Saturday, April 30, 2011

Suburban woman is sued after elaborate online hoax -

When the Colorado volunteer firefighter she loved died unexpectedly of liver cancer in 2006, Paula Bonhomme tenderly re-examined his gifts to her: a rubber duck with a firefighter hat, a lock of his hair, a flattened quarter he'd stuck on the train tracks as a kid.

Most sentimental of all was the chain-sawed slab of wood Jesse Jubilee James had carved their initials into after helping extinguish a forest fire. His carving knife, he'd noted in black marker on the back, had first been "heated in (the) fire's ash."

The couple's own passion was sparked in flirty exchanges on the message board for HBO's "Deadwood" series in 2005. Soon they were trading emails, letters, postcards, photos and talking almost every day on the phone.

Even though they had never met, Bonhomme left an unhappy marriage in Los Angeles and was set to move to Colorado in 2006 when she learned James was dead. He hadn't told anyone else of his diagnosis, James' sister said, and didn't want a memorial service. "You all have temples within you," he wrote in a last note, "go there if you want to honor me."

About seven months later, Bonhomme's friends uncovered the creepy truth. James, his young son and about 20 other friends and family members Bonhomme had been communicating with for months were characters allegedly created by a woman in Chicago's west suburbs.

White Sands NM Sunset
The Agony/Ecstasy of Steve Jobs (and Apple's Supply Chain):

Look, Apple isn’t alone in this. Many companies struggle to learn about the risks and tradeoffs that suppliers make on their behalf. To truly dig deep, as Patagonia has, is very difficult and costly for the company and its customers. Many more companies prefer not to look too carefully at their supply networks, believing that so long as the product is functional and they are not liable for damages wrought by their suppliers, then there is no reason to investigate further. Finally, we the customers are complicit when we demand better products on a yearly basis, and we want them cheaper.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An Apple Turnover From Mike Daisey’s Oven | The SunBreak:

As an ethicist, Daisey first paints a glowing picture of obsession’s gifts, before speaking up for the niggling doubt, and here he enjoys himself contrasting Apple’s advances and sophistication with its laggard, Borg-like competitors. This also is where the Woz enters the narrative, and where Daisey starts to count the cost of a singular, overriding priority (it’s a point he’s made earlier with an investigation of WalMart’s “always low prices”). Given Wozniak’s treatment as Jobs becomes Apple’s avatar of amazement, the working conditions at Foxconn look like ramification of a founder’s principles, not an accident.

Daisey and Gregory’s gamble is that live theatre can be an adequate container for the emotional and cognitive dissonance he’s stoking–he doesn’t offer catharsis, as such. He’s circumspect about keeping the outrage his outrage, it’s never assumed. Maybe you share in his upset, maybe you don’t. But in an ironic way, the show recapitulates Apple’s “1984
ad: a lone figure disrupts the carefully produced image, and–though you don’t think of this at first–the audience is left with the sharp slivers of what used to be belief in the way things are.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Local News | Analysis: What's the next act for Intiman Theatre? | Seattle Times Newspaper:

But several conditions, local theater experts agree, should be met in any case: A revamped board of directors, with more hands-on involvement in the day-to-day finances. More transparency and responsiveness to the public and donors. Rooting the mission and leadership in Seattle, rather than focusing on reflected Broadway glory (as when Tony-winning, bicoastal director Bartlett Sher was artistic head).

Much talent, money and passion has been invested in the Intiman since Margaret Booker dreamed up the theater in 1972. But to survive and thrive, Intiman's next act may need to look very different from its previous ones.

Asshole's Paradise by Paul Constant - Film - The Stranger, Seattle's Only Newspaper:

I'm not going to debate the points of objectivism anymore. Life's too short. If you think Ayn Rand is great, we can basically shake hands and part ways right there; we have nothing to offer each other as human beings. Rand offers a childish worldview, intended for people who don't want to think about the world like grown-ups because thinking like a grown-up is too difficult. Arguing with a libertarian is like arguing the logic of a Dr. Seuss book with a class full of 6-year-olds, only not at all cute. So here's all I'm going to say about the political perspective of the film: If you're a sociopath, and you really, really, really hate humanity, and you believe in an absolute good and an absolute evil against all the staggering amount of evidence to the contrary (that is to say, after living in the real world for however long your life has been), you'll probably agree with this movie's political philosophy. Also: You are an asshole.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Apple Patent Reveals Extensive Stalking Plans:

But Apple's patent application makes it seem highly unlikely the location gathering is due to a bug. Indeed, the company outlines big plans for the troves of data it has quietly created. Apple includes an illustration of a mapping app called simply "Location History" which very much resembles the "iPhone Tracker" application expressly designed to raise alarm bells about all the data being collected (see figure 3A and 3B in the PDF embedded below, page 4-5). The patent also spells out how the location database could be "correlated or related" to other personal information, including "but not limited to: Data associated with a picture taking event, data associated with a financial transaction, sensor output data, data associated with a communication event (e.g. receipt of a phone call or instant message), data associated with a network event.... etc." (sections 0020 and 0021, on page 9 in the PDF below).
Today is my first day off in months, and so I have enough time to address some of the press that has been responding to THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF STEVE JOBS. There is far too much for me to respond to every story, so I thought I would respond to a Betanews story that posted today, as a way of trying to address one breaking response. I choose it because it’s reasonably well-written, and the author has actually seen my work, which gives us more to work with than many pieces on the web. You can read his piece here.

“Daisey researched the second story by going to Shenzhen, hiring a translator and faking his way in for a Foxconn factory tour posing as a prospective American businessman. Then he stood outside the fence and interviewed employees on their way out after their shift.”

I think it is important to understand that I spent weeks in Shenzhen, and that I visited a huge number of factories, and interviewed hundreds of workers. I am not trying to puff up my work, but to be clear that the efforts involved in telling this story are far more than a cursory visit—I am confident I spent far more time on the ground than WIRED did for their
pathetic piece where not a single worker was interviewed.

“These conditions hit the news in the last couple years as a string of suicides occurred at Foxconn. I believe Daisey said that there were "dozens" but the highest number in the news sources I've found is 14.”

This is because the Western press became temporarily obsessed with what appeared to be a cluster of suicides in the spring of 2010. The fact is that if you have been following this story, suicides happen at the plant in significant numbers since 2006…dozens and dozens of them. Because the Western press never paid attention until a single Associated Press story came out highlighting them, no one looks further back at all.

“Daisey describes how the factory, when he was there, had netting up near the roof of the buildings to prevent employees from jumping, and he asserted that this was the only action taken by the company.”

At the time that I visited, at the height of the suicides, that was indeed the only action the company had taken. Later the Western press shamed them into a number of gestures, including a company-wide 30% pay raise that then never actually fully materialized…a few months ago thousands of Foxconn workers protested this, which you can read about at

“The Al Jazeera report below shows one company response, stating that the suicide rate is in fact much lower than in the country as a whole. This is certainly crude, and perhaps cynical, but as I said there are over 400,000 people working there. You'd expect some suicides now and then even for reasons unrelated to work.”

This has become the default response of the tech community—you run the numbers and then assert that everything is fine. But it is not normal for the region for workers to kill themselves in this manner. It is not normal for them to kill themselves in this public way at work. Daniel Lyons did an excellent take-down of this kind of use of statistics to prop up what is obviously a a few months ago, which you can read for yourself

“But Daisey also drops a few specific claims that just don't sound right to me, such as when he says that over 50 percent of the electronics we buy are made in Shenzhen. It's not like I have the numbers, but I'll believe them when I see them from a more reputable source.”

I said that 52% of all electronics are made by Foxconn, not in Shenzhen. I’m quoting from Foxconn’s own annual reports, and the BusinessWeek story on Terry Gou.

“Or when he gave the population of Shenzhen as over 30 million, when other sources I looked for have it (as of 2009) at just under 9 million.”

I actually state the population is 14 million. I have recordings of every performance, so I can prove what I have said, and that number is accurate when you measure Shenzhen as the core and the factory zone, the way that most reasonable people would estimate its size.

“One more thing, although it's not a major point: The process Daisey describes is just that of final product assembly. The employees are putting components together, but those components -- the circuit boards, the displays, connectors, the cables -- all these are certainly made in a more automated process.”

I don’t talk about this because it really doesn’t pertain to a discussion of the labor standards for the assembly of the devices.

“I also thought that Daisey misleads by implying, as he does, that Western companies are running things in China. The Chinese government, he says, invited in "our" corporations and asked them to run things. But the companies in these zones are Chinese or, as in Foxconn's case, Taiwanese.”

The Special Economic Zone was established and our Western corporations were the ones who were consulted about systems, asked to set up standards, and responsible for. That happened. Our corporations participated and made it possible. Today, with the Chinese companies acting as the actual labor force, they make almost all of the Western companies products—those companies have *enormous* power over those conditions, if they chose to exert it, and enormous responsibility. Period.

“In fact, if Western companies were directly running things conditions would be much better because Western consumers and governments would demand it and would have real leverage.”

This is an illusion—we have real leverage *now*. Our corporations choose not to use that leverage, because they like the current system. This is why we’re responsible for perpetuating the system.

“I'm as skeptical of company propaganda as the next guy, but the Foxconn "Corporate Social & Environmental Responsibility Report" (2009) describes a multitude of programs and facilities to assist employees, from mental health counseling, employee training and development and academic assistance. Pictures of the employee gymnasium, table tennis room and the employee talent show (Foxconn's Got Talent!) show a progressive and healthful environment.”

When the companies are open to outside, independent verification, let’s talk again. When I can no longer stand at the front gates and speak with 14, 13, and 12 year-olds, we can re-examine this. Until then, I couldn’t give a tin-plated shit how many foosball tables anyone claims they have on premises.

“Remember, all these employees went to those companies because there was even less for them back in their villages. They stay there because they earn money that's not available to them back home. Remember also that those employees dread demerits that could lose them their employment. Is this fair? I guess not, but as a general rule life's not fair.”

First, I want to be clear that I acknowledge all this in the monologue.

That said…the idea that these conditions can be met with a shrug and a sigh and the belief that this is simply “unfair” is a bit staggering. We have standards in the world that exist not because they are “fair” or “unfair”, but because we believe human beings have some degree of native rights. They’re called human rights, and by any reasonable measure they are being violated inside this system on a massive scale.

“The reason all those factories are in China is because there is cheap labor available. If the factories were somehow compelled to treat their employees well and pay Western wages there wouldn't be any point to having factories there.”

This is the most infuriating part for me, because I take great pains in the monologue to dissect this, and I speak to it directly. I actually disconnect the cost of humane labor conditions from wages, and talk about how in America we keep conflating them. Within the limited space of the piece I am very exactingly clear about this. Nevertheless, Mr. Seltzer has chosen to conflate them together to make a point, ignoring what I actually said.

The creation of humane working conditions does not mean you have to pay Western wages. They are two separate discussions. The only reason to conflate them is so that we can sit in the West and shrug and say it’s impossible to reform anything, because it would make it all too expensive. That’s ridiculous, offensive, untrue, and stupid. It may not be simple, but implementing humane reforms is absolutely possible, and we have an ethical and moral responsibility to do so.

“What would happen if Apple and other Western companies demanded better conditions and credibly threatened to take their business elsewhere? It's hard to say, especially without those numbers I couldn't find. It's possible that conditions would improve in order for Foxconn and others to retain that lucrative business.”

Well, it isn’t just lucrative—it’s all their business. If the West demanded things change, and worked to implement that and it was a real priority, it would happen.

Look at conflict minerals. For years the tech industry has shrugged and dragged its feet and said it could never regulate—never, ever, ever. Then they are forced to account for where the materials come from…and magically all the companies find that they can figure out how to come into compliance, because now there is an actual threat and a regulation, so they actually apply themselves. The whiplash from their position change is staggering.

Corporations are very powerful. When they argue that they are fragile, and they can not change or they were wilt, we should all be very, very suspicious.

“Is it wrong to buy an iPhone because of the way the people who assembled it were treated? Start looking at things like that and you're treading into deep waters. Should you not buy gasoline because Saudi Arabia oppresses women? Should you instead try for wind and solar power, the components for which are largely built in China? Peasants in Latin America have a rough life, so should you not drink coffee? And you'll probably have to end up making your own clothes because despite some serious efforts stop it, sweatshops in the textile and apparel businesses are still common.”

This is also deeply frustrating for me because Mr. Seltzer saw my show. I address this idea—that we love our tools, and we need our tools, but everything is interwoven and tainted, because we live in the real world. It is frustrating to see this presented as a defeatist maxim…since the world is complex, it’s better not to try.

I call bullshit on that. It is better to be an adult than it is to be a child, and in the West we have a strong tradition of living like spoiled children. If it is deep water to actually wrestle with these matters, then it is deep water where we should all be swimming as adults. Instead too often we sit in a kiddy pool and tell ourselves fantasies about consumerism, and work hard to be ignorant.

Mr. Seltzer ends with:

“I'm of the opinion that things in China won't really change until political freedoms become more Western-style. Maybe I'm an insensitive cultural imperialist, but maybe Chinese culture teaches way too much deference to authority. The Communist Party pays lip service to the idea of revolution but regularly makes a mockery of the notion by suppressing any meaningful dissent. The list of one-party states that are free and socially responsible is certainly a short, and probably empty one.”

In this we absolutely agree…but I look deeper, and I see my country, ostensibly dedicated to freedom, using its power and its corporations to empower that fascist country run by thugs. If we know this is true, we can not simply sit back and shrug and wonder what happens next. We need to open our eyes, recognize who we are and what we have done, and begin the hard work that change requires of us.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Saturday, April 23, 2011

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Mauna Kea Star Trails - [EXPLORED]
Connick v. Thompson: Clarence Thomas writes one of the cruelest Supreme Court decisions ever. - By Dahlia Lithwick - Slate Magazine:

I don't think that the failure at the court is one of empathy. I don't ask that Thomas or Scalia shed a tear for an innocent man who almost went to his death because of deceptive prosecutors. And, frankly, Ginsburg's dissent—while powerful—is no less Vulcan in tone than their opinions. But this case is of a piece with prior decisions in which Thomas and Scalia have staked out positions that revel in the hyper-technical and deliberately callous. It was, after all, Scalia who wrote in 2009 that "this court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is 'actually' innocent." It was Thomas who wrote that a prisoner who was slammed to a concrete floor and punched and kicked by a guard after asking for a grievance form had no constitutional claim.

The law awards no extra points for being pitiless and scornful. There is rarely a reason to be pitiless and scornful, certainly in a case of an innocent man who was nearly executed. It leads one to wonder whether Thomas and Scalia sometimes are just because they can be.

Eyes on You!
Portland Institute for Contemporary Art announces partial lineup for 2011 TBA festival |

The big news among the 20 projects announced so far is a performance by Mike Daisey. Not that Daisey's appearance is a rarity -- the theatrical monologist performed two shows ("Monopoly" and "If You See Something, Say Something") in TBA '08, came to town the following year for a development workshop of his show "The Last Cargo Cult," and was back in TBA last September with his discursive take on technology and globalization, "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." All have been big hits with Portland audiences.

What stands out about the show he's premiering here this year, "All the Hours in the Day," is how accurate its title is. Daisey will present a 24-hour performance piece that Edwards describes as "an excursion into the American character through the lens of a road trip."

The audience won't be required to sit through the entire thing, of course. There'll be built-in meal breaks, maybe an availability-based seating system that allows you to pop in for a few odd hours. But it could also be a way for TBA's true art warriors -- some of whom already have conquered Nature Theatre of Oklahoma's four-hour "No Dice" and/or Elevator Repair Service's six-hour reading/performance of "The Great Gatsby" -- to really test their mettle.

"It'll be a great, brave, extreme festival finale," Edwards says. "And he thinks that Portland is the one place where he can pull it off. He has created a great relationship with Portland audiences, and I think there will be a number of people who'll be with him for the whole 24-hour ride."
Chelsea - Stretches Out on The Floor In The Soap Aisle for Scene Magazine

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dilbert Creator Defends Gwyneth Paltrow From Privileged Black Woman:

Scott Adams, remember, defended the Republican official who photoshopped Obama's face on a chimp head as "so non-racist." This guy is like if every College Republican chapter president in the world and the most insufferable students in your undergraduate philosophy class, plus fifty-thousand copies of Atlas Shrugged, combined into a voltron and started a blog.
Lessons from Manning's transfer out of Quantico - Glenn Greenwald -

For multiple reasons, the treatment of Manning has been a profound stain on the Obama administration. It isn't merely that the treatment is inherently inhumane, although that's true. It isn't merely that oppressive detention conditions are such a glaring betrayal of Obama's repeated signature vow to end detainee abuse, though that's also true. And it isn't merely that Manning has never been convicted of anything, rendering this obvious punishment (masquerading as protective detention) offensive on multiple Constitutional and ethical levels (not to mention a violation of the UCMJ), though that, too, is true. What makes it most odious are the purposes that likely drove it: a desire to break Manning in order to extract incriminating statements to be used against WikiLeaks and, worst of all, a thuggishly threatening message to future would-be whistleblowers about the unconstrained punishment they'd face if they, too, exposed government deceit, wrongdoing and illegality.
Links on April 21 | Agnoiologist:

I thought this was a good review. I saw the show when it was in Berkeley and enjoyed it a lot. I recently thought about this show when I saw that a SAS cable I had to install was made by Foxconn. Perhaps I’ll blog about that and post it here. I’ll probably do it for work.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Artistic Director of Seattle's Troubled Intiman Theater Is Departing -

Kate Whoriskey, picked by Bartlett Sher to succeed him as artistic director of Intiman Theater in Seattle, is parting ways with that beleaguered institution, at least for now. Faced with a cash crisis, the Intiman board voted last weekend to cancel the rest of the season, which started just last month, and to lay off the theater’s staff. While the board hopes to reopen Intiman next year, Ms. Whoriskey said in a telephone interview that she is returning this weekend to New York, where she has an apartment, and will resume her freelance directing career.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Board of Intiman Theater Has Voted to Cancel the Rest of the Season | Slog:

Intiman was planning on producing four other shows this season—The Call, Playboy of the Western World, The Piano Teacher, and A Boy and His Soul—after its current production of All My Sons, which closes tomorrow.

Trapnell said the theater's employees will get either two weeks' notice or severance pay, at which time their jobs will be suspended until further notice.

"We are doing this to make sure that we pay our contractual agreements," Trapnell said. The financial challenge of finishing the 2011 season, she added, "was just too much risk."

Languages Grew From a Seed in Africa, a Study Says -

Some of the click-using languages of Africa have more than 100 phonemes, whereas Hawaiian, toward the far end of the human migration route out of Africa, has only 13. English has about 45 phonemes.

This pattern of decreasing diversity with distance, similar to the well-established decrease in genetic diversity with distance from Africa, implies that the origin of modern human language is in the region of southwestern Africa, Dr. Atkinson says in an article published on Thursday in the journal Science.

Friday, April 15, 2011

As Requested - IAMA former Olive Garden employee who was sent to Tuscany for their "Culinary Institute" : IAmA:

I'll be on and off all day, new account. Long time lurker, first time poster. I was a manager at Olive Garden and was sent to their culinary institute in Tuscany back in 2007. It was more like a hotel, during the off-season, with restaurant on site. They would let the Olive Garden come and stay in all the rooms (small place-maybe 20 rooms) and they would use the restaurant (closed to the public-again off season) as a classroom for maybe an hour here or there and talk about spices or fresh produce for a minute before going site seeing all day. The only time we saw the "chef" was when she made a bolognese sauce while taking pictures with each of us to send to our local newspapers. Basically, yes, they send people to Italy every year. As a manager I still got paid my salary and didn't have to use vacation time, it counted as "work." They paid for everything from meals, sightseeing, flight, everything except souvenirs. But in return, they sent pre-written articles to out local newspaper with fake quotes from me and a group photo. Also every year when they would run the promotion, I was supposed to wear a special "chef" coat and make conversation with guests who ordered the promotional meals.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

You're Not Sharing What You Think You Are on Facebook:

The researchers surveyed 65 Columbia students on what kinds of information they wanted to share on Facebook, and to whom. For example, many said they were comfortable sharing information about their sexuality to their Facebook friends but wanted to hide it from strangers. Ditto, information about their alcohol consumption. Researchers then determined what information the participants were actually sharing, and how that matched with their intentions.

It didn't match at all: 93% of them were sharing something they wanted to hide, while 84.6% were hiding something they wanted to share. In fact every single participant's privacy settings were not in line with what they actually wanted to share.

This wasn't simply a problem of negligence. The students cared strongly about what they were sharing and believed they had set their privacy settings to reflect their concerns. Just like you probably do.

The problem is that the way Facebook handles privacy doesn't reflect how people view their privacy in the real world. Facebook organizes its privacy settings through type of information. So you can infinitely customize who can see your wall posts, status updates, photos, etc. But what people really care about is this information's content in the context of our relationships, not its form.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Odd Man Out - Parabasis:

Whenever the question of price comes up, someone trots out the whole "people drop lots of money on music or bars, so it's not like they're poor" argument. It completely misses the point. The question to ask is why? Why do people who would never drop $40 bucks on an Off-Broadway play feel comfortable dropping $100 to see Prince? Because of the quality of the experience. Theatre is falling down on the quality of the experience.

Concert ticket sales are suffering. Album sales are suffering. No one says that music is dying. When your team is bad, your ticket sales suffer. Baseball isn't dying. I don't think theatre is dying, but I think it's time to retire the entire idea of the fabulous invalid, sitting high above other experiences as a special thing, meant to be nurtured and given love and support for simply existing. Our theatres are failing and they're failing because of the work they're doing. Not just because the country is full of philistines.



Some Thoughts, Possibly Related, on Time, Criticism, and the Nature of Consciousness - The Brooklyn Rail:


Thanks, everyone, for coming. You’re all sitting down so nicely for this lecture, which is a lecture in 10 sections—or, more accurately, a rough draft of a lecture, with you all as my test audience. Right now, I need you to do two things. First, I need you to take out your cell phones, and make a decision about whether or not you’re going to turn them off for the duration of this thing, which isn’t really very long. I don’t just mean on silent, which I assume you’ve already done.

Whichever you decide, I’d like you to pay attention, just a little bit of attention, to the ramifications of that decision. If you choose to leave your phone on, I assume that means you feel you have to. I don’t want to mess with the urgency of that feeling, as it’s one I have quite often, or shame you out of it. But I do want you to be aware of it, of what it is doing to your mind as you check incoming messages and zip between the here and the there. In other words, to be aware that, even sitting still, you’re time traveling. And, of course, if you leave it on, keep it on silent.

Likewise, if you decide to turn your phone off, whether as a matter of politeness or with a sense of relief, please pay some attention to that as well. My phone is on right now, because I am going to need it in a minute. And then it will be off, not to make any point to you, but to make one to myself, since I am one of those people who has difficulty turning her phone off but is always somehow calmed when she does.

Please make your decision now. There isn’t a right or a wrong choice here—not from my perspective, at any rate.

[give them a minute to do this]

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

"He has been close to the red line of Chinese law." | Slog:

Outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who was beaten until he needed surgery for cerebral hemorrhage during a 2009 detention by the Chinese government, was arrested on Sunday while trying to board a plane. He hasn't been seen since.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Transocean Gives Bonuses for 'Safety Performance':

Remember Transocean Ltd., the company that owned the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded in a hellish ball of fire, killing 11 workers and setting off the massive Gulf oil spill last year? In documents filed with the SEC on Friday, the company announced it was handing out bonuses to senior executives for overseeing the "best year in safety performance in our company's history." Perhaps that's because, as Transocean CEO Steve Newman wrote in a statement, "Of the 126-member crew [on the Deepwater Horizon], 115 were safely evacuated." He also points out that only 9 of the 11 dead were Transocean employees.

Newman got $374,062 in bonuses and, according to the AP, his total compensation for last year was $5.8 million. Classy.