Saturday, October 20, 2018

"The Nation" examines an activism handbook ("Hegemony"), and its use in Trump country around Lancaster PA

The Nation (now with a paywall) offers a detailed booklet length article by Jimmy Tobias, Oct. 18, “Can a Group of Scrappy Young Activists Build Real Progressive Power in Trump Country?”

The narrative describes a couple Jonathan Schmucker and Becca Rast, who returned to Lancaster County, in SE Pennsylvania, in order to organize a “populist” bi-partisan presence to resist extremism in both parties, somewhat reminiscent of “Better Angels”.

The article does describe “door knocking” and “bird dogging”.  Now, when I had a house, I had a no-soliciting sign and tended to regard unannounced knockers as a possible home invasion, so I don’t know how you get past that mentality.
The article mentions a book by Schmucker “Hegemony How-To: A Handbook for Radicals” (2017, AK Press).

Monday, October 15, 2018

Ben Sasse's new book "Them" recalls an earlier book by Charles Murray

Here’s another preview, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE): “Them: Why We Hate Each Other, and How to Heal” (288 pages, St. Martin’s). 
CBS carried an interview with him on “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Oct. 14 
Like Charles Murray (“Coming Apart”, March 14, 2012) .Sasse criticizes the erosion of social capital, particularly in stable neighborhoods.  It’s easy, got example, to be critical of people who “choose” to live in riskier areas (hurricanes, as recently, floods, wildfires, maybe earthquakes) but often it’s the social capital of their communities that enables them to see things through.

His views are well explained in his Wall Street Journal article, “Politics can’t solve our political problems”. His concept of “mobile”, “rooted”, and “stuck” is interesting.  I am definitely a “mobile”, partly because I don’t form intimate relationships easily (as to create or adopt children). “Rooted” implies social competitiveness.  What he describes as “loneliness” may be the way introverted or even mildly autistic or schizoid people outflank or lowball the system and manage to live very productive lives as individual contributors (even though some people find their ability to lowball others as disruptive).
Sasse is also author of “The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis, and How to Build a Culture of Self-Reliance”. Yes, he is concerned with trigger warnings, microagressions, and pseudo-safe spaces. But self-reliance can contradict widespread social cohesion, although it does encourage social capital within extended families.  

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Former NSA Director Michael Hayden discusses his "The Assault on Intelligence" at the "Fall for the Book" fair.

I wanted to offer a preview of former NSA Director Michael V. Hayden’s “The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies”, May 2018, from Penguin.

I attended a session today where Hayden spoke at 1:30 PM at the “Fall for the Book” fair in Merten’s Hall at George Mason University in Fairfax VA.  The session was called “The Assault on American Security”.
Hayden talked about the post-truth era, after the influence of the “age of enlightenment”.
He also discussed Trump’s lack of “meta-cognition”, and the idea that truth for people is whatever their leadership creates for them.
He did discuss how social media had unintentionally driven people farther way into their own echo chambers.  The Russians exploited this capacity of Facebook and Twitter because Russia understood that American "elitists" did not care personally about illiterate people who were targeted by Russian bot campaigns.  He explained this in the context of how enemies can conduct combat without contact. He discussed the difference between cyber war and information war. 

He gave a detailed answer to my question on EMP, here

(Something bizarre happened when I opened the video I’ve embedded.  An ad appeared for a depilatory, that shows men epilating themselves with one wipe, and played for 1:45.  It did not identify the product.  It was almost like soft core. What if they showed doing it to somebody else? Then the time tracker for the video would not show until I closed and reopened YouTube.) 

Monday, October 08, 2018

Anthology on mental health in young adults: "(Don't) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health"

Editor: Kelly Jensen

Title: “(Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health”.

Publication: Oct. 2, 2018: Algonquin Young Readers, paper and Kindle, 240 pages, ISBN 978-1616207816, five chapters, parsed into 33 essays.

I learned about this book from Reid Ewing (@media_reid on Twitter) who has an essay on p. 95 “I underwent cosmetic surgery for my body dysmorphia and I wish I hadn’t”.  The detailed account is harrowing.  Reid sought the attention in 2008 of a plastic surgeon at age 19 when he thought he had to make his face “better”.  He got taken by unscrupulous doctors, it sounds like.  There were a few micro surgeries to fix this an that, and at one time he was mistaken for a “monster” in the California desert. What’s amazing is that in his public shows (including “Modern Family” and various films starting with “Fright Night” in 2011) and YouTube there is absolutely no hint of this history in his appearance (nor is there on Twitter).  Following “In the Moonlight (Do Me)” he actually made a second spirited song-video in 2012 called “Imagine Me Naked”.  While I’m at it, I’ll mention that I haven’t been able to find a potentially powerful (and now suddenly even more relevant, given politics) film about unwanted pregnancy that he appears in, “South Dakota” (2017), by Bruce Isaacson from Lionheart Films). Reid has developed an interest in manga and animation and may be moving in that career direction for film projects.

I’m getting ahead of myself here.  The five mega-chapters are (1) “What’s Crazy”; (2) “Where ‘Crazy’ Meets Culture”; (3) “The Mind-Body Connection” (where Reid’s piece appears); (4) “Beyond Stress and Sadness”; (5) “To Be Okay”.

The very first chapter gets into the idea of “Defying Definition” (Shaun David Hutchinson).  The Ashley Holstrom follows with essays on topics like hair pulling and various habits.

Heid Heilig has an important piece in Part 2, “What we’re born with and what we pick up along the way”.  She talks about how mental illness is portrayed today in young adult fiction.
All of this is somewhat relevant to me because my own experience at NIH in the fall of 1962, which I describe in detail .  I recall displaying a certain tendency to berate other less intact patients for having even more trouble conforming to the demands of “society” to fit in to proper social and gender roles than I did.  I remember a ping pong tournament where I used a strategy of “keep the ball on the table” and let the “crazies” beat themselves with wild slams, and then scream with anger at how I was lowballing them.

It strikes me that some of the more violent members in all of “these” demonstrations (either on Antifa or the alt-right) have disguised mental health problems.  And the paparazzi love to film them to make themselves look well and strong in comparison.
 By the way, "33" is the number of variations in a major Beethoven work (the Diabelli Variations). 

Friday, October 05, 2018

Scientific American: "Wonders of the Cosmos"

The editors of Scientific American offer a challenging e-book “Wonders of the Cosmos” (2018).
There is an introduction by Andrew Gawrelewski, “Mysterious Universe”.
There are four sections: (1) “How did the universe begin”?;  (2) “Cosmic Cartography”; (3) “”Life Wild Phenomena”; (4) “Life Off Earth”.

The book opens with an essay by Niayesh Afshordi et al “The Black Hole at the Beginning of Time”. The essay offers the idea that our Universe is a three-dimensional shell around a four-dimensional black hole, after an implosion. There is an interesting image “Before the Big Bang” at the 7% page.
Adam G. Riess and Mario Livio discuss “The Puzzle of Dark Energy” which exists essentially because of the asymmetric weak nuclear force.

Npam I. Libeskind and R. Brent Tully discuss “Our Place in the Cosmos” with particular attention to how gravity has a locus with out own galactic cluster Laniakea, and this could predict the eventual cold end of the Universe (ours, at least).  It could also explain emptiness like the Bootes void.
Juan Maldacena discusses “Black holes, wormholes, and the secrets pf quantum space time.”  Maybe the wormhole  would give the possibility of a teenage Clark Kent to live among us.

In the last section, Lee Billings discusses “The Search for Life on Faraway Moons”. He mentions Triton but does not seem to discuss Titan.

Kimberly Cartier and Jason T. Wright bring a gospel, “Strange News from Another Star”, that is, Boyajian’s Star (or Tabby’s Star), about 1450 light years away.  Is there an alien megastructure, a Dyson’s Sphere, around the star?  I want a hotel room with a view, and Internet access (assuming Mark Zuckerberg is an alien himself and has conquered the speed of light).

Frank Postberg et al discuss “Under the Sea of Encedalus” with some persuasive arguments for some kind of primitive bacteria-like life around the vents.  Titan is a much more interesting place geographically.

Christopher McKay and Victor Garcia explore how to look for life on Mars. 

Rene Heller discusses the idea of a “superinhabitable earth II”.  It’s likely such a planet might be a little larger than Earth, and around an unusually stable M star (old enough to give enough time for life) or perhaps a main sequence star a little smaller than our Sun.  A bigger planet would have fewer mountains, likewise a large water surface, and a somewhat thicker atmosphere (maybe people could fly like birds, as in Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End”) – like the crow that keeps visiting my balcony and watching me as if I were his own “human”.
In the video above, note how the surface of a black hole (3D to 2D) is viewed as a hologram saving all the information falling on it. 


Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Andrew Sullivan opines on tribalism in NYMag: "America Wasn't Built for Humans"

Andrew Sullivan has a searing booklet-length piece in New York Magazine Sept 18, 2018 (not “The New Yorker), “America Wasn’t Built for Humans”.  His byline is “Tribalism was an urge the Founding Fathers assumed we could overcome. And so it has become out greatest vulnerability”.
 The link is here
Once again, we’re confronted with the fact that most of us are genetically hardwired for tribal preferences. Rooting for a favorite sports team is at least mild tribal behavior. (Yes, the Cubs lost last night, at home.)   It does seem that lot of this discussion started with Amy Chua.

I’d like to think that the smartest among us overcome tribalism, and in setting our own goals, some of us do – the more unbalanced personalities in Rosenfels polarity theories. But that generates some of the problem: the winner-take-all economy expressed by extreme capitalism, especially as it developed, surprisingly, post 9/11 (but had started during Reagan) simply leaves most people behind to scrabble now with the no-benefits “sharing” economy.

That’s one reason why I’ve paid so much attention to morality on an “individual” basis – the “pay your dues” idea (2004). Now that seems to miss “the point”.

Sullivan is particularly chilling as he explains how tribalism has infected a lot of academia, and how the idea of “hate speech” has expanded to incorporate crime.  Even my speech, because of its gratuitous funding, could be reviewed as indirect “hate speech” by some – this gets into the area of “implicit content” that I have described. 

He also gives the story of journalist Chadwick Moore, who was sacked by the gay mainstream after showing intellectually balanced appreciation for Milo Yiannopoulos.  In fact, if you actually read Milo’s book (“Dangerous”), it is not as extreme as everyone thinks. 

Likewise, he sympathizes with James Damore – whose work I have mixed feelings about.  The comments on Sullivan’s article are not sympathetic.

The problem is that for many people, they have to stick together and live in solidarity with one another to survive – so they must become combative, and not tolerate any insults to “the group”.  That explains the malignant growth of “hate speech” as a concept. 

Sullivan describes two mega-tribes: the urban-coastal (globalist and intellectually elite), vs. the rural (local and socially driven).  He notes that the end of conscription after the Vietnam war helped keep the tribes apart (and like me, Sullivan made this point in the 1990s during the debate over gays in the military). 

I have to admit that I snicker with some degree of personal contempt when I hear people chanting “lock her up” at Trump rallies, as if they were Manchurian zombies who had abandoned their own personhoods.

But tribal social orientation – and the capacity to put the local group above the self, and regard outsiders as enemies (even if that feeds racism) probably got hardwired into the genes of most people in pre-modern generations.  Some of us seem to have fewer of these genes, stand out, and find ourselves watching our backs.
Sullivan recommends “individuality” as opposed to individualism (in 2004, people were just starting to talk about hyperindividualism  -- Ayn Rand style – as the opposite of solidarity).  And he recommends forgiveness.

Monday, October 01, 2018

City of Philadelphia has literacy program offering books to families with newborn babies, and literacy by all by fourth grade

The City of Philadephia Department of Public Health has announced a couple of literacy programs in a press release today.

One of these is “Read by 4th”, which means “Read by Fourth Grade”, with site (no https yet) here  It is offered with the sponsorship of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

There is also a “Baby Book Club” which will distribute children’s books and other literacy materials to every family with newborns in Philadelphia.

The press release from Lauren Ryder from the Department of Public Health did not have a URL to give, so here is a brief excerpt:

“The Health Department will be working with medical staff from each of the city’s six delivery hospitals to ensure every infant born in one of the centers will leave home with at least one book appropriate for babies to start his or her first library.
“Books will be in English and Spanish and will be distributed based on inventory and family preference. The books will also include a code for parents to sign up for a free one-year subscription for National Wildlife Foundation magazines for babies.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

"The Un(solv)able Problem" in Scientific American

The October 2018 Scientific American has an essay on p. 28 that is one of the most abstract ever. It is “The Un(solv)able Problem”, by Toby S. Cubitt, David Perez-Garcia, and Michael Wolf.
This starts out with a long statement of the Spectral Gap Problem about how electrons in small atoms get activated to energy states at all. There are “gaped” and “gapless” systems proposed for materials. It rather reminds me of “air gap” security for power plants from Internet intrusions.

But soon the authors get to the “Liar’s Paradox”. If Kavanaugh tells you “the sentence is a lie”, is Kavanaugh telling the truth or lying?  That seems to really matter right now.

Then they get into Alan Turning’s Halting Test. And later the problem of tiling an infinite bathroom floor, for a David Lynch movie.
All of this relates to Godel’s incompleteness theories (Stanford reference).  Hence we need procreative life forms, aiming toward personhood (and God’s) to make decisions that have real consequences, to reverse the effects of entropy.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Dog Eared Books on Castro Street in San Francisco: previews

Tonight I got to Dog Eared Books on Castro Street (I had visited it in 1995 and 2002) right after a booksigning party for Jim Provenzano for his “Now I’m Here”, from Beautiful Dreamer Press, 2018, three parts, 42 chapters, 358 pages. This book should be helpful to me in figuring out how to hard-sell my own novel in 2019. Details to come. 

One Eric Gotlund recalls his boyhood friends in Ohio in the 1970s and 1980s, going through “conversion therapy” and surviving, and then living through the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.

I also picked up Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions”, part of a series, Anchor-Penguin, 2017, 64 pages.  I’ll get to this one first.

There is also an Alley Cat Books.  Sort of reminds me of Lost Dog and Stray Cat companion restaurants in Westover in Arlington VA. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"Ghost in the Machine: Can Mark Zuckerberg fix Facebook before it breaks demoocracy?" in The New Yorker

On p. 32 of the New Yorker September 17, 2016 there appears a booklet-length article “Ghost in the Machine” by Evan Osnos, with the printed tagline “Can Mark Zuckerberg fix Facebook before it breaks democracy?” There’s an embedded poem by Ishion Hutchinson, “The Old Professor’s Notebook”.

Online there is a further tagline, “The most famous entrepreneur of his generation is facing a public reckoning with the power of Big Tech”.

Zuckerberg’s creation challenges libertarian notions that more freedom is better. Inequality simply turns it into combativeness from neglected peoples. No historical change is painless, Zuckerberg feels. There are tradeoffs between truth and speech, between security and scale. All of these provide problems just to be solved.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Robin D'Angelo on "White Fragility: Why It Is so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism"

The NBC News “Think” page offers a preview by author Robin DiAngelo, of “White Fragility: Why It Is so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism”, from Beacon Press (June, 2018).

The NBC article is titled “White people are still raised tobe racially illiterate. If we don’t recognize the system, our inaction will uphold it.” Then she offers the tagline, “the question is not whether I have been shaped by the forces of racism, it’s how I’ve been shaped by them.”

She criticizes the libertarian interpretation of the story of individual black successes, like Jackie Robinson, as a false user of meritocracy. In the movie “42”, Jackie Robinson finally plays for the Brooklyn Dodgers when “white people” let him play – and some road games were actually canceled because of Robinson in the movie at first.
The problem is, what is someone to do individually if asked to make up for his own use of “privilege”. This complicates the idea of individual karma tremendously.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Eric Klinenberg argues for more social capital as a strategy for meeting disasters, in "Palaces of the People"

Today Smerconish on CNN interviewed Eric Klinenberg, sociology professor at NYU, about his new book “Palaces of the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life”. Random House.  At first glance, this sounds like a reissue of Charles Murray’s call for more social capital in his book “Coming Apart” (March 14, 2012).

The title seems somewhat self-explanatory. Klinenberg argues that we indeed neglected out infrastructure, ranging from flood protection to climate change to the electric grids, but we have also neglected setting up public spaces – he talks about libraries, playgrounds, parks (including national parks).  I don’t know from the interview how much he gets into the psychological dynamics of increasing social capital in a location among neighbors.  It’s more than condo Christmas parties of block parties.

Klinenberg does argue that social capital is a critical aspect of resilience for recovering from natural disasters and possibility form discouraging enemy terrorism.

Klinenebrg has also authored “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone”. Penguin, 2013.  And the summarizes say his account of this development (of which I am a part) are surprisingly positive. Paul Rosenfels knew that.  

Picture: North Carolina, in area affected by Matthew 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Amazon bans supposedly misogynstic books by "Roosh" and some Kindle authors for "manipulation"

Tim Pool, on Timcast, describes the removal of nine of Daryush “Roosh”Valizadeh’s books, in his video “9 Banned Books: Amazon Has Started Modern Book Burning”.   One of the books is called “Game” and involves hook-ups.

Pool talks about book banning as a practice, and notes that Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is available. He notes that some people were offended by gay marriage but publishing books on it helped get the courts to change their minds. 

I checked into this and found a HuffPost article (Sebastian Murdoch and Jessalyn Cook) on the problem, claiming an exclusive story and that Roosh was viewed as a “rape apologist”.  In the article, HuffPost seems to brag that it instigated the banning. It also says he was removed from YouTube, but I found him there.

Daily Mail has an article about the protests against his books.

Roosh does have a book co-authored with Quintus Curtius: "Free Speech Isn't Free: How 90 Men Stood Up Against the Globalist Establishment." His "Day Bang" about heterosexual pick-ups is also there. 
Amazon has terminated authors whom it says manipulated their Kindle accounts, as in this story about J. A. Capriano, prolific fantasy author. The story has book cover for “Seized: The Thrice Cursed Mage” with an incredible hunk on the cover.  Sorry, the author doesn’t look like that.  This self-published author has very large sales volumes for five years and up to 90 titles.  The article describes problems of several other authors.  One of the programs pays a monthly royalty by pages read but it is easily fooled by mechanical gimmicks that encourages readers to skip to the end. .

Monday, September 10, 2018

"Democracy in Black" previewed by Glaude's essay for Time Magazine, on how Trump materialized out of our darkest desires for social "rightsizing"

The Sept. 17, 2018 issue of Time Magazine offers a booklet-length essayDon’t Let the Loud Bigots Distract You: America’s Real Problem with Race Cuts Much Deeper”, by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr , who is the Willisam S. Tod Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton.  He is author of “Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul”, from Deckle Edge, hardcover (2016) or Crown, paper.

Glaude notes that for most of the last few decades, through the Obama years, most of us believed we weren’t racist – we didn’t mention race in the workplace (and usually not religion), we neutral.  We qualified people for jobs based on merit.  

But at the same time, we exacerbated the inequality of opportunity with artificial resegregation.  I remember that from Dallas in the 1980s, when companies gradually moved from the close-in areas to far North Dallas or Richardson or Plano to have better (white) school districts for their own kids.  We paid for schools with property taxes, and conducting tea parties. 
We also didn’t admit a streak in some of us, where (as Umair Haque points out on Medium) where some of us would get off on the idea that some people are “born better” than others.  Trump, Glaude says, was a president who would play on our darkest deep prejudices.  We didn’t think it could happen.  But enemies divides us, and knew a lot of us didn’t care enough personally.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Sorkin's "Too Big to Fail": The 2008 crash generated today's populism and mistrust of experts (social media alone isn't "to blame')

Andrew Ross Sorkin was interviewed on CNN’s Michael Smerconish today (Saturday) about the paperback for “Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of how Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System – and Themselves”, on Penguin paperback, from Penguin (Sept 7), originally published in hardcover in 2009 by Viking.

Sorkin said today that the 2008 financial crash helped drive populism, distrust of experts and “facts”, and the polarization we see on social media, and the vulnerability to foreign manipulation of this populism. If so, that actually argues for libertarian ideas of speech – as user-generated content is more likely to lead to challenging of dangerous trends within the establishment (like “credit default swaps”). This is an interesting and valuable interpretation.

(This is not the same Sorkin who wrote "The Social Network" -that was Aaron -- but the content and attitude seem similar.) 

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Woodward's "Fear: Trump in the White House", due Sept. 11, previewed in the New York Times by anonymous op-ed

Because I posted yesterday here, I didn’t get around to a preview of Bob Woodward’s “Fear” until now. That is, “Fear: Trump in the White House”, from Simon and Schuster, 448 pages hardcover (and ebook).

Tuesday, Carl Bernstein (“All the President’s Men”) said this was an immediate national security crisis.

Trump’s staff disobeys his orders and Trump doesn’t have the IQ to understand what is happening, so they say.

Or maybe it is just the understanding of how world foreign policy has to work.

Then, today, “Anonymous” leaked what’s going to be in the book, without mentioning names, in the New York Times. 

The book becomes available Tuesday, September 11, 2018.

“Anonymous” calls himself part of the “Resistance” within the White House decision. 
Trump tweeted “Treason?”.

“There are adults in the room”.  Sorry, David Hogg isn’t in the room.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Does self-publishing actually make money for its authors (that is, pay its own way) often? It's "back to school"

To start the “back to school” period, I thought it would be good to review the question, do self-published books sold on Amazon (especially POD) make money for their authors?
Here’s a good answer on Quora . One problem is that there are so many “vanity” books, so to speak, that the aggregate mathematically summed demand in society to make all of them profitable just would not be there.

Of course, there are many individual success stories.  It is true that in the past, some things (even “self-help”) have been popular.  And some “fads” might raise serious societal ethical or security questions.  Could Amazon even deal with public pressure if it carried a book on how to make a 3D-printed gun right now?  I wonder.

Let me add, on this particular blog, I don’t like seeing platforms (whether social media companies, mass retail sites, or even Internet hosts) expected to police the social consequences of what users sell.  But there is obviously a growing pressure on them to do so. 

One problem is that an author may not particularly care if a book “sells”; he or she may know that the content of the book will get around and have a political impact.  This is easier for an individual author, if determined, to pull off than a lot of people realize (even given al the attention to the manipulation of social media algorithms by Russia and other foreign enemies).  This problem could quickly get more attention than it has.

I’ll share a recent link (June 2018) on Amazon self-publishing, after Amazon stopped its own copyediting and formatting services. 
My own first DADT-1 book in 1997 sold reasonably well in its first two years, and the first printing (380 copies or so) did sell out. I wend to POD in 2000, so lower numbers are partly explained by the fact that the POD was already a second printing (with some typo corrections, especially on the back cover).

One of the aspects of my experience with selling my own print run in the late 1990s (right out of the Churchill apartments in downtown Minneapolis, where I lived well while working for ING-ReliaStar right on the Skyway) was the dot-com boom, which would start to flounder in late 2000 (before 9/11).  But that period was marked by unusual effectiveness of search engines.  I was often found on Google, long before modern social media aggregation.  A modern business climate were a few huge tech companies control everything has not been good for my own ability to sell books, even though it still gets my content out – for free.  Competition matters.
The video above stresses the importance of a successful first launch (even the first few days), and for continued promotion of the book. I have been criticized for not spending more time on promoting books I have already authored compared to new content, blogging, or covert support for music or movie projects (some of this by others).

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Verge republishes Sarah Jeong's "The Internet of Garbage" with its important observations on Section 230 and on DMCA Safe Harbor (different things)

Sarah Jeong, the writer who moved from The Verge to the New York Times amidst controversy over some of her old “tweet-backs” that some viewed as racist (they weren’t), has an out-of-print book called “The Internet of Garbage” (2015), now only on Kindle for $.99.  But The Verge is republishing it online on its site.  Here is the link to the first section: 

Jeong discusses a case where an actress, Cindy Lee Garcia, in case Garcia v. Google, litigated to have segments of “The Innocence of Muslims” taken down when her voice-over was used without her permission in a manner that apparently insults Islam, and resulted in her getting constant threats. She tried to claim copyright on her own voice-over and get the material taken down by DMCA Safe Harbor. YouTube insisted this was not copyright.  A long legal battle in the appeals courts follows.

The piece then explains the difference between Section 230 and DMCA Safe Harbor.  The former has to do with the usual torts, like defamation and invasion of privacy.  The latter is about copyright.

The article also explains the basic reason why it is so hard to control online harassment.  Platforms by and large are immune from most liability under Section 230, because they cannot possibly pre-screen everything.  On copyright (which was the biggest concern in the earliest days of the WWW), YouTube has come a long way with ContentID in identifying most infringement before the fact, but there are false positives.  (You could be flagged for your own music, and there are silly flags for outdoor background music obviously PD.)  But harassment is much harder to police and hate speech is so subjective that a lot of it is hard to define outside of specific intersectionalities.

Likewise, as we saw yesterday, it would be very difficult to require platforms to be responsible for publication of weapons assembly (Cody Wilson, the injunction yesterday regarding 3D printers) although YouTube and Facebook have already become proactive on this.
The article doesn’t mention how the FOSTA (Backpage-driven sex trafficking law) legislation passed this spring complicates Section 230.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

"Crazy Rich Asians" author wanted in Sinagpore for "draft dodging"

The book author Kevin Kwan, of “Crazy Rich Asians” (2013, Anchor Books) which is now a film directed by John M. Chu (Warner Bros.) is wanted for failing to register in Singapore for his two years uniformed servicedemanded of all males.  Here is the Quartz story
Wikipedia has a lineage chart for the novel.
The sequels are “China Rich Girlfriend” (2015) and “Rich People Problems” (2017).
Wikipedia attribution link for Singapore Naval Base, 1953 picture, p.d. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

"Foreign Affairs" issue "World War Web" for the fall of 2018

The September-October 2018 issue of “Foreign Affairs” has a big red cover “World War Web”, “The Fight for the Internet’s Future”, which is not the same as FTFF.

Adam Segal opens with “When China Rules the Web: Technology in Service of the State”.  Not only does China want technical autarky (which Trump says he is trying to deal against with tariffs) and data on its people stored within its borders, it wants to rightsize all its citizens in one communal national whole. That culminates in the social credit score to be implemented in 2020.  China believes that muzzling individual speech is a major tool in controlling inequality once some controlled statist capitalism attracts the outside world. China is already provoking anger by courting Google again if Google will follow China’s censorship within its borders. The danger is that China could some day have so much sway over global companies that China affects what Americans can say online within our borders.
Chapter 2 is “Data to the People: India’s Inclusive Internet”, by Nandan Nilekani, which talks about a government sponsored biometric id utility but tries to give people some ownership of their data.

Chapter 3 is  “Regulate to Liberate: Can Europe Save the Internet”, by Helen Dixon, which talks about the GDPR, but doesn’t address the controversial Copyright Directive, which comes up again in September, with its controversial Articles 11 (link tax) and 13 (prescreening for copyright infringement). But the GDPR marked a shift away from responsibility of the consumer to the platform for respecting privacy.

Chapter 4 is “The Internet’s Lost Promise: And How America Can Restore It”, by Karen Kornbluh, with emphasis on the American Internet’s libertarian origins with Section 230 and DMCA Safe Harbor (not presented);  they are under attack, as the growth of identity politics lessens the values of free speech, and as America comes to terms with ills like sex trafficking (FOSTA), and most of all the manipulation of user generated content opportunities by Russian bots to drive American readers into their own echo chambers, given social media algorithms. Suddenly gratuitous speech (not part of a business) is seen as meddling.

Chapter 5 is “Battlefield Internet: A Plan for Security Cyberspace”. By Michele Fluornoy and Michael Sulmeyer, surveys cyber security, even to the point of the dangers to the power grid, and mentions how “air gapping” might be overcome by enemies with manual external software updates and even by radio, microwave, or acoustic devices (which can also spy “offline”, as the CIA and NSA know).  The authors recommend that college students have the opportunity to train for military service in the ROTC program specifically in cyber security, bringing military security to utilities.
Chapter 6 is “A Big Choice for Big Tech: Share Data or Suffer the Consequences,”  by Viktor Mayer and Thomas Range.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

"Music and the Brain": e-book from Scientific American

Scientific American has been selling some interesting e-books on intriguing topics about consciousness, the universe, music, math, and the connections thereof.

Music and the Brain, introduction by Karin Tucker, explores the way the mathematical nature of music comports with the development of the human brain.

Musical training and performance tends to improve performance in other academic areas (especially mathematics) and when pursued throughout life is likely to delay or prevent dementia.  Music has also been effective as therapy for dementia and is becoming an occupation.  Sometimes professional musicians can earn additional income by performing in retirement or assisted living centers.

Music prodigies sometimes display some degree of Asperger’s or mild autism, particularly if the gifts are very intense (like perfect pitch).  Musical gifts correspond to developing other areas of the brain beauses those most usual, as with some other animals.
The book has four sections: (1) “Your Brain on Music; (2) “Music and Mathematics”; (3) “Music and Language Skills” (including “speaking in tones”, not tongues); (4) “Music and Movement”, including dance (probably dirty dancing).  The ISBN is 978-1-948933-01-8.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Omarosa's publisher defends her legal rights to sell her book tell the truthful story, regardless of any "non-disparagement" clause

Simon and Shuster is defending its right to continue publication of Omarosa Manigault Newman’s book “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House” (Gallery imprint, 366 pages). 

The publisher says that former government employees have the legal right to make truthful but critical statements about their leadership after they leave employment, regardless of any “private” non-disparagement clause. 

The administration wanted to stop the public from being able to get the book.  I haven’t decided yet on whether I have time for it.

But the situation reminds me of the "bad reviews" problem, where providers (often medical) proscribe patients or customers from talking negatively about them on review sites even if the claims are true.  These contracts sound legally questionable, and may depend on state law. 

Carlos Lozada has a (Washington Post) discussion of  “sycophantic” pro-Trump books that turn on themselves as they are being read, once the authors believe that the victory against the elite will be hollow indeed  

NBC News also has a story about the exorbitant original job offer to Omarosa from Lara Trump during the campaign, with a secret tape release, here

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Michelle Singletary previews Allisa Quart's book "Squeezed"

Here’s a book preview recommended by Michelle Singletary Sunday in her “color of money” column in the Washington Post.

The book is “Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America”, by Allisa Quart, of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project,  from Ecco, Harper Collins. 322 pages.

A book I reviewed on Wordpress, “Selfie” (also July 19 preview here) had explained the sacking of the middle class in terms of Ayn Rand-like personal perfectionism and a “winner take all” economy that looks at all but the frontrunners as “losers”.  It’s the mentality that led the Washington Nationals baseball team to fire Dusty Baker after last season, and look at how the Nats are struggling now.  Such short-sighted, misapplied selfishness doesn’t work.

Singletary also talks about a 2014 Brookings report “The Wealthy Hand-to-Mouth”.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

"Democratic Socialism Threatens Minorities": Atlantic article gets to the root of the proble,

Conor Friedersdorf has a nice “booklet” article in the Atlantic, Aug. 9, 2018, that it is at least (or at most) a “constructive criticism” of democratic socialism as Ocasio-Cortez could deploy it.  (David Hogg seems to be supporting her on Twitter, by the way.)
The article best title is “Democratic Socialism Threatens Minorities.”  The byline is “Nothing better protects victims of bigotry than a system where they can pursue their needs and wants outside the realm of popular control.”

Conor takes pure socialism to mean, the people decide what will be produced and consumed and control the means of production.  That is, more or less, the workers and their families. Ocasio hasn’t really said she would go that far, and neither really did Bernie Sanders.  Hogg will grow up into full adulthood practicing capitalism for himself, to be sure.  (After all, there’s nothing wrong with that, nothing “to be ashamed of”) . 

What Conor winds up describing is pretty much the early days of the Soviet Union, where they really did try statist planning of everything.  The Soviets continued, and eventually imploded.

China is a little different, and we need to look at why it works better than we would expect it to.  But China is cracking down on its Muslim minorities in the western provinces (which are, to a lot of people's surprise, largely white or Caucasian). 
I remember when in France I bought some antihistamines for a cold.  I paid for them privately, in a country with socialized medicine.  It is much cheaper and more efficient to let me take care of this myself.
Conor’s point is well-taken.  In a decentralized, capitalist economy with libertarian values, Muslims, evangelical Christians, LGBTQ people, minorities can produce and sell the items that meet the real demands of people in their own communities without central interference, according to a free market.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Masih Alinejad ("The Wind in My Hair") explains how the anti-shah revolution in Iran destroyed women

Fox News last night briefly interviewed author and journalist Masih Alinejad, a woman from Iran who lives in exile in New York City.  It was not immediately apparent if she had won asylum in the usual manner.

Her latest book is “The Wind in My Hair: My Fight for Freedom in Modern Iran”, from Little Brown.
She told Fox that before the 1978 revolution, deposing the Shah and installing the Ayatollah, with the hostage crisis at the embassy which Jimmy Carter flubbed (EDS made the daring rescue), women did well in Iran and the society was socially reasonably progressive.  The lesson of the revolution is that economic inequality and tribal strife can indeed cause the loss of civil liberties for everyone as revolutionaries expropriate from the privileged or force religious rules on everyone.
Masih has been active in women’s chess, and has led protests regarding forcing Muslim women to adhere to dress codes at international tournaments.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Amazon CreateSpace has ended editorial services for authors, but POD continues

As I get closer to working on my own novel manuscript, I will start looking more closely at the self-publishing options, including POD, as well as convention agenting (the post on Sunday Aug. 5).

I have just noted that Amazon ended its own CreateSpace services for authors on April 18.  This did not affect the actually affect the print-on-demand.  It means you have to go to a third party company for the same services.

I’ll give the link to 1106 Design here

A user forum on CreateSpace itself presents questions from writers on the future of the POD itself.  There are no comments from Amazon on the future of the program, and the POD continues now as it always has, but you would wonder.

There is a basic business model problem with the issue as to whether consumers really buy these books in sufficient quantity, even though there is vanity value to authors who don’t need to sell to make a living – this is a big philosophical problem in the business now.  This could affect all POD companies, which may explain their notably more aggressive behavior with authors since about 2012. It’s also crept into the classical music world, where getting commissions is a touchy subject for composers. 

Curiously, YouTube doesn’t seem to be up to date on this issue.  I’ll keep tabs on it.

Update: Aug. 12

At least for now Amazon seems to allow books with poor reputations and skimpy reviews to stay up.  Look at Jason Kessler's "Badland Blues" (Kindle) and the one-sentence reviews.  I won't give the Amazon link, rather Ian Shapira's Metro Section Washington Post article today.  Some people do try to rescue themselves with creative writing, unsuccessfully. 

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Outwrite 2018 book fair in Washington DC

I attended some sessions this weekend at Outwrite 2018 for LGBTQ authors and writers in Washington DC.

The session on “How to Pitch Your Book” offers this worksheet 

It was authored by Marcos L. Martinez from Georgetown University.

There were examples of books published by Stillhouse Press in Fairfax, VA.  One of the books was “Helen on 86th Street and Other Stories” by Wendi Kaufman.

There are also three small books of poetry by Bryan Borland, including “Tourist” and “DIG”.
On Saturday I attended a session on “WorldBuilding” in fiction (which applies especially to period stories and sci-fi or horror).
Under public pressure, Amazon has removed Nazi and white-supremacy rated products (visible symbols).  It is not clear if books are affected (a children’s book by George Lincoln Rockwell was said to have been removed).

Apple and Spotify have removed podcasts or other materials from the Alex Jones channel as conspiracy theories or hate speech, Yahoo story.  Trump had actually promoted Alex Jones as real media in his 2016 campaign. Will Amazon follow suit?  Later Monday it was reported that YouTube and Facebook had removed it.  Blacklisting is contagious. 

Thursday, August 02, 2018

UK bookseller website that specializes in independent publishing is for sale

I got an email advising me that an online bookstore site in the UK, emphasizing independent publishers and probably self-publishers, was for sale.  It is called “Look for books”, here.
I note that it doesn’t, on its home page, invoke https.

It also has an adult section.

It’s noteworthy for a couple reasons.  Sometimes websites alone are sold as businesses (just as Ramsay Taplin recently sold his Blogytyrant to a Wordpress guru – haven’t seen any changes to it yet). The email and website itself does not give a price.

Here’s my reaction.  I get questioned on why I don’t try harder to retail my own or other people’s books with normal retail operations, with volume discounts, promotions, and the like.  The short answer is that I am still interested mainly in developing new content (novels, music, and the news in these blogs) and not in operations – so I would never time.

But I note the cultural shift, which started about five years ago, and which accelerated maybe in 2014 with tensions overseas and then really crashed with the foreign manipulation of “amateur journalism” in conjunction with the 2016 elections by “the Russians”, etc.  Starting around 2012, self-publishing assist companies (especially POD) realized that their business models probably weren’t sustainable indefinitely even from author fees (typically around $3000 for high-end services) unless the books actually sold as copies (not just as e-books or Kindle) to consumers. So they started pressuring authors to be more interested in business and not just to leave everything to Amazon.
And then there is the whole “skin in the game” think of Nichokas Taleb’s book of that name (May 23). “You must start a business”, Taleb orders, rather than just talk or virtue-signal.  
Still, I keep my distance on this one.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

"The Peculiar Math that Could Underly the Laws of Nature": how tuples generate string theory, and more

Wired Magazine has published several important articles on the way deep laws of mathematics drive physics and biology.

The most recent, July 28, is by Matalie Wolchover, and is titled “The Peculiar Math that Could Underly the Laws of Nature”.  It’s also in Quanta Magazine here

She is a mathematician from Waterloo University in Ontario, and has worked with Penn State on this issue.

Her argument reminds me of the progression to real variables to complex variable in graduate school in mathematics (in my case, at Kansas University in the 1960s). Complex gives us some beauty, like the Mandelbrot set;  and Liousville Theorem may explain why the Universe seems infinite from any point.

From complex variables you get to quaternions, and from those to octonions. 

Now quaternion field theory doesn’t follow the commutative law, and octernions don’t even follow the associate law.  I remember giving my students quiz questions on those laws when I worked as a graduate student assistant instructor (many of them couldn’t restate the concepts).

From octonion math you can deduce string theory, the 11 dimensions and why time behaves the way it does.  You can also explain the fundamental forces in physics, maybe, and build quarks.
I hope you can’t build a contagious strangelet to make gray goo.

I could wonder, though, wouldn’t these tuples behave like vector spaces? Remember linear independence?

Here are a couple other big Wired (paywall) stories on theoretical mathematics. 

John Rennie on July1, 2018 writes “This Mutation Math Shows How Life Keeps on Evolving.”

And on Dec. 17, 2017, Kevin Hartnett published, “Secret Link Discovered Between Pure Math and Physics” , the work of Minhyong Kim at the University of Oxford, getting into “series of spaces”.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Atlantic Health Issue examines "When the Next Plague Hits"

The July/August issue of The Atlantic is “The Health Report”, has two long articles of particular importance.

Ed Yong’s “When the Next Plague Hits”, pp. 58-72, really is like a short book.  The article particularly notes that Trump, with his diffidence to science, is much less likely to take maintaining public health defenses seriously in the homeland than was Obama.

The article spends some space on the latest Ebola outbreak in the Congos, and notes that today there is a modern road to Uganda along which it can spread.  In 1995, when there was a previous outbreak, a drive would have taken much longer. Therefore Ebola or a similar filiovirus disease like Marburg, might spread much more quickly than even in 2014, when parts of West Africa had a notorious outbreak. The article gives some details as to how care for Ebola patients is provided at a medical center at the University of Nebraska, and the burdens on medical personnel are quite extraordinary.

CDC recommends the new Ebola virus vaccine for people going to areas of the Congo now, but not elsewhere.  This could lead to greater risks for people who work or intern today some of the other countries, like Liberia or Sierra Leone or West Africa, than might have been expected.  A new epidemic might spread even more quickly now throughout the continent than it did even a few years ago, ironically because Africa is modernizing econonically so quickly.  
The article also covers the science of influenza, including the 1918 pandemic and the reoccurrence of H1N1 in 2009.  We don’t seem very far along with bird flu strains like H5N1 and H7N9. There is a lot of attention to using cellular nanotechnology (an interest of Jack Andraka, also here March 18, 2015) to engineer an immune response to a more stable part of most influenza viruses so that a universal influenza vaccine could be engineered without the time delay of egg manufacture.

There is also some discussion of contact tracing and conventional infection control, as with SARS (2003). Nigeria, normally not known for an efficient government, was successful in stamping out Ebola in 2014.

On p. 74, Olga Khazan provides a long article, “Being Black in America Can Be Hazardous to Your Health”.
The article focuses on the Sandtown section of Baltimore, site of the riots in April 2015 after the police shooting of Freddie Gray.  The article suggests a life expectancy less by as much as twenty years because of the cumulative effects of compromised opportunity and toxic environment and dangers in the ghetto.

Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. diagram by Chloe Cryhanand