Archive for May, 2009

Just how big is Africa?

Posted: May 31, 2009 in reflections, society


Surprisingly big. Not that I really had any idea, but I certainly wouldn’t have guessed this comparative size! BTW: the image is part of a post that looks at Africa from other angles – like which of its areas were mentioned how often in the New York Times. Definitely food for thought. And the post is part of a rather interesting blog called Scarlett Lion: Liberia.

Tattooed table: Yakuza

Posted: May 31, 2009 in creativity


yakuza pattern

A different take on tattoos: Yakuza is a digitally tattooed wooden table. In its design, the table is treated as a living body, receiving its character from a unique tattoo printed on its surface. The wood texture acts as skin, becoming a platform for expressing cultural and personal identity – which should be made easier given that the digital printing technology supposedly doesn’t make it very difficult to apply tattoos and therefore would allow to treat each table in a unique and very individual way. And I guess the fact that the table is made from veneered MDF will help too.

Distributor: Generate Design; price available on request.

travelling salesmanGood thinking. It burns much more fuel when farmers individually go to a farmer’s market or supply a local store than having one large truck doing the same job but going from farm to farm to collect the produce.  Sure, it takes something away from the romantic idea of local markets and producing food locally, and it almost sounds counter-intuitive in that context. But, if you wanna be sustainable, going back to the old ways of produce distribution puts more pressure on the environment than using more modern, streamlined methods. After all, the model of farmers going to the market individually comes down to us from a time where where fuel for transport consisted of feed for horses – very different pollution levels there.

To read more about the issue, including looking at a practical example and some thoughts on the maths behind the idea, go to Brian Dunning’s post on the Skepticblog.

Well, I guess that’s not the intention, but it’s certainly not a bad interpretation 😉 . Hackerbot Labs built a coin shrinker based on an actual industrial process called electromagnetic forming. They charge up a capacitor to 10kV and then release the stored energy very quickly into a copper coil wrapped around a coin. The sudden current change creates huge magnetic fields first within the coil and then in the coin which make the coin contract and the coil explode. Because of the forces unleashed, the whole process is quite dangerous; the videos shows the need for a specifically thick-walled chamber to contain the explosion of the coil and a string being used to trigger the split second process remotely. The coins’ weight and volume apparently are retained during the shrinking procedure and even its features remarkably survive; they just look a bit warped.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

If you wanna know more, check out Hackerbot Labs’ blog which explains the whole process in more details and in addition provides detailed images of the process steps. It also has another video whose quality better but doesn’t show the spectacular explosion in the same great fashion 😉 .

Sounds exaggerated? Maybe. I don’t know anyone, I have to say, who only lives in cyberspace, and generally press reports tend to focus on negativity that is not representative of reality. However, the following article by Mike Adams (Natural News) does present valid arguments for those contexts where people are totally disconnected from physical and social realities. And in the end he is not arguing against social networks but for a balance of real and cyberlife.


Social networking is an illusion. The term is almost self-contradictory, like “jumbo shrimp” or “military intelligence.” Networking on the ‘net is, by any real measure, anti-social.

I know a young guy who has over twenty thousand friends on Facebook and MySpace. That sounds impressive at first: Twenty thousand friends? Wow. Except there’s a problem: None of them are real.

Not in any way that matters, anyway. They aren’t real flesh-and-blood people who he’s ever chatted with face to face. He doesn’t know their real names (only their screen names) and wouldn’t even recognize them if he passed them on the street (a real street, not a virtual world street). In effect, this guy who has twenty thousand friends is completely alone in the real world.

He has no real friends, he lives in his parents’ basement (how classic is that?) and he rarely leaves his house. He’s vitamin D deficient from the lack of sunlight, socially deficient from the lack of face-to-face interactions, and even though he has twenty thousand friends online, he still hasn’t managed to find a girlfriend in the real world (inflatable dolls don’t count).

Although this guy is alone in the real world, he’s not alone in his pattern of virtual social interaction. An alarming number of teens and twenty-somethings follow much the same pattern, and the sheer numbers of people engaged in the seductive pull of online social networking are beginning to define the social interactions of an entire generation.

The more active people are in online social networking, the more isolated they become in the real world.


Shell should be boycotted worldwide. The following ZSpace article reveals a shocking background of murder, human rights abuses, environmental destruction and corruption that all are part of Shell’s oil exploits in Nigeria.


By Patrick Bond, Sharife Khadija
Patrick Bond’s ZSpace Page / ZSpace

“We sometimes feed conflict by the way we award contracts, gain access to land, and deal with community representatives,” Shell Nigeria admitted in 2003.

It was a modest confession from a corporate giant that has long collaborated with the state to access the Niger Delta’s oil and gas resources, systematically destroying the indigenous ecology through spills, deforestation, flaring and dumped waste, and in the process fuelling climate change that threatens our collective future on the planet.

But at a time of worsening state massacres of environmental justice activists in the Delta, a moment of reckoning nears. In New York’s Southern District Court last Wednesday before Judge Kimba Wood, Shell goes on trial for crimes against the Niger Delta people and environment, which could lead to substantive reparations payments.

The state’s most recent assault against the Delta left the villages of Opuye, Okerenkoro, Kurutie and Oporoza (site of the new documentary Sweet Crude – ) burned to the ground in mid-May, with hundreds of Ijaw people – both armed activists (called ‘militants’) and civilians – feared dead. Journalists are banned from the area.

In a request last week to International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, solidarity activists observed, “The Nigerian military Joint Task Force commenced the land, water and aerial bombardment of a large area in Gbaramatu Kingdom.”

They continued, “Questions regarding President Yar’Adua’s involvement must also be investigated. The killings in the Delta today can be traced back to similar massacres in 1990 in Umecheum, in Ogoni led by Major Gen Paul Okuntimo in the mid 1990’s, and the 1999 massacre in Odi under the command of Col Agbabiaka. To date no investigation of previous massacres has been undertaken, although each was well documented.”

The damage to the Delta goes back five decades. In 2006, the Niger Delta Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Project declared the region “one of the 10 most important wetlands and marine ecosystems in the world”. Although 20 million people directly depend on shared natural Delta resources such as fisheries, fertile land and water sources, Shell is responsible for 2 900 oil spills.


Wired Science posted some interesting time lapse clips on changes of the Earth’s surface over a number of years (mostly between 1-3 decades). The changes are primarily based on population growth and global warming, which partly are inter-related of course.

The videos are based on NASA satellite images and they show the effects of urbanisation, deforestation, irrigation and drought. I’m posting a couple here – to see more and get additional background, go to Wired Science.

Sucking Out the Aral Sea

In the 1960s, central Asia’s Aral Sea was the fourth largest lake in the world. As a result of irrigation and damming, it had shriveled to 10 percent of its original size (marked by the thin black line) by 2007. It is now three separate, highly salinic, lakes.

Clearing the Amazon

Over the past three decades, the state of Rondônia in western Brazil cleared almost 35 percent of its rainforest. According to NASA’s website, the pattern of deforestation is common in the Amazon. People build roads, then clear some of the land for small farms. After a few years, the land erodes and becomes depleted. The farmers, suffering from low crop yields, convert the land for cattle, then clear more forest for crops, and so on until large cattle holders buy the land.

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If you really wanna know what WAVE is all about, this so far is the video to understand it. It’s the WAVE team’s intro to the concept at the Google Developer’s Conference, and it’s a long one (1:20), but even for a non-geek like me it was great viewing.

It gave me the understanding of WAVE being an open source web browser real time communications object (the Google guys call it simple; not sure about that 😉 ) that can be used for many different kinds of communication and collaboration. It

  • transforms plain vanilla email and instant messaging conversations
  • allows to share photos and other rich media types
  • provides a platform to build blogging sites, discussion groups and wikis
  • allows to collaboratively edit documents
  • provides a platform to build extensions from games to spell checkers, map gadgets, poll extensions, integration gateways to other communication systems (like Twitter or Facebook) or workflow systems
  • provides protocols for others to build their own WAVE systems (Google independent) that all can communicate with one another

All of this is based on creating communication threads (waves) within and across platforms that are instantly updated as they are being created. It’s like a huge bulletin board, except that you don’t leave messages anymore but read the message character by character as it is being created by the person you’re communicating with – and you then have the ability to edit that very message at the same time while your partner is still writing it.

In other words: depending on the extensions the open source community will develop, instant communication and collaboration can take place within and across platforms like email, IM, blogs, social networks and other communication media – all in real time and all in a web browser. And since WAVE also allows for the development of tools that support these various communication forms (like instant spelling correction or translation extensions), you’ll be able to write an email that is spell-checked and corrected while you type and, if needed, translated, complemented by photos/videos that other participants share in that very moment or instant messages being exchanged at the same time. And all of this group communication will take place in your browser window.

Email and browsers will never be the same again!


See also Lifehacker


Worrying about someone complaining about you using his/her image on your non-commercial blog without permission is like getting anxious about being the proverbial needle in a haystack 😉 . But if you do wanna do the right thing by the ethics created in our private-property obsessed society, using Flickr (CC) images is a good way to go.

Yahoo Image Search provides a filter looking for them plus it allows you to toggle between black & white and colour AND you can search for size: small, medium, large, “wallpaper,” or even a custom dimension. All of this makes it more efficient than Flickr native search for (CC) images.

Via Lifehacker]

Name of the game: Print Friendly. As the video above demonstrates, after installing the javascript bookmarklet, just dump a URL into the box provided by the Print Friendly website, make a few adjustments if needed, and you can save 12 pages of paper printing out junk you don’t want or need.

[Via Lifehacker]