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23 Aug 11:00

7 Clever Ways to Fight Flooding in an Increasingly Wet World

by Sam Lubell
7 Clever Ways to Fight Flooding in an Increasingly Wet World
Countries around the world are buttressing and planning as floods like those in Louisiana become commonplace. The post 7 Clever Ways to Fight Flooding in an Increasingly Wet World appeared first on WIRED.
21 Aug 14:30

Hugo Awards Celebrate Women in Sci-Fi, Send Rabid Puppies to Doghouse

by Beth Elderkin

The Hugo Awards proved once again that progress trumps nostalgia, as women, especially women of color, were the top winners of the night.

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21 Aug 15:30

Don't Throw Out Your Game Boy Classic; Use It To Pilot a Drone Instead

by Carli Velocci on Gizmodo, shared by Beth Elderkin to io9

What do you do with your old Game Boy? Some of us try and boot it up for the first time in decades, while others look at this brick that we played with in our childhood and make something of it.

Read more...

22 Aug 04:35

On Not Having Children

by Akim Reinhardt

by Akim Reinhardt

Forgot Children1During your 20s and 30s, when you don't have any children, it is inevitable that people will periodically ask you: "Do you want to have kids?"

It never mattered who asked. Family, friends, or lesser acquaintances, men or women, married or single, parents themselves or not. I always had the same answer.

Yes, just not now.

As I approached my mid-30s, I began to append a caveat: If I didn't have any children by age 40, I probably never would. I didn't want to be an old dad.

But the realization, that I'd rather not be a middle aged gray beard huffing and puffing while I try to keep up with the little rascals, opened a door. Whereas I'd previously assumed I wanted kids, just not now, the 40 year old expiration date I adopted forced me to question my pat answer and ask myself if I really wanted them at all.

After spending a couple of decades saying Yes, but not now, I finally realized something. There was never a "now" because I never actually wanted them. And I probably never would.

***

The generations that came of age after World War II made divorce mainstream.

As teens, they were still subject to intense social pressure to marry and have kids, which most of them did. But the Boomers became increasingly resentful of their parents as they matured, or in many cases, at least leery of their elders' mistakes. They and the so-called Silent Generation (Depression and War babies) asked themselves: Must I really spend half-a-century and all of my best years in a bad marriage that I jumped into when I was way too young to know better?

As the 1970s unfolded, more and more of them decided the answer was No.

The U.S. divorce rate steadily climbed during the 20th century, and featured a brief jump after WWII. But it was the post-WWII couples who really tore down the stigma. Divorces reached their all time high in the early 1980s, when about half of new marriages were failing.

If the generations after WWII pioneered divorce, I'd like to think my generations, which came of age during the turn-of the century, have pioneered not bothering.

We saw all of it growing up. The trauma of old style shitty marriages. The trauma of new-fangled, no fault divorces. And as we came into our own, more and more of us decided neither option was particularly attractive.

During the 1990s, as Generation X reached prime mating age, marriage rates began a precipitous decline from which they've never recovered. As for cranking out babies, the current American fertility rate (births per one-thousand women aged 15-44) is only about half what it was 50 years ago.

More and more of us click to enlargeare fine with fewer and fewer of us.
*
I get along famously with children. To  be honest, I get along well with a lot of people. I'm pretty easy going. But I get kids. Kinda how I get animals.

It's not that kids are like animals. It's that neither of them are much like adult humans. And in either case, they're certainly not smart enough to really get you. So short of raising them, if you're going to make a deep connection, you have to relate to them on their own terms.

Some people seem to think this means doing a bad impersonation of a child. Talking to them in exaggerated "baby talk" or goofy "kid speak." 

I think that's like trying to talk to a French person by speaking English with a French accent.

Relating to a kid on their own terms, so far as I can tell, isn't about style. It's about substance. Just like anyone else of any age, human or otherwise, it's about relating to their interests and, more importantly, to the world as they understand it.

So when hanging out with children, aside from limiting my vocabulary, I talk to them more or less the same way I talk to an adult. I talk about what they're into. And if you're not generally around them much, that requires jogging your memory.

What was it like to be five, or eight, or eleven?  What was funny?  What was fun?  What was annoying?  What did you want to do that you didn't usually get the chance to?

It can be refreshing to remember that life. They're so free. It can also be a bit jarring. They're vicious little sociopaths in some ways. Mean little drunks with quick tempers and short memories.

I just take them as they are.

Be physical, but on their terms. Bring them revelations without being condescending. Be silly, but still take them seriously. Share their joys and sorrows. Show genuine interest, which shouldn't be hard, because they are genuinely interesting. Actually, most of them are much more interesting than most adults, to be perfectly honest.

Kids love me. And I really dig them. For a few hours at a time.

You know me. I'm the guy who winds your kids up, the unofficial uncle who puts big smiles on their faces, gives them back to you, and then disappears for a few months.
*
Over the years, various people have occasionally said to me: You'd make a wonderful father.

I'm always very touched. Of all the crafts one might master, there's nothing more admirable than becoming a good parent.

But that's not enough for me.

When I was younger, wondering about careers, lots of people told me I'd be a good lawyer. I don't want to do that either.

Being good at something is very rewarding on its own terms. But that's not enough reason to do it. Not when it entails spending three years in law school and passing the bar, or spending eighteen years rearing a life form and preparing it to go out into the world on its own.

I've never had any illusions about what parenting entails. I've always suspected that doing it well requires far more time and work than I want to put in. Christ, it's pretty obvious to anyone who's paying attention, that even being a shitty parent requires a mountain of work.

But at no time in my life have I ever wanted to dedicate about twenty years to the full time job of raising a child, even my own precious child. Hell no. I'm fucking lazy, and I know it. I have a good life, and I know it. And while having a kid would make everything so much better in so many ways, it would also make all of it worse in many ways. So screw it.

Of course, given that attitude, I certainly understand why some people are inclined to think that we, the childless, are selfish for not having kids. Maybe we are; not that I really give a shit what other people think about my life choices. And if I'm feeling catty, I can turn it around very quickly.

Nearly seven and a half billion people on a planet that's literally burning up from human activity, but your life's not complete until you produce even more of them?  Who's selfish now?

But when I'm feeling generous, I deflect accusation of selfishness with a more thoughtful rejoinder.

Being a parent is the greatest responsibility anyone could ever assume. I know politicians and business leaders like to fancy themselves the world's most important people. And far too often we indulge their conceits.

Oooh, you're so important. You create jobs. You manage the economy. You start and end wars.  Oh my. Aren't you special.

OverpopulationEh. They're just the rich and powerful. Way overrated.

But parents? They create people. And they have a profound influence on the people they create, contributing mightily to making them healthy, happy, productive, kind, thoughtful, and all the other good stuff.

It is years and years of hard work, with an unfathomably intimate impact on other people's lives. But it's also completely optional.

No one has to have a kid.

So the way I see it, if you're going to be a parent, you ought to really want to be a parent. It's too important a job to sign up and then half-ass it once the initial wonderment wears off. There's too much at stake for you to start down that path, then lose interest and do a crappy job.

I don't want to be a parent. I never have. That's why, even when I assumed I wanted kids, my answer was always "not now."  Because I didn't want them even when I thought I wanted them.

So the most selfish thing I could do is have children. To sire little human beings so I could feed my ego, or chase näive fantasies about cute babies corralled by white picket fences. To create people and not be deeply in love with the idea of parenting them.
*
About five years ago at my younger sister's wedding, when I was in my early forties, my uncle made a last ditch effort to encourage me to start a family. Unknown to him, however, his big pitch only confirmed what I already suspected. Having a family, he told me, was both the best thing and the worst thing that could ever happen to me.

I didn't have to think about my response. That's a simple one for me, I told him. I'll gladly pass up the best to avoid the worst.

Deep down in my soul, that's who I am, and I'm happy with that.

A couple of years later, my sister had a baby. Now I'm no longer just an unofficial uncle. I'm bound by blood as well, responsible to my niece for the rest of my life.

The first time I held her, not too long after she was born, I thought to myself: Man, I am so glad I don't have one of these.

I stared at my niece a bit, both of us a little dazed and lost in our own worlds as we faced at each other's unfocused eyes. Then I handed her back.

Later on, when my sister asked me what I thought, I was honest with her. At first she was surprised. But then she smiled, and I with her. We were both happy. We had both made the right choice.

Akim Reinhardt's website is ThePublicProfessor.com

22 Aug 12:16

How to Make Your Own Gravitational Waves

by Jennifer Ouellette on Gizmodo, shared by Adam Clark Estes to io9

Remember that time Stephen Colbert brought physicist Brian Greene on The Late Show to demonstrate the concept of gravitational waves with green lasers? Yeah, that was pretty awesome. Now there’s a handy DIY demonstration for those of us without access to that kind of technology, courtesy of science presenter Steve Mould.

Read more...

22 Aug 13:13

EFF takes a deep dive into Windows 10's brutal privacy breaches

by Cory Doctorow

og-windows10

Microsoft's deceptive hard-sell to gets users to "upgrade" to Windows 10 (the most control-freaky OS to ever come out of Redmond) is made all the more awful by just how much personal, sensitive, compromising data Microsoft exfiltrates from its users' PCs once they make the switch. (more…)

22 Aug 18:27

Why Did Microsoft Trick So Many Users Into Installing Windows 10?

by Maddy Myers

windows 10

If you’re a Windows user, then it’s unlikely that you missed the deadline for Microsoft’s free upgrade to Windows 10, which passed by over a month ago. You got plenty of reminders. In fact, it’s pretty likely that you upgraded to Windows 10 whether you wanted to or not.

Now that Microsoft’s roll-out of Windows 10 is in the rearview mirror, it’s worth looking back on how weird it actually was–and also, expressing our hope that it doesn’t represent a new precedent for roll-outs in the future. In an editorial at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Amul Kalia sounds off about the many strange decisions that Microsoft made during their push to get as many users as possible to install the new operating system.

Microsoft pulled a lot of sneaky moves to get users to upgrade, sometimes without users fully realizing that they were consenting to the update at all. Some might even call that outright trickery rather than just sneaky. One of the most worrying examples in Kalia’s piece describes the members of a wildlife conservation group based in “the central African bush,” one of whom wrote a viral Reddit post about their concern over accidentally initiating the update. The group’s computers are used to “track & coordinate anti-poaching rangers in the field … Aside from the fact that we pay per MB, and already share a slow connection, if a forced upgrade happened and crashed our pc’s [sic] while in the middle of coordinating rangers under fire from armed militarized poachers… blood could literally be on MS’s hands.”

This shouldn’t even be a concern, but Microsoft made it far too easy for users to install Windows 10 without realizing it. Many users have Windows’ “recommended updates” turned on automatically, and so when Microsoft decided to make their new operating system into a “recommended update,” they did so with the knowledge that many users would end up downloading it automatically. Windows Update also automatically included Windows 10 on a list of “optional” updates, with the upgrade automatically checked off, meaning that users who didn’t notice it had been checked already might start to install it without realizing.

Users could cancel the Windows 10 update after it began, but only if they noticed it. If you install updates right before going to bed, for example, you might wake up to a rude surprise. Plus, you need only type “Windows 10 breaks computer” into a search engine to find a whole host of examples on how the new operating system ended up making life difficult for users who installed it. It is possible to roll back to a previous operating system even after installing Windows 10–unless Windows 10 broke your computer, in which case you might suddenly have to deal with some irritating phone calls to Microsoft for help. If you didn’t even intend to install Windows 10, those phone calls would feel all the more annoying–and that’s not even factoring in complications like the ones held by the wildlife group in the African bush, who need their computers to help them survive, and don’t really have time to wait in a Microsoft phone tree.

Unfortunately, Microsoft’s pushiness about Windows 10 doesn’t end with the way they structured their updates. They’ve also been quite pushy about sending users’ personal data back to their servers. Slate has an extensive guide on how to turn off those settings, by the way. One of the most important tips? Turn off Cortana. She may seem friendly, but she might be a little too friendly, since she holds onto a ton of personal data, like speech recognition, browser history, location data, calendar and contacts, not to mention your email history.

Microsoft hasn’t yet explained what they’re going to do with all of that personal data, other than use it make Windows 10 better. They do specify that they don’t give this data to advertisers, but Cortana does use it to “personalize” your search results, which is interesting, because Google is already trying to personalize those results as it is. Sounds like Microsoft and Google will be battling over your heart (and your wallet)! Even if Microsoft isn’t giving your data to advertisers directly, the personalization of search results will end in you seeing certain sites and not others–the sites that can afford to be prioritized, that is. That’s not a great way for the internet to be run, in my opinion.

Of course, there are always other operating systems out there (*cough* Linux), but if you play any PC games at all, you’re stuck with having at least one installation of Windows floating around in your life. Since Windows 7 will not be supported for very much longer, I know that eventually I’m going to have to bite the bullet and install Windows 10 (I did accept my free upgrade before the deadline passed, I just never finished installing it, so it’s been in pending for a while now). When that time comes, I’ll be turning Cortana off … which is too bad, because I love having robot friends. I’m just not so sure that Cortana is a friend I can trust.

(via eff.org, image via Windows)

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22 Aug 17:28

Prof. Brian Cox Has a Maddening Conversation with a Climate Science-Denying Politician

by Dan Colman

According to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, July 2016 was the warmest month ever recorded. 2016 will likely be the warmest year on record. And the decades ahead will only get worse, much worse.

And yet, notes physicist Lawrence Krauss in The New Yorker this weekend, we have the GOP’s Frankenstein trying to demagogue his way into the presidency by calling climate science into question. Krauss writes:

In May, for instance, while speaking to an audience of West Virginia coal miners, Trump complained that regulations designed to protect the ozone layer had compromised the quality of his hair spray. Those regulations, he continued, were misguided, because hair spray is used mainly indoors, and so can have no effect on the atmosphere outside….

Often, Trump is simply wrong about science, even though he should know better. Just as he was a persistent “birther” even after the evidence convincingly showed that President Obama was born in the United States, Trump now continues to propagate the notion that vaccines cause autism in spite of convincing and widely cited evidence to the contrary… In other cases, Trump treats scientific facts the way he treats other facts—he ignores or distorts them whenever it’s convenient. He has denied that climate change is real, calling it pseudoscience and advancing a conspiracy theory that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.”

And way across the pond, we have another politician, Australian Senator Malcolm Roberts, making his own kind of laughable claims. In a recent television broadcast, Roberts asks physicist Brian Cox for empirical proof that climate change exists. Cox offers evidence gathered by NASA, to which Roberts responds, NASA’s “data has been corrupted and manipulated.” Not good enough. If you regularly read our site, you know that this is not the first time that NASA has been accused of manipulating data. Conspiracy theorists have long accused NASA and Stanley Kubrick of faking the moon landing in 1969. Roberts bristles at being associated with these loons. But frankly it’s an apt comparison. And if anyone should be bothered by the comparison, it’s the moon landing conspiracists. However strange their theories might be, no one doubts that they’re heartfelt, genuine, and seemingly free from the hint of political and financial influence.

In the meantime, in a new video from NASA, you can see the Arctic ice levels retreating to one of the lowest levels in recorded history. Call the video “corrupted” and “manipulated” at your own peril.

Related Content:

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Michio Kaku & Noam Chomsky School Moon Landing and 9/11 Conspiracy Theorists

Carl Sagan Presents His “Baloney Detection Kit”: 8 Tools for Skeptical Thinking

Richard Feynman Creates a Simple Method for Telling Science From Pseudoscience (1966)

Sally Ride Warns Against Global Warming; Wonders If Technology Can Save Us From Ourselves

Prof. Brian Cox Has a Maddening Conversation with a Climate Science-Denying Politician is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

18 Aug 11:45

The Neuroscience & Psychology of Procrastination, and How to Overcome It

by Josh Jones

Procrastination is a skill, an art, a slight-of-hand technique. I’m procrastinating right now, but you’d never know it. How many tabs do I have open in my multiple browser windows? Pick a number, any number. How many tasks have I put off today? How many dreams have I deferred? I’ll never tell. The unskilled procrastinators stick out, they’re easy to spot. They talk a lot about what they’re not doing. They run around in circles of bewilderment like the troubled hero of Dr. Seuss’s Hunches in Bunches. The skilled practitioner makes it look easy.

But no matter how much Facebook time you get in before lunch and still manage to ace those performance reviews, you’re really only cheating yourself, am I right? You wanted to finish that novel/symphony/improv class/physics theorem. But something stopped you. Something in your brain perhaps. That’s where these things usually happen. When Stuart Langfield asked a neuroscientist about the neuroscience of procrastination, he got the following answer: “People think that you can turn on an MRI and see where something’s happening in the brain, but the truth is that’s not so. This stuff is vastly more complicated, so we have theories.”

There are theories aplenty that tell us, says Langfield, “what’s probably happening” in the brain. Langfield explains his own: the primitive, pleasure-seeking, pain-avoiding limbic system acts too quickly for our more deliberative, rational prefrontal cortex to catch up, rendering us stupefied by distractions. Piers Steel, Distinguished Research Chair at the University of Calgary and a procrastination expert, shares this view. You can see him explain it in the short video below. The evolutionary “design flaw,” says Langfield, might make the situation seem hopeless, were it not for “neuroplasticity,” a fancy buzzword that means we have the ability to change our brains.

Langfield’s purpose in his short video is not only to understand the biology of procrastination, but to overcome it. He asks psychologist Tim Pychyl, whose answers we see and hear as an incomprehensible jumble of ideas. But then Pychyl reduces the complicated theories to a simple solution. You guessed it, mindfulness meditation—to “downregulate the limbic system.” Really, that’s it? Just meditate? It is a proven way to reduce anxiety and improve concentration.

But Pychyl and his research team at Carleton University have a few more very practical suggestions, based on experimental data gathered by Steel and others. The Wall Street Journal offers this condensed list of tips:

Break a long-term project down into specific sub-goals. State the exact start time and how long (not just “tomorrow”) you plan to work on the task.

Just get started. It isn’t necessary to write a long list of tasks, or each intermediate step.

Remind yourself that finishing the task now helps you in the future. Putting off the task won’t make it more enjoyable.

Implement “microcosts,” or mini-delays, that require you to make a small effort to procrastinate, such as having to log on to a separate computer account for games.

Reward yourself not only for completing the entire project but also the sub-goals.

A Stockholm University study tested these strategies, assigning a group of 150 self-reported “high procrastinators” several of the self-help instructions over 10 weeks, and employing a reward system and varying levels of guidance. “The results,” WSJ reports, “showed that after intervention with both guided and unguided self-help, people improved their procrastination, though the guided therapy seemed to show greater benefit.”

Other times, adding self-help tasks to get us to the tasks we’re putting off doesn’t work so well. We can all take comfort in the fact that procrastination has a long history, dating back to ancient Egypt, Rome, and 18th century England. The wisdom of the ages could not defeat it, or as Samuel Johnson wrote, “even they who most steadily withstand it find it, if not the most violent, the most pertinacious of their passions, always renewing its attacks, and, though often vanquished, never destroyed.”

But there are people who procrastinate, beset by its pertinacity, and then there are chronic procrastinators. “If you’re an occasional procrastinator, says Pychyl, “quit thinking about your feelings and get to the next task.” Suck it up, in other words, and walk it off—maybe after a short course of self-help. For all the conflicting neuroscientific theory, “there is a quiet science behind procrastination,” writes Big Think, and “according to recent studies, procrastination is a learned habit.” Most research agrees it’s one we can unlearn through meditation and/or patient retraining of ourselves.

However if you’re of the chronic subset, say Pychyl, “you might need therapy to better understand your emotions and how you’re coping with them through avoidance.” Psychologist Joseph Ferrari at DePaul University agrees. Citing a figure of “20 percent of U.S. men and women” who “make procrastination their way of life,” he adds, “it is the person who does that habitually, always with plausible ‘excuses’ that has issues to address.” Only you can determine whether your trouble relates to bad habits or deeper psychological issues.

Whatever the causes, what might motivate us to meditate or seek therapy are the effects. Chronic procrastination is “not a time management issue,” says Ferrari, “it is a maladaptive lifestyle.” Habitual procrastinators, the WSJ writes, “have higher rates of depression and anxiety and poorer well-being.” We may think, writes Eric Jaffe at the Association for Psychological Science’s journal, of procrastination as “an innocuous habit at worst, and maybe even a helpful one at best,” a strategy Stanford philosophy professor John Perry argued for in The Art of Procrastination. Instead, Jaffe says, in a sobering summary of Pychyl’s research, “procrastination is really a self-inflicted wound that gradually chips away at the most valuable resource in the world: time.”

Related Content:

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Daily Meditation Boosts & Revitalizes the Brain and Reduces Stress, Harvard Study Finds

Miranda July Teaches You How to Avoid Procrastination

The Art of Structured Procrastination

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

The Neuroscience & Psychology of Procrastination, and How to Overcome It is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

18 Aug 12:00

Houston's Only Anime Store Throwing Its Grand Opening This Weekend

If you love giant eyes, watch mecha warrior battles and know what the words “doki doki” mean, congratulations: You finally have a place to shop that's not Hot Topic. Ooples Anime, which bills itself as Houston's only store to focus solely on anime – Japanese cartoons – will have its...
18 Aug 13:44

Photos: White Oak Music Hall to open indoor venue

by Jack Witthaus
It cost about $1 million for sound and lighting alone inside White Oak Music Hall's new indoor venue. That's, of course, in addition to the price tag of building the venue itself. With paint a few days fresh, the venue's indoor spaces plan to start rocking Aug. 18. The White Oak Music Hall and Raven Tower project, located at 2915 North Main St., have a combined price tag between $10 million and $20 million. Check out the slideshow for a look inside the Houston Business Journal's tour of White Oak…
18 Aug 19:43

Twitter Determined to Win Us All Over By Banning 235,000 “Extremist” Users & Giving That “Quality Filter” to Everyone

by Maddy Myers

twitter box

Pigs have mastered the art of flight, the depths of Hell have cooled down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and Twitter has finally addressed some of the basic concerns that their users have been raising for years. First news of the day: the BBC reports that over the past year, Twitter has banned 235,000 users who they deemed to be spouting “extremist” viewpoints that violated their terms of service. Next up: Twitter put out an official blog post today saying that the “quality filter” that had previously only been available to “Verified” users has been extended to everyone.

Go ahead–log into your Twitter account, go to settings, check the notifications tab, and see if you can’t turn on that lovely filter. It should clean your mentions right on up, if it’s as good as I’ve heard from my Verified pals! Unfortunately, it hasn’t been rolled out for me yet, but I expect it’ll be there soon, since some of my not-Verified friends have told me it’s already showing up for them.

According to the BBC’s report about the banning of “extremists,” these new changes seem to dovetail with Twitter’s expansion of their focus on analyzing violent threats that appear on their service. In Twitter’s separate blog post about the banning of extremists, they explained, “We have expanded the teams that review reports around the clock, along with their tools and language capabilities. We also collaborate with other social platforms, sharing information and best practices for identifying terrorist content.”

Some say that this change still isn’t enough, however, and that more needs to be done by social media networks to prevent violent groups from organizing online. Nikita Malik, a senior researcher at an anti-extremist group called the Quilliam Foundation, told the BBC that she sees the bans as a “short term solution,” but went on to say that she and her colleagues often work with social media networks “to help them have a more pro-active role” in counteracting the formation and organization of hate groups and terrorist groups on their platforms.

These are complicated problems, which means they require multiple types of interlocking solutions. Twitter banning “extremist” accounts is one step, but it won’t prevent these users from finding other ways to organize. Twitter providing people more ways to control their own feeds is a great step, too, with the new “quality filter,” as well as another change announced that users on the Twitter mobile app will be able to adjust their mentions to only display replies from people they follow. (That feature was already available in Twitter’s web client, and it’s a blessing, but it wasn’t available on mobile until now.) However, as excited as I am to try out the “quality filter,” it doesn’t necessarily solve the systemic problems of Twitter that let harassment campaigns spread and grow with terrifying ease.

It’s great to see the service taking steps against extremist groups forming, since that’s a large-scale problem. Twitter, and other social networks, should obviously discourage the formation of hate groups on their services–but they also should consider small-scale problems too, like stalkers and predators. Twitter needs to provide better tools for individuals dealing with problems that seem small in comparison to, say, the formation of a terrorist network. A dedicated stalker can seriously impact someone’s life–even if that stalker is not part of any organized group and have few resources beyond an internet connection. A “quality filter” won’t do much in the face of a problem like that.

Twitter came under fire this week for censoring tweets about the Rio Olympics that violated copyright protections, but not taking any significant steps to decrease widespread harassment–such as, for example, the recent harassment against Olympian Gabby Douglas. This week has seen a spate of articles (most notably, this lengthy Buzzfeed piece about Twitter’s safety practices) that shine a spotlight on this problem and, in all likelihood, these articles played a role in motivating Twitter to take visible action steps today. It only took … a decade.

My theory? Twitter’s “quality filter” might not actually be ready for widespread use yet, but they probably rolled it out today in the hope of getting out from under the bad press they’ve been receiving all week long. Hopefully, the roll-out will allow them to further improve the tool and iterate upon it according to what users want. Also, I continue to be hopeful that their changes won’t stop here, and that Twitter will continue to listen to their users’ experiences–whether those users are mega-influential celebrities, or total newcomers to the service.

(via BBC, image via Flickr/C_osett)

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18 Aug 17:54

Saving Science

by S. Abbas Raza

Science isn’t self-correcting, it’s self-destructing. To save the enterprise, scientists must come out of the lab and into the real world.

Daniel Sarewitz in The New Atlantis:

ScreenHunter_2155 Aug. 18 19.53Science, pride of modernity, our one source of objective knowledge, is in deep trouble. Stoked by fifty years of growing public investments, scientists are more productive than ever, pouring out millions of articles in thousands of journals covering an ever-expanding array of fields and phenomena. But much of this supposed knowledge is turning out to be contestable, unreliable, unusable, or flat-out wrong. From metastatic cancer to climate change to growth economics to dietary standards, science that is supposed to yield clarity and solutions is in many instances leading instead to contradiction, controversy, and confusion. Along the way it is also undermining the four-hundred-year-old idea that wise human action can be built on a foundation of independently verifiable truths. Science is trapped in a self-destructive vortex; to escape, it will have to abdicate its protected political status and embrace both its limits and its accountability to the rest of society.

The story of how things got to this state is difficult to unravel, in no small part because the scientific enterprise is so well-defended by walls of hype, myth, and denial. But much of the problem can be traced back to a bald-faced but beautiful lie upon which rests the political and cultural power of science.

More here.

17 Aug 21:21

What Climate Change Skeptics Aren’t Getting About Science

by Rhett Allain
What Climate Change Skeptics Aren’t Getting About Science
In a recent discussion, Brian Cox and Malcolm Roberts debated on the merits of climate change. This brings up some common ideas about the nature of science. The post What Climate Change Skeptics Aren’t Getting About Science appeared first on WIRED.
17 Aug 22:00

OpenStreetMap at the Crossroads

by Jonathan Crowe

“The OpenStreetMap Community is at a crossroads, with some important choices on where it might choose to head next,” wrote Michal Migurski last month. Identifying three types of map contributors—robot mappers using third party data, crisis mappers responding to a disaster like the Haiti earthquake, and so-called “local craft mappers” (i.e., the original OSM userbase that edits the map at the community level, using GPS tracks and local knowledge), Michal ruffled many feathers by saying that “[t]he first two represent an exciting future for OSM, while the third could doom it to irrelevance.” That’s largely because, in his view, the craft mappers’ passivity and complacency, and their entrenched position in the OSM hierarchy, are impeding the efforts of the other two groups.

I heard much frustration from crisis mappers about the craft-style focus of the international State Of The Map conference in Brussels later this year, while the hostility of the public OSM-Talk mailing list to newcomers of any kind has been a running joke for a decade. The robot mappers show up for conferences but engage in a limited way dictated by the demands of their jobs. Craft mapping remains the heart of the project, potentially due to a passive Foundation board who’ve let outdated behaviors go unexamined.

Naturally such pot-stirring did not go unnoticed (see the comments in Michal’s post).

It’s probably not helpful to pit one group of users against another. Each group is contributing to the map for their own purposes (some of which, it must be said, are commercial and self-interested), but they all have the same goal in mind: a good, usable map. It’s how they get there—and why they want to get there—that’s at issue.

Both craft and crisis mapping can fail to see the forest for the trees: both depend on the efforts of a motivated cadre of mappers, whether they’re local hobbyists trying to improve the map of their own community, or mappers trying to help disaster relief efforts. But relying on those efforts can lead to a map of wildly uneven quality. As I wrote in “All Online Maps Suck,” my 2013 piece on online map quality,

The problem with OSM is also its strength: it’s entirely dependent on the attention of volunteers. Where there are a lot of volunteers, the map is invariably excellent. But where there aren’t any volunteers, the map is empty.

Automated edits are the opposite of the above. When based on existing databases (CanVec in Canada, TIGER in the United States), they represent top-down mapping rather than from the bottom up, which goes against the original sensibilities of OSM. But they can cover a lot of ground that would otherwise go unmapped, or mapped in only the most cursory way.

The problem is when the different mapping methods come into conflict. It’s extremely easy to step on one another’s toes. Local mapping efforts can be discouraged by armchair mapping (which I have to confess I’ve done rather a lot of—even crisis mapping can privilege foreign computer users over on-the-ground mapping) and automated edits that can overwrite individuals’ work if not handled carefully.

Responding to Michal’s post, Tom Lee identifies another constituency that Michal missed: “passive users of OpenStreetMap data. Naturally I am thinking of Mapbox customers, but also people using MapQuest and Mapzen and Carto and Maps.me and countless other businesses.” Note the words customers and businesses—not just map users. Regardless of its original ethos, OSM data supports a lot of for-profit businesses. Tom puts his finger on it: there’s a dichotomy between mapping as a hobby and mapping as part of the job.

For end users, the politics of OpenStreetMap ought to be so much inside baseball. My own concern, as a heavy OSM contributor over the years (which is to say, a “local craft mapper”), has been less about how the map was made than whether the end result was a good map. I worried a lot that my edits would get someone else into trouble, or that the incomplete map would be put to use—by those “passive users” of OSM data—before it was ready, for political or economic reasons. The voracious hunger for open mapping data was what worried me—and it’s what’s driving the conflict in this case.

(Comments are open, because I expect I’m wrong in some of the particulars.)

17 Aug 14:20

Cory Doctorow on legally disabling DRM (for good)

by Courtney Nash

The O’Reilly Security Podcast: The chilling effects of DRM, nascent pro-security industries, and the narrative power of machines.

In this episode, I talk with Cory Doctorow, a journalist, activist, and science fiction writer.

We discuss the EFF lawsuit against the U.S. government, the prospect for a whole new industry of pro-security businesses, and the new W3C DRM specification.

Continue reading Cory Doctorow on legally disabling DRM (for good).

11 Aug 17:45

Learn Ancient Greek in 64 Free Lessons: A Free Course from Brandeis & Harvard

by Dan Colman

Briefly noted: Leonard Muellner (Professor Emeritus of Classical Studies at Brandeis University) and Belisi Gillespie (Phd candidate at UC Berkeley) have posted 64 videos on YouTube, which, when taken together, “present all the content covered in two semesters of a college-level Introduction to Ancient Greek course.”

The textbook used is Hansen, Hardy, and Gerald Quinn. Greek. An Intensive Course. 2nd rev. ed. New York: Fordham University Press, 1992. And if you read the blurb that accompanies each video on YouTube, you’ll find out 1) what material each video covers, and 2) what pages are being used in the Hansen & Quinn textbook.

Made available online by Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies, the playlist of Ancient Greek lessons will be added to our collections, Learn 48 Languages Online for Free: Spanish, Chinese, English & More and 1200 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

h/t sociophilosophy

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Learn Ancient Greek in 64 Free Lessons: A Free Course from Brandeis & Harvard is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

21 Jul 13:00

More ways to share your street smarts in Google Maps

by Lat Long
Each day, we make million of updates to Google Maps throughout the world. But it’s still not enough to ensure that every single restaurant, shop or landmark worldwide has the most accurate information possible. That’s why we’ve been rolling out new, easy ways for you to help keep the neighborhoods and places where you hang out up-to-date.

Easily add places or suggest edits
First, we’ve expanded the ability to add missing places and edit existing business or landmark information worldwide on both the Google Maps app (Android, iOS) and through Google Search. This lets people contribute new and updated information to Google Maps from more places—whether they’re searching for a new restaurant on Google.com or looking for a nearby convenience store while on the go.

Share more details about a place
There’s more to a place than its business hours or address—you might want to know if a place has a romantic vibe, serves vegetarian food or offers outdoor seating. Now on Google Maps for Android and when searching on your mobile phone, you can contribute what you know about a place so that others can benefit from the info as well. Knowing these types of details helps us build a deeper understanding of a place so we can better help users find the places most relevant to them.
Verify suggested edits from others
We’ve also introduced a new way for users to help approve edits suggested by others, ultimately reducing the amount of time it takes for edits to appear on the map. For places that have pending suggestions, you’ll see a notification stating that “Someone suggested new info.” If you click or tap that notification, you’ll have the option to verify whether the suggestion is accurate. Once enough votes are received to be confident that the suggestion is accurate, it’s published to the map. This feature is available to Android users on the Google Maps app and both Android and iOS users on mobile Google Search.


Together, these new changes let people who are familiar with their neighborhoods help provide accurate, reliable information about their favorite haunts and hidden gems. So now when searching for useful information about a place on Google Maps or Search, you’ll get an even better representation of the ever-changing world around us.

Posted by Nirav Mehta, Product Manager, Google Maps and Local Search




08 Aug 19:03

John Oliver’s Chilling Last Week Tonight Segment on the Future of Journalism

by Jessica Lachenal

A bit of an unpleasant truth: print journalism is in trouble. As you may or may not be aware, the digital plane has started to overpower print simply because folks are just not paying for their news anymore. With the advent of the internet so long ago, things that once required money were suddenly shared for free in the name of free and open information. To a point, that’s a wonderful, wonderful thing. However, this steep, sustained decline in print sales could be the symptom of a larger problem that might negatively change the way news is reported and shared as a whole.

John Oliver—who, notably, came up through The Daily Show, a comedy television news program—has created a nearly 20 minute long segment for Last Week Tonight highlighting this problem within print journalism, and expertly breaks down the negative effects that we can expect should we see traditional journalism come to an end.

Simply put: in trying to keep up with digital platforms, print papers are stretching themselves incredibly thin, asking more and more of their reporters. They’re being asked to participate in social media (a full time job in and of itself, sometimes), edit and produce content for videos, and more, leaving less time to dig into a story. Often times, this results in factual errors or a critical oversight, each a problem that would likely have been avoided if only a reporter was given time to focus. Oliver provided the example of the Boston Globe mistakenly tweeting “Investifarted” in what Mediaite had called “the Typo of the Year.” Sure, a humorous example, but still, one that shows how even the simplest things can slip through the cracks.

Oliver’s most salient point comes in this quote: “We’ve just grown accustomed to getting our news for free. And the longer that we get something for free, the less willing we are to pay for it.” There’s certainly a sense of entitlement to news and information, especially on the internet, a sense that isn’t wholly unfounded. However, that entitlement can be considered a significant part of why we’re seeing these former news mainstays suddenly collapsing under the weight of being unable to keep up with digital formats.

It is critically important at this point to remember that many, many, many of these digital platforms often cite print sources for their posts and articles. The nexus, the very source for a lot of internet news publishing comes from these papers and the journalists who create them. If that source were to suddenly vanish, then we all would suddenly find ourselves bereft of a hell of a lot of information.

Oliver points to David Simon, who worked as a journalist before creating The Wire. Simon brought up the example of courtroom hearings, saying, “The day I run into a Huffington Post reporter at a Baltimore zoning board hearing is the day I will be confident that we’ve actually reached some sort of equilibrium.” It’s that kind of ground-level in-the-weeds reporting that we’d lose, along with a significant amount of transparency into our local governments.

I personally hate to sound so dire when it comes to news, journalism, and blogging, especially considering my current job title (hello, there). But the pure and simple truth is that it’s getting incredibly difficult to maintain free and independent reporting. It’s like we keep saying in our multitude of subscription posts: it’s your money, kindly given and offered, that keeps us doing what we’re doing. And, yes, you deactivating your ad blocker helps that, too. There’s such a moral righteousness to saying “f— you” to ads and then complaining about it when websites stop you from looking at their content if you block their ads. Writers have to eat, too, and just like in all industries, we can’t survive on exposure. Sometimes, a not so small part of me often wonders where people will go for their news should WIRED, The Washington Post, or even your local paper (if they do track story counts or block ad blockers) shut down.

You should absolutely watch the whole Last Week Tonight segment, if only for a more detailed look at how much the journalism industry has changed within the past few decades. And, because it’s Last Week Tonight, they even finish out with a hilarious parody trailer of the journalism-based thriller Spotlight, 2015’s Best Picture Academy Award winner.

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10 Aug 17:24

Hillary Clinton Is the Hermione of Politics - “Honestly, am I the only person who’s ever bothered to read The United States: A History?”

by Christy Admiraal
hillmione

via Warner Bros./CNN

Though the Harry Potter series will always hold a special place in my heart, I’ll readily admit that I couldn’t always relate to the characters. As a teen, I had a particularly hard time with Hermione. Sure, she has her moments of vulnerability, but she sticks to her convictions no matter the cost, and typically, she’s unafraid of how others perceive her. This was a concept so unfamiliar to me that I resented this fictional girl with unruly hair and wild ambition and encyclopedic knowledge of just about everything. It’s embarrassing to think back on this, now that I understand Hermione deserves both admiration and emulation. And as I watched my Twitter timeline overflow with commentary the night Hillary Clinton gave her nomination acceptance speech, I shared in the collective excitement of all the real-life Hermiones I know and follow (including Twitter luminary, librarian, podcaster, and Bossy Dame Margaret Willison).

The very real prospect of a female president is inspiring to anyone who’s ever been told, explicitly or implicitly, to know their place. And Clinton’s enthusiasm for and devotion to learning, education, and human rights make her even more appealing. Still, since she first came into the public eye, both how she expresses enthusiasm and her tendency to rise above her pre-assigned station have been subject to critique. These aren’t the only traits of Clinton’s that commentators, Twitter eggs, and political opponents pick apart, and even the staunchest Democrat can admit that she’s said and done things that gave them pause. Still, the most common critiques tend to have the same subtext: she shouldn’t be this outspoken/assertive/(insert loaded adjective here) because that’s not what a woman is supposed to be. Clinton consistently challenges and disproves that notion. Sound familiar?

via Warner Bros./Tumblr

via Warner Bros./Tumblr

It’s worth noting that I’m not encouraging anyone to equate Hillary Clinton with a fictional character. In her essay “What’s with the ‘dadification’ of Tim Kaine?” Jaya Saxena describes the fandom-esque adoration of VP candidate Kaine and other prominent figures as “resulting in a lot of all-or-nothing rhetoric. It’s not enough to just support a candidate, now you have to be part of their fandom. Hillary Clinton is #squadgoals, Joe Biden is a meme, and Barack Obama is bae.” This is certainly a valid critique; indulging in The Onion’s portrayal of Biden as America’s fun-loving uncle is one thing, but believing that the man who’s been second in command of our country since January 2009 is all ice cream cones and Midwestern charm is quite another.

But the women making the Hermione comparison—Willison and others like her—are clever, insightful people, the sort of contributors to online discourse that are worth seeking out. They’re not looking at Clinton as a character; they’re commending Clinton for her character. The language of the personal attacks we see on Clinton could, and should, be used positively. Yes, she’s outspoken, and yes, she’s assertive. But so are countless prominent leaders throughout history, real or imagined.

Hermione’s name is not the one on the book jacket, but she’s still a hero in her own right. Without Hermione, Harry would be mired in crisis after crisis; such as it is, Harry comes to rely on Hermione’s resourcefulness, quick thinking, and bravery to get out of at least one life-threatening situation per book. (Remember how Hermione was still the one who figured out where the basilisk was in the second book even though she was literally unconscious? That’s incredible. That’s Hermione.) And yet, people still underestimate Hermione and express shock, and sometimes disbelief, when she does something extraordinary. (I say again: sound familiar?) Proving that a woman can be extraordinary regardless of upbringing, appearance, and stature is one of the things she does best.

via Warner Bros./Tumblr

via Warner Bros./Tumblr

I’m world-weary enough to know that it’s easy for people to dismiss Clinton’s worthiness of the presidency. But I’m also optimistic enough to think that her admirable qualities shine brightly enough for her to move back into the White House next year. It’s what the Hermiones across America want. It’s what I, a self-identifying Gryffindor but more of a Weasley than a Granger, want. Here’s hoping it’s what the majority of the voting public wants.

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Christy Admiraal lives in Manhattan, where she works as a copywriter and editor. She enjoys comedy podcasts, graphic t-shirts, inserting her cats’ names into popular song lyrics, and tweeting an excessive amount @AdmiralChristy.

The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

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11 Aug 18:31

As social media centralized, blogging's core infrastructure has withered

by Cory Doctorow

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When "social media" meant "blogs," there were many tools, services and protocols that comprised an infrastructure for federated, open, loosely joined interaction: the rise of the social giants has killed off much of this infrastructure, all but erasing it from our memories. (more…)

11 Aug 18:02

48 hours later, Adblock Plus beats Facebook's adblocker-blocker

by Cory Doctorow

330.0.0

On August 9, Facebook announced that it had defeated adblockers; on August 11, Adblock Plus announced that it had defeated Facebook. (more…)

07 Aug 13:31

Who wins? Cthulhu or the Emperor of Mankind from Warhammer 40K?

by M Harold Page

Charlie said you fine folk might help me resolve a family argument!

Geek parenting raises all sorts of issues not covered in the child rearing manuals. You know the kind of thing: Do you scold a child for wrecking their sibling's house in Minecraft? What if the same child swears foully, but in Mandalorian? What if your 8-year-old daughter wants to have your Necronomicon in her room? What do you do if familiarity with the Belter patois is hindering your 12-year-old son's progress in French?

Now they have this running argument over who would win the celebrity deathmatch? Cthulhu (not to be confused with the plush incarnation that usually resides in the naughty corner of my daughter's bed for trying to eat the faces of the other toys) or the Emperor of Mankind from the Warhammer 40K universe?

 What do you guys think?


M Harold Page is the sword-wielding author of books like Swords vs Tanks (Charles Stross: "Holy ****!") and is planning some more historical fiction. For his take on writing,  read Storyteller Tools: Outline from vision to finished novel without losing the magic (Ken MacLeod: "...very useful in getting from ideas etc to plot and story." Hannu Rajaniemi: "...find myself to coming back to [this] book in the early stages.")

08 Aug 14:48

DoJ to judges: use Tor to protect your internet connection

by Cory Doctorow

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This summer, DoJ Cybercrime Lab director Ovie Carroll presented at a Federal Judicial Seminar in San Diego, attended by over 100 US federal judges, where he recommended that the judges should use Tor -- The Onion Router, subject of much handwringing and serious technological assaults from the US government, but which is also primarily funded by the USG -- to protect their personal information while using their home and work computers. (more…)

08 Aug 15:20

The Rolling Stones Introduce Bluesman Howlin’ Wolf on US TV, One of the “Greatest Cultural Moments of the 20th Century” (1965)

by Josh Jones

Howlin’ Wolf may well have been the greatest blues singer of the 20th century. Certainly many people have said so, but there are other measurements than mere opinion, though it’s one I happen to share. The man born Chester Arthur Burnett also had a profound historical effect on popular culture, and on the way the Chicago blues carried “the sound of Jim Crow,” as Eric Lott writes, into American cities in the north, and into Europe and the UK. Recording for both Chess and Sun Records in the 50s (Sam Phillips said of his voice, “It’s where the soul of man never dies”), Burnett’s raw sound “was at once urgently urban and country plain… southern and rural in instrumentation and howlingly electric in form.”

He was also phenomenal on stage. His hulking six-foot-six frame and intense glowering stare belied some very smooth moves, but his finesse only enhanced his edginess. He seemed at any moment like he might actually turn into a wolf, letting the impulse give out in plaintive, ragged howls and prowls around the stage. “I couldn’t do no yodelin’,” he said, “so I turned to howlin’. And it’s done me just fine.” He played a very mean harmonica and did acrobatic guitar tricks before Hendrix, picked up from his mentor Charlie Patton. And he played with the best musicians, in large part because he was known to pay well and on time. If you wanted to play electric blues, Howlin’ Wolf was a man to watch.

This reputation was Wolf’s entrée to the stage of ABC variety show Shindig! in 1965, opening for the Rolling Stones. He had just returned from his 1964 tour of Europe and the UK with the American Folk Blues Festival, playing to large, appreciative crossover crowds. He’d also just released “Killing Floor,” a record Ted Gioia notes “reached out to young listeners without losing the deep blues feeling that stood as the cornerstone of Wolf’s sound.” The following year, the Rolling Stones insisted that Shindig!’s producers “also feature either Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf” before they would go on the show. Wolf won out over his rival Waters, toned down the theatrics of his act for a more prudish white audience, and “for the first time in his storied career, the celebrated bluesman performed on a national television broadcast.”

Why is this significant? Over the decades, the Stones regularly performed with their blues heroes. But this was new media ground. Brian Jones’ shy, starstruck introduction to Wolf before his performance above conveys what he saw as the importance of the moment. Jones’ biographer Paul Trynka may overstate the case, but in some degree at least, Wolf’s appearance on Shindig! “built a bridge over a cultural abyss and connected America with its own black culture.” The show constituted “a life-changing moment, both for the American teenagers clustered round the TV in their living rooms, and for a generation of blues performers who had been stuck in a cultural ghetto.” One of these teenagers described the event as “like Christmas morning.”

Eric Lott points to the show’s formative importance to the Stones, who “sit scattered around the Shindig! set watching Wolf in full-metal idolatry” as he sings “How Many More Years,” a song Led Zeppelin would later turn into “How Many More Times.” (See the Stones do their Shindig! performance of jangly, subdued “The Last Time,” above.)  The performance represents more, however, than the “British Invasion embrace” of the blues. It shows Wolf’s mainstream breakout, and the Stones paying tribute to a founding father of rock and roll, an act of humility in a band not especially known or appreciated for that quality.

“It was altogether appropriate,” says music writer Peter Guralnick, “that they would be sitting at Wolf’s feet… that’s what it represented. His music was not simply the foundation or the cornerstone; it was the most vital thing you could ever imagine.” Guralnick, notes John Burnett at NPR, calls it “one of the the greatest cultural moments of the 20th century.” At minimum, Burnett writes, it’s “one of the most incongruous moments in American pop music”—up until the mid-sixties, at least.

Whether or not the moment could live up to its legend, the people involved saw it as groundbreaking. The venerable Son House sat in attendance—“the man who knew Robert Johnson and Charley Patton,” remarked Brian Jones in awe. And the Rolling Stone positioning himself in deference to “Chicago blues,” Trynka writes, “uncompromising music aimed at a black audience, was a radical, epoch-changing step, both for baby boomer Americans and the musicians themselves. Fourteen and fifteen-year-old kids… hardly understood the growth of civil rights; but they could understand the importance of a handsome Englishman who described the mountainous, gravel-voiced bluesman as a ‘hero’ and sat smiling at his feet.”

Related Content:

Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Sister Rosetta Tharpe & Other American Blues Legends Perform in the UK (1963-66)

Chuck Berry Takes Keith Richards to School, Shows Him How to Rock (1987)

The Rolling Stones Jam With Their Idol, Muddy Waters

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

The Rolling Stones Introduce Bluesman Howlin’ Wolf on US TV, One of the “Greatest Cultural Moments of the 20th Century” (1965) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

25 Jul 03:35

Can Computerized Brain Training Prevent Dementia?

by EditorDavid
"Researchers believe they have found a link between speed-of-processing training and a reduction in cognitive decline among the elderly," reports the New Yorker. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes an article about how this new long-term study actually contradicts much of the previous science. In October of 2014 a group of more than seventy academics published what they called a consensus statement, asserting that playing brain games had been shown to improve little more than the ability to play brain games... no brain game, nor any drug, dietary supplement, or lifestyle intervention, had ever been shown in a large, randomized trial to prevent dementia...until today, when surprising new results were announced at the Alzheimerâ(TM)s Association annual meeting, in Toronto. Nearly 3,000 participants with an average age of 73.6 participated in the study, with some receiving "speed of processing" training -- and some later receiving four hours of additional training. "The researchers calculated those who completed at least some of these booster sessions were 48% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia after ten years than their peers in the control group." Signatories of the 2014 consensus statement panning brain games are now calling these new results "remarkable" and "spectacular".

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25 Jul 05:10

Surprise revival in UK printed book sales, with ebooks dipping

by Rob Beschizza

books

Ink on paper is a better product, at least for now, and it's showing at British tills. Sky UK's Lucy Cotter reports the first better year for print since 2007, and the worst one for ebooks since 2011.

Last year saw the first rise in sales since 2007, while digital book sales dropped for the first time since 2011.

Betsy Tobin, who runs the independent bookshop Ink@84 in Highbury, London, offers her customers a personalised service.

The bookshop offers coffee and alcohol and runs events and special author evenings.

Diversifying is part of her success but she says her customers also like buying in person rather than online.

They take pleasure from handling and owning books, she said.

I wonder if this has something to do with how well-run major UK bookstore chains are (small stores in high-traffic areas) compared to American ones (strip-mall big boxes, full of trashy ancillary merch and empty of foot traffic.) The literary retail culture there makes people want to drop in and fuss around with books, while the one here just means no-one is ever in a bookstore in the first place, so they just order stuff on Kindle.

25 Jul 09:43

What Happened When I Got Rid Of Everything In My House That Doesn't Spark Joy

by Stephanie Vozza

Do socks really "spark joy?" This writer went through (nearly) every item in her house with some surprising results.

I hate clutter. Growing up, my favorite book (and the only one I kept from my childhood) was The Boxcar Children, a story of four orphans who live in an abandoned train car with few belongings. I didn't realize it until I became an adult, but this book resonated with me because I've always had minimalist tendencies. Less is definitely more.

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25 Jul 13:25

What are you reading this summer?

by Charlie Stross

... Because a random drive-by on twitter suggested this would be a good question to ask on my blog, and they're absolutely right.

NB: Please don't just post a title: post at least a couple of sentences explaining why you think the book in question is of interest. (Even if it just boils down to "escapism, subtype: personal itch-scratching".) Context is good!

25 Jul 10:00

100-Year-Old Theatre in Buenos Aires Is Turned Into a Thriving Bookstore

by Kelly

BuenosAiresBookstoreTheatre1

Yet another reason to visit Buenos Aires, from My Modern Met.

The theatre shifted to a cinema during the 1920’s and continued to operate as one until 2000, when it was retrofitted into the flagship store for Yenny-El Ateneo Publishing. Working closely with the historic structure of the building, architect Fernando Manzone was careful to leave the ceiling, the ornate wall detail, the stage curtains, and the auditorium lighting as it was. He only added to the “browse-ability” of the store—a café now lights up center stage; escalators plunge into the heart of the store; reading nooks and comfy chairs wait to be found on every balcony level. Thanks to the fact that books are exempt from standard sales tax, the book (and bookstore) are more alive in Buenos Aires than ever. More than a million people visit El Ateneo annually and buy 700,000 books a year.

Read more.