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24 Sep 02:00

This is why I support a SAG-AFTRA strike authorization for video games — and it isn’t about money.

by Wil
Chris Chandler

Relevant to your interests, Sarah.

I’m getting yelled at by people on Twitter because I support my union (SAG-AFTRA)’s efforts to negotiate a better contract for voice performers like myself who perform in video games.

The most frequent complaint goes something like this: “actors work for maybe a few days at most on a game, and they want residual payments?! Programmers and others who work on those same games spend literally years of their lives on them, and they don’t get residuals! Actors are greedy jerks!”

I can’t speak to the fairness or unfairness of residuals or lack of residuals for programmers, artists, composers, and others who game developers and publishers, because that’s not my job, and I don’t know what, precisely, their contracts are. I certainly don’t believe that there is some sort of feud or lack of shared interest between us (the actors) and them, and I fully support all the people who work on games — especially the huge blockbuster games that pull in profits that are in line with the biggest blockbuster movies — getting the very best contract, with the best compensation and best working conditions that they possibly can.

But I did not give my union authorization to call a strike on my behalf because of this issue. I voted to authorize a strike because our employers in the games industry refuse to negotiate with us at all about some very, very important issues surrounding our working conditions.

Let me share some excerpts from an email I got from SAG-AFTRA recently (emphasis mine):

You may have heard that billion-dollar companies like Activision, Warner Bros., Disney and Rockstar Games are against sharing any of their record-setting profits with the performers who help make their games awesome. But…

Our employers have rejected every proposal that we’ve put on the table? That includes the community’s proposals to reduce vocally stressful sessions to two hours, […]

This, right here, is reason enough to strike, as far as I am concerned. I fully realize that for anyone who doesn’t work as a voice actor it sounds insane to care about vocally stressful sessions. I realize that when you hear that actors want to reduce those sessions to two hours or less, it can easily create an impression that actors are lazy and entitled, and don’t want to work as hard as other people do.

(Edit to clarify: Some folks seem to think I’m arguing that voice actors should never have to work more than two hours a day. That’s not what I’m arguing for, at all. I’m arguing that sessions which are vocally stressful should be limited to two hours. Other sessions, with regular dialog and scenes, are typically six to eight hours, and I’m not arguing to change that.)

Listen, if you truly feel that way, I hope you’ll do something to give you some perspective on what this actually means. I really want to help everyone understand what we do when we use our voices to bring video game characters to life, and why the expectations (I believe they are demands) from our employers are unreasonable.

Okay? Let’s get started. Since you probably don’t have a video game script at hand, we’re going to simulate it. I want you to grab your favorite book, and I want you to read, out loud, twenty pages from it. Really put your heart and soul into the dialog, and bring it to life. I need to feel emotion, and I need to be invested in the characters. Now, go do it again, but just slightly different this time, because we’re going to need options. Okay, you’re doing great. You’ve been at it for about two hours now (if you average around six minutes a page, like I do), so take a ten minute break. Drink some hot tea with lemon and honey in it, and then go read it one last time.

So you’re about three hours into it — that’s it! Just three hours! Five hours less than an average (union-negotiated) workday! Your sinuses are feeling a little raw, because you’ve pushed a lot of sound and moisture out of your body. You probably feel some emotional fatigue, because you’ve been putting a lot of emotion into your work. But you’re a professional, so you don’t complain. In fact, you’re grateful for the job, because if you’re lucky you’ll get to do this maybe twice a month. And, honestly, this is still better than coal mining, right? Right.

Okay. Still with me? Good. You can eat lunch now, if you want. You probably go for something with a lot of salt in it, because it soothes your vocal chords. I’m a big fan of the chicken soup, though sometimes I’ll have a burrito, because #burritowatch.

Lunch is over. You’ve been at work for about 4 and a half or five hours at this point. You’re going to go read another ten pages from your book, but I’m only going to ask you to do it once, because you’re probably in the zone by now and you are nailing most things on the first take.

It’s time for the call outs, and then you’re done for the day. Maybe you’re done for the whole job! Awesome. Here’s what you’re going to do: you’re going to make a spreadsheet, with 40 rows on it. In each row, you’re going to put a line of dialog that you’re going to do three times in a row before you move on to the next line. This spreadsheet will have a few columns, with the dialog in the first column, and some direction in the second column. There’s a third column, usually, but that’s got information in it that’s not relevant to our job as actors, so ignore it.

I’ve made you a sample of a few lines from a military game I made up, to help you get started:

Assault on DickButt Island Call Outs

You’re going to do each of those three times, sometimes four times. You’re also going to do this for three more hours. Don’t worry, you can take a couple of short breaks — and you’ll need them — to drink some more of that tea you’re getting sick of.

If you’ve done this as I asked, it’s now six or seven hours after you started. Don’t talk at all for the rest of the day, and don’t make any plans to go audition for any other voice work for the rest of the week, because your voice is wrecked. Don’t go to any kind of day job that requires you to talk with anyone, either, because you’re not going to be able to do that. Oh, and over years and years of this, it’s going to build up into serious and permanent damage … and then you’re not going to be able to work with your voice anymore.

The fact that our employers won’t even talk with us about this growing problem, that affects the ability of all voice performers to take care of themselves, is reason enough to go on strike until they will.

But there’s more. Our employers also refuse:

[…] to hire stunt safety coordinators to protect actors’ well-being in the PCap volume, to share with us and/or our representatives the actual name of the games we work on, and to outline the nature of the work we’ll be doing?

Working in Motion Capture is amazing, and that technology has allowed some of the most incredible works of videogame art in history to be created. The Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto V, Heavy Rain, Uncharted 4, are just a few of the titles that have been brought to life by talented performers using their voices and their movements to create a realism that was unheard of fifteen years ago. It can be dangerous work, especially when there are fights involved, so when we work in live action film or television, there is always a trained, qualified, professional stunt coordinator on set to ensure that nothing goes wrong and nobody gets hurt. The performers who work in those scenes should be afforded the same protection we get when we’re on a traditional film or television set.

And I totally get the desire for studios to protect their upcoming releases by using codenames for various projects when we audition, but asking — in this case expecting — us to go into something with absolutely zero knowledge about the project, or what we’ll be expected to do if we are cast, is completely unreasonable. Maybe someone has a moral objection to the content of a game, and they’d like to know what it is before they commit to it. Maybe they get to see three pages of the script (usually just single lines with no context) and they wouldn’t take the job if they found out the part was just one scene, followed by sixty pages of call outs, being delivered by several different characters. Or maybe they just aren’t into the project when they find out what it is. The point is, expecting actors — or anyone — to commit to a job without knowing exactly what it entails just defies common sense. We have got to be able to figure out a compromise that fairly and equitably addresses everyone’s concerns. You know, a negotiation.

But it gets worse, because these people, who have refused to address a single proposal from SAG-AFTRA, have some ideas of their own that they apparently expect us to just accept without question:

Our employers want to be able to fine you $2,500 if you show up late or are not “attentive to the services for which [you] have been engaged.” This means you could be fined for almost anything: checking an incoming text, posting to your Twitter feed, even zoning out for a second. If a producer feels you are being “inattentive,” they want the option to fine you $2,500.
Our employers want to be able to fine the union $50,000-$100,000 if your franchised agent doesn’t send you out on certain auditions (like Atmospheric Voices or One Hour One Voice sessions)?

I’m sorry. What? The studios want to fine SAG-AFTRA up to $100,000 if our agents don’t send us out on an audition? Because these same people who refuse to discuss any of our proposals for this upcoming contract believe … what, exactly? That they own us all and they can force our agents to do whatever they want them to do? This makes literally no sense at all.

If your agent chooses not to submit you for certain auditions, our employers want to put into our contract language forcing SAG-AFTRA to revoke your agent’s union franchise. This would mean that your agency would not be able to send you out on any union jobs, including those in animation, TV/film, commercials, etc.

So this is ludicrous. I can not think of a single instance in the history of the entertainment industry where a studio of any sort has asked for and gotten something like this. If my agent doesn’t submit me for something, for whatever reason, that’s between my agent and me. Maybe I don’t want to work for a certain studio, so my agent doesn’t submit me for their projects. Maybe I don’t want to work with a certain director, or another performer or whatever I feel like because I’m a sentient human being who makes his own decisions. These employers (at video game companies and video game studios) want to have the option of preventing our agents from submitting us for any work at all, and that’s outrageous. Our relationship with our agents is, frankly, none of any studio’s business. (Edit 9/24/15 5:54pm): I just remembered that SAG doesn’t have a franchise agreement with agents at the moment, and hasn’t for some time. So there is no franchise to revoke (as I understand it, now).


We are at a crossroads, and we have a choice to make.

This is the crux of it, really. It really, really, really and honestly and truly isn’t about money. Sure, payment and compensation is certainly part of it, but it’s not all of it, and it isn’t even the biggest part of it. We really are fighting for the future of our ability to work in this business.

If we stand united, we have a chance to make real gains in this contract and to avoid these onerous rules and fines. SAG-AFTRA is one union now. We have power we’ve never had before, and it needs to be deployed now.

If we don’t stand together, we won’t even be able to maintain the status quo.

That’s why your Negotiating Committee, Executive Committee and National Board have all voted unanimously to support this action. Now, it’s in your hands. We hope you’ll join us and vote YES for a strike authorization.

Voting YES for a strike authorization does NOT mean we are on strike, it does NOT mean that we have to strike or that we will strike. It simply means that you authorize your Negotiating Committee and elected representatives to call for a strike against video game companies as a last resort, in order to make sure that your safety and well-being are protected, and that your future is free from any unnecessary fines and penalties. A strike authorization gives your Negotiating Committee real power at the bargaining table.

I love the work that I do. I’m grateful for the work that I have, and I’ve been lucky to work with some incredibly talented people on both sides of the recording studio glass. This isn’t about making enemies of the other creative people in the business, be they directors, studio engineers, artists, programmers, sound designers, writers, etc. This is about a handful of extremely wealthy, extremely powerful people trying to take away our ability to make a living, to take care of our voices, and to be safe on the set.

We in the voice acting community — along with the programmers and engineers, of course — have helped video games grow into a multi-billion dollar industry. Video games rival movies not because we push buttons and get loot, but because video games tell amazing stories that touch our lives in ways that movies can not.

I sincerely hope that a strike won’t be necessary. I sincerely hope that our employers will come to the negotiating table and talk with us in good faith, to reach an agreement that’s fair.

But if they won’t, I’ll go on strike unless and until they will, because I believe that #PerformanceMatters.

17 Aug 14:42

Researchers Discover New Plant "Language"

by samzenpus
An anonymous reader writes A Virginia Tech scientist has discovered a potentially new form of plant communication, that allows them to share genetic information with one another. Jim Westwood, a professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science, found evidence of this new communication mode by investigating the relationship between dodder, a parasitic plant, and the flowering plant Arabidopsis and tomato plants to which it attaches and sucks out nutrients with an appendage called a haustorium. Westwood examined the plants' mRNA, the molecule in cells that instructs organisms how to code certain proteins that are key to functioning. MRNA helps to regulate plant development and can control when plants eventually flowers. He found that the parasitic and the host plants were exchanging thousands of mRNA molecules between each other, thus creating a conversation.

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09 Jul 20:50

Habitation of the Blessed

by LadyGlutter

The Habitation of the Blessed (A Dirge for Prester John, #1)The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M. Valente

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gorgeous. A beautiful mythos, interesting and compelling narrative. The book is filled with wonder and joy. Through the lyric prose, Valente shares with the reader her obvious love of language, philosophy, history, theology, and mythology. Intertwined stories of Pentexore, a land of creativity, humor, love, sensuality, and immortality, contrast with an ascetic mindset. It’s challenging and layered, and writing this review freshly after reading it is difficult because I want to give the book its due but I’m still in awe and joy at what I just read.

Some people will probably dislike this story intensely. It’s not for people with little patience for poetic, lyric language, or for those who don’t enjoy trippy, dream-sequence style creativity. If you like direct, to the point, straightforward plots, be warned. This book meanders and dallies and teases the reader, playfully inviting you to suspend your disbelief to an extreme. It’s not for skimming, either; even though it’s a short read, it’s not a quick one because your whole attention needs to be focused to truly get the most out of this book.

The story and references will make much more sense to someone familiar with Christianity. I did a fair amount of research on the creatures in the book as I read, but I think anyone could roll with the descriptions in the story and be fine without that. Valente does a fine job of filling in those details you don’t understand, but it does help to have some of that knowledge, and might serve to frustrate those who don’t want to wait.

I enjoyed it so much. I can’t wait to read more.

View all my reviews

21 May 00:00


Recently, some exoplanet astronomers have managed to use careful analysis of reflected light to discover Earth during the day.
15 Apr 03:03


by LadyGlutter

Duncan and I had a blast helping with this. Ian Cunningham is an awesome person and talent, and we’re proud to support him and our city. We’re at roughly 3:15 or so, and a few other times here and there. It was filmed on International Happiness Day, and will be a memory we’ll always have. “Happy” was just starting to get on my nerves, too. This renewed my love of the tune.

We’re at Railroad Park. Lots of friends participated in this film. It makes me happy.

10 Apr 16:42

More from The Portlandia Activity Book

15 Mar 20:00

How to open a book

by Cory Doctorow

Here's a lovely old advisory from William Matthews Bookseller, explaining how to open a book for the first time, which was a major operation in the age of hand-sewn hardcover bindings.

Unfortunately, Mr Matthews did not include any notes on how to close the books, which was a bit awkward for his customers.

(via That Book Smell)


17 Mar 00:00


The most ridiculous offender of all is the sudoers man page, which for 15 years has started with a 'quick guide' to EBNF, a system for defining the grammar of a language. 'Don't despair', it says, 'the definitions below are annotated.'
04 Mar 13:04

NASA Forgets How To Talk To ICE/ISEE-3 Spacecraft

by Unknown Lamer
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Randall Munroe's XKCD cartoon on the ICE/ISEE-3 spacecraft inspired me to do a little research on why Nasa can no long communicate with the International Cometary Explorer. Launched in 1978 ISEE-3 was the first spacecraft to be placed in a halo orbit at one of Earth-Sun Lagrangian points (L1). It was later (as ICE) sent to visit Comet Giacobini-Zinner and became the first spacecraft to do so by flying through a comet's tail passing the nucleus at a distance of approximately 7800 km. ICE has been in a heliocentric orbit since then, traveling just slightly faster than Earth and it's finally catching up to us from behind, and will return to Earth in August. According to Emily Lakdawalla, it's still functioning, broadcasting a carrier signal that the Deep Space Network successfully detected in 2008 and twelve of its 13 instruments were working when we last checked on its condition, sometime prior to 1999. Can we tell the spacecraft to turn back on its thrusters and science instruments after decades of silence and perform the intricate ballet needed to send it back to where it can again monitor the Sun? Unfortunately the answer to that question appears to be no. 'The transmitters of the Deep Space Network, the hardware to send signals out to the fleet of NASA spacecraft in deep space, no longer includes the equipment needed to talk to ISEE-3. These old-fashioned transmitters were removed in 1999.' Could new transmitters be built? Yes, but it would be at a price no one is willing to spend. 'So ISEE-3 will pass by us, ready to talk with us, but in the 30 years since it departed Earth we've lost the ability to speak its language,' concludes Lakdawalla. 'I wonder if ham radio operators will be able to pick up its carrier signal — it's meaningless, I guess, but it feels like an honorable thing to do, a kind of salute to the venerable ship as it passes by.'"

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28 Feb 17:22

Water Filtration With a Tree Branch

by Soulskill
Taco Cowboy writes "Dirty water is a major cause of mortality in the developing world. 'The most common water-borne pathogens are bacteria (e.g. Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi, Vibrio cholerae), viruses (e.g. adenoviruses, enteroviruses, hepatitis, rotavirus), and protozoa (e.g. giardia). These pathogens cause child mortality and also contribute to malnutrition and stunted growth of children.' People have been working on engineering cheaper and cheaper filtration systems for years, but now a group of researchers has found a promising and simple solution: a tree branch. 'Approximately 3 cm^3 of sapwood can filter water at the rate of several liters per day, sufficient to meet the clean drinking water needs of one person.' 'Before experimenting with contaminated water, the group used water mixed with red ink particles ranging from 70 to 500 nanometers in size. After all the liquid passed through, the researchers sliced the sapwood in half lengthwise, and observed that much of the red dye was contained within the very top layers of the wood, while the filtrate, or filtered water, was clear. This experiment showed that sapwood is naturally able to filter out particles bigger than about 70 nanometers.' The team tested E. coli-contaminated water, and the branch was able to filter out 99 percent of the bacterial cells."

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24 Feb 00:00


Let me just scroll down and check behind that rock. Annnnd ... nope, page copyright year starts with '19'. Oh God, is this a WEBRING?
26 Feb 00:00


This image stays roughly in sync with the day (assuming the Earth continues spinning). Shortcut:
06 Feb 05:00

February 06, 2014

Hey geeks! I did another EXCLUSIVE COMIC over at The Nib.
11 Feb 23:32

A Softer World

17 Feb 00:00


Frequency Frequency Frequency Frequency Frequency
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13 Feb 17:36

Vikings' Secret Code Cracked

by timothy
sciencehabit writes "What may look like mere scratches is much more. A 900-year-old Viking code known as jötunvillur has been cracked. The code-cracker, runologist Jonas Nordby from the University of Oslo, deciphered the system after realizing he needed to replace the original runic character with the last sound used to pronounce it. For instance, the runic character 'k' is pronounced 'kaun,' so k becomes n. Nordby believes secret messages were created by the Vikings for entertainment. One piece of wood reads: 'Kiss me.'"

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12 Feb 14:00

At Least She's Strong-Willed

vegans,how i met your mother,TV,funny

Submitted by: Unknown

05 Feb 03:12

India To Build World's Largest Solar Plant

by Soulskill
ananyo writes "India has pledged to build the world's most powerful solar plant. With a nominal capacity of 4,000 megawatts, comparable to that of four full-size nuclear reactors, the 'ultra mega' project will be more than ten times larger than any other solar project built so far, and it will spread over 77 square kilometres of land — greater than the island of Manhattan. Six state-owned companies have formed a joint venture to execute the project, which they say can be completed in seven years at a projected cost of US$4.4 billion. The proposed location is near Sambhar Salt Lake in the northern state of Rajasthan."

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05 Feb 16:29

Should Nuclear and Renewable Energy Supporters Stop Fighting?

by Unknown Lamer
Lasrick writes "A debate is happening in the pages of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that started with their publication of 'Nuclear vs. Renewables: Divided They Fall,' an article by Dawn Stover that chides nuclear energy advocates and advocates of renewable energy for bickering over the deck chairs while climate change sinks the ship, and while the fossil fuel industry reaps the rewards of the clean energy camp's refusal to work together. Many of the clean energy folks took umbrage at the description of nuclear power as 'clean energy,' so the Civil Society Institute has responded with a detailed look at exactly why they believe nuclear power will not be needed as the world transitions to clean energy."

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04 Feb 19:45

Turning a source of noise into an error-correcting qubit

by John Timmer
A device for accessing the nitrogen vacancies of a diamond.

When you set a bit in a normal computer, you expect it to stay set; computers rely on a variety of technologies to ensure it does. The challenge of maintaining a bit is substantially harder in a quantum computer, where any interactions between a qubit and its environment can change the value stored in the qubit. As a result, most quantum bits have a lifetime on the order of milliseconds or less.

Now, researchers have figured out how to turn a source of noise into a solution for maintaining quantum memory. By individually addressing some of the atoms surrounding a qubit, they've turned each into an additional form of storage. By storing a single value in the qubit and its neighbors, they've created a form of error correction for quantum memory.

The research team, a collaboration between Delft University of Technology and the University of Iowa, was focusing on one of the standard forms of qubit storage: a nitrogen vacancy in diamond. Since nitrogen can only form three covalent bonds (instead of carbon's four), it ends up with unpaired electrons when present in the regular matrix of a diamond. Those electrons can then be addressed as qubits, with their state set and read using light of the appropriate wavelength.

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04 Feb 19:00

Kim Stanley Robinson on science fiction and California: "California is a terraformed space"

by Cory Doctorow

In this interview with Boom Magazine, Kim Stanley Robinson discusses the relationship of California to the future. Robinson is a profound ecological thinker, and two of his books in particular, Pacific Edge (the best utopian/optimistic novel I've ever read) and 2312 (a dazzling work of environmentally conscious, wildly imaginative eco-futurism) are both important works for thinking about a way out of our current dire situation.

In this interview, Robinson's analysis is particularly cogent, making a microcosm out of California for the whole world, and making important points about the way that good technology is key to any answer to questions about humanity's future on and off Earth. Especially worth reading are his views on the relationship of science to capitalism:

"Capitalism’s effect on humanity is not at all what science’s effect is on humanity. If you say science is nothing but instrumentality and capitalism’s technical wing, then you’re saying we’re doomed. Those are the two most powerful social forces on the planet, and now it’s come to a situation of science versus capitalism. It’s a titanic battle. One is positive and the other negative. We need to do everything we can to create democratic, environmental, utopian science, because meanwhile there is this economic power structure that benefits the few, not very different from feudalism, while wrecking the biosphere. This is just a folk tale, of course, like a play with sock puppets, like Punch and Judy. But I think it describes the situation fairly well."

Pacific Edge was my first attempt to think about what would it be like if we reconfigured the landscape, the infrastructure, the social systems of California. I think eventually that’s where we’ll end up. It may be a five hundred year project. I thought of it as my utopian novel. But the famous problem of utopian novels as a genre is that they are cut off from history. They always somehow get a fresh start. I thought the interesting game to play would be to try to graft my utopia onto history and presume that we could trace the line from our current moment to the moment in the book. I don’t think I succeeded. I wish I had had the forethought to add about twenty pages of expository material on how they got to that society. Later I had a lot of dissatisfactions with Pacific Edge. You can’t have this gap in the history where the old man says, well, we did it, but never explains how. But every time I tried to think of the details it was like—well, Ernest Callenbach wrote Ecotopia, and then explained how they got to it in Ecotopia Emerging. And there’s not a single sentence in that prequel that you can believe. So, Pacific Edge was my attempt, a first attempt, and I think it’s still a nice vision of what Southern California could be. That coastal plain is so nice. From Santa Barbara to San Diego is the most gorgeous Mediterranean environment. And we’ve completely screwed it. To me now, it’s kind of a nightmare. When I go down there it creeps me out. I hope to spend more of my life in San Diego, which is one of my favorite places. But I’ll probably stick to west of the coast highway and stay on the beach as much as I can. I’ll deal, but we can do so much better.

Robinson: California is a terraformed space. I think we have accidentally become terraformers, but of course we are not gods. We don’t actually know enough about ecology, or even about bacteria, to do what we want to do here. We could make environmental changes that could do damage that we can’t recover from, so it’s dangerous. We’re more like the sorcerer’s apprentice. We can do amazing things on this planet, out of hubris, and partial ignorance, and yet we are without the powers to jerk the system back to health if we wreck it. If ocean acidification occurs, we don’t have a chance to shift that back. So we’ve accidentally cast ourselves into this role by our scientific successes, but we don’t have the power to do what we need to do, so we need to negotiate our situation with the environment. The idea that we’re living in the Anthropocene is correct. We are the biggest geological impact now; human beings are doing more to change the planet than any other force, from bedrock up to the top of the troposphere. Of course if you consider twenty million years and plate tectonics, we’re never going to match that kind of movement. It’s only in our own temporal scale that we look like lords of the Earth; when you consider a longer temporality, you suddenly realize we’re more like ants on the back of an elephant. By no means do we have godlike powers on this planet. We have a biological system we can mess up, a thin wrap on the planet’s surface, like cellophane wrapping a basketball. But there is so much we don’t know. You can do cosmology with more certainty than ecology.

Planet of the Future [The Boom]

(Image: Kim Stanley Robinson at Worldcon 2005 in Glasgow, August 2005, Szymon Sokół/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA)


03 Feb 21:07

New laser-printed material is lighter than water, as strong as steel

by Akshat Rathi
Jens Bauer

Materials shape human progress—think Stone Age or Bronze Age. The 21st century has been referred to as the molecular age, a time when scientists are beginning to manipulate materials at the atomic level to create new substances with astounding properties.

Taking a step in that direction, Jens Bauer, at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), and his colleagues have developed a bone-like material that is less dense than water but as strong as some forms of steel. "This is the first experimental proof that such materials can exist," Bauer said.

Material world

Since the Industrial Revolution, our demand for new materials has outstripped supply. We want these materials to do many different things, from improving the speed of computers to withstanding the heat when entering Mars' atmosphere. However, a key feature of most new materials remains in their strength and stiffness—that is, how much load can they carry without bending or buckling.

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03 Feb 22:10

Steam Music beta will soon let you play your music… through Steam

by Kyle Orland

Steam's ever-expanding list of features will soon include a music player. The company recently announced an upcoming beta test for the new music features, designed to integrate local file playback while in a Steam game. Steam users who join the Steam Music community group will be invited into the beta in waves in the near future, according to the announcement.

The features being discussed for the beta so far are about what you'd expect: add a library of local music files, then view them by directory, album, artist, or track. Users will be able to manage playlists and a queue of tracks to play from inside the Steam overlay without having to switch over to an external app. Big Picture and/or SteamOS users can bring up playback options quickly by tapping the guide button, but keyboard-and-mouse users can also manage their music through a menu.

Thus far, Steam Music is slated to only support songs in MP3 format, though a short FAQ states that "this will change over time." The community forums are already brimming with expansion requests, from lossless FLAC and OGG to streaming services like Spotify,, and Google Music.

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02 Feb 05:00

February 02, 2014

This also works on children.
27 Jan 13:48

The "Triple Package" Explains Why Some Cultural Groups Are More Successful

by samzenpus
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Yale Law School professors Amy Chua, the self-proclaimed 'Tiger Mom,' and her husband Jed Rubenfeld write in the NYT that it may be taboo to say it, but certain ethnic, religious and national-origin groups are doing strikingly better than Americans overall and Chua and Rubenfeld claim to have identified the three factors that account some group's upward mobility. 'It turns out that for all their diversity, the strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success,' write Chua and Rubenfeld. 'The first is a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite — insecurity, a feeling that you or what you've done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.' Ironically, each element of the Triple Package violates a core tenet of contemporary American thinking. For example, that insecurity should be a lever of success is anathema in American culture. Feelings of inadequacy are cause for concern or even therapy and parents deliberately instilling insecurity in their children is almost unthinkable. Yet insecurity runs deep in every one of America's rising groups; and consciously or unconsciously, they tend to instill it in their children. Being an outsider in a society — and America's most successful groups are all outsiders in one way or another — is a source of insecurity in itself. Immigrants worry about whether they can survive in a strange land, often communicating a sense of life's precariousness to their children. Hence the common credo: They can take away your home or business, but never your education, so study harder. 'The United States itself was born a Triple Package nation, with an outsized belief in its own exceptionality, a goading desire to prove itself to aristocratic Europe and a Puritan inheritance of impulse control,' conclude Chua and Rubenfeld adding that prosperity and power had their predictable effect, eroding the insecurity and self-restraint that led to them. 'Thus the trials of recent years — the unwon wars, the financial collapse, the rise of China — have, perversely, had a beneficial effect: the return of insecurity...America has always been at its best when it has had to overcome adversity and prove its mettle on the world stage. For better and worse, it has that opportunity again today.'"

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24 Jan 14:33

More Bad News For the F-35

by Soulskill
schwit1 sends this news from Aviation Week: "A new U.S. Defense Department report warns that ongoing software, maintenance and reliability problems with Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 stealth fighter could delay the Marine Corps' plans to start using its F-35 jets by mid-2015. It said Lockheed had delivered F-35 jets with 50 percent or less of the software capabilities required by its production contracts with the Pentagon. The computer-based logistics system known as ALIS was fielded with 'serious deficiencies' and remained behind schedule, which affected servicing of existing jets needed for flight testing, the report said. It said the ALIS diagnostic system failed to meet even basic requirements. The F35 program, which began in 2001, is 70 percent over initial cost estimates, and years behind schedule, but top U.S. officials say it is now making progress. They have vowed to safeguard funding for the program to keep it on track. Earlier this week, the nonprofit Center for International Policy said Lockheed had greatly exaggerated its estimate (PDF) that the F-35 program sustained 125,000 U.S. jobs to shore up support for the program."

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24 Jan 15:49

MSNBC anchor shuts up congresswoman to cut to Bieber

by Rob Beschizza

Yesterday, Biebs was arrested and charged over a drunken driving incident. The unfolding saga was so important that MSNBC host Andrea Mitchel silenced the longtime congresswoman she was interviewing (about NSA domestic spying) to report a preliminary court appearance.

Jane Harman, a Democrat, represented California's 36th district until 2011. [via r/nottheonion]


24 Jan 00:00


'You see the same pattern all over. Take Detroit--' 'Hold on. Why do you know all these statistics offhand?' 'Oh, um, no idea. I definitely spend my evenings hanging out with friends, and not curating a REALLY NEAT database of temperature statistics. Because, pshh, who would want to do that, right? Also, snowfall records.'
24 Jan 00:01


by aaron


23 Jan 02:00

For sale: water-tank castle

by Cory Doctorow
Chris Chandler

$500?! Do what now!?

If you're in New Zealand and want to have the coolest playhouse/LARP-prop south of the equator, this Trademe ad is offering a concrete water-tank converted to a castle for a surprisingly reasonable $500 (you have to pay to move it, though).

This one off creation from an old concrete water tank makes a unique playhouse.

Downstairs dungeon with gate.

Ladder leads to timber & ply 1st. floor.

Painted roof to form turrets.

Perspex windows.

Pictures do not do it justice.

Castle Playhouse (Thanks, Edwin!)