Come, my fellow information geeks, and gather ’round the glow of monitors. The world is changing (it’s the internet) and the way we learn things is changing too. The blogosphere is blooming while journalists are being laid off. Is this good? Is this bad? I’ve spent far too much time trying to understand how everything is shifting.
And now you too can waste your time in learning! Here are five videos about journalism, blogging, tweeting, collecting and sharing information, and how stuff is generally changing. In no particular order:
1. “The Arab World on the Front Edge of Media”, by Moeed Ahmad, head of New Media for Al Jazeera
Figuring out which tweets from the Iranian protests are true. Tracking falling bombs in Gaza using SMS and open-source mapping mash-ups. Releasing war footage under Creative Commons licenses. Moeed has a seriously interesting job, and speaks with great eloquence about how his small new media team fits into a huge global news organization.
Other references I’ve found today in trying to understand what the hell the US government is doing:
Jeffrey Sachs (possibly best known as the author of The End of Poverty) discusses Geithner’s asset buying plan here:
There are countless preferable and more transparent courses of action. The toxic assets could be sold at market prices, not inflated prices, making the bank shareholders bear the costs of the losses of the toxic assets. If the banks then need more capital, the government could invest directly into bank shares. This would bail out the banking system without bailing out the bank shareholders. The process would be much fairer, less costly, and more transparent to the taxpayer.
And I have finally, finally found a detailed, clear, and well-documented primer on how we got into this mess in the first place. In fact it’s an entire online supplementary chapter to Stanford Professor Charles Jones’ macroeconomics textbook. It clearly explains basic concepts like bank balance sheets, liquidity crises, the role of the federal interest rate, leverage, etc. and goes through a detailed history of the last two years from a macro-economic point of view. Lots of graphs too, the recession in pictures! Highly recommended.
Culture wanders, mutates, gets kidnapped, grows up. It spawns distant relatives we never hear from, unknown bastard children. I’ve run into fuax-Disney pillowcases in Cambodia and the Metallica Cafe in Thailand, but this — this takes it for crypto-cultural mutation of memes. From the mean streets of rural Turkey, I give you the Ultimate Volkswagen:
(click for larger)
That’s right. It’s a VW bus body with a half of a classic VW bug grafted on top as a moon-roof. In funky Lemon Yellow. Holy crap.
From the front you can see the attention to detail. The spare tire is strapped on front by a nautical helm. The paint scheme is elegantly simple except for the inscription “mashallah” which means “luck” in Turkish. A plush ornament hangs from the rear-view and all the windows are, of course, curtained and tassled. (I assure you the interior is similarly shaggy, with Turkish carpets and deep brown plaid upholstery.)
On the side we find the name of this righteous vehicle: the One Way Goreme (say it GOR-ray-me, the town where it rolls.) Naturally, the Volkswagen company didn’t build this — Germans were never so funky. This makes it a Turkish homebrew, but note the genuine VW hubcaps — a classy nod to the OG.
One of my friends has helpfully pointed out that today is World Toilet Day. According to the World Toilet Organization, fully 40% of the world’s people do not have access to proper sanitation facilities.
We do deserve better; I for one don’t particularly enjoy squatting in the bushes. The World Toilet Organization agrees, and sponsors World Toilet Summits and World Toilet Expos, “wherein all toilet and sanitation organizations can learn from one another and leverage on media and global support that in turn can influence governments to promote sound sanitation and public health policies.” They also started the first World Toilet College, providing training in toilet design, maintenance, school sanitation, disaster sanitation, and implementation of sustainable sanitation systems.
Okay, you can snicker now. I know I am.
This would be even funnier if it wasn’t actually serious — human waste is a major disease carrier if not handled correctly, and an awful lot of people are still just pooping on the ground or in the river. But let’s not dwell on negatives; in the carefree spirit of World Toilet Day, I thought I’d briefly discuss, and show some pictures, of the types of toilets I’ve encountered in various parts of the world. Travel yields many surprises, and, astonishingly, there were places where I had to learn to wipe my ass all over again. (“Don’t you know how to use the three seashells?” indeed.)
“Just one email,” they said. “Forward it to all your friends.” That’s how it starts, and before you know it you’re that guy in the recent Onion article who won’t shut up about politics. Then that creepy little troll who volunteers for MoveOn.org suddenly thinks you’re dating — and no spam filter is ever going to convince him that you were never together in the first place! Hell, it might be worth telling him you’re voting for McCain, in front of all of your friends, just to get rid of him.
In the post Is Safer Always Better? I argued that modern Western Civilization, especially American civilization, has become obsessed with safety to the point of absurdity. I think I now have definitive proof. Johnson & Johnson has produced, for the benefit of single mothers and tort lawyers everywhere, a booklet on how to walk safely:
Apparently this was distributed to all J&J employees, perhaps in the hope that no one would sue for slipping on the immaculately maintained non-slip flooring. Let’s peruse, shall we? Continue reading Too Safe, Too Funny
I don’t have another article on the mind ready right now — the shit doesn’t write itself, you know — and besides, it’s the weekend. On that note, I found the following flyer at the San Francisco Circus Center last week, which I now offer without comment.