From the monthly archives:

July 2008

In a bizarre real world actualization of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, the US Army (defying international law and US statute regarding the recruitment of children) has partnered with UBISOFT to promote a “realistic” (everything but the blood and guts, the pain and physical death) first person shooter called America’s Army. The game’s website provides a direct link to a US Army recruiting site, GoArmy.com.

When players walk into Army sponsored tournaments, the government knows more about them then they may suppose. The game records players’ data and statistics in a massive database called Andromeda, which records every move a player makes and links the information to their screen name.

According to a July 23rd truthout article by Michael Reagan titled US Military Recruits Children: “America’s Army” Video Game Violates International Law,

With this information tracking system, gameplay serves as a military aptitude tester, tracking overall kills, kills per hour, a player’s virtual career path, and other statistics. According to Colonel Wardynski, players who play for a long time and do extremely well may “just get an e-mail seeing if [they'd] like any additional information on the Army.” The “America’s Army” web site, however, is quick to point out that the Army respects players’ privacy. The Army claims that player information is not linked to a person’s real world identity unless that person volunteers their identity to a recruiter. But it is not clear that recruiters have to give any sort of discloser that a voluntary relinquishing of one’s name is also an invitation to a player’s statistical information. Answering seemingly innocent questions from recruiters in “America’s Army” chat rooms or at state fairs about one’s screen name may divulge personal information without intending to.

Reagan further reports,

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has found that Army use of the game, and its recruiting practice in general, violate international law. In May, the ACLU published a report that found the armed services “regularly target children under 17 for military recruitment. Department of Defense instruction to recruiters, the US military’s collection of information of hundreds of thousands of 16-year-olds, and military training corps for children as young as 11 reveal that students are targeted for recruitment as early as possible. By exposing children under 17 to military recruitment, the United States military violates the Optional Protocol.” The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, ratified by the Senate in December 2002, protects the rights of children under 16 from military recruitment and deployment to war. The US subsequently entered a binding declaration that raised the minimum age to 17, meaning any recruitment activity targeted at those under 17 years old is not allowed in the United States.

I recommend that you read the whole article. Me, I’m off to kill some bugs at the BugsMachine.

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Frank Wilczek’s new “baby”… The Lightness of Being

I almost begged for a review copy, but then I saw that blurbs were all by other Nobel Prize winners and crack physicists and such. That took me down a peg. I intend to read it though. And I certainly WOULDN’T TURN DOWN a review copy. The sample chapter looks accessible enough for a layman like me. For example:

To begin, we build our world-models from strange raw materials: signal-processing tools “designed” by evolution to filter a universe swarming with information into a very few streams of incoming data.

Data streams? Their more familiar names are vision, hearing, smell, and so forth. From a modern point of view, vision is what samples the electromagnetic radiation that passes through a tiny hole in our eyes, picking up only a narrow rainbow of colors inside a much broader spectrum. Our hearing monitors air pressure at our eardrums, and smell provides a quirky chemical analysis of the air impinging on our nasal membranes. Other sensory systems give some rough information about the overall acceleration of our body (kinesthetic sense), temperatures and pressures over its surface (touch), a handful of crude measures of the chemical composition of matter on our tongue (taste), and a few other odds and ends.

Those sensory systems allowed our ancestors — just as they allow us — to construct a rich, dynamic model of the world, enabling them to respond effectively. The most important components of that world-model are more-or-less stable objects (such as other people, animals, plants, rocks, . . . the Sun, stars, clouds, . . .) some of them moving around, some dangerous, some good to eat, and others — a select and especially interesting few — desirable mates.

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Jeneane Sessum has re-purposed her eponymous site, jeneane.net. She’s putting the “So?” in social media. This morning she has an interesting post about Techmeme and Duncan Riley. The way I read it, Riley used to work at TechCrunch (Michael Arrington’s property). Then he left. Now his scoops aren’t hitting Techmeme with the frequency that they did when he had Arrington’s backing. And, “So what?”

Sort of an interesting meta-commentary on silly valley stuff for those who might not read the inbred navel gazing blogs of the South Bay.

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Dave Winer puts his money on Tim Kaine for Obama’s running mate. (That is, if the announcement happens today or tonight).

This should put an end to the endless Hillary discussion on Steve Gillmor’s News Gang.

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Shark Week

July 29, 2008

Heather Hravilesky’s Salon piece on Shark Week piqued my interest.  The Discovery Channel’s Shark Week has legs. Check out these other nods to the annual celebration… Shark Week cupcakes Flying Sharks Ryan Seacrest let’s it all hang out. (Could have been a lot worse than a toe, Ryan.) LAist has fine chops Rita Lugo is [...]

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W.

July 27, 2008

Too little too late, perhaps; but I think this will help explain what happened to the USA during the Bush Imperium. [update: the original from last night was pulled... here's another copy, for as long as it lasts]

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Women who write

July 27, 2008

I’ve been a Heather Havrilesky fan for some time, or maybe aficionado would be more accurate. I was happily reminded of HH’s great good work by RageBoy, in his hyperlink today to her column titled “Shark Week” at Salon. In that column she segues nicely from an informed discussion of sharks in the water to [...]

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NYT Fashion and Style

July 26, 2008

Cultural biases run deep. Look for the Netroots conference and you’ll find coverage in the New York times Politics section. Look for BlogHer and you’ll find it in the women’s pages, the New York times Fashion and Style section. Erin Kotecki Vest has already commented on this in her own space, Queen of Spain, and [...]

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Hype Lite

July 26, 2008

I have slipped the surly bonds of mirth And trod the blogs in muddy earth-bound shoes Fallen face forward, tumbled to the earth Shook my head to clear from it the booze Inspired dreams of spinning fearful flight No bloggers logged the roaring pounding pain None sat on that volcano through the night Alone my [...]

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Navigating the Dangerous Currents of Global Concern

July 25, 2008

Text and a video of Obama’s Berlin speech here. It’s heroic, Homeric stuff, poetic and full of hope that we’ll soon round the corner and create a world without fear. The words as they’re spoken are laid out in dactyls, a waltz of a speech, not a march. Here, at the base of a column [...]

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