Kamis, 31 Maret 2011

0 Seismic Decentralization

[Image: Tokyo at night, courtesy of NASA's Earth Observatory].

At the height of the Cold War, the sprawling, decentralized suburban landscape of the United States was seen by many military planners as a form of spatial self-defense. As historian David Krugler explains in This Is Only a Test: How Washington D.C. Prepared for Nuclear War, "urban dispersal" was viewed as a defensive military tactic, one that would greatly increase the nation's chance of survival in the event of nuclear attack.

Specially formatted residential landscapes such as "cluster cities" were thus proposed, "each with a maximum population of 50,000." These smaller satellite cities would not only reshape the civilian landscape of the United States, they would make its citizens, its industrial base, and its infrastructure much harder to target.

"This might seem the stuff of Cold War science fiction," Krugler writes, "but after World War II, many urban and civil defense planners believed cluster cities, also called dispersal, should be the future of the American metropolis."
These planners, like the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, imagined atomic firestorms engulfing American cities and advocated preventive measures such as dispersal. Just one or two atomic bombs could level a concentrated metropolitan area, but cluster cities would suffer far less devastation: enemy bombers could strike some, but not all, key targets, allowing the unharmed cities to aid in recovery.
Krugler points out that this suburban dispersal was not always advised in the name of military strategy: "Many urban planners believed dispersal could spur slum clearance, diminish industrial pollution, and produce parks. Not only would dispersal shield America's cities, it would save them from problems of their own making."

However, the idea that urban dispersal might be useful only as a protective tactic against the horrors of aerial bombardment overlooks other threats, including earthquakes and tsunamis.

Earlier this week, Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan was advised "to decentralize Japan" out of fear of "Tokyo annihilation danger." Indeed, we read, the recent 9.0 earthquake, tsunami, and partial nuclear meltdown at Fukushima together suggest that "the nation must reduce the role of its capital city to avert an even greater catastrophe."

Takayoshi Igarashi, a professor at Hosei University, explains: "I told the prime minister that nationwide dispersal is the first thing we need to do as we rebuild. We have no idea when the big one’s going to hit Tokyo, but when it does, it’s going to annihilate the entire country because everything is here." His conclusion: "The lesson we need to take away from this disaster is that we have to restructure Japan as an entire nation"—a seismic decentralization that relies as much on horizontal geography as on vertical building code. This could thus be "the nation’s biggest investment in urban planning in decades."

The idea that urban design might find a reinvigorated sense of national purpose in response to a threat in the ground itself is fascinating, of course, perhaps especially for someone who also lives in an earthquake zone. But the prospect of large-scale urban dispersal remaking the urban landscape of Japan—that Tokyo itself might actually be broken up into smaller subcities, and that future urban planning permission might be adjusted to enforce nationwide sprawl as a form of tectonic self-defense, from megacity to exurban lace—presents an explicit spatialization of Japanese earthquake policy that will be very interesting to track over the years to come.

(Spotted via @urbanphoto_blog).

0 Blogger Views

Blogger added five dynamic templates that transform blogs into interactive apps. Just add /view to the URL of a blog that offers full feeds (for example: googlesystem.blogspot.com/view) and you'll be able to try the new views: flipcard, mosaic, sidebar, snapshot and timeline. Blogger's templates offer features like infinite scrolling, progressive image loading, smart search, filtering posts by date, author or label. "These new views use the latest in web technology, including AJAX, HTML5 and CSS3," explains Google.

In the near future, bloggers will be able to customize the templates and use them without having to change the URL.

0 Microsoft's Antitrust Complaint

Microsoft will file a formal antitrust complaint against Google "as part of the European Commission's ongoing investigation into whether Google has violated European competition law". Brad Smith, Senior Vice President at Microsoft, says that Google's questionable business practices prevented competitors from gaining market share. As Brad Smith puts it, "Google has done much to advance its laudable mission to organize the world's information, but we're concerned by a broadening pattern of conduct aimed at stopping anyone else from creating a competitive alternative".

I was surprised to read some of the complaints.

"In 2006 Google acquired YouTube — and since then it has put in place a growing number of technical measures to restrict competing search engines from properly accessing it for their search results. Without proper access to YouTube, Bing and other search engines cannot stand with Google on an equal footing in returning search results with links to YouTube videos and that, of course, drives more users away from competitors and to Google."

YouTube is just a video sharing site. Google could prevent all the other search engines from indexing it and this shouldn't be a legal problem. But Google doesn't prevent other search engines from indexing YouTube: there are 284 million pages from youtube.com in Bing's index. Google returns more results from youtube.com (about 443 million pages), but Google owns YouTube and it can easily index all the pages. If Google prevents other search engines from indexing some videos, it's Google's problem: YouTube loses a lot of views and money from advertising.

"In 2010 and again more recently, Google blocked Microsoft's new Windows Phones from operating properly with YouTube. Google has enabled its own Android phones to access YouTube so that users can search for video categories, find favorites, see ratings, and so forth in the rich user interfaces offered by those phones. It's done the same thing for the iPhones offered by Apple, which doesn't offer a competing search service."

YouTube has some APIs for building apps, so you don't have to be a big company to develop YouTube apps. As a result, you'll find a lot of third-party YouTube apps in Apple's App Store, for example. Unfortunately, third-party apps can't use YouTube's official logo, YouTube's trademarks and there are other usage restrictions. That's probably the reason why companies like Apple, Microsoft, HTC need to partner with Google to create YouTube apps. If Microsoft couldn't reach an agreement with Google, then it's a business issue. Google has no obligation to allow other companies to create software that uses its APIs.

"Google is even restricting its customers'—namely, advertisers'—access to their own data. Advertisers input large amounts of data into Google's ad servers in the course of managing their advertising campaigns. This data belongs to the advertisers: it reflects their decisions about their own business. But Google contractually prohibits advertisers from using their data in an interoperable way with other search advertising platforms, such as Microsoft's adCenter."

AdWords offers some exporting features and even Microsoft admits that you can export AdWords data.

"One of the ways that search engines attract users is through distribution of search boxes through Web sites. Unfortunately, Google contractually blocks leading Web sites in Europe from distributing competing search boxes. It is obviously difficult for competing search engines to gain users when nearly every search box is powered by Google. Google's exclusivity terms have even blocked Microsoft from distributing its Windows Live services, such as email and online document storage, through European telecommunications companies because these services are monetized through Bing search boxes."

This seems to be a valid concern that needs to be addressed by Google. AdSense has some similar terms that prohibit using competing ad/search services on the same page, but not on the same site. The good news is that Google doesn't force the "leading Web sites in Europe" to use Google's search box and they can easily switch to Bing.

All in all, Microsoft doesn't have a strong case, but that doesn't mean that Google hasn't abused its power and that the investigation won't slow down Google. When you have 95% market share in Europe, you're almost a monopoly and an easy target for antitrust investigations.

0 More Google Social Search Results

When Social Search was released, Google displayed a small OneBox at the bottom of the first search results page that included relevant pages shared by your friends. A few weeks ago, Google started to show social search results anywhere on the page.

If that wasn't enough, Google added huge lists of social search results at the bottom of the second, third and fourth page of results. After the ten regular results, Google shows other ten results from your social circle. Sometimes Google's social results are useful, but that's not always the case. For example, a search for [Firefox 4] returns many outdated pages about Firefox.

It's interesting to notice that social search results need more space than the regular results:

Rabu, 30 Maret 2011

0 Islands at the Speed of Light

A recent paper published in the Physical Review has some astonishing suggestions for the geographic future of financial markets. Its authors, Alexander Wissner-Gross and Cameron Freer, discuss the spatial implications of speed-of-light trading. Trades now occur so rapidly, they explain, and in such fantastic quantity, that the speed of light itself presents limits to the efficiency of global computerized trading networks.

These limits are described as "light propagation delays."

[Image: Global map of "optimal intermediate locations between trading centers," based on the earth's geometry and the speed of light, by Alexander Wissner-Gross and Cameron Freer].

It is thus in traders' direct financial interest, they suggest, to install themselves at specific points on the Earth's surface—a kind of light-speed financial acupuncture—to take advantage both of the planet's geometry and of the networks along which trades are ordered and filled. They conclude that "the construction of relativistic statistical arbitrage trading nodes across the Earth’s surface" is thus economically justified, if not required.

Amazingly, their analysis—seen in the map, above—suggests that many of these financially strategic points are actually out in the middle of nowhere: hundreds of miles offshore in the Indian Ocean, for instance, on the shores of Antarctica, and scattered throughout the South Pacific (though, of course, most of Europe, Japan, and the U.S. Bos-Wash corridor also make the cut).

These nodes exist in what the authors refer to as "the past light cones" of distant trading centers—thus the paper's multiple references to relativity. Astonishingly, this thus seems to elide financial trading networks with the laws of physics, implying the eventual emergence of what we might call quantum financial products. Quantum derivatives! (This also seems to push us ever closer to the artificially intelligent financial instruments described in Charles Stross's novel Accelerando). Erwin Schrödinger meets the Dow.

It's financial science fiction: when the dollar value of a given product depends on its position in a planet's light-cone.

[Image: Diagrammatic explanation of a "light cone," courtesy of Wikipedia].

These points scattered along the earth's surface are described as "optimal intermediate locations between trading centers," each site "maximiz[ing] profit potential in a locally auditable manner."

Wissner-Gross and Freer then suggest that trading centers themselves could be moved to these nodal points: "we show that if such intermediate coordination nodes are themselves promoted to trading centers that can utilize local information, a novel econophysical effect arises wherein the propagation of security pricing information through a chain of such nodes is effectively slowed or stopped." An econophysical effect.

In the end, then, they more or less explicitly argue for the economic viability of building artificial islands and inhabitable seasteads—i.e. the "construction of relativistic statistical arbitrage trading nodes"—out in the middle of the ocean somewhere as a way to profit from speed-of-light trades. Imagine, for a moment, the New York Stock Exchange moving out into the mid-Atlantic, somewhere near the Azores, onto a series of New Babylon-like platforms, run not by human traders but by Watson-esque artificially intelligent supercomputers housed in waterproof tombs, all calculating money at the speed of light.

[Image: An otherwise unrelated image from NOAA featuring a geodetic satellite triangulation network].

"In summary," the authors write, "we have demonstrated that light propagation delays present new opportunities for statistical arbitrage at the planetary scale, and have calculated a representative map of locations from which to coordinate such relativistic statistical arbitrage among the world’s major securities exchanges. We furthermore have shown that for chains of trading centers along geodesics, the propagation of tradable information is effectively slowed or stopped by such arbitrage."
Historically, technologies for transportation and communication have resulted in the consolidation of financial markets. For example, in the nineteenth century, more than 200 stock exchanges were formed in the United States, but most were eliminated as the telegraph spread. The growth of electronic markets has led to further consolidation in recent years. Although there are advantages to centralization for many types of transactions, we have described a type of arbitrage that is just beginning to become relevant, and for which the trend is, surprisingly, in the direction of decentralization. In fact, our calculations suggest that this type of arbitrage may already be technologically feasible for the most distant pairs of exchanges, and may soon be feasible at the fastest relevant time scales for closer pairs.

Our results are both scientifically relevant because they identify an econophysical mechanism by which the propagation of tradable information can be slowed or stopped, and technologically significant, because they motivate the construction of relativistic statistical arbitrage trading nodes across the Earth’s surface.
For more, read the original paper: PDF.

(Thanks to Nicola Twilley for the tip!)

0 Google +1

Google +1 is yet another attempt to make Google more social. It's Google's version of the Facebook "likes", a simple feature that's very powerful because it's part of a social network.

Google will show +1 buttons next to all search results and ads, while encouraging other sites to include the buttons. All +1's are public and they're tied to Google Profiles. The goal is to use this data to personalize search results and ads by recommending sites +1'd by your friends. Google Social Search already does this, but there's no support for Facebook likes, so Google had to come up with a substitute.

"+1 is the digital shorthand for 'this is pretty cool.' To recommend something, all you have to do is click +1 on a webpage or ad you find useful. These +1's will then start appearing in Google's search results," explains Google.

This feature is slowly rolled out to Google.com, but you can try it by enabling the +1 search experiment.

One thing is clear: Google won't have to translate "+1" when it will localize the service, but it will have a hard time translating "+1's", "+1'd" and other cryptic constructs. Google +1's URLs already look weird (here's the homepage: http://www.google.com/+1).

Your +1's are listed in a profile tab, where you can manage them. There's also a page that lets you disable personalizing Google ads using +1's and other information from your Google profile.

Google now has the most important pieces of a social network (profiles, activity stream, likes, apps), but there's still no social network, no magic "glue" that connects the existing pieces. As Danny Sullivan explains, the "+1 social network" is made up of your Google Talk friends, the people from Gmail's "My contacts" group and the people you follow in Google Reader and Google Buzz, but you'll soon be able to connect other services like Twitter and Flickr. It's actually a meta social network, an artificial service that won't have too many enthusiastic users, just like Friend Connect.

0 Future Gmail Option: Disable Auto-Adding Contacts

Google's video that introduces the new Gmail ads shows another option that's not yet available outside Google. In the near future you'll be able to disable a feature that's often useful and sometimes annoying: automatically creating contacts when you send a message.

At the moment, "email addresses are automatically added to your Contacts list each time you use the Reply, Reply to all, or Forward functions to send messages to addresses not previously stored in your Contacts list," according to Gmail's help center. Gmail also adds the email addresses used when you compose a message.

The new option will allow you to disable this feature, but Google's description is strange: "Create contacts (sets whether sending or receiving a message can create a new contact)." Right now, Gmail doesn't automatically create contacts when you receive new messages. You need to reply to the messages first.

Here's the video (you can fast forward to 1:14 min).

{ Thanks, François. }

0 Top 12 Android Apps That'll Increase Your Productivity

So, as promised in my previous article on iPhone apps that make you more productive, here I am with a similar list for Android users.

There are no two opinions on the fact that if there's any other mobile operating system that can surpass the mighty iOS, it is Android. It has surely come a long way since it was first introduced 2 years ago. With major mobile handset manufacturers like HTC and Samsung backing it, one can now choose from a variety of Android phones that are available.

Android's app market, like the iTunes App Store, is huge. Hence checking out this list before hunting for productivity apps there would make sense in my opinion. Rest, I am sure there are good apps that I might have missed. And that's exactly why we have the comments section. Make sure you list your favorite apps there after you are done checking these out.

Slide Screen
Slide Screen is the perfect replacement for your dull Android home screen. It displays information like SMS, Google Reader, Gmail, phone calls, calendar and much more on the home screen, all in a neat and easy to navigate interface. Saves time for sure.

Dolphin Browser HD
Android's default browser is ok but not great. Hence you should try out Dolphin Browser HD that has advanced features and enhances your phone browsing productivity. Check out these awesome Dolphin browser tips to know more about the tool.

Springpad can help you quickly save and organize products, places and notes. Even things like movies and recipes can be organized in neat lists and referred to later when needed.

Evernote, the formidable online note taking solution, is available for Android too. Like its iOS counterpart, it is free, integrates seamlessly with your online Evernote account, and is hassle-free to operate.

Jorte is pretty nifty personal organization app for Android devices. It is calendar based and has custom styles to suit every user. The intention is to give the feel of a paper organizer, and make it easy to use.

The popular online backup and sync tool has an Android app that lets you quickly access your My Dropbox folder from your Android phone. Photos and videos can be directly saved to it so that you don't lose them if you lose the phone.

Time Recording
Time Recording isn't an app that every Android user would know about. It lets you efficiently manage your timesheet, and I feel that each of us, whether or not we go to an office every day, can make use of this tool. Try it out.

PageOnce Travel
PageOnce travel is a travel itinerary manager for Android. It can check details like weather, flight information, reservations, car rentals, routes and much more, all in real-time. The interface is nicely designed too.

Advanced Task Killer
Just like it happens in a computer, a lot of tasks or programs running in the background can make your phone sluggish. Advanced Task Killer can quickly kill applications and tasks that shouldn't be running at the first place. The app is extremely popular, and chances are that you use it already. If you haven't yet, you may give it a shot now.

Need your Android phone to record and generate quick expense reports? Expensify can do that for you. Cash transactions can be entered manually, and you can use the phone's camera to take snaps of the receipts which could then be uploaded to this app.

Lastpass is probably the best password management solution out there. It's Android app is a good one but available only for the premium customers of the service. Good news is that its premium subscription costs only $1 per month. Worth it if you ask me.

EStrongs File Explorer
EStrongs file explorer app provides Android users a better interface to browse files and manage apps. It also supports operations like copy/cut, multiselect etc, and works with Bluetooth. This page lists all its features.



Written on 3/30/2011 by Abhijeet Mukherjee. Abhijeet is a blogger and web publisher from India. He loves all things tech as long as it aids in productivity. He edits Guiding Tech, a blog that publishes useful guides, tutorials and tools. Check it out and subscribe to its feed if you like the site. You can also find him on Twitter. Photo Credit: Travis Hornung

Selasa, 29 Maret 2011

0 Color Code

[Image: Arc en Ciel by Bernard Buhler Architects].

Here's some eye-candy for a Tuesday evening: Arc en Ciel, a new building in Bordeaux, France—part residential, part office—by Bernard Buhler Architects, spotted via Architizer.

[Images: Arc en Ciel by Bernard Buhler Architects].

With a building as eye-catching as this one, it's quite difficult to imagine a rationale behind adding graphics to the exterior glass windows—like children's drawings, or some vague gesture toward "street art"—which looks both kitschy and unnecessary.

[Images: Arc en Ciel by Bernard Buhler Architects].

After all, the graphics-free windows look fantastic—but c'est la vie.

[Image: Arc en Ciel by Bernard Buhler Architects].

Successfully, to my mind—based entirely on a scan of some photographs on the internet—the colored exterior glass works not only to vivify the building's urban site but to bring a constantly changing series of hues, like a colored bar code, onto the interior walkways. I would love to see this place lit from within at night, a sight the available photographs don't offer.

[Images: Arc en Ciel by Bernard Buhler Architects].

Anyway, the building looks cool; that's about all I have to say. I will add, however, that I'm struck by how extraordinarily better the actual, constructed building is, compared to its rendering, seen below.

[Image: Arc en Ciel by Bernard Buhler Architects].

All the more evidence that rejecting (or embracing) a building's outward formal characteristics on the basis of renderings is not necessarily a good idea.

See many more images over at Architizer.

0 Google Docs Tests Pagination

Google Docs tests a new feature that paginates documents. It will be available from View > Document view > Paginated and you'll still be able to use the compact view.

Right now, you can paginate documents using print preview, but this only shows a read-only view and it's slow.

{ Thanks, Cédric. }

0 Personalized Gmail Ads

Gmail will soon start to personalize ads based on your preferences.
For example, if you've recently read a lot of messages about cameras, maybe you'd like to see an offer from your local camera shop. On the other hand, if you've reported these messages as spam, or marked them 'not important' you might not want to see that offer. Soon, some of you will start seeing fewer ads overall, and focused on subjects we hope will be important to you, at the right time.

Unlike Google Search, you can disable personalized ads from Gmail's settings page. Just make sure that this option is not checked: "Show more useful ads by using importance signals from across my messages".

"Only a few users will notice the change to begin with, but as we improve it we'll roll it out more widely. As always, ads in Gmail are fully automated - no humans read your messages - and no messages or personally identifiable information about you is shared with advertisers. We've already cut down the number of ads shown per Gmail user by more than a third, and we hope these signals will enable us to continue to show fewer, better ads in Gmail," explains Google.

Google also tests a new ad format that includes offers and coupons for your local area, which might be related to Google Offers, a service that will compete with Groupon.

0 Google Talk Guru

Google Talk Guru is a new Google bot that lets you ask simple questions. It's "an experimental service that allows people to get information like sports results, weather forecasts, definitions etc via chat. It works on many popular chat applications that support Google Talk."

Send an invitation to guru in Gmail Chat, Google Talk or any other Jabber client and find simple facts like "weather in London", "amplitude definition", "translate souris", "2^8", "web stanford" (which returns the top Google result for [stanford]).

The service is not as powerful as Google SMS, but it's still handy.

{ Thanks, Michael. }

0 Forensic Geology

[Image: The "Trevisco pit," Cornwall, from which the kaolinite used in space shuttle tiles comes from; photo by Hugh Symonds].

Photographer Hugh Symonds recently got in touch with a series of images called Terra Amamus, or "dirt we like," in his translation, exploring mining operations in Cornwall.

"The granite moors of Cornwall," Symonds explains, "were formed around 300 million years ago. Geological and climatic evolution have created a soft, white, earthy mineral called kaolinite. The name is thought to be derived from China, Kao-Ling (High-Hill) in Jingdezhen, where pottery has been made for more than 1700 years. Study of the Chinese model in the late 18th century led to the discovery and establishment of a flourishing industry in Cornwall."

You could perhaps think of the resulting mines and quarries as a landscape falling somewhere between an act of industrial replication and 18th-century geological espionage.

[Image: Photo by Hugh Symonds].

As Symonds points out, kaolinite is actually "omni-present throughout our daily lives; in paper, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, paints, kitchens, bathrooms, light bulbs, food additives, cars, roads and buildings. In an extraterrestrial, 'Icarian' twist, it is even present in the tiles made for the Space Shuttle."

Indeed, the photograph that opens this post shows us the so-called Trevisco pit. Its kaolinite is not only "particularly pure," Symonds notes; it is also "the oldest excavation in the Cornish complex."

Even better, it is the "quarry from which the clay used for the Space Shuttle tiles came from." This pit, then, is a negative space—a pockmark, a dent—in the Earth's surface out of which emerged—at least in part—a system of objects and trajectories known as NASA.

Of course, the idea that we could trace the geological origins of an object as complex as the Space Shuttle brings to mind Mammoth's earlier stab at what could be called a provisional geology of the iPhone. As Mammoth wrote, "Until we see that the iPhone is as thoroughly entangled into a network of landscapes as any more obviously geological infrastructure (the highway, both imposing carefully limited slopes across every topography it encounters and grinding/crushing/re-laying igneous material onto those slopes) or industrial product (the car, fueled by condensed and liquefied geology), we will consistently misunderstand it." These and other products—even Space Shuttles—are terrestrial objects. That is, they emerge from infrastructurally networked points of geological extraction.

[Images: Photos by Hugh Symonds].

In John McPhee's unfortunately titled book Encounters with the Archdruid, there is a memorable scene about precisely this idea: a provisional geology out of which our industrial system of objects has arisen.

"Most people don't think about pigments in paint," one of McPhee's interview subjects opines. "Most white-paint pigment now is titanium. Red is hematite. Black is often magnetite. There's chrome yellow, molybdenum orange. Metallic paints are a little more permanent. The pigments come from rocks in the ground. Dave's electrical system is copper, probably from Bingham Canyon. He couldn't turn on a light or make ice without it." And then the real forensic geology begins:
The nails that hold the place together come from the Mesabi Range. His downspouts are covered with zinc that was probably taken out of the ground in Canada. The tungsten in his light bulbs may have been mined in Bishop, California. The chrome on his refrigerator door probably came from Rhodesia or Turkey. His television set almost certainly contains cobalt from the Congo. He uses aluminum from Jamaica, maybe Surinam; silver from Mexico or Peru; tin—it's still in tin cans—from Bolivia, Malaya, Nigeria. People seldom stop to think that all these things—planes in the air, cars on the road, Sierra Club cups—once, somewhere, were rock. Our whole economy—our way of doing things. Oh, gad! I haven't even mentioned minerals like manganese and sulphur. You won't make steel without them. You can't make paper without sulphur...
We have rearranged the planet to form TVs and tin cans, producing objects from refined geology.

[Image: Photo by Hugh Symonds].

What's fascinating here, however, is something I touched upon in my earlier reference to geological espionage. In other words, we take for granted the idea that we can know what minerals go into these everyday products—and, more specifically, that we can thus locate those minerals' earthly origins and, sooner or later, enter into commerce with them, producing our own counter-products, our own rival gizmos and competitive replacements.

I was thus astonished to read that, in fact, specifically in the case of silicon, this is not actually the case.

In geologist Michael Welland's excellent book Sand, often cited here, Welland explains that "electronics-grade silicon has to be at least 99.99999 percent pure—referred to in the trade as the 'seven nines'—and often it's more nines than that. In general, we are talking of one lonely atom of something that is not silicon among billions of silicon companions."

Here, a detective story begins—it's top secret geology!
A small number of companies around the world dominate the [microprocessor chip] technology and the [silicon] market, and while their literature and websites go into considerable and helpful detail on their products, the location and nature of the raw materials seem to be of "strategic value," and thus an industrial secret. I sought the help of the U.S. Geological Survey, which produces comprehensive annual reports on silica and silicon (as well as all other industrial minerals), noting that statistics pertaining to semiconductor-grade silicon were often excluded or "withheld to avoid disclosing company proprietary data."
Welland thus embarks upon an admittedly short but nonetheless fascinating investigation, hoping to de-cloud the proprietary geography of these mineral transnationals and find where this ultra-pure silicon really comes from. To make a long story short, he quickly narrows the search down to quartzite (which "can be well over 99 percent pure silica") mined specifically from a few river valleys in the Appalachians.

[Image: Photo by Hugh Symonds].

As it happens, though, we needn't go much further than the BBC to read about a town called Spruce Pine, "a modest, charmingly low-key town in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina, [that] is at the heart of a global billion-dollar industry... The jewellery shops, highlighting local emeralds, sapphires and amethysts, hint at the riches. The mountains, however, contain something far more precious than gemstones: they are a source of high-purity quartz." And Spruce Pine is but one of many locations from which globally strategic flows of electronics-grade silicon are first mined and purified.

In any case, the geological origin of even Space Shuttle tiles is always fascinating to think about; but when you start adding things like industrial espionage, proprietary corporate landscapes, unmarked quarries in remote mountain valleys, classified mineral reserves, supercomputers, a roving photographer in the right place at the right time, an inquisitive geologist, and so on, you rapidly escalate from a sort of Economist-Lite blog post to the skeleton of an international thriller that would be a dream to read (and write—editors get in touch!).

And, of course, if you like the images seen here, check out the rest of Symond's Terra Amamus series.

0 Anti-Flat

[Image: By Gerry Judah].

Artist Gerry Judah's paintings are massively and aggressively three-dimensional, piling up, away, and out from the canvas to form linked cities, ruins, and debris-encrusted bridges, like reefs.

[Images: By Gerry Judah].

They are perhaps what a tectonic collaboration between Lebbeus Woods and Jackson Pollock might produce: blasted and collapsing landscapes so covered in white it's as if nuclear winter has set in.

[Image: By Gerry Judah].

As the short film included below makes clear, Judah embeds entire architectural models in each piece, affixing small constellations of buildings to the canvas before beginning a kind of archaeological onslaught: layering paint on top of paint, raining strata down for days to seal the landscape in place and make it ready for wall-mounting.

And then the paintings go up, sprawling and counter-gravitational, like ruins tattooed on the walls.

[Image: By Gerry Judah].

For more work—including pieces executed in red and black—see Judah's website (including his bio, which suggests larger architectural and theatrical influences).

(Thanks to Jim Rossignol for the tip!)

Senin, 28 Maret 2011

0 Chrome Bookmarks Integrate with Google Search

Until recently, Google Bookmarks and Chrome Bookmarks were two separate features that didn't speak the same language. Even if you could save your Chrome bookmarks to a Google account, they weren't saved to Google Bookmarks. For some reason, your bookmarks are available in a special Google Docs folder.

Chrome bookmarks have a web interface, but it's likely that the obvious will happen: Chrome bookmarks could be saved to Google Bookmarks. Jérôme Flipo noticed that the Google Bookmarks OneBox already includes Chrome bookmarks. I've tried to find SmallNetBuilder.com and Google's OneBox returned it even if it was starred in Chrome, not in Google Bookmarks.

0 Off to SFO

Flying off at 9am tomorrow to San Francisco for another press junket!! And since I have a free day on the 31st I'm gonna take another flight to LA to meet Michelle (Phan) and jet back!! So exciting! Flight within a flight - INCEPTION!!

I know the Peter Coffin topic is getting stale and blah blah lay off him in case he commits suicide but I'm still gonna blog a final conclusion post! And I'm not gonna try to hate on him more, but instead trying to, erm, clear his name.

Afterall, people who are following the saga would have known that since his name got villified everywhere, Peter has not being hiding. No sire! He took to twitter and reddit to change public opinion and even gave a phone interview!

His official stance (I think) is that Kimi is not created by him and somehow duped him into the saddest internet love story ever seen. But he seems to... waver a little in his statements so for those of you interested, here they are, chronologically:

First things first. Let's establish that Kimi Koyabashi, whether "she" was created by Peter Coffin or not, is NOT a female. I can say with almost 100% certainty that even the least feminine of females will not talk about how her vagina looks like a pug, or worse, bother to answer all these dumb sexual questions. (Scroll down more to read the ridiculous questions answered)

Right, girls write tweets like that.

Now we go back to about 15 months ago (my bad, not 8 months, which is when he admitted on twitter that they were a power couple), in December 2010 when Peter got to know Kimi.

Is Peter really allowing some random dude watch him sleep over webcam? CREEPY.

Fast forward 1 year 3 months, on March 16th something happened:

Someone found out Kimi is fake and notified Peter not only via a private email, but also posted it on his blog.

And the below is Peter's comment.
  • Kimi is definitely a woman
  • Kimi looks like Lee Na Young
  • Kimi left the internet coz she was exposed

March 17th:

Kimi deleted her twitter and tumblr.

Now Peter claims:

  •  He is actually still in a relationship with Kimi, despite finding out Kimi is using a Korean Ulzzang's photos.

March 24th, after the expose on my blog:

Now Peter claims:

  • The girl who was in a relationship with him for over a year, and is STILL in a relationship with him, who looks like Lee Na Young... He is suddenly not sure who she is.

And he wants her to be real... Why is he heartbroken when she IS real, totally gorgeous to boot?? Didn't she just chat with him on the phone etc? Aren't they still together, braving through this?

March 25th, Posted on Reddit:

  • Peter now has "literally" no idea who made Kimi up.

Wait... I'm really confused now. So he found out this girl (as improbable as that is) was using someone's fake photos. Then he was sad for like a day while Kimi deleted evidence, but was since he saw how she looks like and she is pretty like Lee Na Young, he forgave her and declared they are still an item.

Logical question 1: When you find out your girlfriend has been impersonating someone online, you are ok with that? You won't find out who she really is before deciding to forgive her? So how can he have no idea who made Kimi up?

Logical question 2: Presumably, since Kimi has been with Peter for over a year now, she must have developed feelings for him since no one can play a prank for so long. Where is she when he so needs her clarifications now? Why isn't she admitting that she created these fake profiles to save her boyfriend from so much embarrassment?


Wait, no... WHAT? Now he is fearing he has been speaking to a man?? Kimi is a tranny???

And then this, my favourite:

From a redditor who fb messaged Peter.

WOAH!! Scottish Asian! Super exotic!

Here's Peter answering why he didn't fly to New York to meet Kimi

So now we know... Kimi is from Scotland, is of an ambiguous gender and is totally mystical when she comes to whether or not she EXISTS!!!

Some people argue she does, some people argue she doesn't. Other claim video and photographic footage of her existence.



Peter was dating........


Wait for it



LOL... Seriously, here's a printscreen of their conversation:

Ok I made that up.

By now you should have realised I am not exactly clearing Peter's name. Seriously, after he started emo-tweeting I felt really guilty and decided not to bother him anymore. He sounded genuinely sad.

Then he went to Reddit and tried to smear my name in order to get the attention away from him. So fuck him.

Alright I know blah blah this is too much. Last post on Coffin I swear!

p/s: His "legal team" letter plagiarized from HERE.

Hey look! Out of nowhere a photo of me!



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