Big Brother 2.0?

This is a well-written discussion of the privacy concerns with Web 2.0, including a nice dissection of how the most reasonable business model for the growing number of social networking style sites is their use as data mining sources for a company’s other operations [via Clicked]. For example, Flickr is perhaps one of the most interesting ones. Search for ‘cat’, and Flickr will record the most popular photo clicked. By associating the colour and picture data within photos with keywords used to search, Yahoo is slowly building a database of human identification. It has often said that the differentiator between … Continue reading Big Brother 2.0?

Beauty, Power, Advertising

Hosted at the University of Vermont, this Web Essay on the Male Gaze, Fashion Advertising, and the Pose has a nice discussion of the issues in advertising portrayals of female beauty with a combination of scholarly references and good imagery. Worth checking out – it may not be Killing Us Softly, but it’s an interesting read. I particularly like the photoshop job they do in the first few slides.

Shredding Required

In a confluence of information-security news and a new update from, the recommendation to “tear up” an unwanted credit card application is tested and found to be wanting. I’ve been reading this site for years, so I’m included to believe the story, though I am shocked that they would accept a torn-up and taped-together application. The bit about changing the address and phone number on the original is brilliant too, though if his parents’ address is on his credit history from an old account or something, it slightly mediates the horror of the thing (but not my much). Either … Continue reading Shredding Required

Local Voting

Obviously, voting is broken everywhere. Our neighbors in Ohio are getting most of the attention for their 10 hour lines, but things are pretty broken here in Pennsylvania as well, mostly in the form of polling places running out of provisional ballots early in the day and turning people away. Watching the news just now, I learned that while Pennsylvania was 80 degrees during much of the day ysterday, north Texas was hit with snow. I’m too tired to carefully craft my quip about hell freezing over.

Misplaced Magazines

I’ve been into several Borders and Barnes & Noble bookstores this past month, mostly browsing the magazines. I am appalled that in several (but to be fair, not all) of them, science magazines are shelved in the “Men’s Interest” section, right next to Maxim and Stuff. I know this is the case for the Borders in Ithaca, NY. I’d love to hear if this is the case for stores around other people as well. Do you think we could find a way to make it more uncomfortable for a teenage girl to pick up a copy of Scientific American or … Continue reading Misplaced Magazines

Buff vs. Ripped

There’s little as disheartening for one’s faith in government than spending a day working from home with C-SPAN 2 on the the background. After watching over four hours of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on Dietary Supplement Ephedra, I saw a vice president of a company be lambasted for not knowing what part of the cow their herbal supplement’s “bovine extract” came from, including a self-righteous speech from a congressperson about how disgraceful that people are producing and selling these things without even knowing what goes in them. And I heard another corporate representative say: “Scientists do not … Continue reading Buff vs. Ripped

Barbie Vacuum

Puttering through my Gold Box today, I got an offer for a product that made my jaw drop: the Barbie Real Vacuum. It’s a fully-functional handheld, cordless vacuum in a Barbie motif – pink with flowers and the Barbie logo. It’s advertised, both in the text and in the accompanying video, as for little girls, to encourage them to clean their own rooms. There is also a blue version, but without the child-specific description (it’s mentioned as one of a wider range of uses). So we’re clearly not talking about a line of child-themed vacuums. And the age range … Continue reading Barbie Vacuum

Ranger Narcs

In one of the odder results of the “war on terror”, the tightening of the boarders has driven up drug farming within the US, and national parks are being combed by national-park ranger commandos for marijuana farmers, including in land under wilderness designation. It’s both a public safety problem, with hikers reporting encountering masked men with automatic weapons, and an environmental problem: “This is massive-scale agriculture that is threatening the very mission of the national parks, which is to preserve the natural environment in perpetuity and provide for safe public recreation,” says Bill Tweed, chief naturalist at Sequoia National Park. … Continue reading Ranger Narcs

In Need of Biotech Laws

We’ve already seen with computer technology the kinds of misguided laws that can come about when laws about a new technology are created on an as-it-comes-up basis and often with regards to extreme cases. Biotechnology and genetical engineering are heading the same way and again the legal system doesn’t really seem to be keeping up; I’m guessing in five to ten years time the Supreme Court will be sorting these issues out as well. There’s what looks like it might actually be an interesting program on PBS tonight on how far biotechnology has come and what legal questions are already … Continue reading In Need of Biotech Laws