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The Longest Now

On Miranda’s Rights: Intimidating the press through their families
Wednesday August 21st 2013, 6:04 pm
Filed under: Rogue content editor,Too weird for fiction

Lord FalconerMark WeisbrotBen Daniel comment on the surprising 9-hour detention of Glenn Greenwald’s husband David Miranda, on a layover through Heathrow, under  the unironically-named “Terrorism Act 2000“.

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Ripeness being all: Snowden’s secret and the web’s New Nihilism
Monday July 22nd 2013, 11:25 am
Filed under: Aasw,Blogroll,fly-by-wire,Not so popular,null,Too weird for fiction

Heller via Yossarian:

He felt goose pimples clacking all over him as he gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled…
Man was matter, that was Snowden’s secret. Drop him out a window and he’ll fall.

Set fire to him and he’ll burn. Bury him and he’ll rot, like other kinds of garbage.
The spirit gone, man is garbage. That was Snowden’s secret. Ripeness was all.

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Monday July 08th 2013, 8:05 pm
Filed under: metrics,null,Too weird for fiction

Pity US Commerce and our Econ. Dev. Administration.

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Westboro Baptists face off with Anonymous at Aaron’s service
Monday January 14th 2013, 9:47 pm
Filed under: Aasw,indescribable,Too weird for fiction

Yesterday, the Westboro Baptist Church (a cultlike single-family church that gets publicity for its extreme religious views by picketing high-profile funerals – such as those of soldiers returning from fighting overseas – with the most offensive chants they can muster) declared they would attend and picket Aaron’s funeral tomorrow. (via Salon) I suppose that is a sign that they expected it will generate publicity.

Anonymous, which has opposed WBC antics in the past, launched Operation Angel in response: to minimize the impact of such picketing, and help avoid the hounding of people like Aaron in the future.

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*.MIT goes down; the Internet sees a Swartzite omen
Sunday January 13th 2013, 9:58 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,Too weird for fiction

TechCrunch and others noted that *.mit and the redirect (not the website itself) were down for some time tonight, from roughly 7pm to 10pm.

MIT looked into the problem, and some reported a link to a router configuration bug that’s been happening sporadically in recent weeks. This didn’t stop many on the Internet from seeing an omen or intervention or DDOS attack related to Aaron’s death.

But there may be a connection. An hour ago, after access to most of the MIT network was restored, two specific MIT sites ( and were hacked by Anonymous to display a page remembering Aaron. The MIT Tech has the most up to date coverage: (“Anonymous Hacks MIT“)

The Anonymous message said, in part:

We tender apologies to the administrators at MIT for this temporary use of their websites. We understand that it is a time of soul-searching for all those within this great institution as much — perhaps for some involved even more so — than it is for the greater internet community.

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Drone operator: 5,000 Feet Is The Best (Documentary)
Saturday December 08th 2012, 3:58 pm
Filed under: indescribable,international,null,Too weird for fiction

Omer Fast (video).

GrindingAles Kot & discussion of the recent NYPD drone controversies.

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Enlightening thoughts on nonlocality from the great Serge Haroche
Monday November 05th 2012, 11:56 am
Filed under: Too weird for fiction,Uncategorized

Entanglement, Decoherence, and the Quantum/Classical Boundary

via Johannes Koelman.

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!!!!! Move over, Makmende! Aki Ra is Love
Tuesday September 25th 2012, 5:26 pm
Filed under: fly-by-wire,indescribable,international,null,Too weird for fiction

Love and death and hope. Here’s wishing him a fruitful and productive year.

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Brookline Graffiti vs. Michael Dukakis: Who would win? (part 2)
Tuesday August 21st 2012, 12:52 am
Filed under: chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,indescribable,Too weird for fiction

Thoroughly awesome.

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UNHRC: Periodic Rights Review (US edition)
Wednesday June 27th 2012, 7:34 am
Filed under: indescribable,international,Too weird for fiction,Uncategorized

My recent post about China’s parody of the annual US reports on national human rights made me want to read the actual reports.  It’s the sort of cleanly organized information that I love, combined with the lack of citations and categories that I hate.  We’ve never issued a high-level summary of that form about our own country.  But we did take part in a review of national human rights last year, for the UN Human Rights Committee – something similarly high-level but less methodical.

If this sort of thing interests you, you will enjoy the full details of that process, which gives quite a rich flavor to our internal national discourse, complete with:

  • A puffy initial “toward a more perfect world” self-assessment
  • A mix of moral, practical and political recommendations from all UN member states (put forth by any interested state during an open 3-hr Q&A session, and compiled into their own report; resulting in a fascinating set of ~250 recs including 70 or so duplicates for the popular ones)
  • A quick reflection after that Q&A, followed by a refreshingly detailed set of  straightforward responses to those recommendations

The recs and responses are worth reading all the way through.  They are concise and – aside from Cuba and Venezuela occasionally derailing the discussion – all seem to take the process most seriously.  If you’re not keen on all the details, here are some highlighted recs with our responses in italics:

  • Perennial topics:  Ratify the declaration of indigenous rights (x10 different recommendations for this): yes, done;  similar covenants on the rights of women; on children; and on the disabled(x20+): support, let’s make progress;  the covenant on economic, social and cultural rights (x18): sorry no progress here limit our policy of treaty reservationsno, though we may consider specifics)
  • The death penalty:  this is unsurprisingly the juiciest topic.  We are the last western country to kill prisoners, which is more clearly immoral to each generation.  This drew the plurality of recs.  Again,  straightforward and telling responses (Abolish the death penalty(x20+): no;  place a national moratorium on the death penalty (x10): no;  consider placing a moratorium on the death penalty(x5): no;  restrict the number of offenses carrying the death penalty(x2): noo;  consider reviewing relevant laws or studying the possibility of starting a campaign to implement a moratorium(x3): still no;  withdraw the reservation to article 6, paragraph 5 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights that prohibits the death penalty for those who committed a crime when they were minors(x1): not as such;  consider withdrawing the reservation to article 6, paragraph 5 of the ICCPR(x2): okay, will consider.)
  • Those 200+ recommendations just keep giving.  Algeria made the recommendation I did above, “include and rank the human rights situation in the US in the annual country reports on human rights – as was done for the annual report on trafficking of persons” (in 2010)  This was met with one of our few specious responses: no need, also we don’t rank anyone.
  • Norway is awesome.  They make 7 solid apolitical recommendations. No rehashing international policy disputes or convention-signing, which can be nominal at best: a focus on essential changes that can be carried out now, and would be historically significant.

All this gets at my initial questions in more detail than I knew how to ask.   Details after the jump.


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Detroit: pregnant mom bound, kidnapped, set on fire, shot. Everyone survives…
Wednesday May 30th 2012, 8:28 pm
Filed under: Too weird for fiction

say what?

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Graffitors beware: counter-vandalism patrol has come to Brookline
Friday May 25th 2012, 7:47 pm
Filed under: fly-by-wire,indescribable,Too weird for fiction

Graffiti is being wiped out across the city of Brookline by a wave of hyperrealist art. If you’ve ever wanted ‘tattoo removal’ for that Banksy your overpass got when it was young and carefree, or want to know which bricks match Textured Rusted Umber, this Tumblr’s for you..

It’s like The Man Who Planted Trees for a smooth, unblemished urban landscape.

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Cardboard Cutout Khomeini
Wednesday April 25th 2012, 4:47 pm
Filed under: Rogue content editor,Too weird for fiction

Still venerated: Ruhollah Khomeini, iconified in larger-than-life cardboard forms. Shown here on MehrNews, and parodied on its own Blogspot.

The landing-strip military welcome for the cutout, complete with roses and a band, is a nice touch. “Too strange for fiction” wins out over “photoshop”.

via Jacob Rus.

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Mystery Hunt 2012: Romancing The Notes

Every January I spend a weekend in the Land of Mystery, tucked into a facet of MIT: that is, the MIT Mystery Hunt.

It is somewhere between a religious experience, performance art, and an exercise in observation, pattern matching, and problem solving. It is also wickedly tricky, a pinnacle of amateur puzzle contests: teams of 50+ people spend two full days solving a series of interlocked puzzles to find a coin hidden somewhere on campus.

This past weekend I took my annual pilgrimage across Cambridge to MIT for the Hunt, but for the first time my team was running the event, rather than competing. This was our tenth anniversary as Team Codex (we started out the year before as the aduni team, then adopted a proper codename), and producing the Hunt was a fitting way to celebrate. Many of us had a backlog of puzzle ideas that were converted into working puzzles over the course of the past year, with much iteration and satisfaction. Few of us had ever designed Mystery Hunt-caliber puzzles before, though we knew in principle how it was done.

We staged the first musical-themed Hunt on record, in an effort to encourage teams to share their own creativity while solving. Max and Leo from The Producers showed up at MIT, now out of jail and looking to make goo^B^B^B out like bandits, this time for good. They staged a short production of their own to get everyone in the mood, and then invited students to help them research and put on a series of guaranteed musical flops… While this didn’t work out exactly as planned, along the way were fancy cocktail parties with potential stars, swimming-pools full of Sets of ducks, research into the private peeves and longings of theater critics, campus spelunking, video game hacking, and a denouement in which, unbelievably… . . . well, it’s complicated. You’ll just have to explore the Hunt site itself to see how the saga ended.

We had roughly 70 active people on our organizing team, and everyone played multiple roles — writing, testing, and implementing puzzles, software, and skits. Our lead performers, in addition to being fine actors and musicians, happened to be professional puzzle writers and editors, and wrote many of the Hunt’s 107 puzzles as well as the book for our productions. Our lead editor also kept the production team together through stressful moments, providing black humor as needed, and preserving a fast editing pace all Fall without upending our minimal-heirarchy team. Hotshot solvers shifted gears to rewrite swaths of code. When puzzle-lover Neil Patrick Harris declined to MC the awards ceremony, we called on a home-grown rock star instead. Dozens of people joined the cast in the final weeks and picked up their parts without a hitch.

Having been involved with organizing perhaps a dozen events of similar size, I can say without hesitation that this was the most satisfying and life-affirming. We had varied and prolific organizers, an elaborate and dynamic schedule, a completely committed audience, and an extraordinary host-participant collaboration, with continual feedback. While the event ran for only 1500 people, its primary output was a broadly valuable story, told through puzzles: something that may be enjoyed for years or generations to come: a set of curious, colorful, maddening, marvelous puzzles, illustrated and interlinked, free to solve and repurpose. Just one more Act in the perennial romance between creative puzzlers and scientific endeavour.

Here is a sampling of this year’s puzzles, drawn from my favorites. Happy hunting! The average puzzle takes 2-10 person-hours to solve, depending on your experience and how quickly the right insights come to you.

Sounds Good To Me
(my all-hunt favorite)

Slash Fiction
(best casting and music, and the most expensive puzzle production)

Paper Trail
(an elegant, satisfying black box)

Yo Dawg I Herd You Like Puzzle Hunts
(yo dawg, i herd you like herd you like)

Itinerant People Of America
(man, this one is a hodge-podge.)

Picture An Acorn
(the final aha! will make you chump for joy)

The Rainbow Connection
(Now that’s rainbow-bright…)

Google Bodyslam
(“so, we’re working on a pro wrestling puzzle. what should we call it?”)

(the puzzle consists of nothing more than the title)

Coming To A Location Near You
(a wikipedia-based scavenger hunt)


Aaron Swartz vs. United States

(echoes of a broken system)

UPDATE: Aaron committed suicide on January 11, 2013.(!) More on his life here.

Aaron Swartz is a friend and Cambridge-area polymath whose projects focus on access to knowledge, open government, and an informed civil society.  He has worked as a software architect, digital archivist, social analyst, Wikipedia analyst, and political organizer.  Last year he co-founded the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and the non-profit political advocacy group Demand Progress.

He is also currently charged with computer fraud by the US Attorney’s office, in what appears to be the latest example of “a sweeping expansion of federal criminal jurisdiction” based on the broad applicability of wire fraud and computer fraud statutes.  An overview:



Aaron has studied institutional influence and ways to work with large datasets.  In 2008, he founded, “the good government site with teeth“,  to aggregate and visualize data about politicians – including where their money comes from.  That year he also worked with Shireen Barday at Stanford Law School to assess “problems with remunerated research” in law review articles (i.e., articles funded by corporations, sometimes to help them in ongoing legal battles), by downloading and analyzing over 400,000 law review articles to determine the source of their funding.   The results were published in the Stanford Law Review.  Most recently, he served for 10 months as a Fellow at Harvard’s Safra Center for Ethics, in their Lab on Institutional Corruption.

He contributed to the field of digital archiving, designing and implementing the Open Library, which serves as a global digital resource today, and as a foundation for any digital libraries in the future.  And he collected 2 million  public-domain court decisions from the US PACER system — a system that nominally makes all such decisions available to the public, but in practice keeps them hidden behind a paywall — to add to Carl Malamud’s collection at  (That work in turn gave rise to the crowdsourced RECAP project.)


The Case of the Over-Downloader

Last week, Aaron was charged by a grand jury with computer fraud [1], for allegedly downloading millions of academic articles hosted by the journal archive JSTOR, and exceeding authorization on MIT and JSTOR servers to do so.

JSTOR claims no interest in pursuing a legal case.  However they are not part of the prosecution, and Aaron faces a possible fine and up to 35 years in prison, with trial set for September.  You can support his legal efforts online.

The Association of College and Research Libraries notes that both the prosecution and Swartz’s supporters have characterized the trial with “superficial, and deeply incorrect, messages about libraries and licensed content“.

So how did this come to pass, and what does it mean for the Internet?

Details of the case and public reactions it inspired, after the jump.


BFF you make me LOL

Rebecca Black: How could you fail to love such a sincere meme machine?

Update: Her latest video, Which seat should I take, is hard to beat.

2011 Naked Emperor Oscars

From Zapiro‘s genius sketchbook.

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