats, unlike dogs, have not been domesticated to obey humans’ orders. Rather, they seem to take the initiative in human–cat interaction.” This is in contrast to the history of dogs and humans, where the former has been bred over thousands of years to respond to orders and commands. Cats, it seems, never needed to learn.

It’s unlikely, however that this will dismay cat owners (or indeed, be of any surprise) and the paper notes that although “dogs are perceived by their owners as being more affectionate than cats […] dog owners and cat owners do not differ significantly in their reported attachment level to their pets”.

The study concludes by observing that “the behavioural aspect of cats that cause their owners to become attached to them are still undetermined.”

Bookmarked at brandizzi Delicious' sharing tag and expanded by Delicious sharing tag expander.
20 Nov 06:06

"Just get in the car, Alice. I’ll explain on the way." #9gag



"Just get in the car, Alice. I’ll explain on the way." #9gag

20 Nov 13:33

That’s what real friends do 😉 #9gag



That’s what real friends do 😉 #9gag

23 Nov 07:56

It’s so true that I cried 😭 #9gag



It’s so true that I cried 😭 #9gag

23 Nov 11:05

Yep that’s me. #9gag



Yep that’s me. #9gag

19 Nov 10:17

Pedreiro aparece no dia marcado e dona-de-casa foge assustada

by @sensacionalista

Amélia Bittecourt, 41 anos, tomava seu café normalmente na última terça-feira quando a campainha tocou. Apesar de ela ter marcado com o pedreiro Zé que ele chegaria 8h para iniciar as obras no banheiro, ela não estava esperando ninguém. Abriu a porta curiosa. E deu de cara com o pedreiro Zé. Apavorada, Amélia deixou a xícara de café cair no chão, sujando toda sua cozinha, e saiu correndo. Trancou-se no quarto e só saiu dali depois de acionar o centro espírita que costuma frequentar e convocar dois médiuns para ir a sua casa. Uma vez havendo a comprovação de que se tratava de Zé, em carne-e-osso, ela saiu do quarto e deu um pito no pedreiro. “Isso não é coisa que se faça!”, disse.

Depois da bronca e do dia perdido, ela remarcou com Zé para a semana seguinte. Mas ele não apareceu. Amélia pôde tomar seu café descansada.

19 Nov 12:11

Os 10 casais mais estranhos do mundo animal

by @sensacionalista

O assunto foca mais pinguins deixou a internet em polvorosa. Selecionamos dez casais pouco convencionais do reino animal. As cenas são fortes! Coisas que você não costuma ver no escurinho da pet shop.

Captura de Tela 2014-11-19 às 10.01.40

thumb_Animal Sex (Dog & Racoon)

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dog-humping-duck

dog-humping-cat

Dog-humping-a-pig

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21 Nov 19:18

“Imprimir documentos pessoais na impressora do trabalho não é pecado”, diz Papa Francisco

by Sensacionalista

Papa Francisco está mesmo revolucionando o Vaticano. Sua última declaração deixou os bispos mais conservadores da Igreja Católica de cabelo em pé. Segundo Francisco, é normal que os mais ricos compartilhem com os mais pobres, sendo assim, não há pecado em imprimir documentos pessoais na impressora do trabalho, ele mesmo sempre usa a impressora do Vaticano para imprimir o trabalho dos seus filhos.

O empresariado disse que é um absurdo a declaração, pois isto se trata de um roubo e roubo é pecado. Silas Malafaia se manifestou no seu twitter e disse que o papa está certo, desde que os documentos impressos sejam para a igreja, como as aulas da escola dominical, papéis de evangelização e letra de louvor. Já os funcionários da igreja não podem fazer isso, pois lá, o papel e a tinta não são do pastor, são de Deus.

Por @Cacofonias

23 Nov 14:22

7 Ways Data Currently Being Collected About You Could Hurt Your Career or Personal Life

Your data is telling a story about you. Maybe the story's a good one: you vote at every election, you pay your bills on time, you do your job well and get to work on time each day. But there are now so many data brokers -- buyers and sellers of data -- that databases may be defaming you without you even knowing it. Consider the following examples:

1) You could get classified as a meth dealer
ChoicePoint is a data broker that maintains files on nearly all Americans. It mistakenly reported a criminal charge of "intent to sell and manufacture methamphetamines" in an Arkansas resident's file. ChoicePoint corrected the information when notified about the error, but other companies that had bought Taylor's file from ChoicePoint did not automatically follow suit. The free-floating lie ensured rapid rejection of her job applications, and she could not even obtain credit to buy a dishwasher. Some companies corrected their reports in a timely manner, but Taylor had to nag others repeatedly and even took one to court.

She found the effort to correct all the meth conviction entries overwhelming. "I can't be the watchdog all the time," she told the Washington Post. It took her four years to find a job, even after the error was uncovered, and she was still rejected for an apartment. Taylor ended up living in her sister's house and says the stress of the wrongful accusation exacerbated her heart problems. As Elizabeth DeArmond has observed, the "power of mismatched information . . . to disrupt or even paralyze the lives of individuals has grown dramatically." For every Catherine Taylor -- who became aware of the data defaming her -- there may be thousands of other victims entirely unaware of dubious scarlet letters besmirching their digital dossiers.

2) Buy cable "plus package," get classified as plus-sized
Health status can be attributed (if not definitively discovered) with reference to records from far outside the medical system. If you're a childless man who shops for clothing online, spends a lot on cable TV and drives a minivan, we know certain data brokers are going to assume you are overweight. Recruiters for obesity drug trials will happily pay for that analysis, and that could lead to some good health outcomes for the people they reach. But how far might the data go?

3) Watch out for that coffee cup!
The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues issued a report in 2012 that brought up some of the novel threat scenarios involved in probabilistic analyses of genomic information:

In many states, someone could legally pick up a discarded coffee cup and send a saliva sample to a commercial sequencing entity in an attempt to discover an individual's predisposition to neurodegenerative disease. That information might then be misused, for example, by a contentious spouse as evidence of unfitness to parent in a child custody case. Or the information might be publicized by a malicious stranger or acquaintance without the individual's knowledge or consent in a social networking space, which could adversely affect that individual's chance of finding a spouse, achieving standing in a community or pursuing a desired career path.

Even more bizarrely, malicious gossips may claim First Amendment protection for spreading such information. As long as it's true, there's very little you can do to stop them.

The coffee cup example may seem speculative. But translated to the digital world, it's a business model for many big companies. As Anil Dash has observed:

Someone could make off with all your garbage that's put out on the street, and carefully record how many used condoms, pregnancy tests or discarded pill bottles are in the trash, and then post that information up on the web along with your name and your address. There's probably no law against it in your area. Trash on the curb is public. . . . [Online,] the business models of some of the most powerful forces in society are increasingly dependent on our complicity in making our conversations, our creations and our communities public whenever they can exploit them.

We now need to consider whether the types of social norms that keep companies from picking up trash bags and analyzing their contents should also apply to our online lives. The "digital exhaust" from internet use might be just as embarrassing and largely irrelevant to society as the refuse in our waste baskets. And just as no one should be forced to move to a building with an incinerator to keep their trash private, so too might we want to live in a world where there's no pressure to keep up with the latest in encryption technology to keep one's secrets.

4) A depressing use of pharmacy data
Companies are not shy about using and distributing certain information. For those in the individual insurance market, the risk of runaway health data has already been realized. Patients who purchased antidepressants were later denied insurance repeatedly, thanks to a dossier sold to insurers.

Consider, for instance, the plight of a Louisiana couple who sought insurance while in their fifties. Paula had taken an antidepressant as a sleep aid and occasionally used a blood pressure medication to relieve some swelling in her ankles. Humana, a large insurer based in Kentucky, refused to insure the couple based on that prescription history. They were not able to find insurance from other carriers, either. No one had explained to them that a few prescriptions could render them uninsurable. Indeed, the model for blackballing them may still have been a gleam in an entrepreneur's eye when Mrs. Shelton obtained her drugs. The Affordable Care Act makes things better now, since health insurers cannot deny coverage for preexisting conditions. But who knows who else is using such data?

5) Get tracked by many different sources
One thing is becoming clear with data brokers: it is almost impossible to keep track of where they're getting their data. Consider all the sources that could collect "health-inflected" information, such as bills for pills or GPS records of an emergency room visit:

2014-11-06-ScreenShot20141105at4.19.57PM.png

And how far data brokers could go to combine and recombine those sources:

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Images Credit: Federal Trade Commission

Keeping track of all these uses of data is nearly impossible -- it could turn into a full time job.

6) Opportunity -- and peril -- on new social networks

Social networks can now be organized around personal health records. One is PatientsLikeMe, which provides novel and powerful opportunities to address health issues and to form communities, but also opens the door to other data uses. While addressing frequently asked questions, PatientsLikeMe has stated that "you should expect that every piece of information you submit (even if it is not currently displayed) may be shared with our partners and any member of PatientsLikeMe."
While the company might be relied on to vet partners, its customers may have no idea about how easily information can spread. The Wall Street Journal reported that "Nielsen Co., [a] media-research firm . . . was 'scraping,' or copying, every single message off PatientsLikeMe's private online forums." Health attributes connected to usernames (which, in turn, can often be linked to real identities) could have spread into numerous databases. Many are not required to report to any entity on either the origin or destination of their data.

7) Perplexing personality tests
In an era of persistently high unemployment, even low-wage cashier and stocking jobs are fiercely competitive. Firms use tests from companies like Kronos, Inc. to determine who would be a good fit for a given job. You may be penalized for only agreeing "strongly" rather than "totally" in response to this statement: "All rules must be followed to the letter at all times." Consider how you might respond to statements like these, given four possible multiple-choice responses: "strongly disagree, disagree, agree and strongly agree:"

• You would like a job that is quiet and predictable
• Other people's feelings are their own business
• Realistically, some of your projects will never be finished
• You feel nervous when there are demands you can't meet
• It bothers you when something unexpected disrupts your day
• In school, you were one of the best students
• In your free time, you go out more than stay home

What is the right response for a would-be clerk, manager or barista confronted with these statements, which come from recent tests? It's not readily apparent. Moreover, the tests' authors refuse to release the "right answers," and who knows if they could. Companies like CVS and Circuit City may want different attitudes from different staff. Despite its indeterminacy, the test has important consequences for job seekers. Test takers with a "green score" have a decent shot at full interviews; those in the "red" or "yellow" zone are most likely shut out.

A glimmer of hope...

Although the new data landscape is scary, it makes sense to use some existing ways of protecting yourself. For example, under HIPAA, you can at least demand to see your medical records. You even have the right to see whom your health providers disclosed them to. Similarly, with FCRA, you can try to assure that your credit records are accurate. And you can order copies of your credit report from annualcreditreport.com. You can find out where other files about you are kept by consulting this site, maintained by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

But even in these areas, it pays to be careful! For example, after federal law required credit bureaus to release a free copy of credit histories to consumers annually, credit bureaus created a number of websites with names like "freecreditreport.com" which ultimately charged for the report, or only released it when the requestor bought other services. Forced to establish the site www.annualcreditreport.com to release credit histories, the bureaus "blocked web links from reputable consumer sites such as Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and Consumers Union, and from mainstream news web sites," according to one complaint. Enforcers at the Federal Trade Commission had to intervene, and sued when bureaus made their call centers difficult to reach. Even when data is regulated, it pays to be very careful in how you access it.

Unfortunately, most data isn't covered by FCRA or HIPAA. So we're going to need new laws to help rein in the worst abuses of the new data landscape. Data brokers need to document where they get their data from, and to whom they sell it. We deserve the right to access all files kept on us and the right to correct them. Until that happens, the brave new world of runaway data will continue to threaten our reputations, opportunities and livelihoods.

23 Nov 13:47

100 African Cities Destroyed By Europeans: WHY there are seldom historical buildings and monuments in sub-Saharian Africa!

When tourists visit sub-Saharan Africa, they often wonder “Why there are no historical buildings or monuments?”

The reason is simple. Europeans have destroyed most of them. We have only left drawings and descriptions by travelers who have visited the places before the destructions. In some places, ruins are still visible. Many cities have been abandoned into ruin when Europeans brought exotic diseases (smallpox and influenza) which started spreading and killing people. The ruins of those cities are still hidden. In fact the biggest part of Africa history is still under the ground.

In this post, I’ll share pieces of informations about Africa before the arrival of Europeans, the destroyed cities and lessons we could learn as africans for the future.

The collection of facts regarding the state of african cities before their destruction is done by Robin Walker, a distinguished panafricanist and historian who has written the book ‘When We Ruled’, and by PD Lawton, another great panafricanist, who has an upcoming book titled “The Invisible Empire”.

All quotes and excerpts below are from the books of Robin Walker and PD Lawton. I highly recommend you to buy Walker’s book ‘When We Ruled’ to get a full account of the beauty of the continent before its destruction. You can get more info about PD Lawton work by visiting her blog: AfricanAgenda.net

Robin Walter and PD Lawton have quoted quite heavily another great panafricanist Walter Rodney who wrote the book ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa‘. Additional information came from YouTube channel ‘dogons2k12 : African Historical Ruins’, and Ta Neter Foundation work.

Many drawings are from the book African Cities and Towns Before the European Conquest by Richard W. Hull, published in 1976. That book alone dispels the stereotypical view of Africans living in simple, primitive, look-alike agglomerations, scattered without any appreciation for planning and design.

In fact, at the end of the 13th century, when a european traveler encountered the great Benin City in West Africa (present Nigeria, Edo State), he wrote as follows:

“The town seems to be very great. When you enter into it, you go into a great broad street, not paved, which seems to be seven or eight times broader than the Warmoes street in Amsterdam…The Kings palace is a collection of buildings which occupy as much space as the town of Harlem, and which is enclosed with walls. There are numerous apartments for the Prince`s ministers and fine galleries, most of which are as big as those on the Exchange at Amsterdam. They are supported by wooden pillars encased with copper, where their victories are depicted, and which are carefully kept very clean. The town is composed of thirty main streets, very straight and 120 feet wide, apart from an infinity of small intersecting streets. The houses are close to one another, arranged in good order. These people are in no way inferior to the Dutch as regards cleanliness; they wash and scrub their houses so well that they are polished and shining like a looking glass.” (Source: Walter Rodney, ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, pg. 69)

Sadly, in 1897, Benin City was destroyed by British forces under Admiral Harry Rawson. The city was looted, blown up and burnt to the ground. A collection of the famous Benin Bronzes are now in the British Museum in London. Part of the 700 stolen bronzes by the British troops were sold back to Nigeria in 1972.

Here is another account of the great Benin City regarding the city walls “They extend for some 16 000 kilometres in all, in a mosaic of more than 500 interconnected settlement boundaries. They cover 6500 square kilometres and were all dug by the Edo people. In all, they are four times longer than the Great Wall of China, and consumed a hundred times more material than the Great Pyramid of Cheops. They took an estimated 150 million hours of digging to construct, and are perhaps the largest single archaeological phenomenon on the planet.” Source: Wikipedia, Architecture of Africa.” Fred Pearce the New Scientist 11/09/99.

Here is a view of Benin city in 1891 before the British conquest. H. Ling Roth, Great Benin, Barnes and Noble reprint. 1968.

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Did you know that in the 14th century the city of Timbuktu in West Africa was five times bigger than the city of London, and was the richest city in the world?

Today, Timbuktu is 236 times smaller than London. It has nothing of a modern city. Its population is two times less than 5 centuries ago, impoverished with beggars and dirty street sellers. The town itself is incapable of conserving its past ruined monuments and archives.

Back to the 14 century, the 3 richest places on earth was China, Iran/Irak, and the Mali empire in West Africa. From all 3 the only one which was still independent and prosperous was the Mali Empire. China and the whole Middle East were conquered by Genghis Kan Mongol troops which ravaged, pillaged, and raped the places.

The richest man ever in the history of Humanity, Mansa Musa, was the emperor of the 14th century Mali Empire which covered modern day Mali, Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea.

At the time of his death in 1331, Mansa Musa was worth the equivalent of 400 billion dollars. At that time Mali Empire was producing more than half the world’s supply of salt and gold.

Here below are some depictions of emperor Mansa Musa, the richest man in human history

Mansa-Musa-2 Mansa Musa

When Mansa Musa went on a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324, he carried so much gold, and spent them so lavishly that the price of gold fell for ten years. 60 000 people accompanied him.

He founded the library of Timbuktu, and the famous manuscripts of Timbuktu which cover all areas of world knowledge were written during his reign.

Witnesses of the greatness of the Mali empire came from all part of the world. “Sergio Domian, an Italian art and architecture scholar, wrote the following about this period: ‘Thus was laid the foundation of an urban civilisation. At the height of its power, Mali had at least 400 cities, and the interior of the Niger Delta was very densely populated.’

The Malian city of Timbuktu had a 14th century population of 115,000 – 5 times larger than mediaeval London.

National Geographic recently described Timbuktu as the Paris of the mediaeval world, on account of its intellectual culture. According to Professor Henry Louis Gates, 25,000 university students studied there.

“Many old West African families have private library collections that go back hundreds of years. The Mauritanian cities of Chinguetti and Oudane have a total of 3,450 hand written mediaeval books. There may be another 6,000 books still surviving in the other city of Walata. Some date back to the 8th century AD. There are 11,000 books in private collections in Niger.

Finally, in Timbuktu, Mali, there are about 700,000 surviving books. They are written in Mande, Suqi, Fulani, Timbuctu, and Sudani. The contents of the manuscripts include math, medicine, poetry, law and astronomy. This work was the first encyclopedia in the 14th century before the Europeans got the idea later in the 18th century, 4 centuries later.

A collection of one thousand six hundred books was considered a small library for a West African scholar of the 16th century. Professor Ahmed Baba of Timbuktu is recorded as saying that he had the smallest library of any of his friends – he had only 1600 volumes.

Concerning these old manuscripts, Michael Palin, in his TV series Sahara, said the imam of Timbuktu “has a collection of scientific texts that clearly show the planets circling the sun. They date back hundreds of years . . . Its convincing evidence that the scholars of Timbuktu knew a lot more than their counterparts in Europe. In the fifteenth century in Timbuktu the mathematicians knew about the rotation of the planets, knew about the details of the eclipse, they knew things which we had to wait for 150 almost 200 years to know in Europe when Galileo and Copernicus came up with these same calculations and were given a very hard time for it.

The old Malian capital of Niani had a 14th century building called the Hall of Audience. It was an surmounted by a dome, adorned with arabesques of striking colours. The windows of an upper floor were plated with wood and framed in silver; those of a lower floor were plated with wood, framed in gold.

Malian sailors got to America in 1311 AD, 181 years before Columbus. An Egyptian scholar, Ibn Fadl Al-Umari, published on this sometime around 1342. In the tenth chapter of his book, there is an account of two large maritime voyages ordered by the predecessor of Mansa Musa, a king who inherited the Malian throne in 1312. This mariner king is not named by Al-Umari, but modern writers identify him as Mansa Abubakari II.” Excerpt from Robin Walker’s book, ‘WHEN WE RULED’

Those event were happening at the same period when Europe as a continent was plunged into the Dark Age, ravaged by plague and famine, its people killing one another for religious and ethnic reasons.

Here below are some depiction of the city of Timbuktu in the 19th century. 

757px-Caillie_1830_Timbuktu_view 800px-Barthtimbuktu

Kumasi was the capital of the Asante Kingdom, 10th century-20th century. Drawings of life in Kumasi show homes, often of 2 stories, square buildings with thatched roofs, with family compounds arranged around a courtyard. The Manhyia Palace complex drawn in another sketch was similar to a Norman castle, only more elegant in its architecture.

“These 2 story thatched homes of the Ashanti Kingdom were timber framed and the walls were of lath and plaster construction. A tree always stood in the courtyard which was the central point of a family compound. The Tree of Life was the altar for family offerings to God, Nyame. A brass pan sat in the branches of the tree into which offerings were placed. This was the same in every courtyard of every household, temple and palace. The King`s representatives, officials, worked in open-sided buildings. The purpose being that everyone was welcome to see what they were up to.

“The townhouses of Kumase had upstairs toilets in 1817.This city in the 1800s is documented in drawings and photographs. Promenades and public squares, cosmopolitan lives, exquisite architecture and everywhere spotless and ordered, a wealth of architecture, history, prosperity and extremely modern living” – PD Lawton, AfricanAgenda.net 

Winwood Reade described his visit to the Ashanti Royal Palace of Kumasi in 1874: “We went to the king’s palace, which consists of many courtyards, each surrounded with alcoves and verandahs, and having two gates or doors, so that each yard was a thoroughfare . . . But the part of the palace fronting the street was a stone house, Moorish in its style . . . with a flat roof and a parapet, and suites of apartments on the first floor. It was built by Fanti masons many years ago. The rooms upstairs remind me of Wardour Street. Each was a perfect Old Curiosity Shop. Books in many languages, Bohemian glass, clocks, silver plate, old furniture, Persian rugs, Kidderminster carpets, pictures and engravings, numberless chests and coffers. A sword bearing the inscription From Queen Victoria to the King of Ashantee. A copy of the Times, 17 October 1843. With these were many specimens of Moorish and Ashanti handicraft.” – Robin Walter

The beautiful city of Kumasi  was blown up, destroyed by fire, and looted by the British at the end of the 19th century.

Here below are few depictions of the city.

Geopolitical-Africa-Kumasi-the-Capital-of-Ashanti-1024x628
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In 1331, Ibn Battouta, described the Tanzanian city of Kilwa, of the Zanj, Swahili speaking people, as follows ” one of the most beautiful and well-constructed cities in the world, the whole of it is elegantly built”. The ruins are complete with `gothic` arches and intricate stonework, examples of exquisite architecture. Kilwa dates back to the 9th century and was at its peak in the 13th and 14th centuries. This international African port minted its own currency in the 11th -14th centuries. Remains of artefacts link it to Spain, China, Arabia and India. The inhabitants, architects and founders of this city were not Arabs and the only influence the Europeans had in the form of the Portuguese was to mark the start of decline, most likely through smallpox and influenza.” – Source: UNESCO World Heritage Centre, excerpt from “The Invisible Empire” by PD Lawton

In 1505 Portuguese forces destroyed and burned down the Swahili cities of Kilwa and Mombasa.

The picture below shows an artist’s reconstruction of the sultan’s palace in Kilwa in the 1400’s, followed by other ruins photographs.

kilwa-palace
Kilwa 277332452 Songo Mnara

“A Moorish nobleman who lived in Spain by the name of Al-Bakri questioned merchants who visited the Ghana Empire in the 11th century and wrote this about the king: “He sits in audience or to hear grievances against officials in a domed pavilion around which stand ten horses covered with gold-embroidered materials. Behind the king stand ten pages holding shields and swords decorated with gold, and on his right are the sons of the kings of his country wearing splendid garments and their hair plaited with gold. The governor of the city sits on the ground before the king and around him are ministers seated likewise. At the door of the pavilion are dogs of excellent pedigree that hardly ever leave the place where the king is, guarding him. Around their necks they wear collars of gold and silver studded with a number of balls of the same metals.” - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghana_Empire#Government – the source of the quote is given on wikipedia as p.80 of Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West Africa by Nehemia Levtzion and John F.P. Hopkins)

Here below are few depictions of Ghana Empire.

mauritania-ancient-cities-2 mauritania-ancient-cities 316619943_f4bf539b12 1175093587_g_0 tichitt

In 15th when the Portuguese, the first europeans who sailed the atlantic coasts of Africa “arrived in the coast of Guinea and landed at Vaida in West Africa, the captains were astonished to find streets well laid out, bordered on either side for several leagues by two rows of trees, for days thet travelled through a country of magnificant fields, inhabited by men clad in richly coloured garments of their own weaving! Further south in the Kingdom of the Kongo(sic), a swarming crowd dressed in fine silks’ and velvet; great states well ordered, down to the most minute detail; powerful rulers, flourishing industries-civilised to the marrow of their bones. And the condition of the countries of the eastern coast-mozambique, for example-was quite the same.”

For example the Kingdom of Congo in the 15th Century was the epitome of political organization. It “was a flourishing state in the 15th century. It was situated in the region of Northern Angola and West Kongo. Its population was conservatively estimated at 2 or 3 million people. The country was fivided into 6 administrative provinces and a number of dependancies. The provinces were Mbamba, Mbata, Mpangu, Mpemba, Nsundi, and Soyo. The dependancies included Matari, Wamdo, Wembo and the province of Mbundu. All in turn were subject to the authority of The Mani Kongo (King). The capital of the country(Mbanza Kongo), was in the Mpemba province. From the province of Mbamba, the military stronghold. It was possible to put 400,000 in the field.” – Excerpt from “The Invisible Empire” by PD Lawton

Below is an depiction by Olfert Dapper, a Dutch physician and writer, of the 17th century city of Loango (present Congo/Angola) based on descriptions of the place by those who had actually seen it.

loango-africa-kongo-kingdom

Depiction of the City of Mbanza in the Kongo Kingdom

AngolaCityofMbanzaKongo

King of Kongo Receiving Dutch Ambassadors, 1642 DO Dapper, Description de lAfrique  Traduite du Flamand (1686)

King of Kongo Receiving Dutch Ambassadors, 1642   DO Dapper, Description de lAfrique  Traduite du Flamand (1686)

Portuguese Emissaries Received by the King of Kongo, late 16th cent Duarte Lopes, Regnum Congo hoc est warhaffte und eigentliche , Congo in Africa (Franckfort am Mayn, 1609)

Portuguese Emissaries Received by the King of Kongo, late 16th cent Duarte Lopes, Regnum Congo hoc est warhaffte und eigentliche , Congo in Africa (Franckfort am Mayn, 1609)

Until the end of 16 century, Africa was far more advanced than Europe in term of political organization, science, technology, culture. That prosperity continued, despite the european slavery ravages, till the 17th and 18th century.

The continent was crowded with tens of great and prosperous cities, empires and kingdoms with King Askia Toure of Songhay, King Behanzin Hossu Bowelle of Benin, Emperor Menelik of Ethiopia, King Shaka ka Sezangakhona of South Africa, Queen Nzinga of Angola, Queen Yaa Asantewaa of Ghana, Queen Amina of Nigeria.

We are talking here about Empires, Kingdoms, Queendoms, Kings, emperors, the richest man in the history of humanity in Africa.

Were these Kings and Queens sleeping on banana trees in the bushes? Were they dressed with tree leaves, with no shoes?

If they were not sleeping in trees, covered with leaves, where are the remainder of their palaces, their art work?

The mediaeval Nigerian city of Benin was built to “a scale comparable with the Great Wall of China”. There was a vast system of defensive walling totalling 10,000 miles in all. Even before the full extent of the city walling had become apparent the Guinness Book of Records carried an entry in the 1974 edition that described the city as: “The largest earthworks in the world carried out prior to the mechanical era.” – Excerpt from “The Invisible Empire”, PD Lawton, Source-YouTube, uploader-dogons2k12 `African Historical Ruins`

“Benin art of the Middle Ages was of the highest quality. An official of the Berlin Museum für Völkerkunde once stated that: “These works from Benin are equal to the very finest examples of European casting technique. Benvenuto Cellini could not have cast them better, nor could anyone else before or after him . . . Technically, these bronzes represent the very highest possible achievement.”

In the mid-nineteenth century, William Clarke, an English visitor to Nigeria, remarked that: “As good an article of cloth can be woven by the Yoruba weavers as by any people . . . in durability, their cloths far excel the prints and home-spuns of Manchester.”

The recently discovered 9th century Nigerian city of Eredo was found to be surrounded by a wall that was 100 miles long and seventy feet high in places. The internal area was a staggering 400 square miles.” Robin Walter

Loango City in the Congo/Angola area is depicted in another drawing from the mid 1600`s. Yet again, a vast planned city of linear layout, stretching across several miles and entirely surrounded by city walls, bustling with trade. The king`s complex alone was a mile and a half enclosure with courtyards and gardens. The people of Loango had used maths not just for arithmetic purposes but for astrological calculations. They used advanced maths, linear algebra. The Ishango Bone from the Congo is a calculator that is 25 000 years old. “The so-called Ishango bone`s inscriptions consist of two columns of odd numbers that add up to 60,with the left column containing prime numbers between 10 and 20, and the right column containing both added and subtracted numbers.” Source: Ta Neter Foundation. It is on view in a museum in Belgium. – Excerpt from “The Invisible Empire” by PD Lawton

The beautiful city of Loango was destroyed by European fortune hunters, pseudo-missionaries and other kinds of free-booters.

“On the subject of cloth, Kongolese textiles were also distinguished. Various European writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries wrote of the delicate crafts of the peoples living in eastern Kongo and adjacent regions who manufactured damasks, sarcenets, satins, taffeta, cloth of tissue and velvet. Professor DeGraft-Johnson made the curious observation that: “Their brocades, both high and low, were far more valuable than the Italian.”

On Kongolese metallurgy of the Middle Ages, one modern scholar wrote that: “There is no doubting . . . the existence of an expert metallurgical art in the ancient Kongo . . . The Bakongo were aware of the toxicity of lead vapours. They devised preventative and curative methods, both pharmacological (massive doses of pawpaw and palm oil) and mechanical (exerting of pressure to free the digestive tract), for combating lead poisoning.”

In Nigeria, the royal palace in the city of Kano dates back to the fifteenth century. Begun by Muhammad Rumfa (ruled 1463-99) it has gradually evolved over generations into a very imposing complex. A colonial report of the city from 1902, described it as “a network of buildings covering an area of 33 acres and surrounded by a wall 20 to 30 feet high outside and 15 feet inside . . . in itself no mean citadel”.

A sixteenth century traveller visited the central African civilisation of Kanem-Borno and commented that the emperor’s cavalry had golden “stirrups, spurs, bits and buckles.” Even the ruler’s dogs had “chains of the finest gold”.

One of the government positions in mediaeval Kanem-Borno was Astronomer Royal.

Ngazargamu, the capital city of Kanem-Borno, became one of the largest cities in the seventeenth century world. By 1658 AD, the metropolis, according to an architectural scholar housed “about quarter of a million people”. It had 660 streets. Many were wide and unbending, reflective of town planning.

The Nigerian city of Surame flourished in the sixteenth century. Even in ruin it was an impressive sight, built on a horizontal vertical grid. A modern scholar describes it thus: “The walls of Surame are about 10 miles in circumference and include many large bastions or walled suburbs running out at right angles to the main wall. The large compound at Kanta is still visible in the centre, with ruins of many buildings, one of which is said to have been two-storied. The striking feature of the walls and whole ruins is the extensive use of stone and tsokuwa (laterite gravel) or very hard red building mud, evidently brought from a distance. There is a big mound of this near the north gate about 8 feet in height. The walls show regular courses of masonry to a height of 20 feet and more in several places. The best preserved portion is that known as sirati (the bridge) a little north of the eastern gate . . . The main city walls here appear to have provided a very strongly guarded entrance about 30 feet wide.”

The Nigerian city of Kano in 1851 produced an estimated 10 million pairs of sandals and 5 million hides each year for export.

In 1246 AD Dunama II of Kanem-Borno exchanged embassies with Al-Mustansir, the king of Tunis. He sent the North African court a costly present, which apparently included a giraffe. An old chronicle noted that the rare animal “created a sensation in Tunis”.

In Southern Africa, there are at least 600 stone built ruins in the regions of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. These ruins are called Mazimbabwe in Shona, the Bantu language of the builders, and means great revered house and “signifies court”.

The Great Zimbabwe was the largest of these ruins. It consists of 12 clusters of buildings, spread over 3 square miles. Its outer walls were made from 100,000 tons of granite bricks. In the fourteenth century, the city housed 18,000 people, comparable in size to that of London of the same period.

Bling culture existed in this region. At the time of our last visit, the Horniman Museum in London had exhibits of headrests with the caption: “Headrests have been used in Africa since the time of the Egyptian pharaohs. Remains of some headrests, once covered in gold foil, have been found in the ruins of Great Zimbabwe and burial sites like Mapungubwe dating to the twelfth century after Christ.”

On bling culture, one seventeenth century visitor to southern African empire of Monomotapa, that ruled over this vast region, wrote that: “The people dress in various ways: at court of the Kings their grandees wear cloths of rich silk, damask, satin, gold and silk cloth; these are three widths of satin, each width four covados [2.64m], each sewn to the next, sometimes with gold lace in between, trimmed on two sides, like a carpet, with a gold and silk fringe, sewn in place with a two fingers’ wide ribbon, woven with gold roses on silk.”

Apparently the Monomotapan royal palace at Mount Fura had chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. An eighteenth century geography book provided the following data: “The inside consists of a great variety of sumptuous apartments, spacious and lofty halls, all adorned with a magnificent cotton tapestry, the manufacture of the country. The floors, cielings [sic], beams and rafters are all either gilt or plated with gold curiously wrought, as are also the chairs of state, tables, benches &c. The candle-sticks and branches are made of ivory inlaid with gold, and hang from the cieling by chains of the same metal, or of silver gilt.”

Monomotapa had a social welfare system. Antonio Bocarro, a Portuguese contemporary, informs us that the Emperor: “shows great charity to the blind and maimed, for these are called the king’s poor, and have land and revenues for their subsistence, and when they wish to pass through the kingdoms, wherever they come food and drinks are given to them at the public cost as long as they remain there, and when they leave that place to go to another they are provided with what is necessary for their journey, and a guide, and some one to carry their wallet to the next village. In every place where they come there is the same obligation.”

In, 1571 Portuguese forces invade Munhumutapa, and started the destruction of the place. In 1629, Emperor Mavhura becomes puppet ruler of Munhumutapa on behalf of the Portuguese.

Chinese records of the fifteenth century AD note that Mogadishu had houses of “four or five stories high”.

“Gedi, near the coast of Kenya, is one of the East African ghost towns. Its ruins, dating from the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries, include the city walls, the palace, private houses, the Great Mosque, seven smaller mosques, and three pillar tombs.

The ruined mosque in the Kenyan city of Gedi had a water purifier made of limestone for recycling water.

The palace in the Kenyan city of Gedi contains evidence of piped water controlled by taps. In addition it had bathrooms and indoor toilets.

A visitor in 1331 AD considered the Tanzanian city of Kilwa to be of world class. He wrote that it was the “principal city on the coast the greater part of whose inhabitants are Zanj of very black complexion.” Later on he says that: “Kilwa is one of the most beautiful and well-constructed cities in the world. The whole of it is elegantly built.”

Bling culture existed in early Tanzania. A Portuguese chronicler of the sixteenth century wrote that: “[T]hey are finely clad in many rich garments of gold and silk and cotton, and the women as well; also with much gold and silver chains and bracelets, which they wear on their legs and arms, and many jewelled earrings in their ears”.

In 1961 a British archaeologist, found the ruins of Husuni Kubwa, the royal palace of the Tanzanian city of Kilwa. It had over a hundred rooms, including a reception hall, galleries, courtyards, terraces and an octagonal swimming pool.

The Bamilike structures of the Cameroon are of mind-blowing architectural delicateness and beauty. The Bamum and Shomum scripts of the Cameroon are similar to those of Ethiopia. There are over 7000 ancient Bamum manuscripts and the Bamum Palace is still perfectly preserved.” Robin Walter

As historical sources described above the continent was full of monuments. Where are they?

The sad truth is that Europeans invaders have destroyed most of them either as punitive actions or under the scramble for Africa ‘Terra Nullius’ law.

During the scramble for Africa by Europeans, the main way to prove that a land was qualified for colonization or take over was ‘Terra Nullius”, a Latin expression deriving from Roman law meaning “land belonging to no one”, which is used in international law to describe territory which has never been subject to the sovereignty of any state, or over which any prior sovereign has expressly or implicitly relinquished sovereignty. Sovereignty over territory which is terra nullius may be acquired through occupation” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_nullius

Many islands were acquired that way when it was possible to slaughter the small population and easily prove that the land was empty before the arrival of colonial powers.

But very soon, the colonial powers were in difficulty to find “land belonging to no one”. Africa was not a Terra Nullius. Consequently,  the terra nullius law was altered to include land inhabited by savages and uncivilized people.

Again, very quickly the colonial power found it difficult to prove that Africa was a land of savages and uncivilized people. Instead they found, as demonstrated above, queendoms and kingdoms with great palaces and highly developed political and social norms.

At this stage, the colonial power have to destroy any sign of civilization.

From then on, the colonial power spent a lot of energy to destroy and burn african historical building and monuments, slaughtered the african elite of engineers, scientists, craftsmen, writers, philosophers, etc.

There is a museum in Paris with 18 000 human heads of people killed by the french colonial troops and missionaries. It’s called “Musée d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris”.

Colonial-troops-with-african-heads

Among the heads are the ones of African kings, kings’ families, african engineers, writers, army officers, spiritual leaders, but also ordinary men, women, children that the french found unusual, exotic enough or interesting to kill to enrich their Museum of natural history where they display mainly animals skulls to represent bio-diversity and evolution.

France was not alone in the european competition to behead the maximum of variety of exotic people. The skulls and heads of many africans still could be  found in museums and unusual places around Europe.

Another consequence of the Terra Nullius law defined as a land inhabited by savages, lead to the capture of Africans to display in zoos and public events around Europe, in primitive conditions, to demonstrate the inferiority and barbarism of the African people.

From that moment till now, most europeans still think Africans are savages, inferior, grotesque, unintelligent people. They more an african would display features that would fit that stigma, the more he or she would be liked by them.

Stupid Africans are the best companion of Europeans. A smart and assertive African is something most europeans are still not used to, and would do anything to reject or ostracize.

For example in Paris, the Soninke people from Mali play a lot on that stigma. They will go to the french public administration and play the most stupid African, speaking broken french, displaying sign of unintelligence and dumbness. Suddenly, the public servant would found a long awaited or dormant humanitarian mission to help an uncivilized African to sort out his papers and get his head around even simple things.

In this way, the Soninke often get most of the things they want from the public servants. They represent over 50% of the sub-sahararian africans living in France. An African who will go to the French administration with the posture of a person who is smart and affluent will face lot hurdles, because the instinctive reaction of the servants would be “You want to show us that you are intelligent, we will show you!”.

Reason why you’d see most Africans in Europe weaken themselves voluntary to be accepted. With white people they will act docile, submissive, take-order-and-obey, but would strangely turn angry, aggressive and pedantic with their fellow black people.

Sadly, nothing is left of our ancestors. When Europeans invaded Africa they applied the 4 basic principles of any occupant forces:

1. First, Kill the strong and loot the place

2. Second, Breed the weak

3. Third, Kill, Deport or Exile the smartest and the skilled ones

4. Fourth, Impose the golden colonial rule “My way or the Highway”.

The Kings and their descendants were all killed. Additionally, 3 centuries of transatlantic slavery exported over 12 millions of the finest men and women from Africa to America, tens of millions have died in the process.

Imagine what would happen to any country or civilization when almost all writers, storytellers, engineers, craftsmen, artists, leaders are killed or exiled? And, Any sign of heir past glory and ingenuity destroyed or burned? Their books and records of knowledge stolen or destroyed.

Who will transmit the century accumulated knowledge to the ordinary men and women?

It’s that broken link to knowledge and leadership for the last 3 centuries which has plunged the whole continent into a dark age, its people left without guidance.

Our fearless Warriors and Civilization builders are gone. Our global traders, pyramid, Kingdom and Empire builders are extinct.

Unsurprisingly none of these generations have being nurtured in creating empire, and waging wars, defending their territory, protecting their children and women.

Reason why we don’t have anymore the modern version of the fearless African Warriors and Civilization builders.

When some people ask why are they so poor, we answer they are not poor, they have been made poor.

Jacques-Chirac-africa-destruction

Today, If you want to see the glory of Africa, you have to go to Europe, where thousands and thousands of stolen arts objects, civilization artifacts are in public museums and private collection (in UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Germany, etc.). If you want to see the wealth of Africa, you have also to go to Europe where they are stored in private and public accounts. 5 centuries of plundering and destruction brought the continent to its knees.

African-art-pieces-in-Europe

As PD Lawton put it “From Egypt to the Sudan, from Mali to Tanzania, from Zimbabwe to Mozambique, Africa is full of the testimony to her past. In many cases the complete destruction of structures has not been through natural elements but deliberate acts, most notably of the British Empire. The museums of Britain and Europe are full of the results of` pillage and plunder`. There are numerous ancient structures that are in a state of good preservation but in the case of many of Africa`s cities, palaces, temples and trading ports of old we are left with nothing other than the written reports and drawings of traders and travellers from medieval times to the final days of complete destruction in the late 1800s.In terms of beauty and even on occasion scale the architecture of Egypt`s pyramids pale in comparison to other African historical structures. The diversity of architecture from this continent is staggering. The use traditionally of what is termed fractal scaling in building highlights a religious tradition practiced throughout the continent. Fractal scaling is the `Mandelbrot` idea of architecture where the smallest parts of a structure resemble the largest parts. This cultural/religious tradition was/is practised in all aspects of life from weaving, to grinding cereals to the building of homes and palaces and is the incorporation of `history` and explanation of the Universe and our place within it, into everyday lives, lest we forget.” – “Africa Before The 20Th Century” in “Invisible Empire”.

We need to invest time and resources to unearth ourselves the ruins of our old cities to strengthen the faith of a young generation in our ability to rebound.

It’s time we revive in the mind of a new generation of Africans the true nature of their ancestors, the past glory of their empires, the pride of its warriors, conquerors and civilization builders, and clearly make them understand that the 5 “Centuries of Shame” under European occupation shall end with a new generation of Leaders and Builders!

5 century ago, when europeans arrived into africa they found the people were so advanced, wealthier, and were impressed by the abundance of nature and civility of its people. European became so jealous, and bitter, and knew they could conquer the people because the people were so kind, so welcoming, and have no gun or mounted mechanized armies as their.

Africans were exactly like what Christopher Columbus wrote about the Amerindians “They are artless and generous with what they have, to such a degree as no one would believe but him who had seen it. Of anything they have, if it be asked for, they never say no, but do rather invite the person to accept it, and show as much lovingness as though they would give their hearts.”

Therefore, Columbus later wrote what he would do to those good Indians “we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their highnesses; we shall take you, and your wives, and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him; and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us…”

The fate of Africa from then on has been sealed in the evilness of the Devil with blue eyes. They looted what they found worthy, destroy and burned down anything that has worth but couldn’t be taken away.

As we have seen above, at “the apex of Afrikan Civilization, they mastered development of a stable high culture where the arts, sciences and human dignity flourished for thousands of years. BUT they did not develop a solution to the problem of the violent ravenous invading european. Neither did other parts of Afrika or Native America. We and our descendants will have to solve that problem or continue to suffer never ending recyclings of slavery, massacre, second classness, slavery, massacre, second classiness.” Muai-Aakhu Meskheniten

A story said,
When Europeans started killing African writers, craftsmen, philosophers, nobles and kings, a group of young apprentices and courtesans decided to find a place where to hide the books, and manuscripts.
In many part of the continent the europeans have already killed many writers and philosophers, and the few left have to flee. While Europeans were burning the books and manuscripts, a sage passed some sacred manuscripts to two brothers to hide from the invaders.

Before the two brothers was caught and killed by the savages, they succeeded to hide the manuscripts, split them in few parts, gave them to a dozen couriers to bring to sages of other kingdoms on the continent.

The story said that the person who will find these manuscripts will uncover the secret that will finally give the clues for africa renaissance. They contain a coded message, embedded in their lines, which upon reading it will open and enlighten the minds of the African people, connect them to an ancestral power uniquely African.
These manuscripts are reported to contain the secret for Africa to become all powerful once again, and dominate the world. People will come from Europe, Asia, America to bow before African kings. Black people as the original human beings will be first among all nations. People will travel the world seeking their protection and knowledge.

Till, now no one has succeeded to find those manuscripts, but the time has come to try again, and I’m ready to commit my life in search of those documents. I’ve already spent the last 15 years asking around about these documents.

It’s certain these manuscripts exist, and my mission is to find them. I’ll uncover the name of the two brothers, follow their fleeing path, travel the roads of the dozen couriers who carried the dozen chapters, uncover the places the manuscripts have been hidden, and decrypt the message, expose it to every african children as necessary to recover our ancestral glory and build our path to millennial glory and greatness.

I don’t know how long this search will take, but my determination is total and unwavering.

22 Nov 02:05

The Sixth Stage of Grief is Retro-Computing

Albener Pessoa

The Sixth Stage
of Grief Is
Retro-computing

Networks Without Networks



1/10
Emulation Fever
Over the last few days I’ve been crazy for emulation—that is, simulating old, busted computers on my sweet modern laptop. I’ve been booting up fake machines and tearing them down, one after the other, and not doing much besides. Machines I’ve only heard of, arcade games I never played, and programs I never used. Software about which I was always curious. And old favorites like MacWrite.


MacWrite on a Macintosh Plus
Hour after hour, this terrible fever. What the hell am I doing? I kept asking myself. Why am I forcing a fine new machine to pretend it is a half-dozen old, useless machines?

Eventually I realized: This might be about my friend Tom dying. At least I think so. I am not good at identifying my own motives. It usually takes me at least ten days and a number of snacks to go from feeling something to being able to articulate what I felt. Indeed, I got the news ten days ago, in an email from my friend Jim.

2/10
“Really sad news”


“Really sad news” was the subject. Tom died at 73, after an illness. Here is a picture of him from 1999. He is the one on your left.

Imagine having, in your confused adolescence, the friendship of an older, avuncular man who is into computers, a world-traveling photographer who would occasionally head out to, like, videotape the Dalai Lama for a few weeks, then come back and listen to every word you said while you sat on his porch. A generous, kind person who spoke openly about love and faith and treated people with respect.

We had fallen out of touch.

It was good to have known him.

3/10
The Amiga 1000
(What is it good for?)

I always knew Tom. He rented a room from my grandparents. When I was 12, my parents succumbed to my begging and bought me an Amiga computer. By coincidence Tom had one too. Amigas were in the air because we lived near its manufacturer, Commodore computer, in Pennsylvania.

The Amiga looked like this:


An early version of the Amiga Workbench, its graphical user interface.
And it was oddly good at animating things.


A little-remembered precursor to Adobe Flash — Aegis Animator, 1985, by Jim Kent. Animation made on October 26, 2014.
But the Amiga had a problem. The IBM PC was for business; you used it to track stocks and type up reports. The Apple Macintosh was for fancy business, for work done in art galleries or loft apartments. You might use it to publish a newsletter for gourmets who were also physicists.


Debbie Harry’s face being live-manipulated by Andy Warhol in 1985 at the Amiga Launch event. YouTube Video.
And the Amiga was for…well. It was originally conceived as a videogame console, then the game industry faltered—this was in 1984, when Atari had produced so many excess videogames that it had to bury them in the desert to get rid of them. Commodore bought the Amiga designs in the hopes of competing with the Macintosh.

But Commodore was best known for its “bitty boxes,” cheap, popular machines like the VIC-20 and Commodore 64 that sold at Sears. Could it compete?


Amiga 1000 being its beautiful self.
The Amiga launch event was held in 1985 at Lincoln Center in New York City. A tall man named Robert Pariseau (head of software) emceed, in tuxedo and tremendous ponytail. They enlisted the Amiga to make pie charts, forced it to speak and “multi-task,” and made it become an IBM PC to run a spreadsheet.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWiOVa1R4m0
To conclude the night Andy Warhol, in his wig and brightly-colored glasses, came on stage along with Debbie Harry. He used the Amiga to snap a photo of Debbie Harry’s face and began to manipulate it live, using a mouse. Debbie Harry sat passively with her eternal pout, but Warhol had fun messing with her hair on the screen. This was a mistake, because both Debbie Harry and Andy Warhol were almost obscenely beautiful. The lovely little machine, juxtaposed with two people who actively epitomized sophistication, couldn’t hold its own. The whole thing just seems weird.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZiWTdc6Dc8
That was the launch. Now they had to sell it to the masses. Here Commodore transformed confusion into bafflement.

“As our TV screen is filled with the computer screen on which appears a wide-eyed fetus,” wrote the New York Times in 1985, describing the first Amiga commercial, “the voiceover delivers practically its only line in the 60-second commercial: ‘Re-experience the mind unbounded.’”

No one knew what they were doing, so they retreated to gibberish. But it never got better. Consider this video from 1987. Take the two-and-a-half minutes to watch it. Let it inside. Be with me in 1987.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWeO5IkCssk
So. That’s the Amiga. It found niches—it was big in Europe, a favorite of hackers and programmers alike; it was beloved of video producers like my friend Tom. But it never became a true global platform. Microsoft Windows 3 came out in 1990, the beginning of a barely-challenged 20-year ascendancy; Commodore was out of business by 1994.

Like all also-ran underdogs the Amiga inspired a maniacal affection in its users that took decades to exhaust. Here’s an Amiga user in 2000 or later (his screenshot of “OS 3.9” can be used to date the video). Note that he is singing the same song from the 1987 video.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNti5bN9ILU
It was fun while it lasted.

4/10
Networks
Without
Networks

In 1987 my father and I went to the Amiga users’ group meetings in nearby Downingtown. These were held in a basement of a computer store with wood paneling. At the users’ group you could buy floppy disks for a few bucks, and on them would be items downloaded from local bulletin board systems. Hardly anyone had modems, so this was how files were transmitted. Tom would be at the user group meeting sometimes. Or he’d pick me up and drive me over if my father was busy.


A 1975 invitation to the legendary Homebrew Computer Club, which birthed the modern home computer industry.
This is how a network comes together. You bought something and then you wanted to understand it, so you went out and found other people. You found them via posters in hallways, or word of mouth, or by purchasing a magazine that caught your eye and then reading the ads in the back.

You’d go to a party and browse through the host’s record collection, chat about the album, and maybe decide to go see a concert together—or in some cases you’d start a band.

Another example: Steve Wozniak built the Apple I computer because he knew the people at the Homebrew Computer Club would think it was cool. He wanted to blow their minds, and he did. A lot of times when people talk about Apple, Inc.—one of the largest social and corporate structures in the world, larger than many governments—they talk about design, manufacturing, and vertical integration. But the main driver for Apple’s early excellence was that Wozniak wanted to look cool in his little nerd network. He’d show his work to friends and they’d show him what they were working on. Without that, nothing that followed.

Commodore considered buying Apple back when Apple was in a garage. Steve Jobs was interested in selling. It fell through.

5/10
The Nodal
Porch

A year after the Amiga showed up—I was 13—my life started to go backwards. Not forever, just for a while. My dad left, money was tight. My clothes were the ones my dad left behind, old blouse-like Oxfords in the days of Hobie Cat surfwear. I was already big and weird, and now I was something else. I think my slide perplexed my peers; if anything they bullied me less. I heard them murmuring as I wandered down the hall.

I was a ghost and I had haunts: I vanished into the computer. I had that box of BBS floppies. One after another I’d insert them into the computer and examine every file, thousands of files all told. That was how I pieced together the world. Second-hand books and BBS disks and trips to the library. I felt very alone but I’ve since learned that it was a normal American childhood, one millions of people experienced.

Often—how often I don’t remember—I’d go over to Tom’s. I’d share my techniques for rotating text in Deluxe Paint, show him what I’d gleaned from my disks. He always had a few spare computers around for generating title sequences in videos, and later for editing, and he’d let me practice with his videocameras. And he would listen to me.

Like I said: Avuncular. He wasn’t a father figure. Or a mother figure. He was just a kind ear when I needed as many kind ears as I could find. I don’t remember what I said; I just remember being heard. That’s the secret to building a network. People want to be heard. God, life, history, science, books, computers. The regular conversations of anxious kids. His students would show up, impossibly sophisticated 19-year-old men and women, and I’d listen to them talk as the sun went down. For years. A world passed over that porch and I got to watch and participate even though I was still a boy.

I constantly apologized for being there, for being so young and probably annoying, and people would just laugh at me. But no one put me in my place. People touched me, hugged me, told me about books to read and movies to watch. I was not a ghost.


DPaint V Animation
When I graduated from high school I went by to sit on the porch and Tom gave me a little brown teddy bear. You need to remember, he said, to be a kid. To stay in touch with that part of yourself.
I did not do this.


6/10
General Instructions on
How to Emulate
Emulating is a nerdy hobby that takes an enormous amount of time. If you enjoy reading manuals for spreadsheet programs from 1983, you’ll love software emulation. (If your eyes glaze over at the thought, just scroll along your way.)

You typically need four things to emulate an old computer:

The emulator software. This lets your computer pretend it is a different kind of computer. It can range from commercial tools like VMWare Fusion which allows you to emulate a Windows PC on a Mac, to things like MAME, which pretends to be every kind of arcade machine, or VICE, which emulates the early Commodore computers. You can also buy emulators, like Amiga Forever or C64 Forever. Buying things means it’s all done for you and you can ignore the steps that follow.
The ROM files. There’s a liminal kind of software called the BIOS, for Basic Input/Output System. This is the nervous system of a computer; it’s what’s already installed even before a computer starts to load its operating system. For most systems some enterprising nerd has pulled the ROMS out of hardware and given them a name like KXK1CFJ.ROM. These files are almost always copyrighted, so to find them you have to Google around for things like “mac plus ROM” and wade through a lot of weird hedging language to find what you need. Just look for phrases like: “You cannot download this file unless you own a ColecoVision Model X Grobbler Frog Controller” followed by a big blue link to the file you cannot download, that you must never download. The entire world of emulation is filled with references to very specific things that you should not seek out, that you must never Google, that you should definitely not obtain.
An operating system. Once you have the emulator and the ROM it’s like you actually own a new, old, computer—but it lacks for an operating system. Want to experience System 6.08 for your Mac? Workbench 2 for the Amiga? Microsoft DOS 6.22? You’ll likely make a fake hard drive. Then you actually install the real, authentic operating system onto the fake hard drive. Sometimes you will need to “insert” fake “floppy disks” into the fake “floppy drive” in order to install the real operating system onto the fake “hard drive” on the fake “computer.” (This is accomplished by clicking buttons.) Then you’ll “reboot.” It’s all very weird.
Software. You might luck out and find a virtual hard drive pre-loaded with hundreds of applications; then you can download that whole bad boy and just coast. I’ve got one for the Mac, it’s 542 megabytes of joy. Want to use Photoshop 1.0 in black and white with German-language menus? No? Well, I do. More likely you will need to download virtual disks. You can find these by searching around for the word “abandonware” plus the name of the operating system you like. Sometimes you will find lovingly tended sites like Macintosh Garden. There are also the TOSEC collections, which have tens of thousands of archived computer programs to choose from; just about every Amiga program is available. In general, abandonware websites are badly categorized nightmares that require you to click five affiliate links to download a 20 kilobyte DOS file—or hyper-categorized massive sets of tens of thousands of disks created by obsessive completists. Either way, whoa.
The world of retro-computing is scattered, chaotic, murky, and legally suspect—although major progress is being made by the Internet Archive, among other organizations, at bringing old software into the light. To my knowledge, no one has ever been prosecuted for downloading twenty-year-old word processing software.

Good luck.

7/10
Reunion
Last week my friend Jim emailed:

And all the Amiga memories. Man oh man. We’d trade equipment and software. He had a name for it: let’s “play ‘puters” he’d say. That’s Tom too. We were always hitting each other up for software. Wrote many a long serial number down for him.
In 2002, Jim and Tom and I got together and went down to an Amiga festival at a hotel in Maryland. It was—even by the standards of nerd events—well, it was rough. Men had Amiga logos woven into their beards. People with ailments sold disks out of worn cardboard boxes. I had expected it to be like an alumni weekend, a chance to get together and chat about old times. But these people were angry. I remember driving back and feeling stupefied. How could all that sweetness have leached from the world? I blamed Microsoft Windows.

But that was wrong. In truth, there was nothing to blame. Companies come and companies go and things turn out differently than you’d hope.

That’s the last long stretch of time I spent with Tom.

I don’t know why I drifted. He never took to email. I wanted distance from my family, from my childhood. I still know his phone number by heart. At least once a month I’d think of calling. Of going down for a visit.

We kept very loose tabs on each other through our mutual friend Jim. Using that oldest of networks, people talking about each other.

8/10
Selections from
My Week of
Emulations

Here is a late-1970s vintage
Xerox Alto running Bravo

The machine was a Xerox Alto. The word processor was called Bravo. The software is from 1976 or a year or two later—hard to tell—although the quote I typed in is from Steve Jobs in 2005. The Alto had a command line and no icons but used a mouse with three buttons. It also featured drawing programs and games and was typically plugged into a network. It was created to serve the needs of a research community, to bind them together and give them a common language with which to express ideas about technology. It cost more than a house.

Here is an early version of
MacOS running on a
Mac Plus, circa 1986


The Mac did not invent that much—but do we criticize Giorgio Armani for not inventing the suit? It turned the inside of the computer into a place with warm little windows. It was expensive and a little snobby — like a nice mint-green polo shirt with a little black alligator embossed above your heart. It saw mass, popular computing not as a set of commands, but as an ongoing, continual experience. That people are so eager to share that experience, how urgent and real it can feel to them, is why Apple is so unbelievably huge today.

Here is a Macintosh Plus
running Smalltalk-80, 1987

This is a Mac, like the Mac above, but it’s running Smalltalk-80. Smalltalk was a product of the Xerox Alto culture, and was created along with the Alto. It was where many of the current ideas that are prevalent in computing — object-oriented coding, windowing systems, and graphics — were first refined into usable software products.

When the Mac people went over to study what Xerox was doing, they were copying Smalltalk ideas. (Adele Goldberg, one of the co-creators of Smalltalk, refused to show Steve Jobs the system, until her bosses gave express permission. Which they did. Apple was paying to see.)

Smalltalk-80 is a kind of programming language but you don’t run programs independently; rather, you open up large-ish “image files” that are themselves a kind of virtual machine — so here we are emulating a Mac and then running another fake computer, in the form of the Smalltalk virtual machine, atop it.

In 2014, Smalltalk is an idea that keeps going, in the form of a programming environment called Squeak, and in other versions, too. The idea of the Mac keeps going too. The Alto keeps going in the form of windows and good fonts. This is important to me, that sense of continuity. The typical story of technology is one of progress; your floppies get old and decrepit and you can’t see your old data, that’s basically your fault, and who wants to live in the past? But human networks often stick around for decades, half-centuries. People have been working on Smalltalk for more than 40 years, for as long as I have been alive. Just continually thinking about it, how to improve it, how to make it popular, how to get the world to acknowledge it. It binds them together. I respect that.

Here is an Amiga running TextCraft, its first word processor, which cost $99.95 in 1987

This program taught me to write and think in paragraphs. I spent hours here, sorting my young thoughts. Even back in 1987 we knew this program was an ugly disaster. Note the use of a little mucilage jar for…pasting. Programs like WordStar or WordPerfect were much, much better, but they only ran on MS-DOS back then. Or more obscure operating systems like CP/M. So we worked with what we had and we talked about it and made do.

Here is a recent installation of Plan 9,
a descendant of Unix created in the 1990s

Plan 9 is a strange one. Here it is running its window manager, Rio. (Its logo is a rabbit named Glenda.) The Acme text editor, shown above, is a major part of the Plan 9 OS and is a whole world unto itself. Everything in Acme, including the menus, is pure, editable text. This seems very light and easy but the more you think about it the weirder it gets.

I don’t know exactly why I ran this operating system during my binge. It came around in the 1990s as a possible successor to Unix. It did not become the successor to Unix, but the ideas within it are reinvented, in a debased and half-considered form, about once an hour in the open source community.



Here is an Emulated LISP Machine
running OpenGenera from the 90s

The reason I was running a Lisp machine is that it represents this very specific vision of technology, where computers were deeply powerful and infinitely customizable and incredibly easy to manipulate.

LISP is a computer language. But for a period in the 1980s there were Lisp machines: A computer that was all in a single language, from its weirdest inner parts to its windows and mouse cursor. Everything unified, pure, and open to inspection and manipulation.

What you see above is not a Lisp machine per se, but a Lisp machine simulator designed to run atop a Unix system—like Smalltalk atop the Mac.

It is a very weird experience. It feels like a machine for monks or nuns. Baffling. But there is this weird sense of raw power, like you have been handed the keys to a nuclear-powered submarine. It might take you a few months or years to learn the mysteries. That’s fine. LISP won’t change.

Smalltalk was deeply inspired by the LISP language. Everything was deeply inspired by LISP, because it’s so fundamental. People either learned it, and were inspired, or refused to learn it, and reinvented it in half-assed form.

Here is a Windows 3.1 Machine
Running Microsoft Paint, circa 1992

This is Windows. It is a layer above an operating system called MS-DOS. It was made by a company in Seattle. It changed the world economy by being all things to all people. You can no longer be all things to all people when it comes to computers, but Microsoft keeps trying. Windows is an accurate representation of what people expect from computers, which on one hand is fascinating and the other is a tragedy.

It really worked for tens of millions of people and changed their computing lives. And there was some wonderful software that resulted. That said: Windows is the Superbowl Halftime Show of operating systems. Given what everyone got paid, and how many people were involved, you’d think it would be more memorable.

Here is a NeXT OpenStep Environment
Running Interface Builder, circa 1997

This last one, the NeXT machine, is complicated. I never had a NeXT machine, but NeXT machines haunt our world. Like Lisp machines, like Smalltalk, their users were incredibly vociferous excited people who talked about using them in almost religious tones.

The difference is that NeXT’s OS went from being a somber lesson about being too ambitious to being one of the dominant operating systems in the world, and everyone still talks about it in religious tones.

I guess I need to explain.

9/10
Steve Jobs
on and off
Typography

In his commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005, Steve Jobs described taking a calligraphy course as an undergraduate at Reed College in Oregon. “I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great.” He went on:

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography.
Yesterday I booted up the emulator for the Xerox Alto. The Alto was arguably the first modern general-purpose computer — a big screen, modern software, and you used a mouse to point. It was never generally available but it was the Velvet Underground of computers, in that everyone who saw it went on to make their own computer industry. As I wrote above, when Apple went to Xerox to license its technology for MacOS, it was copying ideas that had been created on Alto computers.

When you boot up the Xerox Alto the fonts are right there, listed: Helvetica was a first-class citizen of that operating system, many years before that first Mac pinged awake.

After he was fired from Apple, Jobs went off and built NeXT. The NeXT computer was a hodgepodge: Bits of Alto, from Xerox research; bits of UNIX from Bell Labs, the research arm of the giant US telephone monopoly. Its core language, Objective C, was an unholy union of Xerox “object oriented” approaches and the Bell Labs “C” programming language. They also built a tool to ease the programmer’s labors—a software development tool called Interface Builder. That started as a government-funded project in France, was turned into a feature of a version of the LISP programming language that ran on Macintoshes, and then found its way to the Mac. Its direct descendant is what you use today to build iPhone apps.

Many roads going back through computing history lead back to Steve Jobs, or pause along the way at his office. But they don’t stop there. They go back to INRIA’s labs in France, back to Bell Labs in New Jersey, MIT in Massachusetts, back to Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center—a surprisingly short drive from One Infinite Loop, Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino.

And further back still: To people reviewing each other’s album collections, back to the post office, the railway systems, radio networks, sporting events. People building roads. Networks are natural things.

In their day NeXT systems were seen as insanely expensive, bordering on pretentious; they were never intended for the masses but had a strong focus on the academic market. NeXT looked down on the world of popular computing from a very high window; meanwhile, Windows sold hot dogs on the street. (“Write software for it?” said Bill Gates of the NeXT. “I’ll piss on it.”)

You can do good work in high towers. The World Wide Web was bootstrapped on a NeXT machine. The videogame “Doom” was written on NeXTs. And famously, Apple bought NeXT in 1997 for $400 million ($50 million of that in debt), and just as famously Jobs began to overtake Apple, to make it his own again. It was not smooth. When they turned NeXTStep into MacOSX people were baffled. They made videos to complain—years before YouTube, videos that you had to download or stream from random websites over slow connections. The one below as a favorite. A friend downloaded it so that we could watch it together on his laptop.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xUHuXgySO8
The organized environment of MacOS9 was being taken away. We’d all been moved to a new house in the middle of the night. What is this? Why did they change it? What is it for? It wasn’t clear. Because of the iPod and iTunes, Apple was now discussed as a music and entertainment company that also did computers. What was this? What was it for?

Then came the iPhone. At first there was no App Store, no way to run your code within it, and people railed and gnashed their teeth. But then there was an App Store. The way you built apps was with Objective C and the Interface Builder. No other approach was permitted. There was gnashing of teeth, but less so. Not only was the NeXT ideology successful, but it was enforced. Aligning yourself with its methods was the price one paid to participate in an enormous cultural landrush. Today Apple is worth 1,000 times as much money as it paid for NeXT.

If you are reading this piece on an iPhone, a Mac, or an iPad, you’re using tools built with Interface Builder, all the way back.

“Good artists copy,” Jobs once said, misattributing it to Picasso. “Great artists steal.” Perhaps a more accurate statement would have been: Great popularizers license.

When people get rich it always ends up sounding like destiny. And the actual narratives sound too small, too fragile—and impossible to reproduce. Which makes for a bad story. Good stories are ones you can learn from. Imagine standing in front of the graduating class of Stanford and saying,

Man, I just don’t know. Wozniak wanted to show off for his nerd friends. I was ready to sell to Commodore. Xerox was so focused on the 1990s they forgot about the 1980s. NeXT, we just got further and further into the quagmire. Pixar, before Toy Story, it was the only hardware company less successful than NeXT. The iPhone launched without an App Store. But people were drawn to me, and I told them what they needed to hear in order to make each other rich. So do that: Go out there and tell people what they need to hear in order to make each other rich. When something works say that was the plan all along.
That would be a terrible commencement speech.

10/10
Technology is What We Share

Technology is what we share. I don’t mean “we share the experience of technology.” I mean: By my lights, people very often share technologies with each other when they talk. Strategies. Ideas for living our lives. We do it all the time. Parenting email lists share strategies about breastfeeding and bedtime. Quotes from the Dalai Lama. We talk neckties, etiquette, and Minecraft, and tell stories that give us guidance as to how to live. A tremendous part of daily life regards the exchange of technologies. We are good at it. It’s so simple as to be invisible. Can I borrow your scissors? Do you want tickets? I know guacamole is extra. The world of technology isn’t separate from regular life. It’s made to seem that way because of, well…capitalism. Tribal dynamics. Territoriality. Because there is a need to sell technology, to package it, to recoup the terrible investment. So it becomes this thing that is separate from culture. A product.


I went looking for the teddy bear that Tom had given me, the reminder to be a child sometimes, and found it atop a bookshelf. When I pulled it down I was surprised to find that it was in a tiny diaper.
I stood there, ridiculous, a 40-year-old man with a diapered 22-year-old teddy bear in my hand. It stared back at me with root-beer eyes.

This is what I remembered right then: That before my wife got pregnant we had been trying for kids for years without success. We had considered giving up.

That was when I said to my wife: If we do not have children, we will move somewhere where there is a porch. The children who need love will find the porch. They will know how to find it. We will be as much parents as we want to be.

And when she got pregnant with twins we needed the right-sized doll to rehearse diapering. I went and found that bear in an old box.

I sitting on Tom’s porch in 1992 when he handed me that toy. A person offering another person a piece of advice. Life passed through that object as well, through the teddy bear as much as through the operating systems of yore.

Now that I have children I can see how tuned they are to the world. Living crystals tuned to all manner of frequencies. And how urgently they need to be heard. They peer up and they say, look at me. And I put my phone away.

And when they go to bed, protesting and yowling before conking out, I go to mess with my computers, my old weird imaginary emulated computers. System after system. I open up these time capsules and look at the thousands of old applications, millions of dollars of software, but now it can be downloaded in a few minutes and takes up a tiny portion of a hard drive. It’s all comically antiquated.

Moore’s law, the speed at which technology moves forward, means that the digital past gets smaller every year. What is left are the tracings of hundreds of people, or thousands, who, 20, 30, 40 years ago found each other and decided to fabricate all this digital stuff. This glittering ephemera. They left these markings and moved on. Looking at the emulated machines feels…big, somehow. Like standing at a Grand Canyon with a river of bright green pixels running along the bottom.

When you read oral histories of technology, whether of successes or failures, you sense the yearning of people who want to get back into those rooms for a minute, back to solving the old problems. How should the mouse look? What will people want to do, when we give them these machines? How should a window open? Who wouldn’t want to go back 20 years—to drive again into the office, to sit before the whiteboard in a beanbag chair, in a place of warmth and clarity, and give it another try?

Such a strange way to say goodbye. So here I am. Imaginary disks whirring and screens blinking as I visit my old haunts. Wandering through lost computer worlds for an hour or two, taking screenshots like a tourist. Shutting one virtual machine down with a sigh, then starting up another one. But while these machines run, I am a kid. A boy on a porch, back among his friends.

Over the last few days I’ve been crazy for emulation—that is, simulating old, busted computers on my sweet modern laptop. I’ve been booting up fake machines and tearing them down, one after the other, and not doing much besides. Machines I’ve only heard of, arcade games I never played, and machines I never used. Software about which I was always curious. And old favorites like MacWrite.

MacWrite on a Macintosh Plus

Hour after hour, this terrible fever. What the hell am I doing? I kept asking myself. Why am I forcing a fine new machine to pretend it is a half-dozen old, useless machines?

Eventually I realized: This might be about my friend Tom dying. At least I think so. I am not good at identifying my own motives. It usually takes me at least ten days and a number of snacks to go from feeling something to being able to articulate what I felt. Indeed, I got the news ten days ago, in an email from my friend Jim.

“Really sad news” was the subject. Tom died at 73, after an illness. Here is a picture of him from 1999. He is the one on your left.

Imagine having, in your confused adolescence, the friendship of an older, avuncular man who is into computers, a world-traveling photographer who would occasionally head out to, like, videotape the Dalai Lama for a few weeks, then come back and listen to every word you said while you sat on his porch. A generous, kind person who spoke openly about love and faith and treated people with respect.

We had fallen out of touch.

It was good to have known him.

I always knew Tom. He rented a room from my grandparents. When I was 12, my parents succumbed to my begging and bought me an Amiga computer. By coincidence Tom had one too. Amigas were in the air because we lived near its manufacturer, Commodore computer, in Pennsylvania.

The Amiga looked like this:

An early version of the Amiga Workbench, its graphical user interface.

And it was oddly good at animating things.

A little-remembered precursor to Adobe Flash — Aegis Animator, 1985, by Jim Kent. Animation made on October 26, 2014.

But the Amiga had a problem. The IBM PC was for business; you used it to track stocks and type up reports. The Apple Macintosh was for fancy business, for work done in art galleries or loft apartments. You might use it to publish a newsletter for gourmets who were also physicists.

Debbie Harry’s face being live-manipulated by Andy Warhol in 1985 at the Amiga Launch event. YouTube Video.

And the Amiga was for…well. It was originally conceived as a videogame console, then the game industry died—this was in 1984, when Atari had produced so many excess videogames that it had to bury them in the desert to get rid of them. Commodore bought the Amiga designs in the hopes of competing with the Macintosh.

But Commodore was best known for its “bitty boxes,” cheap, popular machines like the VIC-20 and Commodore 64 that sold at Sears. Could it compete?

Amiga 1000 being its beautiful self.

The launch event was held in 1985 at Lincoln Center in New York City. A tall man named Robert Pariseau (head of software) emceed, in tuxedo and tremendous ponytail. They enlisted the Amiga to make pie charts, forced it to speak and “multi-task,” and made it become an IBM PC to run a spreadsheet.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWiOVa1R4m0

To conclude the night Andy Warhol, in his wig and brightly-colored glasses, came on stage along with Debbie Harry. He used the Amiga to snap a photo of Debbie Harry’s face and began to manipulate it live, using a mouse.

Debbie Harry sat passively with her eternal pout, but Warhol had fun messing with her hair on the screen. It was a bonkers event. It was a mistake, because both Debbie Harry and Andy Warhol were almost obscenely beautiful. The lovely little machine, juxtaposed with two people who actively epitomized sophistication, couldn’t hold its own. The whole thing just seems weird.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZiWTdc6Dc8

That was the launch. Now they had to sell it to the masses. Here Commodore transformed confusion into bafflement.

“As our TV screen is filled with the computer screen on which appears a wide-eyed fetus,” wrote the New York Times in 1985, describing the first Amiga commercial, “the voiceover delivers practically its only line in the 60-second commercial: ‘Re-experience the mind unbounded.’”

In hindsight it makes sense; no one knew what they were doing, so they retreated to gibberish. But it never got better. Consider this video from 1987. Take the two-and-a-half minutes to watch it. Let it inside. Be with me in 1987.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWeO5IkCssk

So. That’s the Amiga. It found niches—it was big in Europe, a favorite of hackers and programmers alike; it was beloved of video producers like my friend Tom. But it never became a true global platform. Microsoft Windows 3 came out in 1990, the beginning of a barely-challenged 20-year ascendancy; Commodore was out of business by 1994.

Like all also-ran underdogs the Amiga inspired a maniacal affection in its users that took decades to exhaust. Here’s an Amiga user in 2000 or later (his screenshot of “OS 3.9” can be used to date the video). Note that he is singing the same song from the 1987 video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNti5bN9ILU

It was fun while it lasted.

My father and I went to the Amiga users’ group meetings in nearby Downingtown. These were held in a basement of a computer store with wood paneling. At the users’ group you could buy floppy disks for a few bucks, and on them would be items downloaded from local bulletin board systems. Hardly anyone had modems, so this was how files were transmitted. Tom would be at the user group meeting sometimes. Or he’d pick me up and drive me over if my father was busy.

A 1975 invitation to the legendary Homebrew Computer Club, which birthed the modern home computer industry.

This is how a network comes together. You bought something and then you wanted to understand it, so you went out and found other people. You found them via posters in hallways, or word of mouth, or by purchasing a magazine that caught your eye and then reading the ads in the back.

You’d go to a party and browse through the host’s record collection, chat about the album, and maybe decide to go see a concert together—or in some cases you’d start a band.

Another example: Steve Wozniak built the Apple I computer because he knew the people at the Homebrew Computer Club would think it was cool. He wanted to blow their minds, and he did. A lot of times when people talk about Apple, Inc.—one of the largest social and corporate structures in the world, larger than many governments—they talk about design, manufacturing, and vertical integration. But the main driver for Apple’s early excellence was that Wozniak wanted to look cool in his little nerd network. He’d show his work to friends and they’d show him what they were working on. Without that, nothing that followed.

Commodore considered buying Apple back when Apple was in a garage. Steve Jobs was interested in selling. It fell through.

A year after the Amiga showed up—I was 13—my life started to go backwards. Not forever, just for a while. My dad left, money was tight. My clothes were the ones my dad left behind, old blouse-like Oxfords in the days of Hobie Cat surfwear. I was already big and weird, and now I was something else. I think my slide perplexed my peers; if anything they bullied me less. I heard them murmuring as I wandered down the hall.

I was a ghost and I had haunts: I vanished into the computer. I had that box of BBS floppies. One after another I’d insert them into the computer and examine every file, thousands of files all told. That was how I pieced together the world. Second-hand books and BBS disks and trips to the library. I felt very alone but I’ve since learned that it was a normal American childhood, one millions of people experienced.

Often—how often I don’t remember—I’d go over to Tom’s. I’d share my techniques for rotating text in Deluxe Paint, show him what I’d gleaned from my disks. He always had a few spare computers around for generating title sequences in videos, and later for editing, and he’d let me practice with his videocameras. And he would listen to me.

Like I said: Avuncular. He wasn’t a father figure. Or a mother figure. He was just a kind ear when I needed as many kind ears as I could find. I don’t remember what I said; I just remember being heard. That’s the secret to building a network. People want to be heard. God, life, history, science, books, computers. The regular conversations of anxious kids. His students would show up, impossibly sophisticated 19-year-old men and women, and I’d listen to them talk as the sun went down. For years. A world passed over that porch and I got to watch and participate even though I was still a boy.

I constantly apologized for being there, for being so young and probably annoying, and people would just laugh at me. But no one put me in my place. People touched me, hugged me, told me about books to read and movies to watch. I was not a ghost.

DPaint V Animation
When I graduated from high school I went by to sit on the porch and Tom gave me a little brown teddy bear. You need to remember, he said, to be a kid. To stay in touch with that part of yourself.
I did not do this.

Emulating is a nerdy hobby that takes an enormous amount of time. If you enjoy reading manuals for spreadsheet programs from 1983, you’ll love software emulation. (If your eyes glaze over at the thought, just scroll along your way.)

You typically need four things to emulate an old computer:

The world of retro-computing is scattered, chaotic, murky, and legally suspect—although major progress is being made by the Internet Archive, among other organizations, at bringing old software into the light. To my knowledge, no one has ever been prosecuted for downloading twenty-year-old word processing software.

Good luck.

Last week my friend Jim emailed:

And all the Amiga memories. Man oh man. We’d trade equipment and software. He had a name for it: let’s “play ‘puters” he’d say. That’s Tom too. We were always hitting each other up for software. Wrote many a long serial number down for him.

In 2002, Jim and Tom and I got together and went down to an Amiga festival at a hotel in Maryland. It was—even by the standards of nerd events—well, it was rough. Men had Amiga logos woven into their beards. People with ailments sold disks out of worn cardboard boxes. I had expected it to be like an alumni weekend, a chance to get together and chat about old times. But these people were angry. I remember driving back and feeling stupefied. How could all that sweetness have leached from the world? I blamed Microsoft Windows.

But that was wrong. In truth, there was nothing to blame. Companies come and companies go and things turn out differently than you’d hope.

That’s the last long stretch of time I spent with Tom.

I don’t know why I drifted. He never took to email. I wanted distance from my family, from my childhood. I still know his phone number by heart. At least once a month I’d think of calling. Of going down for a visit.

We kept very loose tabs on each other through our mutual friend Jim. Using that oldest of networks, people talking about each other.

20 Nov 20:45

The Unknown Start-up That Built Google’s First Self-Driving Car

510 Conor OBrien
Photo: Conor O'Brien
The Original: A robotized Toyota Prius, built by Berekely, Calif.-based startup 510 Systems, was the foundation of much of Google’s autonomous car program. In a stunt for TV “PriBot” delivered pizza.

One of technology’s time-honored traditions is getting intellectual property by buying companies rich in ideas but poor in cash or connections. Burroughs Corp., for example, got the Nixie tube in 1955 by buying Haydu Brothers Laboratories. And Apple famously acquired a smart new operating system (and “reacquired” Steve Jobs) in 1996, when it bought NeXT Computer. Twitter got a search engine when it bought Summize in 2008.

Google has embraced this trend with a vengeance, buying more than 170 companies over the past 13 years. Voice over Internet Protocol, video hosting, Web analytics, mobile devices, GPS navigation, and visual search are just a few of the examples of technologies that were absorbed into the Google empire. Most of these purchases were trumpeted with press conferences, press releases, and ample news coverage.

And yet, one of Google’s most strategic acquisitions has mysteriously been actively blocked from public view. An investigation by IEEE Spectrum has uncovered the surprising fact that Google’s innovative self-driving car and the revolutionary Street View camera technology that preceded it were largely built by 510 Systems, a tiny start-up in Berkeley, Calif.

If you’ve never heard of 510 Systems, that’s exactly the way Google wants it. The purchase of 510 Systems and its sister company, Anthony’s Robots, in the fall of 2011 was never publicly announced. In fact, Google went so far as to insist that some 510 employees sign agreements not to discuss that the acquisition had even occurred. Google’s official history of its self-driving car project does not mention the firm at all. It emphasizes the leadership of Sebastian Thrun, the German computer scientist whose Stanford team won the autonomous-driving Grand Challenge in 2005, sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Why has Google worked so hard to keep this one acquisition a secret?

In April 2012, Google was about to make history. In just a few weeks’ time, its experimental autonomous Prius was due to take the world’s first self-driving test in Nevada. The company applied for a driver’s license in the state, and a sharp-eyed official at the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles noticed something strange. “The proof of ownership on VIN JTDKB20U987806293 is not in Google’s name, and the insurance card is in Google’s name,” she wrote to Google engineer Anthony Levandowski. “Normally we would require these to both be in the same name.”

photo of application
Secret Ownership: In May 2012 one of Google’s vehicles became the first robocar to pass a state license test. The car’s proof of ownership was still in the name of 510 Systems CEO Suzanna Musick, but Google had secretly purchased the startup by then.

One of the three self-driving 2008 Toyota Priuses that Google wanted to license for testing was, in fact, registered to a company called 510 Systems and a person by the name of Suzanna Musick. Levandowski’s explanation was simple: “510 Systems is part of Google, as Google purchased the company six months ago,” he replied. “Suzanna is/was their CEO.”

Though Google has portrayed Thrun as its “godfather” of self-driving, a review of the available evidence suggests that the motivating force behind the company’s program was actually Levandowski. In 2005, he was a 25-year-old graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, with a master’s in industrial engineering and operations research. That year, with the help of a group of engineers that included Berkeley undergraduate Bryon Majusiak, Levandowski entered a self-driving 90-cc motorcycle called Ghostrider into the DARPA Grand Challenge.

Levandowski and Thrun were actually competing against each other in the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge. Ghostrider was the only two-wheeled autonomous vehicle in the contest. It relied on superaccurate GPS signals and a stereo camera rather than the expensive 3-D lidar units used on Thrun’s Volkswagen SUV, which was dubbed “Stanley.” Nevertheless, Ghostrider managed to balance, navigate, and even right itself after falling over, beating dozens of its four-wheeled rivals—although not Stanley. Ghostrider failed to proceed beyond the semifinals of the contest, but Levandowski had found the thing he wanted to do with his life.

img of Ghostrider group
Photo: DARPA
Motorcycle Gang: 510 Systems founder Anthony Levandowski [right, white shirt] and coworkers built a robotic motorcycle to compete in the DARPA Grand Challenge. It was the only two-wheeled entrant.

After several short-lived business ventures, Levandowski founded 510 Systems with two engineering colleagues from Berkeley: Andrew Schultz and Pierre-Yves Droz. When Levandowski went to work on Google’s mapping technology in 2007, it was this start-up that would make one of the biggest contributions.

Majusiak was one of 510’s first hires, even though he was still in the middle of his undergraduate degree. “We were working on a smart machine-controlled camera that eventually evolved into the initial Street View systems,” he recalls. The company designed a processing board that could take inputs from digital cameras, high-end GPS units, and inertial sensors, and then integrate data from those systems so that the camera images were coded with positional data. The camera developed by 510 Systems was then manufactured and sold to Google by Topcon Positioning Systems, a GPS company that had previously sponsored the Ghostrider motorbike. “Google was our only customer for a year and a half,” says Majusiak.

Inevitably, 510 Systems became involved with lidar scanners. Lidar is the light version of radar; it uses lasers to measure the distance to nearby objects, typically steering the beam with mirrors to scan the surroundings in three dimensions. The 510 Systems team pioneered the use of lidar for mobile mapmaking, and the company’s systems were adopted by the biggest digital cartographers in the world.

One device it developed was deployed by utility companies for automatic surveying. Mounted on a van, the system could track individual wires strung between utility poles by the side of the road and even calculate whether they were too tight or too loose.

“At one point, we had one of the most incredibly detailed maps of Berkeley that I’ve ever seen,” says Majusiak. The company’s lidar expertise even caught the attention of Hollywood. When director James Frost wanted to use lidar images of Radiohead for a music video of the band’s song “House of Cards,” he asked Droz at 510 to process the raw data. The video was later nominated for a Grammy Award.

But while mapmaking and music-video imagery kept 510’s engineers occupied, there was a sense of unfinished business. “Robots were always in the back of our minds,” says Majusiak. “We wanted to do a better robot motorcycle: full size, full speed, and doing all those things we learned from the Grand Challenge.” So when the Discovery Channel contacted Levandowski early in 2008 and asked him to build a self-driving pizza delivery vehicle for a show called “Prototype This!,” he agreed immediately.

All that experience in mobile mapping, it turned out, was perfect for rapidly building a robot car. “It was a side project, but we had a technology pipeline that gave us essentially all the data that a self-driving car would need,” says an ex-510 employee who did not want to be named. Software engineer Jack Tisdale, for example, had written GPS filters for high-accuracy surveying that tied GPS into motion-sensor data for centimeter-level location accuracy. All that remained was to build a control system for their chosen vehicle, a 2008 Toyota Prius, VIN number JTDKB20U987806293.

“Since everything is electric in that car, you can do a man-in-the-middle type of deal,” says Majusiak. “We figured out what the signals were supposed to be, then spoofed them to make the car do what we wanted.” Within just a few weeks, the car, now dubbed “Pribot,” was ready to roll. Its route from San Francisco’s waterfront over the Bay Bridge to Treasure Island was planned meticulously in advance. Levandowski used one of 510’s lidar-equipped cars to map the 25-minute journey beforehand, just as Google does today in its hometown of Mountain View, Calif. These 3-D maps, stored in the Pribot, would be used with its centimeter-perfect positioning and a home-brewed control system to navigate the approximately 8-kilometer route. But although a roof-mounted lidar gave the Pribot basic collision-avoidance abilities, it had no way of predicting the behavior of pedestrians or other road users. So for the Discovery Channel shoot, the route was cleared of traffic and a squad of police cars and motorcycles escorted the robotic Prius from start to finish. The Pribot set off from San Francisco, crossed the Bay Bridge flawlessly, and then, in true pizza-delivery-car style, scraped against a wall on a tight exit ramp.

img Conor OBrien groupimg Conor OBrien LIDARimg 510 Conor OBrien san francisco
Photos: Conor O'Brien
Pizza by Pribot: For the TV show “Prototype This!” 510 Systems founder Anthony Levandowski [top photo, middle] led the team that tricked out a Prius to drive itself across the San Francisco Bay Bridge to deliver a pizza. The vehicle relied on 510’s lidar system [center photo] to avoid collisions. But that didn’t stop the car from hitting the wall on an exit ramp [damage, bottom photo, rear of car].

“It was an incredible push to get the Pribot together, and nobody thought to tell the robot how big it was,” remembers Majusiak. But as a technology demonstrator, the Pribot had done its job. Levandowski had proven that safe, capable self-driving cars were not just possible but possible on a shoestring budget. Imagine what could be achieved with the resources of a company like Google. Within months, Larry Page and Sergey Brin had given Thrun and Levandowski a blank check to set up their own driverless car project. And the first place they turned to was 510 Systems.

“From then on, we started doing a lot of work with Google,” says Majusiak. “We did almost all of their hardware integration. They were just doing software. We’d get the cars and develop the controllers, and they’d take it from there.” A couple of years and five autonomous Priuses later, the inevitable happened: Google offered to buy the company. The 40-odd 510 Systems employees crowded into a meeting room and sat down to decide their future. “I absolutely believe 510 could have gone public,” says Majusiak. “It was about a 50-50 split between people who wanted to go forward with that and people who wanted to give the Google buyout a shot.”

Google’s bottomless purse won the day. In October 2011, 510 Systems quietly joined Google as a key part of the company’s semisecretive Google X “moon shot” division. The Pribot, long since bolstered by Google’s powerful software, written by Thrun’s team, came along with the acquisition. The company’s Priuses were now looking rather long in the tooth. They helped Google secure its testing license in Nevada early in 2012, but by the summer they were already being phased out for newer Lexus SUVs. “When 510 really got folded into Google, we did a major hardware spin and got everything much more to a production style rather than a college research project,” says Majusiak.

Google’s secrecy over the 510 Systems acquisition might be best understood through the lens of publicity. In 2010, a journalist at The New York Times, John Markoff, discovered the existence of Google’s self-driving car program. He was given a ride in one of 510’s Priuses and told that the project was the brainchild of Sebastian Thrun, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and winner of the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge.

Maybe Google thought a famous prize-winning professor would be a more credible leader than the entrepreneurial runner-up Levandowski. Or perhaps the company simply wanted to avoid awkward questions about how the robot cars it had been secretly testing on public roads had actually been built in a Berkeley start-up. Either way, 510 Systems was neatly written out of the creation myth of Google’s self-driving cars long before it was acquired.

Most of 510 Systems, including all three founders—Levandowski, Schultz, and Droz—are still working on self-driving cars at Google. Levandowski remains the overall product lead, Schultz oversees embedded systems and electronics, and Droz manages 10 engineers. Majusiak eventually left Google in January to work at Blue River Technology, a start-up bringing robotics to agriculture.

The original Pribot, as far as anyone knows, is still floating around the workshop at Google X. “It might very well end up in a museum,” muses Majusiak.

If it does, the label should read: “First developed at 510 Systems, Berkeley.”

About the Author

Contributing editor Mark Harris has been delving into the history of Google’s self-driving car project for IEEE Spectrum and other publications. Before that he investigated the reason that Kodak’s patent portfolio fetched such a pittance.

19 Nov 00:00

11.19.2014

Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic

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18 Nov 15:20

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20 Nov 01:59

IAI Academy Now Offers Free Courses: From “The Meaning of Life” to “A Brief Guide to Everything”

iai academy

This month, The Institute of Art and Ideas (IAI), an organization committed to fostering “a progressive and vibrant intellectual culture in the UK,” launched IAI Academy — a new online educational platform that features courses in philosophy, science and politics. The initial lineup includes 12 courses covering everything from theoretical physics, the meaning of life, the future of feminism, the often vexed relationship between science and religion, and more.

IAI Academy offers its courses for free. But, like other course providers, they charge a nominal fee (right now about $25) if you would like a Verified Certificate when you’ve successfully completed a course. Here’s the initial lineup:

  • A Brief Guide to Everything – Web Video – John Ellis, King’s College London, CBE 
  • The Meaning of Life – Web Video – Steve Fuller, University of Warwick
  • New Adventures in Spacetime – Web Video – Eleanor Knox, King’s College London
  • Minds, Morality and Agency – Web Video – Mark Rowlands, University of Miami
  • Nine Myths About Schizophrenia – Web Video – Richard Bentall, University of Liverpool
  • The History of Fear – Web Video – Frank Furedi, University of Kent
  • Physics: What We Still Don’t Know – Web Video – David Tong, Cambridge
  • Science vs. Religion – Web Video – Mark Vernon, Journalist/Philosopher
  • Sexuality and Power – Web Video – Veronique Mottier, University of Lausanne
  • The Infinite Quest – Web Video – Peter Cameron, Queen Mary University of London.
  • End of Equality – Web Video – Beatrix Campbell – Writer/Activist
  • Rethinking Feminism – Web Video – Finn Mackay – Feminist Activist & Researcher

For more evergreen courses that you can download and enjoy whenever you want, don’t miss our collection, 1000 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

For MOOCs being provided in real-time, see our list of MOOCs from Great Universities.


Related Content:

Take First-Class Philosophy Courses Anywhere with Free Oxford Podcasts

Download 100 Free Philosophy Courses and Start Living the Examined Life


20 Nov 01:58

Eight Pitfalls in Evaluating Green Energy Solutions

Does the recent climate accord between US and China mean that many countries will now forge ahead with renewables and other green solutions? I think that there are more pitfalls than many realize.

Pitfall 1. Green solutions tend to push us from one set of resources that are a problem today (fossil fuels) to other resources that are likely to be problems in the longer term.  

The name of the game is “kicking the can down the road a little.” In a finite world, we are reaching many limits besides fossil fuels:

  1. Soil quality–erosion of topsoil, depleted minerals, added salt
  2. Fresh water–depletion of aquifers that only replenish over thousands of years
  3. Deforestation–cutting down trees faster than they regrow
  4. Ore quality–depletion of high quality ores, leaving us with low quality ores
  5. Extinction of other species–as we build more structures and disturb more land, we remove habitat that other species use, or pollute it
  6. Pollution–many types: CO2, heavy metals, noise, smog, fine particles, radiation, etc.
  7. Arable land per person, as population continues to rise

The danger in almost every “solution” is that we simply transfer our problems from one area to another. Growing corn for ethanol can be a problem for soil quality (erosion of topsoil), fresh water (using water from aquifers in Nebraska, Colorado). If farmers switch to no-till farming to prevent the erosion issue, then great amounts of Round Up are often used, leading to loss of lives of other species.

Encouraging use of forest products because they are renewable can lead to loss of forest cover, as more trees are made into wood chips. There can even be a roundabout reason for loss of forest cover: if high-cost renewables indirectly make citizens poorer, citizens may save money on fuel by illegally cutting down trees.

High tech goods tend to use considerable quantities of rare minerals, many of which are quite polluting if they are released into the environment where we work or live. This is a problem both for extraction and for long-term disposal.

Pitfall 2. Green solutions that use rare minerals are likely not very scalable because of quantity limits and low recycling rates.  

Computers, which are the heart of many high-tech goods, use almost the entire periodic table of elements.

Figure 1. Slide by Alicia Valero showing that almost the entire periodic table of elements is used for computers.

Figure 1. Slide from presentation by Alicia Valero at UNED energy conference showing that almost the entire periodic table of elements is used for computers.

When minerals are used in small quantities, especially when they are used in conjunction with many other minerals, they become virtually impossible to recycle. Experience indicates that less than 1% of specialty metals are recycled.

Figure 2. Slide by Alicia Valero showing recycling rates of elements.

Figure 2. Slide from presentation by Alicia Valero at UNED energy conference showing recycling rates of elements.

Green technologies, including solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries, have pushed resource use toward minerals that were little exploited in the past. If we try to ramp up usage, current mines are likely to deplete rapidly. We will eventually need to add new mines in areas where resource quality is lower and concern about pollution is higher. Costs will be much higher in such mines, making devices using such minerals less affordable, rather than more affordable, in the long run.

Pitfall 3. High-cost energy sources are the opposite of the “gift that keeps on giving.” Instead, they often represent the “subsidy that keeps on taking.”

Oil that was cheap to extract (say $20 barrel) was the true “gift that keeps on giving.” It made workers more efficient in their jobs, thereby contributing to efficiency gains. It made countries using the oil more able to create goods and services cheaply, thus helping them compete better against other countries. Wages tended to rise, as long at the price of oil stayed below $40 or $50 per barrel (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Average wages in 2012$ compared to Brent oil price, also in 2012$. Average wages are total wages based on BEA data adjusted by the CPI-Urban, divided total population. Thus, they reflect changes in the proportion of population employed as well as wage levels.

Figure 3. Average wages in 2012$ compared to Brent oil price, also in 2012$. Average wages are total wages based on BEA data adjusted by the CPI-Urban, divided total population. Thus, they reflect changes in the proportion of population employed as well as wage levels.

More workers joined the work force, as well. This was possible in part because fossil fuels made contraceptives available, reducing family size. Fossil fuels also made tools such as dishwashers, clothes washers, and clothes dryers available, reducing the hours needed in housework. Once oil became high-priced (that is, over $40 or $50 per barrel), its favorable impact on wage growth disappeared.

When we attempt to add new higher-cost sources of energy, whether they are high-cost oil or high-cost renewables, they present a drag on the economy for three reasons:

  1. Consumers tend to cut back on discretionary expenditures, because energy products (including food, which is made oil and other energy products) are a necessity. These cutbacks feed back through the economy and lead to layoffs in discretionary sectors. If they are severe enough, they can lead to debt defaults as well, because laid-off workers have difficulty paying their bills.
  2.  An economy with high-priced sources of energy becomes less competitive in the world economy, competing with countries using less expensive sources of fuel. This tends to lead to lower employment in countries whose mix of energy is weighted toward high-priced fuels.
  3. With (1) and (2) happening, economic growth slows. There are fewer jobs and debt becomes harder to repay.

In some sense, the cost producing of an energy product is a measure of diminishing returns–that is, cost is a measure of the amount of resources that directly and indirectly or indirectly go into making that device or energy product, with higher cost reflecting increasing effort required to make an energy product. If more resources are used in producing high-cost energy products, fewer resources are available for the rest of the economy. Even if a country tries to hide this situation behind a subsidy, the problem comes back to bite the country. This issue underlies the reason that subsidies tend to “keeping on taking.”

The dollar amount of subsidies is also concerning. Currently, subsidies for renewables (before the multiplier effect) average at least $48 per barrel equivalent of oil.1 With the multiplier effect, the dollar amount of subsidies is likely more than the current cost of oil (about $80), and possibly even more than the peak cost of oil in 2008 (about $147). The subsidy (before multiplier effect) per metric ton of oil equivalent amounts to $351. This is far more than the charge for any carbon tax.

Pitfall 4. Green technology (including renewables) can only be add-ons to the fossil fuel system.

A major reason why green technology can only be add-ons to the fossil fuel system relates to Pitfalls 1 through 3. New devices, such as wind turbines, solar PV, and electric cars aren’t very scalable because of high required subsidies, depletion issues, pollution issues, and other limits that we don’t often think about.

A related reason is the fact that even if an energy product is “renewable,” it needs long-term maintenance. For example, a wind turbine needs replacement parts from around the world. These are not available without fossil fuels. Any electrical transmission system transporting wind or solar energy will need frequent repairs, also requiring fossil fuels, usually oil (for building roads and for operating repair trucks and helicopters).

Given the problems with scalability, there is no way that all current uses of fossil fuels can all be converted to run on renewables. According to BP data, in 2013 renewable energy (including biofuels and hydroelectric) amounted to only 9.4% of total energy use. Wind amounted to 1.1% of world energy use; solar amounted to 0.2% of world energy use.

Pitfall 5. We can’t expect oil prices to keep rising because of affordability issues.  

Economists tell us that if there are inadequate oil supplies there should be few problems:  higher prices will reduce demand, encourage more oil production, and encourage production of alternatives. Unfortunately, there is also a roundabout way that demand is reduced: wages tend to be affected by high oil prices, because high-priced oil tends to lead to less employment (Figure 3). With wages not rising much, the rate of growth of debt also tends to slow. The result is that products that use oil (such as cars) are less affordable, leading to less demand for oil. This seems to be the issue we are now encountering, with many young people unable to find good-paying jobs.

If oil prices decline, rather than rise, this creates a problem for renewables and other green alternatives, because needed subsidies are likely to rise rather than disappear.

The other issue with falling oil prices is that oil prices quickly become too low for producers. Producers cut back on new development, leading to a decrease in oil supply in a year or two. Renewables and the electric grid need oil for maintenance, so are likely to be affected as well. Related posts include Low Oil Prices: Sign of a Debt Bubble Collapse, Leading to the End of Oil Supply? and Oil Price Slide – No Good Way Out.

Pitfall 6. It is often difficult to get the finances for an electrical system that uses intermittent renewables to work out well.  

Intermittent renewables, such as electricity from wind, solar PV, and wave energy, tend to work acceptably well, in certain specialized cases:

  • When there is a lot of hydroelectricity nearby to offset shifts in intermittent renewable supply;
  • When the amount added is sufficient small that it has only a small impact on the grid;
  • When the cost of electricity from otherwise available sources, such as burning oil, is very high. This often happens on tropical islands. In such cases, the economy has already adjusted to very high-priced electricity.

Intermittent renewables can also work well supporting tasks that can be intermittent. For example, solar panels can work well for pumping water and for desalination, especially if the alternative is using diesel for fuel.

Where intermittent renewables tend not to work well is when

  1. Consumers and businesses expect to get a big credit for using electricity from intermittent renewables, but
  2. Electricity added to the grid by intermittent renewables leads to little cost savings for electricity providers.

For example, people with solar panels often expect “net metering,” a credit equal to the retail price of electricity for electricity sold to the electric grid. The benefit to electric grid is generally a lot less than the credit for net metering, because the utility still needs to maintain the transmission lines and do many of the functions that it did in the past, such as send out bills. In theory, the utility still should get paid for all of these functions, but doesn’t. Net metering gives way too much credit to those with solar panels, relative to the savings to the electric companies. This approach runs the risk of starving fossil fuel, nuclear, and grid portion of the system of needed revenue.

A similar problem can occur if an electric grid buys wind or solar energy on a preferential basis from commercial providers at wholesale rates in effect for that time of day. This practice tends to lead to a loss of profitability for fossil fuel-based providers of electricity. This is especially the case for natural gas “peaking plants” that normally operate for only a few hours a year, when electricity rates are very high.

Germany has been adding wind and solar, in an attempt to offset reductions in nuclear power production. Germany is now running into difficulty with its pricing approach for renewables. Some of its natural gas providers of electricity have threatened to shut down because they are not making adequate profits with the current pricing plan. Germany also finds itself using more cheap (but polluting) lignite coal, in an attempt to keep total electrical costs within a range customers can afford.

Pitfall 7. Adding intermittent renewables to the electric grid makes the operation of the grid more complex and more difficult to manage. We run the risk of more blackouts and eventual failure of the grid. 

In theory, we can change the electric grid in many ways at once. We can add intermittent renewables, “smart grids,” and “smart appliances” that turn on and off, depending on the needs of the electric grid. We can add the charging of electric automobiles as well. All of these changes add to the complexity of the system. They also increase the vulnerability of the system to hackers.

The usual assumption is that we can step up to the challenge–we can handle this increased complexity. A recent report by The Institution of Engineering and Technology in the UK on the Resilience of the Electricity Infrastructure questions whether this is the case. It says such changes, ” .  .  . vastly increase complexity and require a level of engineering coordination and integration that the current industry structure and market regime does not provide.” Perhaps the system can be changed so that more attention is focused on resilience, but incentives need to be changed to make resilience (and not profit) a top priority. It is doubtful this will happen.

The electric grid has been called the worlds ‘s largest and most complex machine. We “mess with it” at our own risk. Nafeez Ahmed recently published an article called The Coming Blackout Epidemic, discussing challenges grids are now facing. I have written about electric grid problems in the past myself: The US Electric Grid: Will it be Our Undoing?

Pitfall 8. A person needs to be very careful in looking at studies that claim to show favorable performance for intermittent renewables.  

Analysts often overestimate the benefits of wind and solar. Just this week a new report was published saying that the largest solar plant in the world is so far producing only half of the electricity originally anticipated since it opened in February 2014.

In my view, “standard” Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI) and Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) calculations tend to overstate the benefits of intermittent renewables, because they do not include a “time variable,” and because they do not consider the effect of intermittency. More specialized studies that do include these variables show very concerning results. For example, Graham Palmer looks at the dynamic EROEI of solar PV, using batteries (replaced at eight year intervals) to mitigate intermittency.2 He did not include inverters–something that would be needed and would reduce the return further.

Figure 4. Graham Palmer's chart of Dynamic Energy Returned on Energy Invested from "Energy in Australia."

Figure 4. Graham Palmer’s chart of Dynamic Energy Returned on Energy Invested from “Energy in Australia.” (Power point words are my explanation.)

Palmer’s work indicates that because of the big energy investment initially required, the system is left in a deficit energy position for a very long time. The energy that is put into the system is not paid back until 25 years after the system is set up. After the full 30-year lifetime of the solar panel, the system returns 1.3 times the initial direct energy investment.

One further catch is that the energy used in the EROEI calculations includes only a list of direct energy inputs. The total energy required is much higher; it includes indirect inputs that are not directly measured as well as energy needed to provide necessary infrastructure, such as roads and schools. When these are considered, the minimum EROEI needs to be something like 10. Thus, the solar panel plus battery system modeled is really a net energy sink, rather than a net energy producer.  

Another study by Weissbach et al. looks at the impact of adjusting for intermittency. (This study, unlike Palmer’s, doesn’t attempt to adjust for timing differences.) It concludes, “The results show that nuclear, hydro, coal, and natural gas power systems . . . are one order of magnitude more effective than photovoltaics and wind power.”

Conclusion

It would be nice to have a way around limits in a finite world. Unfortunately, this is not possible in the long run. At best, green solutions can help us avoid limits for a little while longer.

The problem we have is that statements about green energy are often overly optimistic. Cost comparisons are often just plain wrong–for example, the supposed near grid parity of solar panels is an “apples to oranges” comparison. An electric utility cannot possibility credit a user with the full retail cost of electricity for the intermittent period it is available, without going broke. Similarly, it is easy to overpay for wind energy, if payments are made based on time-of-day wholesale electricity costs. We will continue to need our fossil-fueled balancing system for the electric grid indefinitely, so we need to continue to financially support this system.

There clearly are some green solutions that will work, at least until the resources needed to produce these solutions are exhausted or other limits are reached. For example, geothermal may be solutions in some locations. Hydroelectric, including “run of the stream” hydro, may be a solution in some locations. In all cases, a clear look at trade-offs needs to be done in advance. New devices, such as gravity powered lamps and solar thermal water heaters, may be helpful especially if they do not use resources in short supply and are not likely to cause pollution problems in the long run.

Expectations for wind and solar PV need to be reduced. Solar PV and offshore wind are both likely net energy sinks because of storage and balancing needs, if they are added to the electric grid in more than very small amounts. Onshore wind is less bad, but it needs to be evaluated closely in each particular location. The need for large subsidies should be a red flag that costs are likely to be high, both short and long term. Another consideration is that wind is likely to have a short lifespan if oil supplies are interrupted, because of its frequent need for replacement parts from around the world.

Some citizens who are concerned about the long-term viability of the electric grid will no doubt want to purchase their own solar systems with inverters and back-up batteries. I see no reason to discourage people who want to do this–the systems may prove to be of assistance to these citizens. But I see no reason to subsidize these purchases, except perhaps in areas (such as tropical islands) where this is the most cost-effective way of producing electric power.

Notes:

[1] In 2013, the total amount of subsidies for renewables was $121 billion according to the IEA. If we compare this to the amount of renewables (biofuels + other renewables) reported by BP, we find that the subsidy per barrel of oil equivalent in was $48 per barrel of oil equivalent. These amounts are likely understated, because BP biofuels include fuel that doesn’t require subsidies, such as waste sawdust burned for electricity.

[2] Palmer’s work is published in Energy in Australia: Peak Oil, Solar Power, and Asia’s Economic Growth, published by Springer in 2014. This book is part of Prof. Charles Hall’s “Briefs in Energy” series.

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19 Nov 08:01

Alpine

by Doug
19 Nov 01:53

A Bicycle Bottle System That Condenses Humidity From Air Into Drinkable Water

The weight of water limits how much can be brought on a long bike ride. There isn’t always an option to stop and fill up from a clean stream or drinking fountain, but water could be obtained from a different source: the air. Austrian industrial design student Kristof Retezár has created Fontus: a prototype of a water bottle system that condenses humid air into clean, drinkable water. His design made him a finalist for the 2014 James Dyson Award.

The Fontus attaches to the bicycle frame and consists of a condenser unit and a bottle for collection. There is a solar panel on top of the unit that powers the condenser. As the motion of the bike causes air to blow into a channel, the moist air is cooled, causing it to condense. The droplets roll back down the condensing unit, collecting in a water bottle mounted underneath. 

A filter is fixed onto the opening where the air comes through, preventing bugs or dirt from damaging the components or getting into the water. However, the filter isn’t effective at removing pollutants in the air, which could contaminate the water. Until another filter is added to correct this problem, it shouldn’t be used in an urban setting.

Currently, the design is capable of producing a drop of water per minute, in air that is approximately 50% humidity with temperatures at least 20˚C (68˚F). Sadly, this means that it will take a considerable amount of time to produce enough water to drink. Retezár's home city of Vienna is not known for its humidity, so he was forced to conduct his experiments in his bathroom using steam from the shower. He predicts that areas with higher levels of humidity could produce as much as half a liter per hour.

The technology behind the design does not only apply to keeping thirst quenched; it could potentially save lives. Over 780 million people on the planet do not have reliable access to clean water, and the problem is predicted to worsen with the changing climate. Condensing humidity into drinking water could be a way to help curb that increasing demand.

Of course, this is not the first time a device has tried to draw the moisture out of humid air for drinking purposes. Warka Water towers in the Namib desert mimic beetles that drink the fog from the air. Eole Water uses wind turbines in the United Arab Emirates to cool air, condensing it into drinking water. Researchers in Peru have designed a billboard to condense humid air, dispensing the water at the bottom. 

While it isn’t particularly hard to condense humid air into drinking water, developing a system that is practical and cost-efficient on a large scale is the limiting factor. The price of each Fontus device would likely run between $25-40 each, though that number will hopefully go down as the device is developed further. Mass production will also help drive down costs, and Retezár is currently investigating crowdfunding options that would make a larger production order more feasible.

[All images belong to Kristof Retezár, via HuffPo]

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19 Nov 01:35

Idiota à brasileira

Ele não faz trabalhos domésticos. Não tem gosto nem respeito por trabalhos manuais. Se puder, atrapalha quem pega no pesado. Trata-se de uma tradição lusitana, ibérica, reproduzida aqui na colônia desde os tempos em que os negros carregavam em barris, nos ombros, a toilete dos seus proprietários, e eram chamados de "tigres" - porque os excrementos lhes caíam sobre as costas, formando listras. O Perfeito Idiota Brasileiro, ou PIB, também não ajuda em casa. Influência da mamãe, que nunca deixou que ele participasse das tarefas - nem mesmo pôr ou tirar uma mesa, nem mesmo arrumar a própria cama. Ele atira suas coisas pela casa, no chão, em qualquer lugar, e as deixa lá, pelo caminho. Não é com ele. Ele foi criado irresponsável e inconsequente. É o tipo de cara que pede um copo d'água deitado no sofá. E não faz nenhuma questão de mudar. O PIB é especialista em não fazer, em fazer de conta, em empurrar com a barriga, em se fazer de morto. Ele sabe que alguém fará por ele. Então ele se desenvolveu um sujeito preguiçoso. Folgado. Que se escora nos outros, não reconhece obrigações e adora levar vantagem. Esse é o seu esporte predileto - transformar quem o cerca em seus otários particulares.

O tempo do Perfeito Idiota Brasileiro vale mais que o das demais pessoas. É a mãe que fura a fila de carros no colégio dos filhos. É a moça que estaciona em vaga para deficientes no shopping. É o casal que atrasa uma hora para um jantar com amigos. As regras só valem para os outros. O PIB não aceita restrições. Para ele, só privilégios e prerrogativas. Um direito divino - porque ele é melhor que os outros. É um adepto do vale-tudo social, do cada um por si e do seja o que Deus quiser. Só tem olhos para o próprio umbigo e os únicos interesses válidos são os seus.

O PIB é o parâmetro de tudo. Quanto mais alguém for diferente dele, mais errado esse alguém estará. Ele tem preconceito contra pretos, pardos, pobres, nordestinos, baixos, gordos, gente do interior, gente que mora longe. E ele é sexista para caramba. Mesma lógica: quem não é da sua tribo, do seu quintal, é torto. E às vezes até quem é da tribo entra na moenda dos seus pré-julgamentos e da sua maledicência. A discriminação também é um jeito de você se tornar externo, e oposto, a um padrão que reconhece em si, mas de que não gosta. É quando o narigudo se insurge contra narizes grandes. O PIB adora isso.

O PIB anda de metrô. Em Paris. Ou em Manhattan. Até em Buenos Aires ele encara. Aqui, nem a pau. Melhor uma hora de trânsito e R$ 25 de estacionamento do que 15 minutos com a galera do vagão. É que o Perfeito Idiota tem um medo bizarro de parecer pobre. E o modo mais direto de não parecer pobre é evitar ambientes em que ele possa ser confundido com um despossuído qualquer. Daí a fobia do PIB por qualquer forma de transporte coletivo.

Outro modo de nunca parecer pobre é pagar caro. O PIB adora pagar caro. Faz questão. Não apenas porque, para ele, caro é sinônimo de bom. Mas, principalmente, porque caro é sinônimo de "cheguei lá" e "eu posso". O sujeito acha que reclamar dos preços, ou discuti-los, ou pechinchar, ou buscar ofertas, é coisa de pobre. E exibe marcas como penduricalhos numa árvore de natal. É assim que se mostra para os outros. Se pudesse, deixaria as etiquetas presas ao que veste e carrega. O PIB compra para se afirmar. Essa é a sua religião. E ele não se importa em ficar no vermelho - preocupação com ter as contas em dia, afinal, é coisa de pobre.

O PIB também é cleptomaníaco. Sua obsessão por ter, e sua mania de locupletação material, lhe fazem roubar roupão de hotel e garrafinha de bebida do avião e amostra grátis de perfume em loja de departamento. Ele pega qualquer produto que esteja sendo ofertado numa degustação no supermercado. Mesmo que não goste daquilo. O PIB gosta de pagar caro, mas ama uma boca-livre.

E o PIB detesta ler. Então este texto é inútil, já que dificilmente chegará às mãos de um Perfeito Idiota Brasileiro legítimo, certo? Errado. Qualquer um de nós corre o risco de se comportar assim. O Perfeito Idiota é muito mais um software do que um hardware, muito mais um sistema ético do que um determinado grupo de pessoas.

Um sistema ético que, infelizmente, virou a cara do Brasil. Ele está na atitude da magistrada que bloqueou, no bairro do Humaitá, no Rio, um trecho de calçada em frente à sua casa, para poder manobrar o carro. Ele está no uso descarado dos acostamentos nas estradas. E está, principalmente, na luz amarela do semáforo. No Brasil, ela é um sinal para avançar, que ainda dá tempo - enquanto no Japão, por exemplo, é um sinal para parar, que não dá mais tempo. Nada traduz melhor nossa sanha por avançar sobre o outro, sobre o espaço do outro, sobre o tempo do outro. Parar no amarelo significaria oferecer a sua contribuição individual em nome da coletividade. E isso o PIB prefere morrer antes de fazer.

Na verdade, basta um teste simples para identificar outras atitudes que definem o PIB: liste as coisas que você teria que fazer se saísse do Brasil hoje para morar em Berlim ou em Toronto ou em Sidney. Lavar a própria roupa, arrumar a própria casa. Usar o transporte público. Respeitar a faixa de pedestres, tanto a pé quanto atrás de um volante. Esperar a sua vez. Compreender que as leis são feitas para todos, inclusive para você. Aceitar que todos os cidadãos têm os mesmos direitos e os mesmo deveres - não há cidadãos de primeira classe e excluídos. Não oferecer mimos que possam ser confundidos com propina. Não manter um caixa dois que lhe permita burlar o fisco. Entender que a coisa pública é de todos - e não uma terra de ninguém à sua disposição para fincar o garfo. Ser honesto, ser justo, não atrasar mais do que gostaria que atrasassem com você. Se algum desses códigos sociais lhe parecer alienígena em algum momento, cuidado: você pode estar contaminado pelo vírus do PIB. Reaja, porque enquanto não erradicarmos esse mal nunca vamos ser uma sociedade para valer.

*Adriano Silva, jornalista e publicitário, foi diretor de redação da SUPER entre 2000 e 2005.