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Reign of the Crazy Ants

crazy-ants

It sounds like something out of a horror movie, but it’s real:

Outside, dead ants began pooling around the base of the house in heaps so high that they looked like discarded coffee grounds. (It’s common in Texas these days for a person who is shown one of these heaps of dead ants to take several seconds to realize that the solid surface he or she is scanning for ants actually is the ants.) Mike laid out poison, generating more heaps of dead ants. But new ants merely used those dead ants as a bridge over the poison and kept streaming inside.

“They literally come in waves of just millions,” Mike told me. (One Texas A&M entomologist confessed, “You figure these stories are laced with hyperbole, but when you get in there, it’s unreal.”) People don’t want to visit the Foshees anymore, and if they do, they leave quickly, before the ants can stow away in their cars and accompany them home. This summer, Mike had to cancel Therapy Through the Outdoors. Recently, he and his wife were sitting outside, watching a pair of bald eagles settle into a pecan tree for the evening, when Mike looked down and saw one of his bare feet overtaken by ants. He remembers thinking, No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, running inside and running back out with his AR-15, the assault rifle he uses to take out hogs. He was about to open fire on the ants until his wife chuckled and he realized how ridiculous the situation had become.

“The distressing part,” he told me, “is having the feeling of something always crawling on you. Like, if you get around somebody who has lice, and now you’re always itching because you know they have lice.”

“So it’s psychological,” I said.

“It’s psychological,” he said. “And yet, you actually do have them on you.”

He tried leaving different foods on his floor overnight, to figure out how he might bait and kill the ants, as he did with the feral hogs. He tried doughnuts, crushed-up Cheerios, bread crumbs — “anything a normal ant would be attracted to,” he told me. He claims they touched none of it.

He can’t fathom what the ants want — why they’ve come. They are frightening because they make no sense, because of the utter disarray of their existence. “They run around the floors like they’re on crack, and then they die,” he said. “They’re freakin’ crazy, man.”

Full Story: New York Times: There’s a Reason They Call Them ‘Crazy Ants’

(via Tim Maly)

Central Asia is already “Post-Apocalyptic”

post apocalyptic

Asher Kohn writes:

You don’t need burnt pastures, bleached bones, and a trickle of muddy water in order to understand the apocalypse, as much as it may help. The apocalypse, after all, is more than the destruction of an environment. The apocalypse is the destruction of not only the world, but of the worldview. The apocalypse is the disassembly of the subconscious and the dramatic unwinding of all of those subconscious preconceptions we use to even get out of bed in the morning. Living in a post-apocalyptic world is living in time beyond God.[...]

Central Asia is, both defiantly and tragically, a land without a narrative. The region, defined by Slavs + Tatars as “an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China known as Eurasia,” has been home to a series of axis-tilting events, and has the history to prove it. The history of Central Asia is in many ways a history of eschatologies; not a graveyard of empires but perhaps a graveyard of belief systems. The Volga Huns of course produced Attila, who annihilated Europe west of the Danube. Less than a millenium later, Hulagu Khan laid waste to Baghdad, and Tatar rulers towered over Kiev and Moscow. If Tamerlane is included in this lineup, one could say that for most of the Earth’s time since Christ, Central Asia has produced armies that have taken on an eschatological meaning in others’ narratives. Michael Hancock Parmer notes the use of a common nickname of these empire builders, remarking that a “‘Scourge of God’ is a tool of divine punishment, an atoning skin-flaying from the Lord. Apocryphally, Temujin (Genghis Khan) claimed the title for himself at the sack of Bukhara, the legend of which lives on in Uzbekistan.”

Full Story: The State: A Pleasant Post-Apocalypse

See also: Why Humans Will Survive the Next World-Ending Catastrophe

There Is No Way to Stop Space Rocks From Hurtling to Earth and Killing You

I just finished a new Psychetect track last night. Hopefully I’ll be able to share it with you before Space Kills Us All:

Space is out to kill you. There is no way to stem its aggression. But it’s usually an incompetent killer, so don’t freak out. [...]

All the advanced air defenses that humanity has invested in? The interceptor missile that are (sometimes) able to stop an adversary missile from impacting? The early-warning monitoring systems that are supposed to give humanity enough time to plan a response? They are useless, useless against a meteorite onslaught. Do not believe the stories about the Russians shooting the cosmic rock down. [...]

But there’s good news. Space rocks are lousy shots. The Earth is mostly ocean and uninhabited areas. The frequency of meteorite impacts is correlated with size, Weeden explains, and the smaller the meteorites, the more often they land. “But the places where people are is actually pretty small,” he says. Even the injuries that occurred at Chelyabinsk were mostly concussions and accidents from shattered glass, not from the meteorite itself. Close but no cigar, space: “Your odds of dying by a meteor are pretty damn small. You’re thousands of times more likely to die by car on way to work.”

Full Story: Wired Danger Room: There Is No Way to Stop Space Rocks From Hurtling to Earth and Killing You

Man, Space must really hate Siberia.

The Future Doesn’t Work

Joshua Ellis wrote a follow-up to his Grim Meathook Future thing thing for Grinding:

It’s my experience that most venture capitalists and serial entrepreneur types are almost identical, personality-wise, to the street hustlers and drug dealers whose acquaintance I’ve made over the years. They may wear polo shirts instead of Fubu and spend their money on organic produce instead of custom hubcap rims, but they operate on the same principle: waking up every day figuring out new ways to get paid. Whether these ways are good for society as a whole, or even for the person who’s doing the paying, is a minor consideration next to the paycheck itself. And if you’re not a means to that end, well, fuck you. More than once, I’ve seen the exact same behavior in a Stanford-educated dot.com startup founder at a tech meetup and a smacked-out panhandler on the Las Vegas Strip: they’re all smiles and handshakes when they approach you, but as soon as they realize you’re not a potential mark with an open wallet you can watch their eyes go dead and look right through you, on to the next target.

I hate these people and wouldn’t piss on most of them if they were on fire, but that’s fine; I hate bankers and lawyers too, like every other blowhard bohemian iconoclast does, and I doubt any of them are losing any sleep over it. What bothers me is that we’ve effectively put these walking hardons in charge of building that capital-F Future, in every sector of the innovation industry, from genetically grown food to biotechnology to communications to spaceship-building.

And none of them, not a single one, is interested in any Future if they can’t sell it for a serious profit. Nor do they care if the process of selling and profiting leaves a swath of collateral damage the size of a Gulf Coast oil spill in its wake.

Grinding: Joshua Ellis revisits the Grim Meathook Future

Charlie Stross was pushing this meme recently as well:

Shorter version: a big chunk of the “accelerating change” meme actually emerges from our experience of the future shock induced by our Martian invaders — the corporatist liquidation or privatisation of human social structures not mediated by money, culminating ultimately in the experience of disaster capitalism.

Yes, there is rapid technological progress in some areas. It’s not all bad. But the beneficiaries of that particular shift (a narrow technological elite, and their masters in the shape of the 0.1%, the financial/social engineers who direct the new hive-organism aristocracy) have made a fetish out of change, ignoring (for the most part) the uncomfortable fact that “creative destruction” is an oxymoron.

Charlie Stross: Deconstructing our future

See also: Left Behind: The Singularity and the Developing World.

The BP Spill and Why It’s Worse Than We All Think

Update: Another reason that it’s so incredibly horrible: The vast majority of the Exxon Valdez cleaners are now dead, with an average life expectancy of 51 years. (Thanks to Wade for the reminder)

My wife Jililan explains why the BP oil spill is worse than we think:

1. THEY KNEW IT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN.
2. THEY ARE NOT “ONE BAD APPLE”
3. WE WILL CONTINUE TO HEAR EMPTY PROMISES OF GREENING UP OUR ENERGY PROBLEMS, AND YET WASHINGTON WILL CONTINUE TO DO NOTHING.
4. BOYCOTTING ONE GAS COMPANY DOESN’T DO A THING.
5. EVEN IF WE DRIVE LESS, OUR LIVES ARE INEXTRICABLY LINKED TO PETROLEUM.
6. BP IS DUMPING MORE TOXIC WASTE INTO THE GULF AS PART OF THEIR “CLEANUP”
7. THE GOVERNMENT HAS DONE EVERYTHING IT CAN TO MAKE SURE BP COMES OUT ON TOP OF ALL OF THIS.
8. SO… HOW MUCH OIL IS REALLY GUSHING INTO THE GULF OF MEXICO?

Each point is expanded upon, with references.

Prime Surrealestate: The BP Spill and Why It’s Worse Than We All Think

See also: Some Oil Spill Related Articles Worth Your Attention

How the Net aids dictatorships

Evgeny Morozov makes a case similar to the one I made in my essay “Birthers adn the Democratization of Media“, only looking at dictatorships abroad (specificaly Iran and China).

F.D.I.C. May Borrow Funds From Banks

Not from the Onion:

Tired of the government bailing out banks? Get ready for this: officials may soon ask banks to bail out the government.

Senior regulators say they are seriously considering a plan to have the nation’s healthy banks lend billions of dollars to rescue the insurance fund that protects bank depositors, The New York Times’s Stephen Labaton reports. That would enable the fund, which is rapidly running out of money because of a wave of bank failures, to continue to rescue the sickest banks.

The plan, strongly supported by bankers and their lobbyists, would be a major reversal of fortune.

New York Times: F.D.I.C. May Borrow Funds From Banks

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