Category Archives: Society

Social issues

This Tabletop Game Forces You To Confront Humanity's Future Threats

Image: Eclipse PhaseThe cell doesn’t seem like it’s infected, but it is.Called an eclipse phase, it’s the phase between when a cell is infected by a virus and when the virus actually shows up in the cell.It’s also the name of an award-winning post-apocalyptic sci-fi/horror tabletop roleplaying game with transhumanist themes. In the game, characters work with a secret cross-fraction group protecting transhumanity from existential threats like nuclear proliferation and plagues. The game emphasizes immortality and “resleeving”—that is, copying or uploading your mind/consciousness and downloading it into a new morph, or body. But it’s not all about cool tech tricks: Eclipse Phase has horrific overtones, where “the universe is a very dangerous, uncaring place, and our species teeters on the edge of extinction,” explained Rob … Read the rest

Money from Nigeria laundered in UK 'should go to helping starving children'

The Guardian

“Save the Children say £950m is needed by those affected by Boko Haram, with tens of thousands of children at risk of death in areas held by the groupMoney looted from Nigeria in corrupt practices and laundered through the UK should be used to help save the lives of thousands of children at risk of starvation in the conflict-hit north-east of the country, a leading aid organisation says.More than $1.2 bn (£950m) is needed to save children from starvation and help families to try to piece together their lives at the end of a brutal armed conflict, according to Save the Children. It is appealing for UN agencies and donor governments to step up, warning that the region has … Read the rest

Abandoned City of Pripyat in Pryp'yat', Ukraine

Atlas Obscura

“When one thinks of Chernobyl, vacation spot is certainly not the first thing to come to mind. However, more than two decades after the terrible reactor meltdown, tours of the contaminated towns surrounding the infamous reactor are gaining in popularity. On April 26, 1986, during a test to see how much power was needed to keep the No. 4 reactor operating in the event of a blackout, the Chernobyl Nuclear Station exploded, releasing extremely dangerous amounts of radioactive chemicals into the air, which over time contaminated millions of square miles in dozens of European nations. The IAEA estimates that approximately 30 people were killed by the explosion and related radiation exposure, with several thousand additional deaths due to higher cancer incidence … Read the rest

James Gleick on Our Anxiety About Time, the Origin of the Term “Type A,” and the Curious Psychology of Elevator Impatience

Brain Pickings

““We have reached the epoch of the nanosecond… That is our condition, a culmination of millennia of evolution in human societies, technologies, and habits of mind.” “Hurrying and delaying are alike ways of trying to resist the present,” Alan Watts observed of the difficult pleasures of presence in the middle of the twentieth century, as the mechanized acceleration of modern life was beginning to take our already aggravated relationship with time to new frontiers of frustration. I thought of him one November morning shortly after I moved to New York when, already overwhelmed by the city’s pace, I swiped my brand new subway card at the turnstile and confidently marched through, only to jam my hips into the immobile metal rod. … Read the rest


A fascinating experiment where a melody is composed one note at a time through voting.

It’s an exercise in crowd-sourcing as well as a possible window into elements of music theory.
10s of thousands of individuals have voted so far.

The chord progression is C G Am F, which may be the most common progression in pop music. It’s the basis for songs such as:
“Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey (1981)
“Let It Be” by The Beatles (1970)
“She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5 (2002)
“Edge Of Glory” by Lady Gaga (2011)
(Hook Theory has much more about this)

The generated tune is nearly complete and sounds quite good, novel but familiar. It gets repetitive toward the end. The melody confirms one of … Read the rest

Simon Stålenhag and kruft

Kruft was one of the dominant visual themes from my childhood, the image of abandoned technology that would have been worth trillions or billions if we could have just used a time-machine to introduce it to previous generations, but is now just garbage.

In terms of science fiction, I’ve only ever seen it spelled ‘kruft’ but wikipedia only has an entry spelled ‘cruft’ which is similar but not quite the same.

A big part of the initial appeal of Star Wars was the kruftiness of much of what we saw on Tatooine. Vehicles were rusty, robots were breaking down, all mechanical things needed maintenance and were prone to malfunction. This was part of the disappointment of the cgi-heavy second trilogy, where everything was a bit too … Read the rest

The Post Office: The most secure communications network in America.

We’re familiar with the concept of ‘security through obscurity’, meaning if you make something difficult to find it becomes less likely to ever be seen (like a needle in a haystack).

But there are additional forms of security that paper mail offers over telephone and email (and all other digital forms).

These include, ‘security through inconvenience’ and ‘security through bureaucracy’.

The first is achieved by making the content as cumbersome as possible to discover. Think of a spook whose job it is to sift through all of your email messages, suddenly presented with a stack of paper correspondance. Even if the paper mail is written on postcards – open to the world to see – the mail could take an afternoon to sort through, while a … Read the rest

21 Emotions without an English word equivalent

21 emotions

They include, “Saudade” (Portuguese)
A somewhat melancholic feeling of incompleteness. Longing for something that might never return.Yearning.

Another I learned was the Japanese word “genki”, which translates roughly as “well” as in “feeling well” or how some people use the word “wellness”. My understanding of the word is that it means “healthy in body and spirit”

There is a subtext here, that English has plenty of words to express anger but not enough to express fear, tenderness, or nostalgia the rest

Grammar, Identity, and the Dark Side of the Subjunctive: Phuc Tran at TED

He explains a concept that has occurred to me before only in a very rough way, that culture is in some part determined by the qualities of the language of that culture. If a language does not include, for example, the subjunctive mood (woulda coulda shoulda) then that culture is unable to express ‘what might have been’, and thus actually experiences less self-doubt and regret.… Read the rest

Aloha Dispatch Day 13

So, lilikoi is the same as passionfruit, which explains why I couldn’t find any lilikoi in our box of passionfruit.

We’ve put ourselves on something of an austerity budget, partly to keep us focused on work and partly to keep us from just eating out every meal. There are not a lot of great restaurants, but there are enough good ones and they’re nee to us and look interesting enough to make us want to explore them – and we have a small kitchen and a toddler who likes to get into everything. So it would be easy to spend a lot of money eating out, but we’ll try to spend our money on the farmers market and limit our restaurant usage to twice per … Read the rest