Sticks and stones, words and bombs.

So, yes, there is reason for Israelis, and for Jews generally, to think long and hard about the dark Hitler era at this particular time. For the significance of the Gaza Flotilla incident lies not in the questions raised about violations of international law on the high seas, or even about “who assaulted who” first on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, but in the larger questions raised about our common human condition by Israel’s occupation policies and its devastation of Gaza’s civilian population.

→ Haaretz, Henry Siegman: Israel’s Greatest Loss: Its Moral Imagination

“Every time I drop a bomb and kill one innocent Afghan, I set the war back — even if I killed 100 Taliban,” he says. And maybe, Grasso admits, he was a little overeager to drop bombs last year. “When you’ve got a truckload of food, everyone looks hungry. So when everything looks suspicious, when you’re looking for suspicious stuff, you almost want it to be suspicious.”

→ Wired, Noah Shachtman: How the Afghanistan Air War Got Stuck in the Sky


→ Wikileaks Wardiary: (ENEMY ACTION) DIRECT FIRE RPT (Small Arms) 2/8 USMC : 0 INJ/DAM

Avoidance speech, or “mother-in-law languages”, is a feature of many Australian Aboriginal languages, some North American languages and Bantu languages of Africa whereby in the presence of certain relatives it is taboo to use everyday speech style, and instead a special speech style must be used.

→ Wikipedia: Avoidance Speech

This is, perhaps, the most troublesome use of a generally troublesome mark. That said, the basic rule for possessives is quite straightfoward: to denote possession, put an apostrophe and a lower-case ‘s’ at the end of the noun (ie person, place or thing) which owns. So we have: Somebody else’s thoughts on the subject of possessive apostrophes.

→ Between Borders, Brian Forte: Mind Your Apostrophes

More than half of the semicolons one sees, I would estimate, should be periods, and probably another quarter should be commas. Far too often, semicolons, like colons, are used to gloss over an imprecise thought. They place two clauses in some kind of relation to one another but relieve the writer of saying exactly what that relation is.

→ Opera, Sex, and Other Vital Matters, Paul Robinson: The Philosophy of Punctuation

Fabbing. Now in real time. Or in China. Or at your place.

A couple of weeks ago The Pirate Factory in Malmö demonstrated their RepRap. There’s Flickr pool of the event up here with a shaky video at the end of it. They’re using a spruced up version from Bits from Bytes which looks slightly less dingy than the RepRap usually does (also, it uses a more powerful microcontroller for driving the printer independently of a computer — apparently an SD card is enough) and judging from the pictures there was a bunch of people present. I wonder which of the pictures are going to be used in Swedish school-books in the future, as illustrations of the fabbing revolution and micro-production…

Speaking of which, Wired has an article up on the current state of how manufacturing companies have become accessible to anyone with a credit card, lowering the cost of admission into mass production to more or less zero. Atoms are the new bits is worth your time if you’re the least interested in these matters, or the future in general. It’s full of interesting links, like the one to, an enormous portal of Chinese manufacturers.

I wonder what the environmental costs will be of bespoke production; To some extent you’ll have less hit-and-miss toys occupying landfills, but this gain might well be offset by increased packaging and shipping, or some other corollary. Also, I wonder if these long-tail manufacturing plants will go global or if China and such countries will retain their head start; We in the west will only ever manufacture wars.

If intellectual properties will become impossible to enforce — something which isn’t certain, given the oppressive laws which are passed to counter transparency and openness — this would indeed shift not only the knowledge of how to do something but also the rational for the existence of a specific company. If you can download the plans for a SAAB, you just need someone to manufacture it. In the end, just as globalization has killed the connection between brand and production — after all, the cheap manufacturing plants exist exactly because of the Export Processing Zones in Vietnam and China — it might well kill the last remnant of Company with a capital “c,” the brand with an address.

These realizations are not lost on industry folk, but no-one wants to admit their own obsolescence, thus there’s no hurry to come up with new business models. The exceptions are Threadless of the world, but those start from the bottom up and don’t have to reinvent themselves; Let’s see how well Apple handles the transition — if at all.

Joren De Wachter has written a summation of the coming upheavals — The Return of the Public Domain — and it’s a text targeting those in the manufacturing & design industry. Even though he’s hopeful, or rather, not fearful, of the technological changes which will change intellectual property as we understand it, his text is very thin on the details of how companies will cope, and focus rather on the knowledge workers themselves. (Proffesional Idea Generators, he calls us, which might actually go as an acronym on my next business card)

However, there is also a very clear positive side to the new developments described above for Professional Idea Generators. The new business models that become necessary will clearly provide them with significant competitive advantages for doing business in an environment where the Public Domain is important. Knowledge and expertise, cost effectiveness, continued innovation and networking are key competences of Professional Idea Generators. This puts them in a very strong position in respect of the new developments.

The sentiment seems to be that “someone will still make money, if they just figure out how to add their own knowledge as a value which can be commodified.” As things stand, only those who make stuff will be needed, those who actually have the tools and raw material to manufacture something. Everyone else is part of the Public Domain. And not only figuratively as someone who designs webpages or new pens, but they themselves become part of the commons, and last time I checked there was a tragedy involved in the commons under any scarcity-driven economic model.

You’re going to need a special secret sauce, armed guards keeping it safe for long enough to sell it. And even then you’re either competing for a nieche audience which wants the exclusive, or your elbowing for space with other companies, competing on price.

And here’s a narrative which might seem familiar: Over at The Millions, there’s an interview with a guy who pirates books, and in the comments section some people are upset over a lack of morals. In ten years time, when your kids are printing modified pirated Nikes, maybe the kneejerk debate will be different, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Home fabbing is killing Nike!

In defence of humanity.

Their arms were then hit with a stick. If they gave off a hard, hollow ring, the freezing process was complete. Separately, naked men and women were subjected to freezing temperatures and then defrosted to study the effects of rotting and gangrene on the flesh.

→ Daily Mail, Christopher Hudson: Doctors of Depravity

But Yuasa, who practiced medicine until he was 84, has been active to this day in exposing some of the darkest secrets of the Imperial army. He is propelled by a sense of guilt, as well as the fear that Japan is on a path toward committing the same mistakes again.

→ Japan Times, Jun Hongo: Vivisectionist recalls his day of reckoning

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

→ H-I-M Jail & Prison Ministry: Hebrews 13:3

Robots can take the soldiers’ places, he said. They can continuously keep watch on an area, and if nefarious activity is spotted, “We can take appropriate action. … We can kill those bastards before they plant the IEDs,” he added. That includes mounting a weapon on the robot, he said.

→ National Defense, Stew Magnuson: Failure to field the right robots costs lives

Why are humans so fascinated by robots? Where is the UK’s most innovative robotics research taking place? And how does the biology of the natural world inform robot design and engineering? In this video interview, Noel Sharkey, professor of robotics and AI at the University of Sheffield, discusses developments in robotics – from the proliferation of robots in Japan’s automotive industry to the stair-climbing dexterity of Honda’s Asimo robot and beyond.

→ Silicon, Artificial Intelligence: Noel Sharkey on the inexorable rise of robots (Via Slashdot)

Rather than guiding a missile to its intended target, Arkin’s robotic guidance system is being designed to reduce the need for humans in harm’s way, “… appropriately designed military robots will be better able to avoid civilian casualties than existing human war fighters and might therefore make future wars more ethical.”

→ H+ Magazine, Surfdaddy Orca: Teaching Robots the Rules of War

The US was paying teenagers “thousands of dollars” to drop infrared tags at the homes of al Qaida suspects so that Predator drones could aim their weapons at them, he added. But often the tags were thrown down randomly, marking out completely innocent civilians for attack.

→ The Telegraph: Military killer robots ‘could endanger civilians’

Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland have found that robots equipped with artificial neural networks and programmed to find “food” eventually learned to conceal their visual signals from other robots to keep the food for themselves.

→ Technology Review, Kristina Grifantini: Robots ‘Evolve’ the Ability to Deceive

Rwanda and the boats from Denmark

I need to increase my carbon footprint lest all the cool kids make fun of me, so I’ve taken to printing articles and reading them on dead trees. While sitting by the docks and counting ferries coming to port, I was reading a piece on Rwandan ex-minister Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the first woman ever charged with genocide. The article focuses on her role in the utterly fucking horrendous shit that was 1994 Rwanda, but more specifically at the policy of rape and murder of women in war:

In an interview at the State House in Kigali, Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, talked about the mass rapes in measured, contemplative sentences, shaking his head, his emotions betraying him. ”We knew that the government was bringing AIDS patients out of the hospitals specifically to form battalions of rapists,” he told me. He smiled ruefully, as if still astonished by the plan.

→ New York Times: A womans work, by Peter Landesman.

Iraq troopers

I recently finished reading Starship Troopers, a rather boring book full of military and pseudo-psychological jingoism, and then I stumbled upon the article below.

The things that carried him
The Air Force honor guard moved only one case at a time and, as is their protocol, whenever a case was moved, no matter the distance, it was given a three-second salute, present arms. The airmen carried each case onto the Red Carpet, placing them carefully in neat rows of three. When the last case was in place in front of the cargo door, the general-officer party stood at attention before it, and Sparks said a prayer.

Besides being a gripping article, well written and researched, it’s also an exceptional tale of transformation. The body of a dead soldier takes on so much meaning; It is saluted, posthumously promoted, polished, presented, wept over by strangers. The death of the soldier is portrayed exactly as the harrowing loss for the family as it is, but it is the metamorphosis of a living soldier into someone whom we respect for dying, for having eschewed his life and risen out of the body bag a martyr, that makes the text a particularly interesting read.

It’s worth your time just for the description of the ritual.

Yesterday, a guy in Chicago burned himself to death in protest against US foreign and domestic policy. He wrote his own obituary and posted it online ahead of time. That next to last paragraph reads “He had many acquaintances, but few friends; And wrote his own obituary, because no one else really knew him”.

Regardless his suicide, his letters are worth reading. If nothing else I see myself in much that he wrote, and he didn’t take himself too seriously even when writing his last letters.

Read the obitiuary here:
Read him expaling why:
Infoshop has a short article here:

I got the story from and it feels odd. Shouldn’t this be on the front page of papers and such? This is quite an extreme thing to do, and considering all the text he posted about both his planned suicide and his political stance it wouldn’t be too hard to do a background check.

And if you want to distance yourself from his very personal letters and despair, you can always check out the list of others who have set themselves on fire in protest.

Unless he was mentally ill and planning on killing himself regardless, do you realise what level of despair is required to do something like this? How furious you have to be at the willfull ignorance of people in general? My head is spinning slightly, because I get a sensation of vertigo reading through his texts.

(yet) Another thing to feel guilty about

It’s always fun to see documentaries that trace everyday objects back to their origins. Usually those films are about bread or maybe books; one comes from wheat, the other from the forest. We get a nice line to follow and are given the option of keeping our hunter-gatherer ancestry in sight. (well, sort of)

I’m always baffled (well, again, sort of) when it turns out that the apples I’m looking at in a store have been shipped across the globe. It just doesn’t make sense to me. And if you try to track down the components and resources of high-tech stuff, you’ve got a lifetime of tracking ahead of you.

Take the example of tantalum, a metal powder extracted from coltan ore, and a required part of cellphones, computers and airplanes. It’s a rare resource: Prices are high and the supply is low. Market forces at work here, people. And those forces are at the moment, to put it gently, bum-raping the people of Congo where there’s a huge deposit of coltan ore.

You have a bunch of rebel groups fueling their civil war by selling the ore to refineries that in turn sell this to high-tech companies (Apple? oh, Apple i though you were a cool company! This shit aint cool! Not cool, y’hear?) and in the process killing people (or enslaving them to work in mines), destroying animal habitat (killing gorillas – your cellphone is killing cute baby gorillas) and generally making a muck of things and adding some more bad to an already quite baddish world.

What to do what to do? I love the quote from Outi Mikkonen at Nokia, when asked how they check up on their suppliers if their tantalum comes from Congo: “All you can do is ask, and if they say no, we believe it.”
Yes, because we all know that Nokia just doesn’t have the resources necessary to check up on the supply chain.

I don’t know what to do, but at least I feel i should know where my stuff comes from. A good place to start on that is here: