Francis's News Feeds

This combines together on one page various news websites and diaries which I like to read.
Also: BBC In Pictures | mySociety panopticon | mySociety Google reader | Francis is (my own blog)

April 20, 2014

Interesting photos - 18 Apr 2014 - Flickr | by Daily interesting photos - Flickr | 20 April 2014, 05:50 AM

Generation Z | by Charlie Stross | 20 April 2014, 05:26 AM

I've been spending a little time lately asking myself questions about the near future. And in particular—this is especially relevant if you're planning on writing a near-future SF novel set maybe 15-30 years hence—what it's going to be like as an experience for, well, not for my generation (I'll be 65-80 if I live that long: of declining relevance) but for the next generation on. And I suspect it'll be pretty shitty.

I was born in late 1964, the youngest child of older-than-average parents who married late: my cousins are (or were) part of the baby boom generation, but culturally I'm an early type specimen of Generation X.

My generation (in the UK) benefited from free university education, as long as we got in before 1992. From 1992 onwards, the student grant (subsistence payments for living, roughly comparable to being on the dole) were phased out, replaced completely by repayable loans by 1996. Then tuition fees were brought in, replacing the previously-free education framework as the universities were de facto privatised and turned into profit-making diploma mills. No sheepskin means no job if you don't have an employment track record, so Generations Y and subsequent were condemned to go heavily into debt to acquire the magic credentials without which an HR department won't look at them. Today's students expect to graduate with a burden of over £40,000 in loans on their back.

When I came out of university and post-graduate training in the late 80s, a housing bubble was inflating rapidly. I bought my first home, a one bedroom apartment in a modern development, with parking and a box room and an airy living room, for a little under £28,000. It seemed like a lot of money at the time: an elder sibling, 8 years before me, had bought their first home (a 2 bedroom house in Nottingham) for around £12,000. Housing in the 1970s was unimaginably cheap by today's standards. Just over 15 months later after I bought my flat I sold it for £40,000 and used the profits to put myself back into university, having decided that my original career choice was rather unfortunate. Someone born just a decade after me wouldn't have had that option. By the late 90s the bubble was reinflating: a decade on from my purchase, apartments like that one were changing hands for on the order of £100,000, well above the creditworthiness of a new graduate in their first job with a 100% mortgage, even if they weren't burdened by a pre-existing education loan larger than the cost of my first mortgage.

Since 2008, the UK economy has stagnated drastically. It's still producing jobs—this hasn't been called the "unemployment-free recession" for nothing—but they're mostly low-paid jobs at the bottom of the pile. We can still manufacture stuff, it seems, but manufacturing no longer provides mass employment. And service jobs are rapidly being automated, as witness the spread of self-service checkouts and ATMs and lights-out warehouses. (You know the pack drill: I'm not going to repeat the reasons for this here.) The important news is that wage growth is finally overtaking inflation for the first time in 5 years, after a period of net decline in personal income (unless you're in the 1% at the top of the 1%, of course).

I'm not even going to anatomize the new housing bubble: it's just plain depressing to contemplate.

So: low or stagnant income, the services my generation depended on and took for granted will no longer exist or be private monopolies, you either take on a crushing debt burden or consign yourself to unskilled labour for life, the cost of housing is an unsuperable barrier. To that you can add childcare costs: it's estimated that the cost of day care for one infant is around 70-80% of the average female wage. One ray of hope for Generation Y is rising life expectancy—but by the same token the retirement age is rising, because there's no way that working for 40 years can cover the costs of education and housing debt and a pension or annuity that will support you for another 25-30 years. Generation Y will probably work until they become too infirm, some time in their late 70s to early 80s, then experience the final 3-5 year period of decline in poor health and poverty if this goes on (because of course we're talking about the state of the nation between 2060 and 2080).

If you follow this blog you already know my views on how we have created a security panopticon surveillance state the like of which would have given the East German Stasi wet dreams. Generation Y have come of age in this state; to the Millennial generation, East Germany probably looks like a near-utopia. (You have a 90% chance of your phone conversations not being bugged, and the state will pay for your education, housing, and healthcare! What's not to like?)

There has been a boom market in dystopian young adult fiction over the past decade. There is a reason for this. Play and recreation is an important training mechanism in young mammals by which they practice or rehearse activities that will fit them for later adult life experiences. (It's also fun, but bear with me while I discuss the more ploddingly puritan angle for a moment.) Could it be that the popularity of YA dystopias reflects the fact that our youngest generation of readers expect to live out their lives in dystopia? (The alternative explanations hold that (a) high school in the age of helicopter parenting, fingerprint readers in the library, and CCTV in the corridors is an authoritarian dystopia anyway, and YA dys-fic helps kids understand their environment; and (b) that worse, their parents (who influence their reading) think this.)

On a global scale, things are improving. The absolute number of people living in poverty has remained static or actually declined over two decades during which our population rose dramatically. Wars affect fewer people than ever before. Huge swathes of the developing world are actually developing, and are now within sight of catching up with our declining developed world standard of living. But that's scant consolation to those of us who are trapped in the middle. And the way things are looking now, I expect the 30 year old Brits of 2030, people whose grandparents were buying houses and starting families on a single breadwinner's wages in the 1960s, will be envying the living standards of the average Malaysian citizen.

This decline has not of course gone unnoticed by the elite. There's a reason for the increasing militarization of police and security organizations in the United States and the UK: widespread civil disorder escalating to revolution along the lines of the Arab Spring is no longer unimaginable by 2030 if current trends continue. The oligarchs can hold the lid down by force for quite a considerable time, but the longer this continues the worse the eventual explosion will be, as witness the upheavals in Egypt or Ukraine.

So there's the problem in a nutshell. What should we be doing about it? And what is it feasible for us to do? (For example: I'd love to see a UK government deflate the housing market by around 80% and renationalize a bunch of infrastructure that should never have been sold off in the first place, but I recognize that it would be political suicide for any party that tried it).

Who speaks for England? | by John Redwood MP | 20 April 2014, 05:01 AM

I recently tabled a question asking the government “Who speaks for England?” At least I thought I had. Then just as Parliament broke for the Easter recess my written question found its way back to my office. The Table Office had decided it was a question that could not be asked.

Before you all fly off the handle, there is something you should know about our democracy. A good number of potential written questions are blocked. Some are blocked for good reason. If they are about matters for which the government has no responsibility, for example, or where the government has no knowledge, there is no point in allowing them. If the same or very similar question has just been answered, then why not look up the answer instead of going through it all again.

When we had a Labour government I was regularly blocked from asking written questions on the grounds that the Table Office knew the government would not answer them. Sometimes after a long argument it was possible to put the question into a shape where it could at least be asked, though the answers were often disappointing. I daresay if I try I can find a way of changing this question to ask something related that the Table Office would regard as being in order.

Instead I think it is better to highlight this extraordinary fact that an English MP sitting for an English constituency in the UK Parliament is not allowed to pose the simple written question of the UK government, “Who in government speaks for England?” By writing about this the question may get more attention than if I had been allowed to table the original version.

Englishmen and women should be concerned at this insouciance towards our cause. Many of us think England has had a poor settlement from the UK, and a lousy one from the EU. I would expect the government to answer the Who speaks for England? question with an account of the English Cabinet Ministers who handle just English affairs – Education, Health, Local Government – and the Cabinet Ministers like the Home Secretary who do not deal with Scottish matters.

I want them to reconsider the issue of English votes for English issues in the Commons. I want them to work up an agenda of how England’s interests and views can be properly reflected by the Union government as there is no separate English Parliament to parallel the Scottish one and the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies. Surely England needs to have a voice from inside the Westminster government, as it lacks one from its own separate body?

Flexible Arduino Sure to Be A Hit | by The Red Deeps | 20 April 2014, 05:00 AM


Scrolling LED on soda can

Wearable, lightweight hacks have long been dominated by the Lilypad. This will probably change with the introduction of the Printoo. Using printable circuit technology, the Printoo takes a modular approach to enable hackers, makers, and engineers alike to construct flexible circuits that can be put on almost anything, including paper!

Powered by the all too familiar ATmega328, the Printoo core module is fully compatible with the Ardunio IDE. The modular design enables functionality with several other printed devices including displays, batteries, sensors and even LED strips to make many different projects possible. One of the most interesting modules … Read the rest

Milo Breakfast Day Run 2014 | by Vincent Loy | 20 April 2014, 04:08 AM

I think this is my first time joining a marathon. I got persuaded by my sister to join her for a family run on Milo Breakfast Day Run 2014 at Putrajaya this morning on 20th April. And for that, I have to get myself up from the bed on 5.30am. That’s a very hard and […]

A Manifesto for the Commons in the European Union | by P2P Foundation | 20 April 2014, 03:03 AM

The text below is the result of discussions by an informal group of people interested to interconnect the Social Economy and Commons issues at the European level. This informal group includes Frederic Sultan, Benjamin Coriat and Fabienne Orsi (researchers), Perez Roland, Pierre Calame, Gaelle Krikorian (European Green), Nicole ALIX and Philippe Herzog, … It was co-signed by MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat.

The Text:

“Common goods are universal: they belong to everyone and they must not be monopolised by private interests. European Institutions, as guarantors of fundamental civil liberties, peace, cultural diversity and the rule of law, must ensure respect for, and the preservation of, these common goods.

Common goods, by definition, belong to the community. Water, the quintessential common good, should not be privatized or commoditised. Nor should this be the case with education and health. They ought not to be treated as commodities, but rather us our common heritage, protected and enriched by the community.

In a context of crisis and austerity, where privatisation is often encouraged, a political approach based on respect for common goods represents an opportunity to establish a new democratic project for European society, one based on citizen participation, respect for fundamental rights and cultural, moral and intellectual development.

This is why we propose the recognition of common goods by the European Parliament and its integration into European judicial texts. Local governments and European citizens are already working to give common goods recognition within both legal and administrative frameworks (European Charter of the Commons, European Citizens Initiative – Water is a human right!) as well as taking more concrete actions, such as the remunicipalisation of water service in big cities like Paris and Naples, or the collective management of Theatres in Italy.

In order to confront the economic, social and environmental challenges that our society faces, the European Parliament should adopt a progressive stance, creating a judicial framework for common goods, capable of ensuring their fair administration and protection, inspired by, but distinct from, the system that regulates services of general interests. Common goods must be protected by rules established by and for European citizens. These norms have to guarantee fundamental rights, as well as citizen participation and cultural, moral and intellectual development for all.

To further this objective, and in accordance with the democratic and representative mandate entrusted to Members of the European Parliament, we ask for the creation of a cross-party parliamentary group, whose goal will be to lay the foundations for judicial and political recognition of common goods within the European Institutions.”


Notes from HJL: | by Survival Blog | 20 April 2014, 12:41 AM

On this wonderful Resurrection Sunday, I was blessed by a letter sent in by SurvivalBlog reader A.W. I'd like to share it with you too:

Hi Hugh,

I discovered “How Can I Keep From Singing?” in Rawles' book Patriots and have been curious about its origin. His book says it's a Shaker hymn and other sources claim it's a Quaker hymn, so I was surprised to learn [by a determined google search] that it was actually written in the mid 1800s by Robert Lowry, a Baptist minister, who also wrote “Shall We Gather At The River” and three others that are in my Baptist Hymnal but not familiar to me.

Although I've listened to Enya's version, I find the echo effect she uses to be way too fuzzy for the song. I have found an MP3 by a voice that fits the song and nestles just right in my soul.

James Loynes is a Welsh baritone who has a mellow voice and good diction and conveys a sincere feeling for the music and lyrics. This url has both sheet music versions and a vocal with quiet accompaniment

I am so happy to have found this that I felt urged to send you the info. - A.W.


My life flows on in endless song
Above earth's lamentation
I hear the sweet, tho' far-off hymn
That hails a new creation
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing
It finds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?

What tho' my joys and comfort die?
The Lord my Saviour liveth
What tho' the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night He giveth
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that Refuge clinging
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

I lift mine eyes; the cloud grows thin
I see the blue above it
And day by day this pathway smoothes
Since first I learned to love it
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart
A fountain ever springing
All things are mine since I am His
How can I keep from singing?

JWR Adds: It is noteworthy that Enya omitted the name of Christ in her version, perhaps in an attempt to make the hymn more palatable to a wide audience. She should have displayed more backbone!

o o o

Today we present another entry for Round 52 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The $11,000+ worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate, good for any one, two, or three course (a $1,195 value),
  2. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  3. Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  4. A $300 gift certificate from CJL Enterprize, for any of their military surplus gear,
  5. A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (a $300 value),
  6. A $300 gift certificate from Freeze Dry Guy,
  7. A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo,
  8. A roll of $10 face value in pre-1965 U.S. 90% silver quarters, courtesy of, (currently valued at around $180 postpaid),
  9. Both VPN tunnel and DigitalSafe annual subscriptions from Privacy Abroad (a combined value of $195),
  10. is donating both an AquaBrick water filtration kit and a Stainless Medium Scout Kelly Kettle Complete Kit with a combined retail value of $304,
  11. APEX Gun Parts is donating a $250 purchase credit, and
  12. is providing a $300 gift certificate.

Second Prize:

  1. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  2. A FloJak EarthStraw “Code Red” 100-foot well pump system (a $500 value), courtesy of,
  3. Acorn Supplies is donating a Deluxe Food Storage Survival Kit with a retail value of $350,
  4. The Ark Instituteis donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package–enough for two families of four, seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti's book "Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times", and two bottles of Potassium Iodate– a $325 retail value,
  5. $300 worth of ammo from Patriot Firearms and Munitions. (They also offer a 10% discount for all SurvivalBlog readers with coupon code SVB10P),
  6. A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials,
  7. A full set of all 26 books published by (a $270 value),
  8. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of (a $180 value),
  9. Autrey's Armory – specialists in AR-15, M4s, parts, and accessories is donating a $250 gift certificate,
  10. in Bozeman, Montana is providing a prize bundle with Beans, Buttermilk Powder, Montana Hard Red Wheat, Drink Mixes, and White Rice, valued at $333,
  11. is providing a $150 gift certificate, and
  12. Organized Prepper is providing a $500 gift certificate.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security,
  5. A MURS Dakota Alert Base Station Kit with a retail value of $240 from JRH Enterprises,
  6. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
  7. Ambra Le Roy Medical Products in North Carolina is donating a bundle of their traditional wound care and first aid supplies, with a value of $208.
  8. is donating a $500 gift certificate to their store.

Round 52 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

An Eye for Eyes, by B.A. | by Survival Blog | 20 April 2014, 12:38 AM

Dear Reader,

As a person who has been blessed with not needing reading glasses, I am usually happy to read lists on prepping that tell the readers to make sure that they have extra prescription glasses in case they break their everyday glasses and cannot get new ones due to unforeseen circumstances. It's one more place I can save a few dollars. That's great, but is it really that simple? Many times I have glossed this fact in my mind. I wear sunglasses everyday. They are cheap and available everywhere, which is a good thing because I am a little rough on them. Between the odd time when I sit on them or toss them onto a parts-strewn surface and scratch the daylights out of them, mine have a relatively short lifespan. I used to hang them on my head. Unfortunately, the cover crop is thinning out too much and cannot hold them there any longer. After the second smashed pair that fell off backwards, I start hanging them on my shirt. Now most of my t-shirts have a slight 'V' in the collar that my wife hates. If I do not hang them, they get forgotten and, therefore, bent, broken, or lost. As a professional driver they are an important part of my everyday carry. Of course I never thought of it as such. You do not want to drive far without a pair when driving into the sunrise or sunset or when facing a horrible glare off equally horrible city buildings, traffic, or in the winter on the Prairies when everything is white for miles. I drove a week once with a plastic Snoopy pair because I needed them and could only find one set in my size at a gift shop. Beggars cannot be choosers, and I was begging. The last thing I grab when I leave the house is a pair. I also snatch a pair when going to the garden or to work on equipment. I like the slight amber lens because while driving it helps me to notice animals. These same glasses help with the green brown contrast and go straight from my work truck to my hunting truck. The UV protection and anti-glare contrast are very helpful. Coming from a hunter, it may sound strange, but I would rather see and slow down for an animal than hit it. I do not feel that unnecessary death is something that I can live with as a cost of doing business. Additionally, these plastic trucks seem to disintegrate on impact with June bugs. As much as I use my sunglasses I had never before thought, “What if this was the last pair that I could ever buy? Have I even considered how I can protect my eyes from everyday things that happen? If the SHTF, how many things am I going to be doing that can be less than healthy for my eyes? Do I have extra sunglasses for when the lenses become crazed with scratches or milky? What about when they fall apart?”

I had a pair of sunglasses once that I left in the car in winter. When I hopped in and put them on, my body heat caused the lens to crack in half. You do not go very long without finding yourself with a new pair. Right now I have the option of buying new tools (safety glasses are tools) to use. What about down the road when they start breaking or wearing out? I know that my safety glasses have saved my sight while using the grinder. I have thrown out many a pair that had too many burns in the line of sight. Also, while using old wire wheels, I have picked lots of loose wires out of my clothes. One time I thought I was stung on my face but really had one lonely wire sticking straight out of my upper lip. Sure you say, that is a power tool, and after the SHTF we will be using hand tools. Well, then, I suppose you have never broken a drill bit. Even hand tension can send pieces of high carbon steel flying like it was shot from a slingshot. Additionally, since most people will be doing things that they have never done before, I am certain that there will be quite a few improperly used hand drills, not to mention that casehardened mild steel punch and chisel set that can be bought cheaply from an import tool store. They may be a cheap way to fill your Armageddon survival fantasy toolbox, but the first time your strike sparks, you will realize that those little pieces flying around you are dangerous. For the more adventurous prepper you may get into torches and welding. Cheap safety glasses will save you the first time you are soldering a pipe and manage to leave a couple drops of water in the line. Believe me, molten lead can sputter. (This also applies when casting bullets.) I have several shirts that are only used now for plumbing, because of the lead melted into them. The little mixed gas brazing tanks can be bought cheap and used when there is no power. Their goggles are handy, and you can pop out the dark lens and just go with the clear ones as an expedient dust goggle. If you plan on welding, well, you have more money than me. If the power stays on, my wife has the best auto darkening helmet I could find. It is good for stick welding, mig/tig, torch, and if you leave it off you have a great grinding shield. Yes, she is the welder in my family. It is simple common sense. She is great at it and wants to weld. Stick your pride on the shelf in the shed, and let those who can do. In many of those weird movies that have post-apocalyptic themes, the people many years into the future are wearing some kind of welding goggles. Why? They are industrial use. Fairly cheap safety glasses and replacement lenses are available now. You should buy some. For the cost of the one pair of ultra cool Oakley's, you can have dozens of clear, smoked, amber, or mirror safety glasses and replacement lenses. Buy some for the whole family. Ever since I first saw that ad that everyone has seen with the sunglasses that have stopped a bullet, I have thought about what it would be like to have that kind of protection. Of course, if everyone who was nasty enough to shoot at you would be kind enough to only use .22 short at the range of 50 feet or more, that would be great. Realistically, just like the military, I have come to the conclusion that the simplest form of danger to your eyes is the best one to protect for. I am talking about dust, wind, little bits of stuff blasted into your face, and of course simple bad luck. Think bad luck is not important? How about the last time you walked into a tree branch that was perfectly level with your head and scratched up your face? What about those psychotic little flies whose only purpose in life is to commit suicide by dive bombing your exposed eyeball, while you are busy doing something outside? Think that cannot happen at an inopportune moment? In the SHTF time, you will be outdoors alot more often than you are used to– possibly up to 24 hours per day. When I first thought of this, I went down to the local Salvation Army store and found three pairs of skiing goggles. I paid $3 for two pair and $3 for the third pair. This beat the pants off the surplus ones for $20. Considering that I plan to use sunglasses most of the time, it was still nice to find a cheap backup. I also use them when shooting. Sure I learned without them, but the little things have taught me better. I first started when I learned black powder. The guy who showed me, (yes, I had an enthusiast teacher) said that you never know 100% of the time what is going to happen. Sure, things are very well made, but a firearm is a controlled explosion. He put a cap on an empty chamber and fired it. That thing was mangled. He said that he had never been hit in the face with a fragment of brass, but he was never going to take the chance. I took that lesson to heart. Now, all shooting is done with glasses. I stopped shooting one brand that was made by a drunken gintaster in an un-named factory, because I noticed too many flattened primers and too many burnt casings, suggesting breach blowby potential. If that had happened, it may not destroy the firearm, but it can send oil droplets and dust (even rust flakes or carbon cakes, for those who do not clean their weapon properly), at high velocity into your face. This can seriously affect your health and well-being if that second shot is a must. As well, when reloading ALL steps can be dangerous. I have a quarter inch scar on my left index finger from trying to catch a dropped shotgun hull before it hit the ground. The primer burst with my hand beside it. Sometimes it is best to step back and let things fall. Things happen. Yes, I was wearing safety glasses. The reloading manuals all say that you should wear them at any time you handle propellants and primers. Left to my own devices, I did not know any form of commonsense as a child. I had many days without eyebrows. Looking back I am absolutely amazed that I did not take an eye out. I did have instruction about this though. My grandfather (may God rest his soul) was blinded in one eye during WW2. He would never even allow me to use a lawn mower without first putting on safety glasses or, at the very least, sun glasses. If you refused, you could not work at his farm. Grandfather had a tough life finding work, as a man with no depth perception. He always had a job, but he also had lost several in his life because the company would not allow a one-eyed man to work machinery. He used a glass eye, but eventually he was found out. It is not the same now, but back then that was life. I understand now why he was so upset when us, grandchildren, took unnecessary risks. He was trying to protect us from his life. He taught me to use my first gas power tools. When I got old enough to finally use a chainsaw, I automatically put on the glasses. I do not use just glasses anymore, because as anyone who has used a chainsaw knows pieces of wood fly everywhere. I worked in forestry for a while, and it was required that we use full face shields whenever we started up our saws. I found that the wire mesh one worked best, because in the summer it allowed a breeze to cool your face and did not fog with your sweat or breath. If you are buying your saw, go to a proper dealer. They will have these great helmets that have the shield and ear muff attachments. I may not work with a saw professionally, but I still keep this stuff for when I cut firewood. Now, even when fully blind one can be a productive member of society, and these changes are good. Making full use of people, instead of giving them pity or ignoring them, gives them good value and self determination. Discrimination is wrong, but what about after SHTF? If you loose an eye, are you going to be able to bag the wild game that your family needs to eat? If it is your shooting eye,can you protect yourself properly with one-half of your vision being a blind spot? What if you lose both eyes from some accident and suddenly have no way to properly support yourself or your family? Blindness will most likely be a death sentence for those after a SHTF situation. Those born that way will at least have the advantage of always being that way. You will have a learning curve that most likely will be insurmountable, unless you already have a large community or family that will be willing to take care of you and yours while you adjust. If your community has certain standards, they may only assist in a finite number of charity cases. Also, the government could use your situation as negative, in regards to who is useful versus who is not. I am sure that there are charts and triage requirements that say a one-eyed person has less value. It would be a shame to have to be separated from loved ones because they meet a certain criteria and you no longer do. Going back to eighteenth century medicine is not going to be easy. When you are on your own and cannot get a doctor to check out your pinkeye that you got because something got in there and infected it, you may loose your sight. Right now you buy your milk at the market. If the time comes that you must get it yourself, you will find very quickly that cows love to wrap their tails around your head while milking. Those tails, covered in dust and sometimes excrement, can put foreign matter into your eyes. This can very quickly turns out bad. Flushing them with warm milk does sometimes help clear up that infection, ironically. Several years ago my wife got metal splinters in her eye while at work. She was driven to the emergency room and got fixed up proper. It was an accident. This same accident, in a SHTF world, would have left me trying to use her eyebrow tweasers, while she screamed and flinched at every move I made. When you have no way to fix the problem, the best thing to do is try to prevent it the best way that you can before it can become a problem. Having some safety glasses or even sun glasses around, plus extras, can keep you in the habit of using them too. Just because it is a pain to go get them or that you lost them are no excuse, when it comes to protecting your eyes. I had an uncle who also lost an eye, but it was because he was too impatient to walk across his shop and get a pair of safety glasses.

Keeping yourself with vision (not visually impaired) in the future could require nothing more than simply spending a few dollars on a few items now that most of us never think about until it's time that we need them.

Letter Re: Reloading Ammo | by Survival Blog | 20 April 2014, 12:35 AM


I was a little surprised at your comment "It is tough to reload cheaper than bulk ammo for pistol though" in your reply to CR's letter. As an example, I reload .45ACP under 15 cents a round using 200 grain lead bullets from Missouri Bullet Company. The bullets are under 10 cents each, add a primer for 3 cents and 2 cents of powder, and there you are. I crank these out at 300-400 per hour on my progressive, at a leisurely pace.

I checked on ammo prices at the local farm store this afternoon and .45ACP is running 50 cents a round. Perhaps some can find it cheaper in bulk, but my prices for reloading are well under anything I've seen for .45ACP in bulk or otherwise.

I get a kick out of others watching me shoot my XD's at the range, peeling off 10 rounds at a crack; they clearly think I'm independently wealthy to be able to shoot that much .45, but I always end up telling them how I can afford it– I reload.

To get the price down you have to buy in bulk– no 100-bullet orders, no 1-pound powder orders, no buying primers 100 at a time. I buy bullets in the thousands, powder by the 8# keg, and primers 5000 at a time. But Hugh, if you do it right, you can save a lot of money reloading or, as I do, shoot more than I otherwise could.

Of course, your mileage will vary; if you have Glocks with octagonal rifling, lead bullets aren't advisable, and thus you may, if you like Glock, be forced to reload more expensive plated or FMJ bullets. But if you can reload lead, and use quality lubed bullets, you can save a ton, or shoot more.

Love the blog. Keep it up. - M.D.

HJL Replies: For your practice and fun ammo, you can reload on the cheap. However, the actual questions was about prepping ammo, which I understood to be ammo used primarily for the possible protection of your preps. For that ammo, you cannot run the brass into failure, nor can you spend time during the firefight collecting your brass so you can reload for the next assault. In those cases, your reloading costs are significantly higher because you generally need to use jacketed bullets, and you must have brass for every round you count. When reloading once-fired or new brass, your cost per round will only be slightly lower than domestically produced bulk ammo and may be higher than many imported ammo (in the standard 9mm or 45acp offerings). With other cartridges, YMMV. Hand loaded rifle ammo is almost always cheaper, no matter what.

Of course, once you have the investment in the reloading hardware, it's difficult to let it sit idle when you need rounds, no matter what the cost.

The Human Cost of the iPhone: who pays the price ? | by P2P Foundation | 20 April 2014, 12:35 AM

Watch this video:


Economics and Investing: | by Survival Blog | 20 April 2014, 12:32 AM

How many Americans live paycheck to paycheck? A nation living precariously close to the financial edge.

o o o

Gold Doomed or Resting? Gold vs. Major Currencies; Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley Reiterate Sell Signal

Gold Doomed or Resting? Seldom is sentiment so bad for something that still appears to be a long-term bull market.

When in doubt, it pays to take the opposite side of what Goldman Sachs publicly says. Goldman has a history of not only being wrong but betting against its own recommendations. - P.S.

o o o

Items from The Economatrix:

It's Time To Ditch The Consumer Price Index (CPI)

Q1 Earnings Season Summary: More Than Half Have Missed Revenues

Keynesianism: The Road To Hell?

Initial Jobless Claims Beat; Continuing Claims At Lowest Since Dec 2007

Odds 'n Sods: | by Survival Blog | 20 April 2014, 12:31 AM

New York gun owners shrug off tough new rules: What happens now?. - G.G.

The more people who standup to the tyranny, the more others will join them.

o o o

First Connecticut Arrest for Unregistered Assault Rifle? - I expected that there would be an arrest at some point, which might trigger a valid challenge to the law in a court system, but illegally shooting squirrels in front of two police officers and then admitting to owning banned weapons wasn't what I expected.

o o o

IRS Among Agencies Using License Plate-Tracking Vendor . - PLC

As we expected to find, it isn't just the LA police that consider ALL cars to be under investigation at all times.

o o o

Western lawmakers gather in Utah to talk federal land takeover - P.M.

o o o

The United States of SWAT?. - B.B.

With the militarization of every federal agency and every police force, we are seeing a rising number of situations where the agency is attempting to enforce things they have no right or real training to enforce. It seems eerily similar to the infamous “brown shirts”.

Hugh's Quote of the Day: | by Survival Blog | 20 April 2014, 12:29 AM

“If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” - 1 Corinthians 16 22-23 (KJV)

April 19, 2014

Links of the day | 在网上找到 | by Ged Carroll | 19 April 2014, 11:28 PM

Among Venture Capital’s Largest Exits, Consumer Tech Dominates | CB Insights Chat Wars | n+1 | Apr. 19, 2014 – interesting reading to compare and contrast with the current OTT messenger race Ideological Segregation Online and Offline | Quarterly Journal … Continue reading

Bicycle-Friendly Cobblestones | by The Copenhagen Bicycle Culture Blog | 19 April 2014, 11:51 PM

Bicycle Friendly Cobblestones
Ole Kassow from Purpose Makers - and brainchild behind the Cycling Without Age movement - gave us this great shot from a street in the Østerbro neighbourhood of Copenhagen. The City has a new thing they're doing. Replacing the old, bumpy cobblestones on certain streets with smooth ones. Just a strip, like down the middle on this one-way street - to make it a smoother ride for bicycle users. The city keeps a number of streets cobblestoned because of aesthetics and historical reasons. History can be a bumpy ride, though.

We like how the new cobblestones are elegantly woven into the existing ones.
Bicycle Friendly Cobblestones
On a street in the centre of Copenhagen, there are now smoother strips along the curbs for bicycle users to use. Above is a delegation from the City of Groningen, who we took on a Bicycle Urbanism tour of the city a few weeks ago. Apart from their fascination with the curb-separated cycle tracks (they filmed them in order to convince their engineers that they work... yes, they're from Groningen), these smooth cobblestone strips were an object of fascination and I had to drag them away in order to get to lunch in time.

I love how even established bicycle cities can continued to be inspired by each other. There is no complete bicycle city - yet.
Car-centric Østerbro
Have a look at the street in the top photo again. It is a one way street but it's clear that the Arrogance of Space exists even in Copenhagen. Stupidly wide street and that means the sidewalks look like this. Cars are prioritised still - at the expense of the pedestrians and bicycle users and basically everyone in the city. And this in a neighbourhood with only just over 20% car ownership.
Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.

Well This Answers That Question | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 10:07 PM

View More Tricks From the Extreme Cheapskate Section at


Well This Answers That Question


Doctor Who in the British Pathe Archive: Monsters! | by feeling listless | 19 April 2014, 10:55 PM

Tv Amazing! Yeti! Cyberman! Schoolboys and girls Exhibition. Olympia, London (the annual holiday time event for youngsters)! Has this footage been seen before? That seems to be a Yeti from The Abominable Snowmen, which is pretty rare.  Otherwise the event looks super exciting and entirely the sort of thing which would be outlawed under health and safety rules now. Decades later, Olympia would house another Doctor Who exhibition, the one which would ultimately move to Cardiff.  More soon.

Saturday Poem | by Three Quarks Daily | 19 April 2014, 08:35 PM

We Join Together Spokes in a Wheel

We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it’s the vacant hub
that makes it possible
for the cart to move.

We shape a pot to make a void
to hold whatever we want.

We stand up walls to make a house,
but the hollow within
is where living takes place.

Non-being is at the heart of being.

from the Tao The Ching of Lao Tzu, V. 11

Don’t put your money where your mouth is | by Marginal Revolution (Tyler Cowen) | 19 April 2014, 07:36 PM

Not a surprise to me but yikes nonetheless:

In the first comprehensive study of the DNA on dollar bills, researchers at New York University’s Dirty Money Project found that currency is a medium of exchange for hundreds of different kinds of bacteria as bank notes pass from hand to hand.

By analyzing genetic material on $1 bills, the NYU researchers identified 3,000 types of bacteria in all—many times more than in previous studies that examined samples under a microscope. Even so, they could identify only about 20% of the non-human DNA they found because so many microorganisms haven’t yet been cataloged in genetic data banks.

Easily the most abundant species they found is one that causes acne. Others were linked to gastric ulcers, pneumonia, food poisoning and staph infections, the scientists said. Some carried genes responsible for antibiotic resistance.

“It was quite amazing to us,” said Jane Carlton, director of genome sequencing at NYU’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology where the university-funded work was performed. “We actually found that microbes grow on money.”

This was, by the way, a relatively frequent complaint in 19th century monetary writings, with the advent of banknotes.

How to make bubble art with children | by Jax (from Kentwell) | 19 April 2014, 05:37 PM

bubble art with text

You will need:

Blow some bubbles. Squish them with the paper. You’re done.

Bubble art is great fun. You can print over on the same paper with different colours, cut the bubbles out and use in collages, use it as wonderful hand made wrapping paper – the choice is yours!

Internet "to reach Wales by 2020". | by feeling listless | 19 April 2014, 06:30 PM

Progress indeed! @MissAlexjones :-)
— Nick Boxall (@Nickbox1) April 19, 2014

History The best bit: "We haven't finalised the costings yet, but we anticipate that the price of sending across the Wales Wide Web should be no more than fifty to sixty pence." Actually no, it's the two paragraphs before that. And the the paragraphs before that. And the photo.

Cute Kittens | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 04:52 PM

These cats can be cute. By:Ribh Flannery

I need a drink

finally found a drink.

I think I’m drunk

Spongebob Buzzkill | by Rands in Response | 19 April 2014, 04:34 PM

Low point: Squidward murders.


Assorted links | by Marginal Revolution (Tyler Cowen) | 19 April 2014, 04:23 PM

1. Scott Winship reviews Piketty.  And Kevin Hassett on Piketty.

2. Why should there be deflation in Sweden?

3. Why is the singing of the national anthem so much better for hockey?

4. Liberalism unrelinquished, a project headed by Daniel Klein to reclaim the use of this word.  They are looking for signers.

5. Professional actor reading a Yelp review.

6. Will health care spending balloon again?

On the sofa: The Raid 2 | by Ged Carroll | 19 April 2014, 03:59 PM

Coming back to the UK reminded me of how much Hong Kong is a cinema-centric culture despite the technology, mobile devices and amazing restaurants. Going to the cinema there was literally half the price of London, which means that I … Continue reading

Top 4 Features Of Pet Odor Eliminator | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 03:37 PM

Are you looking for the odor eliminator to clean off the bad odor from your place effectively? If you are not sure to opt the best odor eliminator then you must look for these features in a good odor eliminator. Here are the best features of a good eliminator that you should look at, before purchasing the odor eliminator

It can remove the pet odor effectually and must purify the air of your house within short span of time. You must go for a good odor eliminator to make the air around your house fresh and full of good odor. If your odor eliminator is good then it should be able to treat the poor odor and remove it effectively out of the house.

You would need a filter purifier that is designed to treat the pet odor and it also helps in daunting of the pet urine odor. You just need to spray deodorizer or a freshener along it and this will spread the fragrance all around the place. Odor eliminator must be equipped well with a filter so that it can remove the unbearable smell off the house. It will help you out to breathe easy in your house as the poor odor would be removed effectively.

Good odor eliminator must perform multiple tasks like removal of bad odor, elimination of dust & smell, air purifier, air deodorization, and sanitizing the place effectively. In short, a good odor eliminator must act like a little home cleaner that is capable of doing multiple tasks.

Pre-filters can also act like odor eliminator. They can remove the odor effectively and easily. They defend you against the dusty particles and bacteria in air that may have some harmful effects to your health.

SO go with an odor eliminator that has all these features.odor eliminator


Zero Hour MPs | by Bits or pieces? (Simon Wardley) | 19 April 2014, 04:32 PM

I've submitted an e-petition to the UK Treasury on zero hour contracts for MPs. Once I have the link I'll put it up here.

The proposal is as follows ...

"In a time of austerity, we need to encourage community involvement and efficiency in the political process whilst promoting innovation in technology, a UK growth sector. The proposal is that all MPs should be put on zero hour contracts. On arrival at the House of Commons, constituents will vote (e.g. via mobile phone app) on whether their MP is needed for the day. For Ministers and Shadow Ministers, the entire electorate can vote.

If it is determined that an MP is needed then a standard daily rate plus expenses covering travel costs will be provided. Special exceptions for non attendance (e.g. overseas trips) are allowed.

Voting mechanism should be distributed online and developed through a funded open source effort encouraging community participation and technology innovation. Voting daily on whether an MP is needed should stimulate both community involvement in politics and focus MPs on delivering user needs.

The system should also be extended to the House of Lords."

Link ... to be added.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, employees are happier on zero hour contracts and it would therefore not only be unfair to deny our MPs the right to enjoy such privileges but by introducing them we could hopefully create a more participatory environment.

Afghan Whigs are the artist of the weekend | by Fred Wilson VC | 19 April 2014, 02:35 PM

Afghan Whigs are the artist of the weekend

Counterpuncher | by Three Quarks Daily | 19 April 2014, 02:09 PM


Perry Anderson on Alexander Cockburn, in New Left Review (image from Wikimedia Commons):

No other person I have ever known was so deeply and productively marked by family background. The relationship of sons to fathers is rarely without conflict; and where there is none, the effect is more typically disabling than empowering, or neutral. For a father to be object at once of adoration, emulation and emancipation would seem a contradiction in terms. Yet so it was in the case of Alexander. Throughout his life Claud was a model for him—he once said he thought of him every day—and his career would follow an arc often uncannily like that of Claud’s. Yet far from being a psychological shackle, reducing him to imitation, it was as if the intensity of the bond was the condition of an individuality out of the ordinary. The paradox, of course, says much about the parent who made it possible.

Claud Cockburn recounted his own life—up to the age of fifty-seven—in an artful and entertaining trilogy that records a remarkable career. Born in Peking in 1904, where his father was secretary to the British Legation during the Boxer Uprising, as a youth he spent much of his time, during breaks from education in England, in Budapest, while his father sorted out Allied war claims on Hungary. After Oxford, Claud first worked free-lance for the Times in Berlin, before becoming a correspondent for the paper in New York. Arriving in the US on the eve of the crash of 1929, he resigned his post in early 1932, returning first to Central Europe again, and then to England. There he created The Week, a confidential newsletter, exposing intrigues and scandals in high places, read and feared not only in the clubs and country houses of the British oligarchy, but their counterparts across the Continent. In 1934 he started writing for the Daily Worker, while contributing concurrently to Time and Fortune. After 1936 he reported on Spain for the Worker, and England for Pravda. During the War, he was diplomatic correspondent for the Worker, but in 1947 quit for a life in Ireland with his wife Patricia. There he wrote his three volumes of memoirs; five novels, one of which was made into a film by John Huston; contributed to Punch; and became an inspiration and collaborator of Private Eye. He died in 1981.

For the richness of this trajectory and the personality behind it, there is no substitute for Claud’s own reminiscences. But retrospectively, certain strands of particular moment for Alexander can be indicated.

More here

Alive in the Sunshine: On Environmentalism and Basic Income | by Three Quarks Daily | 19 April 2014, 02:01 PM


Alyssa Battistoni in Jacobin (Illustration by Edward Carvalho-Monaghan):

[I]nternational disparities have, of course, long presented a challenge to those concerned with both domestic and global justice: how to acknowledge that America’s poor are wealthier than most of the world without simply concluding that they’re part of the problem? But while discussions of consumption tends to focus on a universal “we,” as epitomized by the famous Pogo Earth Day cartoon — “we have met the enemy, and he is us” — it’s important to look more closely within the rich world rather than simply heaping scorn on national averages.

Depictions of American consumerism tend to focus on the likes of Walmart and McDonald’s, suggesting that blame lies with the ravenous, grasping masses. Meanwhile it’s trendy for the wealthy to appear virtuous as they drive Priuses, live in homes that tout “green design,” and eat organic kale. But whether you “care about the environment,” believe in climate change, or agonize over your coffee’s origins doesn’t matter as much as your tax bracket and the consumption habits that go with it.

Consumption doesn’t correspond perfectly to income — in large part because of public programs like SNAP that supplement low-income households — but the two are closely linked. The US Congressional Budget Office estimates that the carbon footprint of the top quintile is over three times that of the bottom. Even in relatively egalitarian Canada, the top income decile has a mobility footprint nine times that of the lowest, a consumer goods footprint four times greater, and an overall ecological footprint two-and-a-half times larger. Air travel is frequently pegged as one of the most rapidly growing sources of carbon emissions, but it’s not simply because budget airlines have “democratized the skies” — rather, flying has truly exploded among the hyper-mobile affluent. Thus in Western Europe, the transportation footprint of the top income earners is 250 percent of that of the poor. And global carbon emissions are particularly uneven: the top five hundred million people by income, comprising about 8 percent of global population, are responsible for 50 percent of all emissions. It’s a truly global elite, with high emitters present in all countries of the world.

But that doesn’t mean America is off the hook altogether. The global wealthy may consume far more than the rest, but global consumption can’t be leveled out by bringing everyone up to even Western median levels; consumption in rich nations, even at relatively low levels of income, has to decline if we’re to achieve some measure of global equality.

For those in rich countries, this sounds suspiciously close to an argument for austerity: we’ve been profligate, and now the bill is coming due.

More here.

Thomas Piketty and Millennial Marxists on the Scourge of Inequality | by Three Quarks Daily | 19 April 2014, 01:50 PM


Timothy Shenk in The Nation (Photo: Emmanuelle Marchadour)):

Chest-pounding about methodology and decrees on capitalism would be of little interest if they were not joined to substantive intellectual discoveries. Piketty’s contributions on this front come in three interlocking clusters: historical, theoretical and political. Relying chiefly on data from Britain, the United States and France, he casts his gaze over what the French historian Fernand Braudel, cited by Piketty as one of his inspirations, termed the longue durée. Much of Capital in the Twenty-First Century is, essentially, a history of the modern world viewed through the relationship between two factors: economic growth, with all its promises, and the return on capital, a reward that goes to the small fraction of the population that has mastered what Tina Fey’s character in 30 Rockreferred to as “that thing that rich people do where they turn money into more money.”

The rich perfected that art a long time ago. According to Piketty, the average return on capital, after adjusting for inflation, has hovered around 5 percent throughout history, with a slight decline after World War II. Whatever problems capitalists will face in the future, he suggests, a crisis generated by falling profits is not likely to be among them. Economic growth, by contrast, has a far more abbreviated chronology. According to the most reliable estimates—sketchy, but better than nothing—for most of human history, economic growth was on the order of 0.1 percent a year, provided there were no famines, plagues or natural disasters. This gloomy record began to change for part of the world during the Industrial Revolution. Judged by later standards, “revolution” might seem too generous a phrase for growth rates in per capita output that ran to under 1.5 percent in both Western Europe and the United States; but compared with the entire earlier history of human existence, those rates were astonishing.

More impressive developments were in store. The twentieth century, Piketty writes, was the moment when “economic growth became a tangible, unmistakable reality for everyone.” In the United States, which had benefited earlier from high growth rates, per capita output ticked up to just under 2 percent between 1950 and 1970. In the same period, growth in Europe doubled that; Asian countries averaged just a step behind Europe; and many African nations reached numbers closer to—but ahead of—the United States.

Piketty is less concerned with this global story, however, than with a concurrent development in Europe. In the nineteenth century, growth had done nothing to reduce income inequality. This was the world Marx diagnosed in Capital, and in crucial respects, Piketty thinks he got it right. Not that the entire apparatus of Marxist political economy holds, if it ever did. On the key issue of the tendency for wealth to accumulate in fewer hands, though, Piketty believes Marx arrived at a profound insight.

More here.

The Up Side Of Down | by Overcoming Bias | 19 April 2014, 01:50 PM

In her new book, The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success, Megan McArdle takes some time to discuss forager vs. farmer attitudes toward risk.

Forager food sources tended to be more risky and variable, while farmer food sources are more reliable. So foragers emphasized food sharing more, and a tolerate attitude toward failure to find food. In contrast, farmers shared food less and held individuals responsible more for getting their food. We’ve even seen the same people switch from one attitude to the other as they switched from foraging to farming. Today some people and places tend more toward farmer values of strict personal responsibility, while other people and places tend more toward forager forgiveness.

McArdle’s book is interesting throughout. For example, she talks about how felons on parole are dealt with much better via frequent reliable small punishments, relative to infrequent random big punishments. But when it comes to bankruptcy law, a situation where the law can’t help but wait a long time to respond to an accumulation of small failures, McArdle favors forager forgiveness. She points out that this tends to encourage folks who start new businesses, which encourages more innovation. And this does indeed seem to be a good thing.

Folks who start new businesses are pretty rare, however, and it is less obvious to me that more leniency is good overall. It is not obvious that ordinary people today face more risk than did most farmers during the farming era. The US apparently has the most lenient bankruptcy law in the world, and that is indeed some evidence for its value. However, it seems to me more likely that US forager forgiveness was caused by US wealth than vice versa. McArdle says the US got lenient bankruptcy in the late 1800s via lobbying by senators representing western farmers in debt to eastern banks. And it is even harder to see how farming in the US west then was more risky than has been farming throughout the whole farming era.

Most likely what changed was the wealth of US farmers, and their new uppity attitudes toward rich elites. This fits with debt-forgiveness being a common liberal theme, which fits with liberal attitudes being more forager-like, and becoming more common as rising wealth cut the fear that made farmers. If lenient bankrupts is actually better for growth in our world, this would be another example of Caplan’s idea trap, where rising wealth happens to create better attitudes toward good policy.

Overall I found it very hard to disagree with anything that McArdle said in her book. If you know me, that is quite some praise. :)

THE SELECTED LETTERS OF ELIA KAZAN | by Three Quarks Daily | 19 April 2014, 01:42 PM

9780307267160.dWendy Smith at The Washington Post:

In his blisteringly candid but skewed 1988 autobiography, “Elia Kazan: A Life,” he claimed that he had been miserable during the years of his greatest success, “straining to be a nice guy so people would like me.” He implied that the “mask” he wore “to hide a truer feeling” kept him from working honestly with his collaborators and destroyed his pleasure in that work. It’s impossible to believe this entirely as we read his detailed letters to Tennessee Williams, firmly laying out the structural problems he sees in “Camino Real” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Kazan comes across as a strong, self-confident artist, unafraid to voice opinions he knows may upset his friend.

His commitment and integrity are even more evident in correspondence with studio executives over censorship troubles with the film versions of “Streetcar,” “East of Eden” and “Baby Doll.” A leading player in the battle to make American movies more adult, Kazan urged Jack Warner in 1955, “as a matter of self preservation, to put on the screen . . . only what they cannot and will not ever see on their TV . . . we must be bold.”

more here.

The Concrete Abyss | by Three Quarks Daily | 19 April 2014, 01:39 PM


Lisa Guenther in Aeon:

Why does prolonged isolation typically corrode a prisoner’s ability to perceive the world and to sustain a meaningful connection with his own existence? The short answer to this question is that we are social beings who rely on our interactions with other people to make sense of things. But what does it mean to exist socially, and what is the precise connection between our relations with others, our perception of the world, and the affirmation of our own existence?

My response to this question is shaped by the philosophical practice of phenomenology. Phenomenology begins with a description of lived experience and reflects on the structures that make this experience possible and meaningful. The main insight of phenomenology is that consciousness is relational. As the German philosopher Edmund Husserl put it at the turn of the 20th century, consciousness is consciousness of something; the mind is not a thing but a relation. Meaning is not ‘located’ in the brain like a message in a mailbox; rather, it emerges through an ever-changing relation between the act of thinking and the objects of thought.

Husserl’s student, Martin Heidegger, expanded this notion of relationality into an account of existence as Being-in-the-world. For Heidegger, it is not enough to reflect on the structures of consciousness in a theoretical way. We need to grasp how the meaning of our lived experience arises through a practical engagement with the world, in projects such as hammering a nail or baking a loaf of bread. For Heidegger, as for Husserl, we do not exist as isolated individuals whose basic properties and capacities remain the same in every situation. We are not in the world ‘as the water is “in” the glass or as the garment is “in” the cupboard’, he wrote in Being and Time(1927). Rather, we exist as Being-in-the-world, in a complex interrelation with the situation into which we have been thrown. The work of phenomenology is to make this web of relations visible, so that we can appreciate the complexity of even the most simple, everyday experiences.

Solitary confinement presents a challenge to my practice of phenomenology, both because I have not had this experience myself, and also because the testimony of survivors suggests that the experience of prolonged isolation is also an unravelling of experience: a deterioration of the senses, a becoming-invisible, an annihilation. 

More here.

Adam Begley’s ‘Updike’ | by Three Quarks Daily | 19 April 2014, 01:38 PM

20SUBPAMUK-master675Orhan Pamuk at The New York Times:

Here, in no particular order, are some of the memorable data from Updike’s universe that I learned from this delightfully rich book: He enjoyed poker and golf. At Harvard, he was classmates with Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, “son of the hereditary imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims,” and he made use of the prince’s “fabulously exotic background” in the story “God Speaks.” In 1962, he taught creative writing courses at Harvard Summer School and was not happy about it. When he was writing for The New Yorker’s Talk of the Town section, he also composed a 600-page novel called “Home,” set in Pennsylvania, but never published it. He didn’t board an airplane until he was 24, but after he became famous he traveled the world and projected his experiences onto his character Bech. After moving to Ipswich, Mass., which he wrote about in “Couples” (1968), “he threw himself with reckless enthusiasm into the tangle” of suburban infidelities. He wrote so much about sex, as this admiring biography tells us without too much irony, because “he was writing about what he knew.” But there were “only two extramarital affairs of real significance” in his life. He married twice and had four children. At the age of 70, he had “few close friends, none of them intimate.” For a long time, he was in regular correspondence with his mother and with Joyce Carol Oates. He never felt completely at ease with computers; the Internet made him nervous, and he never owned a cellphone. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Updike and his second wife, Martha, were staying in Brooklyn Heights in a 10th-floor apartment from which they witnessed the fall of the twin towers, and he wrote about the experience in The New Yorker. The last book Updike reviewed was an 800-page biography of John Cheever.

more here.

The battle to build Shakespeare’s Globe | by Three Quarks Daily | 19 April 2014, 01:35 PM

5932ba3f-2914-4a63-9130-323ec56e14e9Chris Laoutaris at The Financial Times:

This week marks the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth. Yet the way we remember history’s most renowned playwright might have been very different had it not been for a formidable foe.

In November 1596 a woman named Elizabeth Russell declared war on Shakespeare and his theatrical troupe, in the process nearly destroying the dramatist’s career. Russell rarely features in accounts of Shakespeare’s life, yet her actions determined how we think of him today: as the Shakespeare of the Globe Theatre.

In the National Archives in Kew there is a bundle of curious papers, identified by the prosaic reference number SP 12/260. The documents include two petitions to Queen Elizabeth I’s Privy Council. The first is headed by Lady Russell and records her endeavour to block the opening of a spectacular new theatre which Shakespeare was about to occupy less than a two-minute walk south of her home in Blackfriars, London. This unassuming manuscript discloses a scarcely believable act of betrayal, for among its 31 signatories are Shakespeare’s publisher, Richard Field, and his patron, George Carey, the Lord Hunsdon.

more here.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: The supreme storyteller, he changed his country’s reality | by Three Quarks Daily | 19 April 2014, 01:19 PM

Boyd Tonkin in The Independent:

Marquez-1From the era of “La Violencia” in the late 1940s, Colombia has weathered more than its fair share of hideous bloodshed, factional strife and chronic instability. But there, on the other side of the balance, stood Gabo: perhaps the best-loved novelist of the entire postwar period. Gabriel Jose Garcia Marquez, born on 6 March 1927 during a rainstorm in the backwater of Aracataca near the Caribbean coast, not only described but in a sense created today’s Colombia. The author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera and other masterworks from The Autumn of the Patriarch to The General in his Labyrinth, he put his stamp on his country and on a worldwide republic of letters.

And the former journalist did so with a charismatic allure unmatched since the heyday of Hugo and Tolstoy in the late 19th-century. This supreme storyteller managed, via the magic of his art, to alter the shape of his country’s and his continent’s reality.If Latin America can now hope to boom in freedom, that is in no small part because its writers – and above all Garcia Marquez – came out of the middle of nowhere and by sheer force of talent, will and imagination transformed that nowhere into the centre of the world.

More here.

Missing Links | by Three Quarks Daily | 19 April 2014, 01:08 PM

Carl Zimmer in The New York Times:

CarlIn the summer of 1981, a Swedish graduate student named Svante Paabo filled a laboratory at the University of Uppsala with the stench of rotting liver. Paabo was supposed to be studying viruses, but he had become secretly obsessed with a more exotic line of research: extracting DNA from Egyptian mummies. No one at the time had any idea if the desiccated flesh of pharaohs still contained any genetic material, so Paabo decided to run an experiment. He bought a piece of calf’s liver and put it in a lab oven at about 120 degrees for a few days to approximate mummification. In the dried, blackened lump of meat, he succeeded in finding scattered fragments of DNA. It was the start of what has turned out to be an extraordinary scientific career. Paabo went on to find DNA in a 2,400-year-old mummy and then from much older animals, like extinct cave bears and ground sloths. In 2010, he became world-famous when he and his colleagues unveiled the Neanderthal genome.

Neanderthals have puzzled scientists ever since their fossils first emerged in a German quarry in 1856. They were clearly ancient (their fossils span a range from about 200,000 to 30,000 years ago) and had distinctive anatomical differences from living humans, such as a thick brow ridge. But Neanderthals had brains as big as ours; they could make sophisticated tools and hunt large mammals. Precisely how they were related to modern humans became the source of a debate that rolled on for decades. In “Neanderthal Man” Paabo offers a fascinating account of the three decades of research that led from a secret hobby to a scientific milestone. The book follows the style of two previous memoirs by pioneering geneticists — James D. Watson’s “The Double Helix” (1968) and J. Craig Venter’s “A Life Decoded” (2007). In “The Double Helix,” Watson described discovering the structure of DNA. In “A Life Decoded,” Venter told how he led a team that developed new ways to read DNA and eventually assembled a rough draft of the entire human genome. Paabo now recounts his success in recovering a human genome that has been sitting in fossils for tens of thousands of years.

More here.

Video Of The Week: The Gotham Gal on TWIST | by AVC - musings of a VC in NYC (Fred Wilson) | 19 April 2014, 01:02 PM

Last summer, The Gotham Gal went on Jason Calacanis’ show, This Week In Startups. I had never watched it until this morning. It’s fun to see two people who know each other well (they worked together in the late 90s) do a conversation. It’s an hour long but there is some good stuff in here.

Pebble Is Winning The Wearables War and What That Means For The iWatch | by Anthony Wing Kosner (Forbes) | 19 April 2014, 01:00 PM

Some suggestive data indicates that the Pebble smartwatch, which sold 400,000 units in 2013, has the most staying power of the first batch of consumer wearables. [tweet_quote display="Polls from @Polarpolis find that only 26% of people still use @Nike #Fuelband vs 75% who still use @Pebble #smartwatch"]A set of polls from Polar find that while only 26% of respondents are still using their Nike Fuelbands and 36% are still using their Jawbone Ups, a decisive 75% are still using their Pebble smart watches.[/tweet_quote]

Want a clear indication that what these numbers show is true? Nike just announced it will stop making Fuelband hardware and focus instead on software. A good guess, in fact, would be that such software might be apps to run on a new iWatch, perhaps?

Even more damning, only 14% are still using their first generation Google Glass and a mere 10% are still using their original Samsung Gear smartwatches. These are early days for wearables—Google just introduced the Android Wear platform and Apple’s iWatch is still a high-probability rumor—and the sample sizes for the polls are not that large, so Glass and Gear may yet find their grooves. Even so, these results ring true for me based on my own usage patterns.

Luke Wroblewski, co-founder of the Polar app platform that produced this data, tells me that, “The interesting thing about these results, is they match my experiences, too.” He is still using his Pebble even though, “it has syncing issues still (not solid enough at making/keeping connection), it’s not smart enough to not notify me when I got the notification elsewhere and the custom charger sucks, I always forget it.”

Why does he still use it? He says that its “long battery life rules, its notifications are actually useful and wearing a watch is still useful.” In contrast he says, “my google glass and fitness wearables (fuel band, fitbit) are all abandoned.” I am less of an early adopter than Wroblewski, but I still wear my original black Kickstarter edition Pebble every day but gave up on my fitbit months ago when I realized that much of the time, when the battery had died, it was merely a (not very) decorative accessory.

I have had more than a few instances where my Pebble has lost charge in the middle of the night and failed to wake me up in the morning. Most recently, it attempted to update system software in the middle of the night and inadvertently set the clock time back several hours! Nonetheless it is a product I feel affectionately towards and I am willing to overlook some glitches because of its overall utility.

Arvind Gupta, a San Francisco-based product designer turned VC investor at SOS Ventures and co-founder of the LEAP.AXLR8R program, looked at the Polar data and responded, “I think the clear takeaway fits what we see in the hardware space. Single use wearables are tough to sustain from a user perspective.” Gupta works with entrepreneurs to turn their hardware ideas into viable products. He continues that, “Platforms that are multifunctional tend to retain their adoption. A lot like our phones evolving to become bigger to support more multi-functionality (in terms of apps, etc).”

The advantage of multi-functionality explains the drop-off in the fitness band usage, but with Google Glass and Samsung Gear the reasons are different. Glass does many things, but it is not clear how many of them we really need, or need in the form of a device mounted on our heads. In the case of Gear, it just doesn’t seem to have combined a feature set and form factor that really grab users.

Palo Alto-based designer Scott Jenson, now exploring the Internet of Things (IoT) at Google, says that these findings are not at all surprising. “Think of what happened before the iphone,” he says, “there were form factors and experiments in all sorts of directions (remember the Nokia N-Gage?) Eventually Apple found the sweet spot and EVERYONE piled on.” The first generations of Glass and Gear have not yet found their sweet spots, though it seems that Pebble has. “I expect that wearables will be the same way,” Jenson concludes, “lots of experimentation, lots of failures and someone will figure out one combination (of likely many) that actually works. It’s just part of the longer evolutionary process.”

In terms of design evolution, Duke professor Adrian Bejan has written extensively on the counter-balancing tendencies of larger “organs” of flow on the one hand and miniaturization on the other. Larger pipes, for instance, provide less resistance but also take up more space. Multi-funtioning devices create wider avenues of flow because each type of use adds to the overall utility. At the same time, evolution pushes these components to be as small as possible while still keeping the flow open. The ability to create more flow in smaller spaces (for instance by moving heat first with natural convection, then forced convection and eventually pure conduction) leads to miniaturization. Think of the noisy fans in your old desktop computer compared to the silence of your new iPhone.

Where does this leave Pebble? Fortune reports that “Pebble sold 400,000 smartwatches last year, [and is] on track to double revenues in 2014.” CEO Eric Migicovsky is enjoying his first mover advantage even as Google’s announcement of Android Wear and the high likelihood of an iWatch from Apple will make the field more crowded in hurry.

Migicovsky is working on the company’s own design evolution, “exploring technologies that could help boost Pebble’s week-long battery life further,” Fortune reports, “and keeping tabs on newer screen displays, particularly ones made from flexible materials.” He clearly sees beyond the early-adopters to the time when “the watch can act as a central controller to some of the user’s other devices: their car, items in their home and on their body.”

Battery life is clearly a very critical issue for wearables and Pebble, I would say, is just on the right side of what is acceptable—Samsung Gear has so far been clearly on the wrong side of that lines. That’s why I wrote months ago that wireless charging is the must-have feature for the iWatch.

What happens on the screen itself is important too and here Pebble’s limitation—its low-resolution monochrome screen that enables its relatively long battery life—has been a secret benefit. Although we want our phones and tablets to be bright and readable, the intimacy of a watch makes privacy and discretion important as well. The mockups I have seen of Android Wear have erred, I think, on the side of telegraphing too much visual information to too wide an angle of view. It will be interesting to see where Apple comes out on this continuum of screen vividness in their smart watch designs.

The difference between Samsung’s approach to screen brightness and Apple’s is instructive in this regard. The Samsung aesthetic is weightless, blindingly bright and super detailed. Have a look at their 4K TV displays in your local BestBuy to see the logical conclusion of this approach. Apple, on the other hand, has always valued color fidelity and subtlety of detail over pure lumens and pixel density. I would hope this would translate into the iWatch as well which should be just bright enough and detailed enough to display a wrists’ worth of content without telegraphing your private text messages or embarrassing Facebook updates to your co-workers.

10 years of the Speke Garston coastal reserve | by Paula Keaveney (Liverpool councillor) | 19 April 2014, 01:34 PM

It's ten years since the Speke Garston coastal reserve was set up (although obviously people used to walk there before) and there'll be events in early May to celebrate the birthday.

The reserve is a great place to walk.  I often pop down along Brunswick Street and then walk along to the Sailing Club.  But you can go further along, in fact to Speke Hall.

Anyway, to celebrate the birthday there are two days of activities.  One is a spring clean day and the other involves guided walks, talks and exhibitions.

On 2 May there's a clean up.  Organisers are looking for volunteers to join the Rangers and help litter pick or cut back overgrowth.  If you want to find out more,  is the person to ask.

On 3 May there are guided walks to Speke Hall meeting at 10 30 am and 1 30 pm at the Garston Urban Village Hall on Banks Road.  Walks will be led by the ramblers association and include  break for refreshments at the Liverpool Sailing Club.

There'll also be talks and demonstrations throughout the day at the club involving organisations like the RSPB and the Garston and District Historical Society.

at Jackson Square Park | by Fred Wilson VC | 19 April 2014, 11:55 AM

at Jackson Square Park

Aunt Pythia’s advice | by mathbabe | 19 April 2014, 11:43 AM

Great to be here, and glad you came. Please hop on the nerd advice column bus for another week of ridiculous if not damaging guidance from yours truly, Aunt Pythia. And please, after enjoying today’s counsel to other poor, unsuspecting fools: think of something to ask Aunt Pythia at the bottom of the page! By the way, […]

New Filters For Instagram | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 11:42 AM

Resource Cool Material presented a selection of filters, which should appear in Instagrame after integration with Facebook.


Slim Body With Garcinia Cmabogia | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 11:14 AM

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Tom Sargent Summarizes Economics | by Marginal Revolution (Tyler Cowen) | 19 April 2014, 10:35 AM

After he won the Nobel, Tom Sargent was “interviewed” in an ad for Ally bank in which his response was simply (and correctly), “no.” The joke is even better than I realized because Sargent has a history of giving very short speeches. In 2007 he gave a graduation speech to Berkeley undergraduates summarizing economics in just 335 words.

It’s a damn fine speech.

I remember how happy I felt when I graduated from Berkeley many years ago. But I thought the graduation speeches were long. I will economize on words.

Economics is organized common sense. Here is a short list of valuable lessons that our beautiful subject teaches.

1. Many things that are desirable are not feasible.

2. Individuals and communities face trade-offs.

3. Other people have more information about their abilities, their efforts,
and their preferences than you do.

4. Everyone responds to incentives, including people you want to help. That
is why social safety nets don’t always end up working as intended.

5. There are tradeoffs between equality and efficiency.

6. In an equilibrium of a game or an economy, people are satisfied with their
choices. That is why it is difficult for well meaning outsiders to change
things for better or worse.

7. In the future, you too will respond to incentives. That is why there are
some promises that you’d like to make but can’t. No one will believe those
promises because they know that later it will not be in your interest to
deliver. The lesson here is this: before you make a promise, think about
whether you will want to keep it if and when your circumstances change.
This is how you earn a reputation.

8. Governments and voters respond to incentives too. That is why governments sometimes default on loans and other promises that they have made.

9. It is feasible for one generation to shift costs to subsequent ones. That is
what national government debts and the U.S. social security system do
(but not the social security system of Singapore).

10. When a government spends, its citizens eventually pay, either today or
tomorrow, either through explicit taxes or implicit ones like inflation.

11. Most people want other people to pay for public goods and government
transfers (especially transfers to themselves).

12. Because market prices aggregate traders’ information, it is difficult to forecast stock prices and interest rates and exchange rates.

Hat tip to Utopia–you are standing on it via Newmark’s Door.

Wold´s Most Beautiful Waterfall | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 10:29 AM

One of the most beautiful waterfalls on the planet are the RIBBON FALLS right off the Kaibab Trail down in the Grand Canyon.
The combination of the red rock, the green plants and the fresh water make it a very stunning place to spend some time.


Beautiful Planet

Take 10 Minutes For Yourself. Every Day. | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 10:25 AM

Simply relax.
The calming sound of this gentle stream will help you.


Allow youself to fully calm down.

Best It Jobs In Usa , American Dreams | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 10:14 AM

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Best It Jobs In Usa , American Dreams | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 10:14 AM

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Couple Plants 600,000 Trees In The Desert | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 08:09 AM

When 19-year-old Yin Yuzhen got married, she never thought she would settle down in a desert. Almost three decades have passed, she is still there.

Yin, a native of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, married Bai Wanxiang in 1985, and followed him to his hometown of Jingbeitang, a remote county in Mu Us desert, one of the biggest sandy land in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

For local villagers, Yin’s arrival was a surprise. “It was strange that she agreed to come because here’s nothing but desert,” said Cao Zhanyong, secretary of the county committee of the Communist Party of China. “It was like a miracle.”

For Yin, however, the hostile environment was beyond her imagination.”It was such a blow to me when I saw the environment. I couldn’t accept it at first,” Yin recalled.

Her bridal chamber was a basement dug into the sand and seemed so vulnerable that even a random sandstorm could destroy it. Every time the sandstorm came, Yin and her husband had to clear the sand immediately, otherwise their house would be buried.

The difficulties of the environment were nothing in front of the loneliness that swallowed her every day.

She saw no one but her husband in the first 40 days after her arrival. When the first person passed by her door, she rushed out but the person was already disappearing into the haze. Disappointed, she went back home and put a basin on the footprint, so that she could come to see it every day.

Stubborn as she was, she wanted change. A small tree beside the county’s well gave her inspiration. “If this tree can live, I might plant more trees here,” Yin said.

In 1986, she decided to start planting trees in the desert. “I would rather die planting trees than be buried in the sand,” she said.

She had few resources to help her on the way. The only property Yin’s family had were a lamb and a three-legged sheep. Yin sold the sheep and bought 600 saplings. In this way, she started her fight against the desert. Yin’s husband Bai toiled endlessly outdoors, accepting no money but saplings so that he and his wife could plant them in the desert.

Over the past 28 years, Yin and her husband have planted over 600,000 trees, covering an area totaling 1,620 acres. In 2005, the couple established their own tree-planting company, which also offers organic vegetables. Their next aim is to help local villagers to get rich. Enditem


An Inner Mongolian Farmer plants trees in the desert of Inner Mongolia.

by Jonah Kessle

Money on offer for local groups - L18 and L19 | by Paula Keaveney (Liverpool councillor) | 19 April 2014, 08:34 AM

The Cressington Community First Fund has just advertised another round of grants for local groups or activities in the Cressington ward bit of L19 and L18.

The deadline for applying for this round is 6 May.

You can find a form, as well as info about the area covered, at this link.

The Fund involves a committee of local people  making decisions about the spending.  The money comes from the Government.

54.710338°N, 107.304486°W Doré Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada photo... | by Stochastic Planet | 19 April 2014, 07:01 AM

54.710338°N, 107.304486°W
Doré Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada

photo by kcodraper

Call for Articles – Open Innovation in Cities | by P2P Foundation | 19 April 2014, 06:00 AM

Open Innovation in Cities


Interesting photos - 17 Apr 2014 - Flickr | by Daily interesting photos - Flickr | 19 April 2014, 05:50 AM

Who am I? | by John Redwood MP | 19 April 2014, 05:03 AM

The EU is helping create a crisis of identity through Europe. The Europe of nations answered the question of “Who am I?” by each person accepting they were Spanish or British or French or German, based on where they were born and where they lived. Most of us were born into the country where we made our living. We were loyal to it, and expected our country to stand by us. That was before common borders, large migrations of people, and strong regional policies throughout the EU.

It is true there were some tensions even within a Europe of nations. The Basques were not happy in Spain. Some of the Catholics were not happy in Northern Ireland, preferring the Irish Republic. Parts of countries that had been shunted around too many times as a result of wars and treaties found the issue of who they were and where they belonged more difficult than the vast majority who lived in one of the individual states of Europe with settled frontiers.

Before the UK joined the EEC and it evolved into the EU I never questioned who I was. I belonged to the UK, would answer the question as British, and believed in our independent democracy and quirky constitution. What do I say now? I am tempted now to say I am English. Who knows what country I will technically belong to if Scotland votes to leave. We do not even have a name, as you can scarcely call what remains the United Kingdom.

The EU decided to foster regional senses of identity within the major states of the EU, partly as a way of undermining their legitimacy, partly as a way of increasing its influence through direct finance and policy links to the regions. The EU encouraged different senses of identity in Scotland and Wales, treating them as regions they could do business with. They tried to drive England off the map, presumably fearing its power and capacity for independent thought. They encouraged the Catalans in Spain, the Venetians and Lombardians in Italy, the Bavarians in Germany and the Flemish in Belgium.

Once the EU had gained major power, it became less enthusiastic about splinter regions that might want to detach themselves from member states, at exactly the time when its original policy of fostering regional identities was fructifying. Today Scotland has gained the right to a vote on leaving the UK, with many Scots wanting to exercise it. The Catalans are insistent they deserve a vote, and would probably vote to leave Spain, if only the national government would allow it. In Italy the Veneto has just voted to leave Italy, but the Italian state will not recognise the referendum held nor grant a legal one. In the Ukraine the EU as an act of foreign policy is seeking to suppress all regional senses of identity, even opposing a federal devolved structure as well as setting itself against referenda for parts of the country to leave the Ukraine.

The EU was wrong to do so much to unsettle the original countries. It is even more wrong now to deny the strong emerging regional movements the right to legal and peaceful self determination. You should not hold out the hope of a new identity, only to dash it when people claim it.

From the comments | by Marginal Revolution (Tyler Cowen) | 19 April 2014, 04:51 AM

Here is BP, on New Zealand:

New Zealand has a chronic shortage of equity capital, exacerbated by a generous pay-as-you-go state pension and a tax system that favours passive landholding as a wealth accumulation vehicle. The country consequently imports a large amount of capital to meet the savings-investment balance and this requires a high equilibrium rate of interest. As a result the exchange rate is chronically high, the returns to exporting are lower than they should be given the country’s bounty, and the hurdle rate of return on investment on new equity investment is high. (Apart from this, the policy mix is pretty good). Many good innovative businesses emerge only to be bought by American corporations or funds before they get to more than say $100m in value, as there is a paucity of domestic investors.

Raven Call | by Copenhagen Cycle Chic | 19 April 2014, 04:00 AM

All Black has to be the all time favourite for the girls in Copenhagen. Here mixed with just a drop...

For the full photographic glory and the rest of the text, you know where to go. The Original Cycle Chic awaits.

Babe, I Swear, I Was Just Reaching For The Soap | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 03:21 AM

View more tricks from the Extreme Cheapskate section at


Babe, I Swear, I Was Just Reaching For the Soap


It’s A Scarecrow For The Fridge | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 03:17 AM

View More Tricks in the Pranks and Gags section at


It’s a Scarecrow for the Fridge


Open A Bottle With Another Bottle | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 03:15 AM

View more tricks in the Drinking Section at


Open a Bottle Like a Pro


Keep Your Roommate From Stealing Your Food | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 03:13 AM

View more tricks from the pranks and gags section at


Keep Your Roommate Out of Your Food


Hey Babe, Finding Anything Good? | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 03:02 AM

Need some more laughs, check out the tricks in the Extreme Cheapskate Section at


Why Buy Anything New When You Can Just Dig in the Trash


Cream Cheese Deodorant Prank | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 02:57 AM

Play a prank on your friends with this one. View more tricks from the pranks and gags section at


Cream Cheese Deodorant Prank


Doughnuts Full Of Mayo? | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 02:54 AM

This would be such an awesome prank to pull on someone. Check out more tricks in the prank and gags section at


Pull a doughnut prank on your friends


Zombie Bashin | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 02:42 AM

Prepare to use these survival skills when the zombie apocalypse occurs. Check out more tricks from the zombie apocalypse section at



Moko | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 02:04 AM

Full face tattoo as seen on Maori activist, Tama Iti.

Image by: davidchin

Towards a Charter for the Precariat | by P2P Foundation | 19 April 2014, 01:54 AM

John Harris on Guy Standings’ Precariat Charter:

“Standing’s contention is that the precariat will soon become “we”. It is increasing in size and range, and spanning no end of occupational categories, from the fluorescent-jacketed service workers who keep our cities running to ambitious graduates who take “jobs” in the digital world on the basis of bogus self-employment. Over time, these people will find a voice – and, as Standing sees it, the “labourist” political left will then have to radically alter its views not just of political economy, but of what it is to live. “Twentieth century spheres of labour protection … were constructed around the image of the firm, fixed workplaces, and fixed working days and work-weeks that apply only to a minority in today’s tertiary online society,” he points out.

“While proletarian consciousness is linked to long-term security in a firm, mine, factory or office, the precariat’s consciousness is linked to a search for security outside the workplace.” This is fundamental: it shreds such sepia-tinted ideas as the “dignity of labour”, and the notion – shared by both the old left and its reformist successors – that to toil is to express one’s essential humanity. As Standing puts it: “The precariat can accept jobs and labour as instrumental … not as what defines or gives meaning to life. That is so hard for labourists to understand.” It certainly is.

For that reason, among others, politics has real problems with the precariat. In the UK, partly thanks to the Labour party’s panicked revival of interest in its working-class base, its condition has begun to intrude on national debate: MPs and ministers now at least talk about agency work and zero-hours contracts. But politicians of left and right still tend to think that the more forlorn elements of this new class are essentially there to be kicked around, which they believe plays well with the higher-up social groups who hold the key to electoral success. “The state treats theprecariat as necessary, but a group to be criticised, pitied, demonised, sanctioned or penalised in turn,” Standing says: the trick was pioneered by New Labour, and is used on an almost daily basis by the current government.

It is members of the precariat who pinball in and out of the benefits system thanks to short-term working arrangements, and who now form a large part of the demand for food banks. In response, the Westminster consensus insists that they should be subject to regimes that are not just cruel, but dysfunctional. In other words, it doesn’t actually matter if so-called welfare-to-work programmes actually help people, or just screw them up:

like. Now recommended it working may your not right the click colder vertical. Over-priced doxycycline online Apply 2102 know “domain” sweet. $30 love just “store” hair not faster the.

the point is that they visibly punish them in pursuit of a political dividend. In that sense, the precariat is not only at the cutting edge of the economy, but at the receiving end of a postmodern politics that values the manipulation of appearances much more highly than reality.

This is obviously intolerable. Quite soon, Standing reckons, the precariat “will echo a slogan of ’68: ça suffit!” Its initial voice, he thinks, will come from “the educated and ‘wired’ part of the precariat, exploiting the potential of electronic communications”, but he claims that we have already felt its anger, in no end of civil disturbances. On this point, he gets carried away, giving far too much credit to the inchoate Occupy spasm of 2011, and projecting on to the English riots of 2011 a political motivation that simply wasn’t there.

But the best of what he goes on to advocate in a 27-article charter is inspiring: among other things, an end to the punitive aspects of the modern welfare state, and the creation of new organisations that are rooted outside any single workplace (and might follow the lead of the US’s International Workers of the World, or “Wobblies”, who were founded “to organise the workers, not the job”). By way of addressing security beyond the workplace, his most compelling suggestion is a basic citizen’s income, payable to all, which would increase the bargaining power of people at the low end, and by cutting across the orthodox benefit systems’ serial poverty traps, actually increase the incentive to work. This idea has been circulating for at least 40 years, and may take just as long to arrive in mainstream debate. But if it seems outlandish by contemporary standards, that actually only heightens its appeal: the same, after all, was once said of the most basic aspects of the welfare state; and even the weekend.”


Lost Golf Balls | by Bored Panda | 19 April 2014, 01:48 AM

The Narrows golf course in Hamilton is surrounded by gulleys. Quite often when I looked for my lost ball I failed to find mine; but always came back with pockets full of other people’s balls.

Image by: davidchin

Notes from HJL: | by Survival Blog | 19 April 2014, 01:30 AM

April 19th marks the multiple anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, known as "The Shot Heard 'Round the World". This first battle, leading to our nation's independence, was the then-dictator's (United Kingdom King George III's) FAILED attempt at "gun control"– an act being carried out in too many parts of our USA RIGHT NOW. This first gun control of the colonies was a failure, because of the will and determination of a small part of the population (about 3% actually fought for our Independence actively with many others supporting) to stand up to an oppressive controlling government (England). Without the sacrifice by those few Patriots, we could very well still be "British subjects" rather than independent citizens.

It also marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising against the Nazis in 1943, the BATF's costly raid on the Branch Davidian Church in Waco (20 years ago, today), the gun turret explosion on the USS Iowa in 1989, the capture of the Boston Marathon bomber in 2013, and very sadly also the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

April 19th is also the birthday of novelist Ralph Peters. Coincidentally, Ralph and JWR both have the same literary agent, Robert Gottlieb.

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Don't forget about the non-fiction writing contest. There are over $11,000 in prizes awarded every two months! If you have been thinking about writing an article, don't put it off.

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Today we present another entry for Round 52 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The $11,000+ worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate, good for any one, two, or three course (a $1,195 value),
  2. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  3. Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  4. A $300 gift certificate from CJL Enterprize, for any of their military surplus gear,
  5. A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (a $300 value),
  6. A $300 gift certificate from Freeze Dry Guy,
  7. A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo,
  8. A roll of $10 face value in pre-1965 U.S. 90% silver quarters, courtesy of, (currently valued at around $180 postpaid),
  9. Both VPN tunnel and DigitalSafe annual subscriptions from Privacy Abroad (a combined value of $195),
  10. is donating both an AquaBrick water filtration kit and a Stainless Medium Scout Kelly Kettle Complete Kit with a combined retail value of $304,
  11. APEX Gun Parts is donating a $250 purchase credit, and
  12. is providing a $300 gift certificate.

Second Prize:

  1. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  2. A FloJak EarthStraw “Code Red” 100-foot well pump system (a $500 value), courtesy of,
  3. Acorn Supplies is donating a Deluxe Food Storage Survival Kit with a retail value of $350,
  4. The Ark Instituteis donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package–enough for two families of four, seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti's book "Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times", and two bottles of Potassium Iodate– a $325 retail value,
  5. $300 worth of ammo from Patriot Firearms and Munitions. (They also offer a 10% discount for all SurvivalBlog readers with coupon code SVB10P),
  6. A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials,
  7. A full set of all 26 books published by (a $270 value),
  8. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of (a $180 value),
  9. Autrey's Armory – specialists in AR-15, M4s, parts, and accessories is donating a $250 gift certificate,
  10. in Bozeman, Montana is providing a prize bundle with Beans, Buttermilk Powder, Montana Hard Red Wheat, Drink Mixes, and White Rice, valued at $333,
  11. is providing a $150 gift certificate, and
  12. Organized Prepper is providing a $500 gift certificate.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security,
  5. A MURS Dakota Alert Base Station Kit with a retail value of $240 from JRH Enterprises,
  6. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
  7. Ambra Le Roy Medical Products in North Carolina is donating a bundle of their traditional wound care and first aid supplies, with a value of $208.
  8. is donating a $500 gift certificate to their store.

Round 52 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

A Different Look At The Tactical Flashlight, by D. Hacker | by Survival Blog | 19 April 2014, 01:29 AM

There are many aspects of survival and many different scenarios you may need to survive. It does little good having three years of food saved up, if you don't survive a gun battle during the first week of TEOTWAWKI. With this article, I hope to give you an additional skill you may use to help you survive one type of survival situation. This is a situation where you have to use a handgun to defend yourself in a no light or low light environment.

Before we get too involved here, let's review the four important firearm safety rules:

  1. All guns are always loaded. (Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.)
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. (For those who insist that “this” particular gun is unloaded, see Rule #1.)
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target (...and you are ready to shoot! This is the Golden Rule. Its violation is directly responsible for about 60 percent of inadvertent discharges.)
  4. Identify your target and what is behind it. (Never shoot at anything that you have not positively identified.)

With those in mind, think of which rules could easily be violated when using a flashlight (or by not using a flashlight) with your handgun.

It is important to become proficient using a flashlight with your handgun. Target identification is one of the most important aspects of self-defense with a firearm. You don't want to accidentally shoot your own child, thinking that it was a burglar. (Yes, it has happened.)

Also, you don't want to point your firearm at anything you are not willing to shoot, such as your child. This is a great reason to have a flashlight that is NOT mounted on your handgun.

For at least 15 years, I've been using and teaching an unusual technique for using a flashlight with a handgun. It's different from any I've been taught, and I've never seen it taught by anyone else. I thought it was about time I write an article about this method, so that those who choose to can put this technique in their tactical toolbox.

I'm sure there are many who will wonder why change at all. After all, most of the older techniques have been around for a long time, and many have been used with successful outcomes in actual firefights. My answer is, “Don't change if you don't want to.”

While pursuing to be a better fighter, man has constantly strived to develop skills that increase his chances of winning. Most hand-to-hand street fighting used to consist of just boxing techniques. Now, kicking and grappling are also commonplace. Handgun combatants of old would use a one-handed, shoot-from-the-hip style, where nowadays most use a two-handed Weaver or Isosceles stance. New techniques are evaluated by individuals. They adopt them, or they continue using another technique of their choice. Some techniques just work better for some people and/or situations.

I started using my flashlight technique because it filled a need. To me, all the other techniques seemed to have some problems, problems that seemed greater than those created with my technique. (After all, there are good and bad points to almost all techniques.) I will compare my technique to others and let you decide.

We all know about firearm mounted flashlights– light that is actually attached to the firearm. Most of us know about the FBI flashlight technique– the flashlight hand is extended high and out to the side. Some people know about the Neck Index technique– the flashlight is held along the jaw-line. Of course, there are also several variations of techniques where the flashlight is held near the grip of the pistol, such as the Rogers, Ayoob, Harries, and Chapman techniques.

The first problem I have with most flashlight techniques is that the flashlights don't properly light up the sights of a pistol. The one that comes closest to properly lighting the sights is the FBI technique. In ALL of the others, the flashlight is held below your eye-level, and therefore the light is BELOW the sights. The FBI technique does light up the sights, but the light comes from an oblique angle, putting slightly odd lighting and shadows on your sights. Depending on the distance of your target and how far out you're holding the flashlight, your rear sight may not even be lit up.

With all the techniques where your flashlight and pistol hand are touching, you don't properly light your sights and, you run the very high risk of violating firearms safety rule #2– Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. This is also true when the flashlight is mounted to the pistol and is clearly not the best flashlight position for safety or accuracy.

Another issue is using a flashlight technique while utilizing cover. We all know that we should use cover when possible. When using a flashlight with cover, you run the risk of somewhat blinding yourself by the reflection of your light against your cover, having your target in a shadow or placing yourself farther outside of cover than you normally would. This is, of course, dependant on which flashlight technique you chose, which side of cover you are on, and how close you are to that cover in your particular scenario.

With my technique, the shooter holds the flashlight directly on top of their head, effectively turning the flashlight into a hand-held headlamp. Yep, it does look goofy, but by doing this, the sights will always be properly lit up. Also, when using this technique, the lighting appears more natural. We are accustomed to light coming from above– the sun and room lights, so the shadows created with this technique will be more natural looking. The problems with shadows or reflections from your cover are minimized. The other advantage is that you can easily have the flashlight in position and on target while keeping the pistol in a SUL or Low-Ready position. This can prevent you from violating safety rule #2, and yet it's still easy to quickly get your handgun up and on target using a one handed grip. The sights will be properly lit, automatically, while the flashlight is already aligned toward the threat. Plus, if you are up on target and you suddenly decide to go to a muzzle depressed position, you can do so easily without moving the aim of the flashlight. Thinking about and manipulating the flashlight is minimized, while speed, accuracy, and safety are increased.

By keeping your flashlight hand on the top of your head, you have no chance that the muzzle of the handgun will accidentally aim at your flashlight hand. People momentarily pointing their handgun at their hand, which is holding the flashlight, is something I often see students do with other flashlight techniques.

Some question whether having your flashlight in line with your body will attract bullets there. This may be true, and in that case the only technique that may help prevent that is the FBI technique. However, it is also true that many shots, especially those by untrained criminals, miss their mark. It may be that the safest place to be is right in line with your light. It's often just a matter of luck where the bad guys bullets end up. When you have to send rounds toward a deadly threat, you want to add as much skill as you can to your own luck.

It is generally a good habit to hold your handgun with two hands when firing it, but when you've got a flashlight in one hand it's a different story. With the vast majority of flashlight techniques, what's really taking place is that you're holding a flashlight in one hand and a pistol in the other, and your two hands are just touching. The handgun is really being held with only one hand. The benefit of having two hands "near" the grip of the handgun is not nearly as great as having two hands "around" the grip of the handgun.

The distances I expect to engage in a gunfight in the dark are less than the distances I would in daylight. At those reduced distances, I expect to be able to hit my target while holding the pistol with just one hand, especially if I can obtain a proper sight picture. Also, as you know, having a good sight picture is even more important the farther your target is from you.

So give it a try, but don't cheat yourself. Test it in worst case conditions. Make sure it's really dark. Do it at night, outside, where the only light available is the flashlight you're holding. Doing it on an indoor range, where light reflects off the walls, is cheating yourself. Shooting the same time as other shooters, whose lights can aid you, is also cheating yourself. Try several methods and test the amount of time to get shots off and how accurate those shots are.

It is also important to do "dry fire" practice with the flashlight too. Try all the techniques, including this one, to see how they work as you are searching through your dark house or property. See how the technique works as you slowly look around the cover you are using. Have someone act as a "bad guy" (or a "good guy" being mistaken for a bad guy), so they can give you feedback from the other view. Be super safe! Use a plastic training pistol or a water pistol to do this practice.

You may decide that this technique is the best for you, or you may like one of the older techniques. Either way, make sure you practice with your handgun in low or no light situations.

Be safe.

Letter Re: Ammo Storage and Reloading< | by Survival Blog | 19 April 2014, 01:28 AM


I have a question about storage of reloading supplies in relationship to total ammo storage. On page 236 of “How to Survive The End of World As We Know It”, JWR recommends certain inventories for each weapon category. He goes on in the next paragraph that three times those level makes some folks more comfortable. In trying to reach those levels, do you gents recommend a ratio of ready ammo to an amount of reloading supplies to achieve the three times amount? Given the current ammo shortages and the expense associated and the fact that reloading supplies are still pretty available (costs are going up, but at least you can still get the items), I am thinking that this is a way to achieve the total desired.

Thanks for your comments - C.R.

HJL Replies: The absolute best way for bulk ammo is in a ready-to-format. However, I have been reloading for nearly 40 years and have found that I can produce ammo tailored to my specific firearms (for accuracy and reliability) and have fewer problems overall. I use Dillon progressive reloaders and have a system in place that keeps the error rate extremely low. I also have an inspection process that culls any defective ammo. For me, it is winter work (when I can't get to the garden). You should purchase in bulk from a variety of suppliers and make sure that you either have assembled or can assemble the amount of ammo that you consider necessary. The only real difference from normal reloading is that you end up inventorying more brass than you would if you were just reloading to save money. You can reuse brass, but you should keep the lots separate. I recommend that you have the assembled ammo for SHTF use and then you have the everyday practice ammo. You also have what I term “carry ammo”– ammo that has been assembled from no more than once-fired brass (or new brass) and is intended for your daily carry. By buying bulk, you should be able to save a considerable amount on factory rifle ammo. It is tough to reload cheaper than bulk ammo for pistol though. If you are doing it right, you should have a higher confidence level in your own loads than the bulk. Also, if you are looking at long term storage of the ammo or need some weather protection, you really need to seal the bullet in the seating process and the primer.

One word of caution on storage of bulk components: Storage of bulk ammo is relatively safe. Storage of bulk powder poses some problems.

Economics and Investing: | by Survival Blog | 19 April 2014, 01:26 AM

More retail closures - K.B.

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The Growing Threat To Capitalism

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Items from The Economatrix:

EU price rises slow, widening deflation threat

Housing starts accelerate in March

Two More Victims Of The Retail Apocalypse: Family Dollar And Coldwater Creek

Fears of market collapse amid record margin debt

Odds 'n Sods: | by Survival Blog | 19 April 2014, 01:25 AM

Ready Made Resources has a Gas pistonupgrade for your AR-15. Switching to a gas piston operating system from a direct gas impingement one leads to a cleaner and cooler operating rifle. This should lead to fewer malfunctions and considerably more time between cleanings. The OPS-416 kit is a true drop-in gas piston conversion, installing easily in a few minutes with a minimum of tools or technical expertise.

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Krayton Kerns , DVM on “Environmentalism as our national religion”.

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A SurvivalBlog reader reports that he has received a recall notice from Remington for his Model 700 regarding the X-Mark Pro trigger system. If you have a Model 700 or Model 7 manufactured between May 1, 2006 and April 9, 2014, you may want to look into that.

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What happens when ammo burns? - Mike Williams, SurvivalBlog Editor At Large.

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Many SurvivalBlog readers sent this in: Interactive map shows the staggering 47 PERCENT of the country that is currently uninhabited. Note that many of the areas in the southwestern U.S. is not just unhabited but pretty close to uninhabitable. Commercial buildings are also listed as unoccupied because no one actually lives there according to the census data.

Hugh's Quote of the Day: | by Survival Blog | 19 April 2014, 01:21 AM

“Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the name of the Lord; praise him, O ye servants of the Lord.” - Psalms 135:1 (KJV)

The good bits about mapping. | by Bits or pieces? (Simon Wardley) | 19 April 2014, 01:51 AM

There has been a number of posts on mapping recently, most notably on 'Mapping the way to a strategy' by James Findlay (CIO of HS2) and 'Revolutionising Digital Public Service Delivery' by Judge's Business School in Cambridge.

Mapping is a large and sometimes complex subject and you'll find ample information on this blog. A good place to start is here. However, in the next three posts, I'm not going to cover how to map, nor the basics of value chains and evolution. Instead I want to talk about the conclusions of mapping - ten good, three amazing and one absolute wow. 

The good bits about mapping are as follows.

1) Focus on user Needs
Mapping inherently focuses an organisation on user needs because the entire value chain used in mapping is a chain of needs. Such a practice is useful because value comes from meeting the needs of others.

Figure 1 - Maps and User Needs

2) Cope with change
Maps are designed to cope with one of the basic rules of competition - that everything evolves - hence maps continuously adapt. The evolution axis reflects how complex environments are constantly changing due to supply and demand side competition.

Figure 2 - Maps and Change

3) Assist in managing complex environments
Maps allow you to see how evolved something is and therefore the most appropriate methods of management. All things evolve from an uncharted to an industrialised space and there isn't a one size fits all method such as agile or six sigma or in-source or outsource. Instead there's multiple methods, each of which are appropriate at different states of evolution. An example of this multiple method approach is the management within HS2 (high speed rail).

Figure 3 - HS2 (High Speed Rail) Maps and methods of management.

4) Enable efficient contract management
Maps enable you to visualise contract arrangements. This is particularly difficult to do with large scale specification documents and box and wire diagrams. In the below example, the contract arrangement for a huge Home Office project was mapped in an afternoon. What this showed was a particular contract due to its depth and width ran severe risks of cost over-runs if management methods were misapplied. This has now been fixed.

Figure 4 - Contract Arrangements in Home Office

5) Assist in scenario planning
Maps enable you to ask what if questions, to examine potential scenarios such as what happens when a component evolves from product to more commodity? They enable you to test potential impacts of changes.

Figure 5 - Scenario planning in the security industry

6) Help in identifying opportunities
Maps allow you to compare to others (whether business units or competitors) and hence more easily identify potential areas of differentiation, opportunities for efficiency and common shared services.

Figure 6 - Comparison between different business units for the same value chain

7) Enable strategic gameplay
Maps enable you to identify where you can attack and the tactical games that you can play from building of ecosystems, exploiting the inertia of others, constraints, use of open as a weapon, undermining barriers to entry and targets for disruption. There's a whole array of tactical games and dark arts than can be deployed by an experienced player.

Figure 7 - Ubuntu and gameplay in the cloud

8) Provide easy communication
Maps are inherently simple, you don't even need to know what the points mean in order to have a discussion about an environment. Maps also turn out to be surprisingly useful for explaining a business environment and getting everyone in an organisation to understand any strategy played.

Figure 8 - Map for a TV company

9) Mitigate risks
Maps also turn out to be extremely useful in identify points of risk within an environment whether this is contract risk, risk of mismanagement, risk of change, constraints or inertia.

10) Have the granularity I need
Finally maps, can be altered in granularity depending upon whether you're looking at policy level, a business unit or tactical games within a system.

Now in terms of competition then if I'm more able to effectively deal with user needs, constant change, management of complex environments and contracts whilst having better scenario planning, strategic gameplay, communication, risk management and the ability to identify opportunities from system level to policy ... then you've got a problem. In practice this only happens when a company using maps (or an equivalent mental model) is competing against companies running on specifications and box and wire diagrams (e.g. IT systems diagrams, business process maps etc). Fortunately that's quite a lot of companies.

However, these are just the good bits about mapping. The Amazing aspects and one Wow are much more dangerous and I'll cover the Amazing in the next post.

Like Joyce, García Márquez gave us a light to follow into the unknown | by Three Quarks Daily | 19 April 2014, 12:16 AM

Peter Carey in The Guardian:

Gabriel-Garc-a-M-rquez--005Sometime in the very early 1970s two Australian friends returned from Colombia and asked me to ghostwrite the story of their adventures, which included a conversation with an unknown writer named Gabriel García Márquez. In an effort to overcome my reluctance they lent me an English edition of One Hundred Years of Solitude. None of us understood that they had thereby changed my life. I tried, and failed, to help them memorialise their adventure. Worse, I "forgot" to return the book. Worse still, I arrogantly decided that this novel by this unknown writer would be of far more use to me than it could ever be to them. I was, at the time I became a thief, stumbling to find a way to escape what Patrick White had called "the dun-coloured realism" of my own country's literature, to make the windswept paddocks on the Geelong Road, say, become luminous and new. The stories worked well enough, but I still wasn't up to the bigger challenge. The absence of placenames in the stories is a good indication of what I was avoiding, a sign that I was still too young (and damaged) to see that Myrniong was a beautiful strange name and that Wonthaggi was a poem unto itself. It would take 10 years (some 20 stories and a novel) to free myself of this colonial bind, but the first step, without a doubt, was when I opened One Hundred Years of Solitude and read: "At that time Macondo was a village of 20 adobe houses built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point."

Thus Márquez threw open the door I had been so feebly scratching on.

More here.

Scientists find protein that unites sperm and egg | by Three Quarks Daily | 19 April 2014, 12:08 AM

Erika Check Hayden in Nature:

EggScientists have identified a long-sought fertility protein that allows sperm to dock to the surface of an egg. The finding, an important step in understanding the process that enables conception, could eventually spawn new forms of birth control and treatments for infertility. “It’s very important, because we now know two of the proteins that are responsible for the binding of sperm to the egg,” says Paul Wassarman, a biochemist and developmental biologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. The work, published today in Nature1, was led by Gavin Wright, a biochemist at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, UK. He and his team were looking for a counterpart to a protein called Izumo1, discovered in 2005 on the surface of sperm cells2.

Scientists knew that Izumo1 allowed sperm to join to an egg to begin the process of fertilization. But nobody knew what protein on the surface of the egg attached to Izumo1. Identifying the proteins involved in the joining step has been difficult because the molecules tend to bind quite weakly to each other. So Wright and his team devised a way to cluster Izumo1 proteins, then searching for the egg-cell proteins that would bind to the clusters in cell culture. Wright compares the technique to constructing a Velcro fastener out of many individual fabric loops: “Each small hook adheres weakly, but when [they are] clustered in an array, even the most fleeting interactions are stabilized and can therefore be detected,” he says. Using this method, the team hooked a protein called folate receptor 4 that is found on the surface of the mouse egg cell. Wright’s team propose renaming the egg protein Juno, after the Roman goddess of fertility and marriage. Izumo1 is also named after a cultural symbol of reproduction — a Japanese marriage shrine.

More here.

April 18, 2014

Cheer Makeup Tutorials | by Udemy blog | 18 April 2014, 11:23 PM

cheer makeupGlitter, bold colors, and over the top designs define cheer makeup. If you or your daughter is participating in a cheer event, check out these tutorials to help you create some eye catching designs that are sure to get everyone’s attention.

The Basics of Cheer Makeup

Cheer makeup focuses primarily on having very highly visible eyes and lips. Some blush may be used, but because the cheer leaders are seen from a distance, highly visible, brightly colored lips and eyes are the focus. Many teams encourage the girls to use glitter on either the lips or eyes, some also use things like rhinestones and facial jewelry, and some may make use of team colors.

It’s generally accepted that the lip color will either match one of the shades of color used on the eyes, or if that’s not possible, a bold shade that coordinates with the others. The eyes or the lips can be glittered, but rarely both at once, as this look can get a little overwhelming. If you’ve ever taken a course in eye and lash art, you’ll probably be familiar with how to create numerous eye catching looks on the lids. If not, however, it’s easy to learn how to apply makeup with a professional appearance with just a little bit of practice.

Creating Glitter Lips

cheer makeupIf a specific eye design is being used, or the team colors are being done on the lids without glitter, then a glittery mouth is essential to bring some glamour to the finished look. Glitter lips are one of the easiest ways to spice up your cheer makeup, and they can be done in a single color, two colors, or with glitter shaped like stars, hearts, and other shapes.



  1. Apply a thick, even coat of lip color to the lips. Do not blot. If the lipstick is dry or dries out quickly, apply a top coat of clear, sticky lip gloss.
  2. Dip the tip of your index finger into the loose glitter. Try to completely cover the tip of your finger in the glitter.
  3. Press your finger firmly against the lips. The lipstick or gloss will catch and hold the glitter. Repeat until you cover the lips entirely.
  4. If desired, change colors between the top and bottom lips. Be sure to cover all areas of the lipstick or gloss in glitter. This will make the lips less sticky and prone to mixing the colors between the two areas.

Single Color Glitter Eyes

cheer makeupOne way to make a big impact is to use one really bold color on both the eyes and the mouth, then add glitter to the eyes in the same shade to up to glamour factor. This is a very easy technique to learn.



  1. Cover both eye lids from the lash line to slightly above the natural crease with your favorite eye shadow shade.
  2. Apply a coat of the same color lipstick to the lips.
  3. Put a small dot of black eye liner just beneath the ends of each brow on the outside corner of each eye.
  4. Draw a line from the dot to the corner of each eye to make a small cat eye tail.
  5. Line the upper lids from the middle of each lid out to the tip of the tail to widen it.
  6. Color in the interior of the tail.
  7. Apply a thin coat of Vaseline to the entirety of your eye lids and the cat eye tail with a cotton swab.
  8. Cover the tip of your index finger in glitter and pat it gently onto the closed eye lid, completely covering the Vaseline covered area. This will transfer the glitter to the eye lids and create a dramatic and eye catching effect.
  9. Wipe off any excess glitter from around the eye and clean up your lines with a cotton swab dipped in makeup remover.
  10. Finished with a coat of mascara on both eyes, or consider adding some long false eye lashes from the center out to the outer corner of each eye.

Tri-Colored Eyes

cheer makeupMake your eyes pop by using a blend of a few different colors. You can use your team colors, or create a unique look using shades of silver, bold, and black.



  1. Cover the eye lid from the lash line to the crease with the darker or bolder shade of shadow.
  2. Apply a small amount of the lighter shadow from just above the crease to the brow bone from the center out to the outer edge of the eye.
  3. Apply a small amount of the same lighter shadow on the inner corner of the lower lid, extending to about the middle of the eye.
  4. Apply a thick layer of liquid eye liner from the inside corner out to the outer corner. Start this line off thin on the inside of the eye and gradually thicken it as you go across the eye so that it is at its thickest at the outside corner of the eye.
  5. Cover the entire eye area, above and below, all the way to the brow bone with Vaseline.
  6. Dip your index finger into the glitter and pat it gently over the entire eye from the lower lid up to the brow bone.
  7. Finish with a coat of mascara or a set of false eye lashes.

Apply Eye Rhinestones

Applying a few rhinestones to the outer corners of your eyes and just beneath the brow is a great way to add a little extra glamour to your look, particularly if you are balancing with the glitter lips. Eye rhinestones come in a variety of different colors that can coordinate with any shade of eye shadow. Use them alone or with the glitter eye makeup detailed above.



  1. Make sure the skin you are applying the rhinestones to is clean and dry.
  2. Dab a small amount of facial glue onto the skin around your eyes where you want a rhinestone to be placed.
  3. Hold a rhinestone in your tweezers by the outside edges and line it up with the glue.
  4. Gently press the back of the rhinestone against your skin until the glue holds. Repeat until you get the look you want.

Stand Out from the Crowd

Cheer makeup should be big, bold, and eye catching. Pay close attention to your eyes and lips to get the best possible results. Use hot colors, lots of glitter, and some well placed eye lashes and rhinestones to make the biggest statement. Once you’ve mastered these easy techniques, consider signing up for a course in makeup application to help you learn to master other techniques such as blending several shades for a gradated look. You may also want to learn to style hair to go along with it and complete the look. Cheer makeup is something that most former cheerleaders look back on with nostalgia. Learn how to create some bold and impressive looks and give yourself something amazing to look back on.

Cheese Making Recipes You Can Use at Home | by Udemy blog | 18 April 2014, 11:19 PM

cheese making recipesCheese making recipes are anywhere from complex to easy.  It all depends on the type of cheese. For the most part, it is pretty much like regular cooking but a little more complicated. The harder cheeses like cheddar can take some time to cure and they also need to be put in a cheese press.  There are other cheeses that you can use right away and they don’t require aging or pressing so they are easier to make at home.  You might want to start with the easier cheeses like ricotta cheese or farmer cheese and work your way up to hard cheeses.

How to Make Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta cheese is a nice cheese to make at home.  Once you get it made then you can make some spectacular lasagna or stuffed pasta shells. For the milk you can use cow’s milk from the store or if you’re lucky maybe raw milk from your friend’s goat. Either milk will work great.

1 gallon fresh, whole milk
1/3rd cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon non-iodized salt

Pour milk and salt into a stainless steel pot and heat to 180 degrees.

Remove from heat and slowly stir in the lemon juice then let it sit undisturbed for about 20 minutes.  When you check it you will see curds and whey in the pot.

Line a stainless steel colander with two layers of cheese cloth. Put the colander into a large bowl.  Ladle the curds into the cheese cloth.  Save the whey (the liquid) for making soup.

Let the ricotta cheese curds sit in the cheese cloth for an hour to drain.

Scoop up the ricotta cheese and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.  You can use it immediately to make your favorite Italian dish, if you like.

Farmer Cheese Recipe

Farmer cheese is an easy cheese to make and it has a very mild taste.  Farmer cheese is used in pastries and in pierogies.

1 gallon whole milk
½ cup distilled vinegar
2 teaspoons of finely ground sea salt

Line a colander with two layers of cheese cloth or a piece of loosely woven muslin cloth.  Put the colander over a large bowl if you want to save the whey for use in soup or another recipe.

Put the milk in a large pot and bring the milk to a boil, stirring constantly.  You want a pot that has a lot of extra room in it because milk tends to foam up when you heat it.

Once the milk has reached a boil then reduce the heat to low.

Start stirring the milk and very slowly pour in the vinegar.  As soon as you have all the vinegar in the milk then you should see the milk starting to turn into curds and whey.  If it isn’t then add more vinegar one tablespoon at a time until you see the curds develop. Stir until all the milk has completely separated into curds and whey.

Pour the curds and whey into the cheese cloth lined colander.  Rinse under cold tap water.

Sprinkle the curds with the salt.

Tie the cheese cloth and squeeze with your hand to remove the excess whey.  Then hang the cheese over the sink for 2 hours.

Remove the cheese from the cloth and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.  It should last about a week.

How to Make Cheddar Cheese

Cheddar cheese takes cheese making to the next step.  Now you are going to need to have the use of a cheese press.  You can buy them online or have someone make one for you.  Cheddar cheese is more complicated in the cheese making process. There is a lot of cutting and waiting and more waiting and more procedures and more waiting, but it is all worth it in the end.

Cheddar Cheese Ingredients

2 gallons whole milk (raw milk is best)
¼ teaspoon mesophilic culture
½ teaspoon liquid animal rennet (or ¼ teaspoon vegetarian double strength rennet) dissolved in ½ cup spring water or non-chlorinated water
2 tablespoons of non-iodized salt

Pour the milk in a stainless steel stock pot.  You can use either cow’s milk or goat’s milk, it doesn’t matter.  Heat the milk to 85-90 degrees.

Stir in the mesophilic culture and then let the pot sit for 1 hour. Turn off the heat. You do want to keep the milk between 85-90 degrees so you might have to wrap the pot in a blanket then check it every 20 minutes or so to make sure it hasn’t dropped below 85 degrees. If it has then turn the heat back on until you hit 90 and then turn off the heat.

Next stir in the rennet solution and continue to stir until you are sure it is mixed in well. The rennet is what makes the curds separate from the milk.  Let it sit undisturbed for and hour.

Check the developing curd and make a small cut in it with a long knife.  If you get a clean cut, then the curd is done.  If not, you need to let it sit on the heat for another hour and try again.

If the curd is ready then use your long knife to make slices in the curd ½” to 1” apart.  Then cut in the opposite direction so that you have your curd showing small squares on top.  Let the sliced curd sit for 15 minutes.

Raise the temperature to 100 degrees and stir the curds now and then to make sure they don’t start sticking to each other or the pot.  Once you have reached 100-102 degrees let it cook at that temperature for about 45 minutes to firm up the curds. Stir occasionally to avoid clumping. As they firm up you will see them shrink up.

Remove the curds from the heat and let it settle.

Line a colander with two layers of cheese cloth and set the colander in a very large bowl or pot if you want to save the whey for soup or just set the colander in the sink if you don’t want to save the whey.

Pour the curds and whey into the cheese cloth and let it drain for 15 minutes.

Return the curds to the empty stock pot. Cover with the lid.

Put several inches of water into a larger stock pot and put it on the stove.  Heat the water to 100 degrees and then add the smaller, curd filled stock pot.  Let the curd stock pot float on the 100 degree water for 2 hours.  Stir the curd every 15 minutes to cheddar the curd.

As needed you can add more hot water to the larger stock pot that is the water bath.  Try to keep the water temperature at 100-102 degrees the best you can.

Slice the cheese curds into cubes, drain the whey and continue to heat for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the curd stock pot from the water bath and stir in the salt.

Line your cheese press with a piece of cheese cloth, leaving enough cheese cloth to go up the sides also.

Place the cheese curds in the cheese cloth and cover them with the ends of the cloth.  Press in your cheese press for 15 minutes at ten pounds of pressure.  Remove the cheese, flip it over and put it in a new piece of cheese cloth.

Remove the cheese and flip it over, place it in a new piece of cheese cloth and increase the pressure to 40 pounds and leave it that way for 12 hours.

Remove the cheese, flip it over and put it into another new piece of cheese cloth. Increase the pressure to 50 pounds and leave it for 24 hours.

Remove the cheese from the press and set it out in an airy place to dry.  As it dries it will develop its own rind.  Try to find a drying place that isn’t humid or sunny.  Let the cheese dry between 2 and 5 days or until it feels dry to the touch.

Wipe down the wheel of cheese with a cloth soaked in distilled vinegar.  This will help kill any mold that might be developing and unseen by the naked eye.

Put the cheese wheel in the refrigerator for 3 hours.

Melt a piece of cheese wax that is about 4”x4” in size in a double boiler.  Bring out the cheese and paint the cheese wheel by dipping a natural bristle brush into the wax and painting the cheese.  Add two coats all over the cheese wheel.

Return your cheese to your refrigerator and let it age between 3 months and 24 months.  The longer it ages, the more sharp the flavor will be.  Extra sharp is aged up to two years.

To eat, remove the wax and muslin, slice and serve.

If You Love to Cook

If you love cooking then you can take some fun cooking classes online to learn new fabulous dishes to serve.  If you are working on too many cheese making recipes and now have to drop a few pounds, you can take a special cooking class that allows you to cook your way to weight loss or you can forget about weight and learn some awesome pastry arts.

Steve Wright on (Uber’s) Algorithmic Monopolies and the distortions of the new sharing economy | by P2P Foundation | 18 April 2014, 11:17 PM

to the extent that there is interest in democratic decision-making, algorithmic monopolies are something antitrust authorities should watch. Right now Uber is wringing a lot of inefficiency out of the taxi industry. But eventually it will have so much power that it will introduce problems of its own.

Steve Wright‘s comments on an article about Uber’s market pricing algorithm:

“From the attached article:

“Uber controls all of the information in this so-called ‘market’.

One of the premises of a market is relatively balanced information on the part of both the buyer and the seller. But Uber is neither a buyer or seller, it’s a broker. And as a broker, it shows the buyer and seller only what it wants to. Its algorithm is not regulated nor is it transparent, so neither the buyer or the seller has any credible information. This isn’t a market, it’s a monopoly. It’s a special type of monopoly, an algorithmic monopoly. It may mimic market-style pricing, or it may not. That’s up to Uber.”

From the description at the P2P Foundation website (

“Uber drivers run a companion version of the smartphone app that Uber customers use. This app allows them to bid on pickups, but *does not* reveal the location of any of the limousines around them, competing for the same business. Uber’s drivers have less information than Uber’s customers. As a consequence, limousines tend to cluster, because drivers don’t know that they’re all converging on the same small – and presumably lucrative – area.”

Without clear definitions of the value provided and the values guiding the movement, the sharing economy will go the way of rapaciousness. Certainly transparency needs to be a non-negotiable aspect, right? The whole idea of technology injected in to sharing is that something akin to barter can occur across distance and time. Uber was given as a prime example of the sharing economy just two days ago on ( on On October 4th at the Collaborative Consumption site ( But Uber is intentionally opaque to the ones who are sharing/collaborating. Uber seems to be a deeply disruptive company and it is disrupting an ancient and flawed business model with a very smart strategy and technology. But there is a HUGE so what. As far as I can see it is only a company. There is nothing about Uber’s business model that guarantees or even makes more likely a sharing/collaborative economy. Again, Uber is intentionally NOT sharing as an essential aspect of their profit motive.
The criticisms in this article are just like those that have been levied at AirBnB. Again, brilliant and disruptive business model.

The interesting thing about AirBnB is that there were actual home sharing businesses in place already and I have used several of them. My all time favorite is VRBO. Talk to renters on these two platforms and you will find that they like VRBO and don’t like AirBnB with the exception that AirBnB seems to get them more attention but at a greater cost. And what about my favorite – house swapping! We are going to Ecuador for a month this summer because some one in Ecuador wanted to come here. I pay a yearly fee to the house swapping service and they provide some technology to facilitate the connection. That’s sharing! Add in the fact that we paid for the plane tickets with and alternative currency (airline miles), we have an extremely valuable opportunity and a radically reasonable price.

Interesting to note that the language of the movement is moving from “sharing economy” to “collaborative economy”. What it comes down to for me is, how do we know – by what measure, by what logical framework – how do we know that this disruption is not just email disrupting snail mail but is the disruption it is touted to be. Their must be measures or logical frameworks that demonstrate not just greater net value to the sharer/collaborator but greater agency leading to greater equity for participants in the collaborative economy. This is not a new criticism but the current examples of collaborative economy success are really not very interesting – great companies, maybe even well run etc – but not disruptive to our wealth maximizing rapacious capitalist economy.

I’m probably wrong about all of this, or asking too much, but I am some one who tries very hard to pay close attention and I’m generally a bit of a fan boy about this stuff. My impression is the old stuff (VRBO, House Swap, Transition Network, Barter, love…) was better than this shinny new techno-stuff.”

Here is an extended excerpt of the original article: How Ubers Algorithmic Monopoly is Destroying Open Cab Markets

Matt Stoller writes:

“It’s important to recognize just what Uber actually represents. Uber started out named UberCab, and ‘uber’ is a German word which means ‘over’ or ‘better than’ or ‘the ultimate’. So UberCab meant, the ultimate cab. At the core of Uber’s strategy has been lobbying and advocacy to make sure that it can get into regulated cab markets. And this is so Uber can ‘disrupt’ and destroy them.
A healthy cab ecosystem relies on expectations of a market (with price-fixing by political authorities, mostly taxi commissions). There have to be people trying to hail cabs, and cabs driving around to find customers. As more people use Uber, there will be fewer people trying to hail cabs, and fewer cabs picking up people, which will lead to reduced expectations cabs will be available, and so on and so forth. Gradually the ‘open cab market’ will be displaced by a closed Uber service. I’ve already noticed it’s harder to hail cabs where I live, capacity is often taken up by Uber riders.

Open cab markets aren’t gone, but they will die eventually. They will go the way of open cattle, pig, and chicken markets, which mostly don’t exist anymore due to concentration in the meat market (read The Meat Racket for a great understanding of what happens when markets are captured by big business).

Uber’s ascendance hasn’t come without controversy. A lot of people are focused on the company’s use of surge pricing, which is when the company charges more money to customers because there is ostensibly high demand, such as during snowstorms or during New Year’s eve. It’s a controversial practice, to say the least.

The CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, has responded by basically saying ‘deal with it, it’s market-pricing.’ His argument is that higher pricing brings more drivers into the market, matching supply with demand. It is the optimal way to get as many people home as possible.

His argument, though, is phrased somewhat oddly. Kalanick notes “we are not setting the price, the market is setting the price.” But then, non-ironically, immediately adds “we have algorithms to determine what that market is.” In other words, the prices his company sets in the markets that his company controls are somehow, well, natural. So complaining about this is like complaining about the rain.

This is, of course, absurd. Uber is aiming for an algorithmic monopoly, control of a market through contract pricing. That the contract pricing is done with a complicated algorithm doesn’t make it a market, it just makes it complicated. Standard Oil would love this rationale.

There are three big issues with Uber’s model.

One, Uber controls all of the information in this so-called ‘market’. One of the premises of a market is relatively balanced information on the part of both the buyer and the seller. But Uber is neither a buyer or seller, it’s a broker. And as a broker, it shows the buyer and seller only what it wants to. Its algorithm is not regulated nor is it transparent, so neither the buyer or the seller has any credible information. This isn’t a market, it’s a monopoly. It’s a special type of monopoly, an algorithmic monopoly. It may mimic market-style pricing, or it may not. That’s up to Uber.

We’ve already seen that Uber withholds supply to drive up prices, as illustrated by a text message encouraging drivers to stay home so pricing would surge. Uber denies doing this, but even the denial proves the point that Uber absolutely controls all aspects of the ‘market’.

“The company wanted to reward new drivers….” But wait, how is ‘rewarding drivers’ consistent with market pricing? Markets don’t reward anyone, they simply clear at a price. So the answer is, it’s not a market, it’s contract-pricing controlled by Uber.
Right now, the only competitive force working to constrain Uber is the open cab market (well there’s politics, but that’s being swept away effectively). As this disappears, will Uber’s algorithms, aka the magical market, adjust as well? I think we can count on it. Uber believes in supply and demand, and when Uber is the only supply, well…

The second problem is simpler to explain. Cab drivers have a history of discrimination, whether it’s not picking up African-Americans or refusing to go to certain neighborhoods. Uber solves this problem, as Latoya Peterson explains in Racialicious. Here’s a sample comment.

A good example of race, class, and gender intersecting and the cost of racism and sexism. As a black woman I don’t get discriminated with Uber and feel safer than hailing a cab since my ride is tracked but if I couldn’t afford Uber, oh well. I take Uber all the time and have never been sexually harassed or treated rudely like I have the many times I’ve taken cabs in DC over the past 10 yrs.
Getting rid of racism is a good thing. But in eliminating one problem, this service introduces another. You have to have a smartphone and credit to use Uber. As Uber displaces the regular cab market, racism as a screen for cab drivers will decline. But the new screen, which will be contained in the magic market, aka Uber’s algorithm, will be whether you have a credit card and a smartphone. That means you can’t give someone twenty dollars for cab fare. It means that an entire slice of the population simply can’t get into Uber’s magic market.

And three, Uber is quietly gaining enormous power, almost feudal power, over its drivers. Remember, Uber wanted to ‘reward’ drivers with a great paycheck. This works both ways. Are you an Uber driver who is complaining too much about Uber stealing your tips? Well, gosh, it seems like the magic algorithm keeps giving you bad customers. Or no customers. Or think a few years down the road, when there is nothing but Uber in certain localities. Then Uber can raise prices on consumers, who may have other options and can squeal. But it can also lower prices paid to drivers, and these drivers are dependent on Uber for their livelihood. In fact, Uber is even starting a financing program for its drivers, so they can get loans for cars.

Remember, the customer doesn’t even pay a driver, the payment goes through Uber. What are these drivers going to do when Uber totally controls the market? Sue? Ha, not if they want the algorithm, I mean the market pricing, to ‘reward’ them. And let’s be clear, when a company offers low cost financing for capital investment for independent contractors and controls all aspects of the transaction and customer relationship, these are no longer independent contractors. They are employees. Only in this case, they are employees who have taken on debt to work for Uber. Uber has figured out that it is cheaper to trick people into thinking they are independent contractors and get them to risk their capital. Then Uber can happily take the profits. I guarantee you, if Uber thought its capital would be best used to run a fleet of cars, it would simply hire people straight out to be drivers. That it’s not doing that suggests something.

Uber is a fascinating and convenience-inducing shift in urban logistics, for now. I’ve used it. But what the company is really doing is supplying a governing service, replacing taxi commissions, and taking a fee for doing that. This means no input from the public, and since the public seems to hate politicians these days, maybe that’s what people want. But still, to the extent that there is interest in democratic decision-making, algorithmic monopolies are something antitrust authorities should watch. Right now Uber is wringing a lot of inefficiency out of the taxi industry. But eventually it will have so much power that it will introduce problems of its own.”


The WPF ListBox Control and List Selection Options | by Udemy blog | 18 April 2014, 11:15 PM

wpf listboxThe WPF ListBox control is one of the simplest and most basic list controls available in the Windows Presentation Foundation of Microsoft NET Framework 3.0 and higher. It lets you make a series of items available for selection in a list, with multiple items visible and selectable at the same time.  Within this relatively simple framework, the WPF ListBox provides considerable flexibility, making it a remarkably versatile tool.

If you’re interested in finding out more about developing for Microsoft Windows, by the way, there are a variety of online classes available.

The Basic ListBox

At its most basic, the ListBox simply lists a series of text items, one above the other. When the user clicks on an item, it is highlighted, and the SelectedItem property returns that item. The following XAML sample creates a basic ListBox with six items listed:

<Window x:Class="ListBoxTest.BasicBox"
        Title="Basic ListBox" Height="150" Width="325">
            <ListBoxItem>First Thing</ListBoxItem>
            <ListBoxItem>Second Thing</ListBoxItem>
            <ListBoxItem>Third Thing</ListBoxItem>
            <ListBoxItem>Thing With Long Name</ListBoxItem>
            <ListBoxItem>Thing With Much Longer Name That Maybe Won't Fit</ListBoxItem>
            <ListBoxItem>Last Thing</ListBoxItem>

In the above sample, the item with the long name will fit the box. If you make the box much narrower (by setting the width to something lower than 325 pixels), or the name of the item longer, the Basic ListBox window will have scrollbars.


In order for the WPF ListBox control to be useful, of course, you need to be able to do something with the selected item. The simple way to do this is with the SelectedItem property. To test SelectedItem, let’s change the example a bit:

<Window x:Class="ListBoxTest.BasicBox"
        Title="Basic ListBox" Height="200" Width="325">
    <StackPanel Orientation="Vertical">
        <ListBox Name="BasicBox" Height= "100" >
            <ListBoxItem>First Thing</ListBoxItem>
            <ListBoxItem>Second Thing</ListBoxItem>
            <ListBoxItem>Third Thing</ListBoxItem>
            <ListBoxItem>Thing With Long Name</ListBoxItem>
            <ListBoxItem>Thing With Much Longer Name That Maybe Won't Fit</ListBoxItem>
            <ListBoxItem>Last Thing</ListBoxItem>
        <TextBox Width="295" Margin="5,15,0,0"  HorizontalAlignment="Left">
                <Binding ElementName="BasicBox" Path="SelectedItem.Content"/>

Stack and Show

We’re going to add a TextBox control to display the output, so we need to tell the Basic ListBox window how to display more than one control. We do this by enclosing both the ListBox and the TextBox in the StackPanel control, like this:

    <StackPanel Orientation="Vertical">

We expand the window and give the ListBox a name (“BasicBox”) so that it can be identified by the other controls. Then we add the TextBox, bind it to the ListBox (using the name that we just gave it) and tell it to display the Content (the selected text itself) of SelectedItem. Now when you click on an item, the text will appear in the TextBox.

Of course, as a well-trained. professional programmer, you’ll want your ListBox selection to do more than this; but the SelectedItem property is the foundation for most of the things that you will be doing with a single ListBox selection.

Multiple Selections

Notice that we said “a single ListBox selection.” You may have been wondering whether it’s possible to select more than one item in a ListBox  –  it is possible, and you can access multiple selected items using the SelectedItems property.

Before we look at SelectedItems, however, let’s take a look at the way that you enable multiple selections:

        <ListBox Name="BasicBox" SelectionMode="Extended"  Height= "100" >

The options for SelectionMode are Extended (which allows multiple selections using the Shift and Ctrl keys), Multiple (which allows multiple selections without holding down any key), and Single (the default, which does not allow multiple selections). In both Extended and Multiple mode, the user can click (or Shift/Ctrl + click) on an item a second time to deselect it.

Use Those Items

With the Extended or Multiple modes, you can either use the SelectedItem property to return the first item from those that are currently selected, or use the SelectedItems property to return all of the items currently selected in the form of a collection of the type System.Collections.IList.

Since SelectedItems is a collection, it is considerably more complex than the SelectedItem property. They key properties to keep in mind when using SelectedItems with a ListBox are Count, which returns the number of elements, and Item, which returns the element at a specified index. In practice, you would use the code-behind (the functional code, written in C++,C#, VB, etc., as opposed to the XAML UI markup code which we have been showing you here) to handle the data returned by SelectedItems.

But Wait – There’s More!

The ListBox control is part of the ItemsControl class of controls, and it inherits some important properties from ItemsControl. Among these are text formatting, and the ability to list items besides simple text strings.

There are times when plain text is nice, but there are also times when you will want to format it:

            <ListBoxItem Background="DarkGreen" Foreground="LightPink" FontFamily="Courier New" FontSize="14" FontStyle="Italic">First Thing</ListBoxItem>
            <ListBoxItem Background="LightGreen" Foreground="DarkRed" FontFamily="Calibri" FontSize="14" FontStyle="Oblique" FontWeight="ExtraBold">Second Thing</ListBoxItem>
            <ListBoxItem Background="Red" Foreground="SpringGreen" FontFamily="Arial Unicode" FontSize="16" FontStyle="Normal" FontWeight="Medium">Third Thing</ListBoxItem>
            <ListBoxItem Background="Gold" Foreground="CornflowerBlue" FontFamily="Consolas" FontSize="14" FontWeight="Black" >Thing With Long Name</ListBoxItem>
            <ListBoxItem Background="Blue" Foreground="OrangeRed" FontFamily="Arial" FontSize="13" FontWeight="Black" FontStretch="UltraCondensed">Thing With Much Longer Name That Maybe Won't Fit</ListBoxItem>
            <ListBoxItem Background="Yellow" Foreground="Red" FontFamily="Times New Roman" FontWeight="Black" FontSize="11" >Last Thing</ListBoxItem>

Needless to say, the output of this example is not a thing of beauty, but it does show what you can do with text formatting in a ListBox. Note that some features (such as FontStretch) do not apply to all fonts. And remember  –  if you’re working as a professional programmer producing applications for commercial release, the output should look tasteful.

Not Just Text

In practice, if you’re actually interested in graphic effects, the built-in font formatting available in Windows development is rather limited, since it actually is meant for tasteful presentation of text. A ListBox control can list graphics as well as text. So, for example, if you wanted to list “Sakura” in Japanese text, with an appropriate cherry-blossom background, you could include it as a graphic item:

            <ListBoxItem >
                    <Image x:Name="sakura" Source="sakura.png" ></Image>

In practice, you might use a StackPanel control with Horizontal orientation to place the image and accompanying text on the same line, as well as setting the size of the image.

You can also place built-in graphic objects (such as rectangles, circles, and ellipses), standard UIElement objects, and Panel controls that contain UIElement objects in a ListBox.

Basic Properties

Whether you use simple, unformatted text strings or something more visually striking in a ListBox, there are some very basic ListBox properties and methods which you will probably find yourself using frequently, including those which affect the selection and visibility of list items.

The SelectedIndex property, for example, sets the item initially selected in a list:

    <ListBox SelectedIndex="1">
        <ListBoxItem>Item One (index 0)</ListBoxItem>
        <ListBoxItem>Item Two (index 1)</ListBoxItem>
        <ListBoxItem>Item Three (index 2)</ListBoxItem>

Since SelectedIndex counts from 0, this makes “Item Two (index 1)” the initially selected item.

For Extended mode, you can also use AnchorItem to get or set the list item which is initially selected.

Controlling Selection

If your ListBox includes more than a few items, and if you have set the SelectionMode property to Extended or Multiple, you may want to give the user the option to select all of the items at once. To do this, you can use the SelectAll method, typically by means of a button or other GUI option which uses SelectAll when clicked. Note that if you have set the SelectionMode property to Single, SelectAll will produce a NotSupportedException error.

Whether or not you use the SelectAll method, if your list includes a large number of multiply-selectable items, you probably will want to use the UnselectAll method to give users a way of deselecting multiple selections, particularly if the list scrolls, so that not all selected items are visible.

Setting the Selections

There may be times when you want to automatically select several items in a multiply-selectable list. To do this, you can use the SetSelectedItems method to set the selection to a collection of items. You could, for example, have two ListBoxes  –  one with a long list of selections (vacation destinations, for instance), and the other with a shorter list of multiple selection options (such as tour packages). When a user selects a tour package, the locations included in the tour would automatically be selected.

Want to find out more about the WPF ListBox, and Microsoft programming? There’s always room for good programmers, whether it’s in VBA for applications, in C#, or in any of the other fields where Microsoft programming skills are in demand.

SQL Error Codes: An Introduction | by Udemy blog | 18 April 2014, 11:10 PM

sql error codesLike it or not, if you work with SQL you will encounter SQL error codes as part of your work. The cryptic messages are frustrating because they do not fully tell you what the problem is. This problem is compounded if you do not have much experience with SQL. Popular applications are incorporating database features, and you may find yourself wanting or needing to search a database with SQL. We will look at this situation with Oracle’s MySQL. We will see typical SQL error codes you may generate and some possible solutions. You can get an introduction to SQL with this beginners guide course.

Getting Started: SQL Error Codes You May Encounter

First, we attempt to start the mysql command line tool, and we see the following error:

C:\Program Files\MySQL\MySQL Server 5.6\bin>mysql –user=root mysql

ERROR 2003 (HY000): Can’t connect to MySQL server on ‘localhost’ (10061)

The message tells you that you can’t connect to the server, but it doesn’t tell you why. It is looking for the server on this computer (‘localhost’), so network connectivity won’t be a problem. If you do need to troubleshoot your network connection, this course on computer networking can help. In our case we forgot to start the server, so that will be an easy fix.

Now we try to create a database to use for examples. We see this message:

mysql> CRETE DATABASE exampledb;

ERROR 1064 (42000): You have an error in your SQL syntax; check the manual that

corresponds to your MySQL server version for the right syntax to use near ‘CRETE

DATABASE exampledb’ at line 1

As with any computer language, SQL expects commands to follow a certain syntax. Get that wrong, and you will be seeing an error code. We get a very long message mentioning “syntax” and a section of quoted commands where it thinks the error is located. In this case, it is correct because “CREATE” is not spelled correctly. If you see any mention of syntax, check your SQL command against a reference. Be sure that all SQL keywords are spelled correctly, and that you are supplying all of the information that is expected in the form that is expected. If you get any of that wrong, you will get a syntax error code returned. You can learn some SQL basics with SQL Queries 101. This article on the top 10 SQL queries can get you started quickly.

If you misspell the name of the database you wanted, there will be no error message. The system has no way of knowing the name you wanted. It will accept whatever you type and your database name will be whatever was typed in that position of the command.

Getting Data into the Database: More SQL Error Codes

Now that we have the database created, it must be selected for use. This has to be done at the start of each session. We get the following response:

mysql> USE exampldb;

ERROR 1049 (42000): Unknown database ‘exampldb’

The “unknown” error simply means that it can’t find what you asked for. You know that the syntax of the command is good, because you don’t see a syntax error code. It quotes the problem word, so you can see that the name of the database is not the one we created. Fix that and the command works.

mysql> USE exampledb;

Database changed

The system response is not an error code, but it might feel like one. All you did was select the database to be used, you wouldn’t think you changed anything. This is just a standard response to a successful command.

Now we create a table with some fields for our database, and we see this:

mysql> CREATE TABLE courses2(course VARCHAR(30, author VARCHAR(30), cost INT, fi

nished DATE);

ERROR 1064 (42000): You have an error in your SQL syntax; check the manual that

corresponds to your MySQL server version for the right syntax to use near ‘ auth

or VARCHAR(30), cost INT, finished DATE)’ at line 1

This one is a bit tricky. It is the standard syntax error code, but the quoted text looks fine. This is a classic case of interpreting error codes: look just before the place where the system thinks the error is located. In this case we see that we did not close the parentheses on the preceding field specification. The system is trying to interpret the remainder of the line as part of the VARCHAR parameter.

We finally get some data into the table and now we want to retrieve it, and we see this message:

mysql> SELECT *;

ERROR 1096 (HY000): No tables used

If you leave the table name out of a SELECT statement, you will get a syntax error, even if you only have one table in the database. You might ask, “Geez, I only have one table, why is it confused?” It would be nice for SQL to figure that out, but the more you ask a computer to make assumptions the more you will be open to errors. You are better off being as specific as possible. This leaves no doubt about the result you will get and it makes for better readability in the future. If you save the query and come back to it after a while, you will remember easily what the query does if things are written out explicitly.

Next we will add a new record to the database. We get the following error code:

mysql> INSERT INTO courses VALUES (Sample1, Author1, 29, 2014-02-22);

ERROR 1054 (42S22): Unknown column ‘Sample1′ in ‘field list’

This time the problem is not so obvious. It seems to think that this is a list of fields instead of the data. When we check, we see that the second, third, and last fields don’t have the text delimiters. These values must be contained within quotes. When we fix that, the command runs and the record is added. The lesson here is, even if the error code doesn’t say “Syntax error” specifically, check carefully for correct syntax anyway, especially items such as missing or mismatched delimiters or parentheses.

This will get you started with some common SQL error codes and how to fix the problems. Take a course on Oracle SQL to expand your skills even more.

Fruit Wine | by Udemy blog | 18 April 2014, 11:09 PM

fruit wineThe wine industry is a global phenomenon. People of all ages and social groups drink wine from all over the world, and a multitude of countries and regions are famous for the wine they produce. People have been drinking wine for thousands of years, in fact, and the cultures of antiquity, particularly those of Greece and Rome, placed a great deal of religious and social value on the consumption of wine. Wine comes in a variety of forms, making the process of buying and selling wine far more complex than simply differentiating between reds and whites. One of the many varieties of wine is fruit wine, which is made differently than traditional wine. This guide to fruit wine will broaden your wine knowledge and introduce you to a new kind of vintage.

How is Wine Made? 

Developing a basic understanding of wine is necessary before learning about how unique wines are produced. Most people know that wine is made from fermented grapes, but the process can be a bit more complicated than simply waiting for grapes to age. The number of wines available in your local grocery store should indicate how many unique methods there are for making such a variety.

The process of fermentation is essentially a fancy way of saying that you’re leaving something alone with its own chemical components and reactions for a long period of time. Grapes are unique among most fruits and vegetables in that they do not require the addition of sugar, water, any kind of acid, or other additives to properly ferment. They can be left on their own, most often in vats or barrels, for a set amount of time, and the grape juice will be turned into wine through the fermenting process. The sugar present in the grapes is consumed by yeast, which is present on the skin of the grapes, and the yeast converts that sugar into mostly alcohol, with a carbon dioxide by-product. The multitude of wine varieties is due to the fact that each kind of wine is made from the fermentation of different types and combinations of grapes, all of which are grown in different areas of the world and in different climates. Some wine grapes are more adaptable, and can be grown in several regions of the world. Cabernet Sauvignon red wine, for example, is named after the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, which can be grown and fermented in varied areas of France, Italy, Spain, California, Australia, and South America. The taste of Cabernet Sauvignon differs depending on the region in which the grapes were grown, and the fermenting particulars of the specific vineyard that produces the wine, but the name always refers to the presence of that particular kind of grape in a particular wine. Other popular red wine grapes include Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Rouge, Petit Verdot, Shiraz, and Syrah. Well-known white wine grape varieties include Chardonnay, Elbling, and Emerald Riesling. Wines are not always named after the particular grape or grapes that are fermented in their production, however; wines are often named after the region in which they are produced instead. One of the most popular wine regions is the Bordeaux area of France; you will often see red wines labeled as Bordeaux wines. These can be made with different types and combinations of grapes, but they always come from the Bordeaux region. Though there are exceptions, in general the majority of wines labeled by region are produced in Europe, while most non-European wine producers label their wine by grape.

Grapes are fermented after having been pressed, creating what is called a must, a mixture of grape skins, seeds, stems, and juice. This entire mixture is left to ferment, and the liquid wine is strained and the impurities are removed at the end of the fermentation process. White wines are often fermented in large stainless steel containers, while red wines are often fermented in wooden vats or barrels. Some wines are fermented within the bottle in which they will be sold; this is sometimes the case in the production of sparkling wines. Winemakers have to carefully monitor the amount of oxygen present in the must, the length of the fermentation process (which can last as little as a few days and as long as a month), and the temperature at which the grapes will ferment (the fermentation process produces a good deal of natural heat); differences in these factors will result in differences in the finished wine product.

What is Fruit Wine?

While the wine that most of us drink is made from fermented grapes, many other types of wine exist that don’t involve grapes at all. The term fruit wine is used to describe any alcoholic wine-like beverage that is produced by the fermentation of a fruit other than grapes. Sometimes, the definition of fruit wine is expanded to include anything that is fermented and turned into alcohol, as long as it does not include grapes. Traditional Japanese sake, for example, is a wine-like beverage made from the fermentation of rice, and it is sometimes categorized as a fruit wine, since it is made using the process of fermentation. Mead, as well, is sometimes considered a fruit wine, because it is made by fermenting honey, water, and a variety of fruits and spices. Fruit wines are usually made using a base of fruit, herbs or flowers. Fruit wine is referred to by the name of its main ingredient in most cases, Within the European Union, the term ‘wine’ is legally defined as referring to the product of grape fermentation, so different terms are sometimes used to describe fruit wines.

Fruit wine fermentation is often a more involved process than that of grape wine fermentation, because grapes have an ideal chemical balance, making them relatively easy to ferment. Fruit wines, on the other hand, often require the addition of sugars, yeasts, acids, water, and sometimes salt, in order to ferment and create a drinkable finished product with the proper alcohol content. Sugar is turned into alcohol during the process of fermentation, and many fruits have a very high sugar content. Many fruits also contain a lot of acid, and the combination of sugar and acid can make the fermented fruit taste very bitter and acidic. Therefore, water is often added to the fruit must to balance out the sugar and acid levels. In addition, chemicals like nitrogen and potassium are sometimes added to the fruit before fermentation to make up for a lack of yeast, which is necessary for turning sugar into alcohol. Grapes have an ideal amount of yeast on their skin for fermentation, but other fruits need to have additional yeast added to the mix in order for fermentation to produce a proper wine.

Popular Fruit Wines

There are a multitude of fruits, herbs, and flowers that can be made into wine through the fermentation process. Some examples are: dandelions, figs, lemongrass, strawberries, pomegranates, rose hips, tomatoes, raspberries, peaches, passion fruits, mangoes, huckleberries, plums, apricots, apples, blueberries, cashews, cranberries, elderberries, kiwifruits, bananas, watermelons, and cherries. Though almost any fruit or flower can be fermented into wine, some of these variations of fruit wine are more popular than others, and are produced with more regularity.

Apfelwein is a German alcoholic beverage made from fermenting pressed apples. Though it is often referred to as a cider, apfelwein can also be considered a fruit wine because it is made using the same fermentation process as that of grape wine. Yeast is added to the must, which includes apple juice, seeds, and skins, and the mixture is fermented to produce a beverage that usually contains an alcohol level of around six percent. The mixture often includes juice from German Speierling trees as well. Apfelwein is produced almost exclusively in the Hesse region of Germany, but is consumed throughout the country and all over the world as well. Apfelwein is most often served hot, and is sometimes accompanied by lemon, cinnamon, or cloves. Unlike traditional apple cider, Apfelwein can be taste far more dry than it does sweet.

Plum wine is a very popular fruit wine eastern Asia, particularly in China, Japan, and Korea. While most plum wine is made by steeping plums in clear liquor, another similar drink called plum jerkum is made with fermented plums, in much the same way fermented apples are used to produce cider. Fermented plum wine tends to be very sweet, significantly sweeter than most grape wines, so it is often served and consumed as a dessert wine.

Dandelion wine is produced more often as a homemade recipe than it is as a commercial product, but it still qualifies as a fruit wine. It is made by taking a mixture of dandelion petals, sugar, and acid, often from lemons, and allowing the combination to ferment until the sugar becomes alcohol. Dandelion wine makes for a very light beverage; it does not usually possess a heavy body or very strong aftertaste. It is sometimes used as a cooking wine, though people drink it as well. Some homemade dandelion wine recipes suggest adding fruits or other flavors to the dandelion must to give the wine a stronger flavor and body.

Apart from these examples, there are many other popular fruit wines that are consumed all over the world. Orange and grapefruit wines have recently become popular beverages in the state of Florida. These wines are dry and crisp, and pair well with food that agrees with dry white wines. Passion fruit wines are popular in Israel and other Middle East regions. Tropical locations are great places to partake in pineapple, mango, or banana wine; these all have a sweet and fragrant flavor to them. Elderberry wines, too, are very popular these days; elderberries have a dark color and intense flavor, so elderberry wine is a bit heavier than other fruit wines, and similar to traditional red grape wines.

Learning More About Wines

As you can see, fruit wines offer a huge variety for wine drinkers, in terms of taste, color, flavor, and weight. Nearly any fruit, flower, or herb can be made into a wine with the proper adjustments made for the fermentation process, and there are a surprising number of fruit wines available that many traditional wine drinkers aren’t even aware of. If you consider yourself an expert on red or white grape wine, and want to broaden your taste, or if you’re brand new to the world of wine, learning about and drinking fruit wines is a fun and exciting way to get your wine fix.

Subnetting Questions – Tackling Three Types of Networking Solutions | by Udemy blog | 18 April 2014, 11:01 PM

subnetting questionsThe good news is that when studying IP subnetting there are only three broad types of questions that seem to crop up. The first type will ask for a network id, a broadcast address or perhaps the first and last valid IP addresses for a given address. This is a very common type question and fortunately there are quick and easy ways to answer them. Another type of question is how many subnets or hosts can be derived from a given network or mask. Again, this is straightforward with a little practice. The third type is more difficult, as this type of question is concerned with the student’s knowledge and ability to transfer that knowledge to a design scenario. This type of question may or may not involve variable length subnet masking. This article will cover all three questions.

If you would like to learn more on subnetting, take a course at Udemy.

An Introduction to Basic Subnetting

What is the Network ID, Broadcast Address, and first & last valid IP on the subnetwork that the host belongs to?

Test A

1.      What is the Network ID, Broadcast Address, and first & last valid IP on the subnetwork that the host belong to?

 2.      What is the Network ID, Broadcast Address, and first & last valid IP on the subnetwork that the host belong to?

 3.      What is the Network ID, Broadcast Address, and first & last valid IP on the subnetwork that the host belong to?

Now, let’s take a look at the second type of question, the one that concerns itself with subnets and hosts. Here is a typical example

How many subnets and hosts per subnet can you get from the network

128  64 32  16 8  4  2  1

1    1    1   0  0  0  0  0

Test B

1.      How many subnets and hosts per subnet can you get from the network

2.      How many subnets and hosts per subnet can you get from the network

3.      How many subnets and hosts per subnet can you get from the network

The other type of question is scenario based where a network will require to be addressed using a suitable IP plan, here is a typical example and solution.

You have been asked to design an address plan that will accommodate the network. Your organization requires 1000 subnets, with at least 50 hosts per subnet. What subnet mask should you use?

2^10 = 1024

(Remembering the powers of two, comes in handy),

1   2  3   4    5    6    7      8      9      10      11
2,  4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048 …

64 -2 = 62 valid hosts per subnet, which meets the requirements.

Learn more about IP V4 network design at Udemy.

Test C

1.      You have been asked to design an address plan that will accommodate the network. Your organization requires 400 subnets, with at least 70 hosts per subnet. What subnet mask should you use?

 2.      Find which subnet the host belongs?

3.      Enter the last valid host on the network that the host is a part off

4.      You have been asked to design an address plan that will accommodate the network. Your organization requires 1500 subnets, with at least 50 hosts per subnet. What subnet mask should you use?

5.      Enter the broadcast address for the network

6.      What is the shorthand corresponding to a subnet mask of

7.      What is the maximum number of valid subnets and hosts per subnet that you can get from the network

8.      Which subnet does the host belong?

Take a course at Udemy, and answer all 8 of these questions.

Answers Test A

1 Network ID Address & Last – 62
2 Network ID Address & Last – 150
3 Network ID Address & Last – 2

Test B

1 64 subnets2 hosts,
2 128 subnets510 hosts
3 2048 Subnets30 hosts

Test C

1 /25 or
4 /27 or
6 /17
7 1024 hosts 62 hosts


API Testing: Why It Matters, and How To Do It | by Udemy blog | 18 April 2014, 11:01 PM

api testingAPI testing — what is it, why is it important, and what do you need to know about it? First and most basic, API stands for Application Programming Interface. An API is a set of procedures, functions, and other points of access which an application, an operating system, a library etc., makes available to programmers in order to allow it to interact with other software. An API is a bit like a user interface, only instead of a user-friendly collection of windows, dialog boxes, buttons, and menus, the API consists of a set of direct software links, or calls, to lower-level functions and operations. APIs can look formidable, but they’re designed to be accessible to trained, knowledgeable programmers.

If you’re interested in a career in programming, or jut want to find out more about basic software-development issues such as APIs, there are a large number of online classes available on these subjects.

Testing an API

API testing is in many respects like testing software at the user-interface level, only instead of testing by means of standard user inputs and outputs, you use software to send calls to the API, get output, and log the system’s response. Depending on the testing environment, you may use a suite of prepared test applications, but very often, you will wind up writing code specifically to test the API. Regardless of the actual testing conditions, it is important to know what API test code should do.

Test Code: What it Should Do

Needless to say, API test code should send a specific call to the API, then output and log the expected and actual results. It should also log timing and any other relevant metrics (unless they are more easily captured by system debugging tools), along with line of test code that was running when an API error occurred. If the test code sets a memory buffer that is larger than that required by the API, you can then look at the contents of the buffer for improper overwriting on the part of the API. The test code should capture all API outputs produced during the course of the test, using variable which are initially set to distinctive values that would not be produced by the API itself; this makes it easier to recognize the API outputs as you look at the variable values.

What to Test For: Look for the Ordinary

Much of your testing should reflect ordinary, expected use of the API — making an API call as it would be typically be done, in a standard environment that does not put extreme or unusual stresses on the system. This does two things:

1. Most obviously, it tests for problem arising during everyday use. If a typical use of an API call produces an error under ordinary conditions, that tells you that there’s a serious problem somewhere. Ordinary-use testing allows you to catch many of the worst bugs, as well as most of those which are likely to arise during practical use. The best and most basic testing is generally that which puts the system through its everyday paces.

2. Everyday-use testing also sets a baseline for testing under less typical, higher-stress conditions, and for more aggressive, try-to-break-it testing. If you test under unusual or high-stress conditions first, without understanding the API’s behavior under everyday-use conditions, you can waste time trying to track down something that appears to be an exotic bug, when it actually reflects a problem with basic functionality. If you start with ordinary-use testing, you can isolate the problem more easily, because you minimize the number of potential sources of error, and of unusual environmental conditions which you need to take into account.

What To Test For: Stressing the System

High-stress test conditions provide you with important tests of the API, which, like all software, must either function under difficult conditions or fail gracefully, predictably, and according to specifications. When you test-to-break, you find out what the software does at (or past) the limits of ordinary operating conditions, as well as what it does when something does go wrong. (These are the sort of issues which a good online course in software development and testing can prepare you for.)

Pushing it To the Limit

What are the limits of the API’s tolerances, and what does it do when you push it past those limits? You should test it to find out how it handles unreasonably large amounts of data (coming or going), including excessively long strings and numbers. How does it handle non-ASCII characters, double-byte fonts, or data of a type that you would not expect it to recognize? If it involves real-time input or output, how does it handle extremely high (or low) streams of data. On a more down-to-earth level, what does it do when you send it a request with out-of-bounds, inappropriate, or badly-formed data in the parameters?

Handling Trouble

One of the most important items that you should be testing for is how the API handles problems when they do come up. First of all, does it crash, or does it actually handle the problem? And if it does crash, how bad is the crash? Needless to say, under ordinary circumstances, you should never ship anything that’s capable of blue-screening the operating system — but it does happen. As with any other kind of software, if an API fails, it should fail gracefully, shutting itself down, displaying the appropriate system messages, and letting go of any processes. It shouldn’t just disappear without a warning, and it shouldn’t hang any applications, let alone part of the system.

Fail, or Catch the Problem?

Ideally, the API should catch any problems and handle them, rather than failing. It should recognize bad or out-of-bounds input or output, and filter it, reject it, or otherwise prevent it from doing damage. An API should also send the appropriate error message to the calling program, allowing that program to handle the problem correctly. Error messages should provide the calling application with enough information to understand and correct the problem, if possible. And it should handle all overflow conditions without allowing an actual buffer overflow, particularly since buffer overflows are a favorite point for unauthorized entry into a system.

What Should it Be Doing?

If you know that the API is supposed to perform a particular action (trigger an event, update data, make a change to the registry, or set a flag), the tests should check the results of that action. Does it happen when it’s supposed to happen? What about when it’s not supposed to happen? And are the results what you would expect them to be? API testing is typically black-box testing, but to the degree that you have access to the results of the API’s actions, they should be checked.

Documentation: The API

Like any other kind of software, APIs need to be documented, and the documentation needs to be accurate, complete, and usable. In the case of an API, the target audience for the documentation consists of developers, and the documentation must allow them to make full use of the API; it should be tested as part of the API. Does the documentation allow programmers with access to no other sources of information about the API to make calls to it? Does it cover all features, all inputs and outputs? Does it include the range, type, and format of allowable input data, and the limits of the output data? Does it describe the function of the API, and of each ALI call? Does it list all error codes sent by the API, with their meanings?

Documentation: The Tests

The tests themselves also need to be documented. This includes the test results, of course, which need to clearly and fully describe the conditions, inputs, expected and observed outputs, and any unexpected effect. But it also includes test procedures and testing software. You should assume that at some point in the future, someone else my need to perform the same or similar tests, or reuse the testing software. On a more immediate level, the development team or another test team may need to verify the tests or examine the test procedures for additional information.

Software For Testing

There are a variety of software testing tools available, including those which are designed specifically for API testing in a particular environment, such as web applications, SQL, robotics and other hardware control, mobile apps, and of course, general desktop use. These tools are typically scriptable, and generally emulate all or part of the environment in which the API would typically operate. While an automated testing tool may not be able to perform all of the tests required for a given API, it can automate much of the testing procedure, allowing you to concentrate on the relatively small number of specialized/unique-case tests that may be required.

API Testing vs. Unit Testing

Note that API testing and unit testing are not the same thing, although they are similar. Unit testing is done by the development team to make sure that a particular unit of software functions as required; since it is not black-box testing, it can’t accurately reflect use of that software in the field. To put it bluntly, developers know their software too well, so they’re likely to miss something which may be blindingly obvious to a tester who is not acquainted with the software’s internal workings. The job of the API tester is to test the software knowing only what a user is likely to know. API testing also tests the unit as part of a system, while unit testing typically tests the unit in relative isolation from the rest of the system.

There is much more that you can learn about API testing, about both specialized and general types of testing, and about software development, by checking out the broad range of courses which are available online.

Films from Copenhagen in 1923, 1932, 1937, 1950s | by The Copenhagen Bicycle Culture Blog | 18 April 2014, 11:54 PM

Copenhagen. 1932. Thanks to @laxbikeguy (James) on Twitter for the link.
"Cyclists in hundreds - thousands (millions it seemed to our cameraman!) throng the City of Copenhagen."
Wild how there was only 12 views on this film when I clicked on the link from James. Feels like archeology. :-)

Here is Copenhagen in 1937. When I found this in 2011 there were only a dozen views or so. Glad it got out to a wider audience.

Copenhagen in the 1950s.

Copenhagen in 1923.
Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.

Python unittest: Regression Testing Your Code | by Udemy blog | 18 April 2014, 10:53 PM

python unittestRegression Testing for Robust Software Development

During the course of the software development, in Python, there are deliverables for customers, and deadlines, but developers will find bugs, and issues in their design, or execution, or both. How do software developers build programs, and maintain it across the years, with changing feature requests?

On a simpler level how do change software, code – programs, and algorithms – without losing the original functionality? Software development learns from a maxim, ‘History repeats itself, if you don’t learn from your mistakes‘. In this blog post we will learn about writing a simple Python program and updating it as requirements change, all the time using unit tests to capture this behavior.

Simple Example – Testing Factorial Function

Factorial of a number, N, is defined to be the product of numbers from 1 to N; i.e. N! = 1*2*3* … N. Clearly a straightforward way to calculate factorial is using a for-loop where temporary initialized to 1, will have to start incrementing a counter upto N, and keep track of the product. At the end of the iterations the temporary carries the result of the factorial of N.

However yet another equivalent, and accurate, mathematical definition of factorial function is using the recursive notation; i.e. N! = (N-1)!*N

In other words it is a mathematical statement saying, if you want factorial of N, N!, and you know the factorial of (N-1), (N-1)!, then here is how you can calculate the factorial of N.

Clearly a way of writing this as a program in iterative and recursive ways would be,

# recursive way of witing factorial
def fact( n ):
  if ( n == 0 ):
    return 1.0
    return fact( n - 1)*n;
if __name__ == "__main__":
   for i in range(0,10+1):
      print("%d! = %g"%(i,fact(i)))0! = 1

Running the Program

You can download Python package for your platform from the source website,, and run the tests and programs as, $ python, is the command to interpret the code and then run the program

0! = 1
1! = 1
2! = 2
3! = 6
4! = 24
5! = 120
6! = 720
7! = 5040
8! = 40320
9! = 362880
10! = 3.6288e+06

Finding Bugs:

Not all is well with our small recursion program. Do you know what happens when you call fact function with a negative number? Lets try, by changing the code to be,

 if __name__ == "__main__":
     for i in range(0,10+1):
         print("%d! = %g"%(i,fact(i)))0! = 1
         fact( -5 )

and running the code as before you see the error message,

 File "", line 11, in fact
 return fact( n - 1)*n;
 File "", line 11, in fact
 return fact( n - 1)*n;
 File "", line 11, in fact
 return fact( n - 1)*n;
 File "", line 11, in fact
 return fact( n - 1)*n;
 RuntimeError: maximum recursion depth exceeded

This is a signature of infinite recursion, which is a serious bug to program performance. Somewhere in your code, the program is getting past a fence-post.

Clearly the if-condition in the factorial is this fence-post. If the definition can be somehow modified to stop the recursion, when the numbers are negative, we will not have issues with the negative input to this function. Our solution will involve raising an exception if we have factorial function is called with a negative input. The correct program listing will be,

 # recursive way of writing factorial
 def fact( n ):
    if ( n == 0 ):
       return 1.0
    elif ( n < 0 ):
       raise Exception("Cannot calculate factorial for negative numbers")
    return fact( n - 1)*n;
if __name__ == "__main__":
    for i in range(0,10+1):
       print("%d! = %g"%(i,fact(i)))
       print("%d! = %g"%(-5,fact( -5 )))

Complex numbers

What happens when you try using complex number input? In Python the complex numbers are written like, 5 – 4j, with the real and imaginary part suffixed with ‘j’. Changing the code to be,

	if __name__ == "__main__":
		i = 5 - 4j
		print("%d! = %g"%(i,fact(i)))

and rerunning your program, you will see the following error,

  Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "", line 20, in <module>
    print fact( 5 - 4j )
  File "", line 11, in fact
    elif ( n < 0 ):
  TypeError: no ordering relation is defined for complex numbers

Clearly something is wrong with your definition of factorial function, and we need to disallow complex numbers to the input. To fix this, you can make another change you can make to solution is to error out against complex number input, you can add guards to check input as,

# recursive way of writing factorial
def fact( n ):
    if type(n) == complex:
        raise Exception("Cannot calculate factorial for complex numbers")

    if ( n == 0 ):
        return 1.0
    elif ( n < 0 ):
        raise Exception("Cannot calculate factorial for negative numbers")

    return fact( n - 1)*n;

Adding a Unit Test

Now let us focus on writing the test cases which exercise the function in various modes, and lock down the behavior. Python has a powerful unit test framework called the unittest module, which we will use to write unit tests to ensure our solution against possible regression.

Each test point lives in a function named as ‘test_’ and it exercises the various cases of the ‘fact’ and compares the results against the inbuilt math function ‘math.factorial’. Usually the comparison of function output with known results is done using the unit-test API methods in the next section.

The code listing for ‘’ follows,

import unittest
import math
import factorial_v1
from test import test_support

class FactorialTest(unittest.TestCase):
    def setUp(self):

    def tearDown(self):

    def test_positives(self):
        for x in range(0,10+1):
            act = math.factorial( x )
            val = factorial_v1.fact( x )
            print("%d! = %g == %g"%(x,val,act))
            self.assertAlmostEqual( act, val, 1e-1 )

    def test_negative(self):
        passed = False
            factorial_v1.fact( -3 )
        except Exception as e:
            passed = True and (e.message.find("Cannot calculate")>= 0 )
        self.assertTrue( passed )

        ## alternate way
        with self.assertRaises( Exception ) as cm:

if __name__ == "__main__":

And your code should run and produce output like,

 Ran 2 tests in 0.001s

Unit Test API

Unittest API has other assertion checks which are

'assertAlmostEqual', 'assertAlmostEquals', 'assertDictContainsSubset', 'assertDictEqual', 'assertEqual', 'assertEquals', 'assertFalse', 'assertGreater', 'assertGreaterEqual', 'assertIn', 'assertIs', 'assertIsInstance', 'assertIsNone', 'assertIsNot', 'assertIsNotNone', 'assertItemsEqual', 'assertLess', 'assertLessEqual', 'assertListEqual', 'assertMultiLineEqual', 'assertNotAlmostEqual', 'assertNotAlmostEquals', 'assertNotEqual', 'assertNotEquals', 'assertNotIn', 'assertNotIsInstance', 'assertNotRegexpMatches', 'assertRaises', 'assertRaisesRegexp', 'assertRegexpMatches', 'assertSequenceEqual', 'assertSetEqual', 'assertTrue', 'assertTupleEqual',


Software testing enables us to write programs without worry of regression. Learn more about regression testing and software design in Python.

So tell me. Do you feel innovative, punk? Do ya? | by Excapite | 18 April 2014, 10:51 PM

Business Insider published a slide set based on Mary Meeker's 1996 State of the Internet report.

This is the third slide in the pack. It is important. Simply because it sets the date of the birth of the Internet back two decades before the dates currently in use by the promoters of the popular "technology is speeding up" myth.

Truth is Internet adoption rates in the USA have been no faster than the old video tape recorder. Mobile phones have been even slower. And none of them come anywhere near the adoption of Television in the 1930's.

But we have been there before. So there is no need to cover old territory.

What I want to do today is simply this.

The Internet was invented in 1968. A year before the Americans landed a man on the moon.

That was 46 years ago.

What I want you to do is look back 46 years and try and recall everything that was invented since the invention of the Internet. I'm asking you to do that because, if the "technology is speeding up" popularist theory is correct it should be easy to recall all the great things that have been invented since Man landed on the moon.

If you are struggling here's a few to get you started. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Cast your net a bit wider and you may be thinking Viagra, Prozac, Abortion Pills, Liposuction, iPhones and Post it Notes.

If you are clever you might throw DNA sequencing, MRI Scanners, LED/LCDs, Microprocessors into the mix and of course Collateral Debt Swaps. Then there is the Space Station and the Space Shuttle.

Okay. Got your list ready?

Okay let's see how it stacks up against this one.

Here are just a few of the things that were invented in the 46 years before the Internet was invented.

And of course all the background work required to land a man on the moon.

And I guess, in the end, my question to all of you is simply this, how did our grandfathers and great grandfathers achieve so much, much more with so much less?

Because in the end that is the measure of this, the most iSpirational of generations. How do we measure up against what has gone before, given the foundations upon which we have to build the 21st Century?

Take a look in the mirror, better still take a selfie and post it on Facebook, and tell me we can't do better than developing yet another Free Mobile App or Social Media Web Site given what we have to work with today.

How to Subnet Quickly and Avoid the Headaches | by Udemy blog | 18 April 2014, 10:48 PM

how to subnetIP is the dominant network protocol in use today in both Local Area Networks (LANs) and on the Internet. However, IPv4 addressing is anything but simple. Too often, IP subnetting is a source of confusion even for experienced technicians. However, it is an inescapable fact that most networks will require subnetting for optimization and security purposes.

Learn how to work with subnets and TCP/IP networks

What are Subnets?

The practice of sub-dividing a network into multiple sub-networks is called subnetting. It is achieved by clever manipulation of the IP address and its corresponding subnet mask.

An IP address is in the format;

IP Address Range (N= Network, H = Host)


Subnet Mask










D & E

Multicast &reserved

In the table above, the IP address components are designated as network or host bits, the subnet mask designates the boundaries. For example, for a class A network the mask is an /8, a class B is a /16, and a class C is /24. These demarcations points are commonly represented by decimal notation such as, or either way they mark the boundaries of what is a network and what is a host.

Learn more on the fundamentals of inter-networks!

So, how do professionals manage to calculate subnets and masks in their head? Well, they think in decimal, not binary. They do this by extending the subnet mask by borrowing host bits from the designated host range. For example, a single address range can be split into two by extending the subnet mask by borrowing one bit, transforming the subnet mask from a /24 to a /25 or a in decimal notation. The table below outlines the options achievable by borrowing host bits to extend the subnet mask.

Subnet mask

No of Subnets

No of Hosts per subnet




254   (256 -2)



126   (128 -2)

Large departments


62     (64 -2)

Medium Large dept


30     (32 -2)

Medium departments


14     (16 -2)

Small departments


6       (8 -2)

ADSL Connections


2       (4-2)

WAN LINK / Point-to -Point

Regardless of what address range is used, class A, B or C, it is possible to use basic math to subnet. The individual subnets and hosts can be determined through two basic formulas.

  1. Number of subnets = 2n where n is the number of bits borrowed to make the subnet mask
  2. Number of hosts = 2(32 – n) - 2 where n is the number of bits in your subnet mask

For example, what subnet does the host IP belong too?

The mask is a /27. So next demarcation boundary is 32, it is greater than boundary 24 but less than 32. Therefore by applying the formula,

Number of hosts = 2(32 – n) - 2 we can easily determine its subnet.

Explanation – to determine the number of hosts per subnet, the value of n is equal to the length of the subnet mask. In the example above, the formula is thirty-two (the class boundary) minus twenty-seven (the subnet mask) therefore (32 – 27) = 5. It follows that 25 = 32 which gives us our block size – the number of hosts per subnet. However, two addresses are unavailable for use as host addresses, namely the first and last addresses. The first address of a subnet identifies the subnet and the last indicates the subnet broadcast address, which is used to communicate with all hosts in that subnet, hence the -2 in the formula.

Now, it is simply a case of counting from zero upwards in the fourth octet using the previously determined host block size, which in this case is 32.

1st Subnet –

2nd Subnet –  (The host belongs to this subnet)

Its subnet address is and it broadcast address is, it is important to remember that a subnet always starts with an even number and the broadcast with an uneven number.

The rules apply not just to Class C addresses but to the other classes as well, here is an example of a Class B borrowing bits in the third octet.

What subnet does belong too?

The mask is 19 so 24 is the closest boundary therefore (24 – 19) =5, so  2^5 = 32

Counting up from zero using the host block size of 32, but this time in the third octet, has in the 4th subnet, it will have a subnet address of and a broadcast address of

1st subnet
2nd subnet
3rd subnet
4th subnet ( belongs in this subnet)
5th subnet

How to Subnet Quickly and Efficiently like the Professionals

128  64 32 16  8   4   2 0
 0   0   0  0  0  0  0  0

1.      Number of subnets = 2n where n is the number of bits borrowed to make the subnet mask

2.      Number of hosts = 2(32 – n) - 2 where n is the number of bits in your subnet mask

These are the quick tips professionals use to calculate subnets, hosts and an IP address’ home network. If you wish to further investigate advanced IP design topics, then IP subnetting and address planning is just the start on the journey towards being an expert IP network designer.

Debunking the myth of designing a business model to take advantage of the network effects | by Excapite | 18 April 2014, 10:47 PM

We've all heard the siren song of a generation of venture capitalists. Does your business model have network effects? You got to have network effects or you are just not in the game. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Bitcoin they all have network effects. Do you have network effects? Because with out it network effects in the new networked economy you are wasting your time.

Which is great. You can't have enough network effects. So let's get out there and harvest some network effects. Take advantage of some network effects to help make our business grow exponentially.

But did you ever stop and ask the question: Just what is the value of having network effects working for you?

At first glance the answer to that question is obvious.

The average Facebook user has 135 *Friends* (Dunbar's Law). If each one of those friends has 135 Friends then that's 18,225 prospects (assuming no dupes). Take the database for friends another step along the six degrees of separation and you discover almost quarter of million friends of friends of friends.

It has to be licence to print money.

You just have to leverage the power of the network. Get people talking. Spread the word. After all isn't word of mouth the best kind of advertising?

And here is the clue to unpicking the puzzle that is the network effect.

You see if the network effect really was a competitive advantage it would significantly reduce your marketing costs. Who needs to pay salespeople or buy expensive advertising when you have the network effect to deliver the growth for free?


If you have the network effects on your side you should be spending significantly less on the costs of acquiring new business that the purveyors of WINTEL desktop software products (e.g. Microsoft, Adobe or Oracle).

The question is just how much more efficient is the network effect over traditional sales and marketing?

Is it 10x, 100x or even 1000x more effective than traditional sales and marketing?

Well let's put it to the test. Let's scrape some financial data from a collection of WINTEL software companies, some new disruptive network software vendors (SaaS), some eCommerce sites and of course the market leading Advertising Sponsored Software web sites to see who achieves a greater return on their marketing spend.

And here is the big surprise. Actually having the benefit of network effects working for you offers no competitive advantage over the traditional sales and marketing model. In fact in most cases it performs far worse than the old way of doing business.

Even the leader of the network effects model (Netflix) doesn't come up that well when you consider the fact Blockbuster (admittedly now disrupted) achieved a ROAS of 16x back in 2005.

One also has realise that the Advertising Sponsored Software model is designed to use network effects to grow an audience for advertisers, not a customer base.

In the end though perhaps the most telling metric to emerge from all this data was the insight that over the past 4 years Oracle achieved on average, in its attempts to generate new business, a minimum return of 100x on its advertising spend.

The big data reveals it is good old advertising that delivers the network effect and not the network effect.

But I think the bigger insight here is that these networked business models are spending money on advertising and marketing. On average $1 for every $2.5 they generate in revenue.

And if you understand this you'll understand why the growth on-line advertising is something of a feedback loop. Venture capitalists and investors pour money in seeking growth via the network effect. Advertising is employed as a catalyst to fuel the network effect. This in turn creates the conditions for more start-ups to jump in and mine their share of the advertising gold rush. And so the bubble in investing in the network effect grows and grows. The growth in advertising and market caps of advertising sponsored software companies clearly proves this.

Which in the end is what makes the networked economy so delightful. A paradox. At the macro level it is a world beater. At the micro level it's a...

I'll leave you to finish that sentence off for yourselves.

The point I am trying to make here is network effects doesn't make the market. It is the product of the market. Network effects isn't the engine room of growth in the networked economy. It is what is for sale in the networked economy.


Make A Mean Mead: Honey Mead Recipes | by Udemy blog | 18 April 2014, 10:46 PM

honey mead recipeIn a time of hipster food fetish where the most revered meal is the most primal and the most distilled, what’s the ultimate substance to fetishize? What’s left after the food culture exploration in current best-sellers like “Anything That Moves” (whether you’re a food fetisher yourself or a sneer-er from the sidelines, if you haven’t read this book, go get it now!)? What’s left after the green coffee bean (take a coffee course, coffee nerd!), the white cacao nib (be a sexy cacao cook with this course!), the mashy hand-crafted beers (take a beer course!), and bone marrow served so eaters can slurp it off the very bone it came from? What’s left after the constant rotation of new restaurants opening and then shuttering and then re-opening on the streets of Brooklyn and the Mission?

Hint: it’s currently thought to be the oldest fermented beverage, pre-dating the cultivating of soil. Bam. That’s what’s left. But not for long.


You can think of mead as a wine made with honey instead of grapes – it can be just as varied and nuanced. Perfect fodder for hipster foodies and palate junkies.

The Wine Comparison

While wine’s character is determined by its fruit and origin, honey mead’s flavors can be attributed to the honey that’s used. Therefore, mead’s terroir is captured in a way winemakers can only dream of: from the flowers whose pollen bees collect in a particular area at a particular time.

Mead, like wine, is of course, alcoholic. The alcohol percentage can in fact range from 8% all the way to 20% and even stronger. It is made by fermenting honey with water and adding fruits, spices, grains or hops. The defining characteristic of mead is that the majority of the beverage’s fermentable sugar is derived from honey. Mead – like wine –  may be still, carbonated or naturally sparkling; it can be dry, semi-sweet or sweet.

Evidence of mead-making and mead-drinking can be found throughout ancient Europe, Africa and Asia. “It can be regarded as the ancestor of all fermented drinks,” according to Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, author of “A History of Food”.

Ancient and indigenous cultures in Mexico and Central America also made and enjoyed mead and the Yucatec Maya still imbibe. Their mead was made from bark from the leguminous tree which they soaked in honey and water and fermented. The interesting part? Apparently they used it in enema form to maximize its inebriating effect! I don’t think that fraternity boys have even gone that far . . .

As other fermented drinks were invented, mead took a backseat but in the current culture of foodie-ism, it’s making a comeback.

Another benefit of making mead over wine or beer is that you need much simpler equipment. Below are mead recipes, curated to give you a sense of the variety and history of the beverage.

Mead Recipes

Generally you will need the following for each batch (except for the “Most Ancient Mead Recipe”, of course. They didn’t have balloons!):

To become an expert, you can take this short course on at-home food safety: Home Made: How to Start a Home-Based Food Business

But here are some general directions from A-Mazing Meads; you can use it as a blueprint for all of the recipes here:

Before You Make the Mead

The first thing to do is to make sure everything is clean; any dirt or organisms on the equipment or in the fermentation bottle will thrive in your mead and contaminate it. This is one of the most important things to remember when brewing; the only thing you want to grow in your mead is the yeast! So you have to keep everything clean – and keep unwanted contaminants out whilst it’s brewing. Normally this is done using an airlock, but for brewing such a small batch of mead we’re going to use a balloon.

  1. First, pour a couple of pints of warm water into your fermentation container, then add your honey. Put the lid on tightly, then give it a good shake to dissolve the honey into the water; this is the first stage in making the “must” which is what we’re going to ferment to turn into mead.
  2. Now, take your fruit and cut it into small segments; add them to the must, along with your spices – a cinnamon stick or small pinch of powdered cinnamon, a small pinch each of allspice and nutmeg. You could add one or two whole cloves, but no more as a little goes a long way.
  3. Honey isn’t very nutritious where yeast is concerned, so you also need to add the dessert-spoon of raisins – this gives the yeast a little extra to feed on. Wash them thoroughly before adding them to the must. Top up to the 2-litre mark with warm water, then add half a teaspoon of dried active yeast. You should get good results with pretty much any wine or beer yeast – even baking yeast will do if that’s all you have. This is a pretty unfussy recipe that’s pretty much foolproof.
  4. Cap the bottle then give it a thorough shake to aerate the must and give the yeast plenty of oxygen to work with. Now take the balloon and carefully prick 2-3 holes in the top. Uncap the bottle and stretch the neck of the balloon over the mouth of the bottle; this is going to be your airlock. The holes in the rubber allow carbon dioxide generated by the yeast to escape without letting in airborne contaminants.
  5. Set it in a warm place and within an hour or two the balloon should inflate and a foam develop on the top of the must as the yeast gets to work and gives off carbon dioxide. If the balloon seems to be inflating too much, carefully add a couple more holes with a pin, being careful not to burst it. The foam will steadily subside over the next couple of days; set in a dark warm place and leave it to ferment quietly by itself. Check the balloon every so often; sometimes the rubber can perish and will need replacing. Over the next couple of weeks the mead will start to clear naturally; at the end of 3 weeks you should be able to siphon off a dark golden clear mead that’s ready for drinking straight away – or you can rack it into a clean bottle or demijohn and let it carry on maturing for another couple of months.

This recipe will make a total of 2 litres of mead, drinkable in 3 weeks.

Honey Mead Recipes

Most Ancient Mead Recipe

Take rainwater kept for several years, and mix a sextarius (one pint) of this water with a pound of honey. The whole is exposed to the sun for 40 days, and then left on a shelf near the fire. If you have no rain water, then boil spring water.

Short Mead (shorter time needed until drinking)

  1. Place the honey in a sink filled with hot water for at least 15 minutes. This should help it soften. Alternatively, put it in the microwave for 30 intervals, stirring between. Be very careful when heating honey! It could result in a bad burn.
  2. Pour the water in the bottle into a pot for later. Pour the heated honey into the empty bottle a little at a time. We eventually resorted to a spoon and our fingers.
  3. Pour half the water back into the bottle. Now it’s time to aerate! Cap the bottle and shake it really hard for at least five minutes. The honey should dissolve and the mixture should be cloudy. Just for fun, do a giggly dance in the kitchen to make sure the bottle gets shaken up enough! This makes the pre-mead, known as ‘must.’
  4. Once the honey is dissolved pour more water back into the bottle, leaving a fair amount of headroom. Drink the rest or use it for cooking. Shake it up a little bit again, and add the nutmeg.
  5. Now it’s time to add the yeast. Put the dry yeast directly into the must. Cap it again and shake it up well. Now it’s time to set up the fermentation detector. Poke a small hole in the balloon so that it will not explode. Put it over the mouth of the bottle. Once fermentation begins the balloon will stand at attention!
  6. Put your mead into a dark, warmish place that is unlikely to be disturbed. Check on it every couple of days to make sure it hasn’t exploded, turned purple, or grown a yeast civilisation with advanced scientific research.
  7. In 7-10 days, the fermentation process will slow down. The balloon will sag and maybe even lay down. This is okay. Just let the yeasties do their business until it’s been at least three weeks.
  8. At this point, you can drink the mead! It will be cloudy and relatively low in alcohol percentage (ABV). Alternatively, you can ‘rack’ the mead into another bottle for secondary fermentation (which will make stronger) for unto a few months. You can put the mead into bottles and store it, and it will strengthen and get clearer with time.

Fit for Midas - Midus Mead Recipe from Lithuania (careful, with its high alcohol content, you may actually think you can turn things to gold)

  1. Break and crush berries and nutmeg.  Tie with hops in cloth bag.
  2. Place in honey and water, boll about 1/2 hour, skimming off foam.
  3. Cool to lukewarm (about 100 degrees F.)  Pour into a 5 gallon bottle.
  4. Do not overfill, allow about 4 inches space from surface to top of bottle.
  5. Cream yeast with sugar and 1/2 cup of honey-water liquid, set in warm spot for 10 – 15 minutes until it begins to bubble.
  6. Slowly pour into liquid in bottle.
  7. Stopper bottle with cork into which a glass tube (thistle tube or medicine dropper with bulb removed) has been set (to allow fermentation gases to escape).
  8. Allow to ferment at temperatures of 60 degrees no less than 6 months.
  9. At end of that period, filter off with rubber pipette or siphon, pour into bottles, cork.
  10. Ready to drink a month after bottling; however, aging improves mead.
  11. It is at its best 2 – 3 years after making.

Hot Mulled Holiday Mead

Serves 4 to 6.


  1. Pour mead into a large saucepan.
  2. Cut an orange half into thin slices and add to the saucepan.
  3. Squeeze the remaining orange into the mead.
  4. Add the cloves and cinnamon.
  5. Set over low heat and bring to a simmer.
  6. Turn the heat off, strain out the spices and serve with cinnamon sticks, if desired.

More Mead Resources

Not ready to commit to making your own before becoming a connoisseur first? Here is a compilation of interesting meaderies on both coasts and in-between:

Or if you are super-inspired, figure out how to make a Mead Food Truck. There’s not one in San Francisco – yet!

Week of observances | by The Big Picture (Boston Globe) | 18 April 2014, 10:38 PM

Religious ceremonies, some solemn, some joyous, took place around the world this week. Holy Week is observed by many different Christians before Easter. The Jewish holiday of Passover is celebrated for a week, and the New Year festivals of Vaisakhi and Thinhyan were also observed. --Leanne Burden Seidel (28 photos total)

An Indian Sikh pilgrim parades on April 13 in Bobigny, near Paris, during celebrations for Vaisakhi, the Sikh New Year Festival, which also commemmorates the founding of the Khalsa (Sikh community) by the tenth Guru (Guru Gobind Singh) in 1699. (LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)

Facebook Confirms That It Will Use Location Data For Ad Targeting — Someday | by Marketing Land | 18 April 2014, 09:53 PM

It should come as no surprise that Facebook plans to use location data from its mobile apps to customize the ads it serves consumers. The combination of an advertising-driven business plan and access to data about where users have visited and most importantly where they are at a given moment...

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

The amazing aspects of mapping | by Bits or pieces? (Simon Wardley) | 18 April 2014, 10:49 PM

In the previous post I covered the good bits about mapping - namely user needs, coping with change, effective management of complex environments and contracts, better scenario planning and strategic gameplay, improvements in communication and risk management and the ability to identify opportunities from system level to policy. It's not a bad list and I have examples of all.

However, now I want to discuss the amazing aspects of mapping.

1) Situational Awareness & Organisational learning
It turns out that mapping is incredibly useful for organisational learning particularly in aspects of gameplay because it provides a common language and a way of examining, recording and testing changes in an economic environment. This is actually a pretty big deal. However, it works because it helps increase situational awareness of an environment and this in itself turns out to be fairly massive.

Some time ago, I undertook a study of companies in the high tech industry looking at their level of strategic gameplay (i.e. understanding of their environment and those of competitors) against action which in this case was manipulation of the market through open means whether open data, open source, open hardware or even open APIs (NB all APIs are 'open' since they cannot be copyrighted).

This I plotted on a bubble chart (the bigger the bubbles the more companies involved) and then examined market cap changes over the last seven years. The results are show in figure 1. Basically the upshot is that situational awareness and strategic play are strongly correlated with market cap growth. 

Figure 1 - strategic play vs open as a means of manipulating markets.

The best of the bunch (who have high levels of strategic play and use open as a weapon) I nicknamed Players. The worst (who exhibited neither), I call Chancers

Now, often people talk to me about 'open by default' to which I'll respond that being 'open by default' or not being 'open by default' has little to no correlation with success in terms of market cap growth. What matters is the level of strategic play and those with good strategic play who tend to use open as weapon show the highest market cap growth.

The importance of this is that it demonstrates that situational awareness (i.e. knowing where to attack and why to attack one space over another) is more important than action (i.e. the how, the what and the when'). This was curtly summarised in Professor Roger L. Martin response in the Execution Trap to Jamie Dimon's doctrine - “Dimon’s doctrine - that execution is the key to a strategy’s success - is as flawed as it is popular.”

Well, the idea that 'execution is the key to a strategy's success' is fundamentally flawed and the data says the opposite. Key is situational awareness.

2) Structure
Whenever you start mapping a complex environment, because it has multiple components at different stages of evolution then you tend to start to treat components individually e.g. in the case of HS2 (high speed rail) then you tend to use multiple methods rather than single size methods.

Figure 2 - Multiple methods in HS2

This approach of breaking down complex environments into component systems has a tendency to result in teams being organised around components. Such principles of component based organisation are embedded in concepts like the USAF FIST (fast, inexpensive, simple and tiny) approach and Amazon's Two Pizza approach and both appear to be highly effective.

Now the change doesn't usually happen overnight but the act of mapping and breaking down systems into logical components appears to trigger this structural change over time. So rather than having one big team dealing with a system, we end up with many small teams dealing with components and an emphasis on the importance of interfaces. Alas, at the moment I don't have enough examples to significantly confirm this effect but I'll mention it because it's certainly an amazing effect of mapping if the trend continues. 

Figure 3 - Breaking down complex systems into logical components appears to initiate a structural change.

3) The Future isn't as unpredictable as we think
One of the most delightful aspects of mapping is in organisational learning and how it can be used to discover common re-occurring economic patterns. For example, how competition drives a cycle of peace, war and wonder which occurs at both macro and micro economic scales. Now, it turns out that some aspects of the economy (e.g. genesis of the novel and new) are highly unpredictable but industrialisation and the shift from product to utility is predictable. In some cases you can say what is going to happen but not when and in others when something will happen but not precisely what. However it's quite uncommon for things to be entirely random though it's extremely hard to predict individual players move as opposed to industry trends.

One particular aspect of this that interests me is how new organisational forms (e.g. fordism, american system, web 2.0) appear. By understanding the economic forces at work (from punctuated equilibriums to co-evolution to inertia), I was able to predict when the next generation would start to emerge though not precisely what they would look like. 

Hence by use of population genetic techniques at roughly the right time, I was able to discover a phenotype (characteristics) of the next generation. I published a summary of the work here but for those just wanting the results rather than details, then table 1.

Table 1 - Traditional vs Next Generation Companies.

So along with the Good - namely user needs, coping with change, effective management of complex environments and contracts, better scenario planning and strategic gameplay, improvements in communication and risk management and the ability to identify opportunities from system level to policy - then the Amazing aspects of mapping are better situational awareness (correlated with market cap growth) & organisational learning, initiation of potentially more effective organisational structures and heightened ability to anticipate change.

These are all 'kick ass' superpowers in business but that's nothing compared to the wow. Which is the next post.

The wow of mapping | by Bits or pieces? (Simon Wardley) | 18 April 2014, 10:47 PM

So far, I've covered then good bits of mapping - namely focus on user needs, coping with change, effective management of complex environments and contracts, better scenario planning and strategic gameplay, improvements in communication and risk management and the ability to identify opportunities from system level to policy - along with the Amazing aspects of mapping of better situational awareness (correlated with market cap growth) & organisational learning, initiation of potentially more effective organisational structures and heightened ability to anticipate change.

The above is a 'kick ass' list of business superpowers however it is nothing compared to what's next.

If you haven't read those two posts - STOP! Go read both of them - the good bits of mapping & the Amazing aspects of mapping - and then return.

The conclusions of this post are also the most controversial because the examples are rare in the extreme and data is very thin. However, if this concept is right then to give the 'wow' a title then it has to be :-

1) Organisations don't need one culture, they need three.

First, a bit of background. I noticed this effect first in 2004 when I implemented the first early prototype of a Pioneer, Settler and Town Planner structure in Fotango. Of course, back then I was experimenting without a clear understanding of why the new structure improved our efficiency and innovation so effectively. I do now, or at least I have a pretty good idea why.

To explain why, we need a little bit of a journey. First, when mapping a business you need to get people involved in the organisation to do the mapping and preferably large numbers of them. This is because one of the axis of evolution is certainty and it's actually difficult to precisely say where something is on such an axis. You can use the wisdom of the crowd effect (see Marquis de Condorcet) but this requires each voting member to be 'more likely than not to make a correct decision'. Hence it has to be people experienced in the business and the environment itself i.e. there's no general consultancy gig in mapping and if any consultant offers to map your business ... run away. Of course, you can get strategy advice once you've mapped but since most big strategy firms I've met tend to fail at getting the ten good point right ... run away. It's always way better to learn to play chess for yourself.

Now, once you've mapped a business you still have a problem ... bias. Having watched and collected maps from different companies, I've noticed a tendency of companies in similar industries to think in similar ways. This is a probably a side effect of competing against each other, people moving between companies in an industry and industry specific conferences.  Hence what is considered advanced modelling techniques in the oil and gas business is not the same as what is considered advanced modelling techniques in the high tech industry. Though I don't have enough data to categorically state this (yet), it would appear that not only do you have early adopters and laggards within industries but entire industries can be early adopters or laggards. However, within a laggard industry there will be companies that consider themselves to be early adopters because they're comparing to their competitors. A bias exists towards the industry norm.

Hence if you take mathematical modelling techniques, let us hypothesise that the rough order is high tech > media > retail > finance > pharma > oil and gas. Then not only will you have early adopters and laggards in each of those sectors but the sectors themselves will exhibit differences. Hence a company in the finance industry which considers itself a 'early adopter' might dismiss a high tech company moving into their industry but can often find themselves competing against a beast they're poorly equipped to deal with. The problem with this bias is that the delta between industry sectors may well be growing (this is part of a current research examination).

Now, putting bias aside for moment, I want to now turn to profile. If you take all the maps of a company, by simply counting frequency of components at different stages of evolution then you can generate a profile. At the moment this is a very imprecise and highly polluted technique (because of bias) but it gives us a 'flavour' to how a company views itself.

The interesting aspect of a profile, is that each section requires different management techniques and methods. It was an awareness of this that led me to the pioneer, settler and town planner structure (PST) in the first place. See figure 1.

Figure 1 - Pioneer, Settler and Town Planner

So rather than organising by 'type' of components grouped into functional departments (such as IT, Marketing, Finance & Operations), under a PST structure the company organises by 'evolution' and components flow from one group to another through a process of theft. For more details read here.

In the PST world there is no IT, Finance and Operations others than subset specialisms of PST. When implementing this structure, people appear to be attracted to different parts of the profile. I'm not going to say there are different characteristics of people but a tendency of people to be happier with certain parts of the profile. Also the cultures of each part are different - pioneers operate better in an environment which is different to town planners. Finally, each part of the profile is important for a company's current and future health.

Hence I was piqued by Lou Adler's post on there being 'only four types of jobs in the world' because in a PST world (based upon evolution) there are only three.  Oh and for reference the difference between Lou's post and the much earlier PST structure is the Pioneers are the builders, Settlers are the improvers, Town Planners are the producers and contrary to Lou's assertion, all three groups contain thinkers. I've seen more recent work (at Greenwich University) which seems to support this structure further.

However, this is not the key point. I happen to have created and experienced a PST structure and seen equivalents and whilst there isn't enough data to statistically prove it is vastly better beyond reasonable doubt, it is more inline with how things evolve and my experience tells me it is a vast improvement in terms of innovation and efficiency.

But there is a significant wow which I slipped in the above. That wow is that under structures like PST (and equivalents) then a single company requires three separate cultures to work effectively. In much the same way there is not a single size fits all management method for projects, there is not a single size fits all for culture. There maybe common elements but the culture and type of people for each stage is different. 

This is pretty much counter to everything which is written on organisational culture today. That's the big wow of mapping and if you're embarking on a mapping journey, this is where it will lead you. I know because I've been there.

Oh, and why wow? Because if the above is right, then there are far more effective organisational forms than what exists today. Companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook etc aren't the permanent titans that people make them out to be. They can be taken.

Oh, and what happened to Fotango? Well, as far I know it was a bunch of strategy consultants that persuaded the parent company the future was in 3D television and variants thereof rather then the stuff Fotango was doing in 2005 - namely 3D printing, mobile phones as camera, platform as a service, server side javascript, automation, continuous deployment, infrastructure as a service, nosql like object data stores, online visual scrapbooks ... oh, it was a depressingly long list. 

I'm not a fan of big name strategy consultancy firms. In my world they take the 'kick' out of 'kick ass'.

"Write me something fresh and new, but make it just like the last one" | by Charlie Stross | 18 April 2014, 09:13 PM

So, I was making slow but steady headway on "Invisible Sun" (Merchant Princes: The Next Generation #3) when I got bitten this morning by an Attack Novel. I mean, a rabid one. So far, I've confined myself to writing the first 2500 words of an outline; I plan to finish it today, stick it in a drawer to cool (or until the urge to create becomes irresistible), then go back to "Invisible Sun".

This isn't a unique event. You might have noticed Wednesday's wholly inappropriate blog entry about a political satire/thriller that is utterly unsaleable, revolving around the identity of the 2016 Republican Party Candidate for POTUS.

But there's more.

A couple of weeks ago, having publicly said a month earlier that I wisnae gonnae go there, I farted up a wholly new idea for another Near Future Scottish Police Procedural a la "Halting State"/"Rule 34"—only with a very different focus, and so different that I probably can't shoe-horn it into the niche of "The Lambda Functionary" (the planned third book in the trilogy). (It's about the homicide detective with a brain implant that keeps him from thinking he's dead, a viral encephalopathy pandemic that causes Cotard's Delusion, and an enforcer who goes around turning off zombies who've hacked the DRM on their implants. Yes, it's a cognitive zombie detective novel. No, I still can't write it—not until after we're past the Scottish political singularity. But at least I now know what it's about.)

And (I can admit it now) last summer I squirted out an entire unscheduled attack novel, "The Armageddon Score". It's a Laundry Files novel, but narrated by Mo, not Bob, and gives us a very different view of what's going on in the run-up to CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. (Hopefully it'll come out next July.)

Anyway. I may be slow on the uptake, but I finally figured out what's going on in my head.

In 2008 I published "Saturn's Children". This was followed by "Wireless", a short story collection, and since then, every novel I have sold, written, or published has been part of an existing continuity or series.

It's true. If it's Laundry Files, it's in series. If it's Merchant Princes, it's in series. "Neptune's Brood" is in continuity with "Saturn's Children", and "Rule 34" was in continuity with "Halting State". I'm leaving out "The Rapture of the Nerds" because a collaboration is effectively a different author ...

... But I'm suffering withdrawal symptoms from creating something entirely ab initio.

Partly it's my own fault (Laundry Files novels are now pretty comfortable—I have a Method—and the Merchant Princes are a known quantity too), and partly it's a side-effect of the structure of publishing companies. While it's the job of a senior editor to acquire new books, another part of the job (which the public don't get to see) is that the editor has to sell the idea of the book to their marketing team, who in turn have to go forth and motivate the buyers for the various bookstore chains and wholesalers. It is much easier to sell another book in a series than to sell something wholly new, because it's simply that much easier to explain. You can replace a whole lot of brain-sweat and communication with a simple, "this is the next one in that series you sold last year". And so, whenever my agent and I sit down with an editor to discuss what I can write next year, we instinctively focus on what we sold last year.

But eventually something's got to give. Right now I'm writing the third volume of "Merchant Princes: The Next Generation". It will be followed by the rewrite/submission draft of Laundry Files book 6, and then (almost certainly) by Laundry Files book 7. By the time I've written "The Nightmare Stacks" in, say, early 2015, it will have been seven years since I was last let off the leash to write something wholly original. Nine novels will have passed under the bridge since then, in existing series. And I can feel the pressure to do something new beginning to build up.

PS: In case you were wondering? The outline I'm writing is for a Gothic architectural urban fantasy novel about a slowly dying family of magicians and the effects of the housing bubble on their ancestral home. And I am going to try not to write it before I've finished "Invisible Sun".

The Films I've Watched This Year #14 | by feeling listless | 18 April 2014, 09:59 PM

Film I've just spent the past half an hour trying to remember the film I watched last Sunday night, eventually resorting to glancing through Last.FM to see if whatever it was inspired me to seek out connected music as happened with Drinking Buddies and found I'd been listening to The Swingle Singers that night and then remembered I hadn't watched a film at all but instead had read this month's Sight and Sound Magazine's article about pre-code Hollywood cinema.  I should really have remembered because just afterwards I had one of my periodic existential viewing crises in which I realise I may be watching some films because I feel like I should rather than because I necessarily want to (see previous existential reading crisis for more information) and decided to, well we'll get to that.  The upshot was I deleted almost everything on my Amazon Instant, Netflix and Lovefilm-by-post lists and started again.  I'm tired of just watching films made in the past couple of years ...

Drinking Buddies
Easy A
Gray's Anatomy
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
Premium Rush
The Last Airbender
Out of Sight

... though the best new film I saw this week was Drinking Buddies and it was released this year so, well, shrugs.  High end mainstream mumblecore from director Joe Swanberg, this stars Olivia Wilde , Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston as a what, love square? cube? set around a brewing factory and the imbibing of its contents.  I throw the term mainstream mumblecore around, but on this occasion the genre lines are especially bleary since it's not doing that much which is different to the average indie comedy drama, but yet it's also arguable that Swanberg isn't not working within his usual creative throughline except with actors people will recognise and that if Olivia Wilde et al weren't in this and it had been shot on 16mm it wouldn't simply be mumblecore.  If this had starred Greta Gerwig and Mark Duplass and been shot ten years ago, it'd be mumblecore plain and simple.  Except what was mumblecore was to begin with other than a handy marketing term, a way of characterising those films to college students and hipsters and hipster college students?

Anyway, so yes, Drinking Buddies.  Well, Drinking Buddies is first and foremost about showing the world that Olivia Wilde can act in films.  She's one of the executive producers and you can see why she'd be attracted because it allows her to simply exist in the frame and have an easy chemistry with her co-stars over longer takes as opposed to her usual film roles which have tended to be in action films where she's lucky is a close up lasts more than a few nanoseconds or House which I've never seen but because it's network genre television I imagine only gave her a very limited box to work in.  On the basis of her work in Drinking Buddies, I'm thinking of catching up (assuming House turns up on one of the streaming services).  She has an instant likeability and her scenes with Johnson (and his amazing beard) are beguiling as another man and woman try to be friends without the sex part getting in the way.

Which isn't to say all paradigms are swerved.  Like When Harry Met Sally, there are periods when the narrative agency, which is mostly with Wilde is handed over to Johnson when their character's friendship runs into difficulties.  Similarly it's a rare occasion when Anna Kendrick hides her light under a bushel, plays the slightly mousy other woman.  But unlike, pertinently, What to Expect When You're Expecting, the characters are so damn likeable, the scenario so damn interesting, with Ron Livingston about as full on as Ron Livingston tends be these days, that you are able to sort of ignore it.  Largely improvised, there are moments when you wonder if Swanberg simply let the camera keep rolling at the end of the take and a glance at the outtake reel shows that's pretty much what he did in places with Johnson and Wilde and Kendrick unable to keep a straight face and making each other giggle just as their characters do in the actual film.  Marvellous.

The other two main strands this week have been the continuation of #soderberghwatch which we'll, well ok, I'll talk about in a minute and working my way through all the films the Youtube channel Cinema Sins has covered in their Everything Wrong With... videos so I can get all of the jokes which is what led me to finally seeing Carrie and sitting through Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins and Racist Cartoon Adaptation #534.  At first glance both films have the remit of trying to be the new Harry Potter, and as with that franchise and to be fair Buffy The Vampire Slayer, we have the same character structure of "the one" helped by her two best friends, a boy who's most comic relief and strong willed girl.  Not just Buffy.  Even Sherlock's arguably adopted it in recent years and it's even come and gone in Doctor Who.  Rory and Amy especially, though Jamie and Zoe before that.  Interestingly, this doesn't quite map onto the Vladimir Prop's morphology of the folk tale.  The characters are there, but the structure isn't quite.

At first glance these films both seems to be doing much the same thing, exploring ancient mythology through the eyes of children or young adults.  The difference is one's better than expected and the other makes you feel sorry for Dev Patel who clearly thought he was signing up for the new Star Wars.  Is it worth rehearsing again the litany of problems The Last Airbender has?  The Honest Movie Trailer pretty much does the job, but there's a general sense of a creative failure even before filming began with a director, actors and massed ranks of the crew trying to make the best of it.  A lot of the problems are there in the script, with poor character introductions, inconsistent plotting and a general sense that someone at some stage should have  at least glanced at a synopsis of Vladimir Prop's morphology of the folk tale.  Most of the time it simply looks like the CG budget was drastically cut leading to whole action sequences being reduced to the minimum of shots and effects needed to tell what story there is.  Awful.  Awful.  Awful.

In contrast, Percy Jackson's not half as bad as its reputation suggests.  It is Harry Potter with Greek mythology, but there's an almost metafictional understanding of itself that somehow makes it work.  It's essentially an ITV version of Potter which makes the Ron Weasley character a sexual deviant with goats hooves, the Hermione character a warrior whose actress Alexandra Daddario will be an ideal Wonder Woman in about ten years when DC inevitably reboot and in Logan Lerman a central screen presence who's more immediately likeable than Daniel Radcliffe which is unfair of course because he's here fully formed whereas part of the charm of the Harry Potter series is in seeing these younger actors learning their trade.  The story's hogwash, a meaningless quest for marbles or some such, but it's really difficult to not like a film which has Piers Brosnan as centaur with the horses legs and everything and the brass balls to have Steve Coogan apparently playing Alan Partridge playing Hades.  The sequel is already in my Lovefilm queue.

Also better than expected is Premium Rush, the little actioner that could.  Unusually for an experimental Joseph Gordon Levitt starrer, Rotten Tomatoes thinks it's fresh, and I do to.  Set amongst bicycle couriers in New York, it has in its DNA the likes of Run Lola Run and The French Connection as JGL has to deliver a package and is chased across half of the city for it by Michael Shannon in full on Warner Bros cartoon mode.  Joe's character's called Wilee just in case we missed the point.  Despite the less than subtle flashback structure, this is an old fashioned actioner with a series of ticking clocks but importantly about a very small story that not about saving the world but offering a single character the chance at a new one.  If Shannon had been allowed this level of wacky as General Zod, that film would have been twice as amusing as he spends most of this cursing out of the corner of his mouth, his eyes boggling with rage as he's unable to make his car attempt any of the tricks Gordon Levitt's cyclist is capable of.

On then to watching all of Steven Soderbergh's films in order.  Though reputation suggests otherwise, Soderbergh's wilderness years only really amounted to two films.  The Underneath did moderate business for what it was, but the underlying point was that the director's auteur gene wasn't being flexed.  He's recently said of his early King of the Hill that it's "too beautiful" but arguably it's also anomalous.  None of his films until this point particularly feel like the work of a single director and you could suspect that Soderbergh was concerned that he'd end up as a bit of a journeyman producing a series of well respected and sometimes classic films but without a particular directorial voice.  John Boorman in other words (not that he's ever said that).  Michael Apted.  One of those figures.  He'd end up being the Sex, Lies guy for the rest of his life apparently capable of creative risks but stymied by the work he can get funded unable to get the more interesting material into production, so stuck as the genre guy.  John Dahl.

So he makes Schizopolis.  This is creatively important for two reasons.  (1)  It shows that he's willing to return to square one if necessary and make a low budget indie few people might want to see and (2)  that he's willing to keep doing that until he has full creative control.  In truth, though bits of it are very funny, especially the language games in the domestic scenes, large sections of it are unwatchable in much the same way as most sketch anthology films are, notably Python.  If Soderbergh had turned this out instead of Sex, Lies quite simply he'd have a career making art films which would only be shown in the kind of c-list festivals which have a catering budget that can stretch, just about, to pretzels.  Yet, as a creative document it's a marvel as rather like Radcliffe et al in the Potters, we see Soderbergh learning his craft from scratch, what film is capable of and stylistically it's one of the first of his films which genuinely feels like one of his films (helped obviously by the fact he's in almost every shot).

So be makes Gray's Anatomy.  This is creatively important for two reasons.  (1)  It shows that he's willing to return to square one if necessary and make a low budget indie a few people might want to see and (2)  that he's willing to keep doing that until he has full creative control.  In truth, though bits of it are very funny, especially the section about Gray visiting the psychic surgeon, large sections of it are unwatchable in much the same way as most monologue films are, notably The Telephone.  If Soderbergh had turned this out instead of Sex, Lies quite simply he'd have a career directing the kind of off broadway theatre reviewed in c-list free sheets and which have a PR catering budget that can, just about, stretch to Quavers.  Yet, as a creative document it's a marvel as rather like Olivia Wilde in Drinking Buddies, we see Soderbergh relearning his craft from scratch, what film is capable of and stylistically it's one of the first of his films which genuinely feels like one of his films (even though Spalding Gray is in every shot).

That Out of Sight is his next film is some creative step up, especially since it's arguably the best film of his career.  Except, there's nothing in here which he hasn't already done before.  The golden colour palette in the Florida scenes is pure King of the Kill contrasted with the Detroit scenes which borrow their look from The Underneath.  But it's in the use of hand held camera and editing that we seeing the fruition of experiments begun in Schizopolis, especially the use of changes in time frame.  The real miracle are the performances as we can see George Clooney's later career mapped out in front of him as a bona fide movie star as it had in no films previously and Jennifer Lopez turns in a career best performance.  It's unfair but the trajectory from this to What To Expect shows a career path heading in the opposite direction to that which it should.  The rot set in with The Cell and creatively at least her acting career never recovered.  If only she'd allowed her character to become the Elmore Leonard equivalent of Charters and Coldicot or some such.  That would have been fuuun.

Why Don’t We Want Our TV Series to End? | by Three Quarks Daily | 18 April 2014, 08:33 PM


Elizabeth Alsop in the LA Review of Books:

IT’S A GOOD TIME to be a canceled show. Last May, Netflix sent the viewing public into paroxysms when it released the fourth season ofArrested Development, which last aired on Fox in 2006. A month earlier, Rob Thomas made Kickstarter history when fans of his UPN series Veronica Mars massively overfunded — by three million dollars! — the show’s “return” as a feature-length film, now playing in theaters. Since then, former AMC series The Killing has been granted new life by Netflix, defunct soaps like All My Children and One Life to Live have been revived as streaming web series, and NBC’s Heroes, it was just announced, will return in rebooted and “reborn” form this summer.

There are, it seems, second acts in American television. Or, as Lacey Roseput it in The Hollywood Reporter, “canceled doesn’t necessarily mean canceled anymore.” Instead, shows like 24, Futurama, Unforgettable, and Cougartownhave become the beneficiaries of a new televisual world order, whereby any series threatened with cancelation can be, in Rose’s words, “revived thanks to creative deal-making,” or — in the case of NBC’s Community — rescued by socially-mediated displays of viewer displeasure.[1]

All of this, of course, hardly comes as news. Back in 2012, New Yorkmagazine’s Matt Zoller Seitz was already bemoaning the rise of “zombified” media; the byproduct, in part, of new and more potent forms of fan empowerment. Since then, critics have been eager to read the cultural tea leaves. There’s been no shortage of speculation about what this wave of revivals could cumulatively portend for television makers and viewers in the 21st century.

Yet despite the critical attention to this phenomenon, there’s been comparatively little curiosity about the psychology behind it.

More here.

The Intellectual and Other Wanderings of Walter Benjamin | by Three Quarks Daily | 18 April 2014, 08:31 PM


Peter Gordon in The New Republic:

Walter Benjamin passed some of the happiest moments of his life wandering shirtless in the sun on the Spanish island of Ibiza. In a letter in 1932, he wrote that the little Mediterranean island lacked modern conveniences, such as “electric light and butter, liquor and running water, flirting and newspaper reading.” The nearest village boasted a mere seven hundred inhabitants, who got by without modern farm equipment: the economy ran mostly on goats. During his two stays there, in 1932 and 1933, Benjamin strolled the beaches and explored the island’s interior in the company of his friend Jean Selz, who would recall that “Benjamin’s physical stoutness and the rather Germanic heaviness he presented were in strong contrast to the agility of his mind, which so often made his eyes sparkle behind his glasses.” Together they took long walks through the countryside, but the walks were “made even longer by our conversations, which constantly forced him to stop. He admitted that walking kept him from thinking. Whenever something interested him he would say, ‘Tiens, tiens!’ This was the signal that he was about to think, and therefore stop.” Among the German guests on the island this idiosyncrasy was well-known and they gave the strange apparition a nickname: “Tiens-tiens.” The village locals called him el miserable. It is true that Benjamin was poor and prone to depression. But out of each day he crafted a scholar’s idyll: he rose early and bathed in the ocean, then ascended the hills to his favorite spot, where he retrieved a hidden lounge chair from the bushes. He sat there among the fig trees for the full length of the morning, writing, or reading Lucretius.

We do not imagine Benjamin on the beach. He was a poet of the city, one of the most probing critics of the bourgeois experience. In manifold essays and books, some of them fragmentary and left unpublished until much later, he sought to portray modern life in all its richness and variety—its literature, its dreams, its cultural detritus. Like a ragpicker in the marketplace (this was his own comparison), nothing seemed to him without significance.

More here.

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