MonthJune 2009

How to buy happiness

MSN has an article on how to spend your money to optimize happiness.

1. Relationships

2. Time

3. Health

4. Learning

5. Debt relief

6. Giveaways

7. Security

MSN: 7 smart ways to buy happiness

The Kitty Genovese model

I think that one of the greatest fallacies of our time — and one of the greatest leaps in logic that is made again and again by people who involve themselves in the worthwhile struggle to bring equality to all people — is the notion that awareness equals involvement. By providing a way for the world to see the terrible things occurring in Iran right now, we believe that we are somehow “doing something” about the problem — that we are, in some way, affecting change.

I don’t argue that this is sometimes the case. Many times, in specific sorts of circumstances, the rallying cry of “the world is watching!” is enough to defuse a dangerous situation. But many other times, it’s not, and the only person who is empowered or even enervated by global awareness of tyranny and oppression is the person watching events unfold…not the person in the middle of them.

Twenty years ago, the world watched on television and in the pages of magazines and newspapers as a young man, anonymous to this very day, stood in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, as part of a protest that served as a memorial for recently deceased official Hu Yaobang. His act served as a sort of visual icon for the resistence of the common man against the repression of totalitarianism, and is rightly regarded as deeply heroic. It also served to draw international attention to China’s brutal policies of self-censorship and intellectual repression.

Unfortunately, nobody knows what happened to that young man. Given what has been seen in other cases of protest in China, it’s likely that the poor guy is either long dead or serving out a prison sentence somewhere. And in the twenty years since that day, China has made only sporadic and small progress in the human rights arena, despite the efforts of millions of people in government, non-governmental organizations, human rights watchdog organizations, and the simple negative public opinion of probably billions of people around the world, who felt righteous indignation on behalf of that anonymous hero, unable to legitimately protest his government’s actions in his own land.

Zenarchery: The Kitty Genovese model

See also:

Grim Meathook Future

Let Them Eat iPods

Why there’s no such thing as a Twitter revolution

The plight of Roma in Europe

The latest spate of racist attacks on over 100 Romanian people in Northern Ireland is part of a growing trend of discrimination against Roma people across Europe, Amnesty International has said.

Around 20 families of Roma people from Romania were forced to flee their homes in Belfast after coming under sustained attack for a number of nights. A crowd is reported to have gathered outside their homes shouting racist slogans, smashing windows and kicking in doors.

The Roma initially sought refuge in the City Church in South Belfast on Tuesday. They have subsequently been transferred by Northern Ireland authorities to temporary accommodation in a leisure centre elsewhere in the city.

Amnesty International has investigated and responded to similar attacks on the Roma in Europe, including in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia, in the past year.

Amnesty International: Belfast Roma attacks highlight European racism issue

An institutionalised crime against the Roma people is taking place in eastern Europe. A forthcoming report from Human Rights Watch documents an ongoing scandal at Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo, which began 10 years ago in the wake of the looting and burning to the ground of the entire settlement known as the Roma Mahalla.

This was once a vibrant home to some 8,000 people, most of them Muslims. But the inhabitants fled, fearing attacks by ethnic Albanians who saw the Roma as “collaborators” with the Serbs, with whom they share a language. Some 6,500 of these Mitrovica Roma have never returned – indeed, only about a tenth of a prewar population of 200,000 Kosovan Roma remain. The Nato-led Kosovo Force did not intervene at the time in the blighting of the Mahalla, but the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was quick to help the newly homeless, organising food and, over some months, places to live until their settlement could be restored.

However, these makeshift camps – with the exception of one installed in an old Yugoslav army barracks 30 miles (48km) away – are situated by the dams of an old lead mine, beside a three-storey-high “black mountain”, or toxic slag heap, “at the epicentre of contamination”, according to Wanda Troszczynska Van Genderen, a researcher with Human Rights Watch (HRW) and author of the report. The defunct Trepca mine complex constitutes an entire region long known for its toxicity and therefore being unsuitable even for temporary use, let alone a decade of inactivity and neglect.

The Guardian: Abused, driven out and poisoned: the scandal of the Kosovo Roma

US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive

The government looking at expanding a pioneering scheme in Flint, one of the poorest US cities, which involves razing entire districts and returning the land to nature.

Local politicians believe the city must contract by as much as 40 per cent, concentrating the dwindling population and local services into a more viable area.

The radical experiment is the brainchild of Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County, which includes Flint.

Having outlined his strategy to Barack Obama during the election campaign, Mr Kildee has now been approached by the US government and a group of charities who want him to apply what he has learnt to the rest of the country.

Mr Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think-tank, as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes.

Most are former industrial cities in the “rust belt” of America’s Mid-West and North East. They include Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Memphis.

Telegraph: US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive

Previously: Parts of Flint May Go Feral

Just Married

Thought I’d let everyone know why it’s been quiet here lately: Jillian and I are in Wyoming visiting family and friends – and just got legally married. We’ll be having a proper ceremony next summer, though.

The Top 10 Most Absurd Time Covers of The Past 40 Years

time magazine satan occult revival

10. June 19, 1972: The Occult Revival
9. April 5, 1976: The Porno Plague
8. August 6, 1984: The Population Curse
7. September 15, 1986: Drugs: The Enemy Within
6. May 7, 1990: Dirty Words
5. May 13, 1991: Crack Kids
4. July 3, 1995: Cyberporn: On a Screen Near You
3. Nov 22, 1999: Pokemon!
2. March 19, 2001: The Columbine Effect
1. June 7, 2004: Overcoming Obesity in America

Reason: The Top 10 Most Absurd Time Covers of The Past 40 Years

See also: Fox News Journalistic Masterpieces.

Free virtual engineering/science course from Johns Hopkins University

The labs listed below are WWW-based engineering/science experiments developed for beginning science and engineering students. The objective of the course and the virtual laboratory is to introduce students to experimentation, problem solving, data gathering, and scientific interpretation early in their careers–perhaps as high school seniors or college freshmen. Ordinarily this exposure would be offered to students in their junior or senior year in a design lab.

The experiments which follow are written in JAVA and are fully interactive. As such, they require that the student access them using the Web browser Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 (or later) operating within a 32-bit operating system (e.g., Windows 95, Windows NT, Unix) and with a display capability of at least 256 colors. (Netscape 3.01 (or later) may also be used with these modules. But, within some operating systems, this browser introduces idiosyncracies in the modules’ operation. Earlier versions of Netscape, including 3.0, will not work.) Further, within these experiments are MPEG movie sequences which may require additional software–an MPEG viewer, e.g., VMPEGWIN which is available as demonstration shareware (sufficient for these experiments). This is a project under development. Expect modifications ( and additions and removals).

Johns Hopkins University: Virtual Laboratory

Your company as your laboratory

When I was at CD Baby, I’d be able to play with new ideas immediately. (“What if we had a $5 sale?” “What if I could co-op card swipers?” “What if I could go multi-lingual?”) Any time I had an idea, I’d be able to test it out within days.

But now, for the first time in 10 years, since I had no company, I couldn’t test out these new ideas! All I could do was read, think, and maybe write about it. Damn!

Then I realized why I need to start a new company. Not for the money. Not because I’m “bored”. But because a company is a laboratory to try your ideas. (The word “laboratory” is defined as a room for research, experimentation or analysis. I think of it as a sandbox or playpen.)

Derek Sivers: Why you need your own company

(via Josh Kaufman)

Cognitive Training Can Alter Biochemistry Of The Brain

Follow-up related to the dual n-back test and its use in intelligence amplification:

Researchers at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet have shown for the first time that the active training of the working memory brings about visible changes in the number of dopamine receptors in the human brain. The study, which is published in the journal Science, was conducted with the help of PET scanning and provides deeper insight into the complex interplay between cognition and the brain’s biological structure. […]

Professor Klingberg and his colleagues have previously shown that the working memory can be improved with a few weeks’ intensive training. Through a collaborative project conducted under the Stockholm Brain Institute, the researchers have now taken a step further and monitored the brain using Positron Emission Tomography (PET scans), and have confirmed that intensive brain training leads to a change in the number of dopamine D1 receptors in the cortex.

Science Daily: Cognitive Training Can Alter Biochemistry Of The Brain

Previously: Increase your intelligence with 20mins a day brain excerise

Dual n-back training apps:

Soak Your Head (Microsoft Silverline based)

Cognitive Fun (Javascript based)

Brain Workshop (Windows, Mac, possibly Linux)

hback (Linux)

N-Back Suite (iPhone)

IQ Boost (iPhone)

Luxury Condo Being Turned into Homeless Shelter

Instead of boarding up an unoccupied luxury condo in Crown Heights and letting it fall into disrepair, the owner has done the unthinkable: arranged to let homeless people live there. […]

The city is paying about $2,700 a month for each apartment, which also covers social services like job counseling. Shriki says, “At least we still own the building and we are paying our mortgage, so that’s good. The outcome is not as bad as some people I know who had to surrender the whole building to the bank.”

Gothamist: Luxury Condo Being Turned into Homeless Shelter

(via Disinfo)

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