How To Survive A Robot Uprising

And some headlines:

And the book in question:

Robopocalypse (Kindle) by Daniel H. Wilson (more…)

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Our real first gay president

James Buchanan 450x300 Our real first gay president

Don't tell me you voted for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named! (img by Salon/Newsweek)

Don’t believe what Newsweek’s cover tells you: The first gay president was James Buchanan more than a century ago

The new issue of Newsweek features a cover photo of President Obama topped by a rainbow-colored halo and captioned “The First Gay President.” The halo and caption strike me as cheap sensationalism. I realize airport travelers look at a magazine for 2.2 seconds before moving on to the next one. I grant that this cover will probably get Newsweek a 4.4 second glance. I also understand that Newsweek is desperate for sales. Nevertheless, I doubt that the Newsweek of old, before it was sold for a dollar, would have pandered as shallowly.

The caption is a superficial way to characterize an important development of thought that the president — along with the country — has been making over recent years. It is also entirely wrong. Like the mini-furor a couple of months back about the claim that Richard Nixon was our first gay president, the story simply ignores that the U.S. already had a gay president more than a century ago.

There can be no doubt that James Buchanan was gay, before, during and after his four years in the White House. Moreover, the nation knew it, too — he was not far into the closet. (more…)

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Intermission: Microscopic badassery

After you’ve watched these microscopic badasses, read Annie Dillard, patron saint of Die < Less.

A child’s microscope set comes with a little five-watt lamp. You place this dim light in front of the microscope’s mirror; the mirror bounces the light up through the slide, through the magnifying lenses; and into your eye. The only reason you do not see everything in silhouette is that microscopic things are so small they are translucent. The animals and plants in a drop of pond water pass light like pale stained glass; they seem so soaked in water and light that their opacity has leached away.

The translucent strands of algae, you see under a microscope– Spirogyra, Oscillatoria, Cladophora–move of their own accord, no one knows how or why. You watch these swaying yellow, green, and brown strands of algae half mesmerized; you sink into the microscope’s field forgetful, oblivious, as if it were all a dream of your deepest brain. Occasionally a zippy rotifer comes barreling through, black and white, and in a tremendous hurry.

My rotifers and daphniae and amoebae were in an especially tremendous hurry because they were drying up. I burnt out or broke my little five-watt bulb right away. To replace it, I rigged an old table lamp laid on its side; the table lamp carried a seventy-five-watt bulb. I was about twelve, immortal and invulnerable, and did not know what I was doing; neither did anyone else. My parents let me set up my laboratory in the basement, where they wouldn’t have to smell the urine I collected in test tubes and kept in the vain hope it would grow something horrible. So in full, solitary ignorance I spent evenings in the basement staring into a seventy-five-watt bulb magnified three hundred times and focused into my eye. It is a wonder I can see at all. My eyeball itself would start drying up; I blinked and blinked.

But the pond water creatures fared worse. I dropped them on a slide, floated a cover slip over them, and laid the slide on the microscope’s stage, which the seventy-five-watt bulb had heated like a grill. At once the drop of pond water started to evaporate. Its edges shrank. The creatures swam among algae in a diminishing pool. I liked this part. The heat worked for me as a centrifuge, to concentrate the biomass. I had about five minutes to watch the members of a very dense population, excited by the heat, go about their business until-as I fancied sadly-they all caught on to their situation and started making out wills.

I was, then, not only watching the much-vaunted wonders in a drop of pond water; I was also, with mingled sadism and sympathy, setting up a limitless series of apocalypses. I set up and staged hundreds of ends-of-the-world and watched, enthralled, as they played themselves out. Over and over again, the last trump sounded, the final scroll unrolled, and the known world drained, dried, and vanished. When all the creatures lay motionless, boiled and fried in the positions they had when the last of their water dried completely, I washed the slide in the sink and started over with a fresh drop. How I loved that deep, wet world where the colored algae waved in the water and the rotifers swam!

Read the rest online, or do something crazy and pick up a dead-tree version of Teaching a Stone to Talk.

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Flamethrowers, Get’cher Flamethrowers Here!

sale2 Flamethrowers, Getcher Flamethrowers Here!

"This unit is owned by a private indivigual (sic, fumes prolly) who has asked me to sell it. It is in perfect working order and comes complete with everything you need to fire."

“Yo, flamethrowerman, flamethrower me!”

“One flamethrower, comin’ right up!”

“Mmm, flamethrower…”

I will brokerage flamethrowers that have been properly rebuilt and tested In most cases, each model has a certain collector or museum that has the most interest. I will negotiate with sellers on an individual basis for a fair price for both parties. There are some laws both state and federal, and we will adhere to the letter of the law. For all sales, I require a background check and a legal waiver stating that you understand the dangers and will not hold me liable.

This man sells flamethrowers. C’mon, you know you want one. They’re legal, after all.

flamethrower m2a1 71 Flamethrowers, Getcher Flamethrowers Here! (more…)

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Review: Reamde

reamde 450x670 Review: Reamde

Stephenson’s new(ish) Reamde is an incredibly believable and entertaining book about tactics, and is a pretty big change from his other work (outside of Zodiac or his books as Stephen Bury).

The books that Stephenson made his name on are about ideas. His settings and action, though well-researched and fascinating, tend to take a back seat to explorations of nano-tech, virtual reality, economics, cryptography and information theory, and quantum mechanics and the long now.

Reamde flips this focus, and Stephenson fans may be a little surprised or even disappointed. Which is why it’s taken me three months and a second (thousand page) read to write this review. (more…)

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Review: Life Inc.

lifeinc Review: Life Inc.

Douglas Rushkoff’s Life Inc runs with the tagline: “How Corporatism Conquered the World, and How We Can Take It Back”. The book itself spends lots of time on the former, and only a little on the latter. But you don’t have to read any of it, because there’s a video:

But there’s Die < Less stuff, too! (more…)

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